Diary of an Expat, Part 62
Coffee
So here's something that Germans are quite good at.

Are you ready?

The coffee here is fantastic. This isn't something you'd necessarily expect; the previous German contribution to coffee was wartime ersatz, concoctions made of chicory or almond to stand in for the absent genuine article.

When I got here, the rage was those capsule-based machines, which I think Germans probably took to before Americans because they have an inveterate love of kitchen gadgetry. My office was provisioned with these when I arrived, the better to keep everyone happy (the San Francisco office has regular coffee pots).

Recently, the trend has been more towards single-cup pourover coffee. The canonical manufacturer of this, Melitta, is an old German company; the way it goes, in case you were curious, is this:

You grind the coffee up finely (an espresso grind will work fine). Coffee is always ground fresh, naturally. I suppose you could grind them by hand; this has certain therapeutic traits, and has the advantage of being somewhat less noisy than an electric grinder.

Next you will need a quantity of hot water and a pot to put it in. You will also need a filter, and something to hold it in. A ceramic funnel you can put over your coffee mug works well. Boil your water, and run some of it through the filter (this clears out any lingering impurities in the filter, as well as warming up the ceramic so you don't lose any of the heat of the water).

Put the coffee grounds in the filter, and very carefully pour water over them. You don't want to pour the water in all at once, you want to take your time, the better to extract the flavorful bits of the coffee grounds, and nothing else. There's a lot of that "else" in traditional coffee.

Now from this description, you may have tumbled to one of the reasons the Germans are so fond of this method (it is not a new method, but it is a new-old method): it takes a lot of time, and it requires a lot of precision, and it fits into the slow food mentality the Germans have by and large adopted as their own.

The other component to this, however, is that it is really, really good coffee. It's like a completely different coffee experience, and I recommend that you try it.

It's a way of doing coffee that emphasizes as few adulterations as possible. It's just about the beans — no milk, and certainly no sugar. There is a purity to this method that I think Germans also find appealing — meshing as it does with the organic foods movement that is also big here.

So artisanal coffee has hit Berlin in a big way. The Berlin Coffee Society, founded last year, is a group of cafes across the city that organizes events like the "Black coffee brew down" where coffee is judged in the same fashion (and with the same sorts of terminology).

I have the good fortune to work right around the corner from one of the Berlin Coffee Society establishments (actually I kind of suspect we're keeping them in business), so I may be a little more invested. But anyway, there you go. Coffee.

Also, I just flew through Frankfurt. At 6 in the morning, in mid-winter, the only shop that was packed was, naturally, the ice cream one. Frankfurt is not quite bohemian enough to indulge a love for the noble bean.
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