When a coffee workshop becomes another experience entirely…
I have been to RAW coffee twice prior to this visit and I loved the place.
Oh, I haven’t blogged about it; simply because like all my other blogposts, it’s been sitting in drafts for like ….forever.. yes, cos I’ve been busy, REALLY BUSY.
But when an email came from Michael, (and it was a very adroit and articulately worded one too), I made exception to my “stay-home easy Sunday” policy to drive into the heart of KL; curious to meet the man behind the cafe/email, as well as to deepen my knowledge about coffee.
Upon arrival at RAW Coffee, we were asked if there was anything that we’d like to have, which we did order some sandwiches and soya milk (having coffee right before a coffee workshop is asking for caffeine OD, literally) since I haven’t had breakfast. Also, I had the sandwiches here before and I liked how they prepare it, healthy & fresh ingredients in wholemeal-based bread.
My order: Pumpkin Hummus and Veg Sandwich.
Frankly speaking, I can’t take much coffee, which is a pity as I’m a huge coffee fan. My gastritis is not getting any better, and I’m on medication most of the time. Hence, my partner in crime, coffee lover and connoiseur Kevin was here to save the day.
Kevin’s breakfast: 3 cheeses sandwich. This was lip-smacking good as well. Wholesome (albeit a bit fatty) and flavourful due to the mix of 3 different REAL cheese (not the processed slice ones!), toasted til the cheeses were all melted.
As we’re about to eat, Michael started his presentation but luckily we’re allowed to go on tucking into our sandwiches. The workshop will be conducted in a backwards fashion, starting with taste then going into preparation, roasting and finally the green beans to help us understand more on what goes into a good cup of coffee.
Our classroom. Yes this was in Wisma Equity on Jalan Ampang, just opposite KLCC.
In order to make a good cup of coffee, one needs to be very methodical as the whole process is akin to dominoes, where a fault in one of the stages will affect the rest. Any improvement initiative should only take place at one factor at a time.
Good beans grown in ideal conditions which are harvested and processed properly, will taste great if roasted and prepared properly.
Starting with taste, the main terms used in the cupping (tasting) are as follows:
Gustation – taste perceived on the tongue. Bitter, sour, sweet, salty, umami
Olfaction – nasal (breathe in) and retro-nasal (breathe out) – the smell processed by the brain differs when we breathe in and out.
Mouthfeel– – physical sensation in the mouth, helps to detect the oils and dissolved solids. Generally perceived in the whole mouth and around the tongue.
As explained by Michael, there are generally a few taste that are perceived when drinking coffee, which are bitter, sweet and sour. A good cup of coffee should have a combination of these three tastes.
However, the taste perceived on the tongue of each person may differ as to which part of the tongue is more sensitive to tastes. To explore which part of the tongue detects the taste more, a small experiment was conducted involving sweet, sour, bitter and salty solutions, which are prepared in 2 concentrations accordingly.
Me: Taste test…
After the taste test, we moved on to the preparation part. Here at RAW Coffee, the espresso is prepared using a Kees van der Westen machine, the “Rolls Royce” of coffee machines available in the market.
As with all method of coffee preparation, the coffee beans should be grounded right before extraction as the aroma of the coffee will escape soon after.
For espresso, the ground coffee needs to be tamped to have an even bed so that it can withstand the water pressure from the machine during extraction. According to Michael, best method is straight down and straight back up in a single motion.
Once done, it is now ready for extraction. At RAW Coffee, they pre-infuse the coffee before the actual extraction. For the first round, Michael divided the extraction into 6 stages, which the shots are halted at certain time intervals to show the flavours extracted from the coffee.
Stage 1: Thick and very sour tasting
Stage 2: Less thick but still sour tasting
Stage 3: Slightly sour with a natural sweetness
Stage 4: Sweet with a hint of bitterness, faint sourness still tasted
Stage 5: Bittersweet
Stage 6: Mostly bitterness, happens when the coffee is overextracted. (Taste like a coffee prepared by press which was left to infuse way too long)
When it comes to espresso drinks, by general preference it is served with some steamed milk, of which there are a few stages to it.
Firstly, heat up and froth the milk to create micro bubbles followed by swirling to refine the texture.
Once done, pour the milk into the espresso and increasing the pour rate after the cup is ⅔ full is so that the thick foam on top will flow down which helps to create the latte art.
Now for the roasting process. The coffee beans at RAW Coffee are roasted using this machine.
When it comes to roasting the beans, there are 3 forms of heat that need to be taken into consideration, which are:
Contact: Heating by direct contact with the drum
Convection: Heating from the hot air circulating inside the machine
Radiation: Indirect heating from the hot machine parts
Below: Raw coffee beans inside the machine. Yes, they are green in colour!
When asked on the roasting darkness of the beans, Michael’s reply was rather than focusing on the colour of the roast, it is better to ensure even roasting of the beans, so that the roast is even inside out.
Watch the expert…
She keeps her fingers on the controls …
At RAW Coffee, the roasting is adjusted accordingly to the bean and preparation method, i.e. the beans for espresso and filter coffee are roasted differently.
However, it is preferable that the beans are not roasted to the point where the oils rise to the surface as it will become rancid on exposure to air, not to mention loss of flavour from the beans due to the excessive caramelization.
Below: She also picks up any inferior beans, the cracked, dried out ones etc..
After the lesson on roasting, Michael showed us the storeroom where the coffee beans are kept at 18 deg C.
As RAW Coffee purchase their beans direct from the estates, the beans arrive in their original shipment packaging. For the beans that are packed in hessian bags (or gunny sacks), the beans are stored in airtight containers until roasting. Some estates do vacuum pack their beans as to preserve their freshness. Based on his experience, the best coffee Michael had was roasted right after drying.
And at RAW Coffee, the roasted beans are vacuumed packed right after roasting to extend their freshness and to allow resting as coffee beans emit carbon dioxide gas after roasting. Also, this resting period allows the flavour to develop as well.
In accordance to the workshop programme, Michael takes us back further to the cultivation, harvest and processing of the coffee beans. Then as another step in appreciating high quality coffee, there was a short session on grading the beans.
2 350g samples of coffee beans were allocated, with one being a high quality one and the other one being a sample which Michael himself declined to roast after taking a look.
Good coffee beans.
Bad coffee beans.
Grading of the coffee was done according to the Speciality Coffee Association of America’s Arabica Green Coffee Defect Handbook, which indicates the types of defects of the beans ranging from minor to major defects.
While this pretty much sums up the workshop, Michael took another step in indulging Kevin with some African bean prepared using the Aeropress.
Here, about 16gm of Yirgacheffe beans (from Ethiopia) are ground up and placed into a preheated Aeropress, which looks like an oversized syringe plunger.
Then about 170gm of hot water is poured into the press, the water is about 90deg C, and the coffee is allowed to steep for about 30 seconds then pressed into a glass.
Tasting notes: Notable acidity with balance of sweetness and bitterness, somehow expected of African beans. According to Michael, another few seconds would have allowed more flavour to be extracted.
Another highlight at the end of the workshop was the affogato made with rooibos espresso and mango sherbet.
The rooibos tea by itself has the complex balance of sweet bitter earthiness, which combined with the sweet-sour of the mango sherbet creates a whole new sensation for a dessert. One has to try this to believe it.
But if you insist on your affogato with ice cream, RAW Coffee offers New Zealand Natural ice creams.
If you do drop in at RAW Coffee, there’s wholesome and healthy cereals, sandwiches (as you have seen above), cakes and pastries to pair with your cuppa.
Rest assured that your coffee are expertly prepared by trained baristas.
WIFI is speedy and reliable. Chairs and environment are comfy and spacious.
Your cuppa won’t cost you a bomb.
There’s really any reason why you are not dropping in for a cuppa at RAW Coffee.
So, if you’re seeking a good cup of coffee, don’t say I didn’t tell you where you can get a good one! :DD
Wisma Equity opposite KLCC.
Note: Michael has opened another one named Artisan Coffee, right besides Maybank at TTDI (on the same row as Sid’s, Tom, Dick & Harry) so PJ folks rejoice! There’s where you can get your coffee fix!