How to Make Coffee, Part 3: The Cup
After learning how coffee grows and how it is processed, the final leg of our tour of Hacienda Real revealed how the coffee is roasted and readied to drink.
Because Hacienda Real ships only unroasted beans to their buyers, their roasting operation is quite small. They only roast for local buyers like area hotels and restaurants — and to package and sell in their factory store. The roaster is a mid-century antique from Germany:
This is probably the coolest-looking machine anywhere, ever. Alas, we did not get to see it in action, but to use it, workers climb the steps to dump the beans into the copper hopper. From there the beans pass through chute into the black drum, where they are tumbled around while heated, not unlike popcorn. When roasted to the desired color, the beans are then released to the pan where that silver bar spins the beans around to cool them. When that is finished, they fall down the short, silver chute into a bag.
There are no computers on this machine, so the roaster needs to know from experience just how long to keep the beans in the heat. The difference between roasts can be just a matter of seconds.
Once roasted, the beans are either packaged whole or ground on site. The grinder looks just like the one at the grocery store, so I didn't bother taking a closeup. (It's no German steampunk roaster.) The workers here are making small hospitality packs of ground coffee, sugar, and creamer for hotels to place in each room:
Our guide Tyrone used some freshly ground coffee to demonstrate the traditional way to brew a cup of coffee in Costa Rica. He used this contraption to do so:
This traditional coffee maker is something that many Ticos still keep around the house, and people who use it (including my teacher, Heyni) swear that the taste and aroma are much better this way. Tyrone attributed this to the filter, which is a cotton flannel bag that hangs from a wire ring perched atop a piece of wood with a circular hole cut into it. This filter has been used many times — all that is required is a rinse between uses — never any soap, which would ruin the next cup of coffee. This filter, according to Tyrone, removes all of the oil that can sometimes make coffee bitter or muddy, and leaves only clean coffee in the cup.
To make a mug of coffee, Tyrone put in three heaping tablespoons (actual spoons, not measuring spoons) of grounds into the filter, then slowly poured water into the filter. The water is heated to just shy of the boiling point, by the way — boiling is too hot.
The pouring takes place slowly — only as fast as it can drain through the filter. Still, with the extra effort, you can have a truly delicious cup of coffee, Costa Rican style, in a just a few minutes.
This was one of the few cups of coffee that I have ever enjoyed black. It was excellent, though I plan to drink the bag we bought at the factory store with a touch of sugar and milk, as is my habit. It just won't need as much as I usually dump into my travel mug at 6:00 a.m. on a Monday.
We decided to bring home a light roast, since that's the preferred roast here in Costa Rica. We also picked up a couple cotton filters. The plan is for Kirk to build a wooden Tico-style coffee maker later this summer, which will be cheaper than the fancy rosewood ones at the shop, and much more fun. Keep your eyes peeled for a future how-to post on that.