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A Beginner’s Guide to Brewing Kenyan Coffee

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Nairobi is a coffee lover’s paradise. Some of the world’s best coffee is grown in the highlands close to the city and you can get it anywhere. You’ll know from school (was it GHC or science?) that we produce Arabica coffee that is acidic and fragrant. Nothing picks me up like the smell of freshly brewed Kenyan coffee.

What makes our coffee special?

Kenya offers some of the most intensely aromatic, brightly acidic coffees in the world. The taste profile is complex and full of fruity flavours, such as berry and citrus – some almost winey. Tastewise, Kenyan coffees fall into one of two categories: big and bold or tropical and crisp. Compared to Ethiopian coffee, Kenya coffee is much brighter and higher in acidity.

There is no better place to brew your own coffee than here. But getting into brewing Kenyan coffee can be a little intimidating. The actual technique is easy to master and you do not need a machine to brew great coffee although it helps. The real barrier to making great coffee in Nairobi is in our minds. The whole industry has a premium gloss to it that keeps most of us away.

Imagine if half the tea we drank in this country came from other places. Imagine if French supermarkets were flooded with cheap wine from across the globe. Or if instead of eating mangoes in January we just bought sachets filled with mango granules and dissolved them in water to make juice. Horrible, right? Read the label on your favourite instant coffee brand; there’s a good chance it was not made here. If it was, well, it is still instant coffee.

If you’re ready to start brewing your own coffee and do not know where to start, I’ll tell you how I do it. I’m a freelance writer on a budget so you best believe I found the most financially sensible way to indulge my coffee habit. I buy my beans from a cafe in Chiromo. You can select between medium roast and dark roast. I get medium. I have a 4-year-old coffee grinder that I bought online. It had already been used so it was cheaper than buying a new one. I get paper filters.

Brewing Kenyan coffee without a coffee machine

Place your filter on top of the coffee cup. It does not matter whether you have a thick or thin filter, but it does need to be clean. If you do not have one, use a clean cloth and tie it to a sieve. Once the filter is in place:

  1. Rinse the filter with hot water and pour out the rinsing water
  2. Measure a tablespoon of coffee for each cup of coffee you want to make
  3. Grind your coffee on a medium, sand-like grind
  4. Wet the grounds with a little water and wait for at least 30 seconds (longer if your beans are very fresh)
  5. Pour half of the remaining water over a 30-second duration
  6. Pour the rest of the water in three or four smaller increments

The entire process takes me about 8 minutes. This is how I start each day and I hope that more us discover the benefits of brewing the world’s best coffee at home.

Joy Matiri

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