Monday, July 20, 2015

Home brewed beer and artisan coffee roasters

On twitter I got notice about a excellent blogpost by wishbeer about homebrewing.

My favorite quote "Most of the people you’re ever likely to meet who remark to you “I am a homebrewer” take brewing as seriously as a dilettante takes any endeavor. "

Free Beer version 4.0 brewed by Skands bottled in 25cl bottles.
The labels has 6 color variations. by freebeer.org CC
The whole article is just full of truth. Doing something at home doesn't make you a professional. Just because it is now open source (http://freebeer.org/blog/) it doesn't mean it is easy (just try to set up a linux pc).
Recently I drank some home-brewed beer at a hip location in Silom, and it was horrible. They sell it for 150 baht if I remember correct. Thing is, you don't become a home brewer overnight. It is a profession, and in Germany you actually study it, its a bachelor/master of science. For a reason.

Yes, that stuff you made with your kit from Amazon makes something close to beer. And because you are lazy and don't filter it properly, you call it craft beer. But it's not. (And it's actually illegal in Thailand)

The same thing goes for coffee roasting. The most money with coffee roasting are making the manufacturers of coffee roasting equipment. I think they are laughing their ass off when the next email comes in, asking for quotations and discounts, but not instructions and training courses.

Roasting is as brewing a craftsmanship. To become a craftsman, you need more than a beard and a chalk board and paper bag -like vacuum sealed coffee bags. You need experience. You may get training for some years at a big company roasting like hell every day.

See, it is easy to complain about Starbucks or even Nestle how bad they are. The latter are actually bad, both the coffee and the company. But that's a personal opinion, and they still have experienced and well trained roasters.

They must do something right, in particular brands like Lavazza and Segafredo, where you get higher quality. The secret ingredients are volume, quality control and money. Volume makes sure that you can get good beans for a good price, quality control makes sure that every roast has the same standard, and money makes you hire the right people.

I have friends in Asia who started the roasting business, and yes, I like their coffee, but the quality is up and down. They do their best, no doubt, but that is sometimes not enough.

To be clear: I don't say that only big companies make good coffee. There are roasters even in Thailand who are doing business for quite a few years and even export to Italy and supply big companies. But they rarely show up in Thonglor.

It is easy to set up a restaurant business in Asia, investments are low, and people like to consume and eat out. Young teachers expats are bored to death so they spend a lot of money for overpriced cold brewed coffee, organic salt and vegan green curry. In German there is a saying "Wer nichts wird, wird Wirt" that translates to "Who doesn't make any career opens a bar or restaurant".

And this is so true in South-East-Asia. Just look at the turnover in Thonglor/Ekkamai. Shops changing names and tenants faster that the government changes it's recent decisions. And one reason is often that people just don't know how to do it.

I like cooking, I cook every day for me and my wife. Since she is still with me, it isn't too bad, I guess. But that doesn't make me a cook. And I will certainly not open a restaurant because I like cooking at home. Or brewing my coffee. I leave it to the people who learned it from scratch.