My friend once said to me 'if you keep telling people you're gonna do something you're gonna do it'. 15 months ago now, I said I wanted to do Brewers Cup in 2018.
Most days I'm going through what the right thing to say is in my head. From the moment I start brushing my teeth, to when I'm laying in bed. Do I want to be reactionary? Do I want to be kind and generous? Do I want to be thought provoking? Should I play it safe? Will this flow on? It's been this way since the end of June when I got my ticket.
Hi, I'm James and I'm going to be brewing some very delicious coffee for you today.
Doing Aeropress (and coming third!!!) in NSW last year is what got the ball rolling for me. I love being on stage, I love researching, and I love making a product I'm proud of. Wanting to do Brewers Cup became a natural extension of this. Curiosity abound and ticket in my 'Starred' section of my Gmail account, I got cracking on a one cup glass v60 we had kicking around the back. Up until the moment I purchased my ticket, I'd never made a v60 that hadn't: clogged up, taken over 5 minutes or tasted far less than desirable. Good start.
Before I knew it I had three competitions in three months. First up was the CRS x Timemore Brewing Competition in August. Then, I got into the Aeropress Nationals on a wildcard - this was last week on September 19th. Then the big boy - Brewers Cup at the very end of October. I thought, since I'm so used to brewing on a Fetco at work, this would be a three month intensive on manual brewing. The first two weeks would be getting used to brewing one cup. Then, around weeks to see what I could do to prepare for the Timemore competition. Following that, I'd work really hard to figure out what a good basis for brewing v60 would be, before plunging back into training especially for Aeropress Nationals. Then when I got back from Melbourne, winner or not, I'd dedicate the rest of my time to nailing my brewers cup routine.
I wasn't kidding when I said I had no idea what I was doing. I knew the theories:
More pours = more flavour. Ceramic bad, plastic good. Brew hot. Turbulence good. Grind fine. Make sure you have a good flow rate. Remember your kettle should be hot. Seriously. Make sure your kettle is turned on.
I can safely say I knew nothing about the practice. But, these first two weeks is where I learned my first three important lessons:
- Give yourself some slack.
Being on my feet from 6.07 until 7.30ish 4 - 5 days a week is very very hard. Dealing with customers can be very very hard too. Doing your job when you're trying to teach yourself something can be very very hard. Thinking about every little thing that might affect you at some event weeks and weeks down the track can be hard. Sometimes those very hard things act like two, or three, or four waves crashing into each other. So give yourself a fucking break.
- You're probably underextracting the coffee.
We like to try and brew our coffee at around a 21% extraction and above. It's the way we think it tastes good and it makes brewing for Fetco really easy. It also allows us to switch to bigger ratios very easily and makes underdeveloped flavours stand out. Using a kettle with a weaker flow rate to brew coffee on a device that doesn't take too well to fines, absorbs a lot of heat AND dissipates a lot of heat at the same time......... made me realise that there are just so many underextracted v60 brews out there.
- You're doing better than you think you are
One of the oldest lessons I learned in hospitality is that the first step to being a good coffee person is simply caring. You don't even need to care a lot. You're already doing better than the people who don't.
Then the time just started falling down. Like that mine that collapses in Lord Of The Rings (the first one). Man I haven't seen that movie in a long time.
Thanks for sticking around. I'm gonna do a couple of dedicated posts about the competitions, training, some things I tried that worked and some that didn't. Feel free to shoot me a line at email@example.com or on my Instagram.