I cannot even begin to tell you how sick I am of writing these posts. Deciding to resurrect a blog, saying I'm stoked to do so, then forgetting to do anything. I have taken steps to make sure this is the last time I have to write this type of post.
Anyway, with that in mind...I got married. I got a new job (two, actually). I now work for Pink Lane Coffee, via managing my church's coffee shop for a few months (The Basement Coffee House, part of Cornerstone Church Newcastle). The place is great and you all need to come here (I don't care if you live in Vietnam, get here!). A place that is so stoked on coffee, serves roasteries I've never heard of before who sell the tastiest coffee I've had...it's fantastic. And it's here at PLC I learned something that I now see as absolutely essential to a filter brew that I'd never seen before: a wine aerator.
I've been outside the blog-sphere too long to know how widespread this is, so I'm going to go ahead and assume no one else has ever heard about this. A wine aerator is, in essence, a long tube with a second tube intersecting the first. You pour wine (or coffee) into the first tube and as it crosses the intersection it pulls air in through the second tube, exiting into a receptacle. What this does (from the research I've done on the subject) is increase the pressure acting on the solution, increasing the amount of O2 the solution can dissolve. This does two things; first of all it decreases the concentration of carbonic acid by displacing CO2 molecules. This reduces the number of flavours present in the coffee, which increases the definition of the remaining flavours. Secondly, the increased O2 concentration helps to break down the complex sugars present in the solution into simple sugars. Complex sugars are insoluble, and as a result can't be tasted but do create the sensation of mouthfeel in a coffee. Simple sugars are water soluble, and present themselves as sweetness in the cup. This decrease in complex sugars lessens the mouthfeel of a coffee, while the higher concentration of simple sugars increases the sweetness.
So, put simply, an aerator makes your coffee easier to taste, less complex, reduces the body and increases the sweetness. The question left, I suppose, is why I see this as a) a good thing, b) a necessary thing. As I see it there are two distinct types of people I'll be talking to here; home baristas and coffee professionals. Both seek a 'tasty' experience. The problem with this is that 'tasty' is so subjective as to be entirely impossible to properly state here. I can shout until I'm blue in the face about sweetness and acidity, that one person is still going to love drinking Monsooned Malabar. So home baristas, it all depends on how you like drinking your coffee and how geeky you want to be. I'd still recommend it, but it's not vital. Professionals, you are a different story. Our battle is, in part, to convince our customers that £3 is a perfectly reasonable price for a coffee half the size of their usual Starbucks fix. We achieve this through the coffee itself, the quality and our knowledge of it, but we also use a fair amount of theatre. An aerator is a fantastic bit of theatre that, in my experience, opens customers up to what you're trying to do. It catches their attention and interest. Beyond that, the reduced mouthfeel of the coffee helps to facilitate the customer tasting the subtleties of their coffee; remember the first time you really tasted a coffee?
A necessity? Maybe not. However, if you want to learn more about taste and it's relationship to body and sweetness while getting more (or, perhaps, different things) from your coffee, it is very highly recommended. To test everything I've said, I brewed one coffee (Workshop's Olke Bire) and split it into two cups; one aerated, one not. The non-aerated coffee had a medium body, with a rounded citric acidity and a nice finish, but over all had little definition and felt a lot like a 'coffee' coffee. The aerated cup had a much lighter body with a juicy, rounded acidity. The citric acidity was much more peach and nectarine with a lovely, long, tingly finish. The definition of flavour was much more apparent, and all in all it was incredibly moreish.
And on that bombshell, I'm going to go back to work. Hope you got something from this, and I've got a few more blogs planned for the next couple of weeks. Have a good'un.