trying out the single scene

As I mentioned in my recent holiday gift guide, there’s a nascent market for single serving convenience formats in quality coffee. In addition to instant coffee and teabag-like steeped coffee, there are some inventive, self-contained mini pourover products on the market. My buddy Rob travels to Ethiopia frequently on business, and he recently brought me back a local example of the latter to try.

The attractive little packet came from Zing Coffee of Addis Ababa. Pretty arresting graphics on the front and back.

who you calling a dripbag?

Clear, concise directions. How hard could it be? Apparently not so easy if, like me, you just tear it open without bothering to think about what your doing. The first bad sign was that I had managed not just to open the outer pouch but also to rip open the coffee bag inside.

D’oh!

I was fortunate enough to have ripped along the line I needed to tear later in order to brew the coffee, so luckily the only impact of my error was I had to be extra careful opening up the wings on the side of the bag so as not to spill the grounds. I managed to set it up on my 8 oz KeepCup with no harm done, and then set out to make the drink. Given the very rudimentary directions on the packaging, I didn’t know how much water to use, and because I’m occasionally an idiot I didn’t realize that I should be going for a pourover, and not a steep – should have been pretty obvious though – so my cup wasn’t near tall enough. Derrrrrrppppppp. Two seconds on Zing’s website would have shown me this really obvious clue, since the word DRIP in big letters apparently wasn’t enough for me:

photo: Zing Coffee Center website

So I managed to cock the whole thing up, both by using too much water and by having the wrong cup for the job. Instead of dripping through the bag, it ended up as a botched up coffee bath. Smelled nice when I opened the bag, but the flavor was very watered down given I used almost twice as much liquid as needed. Having used a cup without a spout didn’t help matters, either, as some of the water missed the bag and went straight into the cup. My sad little vessel of failure did manage to deliver a nice caffeine kick that got my attention.

how not to do it

I figured it had been an opportunity lost to my own stupidity, but fortunately Rob was headed back to Africa a couple weeks later and managed to grab me another Zing bag. Given a second chance, I managed to figure out the bag was intended for five ounces of water, not seven or eight, and I made it at home instead of at work so I had a bigger cup at hand. The little paper wings on the sides of the bag opened easily and took a sturdier grip on the rim of the cup than expected.

more substantial than expected

I went overboard and used a basic Pyrex measuring jug as an intermediate stage for the hot water from the kettle, ensuring the proper amount as well as an accurate pour into the bag.

Easy peasy. Gave it a slow pour, let the water work its way through the beans, then out the bag to the cup. I never had to worry that the wings wouldn’t support the bag through the process. The only drawback was using a big cup to ensure the pourover worked made the resulting coffee look like a piddling amount, even if it was the volume of two and a half espresso double shots.

that’s it?

I had a sip or two black, and it was good. A touch of a fruity topnote, balanced flavor, strong but not too strong. Pourover fanatics may find it wanting, as it wasn’t as ‘clean’ a cup as they would be used to, and espresso aficionados would miss the crema and layers of flavor. But overall nice taste and I liked it much better than a typical drip coffee – easier and quicker, too.

After those first sips I added some milk, and ended up wishing I had been less generous with my pour. The flavor of the coffee wasn’t quite strong enough to stand up to the amount of milk I added. Next time I would go with a much lighter splash. And all that said, I still got a nice big roaring kick of caffeine, but not to the point of shuttering or shaking or questioning my continued existence.

Glad I got to try it, and I hope Rob brings me back some more on his next trip. I’m hoping to get my hands on some Counter Culture single serve steeping bags in the near future as well. Assuming they do the trick, I am going to have to stock some of these two kinds of singles in the office for those days when I don’t have enough time to run out for my daily macchiatos. I’ve just got to make sure I have a big enough cup for the job.

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