The Art of Making Coffee

Let me get straight to the point: my name is Jonathan and I am addicted to coffee. Like a lot of people I start each day with a giant mug of the stuff. Thanks to a great travel mug that my dad got me last year, my coffee stays nice and warm all morning. I make my coffee with an aging drip coffeemaker and I’ll be honest, I’m not always as discerning as I should be about the type of joe that goes into the machine. I buy a lot of great local coffee when I think of it, but I’m also willing to toss a bag of White Castle Brand coffee into my basket at the store if it’s on sale. In truth it’s actually not that bad. But I think we can all agree that there is a better class of coffee out there, and that there are better methods for brewing it.

Recently I bartered some photographs for a fancy schmancy home brewing kit. Aside from being beautiful to look at, the kit also makes a mighty tasty cup of coffee into the bargain. I can safely say that I have not made coffee this good at home in the past. But if you want good coffee you have to be willing to take the time and care to do the job. This is a multi-step process people.

Glass Chemex Coffeemaker

Chemex Coffee Maker.

Chemex Coffee Filters

Chemex Coffee Filters.

First you have to start with a glass Chemex Coffee Maker and filters. My mother has several variations on this one from the 70s, and the design has stayed relatively the same since then. The one floating around our house when I was a kid had a detachable wooden grip around the middle instead of the easier to use handle that my new one has. Place the filter in the top of the Chemex and pre-heat both the filter and the Chemex by pouring hot water through them. Discard the water and replace the filter.

Whole Bean Coffee

Whole Bean Coffee

Hot Water Kettle

Hot Water Kettle

Using a kitchen scale, weigh out your coffee based on the roasters specifications. I was using Kaldi’s coffee, and they suggest ten grams of coffee for every six ounces of water. Grind the coffee (preferably with a burr grinder) and place the grounds in the filter. Set the Chemex with coffee-filled filter on your kitchen scale and tare it to zero.

Now here’s where it gets a little tricky. Using a kettle, heat filtered water to 195 degrees or so. But rather than just dumping it into your coffee all at once, you should pour about 80 grams worth of water over the grounds and filter, making sure to thoroughly soak the grinds. Watch your scale for the appropriate measurements. Use a timer to count off 30 seconds before continuing. This allows the coffee to “bloom” and de-gas which I assume also enhances the flavor.

Brewing Coffee

Brewing Coffee with a Chemex Coffee Maker

Once 30 seconds has passed, add the rest of the water slowly, keeping the water level in the filter at about half-full. Once all the water is in the filter, watch for the steady stream to decrease to a trickle and finally your coffee is done! My instructions also said to give the coffee a swirl before serving. Voila! Delicious coffee!

So. Is this a process I’m going to do every morning? Probably not. My coffee consumption throughout the day requires something a little more hands off. That said, I think this will be my go-to method for making coffee at dinner parties and special occasions, when a little pomp and ceremony is in order. And like most things that are esoteric and complex, it comes with beautiful gear that makes for beautiful photography!. Enjoy!

Fresh Brewed Coffee

Fresh Brewed Coffee. Photograph by Jonathan Gayman

Feast Magazine Donuts and Coffee Shoot

Back in August I was assigned a coffee and donuts shoot by Feast Magazine. The brief was fairly straight forward: five local donut shots, five local coffee companies, five shots of coffee and donuts. This project turned out to be incredibly fun, both from the standpoint of dreaming up five different breakfast scenes for the donuts, and searching for the props to style each scene. Finding interesting coffee mugs on a limited budget is not an easy task, but in the end I found some really cool props to work with.

The exciting part about this particular shoot is that one of my images ended up being chosen for the cover of the October issue! I’ve shot a number of magazine covers for my corporate clients, but this is my first food assignment cover, and I’m pretty stoked that one of my images was chosen. Below are a few of the other pages in this month’s edition that feature my donut and coffee images.

You can find the latest issue of Feast Magazine at your local newstand, as well as bars and restaurants all over the city. If you don’t live in the St. Louis area, check out the digital version and the complete archives of Feast online on their website.