I’m sitting back in my apartment in Sweden sipping a ‘Washed Typica’, a coffee from Finca El Libano in the Chimaltenango area of Guatemala. I have ground the beans myself in my new coffee grinder. Also, I have brewed the coffee in my brand new Aeropress. This is all courtesy of 3fe in Dublin where I attended a brewing class two weeks ago. Along with all the equipment described above, I bought The World Atlas of Coffee. Therefore, we can safely say that I have plenty of reading material to satisfy one of my greatest passions- coffee.
Sipping the coffee I notice a slightly bitter aftertaste and I note that I need to pay more to pay more attention to timing next time. Before I would have blamed the coffee. However, thanks to the class at 3fe, I now know that practice will yet enable me to brew my own perfect Cup of Joe at home. In fact, given that coffee is the kick start to many a morning, it is amazing how little we know about our favourite beverage. This is where 3fe comes in, with its aim to fill in the gaps, and to educate the general public in coffee and brewing.
How did it start?
3fe stands for 3rd Floor Espresso. This would-be coffee giant literally started life in the lobby of the Twisted Pepper Nightclub in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin. Sensing a gap for speciality coffees in the Irish market, it entered into a partnership with the UK-based Hasbean Coffee. Ultimately, this partnership has enabled 3fe to become synonymous with quality coffee in Ireland. Now at a larger South Grand Canal Street location, its nano cupping, brewing classes and barista training demystify the humble cup of coffee for the ordinary consumer.
Coffee Brewing Class
Learning All About Coffee
The brewing classes take place on Sundays (check website for availability) and begin with an introduction to the world of coffee. First, they outline some basics such as the difference between Arabica and Robusta. Also, participants learn about the journey from the plant to the cup. Then, they present different aspects of the manufacturing process such as washing and pulping. Finally, roasting techniques are also described. In the class I attended, the trainer encouraged us to wean ourselves off dark roast coffee. It seems that this taste is a legacy from the literally dark days when instant coffee ruled the roost.
Coffee Fact: It takes on average four months for the coffee to make it from the tree to our cup of Monday morning coffee.
Before the cupping, the trainer outlines the qualities of different coffees. For example, Brazilian coffees are often nutty with a caramel or nougat texture while African coffees often possess a tea-like character. The next stage is the cupping and it involves all the senses. Five unmarked coffees are laid out on the table in front of us. Initially, we have to sniff them and describe the smell. One of them has an odour that seems distinctly ‘agricultural’. Think the smell of cow dung in the countryside (this is not by any means anyone’s favourite smell).
From the smell, we next progress to the taste. The trainer brews each coffee and we try them each in turn, indicating our preferences as we go. Surprisingly, the ‘Hybrid Natural Guatemalan’ coffee whose smell provoked all the initial negative reactions is quite a hit. In fact, it turns out to be quite fruity in the cup. Other coffees tasted in my particular training session include a ‘Washed Ethiopian’, a ‘Red Honey Costa Rican’ and a standard Guatemalan.
Coffee Fact: Coffee should have a smooth taste. If it has a bitter aftertaste, it is probably over extracted.
Coffee Fact: The best coffee grows in volcanic soils- time to plan that vacation to the volcanoes of El Salvador.
Variables in the Brewing Process
Now it’s time to get into the hands-on brewing practice. First, we go through the variables that change the taste of the coffee. Unbelievably, water plays a big role here and it seems that places like Paris suffer from the fact that their water is hard.
The Kalita V60
We first practise using the Kalita V60 method. To use this method correctly, we need to make sure to wet the filter before putting in the ground coffee and the hot water. The amount of coffee per litre is also important and we try to measure out 60g of ground coffee per litre. It is apparently important that we calculate the proportions carefully. At this point, the trainer also gives advice on the types of grind that should use- the Kalita V60 apparently works better with coarser grinds.
Finally, we start to practise using an Aeropress (much beloved of home brewers) and we even try the inverted Aeropress method. This is where it gets interesting because we need to work in pairs to achieve the best Aeropress brew. I collaborate with a fellow Waterford man. Despite our best efforts, our coffee comes up short in the subsequent tasting session.
With the coffee experience over, it’s time for food. There are a number of brunch options such as black pudding, pancakes, and Eggs Benedict. I choose the latter, although I regret my choice as the pudding and pancakes both look far tastier. Also, the lashings of bacon in the Eggs Benedict are maybe a little too salty for my taste. At least the coffee is spectacular. On leaving we receive a goody bag with Guatemalan coffee beans, which more than makes up for the salty lunch.
The shop retails coffee beans from plantations around the world and plenty of coffee merchandise to keep coffee lovers happy. My manual coffee grinder, Aeropress and The World Atlas of Coffee cost about 137 euro. Note that the 60 euro coffee grinder added considerably to the cost. It is also possible to shop online and 3fe offers coffee subscriptions to those living in Ireland.
With the World Barista Championship due to take place in Dublin in June 2016, there can hardly be a better place to get started on learning about coffee than 3fe. The class was informative and interesting with plenty of hands-on fun. Add in the quality coffee and the coffee merchandise in the shop and you have a great place for coffee lovers and would-be baristas to get started.
Even if the classes are not quite to your liking, the nano cupping should be of interest to any coffee lover who is passing through Dublin.
Price/ Cost & Practicalities
Brew classes cost 125 euro and barista training classes cost 250 euro. Lunch is included in the price of the coffee classes. Nano cupping costs 5 euro. Water tasting costs 3 euro and the proceeds are donated to charity. Lunch-brunch prices vary from 5 euro for soup to 12 euro for main courses. All prices accurate as of March 2016.
Check the website below for the availability of classes. Nano cupping is always available as a menu choice in the main cafe.
If you’re interested in coffee, click here to check out the hipster coffee scene in Paris.
3fe website: www.3fe.com
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