The Gentle Art of Grinding and Brewing Third Wave Coffee in Taipei

By | November 18, 2019

Enjoy Grinding and Brewing Third Wave Coffee!
Part 2 of Needing a Jolt of Coffee

This article carries on from the recent article, called Needing a Jolt of Coffee Part 1 published a couple of days ago.

PurelyCoffeeBeans reckons if you’re interested in grinding and brewing third wave coffee right at home, fret not. For the most part, you don’t actually need to buy a grinder. Most coffee shops will grind coffee for you on the premises. Just inform the baristas how you usually brew your coffee in the morning and they will grind your coffee beans to the right grade.

Hand grinder pictured with Starbucks Komodo Dragon Blend

Grinding and Brewing Third Wave Coffee in Taipei!

If you prefer to grind regularly so that your coffee is as fresh as possible, you’ll need to buy your own grinding equipment. Most coffee shops sell grinding equipment, so buy the best you can afford, a proper burr grinder. The burrs will crush the beans gently to the right size, producing a more consistent quality of coffee.

You can buy a simple hand-grinder with quality ceramic burrs for less than NT$1000. This will take you a couple of minutes to grind up the coffee. Choosing a full size electric ceramic burr grinder is also an option for those with a bigger budget. Of course, prices are a little higher than in the US; but the convenience of quick grinding will easily win you over. Prepare to pay from NT$2500 upwards for a grinder from ‘Flying Horse’, Capresso, and Baratza.

What’s in that hopper? Third Wave Coffee really cares…

That is the NT$500 question! You could simply hop over to Starbucks, and buy a bag of their Caffe Verona, Italian Roast, … but how fresh is that? Roasted months ago before enduring a long sea-voyage in hot metal containers… how fresh can it really be?

Taipei has gone way beyond the very traditional Japanese-era roasts of Brazilian, Ethiopian, and Mandheling or such to embrace a wide range of roasting styles, regions and methods. Freshly roasted coffee smells great and tastes great. Cama Cafe has won plaudits for its Pomona Coffee Blend, Louisa Coffee sells Kenyan Dorman. You’ll find decent Colombian coffees from different regions and estates. Moreway sells great Indian Malabar in season, as well as fresh delightful Guatemala. Zhanlu is harder to pin down but I prefer their darker roasts.

Many coffee shops roast their daily grinds right on the premises, so you can witness for yourself the care needed to roast fine coffee without setting the coffee shop on fire!

Buying coffee beans locally

It’s not just roasting, but Taiwan also has a long history of growing coffee that reached a peak during the Japanese colonial period when coffee was grown as a cash crop for export to Japan. The influence in how coffee was drunk here remained for a long time. However, the small volumes of coffee grown mean that prices are high, with prices rivalling Panama Geisha, Jamaican Blue Mountain or the finer Hawaiian grades. Consider it like proper estate coffee.

Gukeng Coffee, from Yunlin County, is the pre-eminent local coffee growing region, but beware adulteration with much cheaper Vietnamese or Indonesian coffee. But you will also find other areas around Taiwan experimenting with coffee growing including: Alishan in Chiayi, Dongshan in Greater Tainan, Taiwu County in Pingtung, and even Chishang in Taidung.

Most coffee is grown locally in these areas, roasted locally, and sold for markets in the Western parts of Taiwan. Very little goes for export because of the lack of volume, but growing coffee here is as much for love as for commercial success because of the long lead times needed from planting to first harvest.

Popular Third Wave Coffee Making Methods

The simplest methods for making coffee are the best, but the variables are always the same: coffee roast, grounds size, time, and heat. So whichever method you choose to brew, you will need a timer, a small scale, a thermometer and a water pot.

i. Hario V60 Drip Filter: Pour Over Method

V60 first produced by Hario, of Japan, is a really popular device for making coffee these days. Its unique design features a hole at the bottom of its conical shape with ridges inside that will improve water flow and extraction. The paper filters are the same pointed shape.

The V60 produces a much finer drink, accommodates many different coffee types and roasts, is easy to use for making coffee, and has an easy clean-up regimen. If you know how to make coffee in a traditional drip filter, then you can use the V60 as it just requires refinements of your technique and a little bit of time.

ii. French Press: Soak and Filter

The French Press is a popular way to make a small pot of coffee, one that you will find easy for making coffee, dispensing and cleaning. The French Press pots glistens in the light, begging to be filled with coarsely ground coffee and hot water. With the plunger extended, the pots just sits for 3~4 minutes, almost as long as the anticipation can bear. Finally, the plunger is pushed carefully into the dark steamy liquid, right to the bottom. Then its goodness can be dispensed.

You can brew most kinds of coffee in it, if you pay attention to the size of coffee grinds. Don’t grind too big, the coffee will come out weak and nasty; don’t grind too fine, it will come out like mud. Most commercially ground coffee isn’t really suitable for the French press because you end up with a solution of slightly gritty coffee.

iii. Coffee Drip Bags

Coffee Drip Bags have become really popular. Most major coffee brands in Taiwan have now developed their own line of products. A coffee filter bag is a little sachet of coffee presented in its own bag/filter, wrapped in a foil paper to preserve its freshness. Once the foil covered is opened, the sachet pops out. Each side has one flap that pulls out. Across the top center, there is usually a mark to tear open the coffee itself. Once the bag is opened, and the flaps extended, the drip bag can be fixed over a cup ready for dripping in a mini-filter fashion.

These are usually sold in convenience stores in single packs or small boxes for between NT$20 and NT$40. Each sachet contains about 10 grams of coffee. The simple design and methods are perfect for offices, workplaces and homes where convenience is important. If you look in quality supermarkets and coffee supplies stores, you can also find coffee drip bags for filling with your own favorite coffee. Ideal if you can’t find a decent coffee blend in the commercial packs.

iv. Cold Brew What?

If you’ve never tried cold brew coffee, you’ve never lived. With nearly all the essential volatiles that create flavor preserved but low on acid or oil, cold brew coffee is a taste sensation when served with crushed ice.

Made with cold water, not hot; the secret to successful cold brew is time which eliminates bitterness that you associate with iced coffee. It’s not bitter, at all. You can find it in local coffee shops, but look for one that filters the coffee through a traditional cold brew system. Usually there is only a limited quantity because it can take 8~12 hours to prepare.

There are a few cold brew kits available on the market for you to make at home easily. Most kits here retail for about NT$500 to NT$1000, and are simple to use so you don’t have to worry too much if the instructions are in Japanese. Remember the grind will be similar to French press coffee, so you can’t use preground coffee as it’s too fine.

v. Syphon Coffee

Syphon coffee, also known as the vacuum coffee, makes the best coffee you’ve ever had, but the system is not for novices. In fact, to appreciate the art of syphon coffee, you have to find a coffee shop that still prepares it for there is a lot of drama and expertise in making coffee in such a beautiful way. Look for a branch of Key Coffee or an old school coffee shop.

The syphon produces a wonderful cup of coffee that is full of flavor and aroma, without any bitterness. It is also a portable but fragile unit because of the glass bulbs. It is best appreciated as a cultural icon, but totally unsuitable for making coffee before work.

VI. Go Forth! Enjoy Grinding and Brewing Third Wave Coffee!

Taipei is no longer just the home of cheap coffee from Brazil or Indonesia. Coffee culture has arrived with modern methods, the latest drinks, and artisan roasters, but you can still find tradition here, too. Enjoy your coffee in Taipei, whether you are grinding and brewing third wave coffee or just buying it in the excellent coffee shops!

Kenneth Dickson started drinking cappuccino at Luvian’s Coffee Shop thirty years ago and hasn’t stopped drinking, making and writing about coffee ever since. Taipei is becoming his coffee heaven! This article first appeared in “Centered on Taipei” February, 2017. It has been adapted, updated, and presented here for coffee lovers in Taipei! 😀