One of my favorite coffee places is CAMON coffee on Sonnenallee. In between the many Middle Eastern supermarkets, old-school Turkish cafés and Afro barber shops, you could easily miss this stylish (but homely) oasis which has become my go-to for snacks, cakes and wi-fi. And coffee. Drip filter coffee. Functional coffee. (Also, worth saying again: Wi-Fi, cakes, snacks, eggs, breakfast, and all the other things that Millenials love. There’s also a pleasant lack of the political avocado toast).
Unlike many other people in Berlin who drink coffee merely as a lifestyle choice and not because they’re legitimately addicted and don’t function without an intravenous, lethal dose of caffeine, I personally choose to hate the phenomenon of “3rd wave coffee“.
I neither have the time nor the patience nor the money nor the fucking narcissism that would be in order to stand in line for 6,5 hours for a coffee ceremony and a panel discussion about how to grind the beans perfectly and which magical spell ust be made in order to yield Gods choice of coffee. The resources that I have allocated to coffee and Buddha bowls are minimal. Je suis the catering of #fyrefestival.
So, yes, in the face of a growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor, I think 3rd wave coffee is a step back into the dark days of the Middle Ages – a time when pale and flabby royals were bathing in the blood of slaves and peasants.
Anyway, so CAMON has a pretty great drip coffee machine. It produces a quick, delicious and medium strong coffee. And since it seems to be the only place in this particular area in Neukölln where people aren’t judged for drinking “bad coffee” (do you even know how many times self-proclaimed ‘baristas’ have looked at me with disgust and condescension because I had the fucking AUDACITY to ask for ‘regular filter coffee’?! Fucking human clysters), I have decided to make it my home away from my own coffee machine.
Don’t tell me that drip filter coffee isn’t as good as “real” filter coffee. Of course it’s never going to be as good as coffee that was picked by hyper-intelligent coffee smelling pig-monkeys in Brazil, ground to the fine sand texture of a Caribbean beach and then hand-stirred by unsoiled virgin twins at 3 minutes after midnight when the moon is exactly in position with Uranus’ vagina – exactly the kind of coffee that you can get at nerdy hotspots such as Filterhouse (also an excellent bar and excellent people), 5 Elephant (excellent cakes but omg the people/prices are ridiculous), The Barn, and so on.
In the holy halls of luxurious coffee, the barista becomes not merely a mortal service person that specializes in operating the coffee machine – here, the barista is an engineer of coffee. Coffee transcends the field of basic commodities to the nebulous realm of luxury that only time or money can afford. And don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate coffee at its most sophisticated, too. Subtle flavors of sunshine, smiling babies and the Popes breath, who wouldn’t want that. But it’s been taken to too many extremes. I don’t want to be living in a world where we’re always competing for excellence of the few when we should really be striving for the greatness of the many.
But all of these engineers will tell you that filter coffee is never good when it’s from a drip. But why? Good filter coffee used to be abundant, even before the Yuppies, students and 3rd wave coffee gentrification hipster ravers came. Every bakery in ein Germany, in Berlin, in every hotel of the world, even in Syria (EVEN IN SYRIA!) you would have good enough drip filter or AT LEAST reliable french press (much like you can still get in every deli in New York).
But as the guys from Filterhouse told me: it’s not very economic to provide VERY good filter coffee on a large scale. The coffee has to be fresh all the time in order to be great, and that’s hard to achieve without waste. After all, you’re still grinding expensive beans. The so called Kännchen is almost a relict now – it was a special way to store coffee in china in order to keep it warm and fresh – but who’s got time to drink from a pot of coffee anymore when everyone orders to-go?
Nicole, the owner of Camon, tells me that the secret to good drip filter coffee is having a reliable machine, good beans and the will to experiment. And the new machines can really take care of most essential aspects of coffee-making: water temperature, bean grounds, and equal moisture. It’s that easy. Nicole worked her way from Berlins gnarly agency and media world to her own business as a coffeeshop owner, so she understands the need of straight coffee without ornament.
And then there was the Caffe Crema epidemic. I guess the Caffe Crema machine (something that resembles Espresso but certainly isn’t) is the final step to the industrialization of coffee. It’s quick, it’s probably cheaper than a wholesome Espresso machine, and it can produce something like filter coffee and like Espresso, but tastes more like the aborted waters of the holy Ganges.
Caffe Crema became synonymous with filter coffee when the non-3rd wave bakeries and restaurants and coffeeshops tried to keep up with the artisanal spirit of the big cities. It’s. Not. Filter. And I still get little pangs of incontrollable rage inside of me when I think of all the times I ordered a filter coffee and was served with an Americano.
But it seems as if I’m not the only one who has dearly missed the easy coffee that my parents used to drink. CAMON is my personal favorite, but 5 Elephant, The Visit (who I asked for an interview of their concept coffee roastery thing and they never got back to me, and so now I boycott them despite the good coffee) and even Bonanza Coffee Heroes all offer very good drip coffee, too – not to mention the many options in Mitte and Charlottenburg, Friedenau, Schöneberg and Wedding that I don’t even know about (because why would I? It’s not like I roam the streets of Berlin in the morning).
Basically, is 3rd wave coffee finally stepping off its high horse? Are we entering the 4th wave of coffee – the revolution of the people?
The real MVPs of my coffee world are the traditional Berliner bakeries who never gave up on their little Krups or Braun machines, and who regularly save me when I’m on field trips in remote neighborhoods of Berlin. Filter coffee took a 10 year detour and is finally on its way home – at a higher price, of course, but I mean, what isn’t.