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“He tells me that coffee tastes better when you make it yourself, or when it is made by someone you know”

The Perfect Cup: Mark Free

Words & Photographs by Nico Alary

Our perfect cup series continues with Mark Free from Black Coffee Pop-Up in Melbourne, who says that coffee tastes best when you make it yourself. He includes his skills for making ideal use of an AeroPress. 

When asked to do a series about the perfect cup of coffee, the first person that came to mind was Mark Free. Mark is curator of the Black Coffee Pop-Up in Melbourne and manages Brother Baba Budan, one of the best cafés in the city. When I arrive at Mark’s studio it’s about 9 a.m., and despite the fact that it’s the middle of summer, the sky is overcast and the day cool, and I’m glad I’m wearing a couple of layers. Perfect weather for drinking some coffee. His girlfriend Amy is there too, flipping through an old copy of Crime and Punishment.

Mark turns on the hot plates, weighs out the coffee, rinses the paper filter and starts grinding the beans—medium-fine for the AeroPress. As he is carefully making a cup for each of us, I start shooting, and we casually talk about the perfect cup. Which origin? What time of day? Mark likes his around 10 a.m. Wake up, settle in and then make the first AeroPress of the day. I’m loving how simple the method is. The grounds goes in the chamber, hot water is poured on top and one minute later the Aeropress is flipped over a cup, and the now brewed coffee is forced through the paper filter in about 20 seconds.

He tells me that coffee tastes better when you make it yourself, or when it is made by someone you know. The perfect cup is not only about how you make it, or which bean you use, but also (and just as importantly) who has made it for you. The first couple of cups are ready and the room fills with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. My cup is perfectly exctracted, sweet and clean with complexity. Peach, apricot and shortbread biscuit flavors come to mind. It looks like it’s going to rain. I put the camera down for a few minutes and we all quietly sip the warm beverage, looking out at the unsure weather. I’m thinking that this could be it, the perfect cup. A comfy couch, some single-origin beans and a carefully prepared cup of coffee, made by a friend.

Recipe: Aeropress

7 ounces water, just shy of boiling
2 tablespoons coffee, ground medium to fine, like coarse beach sand

Grind your coffee fresh, if possible.
Fully extend the AeroPress chamber and plunger components and place inverted on the bench or scales with the filter cap off.
Preheat the AeroPress chamber with hot water and then discard.
Rinse the paper filter disk in the filter cap.
Add coffee grounds and boiled water to the chamber, ensuring all the grounds are saturated, and screw on the filter cap.
After 30 seconds, place your cup or decanter over the filter cap and carefully flip the AeroPress and cup.
Wait a further 30 seconds, then plunge for 20 seconds, stopping as soon as all the liquid is extracted and the press begins to gurgle—squeezing the grounds at the bottom of the press may lead to unpleasant, over-extracted flavors.

This makes coffee for one or to share.

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