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The Perfect Cup: Aaron Wood

Words & Photographs by Nico Alary

One barista recalls learning the trade in Melbourne, sharing brilliant meals with an influential colleague and overcoming his clumsiness.

Shooting this photo series with Aaron Wood came at a perfect time. After almost two years I’m packing up my life in Melbourne, and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the idea that next week, I’ll be back home in Paris. The timing is perfect because Aaron is one of the very first people I met when I started working in this industry.

I was the greenest barista in town; I was eager to learn, and few people were keen to teach. I got lucky, and eventually I was given the chance to learn from the very talented Talor Browne, who I hope to feature in this series one day. My school was named the Duchess of Spotswood, and there I learned, after many hours of practice (and a fair amount of doubt in my actual capacity to do this job), how to make coffee fast and well.

On Fridays, and on Fridays only, Aaron would be on the bar with me. I instantly liked the guy. I don’t think the feeling was mutual. I was a clumsy, slow learner with a French accent and too many questions. But eventually, Aaron and I became really good friends. We shared the same curiosity for the offal cooking happening in the kitchen at “Duchy,” and over the months I lived in Melbourne, we shared some brilliant meals, always cooked by him and devoured by me. As I’m on the train from Flinders St. to Kensington, where I’m supposed to meet Aaron, all those memories come back to me and I can’t help but smile. Time is a funny thing.

It’s a beautiful day; the gorgeous little houses of Kensington look spectacular in the late afternoon light. We set up at the back of the house, in the laneway, in classic Melbourne fashion. Aaron starts brewing the first plunger. He tells me there are two main aspects to a good cup: quality and simplicity. Quality water; quality coffee from a quality roaster; and simple brewing devices, techniques, and instructions. While he’s attending the coffee, we talk about how crazy it is that in less that six days I’ll be thousands of miles away. We talk about future projects, his upcoming wedding, and his already planned visit to Paris. Two cups of fantastic-smelling Muchai from Kenya are poured and we both quietly sip on it, taking in the soft warmth from the October sun. I think about the fact that I won’t be here for summer this year. I think about how much I’m going to miss this city and all the people I met. Coming full circle. Clumsiness is gone, and most questions have been answered, but the accent remains.

Aaron’s Perfect Cup

500 grams filtered water
15 grams coffee

Boil filtered water. Go to the best café you can find an ask if they can get some of their filtered water to compare against your tap water at home.

Use half the hot water (250 grams) to heat your plunger, decanter, and your cups. Place the plunger filter into the water to heat it, too.

Weight out your coffee. I use a ratio of 6 grams of coffee to 100 grams of water (or 60 grams of coffee per liter of water). Grind your coffee fairly coarse. Your café should be able to show you the best grind for making coffee in a plunger.

Heat remaining water (250 grams) back to boiling. Empty your plunger of its preheated water. Add your ground coffee to the plunger, then add the water. Start timer.

At 3 minutes and 30 seconds, scoop off the crust that has formed at the top, place the filter back on the plunger, and push. Pour all the filtered coffee into your empty, heated decanter. Pour into cups as needed, and enjoy.

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