What if you leave out the espresso machine, the grinder and the water kettle in your coffee shop? Could you still call it a coffee shop? Me and my colleagues at Good Spirits set up a pop up cafe just like that, delicious coffee without the equipment.
For this café we created a cold brew coffee bar in Berlin. We wanted to test if cold brew can also be serious coffee, that is able to nail the „special“ in specialty coffee, instead of just being a seasonal by-product in cafés. So we invited 5 roasters from all over Germany to hand us their favorite coffee, roasted in their own style, so that we could feature 5 different amazing tastes right next to each other. We call it the 5 days, 5 brews, 5 drinks experiment.
Experiment phase 1:
how do you get the greatest cold brew taste out of each of the beans? Apply 5 different brewing techniques, considering particle size, extraction time, dosing and also water temperature. Not so easy when you wait up to 24 hours for results
-for brew recipes we had to be patient for over a week. Plus we weren't aware of how heavy 150 litres of brew would be, when you transport them from one part of the city to the other.
It was worth it, we hit the coffees' main character so well that we named the brew by taste, not by coffee. "Zesty and bright", "sweet and sirupy", "warm and silky", "fruity and juicy", "bold and elegant" led our guests easily to decide by mood and afterwards we could take the conversations deeper on what the coffee itself was all about.
Experiment phase 2:
how do you explain to some guests, why drinking pure black coffee on ice is best for them?You don't. Instead we created a signature drink menu, that provided fans of foamed milk with „the other latte“: cold brew based drinks designed for each coffee, like a fruity and juicy kenyan brew on icey coconut water, or our new favorite: warm natural ethiopian brew (I know, it's almost ridiculous to warm up cold brew) topped off with foamed hazelnut milk.
Experiment phase 3:
how do you break a guests' habit of looking up at the board, to then decide for his all time favorite coffee drink and leaving with the same taste experience to not confuse himself? We had no other choice but to mess around with these expectations by only being able say "with us you gotta try something new".Not everyone is up for that much "risk",but those who were, have been rewarded with a new way of seeing coffee.
In these 5 days we faced the difficulty in creating elegance in 5 different cold brews, the perfect pairing of signature drink ingredients that match the character of the coffee and breaking a regulars' habit.
In the end I can say, I have never as a barista had so much time to explain the coffees, the origin, the recipe and the idea behind specialty coffee as in these 5 days. I just had to open a bottle and pour and taste was easily accesssible.
One might say there's no more playing as a barista without the espresso machine, for me it was a new coffee playground.
This article first appeared as a contribution to the JOURNAL for London Coffee Masters 2015, a fast paced international barista competition.
All images by our friend Debbie Blume.