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The world’s love affair with coffee can be traced back several centuries yet, as Sally Barnes, regional development executive at Gloria Jean’s Coffees International, says: “The fundamental criteria for judging the quality of coffee remains the same. It’s all about the aroma, the flavour, acidity, body and the finish."

Utkrisht Sahai brewing a coffee

At the Basant Lok outlet, Utkrisht Sahai is our barista for the evening. “We are going to brew a medium-bodied coffee today," he says, and sensing that I’m at a loss, explains, “which is to say that it’s a mildly thick one. We call it the French Vanilla Supreme, and use high-quality Nicaraguan coffee beans for the purpose." The beans are 100% Arabica with vanilla as the signature flavour.

A French press, also referred to as a coffee plunger, is the device in which the coffee is brewed. Depending on the make and the quality, it can cost anywhere between 800 and 2,500. It is perfect for brewing coarsely ground coffee beans, finely ground coffee beans being more suited to the espresso machine.

Sahai begins by heating the water in the plunger. “Since we’re using a large-sized plunger, we will need 80g of coffee," he says and, having carefully weighed the required amount of ground coffee, proceeds to empty our plunger. “We want our drink to be absolutely fresh, don’t we?" he winks. The fresh water poured into the plunger has to be heated to 80-90 degrees Celsius. Sahai then adds the coffee and closes the lid.

A 4-minute wait ensues. Sahai uses the time to reply to a few queries. “Acidity essentially suggests the bitterness of the beverage. It can range from mild to the more pronounced. For instance, as you will soon see, this particular coffee possesses low-medium acidity."

As if on an impulse, he gently grips the lever of the plunger and presses it down. Our coffee is brewed. Sahai presses the lever, ensuring that the coffee granules get separated from the drink.

I am overwhelmed by an aroma laden with heavy notes of vanilla, embellished with faint strokes of cinnamon, as he pours the coffee into a mug. The first few sips establish a faintly tangy taste that gradually begins to lean towards the sour before drowning in a surge of vanilla. Coursing down the throat, the coffee has what Barnes would call a “smooth finish".

“What we need to remember is that the flavour can be different for different people," says Barnes. Certainly, for my response to the drink is markedly different from Barnes and Sahai. Yet, we are all in the same camp when it comes to the quality.

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