Coffee books. We’ve all written one, haven’t we? But what we haven’t all done is start one of the world’s most esteemed and progressive coffee roasting companies, writes an insightful guide to all things coffee, then the revisited and revised with our updated knowledge ten years later. Fortunately, none of us need to feel the pressure to make it happen, as the team behind the Coffee Collective in Copenhagen has done it before. Sprudge sat down virtually to chat with Klaus Thomsen of Coffee Collective to talk about his team’s updated edition of his book. God Kaffé, and its new English translation, The basics of great coffee.
Sprudge: is it safe to say God Kaffé Was the first coffee book of this caliber originally written in Danish?
Klaus Thomsen: Yes, many other little books but none of them was complete. That’s why we wanted to write the book originally, we saw a lack in the market of something about specialty coffee, to create good coffee. Lots of people told us that it played a big part in their coffee career or their childhood in coffee!
It conveys our coffee ideals in many ways, in terms of taste, transparency, brewing. We try not to be judgmental. We’re trying to say that maybe this is a little “our take” on it, or it’s our preference, but there is room for other ideas. But I think you do the market a bit and kind of teach what’s right through that kind of writing. Our way of writing is not “it’s like that”.
What was the challenge of conveying these things in English?
It was mostly cultural things. We knew we were going to translate into English, but we wanted to do our writing in Danish, our mother tongue. But we thought about – when we talk about water in the original Danish version, it was just based on Danish water, and things that were relevant to the Danes, but now we had to write it with an international audience. in mind. And when we talk about styles of roast, we have to make sure everyone understands where we are at, knowing that we have a Scandinavian palate that is very different from taste preferences in Japan or even southern Europe. We are much more used to acidity in Scandinavia, we really like acidity in everything. But we also thought that was a strong point that we really wanted to share, so people could get a taste of what WE love and what is our take on coffee?
We have found a very good translator, and I think he really did an amazing job being very faithful to our original writing.
Continuing on the language, tell us about smag [‘smaej], the Danish word for the sensation of taste on the tongue, but which also encompasses an overall experience of taste, including flavor.
We put this right at the start of the book because we ultimately think for you as the person who wants to enjoy coffee, that’s what it is! I think it’s really important that people jump into this right away, because they’re going to be reading the rest of the book while drinking coffee.
It really surprised us how interesting this is [section] is up to people, it’s not just about coffee, it’s for everything. Get these categories [for tasting and describing tasting], and then we can always dive deeper into the exact aromas, or what kind of berry it is. Whatever we do for you in the end should result in something that tastes better, and if you can be more in tune with your taste, you can let your taste be a guiding parameter, your own compass. Do I need to grind more finely, or do I have to use this infusion method, do I like the natural or do I like the washed? Instead of letting us tell you everything, you can let your own sensory device guide you as to which path you want to take.
There are a few obstacles that people perceive when it comes to brewing quality coffee at home, which do you think are the most important?
I think one of the most important is that “oh, if we’re going to make fine coffee, we’ve got to invest a lot in the equipment,” which I’ve always kind of felt. I grew up with a dad who brewed on a $ 4 plastic funnel and Melitta filters and a kettle of hot water. So he has been casting by hand, but I think it’s a lot more about mastering certain basics. Water, grinding, buying a good coffee above all.
As for making it accessible, there are a few basic things you need to know, and it doesn’t have to be that difficult. If you just choose convenience and take a capsule, I feel like you are depriving yourself of some experience. I mean, I don’t churn my own butter – convenience has its place – but I don’t eat canned vegetables, for example. Why would I have?
I sometimes feel like these recipes can be a bit overwhelming but that’s why we’ve included so many brewing methods, hope people have at least one in their house, maybe we can get them to have a little fun with it. At least you can do something that engages you and tastes good to you.
We love that the book is full of helpful little tips, like adding a small amount of acid (like a dash of lemon juice or a pinch of citric acid powder) to temper the hard water in the water. tap for better brewing at home. Did you have a lot of fun DIYing the updated recipes and tips?
One of the recipes [updated after seeing the Workshop Coffee recipe] is the Clever — it’s better! We all learn from each other, that’s a huge benefit to the industry, is that we share these things and we’re open and we see something and that inspires you.
Getting back to it, both testing new recipes and retesting all the old recipes, I spent so much time on lockdown with the whole kitchen full of coffee makers, and it’s not a grand kitchen! It was nice to be able to do it at home and to have that kind of quiet space and to use household grinders. It was fun because you start to really go geeky and it was kind of the invigorating feeling of feeling ‘oh yeah, that’s what I love about coffee’. That you can take the same coffee and brew it in 20 different ways with 20 different results, but also that you can manipulate it more, you are so much part of the equation.
With all the coffee info already online, does anyone need a coffee book?
I think the online community is changing fast, but that’s the downfall of it too. So that you can understand correctly, some information has not changed over the past 10 years. I think you mentally find yourself in a different place when you sit down with a book and have the time and calm to take that information, build your own images in your mind as you read it, record it differently in your brain rather than when you’re in a quick fix on what to remember.
I think he has a different place. There is something about – that goes with where the cafe is located – there is something to do with the physicality of a book, there is a tactile sensation, there is another type. of aesthetic experience than holding your phone or looking at something on Instagram. It’s one thing to grab a quick latte on the go, and quite another to grind your coffee and pour it into the Kalita and have that moment of being away from the bombardment, that’s a little break from a chaotic world. It’s the same thing I get from a hardcover book, it’s a bit of a break and a bit of a real thing.
And personally, I really like hardcover books, I like real books. I read quite a bit, especially literature other than coffee. There is just something about it.
Liz Clayton is Associate Editor of the Sprudge Media Network. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Coffee Collective.