Coffee geeks are making the most of lockdown by experimenting with equipment and technique in a quest for the perfect brew
“Nineteen cups of coffee and in love with AeroPress technique” was Syed Roshan’s status message, posted way past midnight, clearly pleased with the AeroPress coffee maker he had bought that day.
Syed clarifies he did not drink all of it but also made his entire family drink his coffee. His goal was to perfect the ‘AeroPress’ overnight.
He says, “I love black coffee and I am infamous for reaching out for a cup at odd hours. Earlier, I had a French press. During lockdown, I decided to try more varieties and took up the task of making shaam ki coffee (evening coffee) for everyone.”
Syed is not alone. During the lockdown, coffee drinkers chose to look away from the everyday pheteli (whisked) coffee, resurrected as Dalgona, choosing instead to perfect their home brew skills.
Pooja Yammanur, a consultant with a political party says, “The urge to drink the cafe-made coffee made me want to make my own brew at home. Thankfully, live sessions on Instagram by roaster Nishant Sinha gave me a good insight. Until lockdown, I wasn’t too keen on brewing at home. I preferred it at a cafe, where it earned me some me-time too.”
For those of you still flaunting Dalgona skills, it is time to upgrade to the AeroPress, cold brew, French press, chemex, moka pot, percolator, espresso machine and more.
“After a lot of experimentation with brews and techniques, I have been able to wrap my head around cold brew pour over using V60 and French press. Cold brew is versatile as it allows itself to be a base for mocktails/cocktails,” says home brewer Bharath Suthapalli.
Learning new techniques and blends is a niche on social media, interior designer Niharika Reddy says, “because not everyone looks for a caffeine kick. Each person likes coffee their way. I like AeroPress because it is strong. The lockdown had me searching for coffee and AeroPress machines. During Unlock 1.0, it was one of the first things I purchased.”
Those in the business were taken by surprise when requests for coffee powder and apparatus started pouring in. Nishant Sinha of The Roastery Coffee House in Hyderabad and Kolkata says, “During Unlock 1.0, we ran out of stock of coffee-making tools. Then we made convenient pour-over pouches: that was a big hit.”
Bharath says that it is the curiosity about the beverage, as a drink that needs a nose and palate, that led him towards all things coffee. He says he read about the complexities of cultivation and processing.
Freelance photographer Rohit Rao’s love for coffee was planted out of curiosity about the bean. As a student, he had spent hours at the Coffee Cup cafe in Secunderabad, nursing one cup after another simply because it was ‘cool’.
“From there, I went on to learn about the beans, bought a small hand grinder, a moka pot and started brewing my own coffee. It became a part of my travel bag and muse as I backpacked in hilly locations. It’s been five years since I started. During the lockdown, I made several videos of brewing coffee and that opened a new world of discussion with strangers.”
Bullish on brands
The lockdown enabled coffee makers like Slay Coffee, The Roastery and Blue Tokai to become accessible and versatile. Chaitanya Chitta of Slay Coffee says, “Our Slay-X variety is a result of the demand. People’s request for stronger brews made us come up with one that is India’s strongest coffee. We also developed Slay-X pour over brew bags for the ardent coffee fans who like to do it themselves.”
SLAY-X, (one of the many varieties by Slay Coffee) Chaitanya adds, is a blend of robusta cherry and robusta parchment from the high-altitude estates of Chikmagalur, dark-roasted to boost its caffeine content.”
Internationally, brands that claim to be the “strongest coffee in the world” like the Death Wish Coffee have around 1,750 milligrams of coffee per 100 grams of coffee. SLAY-X, on the other hand, has 2,250 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams of coffee making it the strongest coffee in the market.
Keeping in mind the demand for speciality coffee, Slay Coffee also introduced coffee DIY kits.
New Delhi-based roaster Baninder Singh says starting his online business of freshly grounded coffee called Savorworks Roasters during the lockdown was a calculated risk and against the market rule. “We launched on April 1 and have had more than a decent response. Customer engagement was encouraging which also led us to understand that speciality coffee drinkers are on the rise.”
Roasters like Nishant Sinha say buyers are not only aware of brewing techniques and ask for coffee grounds, but are also well-informed about the roasting processes, beans and flavour profile, depending on the place and farm from where the bean is sourced.
Over the past five months, as Working From Home has become the norm, people are developing a new appreciation for the potential of well roasted, freshly ground coffee beans. After all, if you cannot go to the cafe, it makes sense to find ways to make the cafe come to you.