A few years ago I was gifted an espresso making lesson at Colonna and Smalls in Bath, and that began my journey into speciality coffee. Now it's a daily ritual in my kitchen, from a V60 to a cold brew drip tower to a single group espresso machine. Coffee is a habit for many people, so why not make it a hobby as well? I get to enjoy the kind of taste variety and exploration that most people only associate with wine or whisky, but I don’t have to feel guilty about having mine before noon!
Speciality coffee is a totally different type of product from what most people are used to. Traditional (or commodity) coffee is made to have a consistent and expected taste, whether on its own or with milk, sugar, syrup, alcohol, ice cream – you name it. Speciality coffee explores how well-grown, well roasted coffee of particular types (like wine) differ in flavour from the bean alone. I cannot properly describe in words the rainbow of flavours that exists in coffee – from dark chocolate to salted caramel to lemon or bergamot, it is certainly more than exists in the rainbow of Nespresso capsules.
Sadly, speciality coffee is also in a world of its own which from the outside can seem snobbish, elitist, and tryhard. This is such a shame. As someone who lives for teaching, I try to help people discover this other side to the world’s most popular drink. Not that long ago, I used to say that I hated the taste of coffee. For 9/10 people who put sugar in their coffee to make it less bitter, I believe there’s a world of flavour waiting for them in the speciality scene that they would never think to try (you just have to be willing to remove the sugar – well made coffee is already sweet!). But neither style precludes the other. I know people who love dark roast Italian blend espresso shots and can’t imagine coffee any other way. Those people aren’t wrong! You know what you like, but try it all before you decide.
Making espresso at home is not an easy, or financially sensible game! But it’s a learning process and while my own experience is limited I remember details well. If you want to talk to someone about speciality coffee, then you know who to call.