Interview with Dutch Barista Champion Merijn Gijsbers

Merijn Gijsbers Chemex

31-year old Merijn calls Eindhoven, Holland’s fifth largest city, home. To get there, I took an hour and a half train from Amsterdam Centraal followed by a 20-minute bus ride, passing by farmland and horses. Together with his partner, Merijn recently moved into a beautiful and modern 3-storey house in “the neck of the woods.”

A 10-minute walk brings you to the forest, where you’ll find yourself surrounded by nature and wildflowers. Another perk that this village offers is high-quality tap water. Here, the tap water is quite good for filter coffee, unlike Amsterdam where there is a bit of a weird taste due to the minerals left over from their unique filtration method.

Merijn tells me about growing up further south from here while he makes me his competition coffee: Finca Sophia, a washed Panama Geisha. While he likes to mix things up, his go-to, especially by himself in the mornings, is a washed Kenya, and when he has visitors, a natural Ethiopian.

This penchant for diversity translates to his work and life as well, which is a trifecta of consulting, offering barista services, and barista training. He spends about 2 weeks a month traveling for work, and loves that he gets to do something different every day.

As he goes about making filter coffee (his favourite method) with precision and ease, he educates me about the origins of the Chemex. It was invented in the 40s by a German chemist, and as such, uses a lot of chemistry. While many baristas don’t like this method, Merijn likes its ease of use, even though that means some of the more subtle nuances in the coffee tend to be lost (after going through the heavy filter it requires). He also likes the design which allows you to make a large batch of coffee; the Chemex has been lauded for its simple, sleek design, and has even been made available in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s design store in New York.

Merijn Gijsbers’ Chemex Brew Guide

  • Step 1: Pre-wet the coffee filter
  • Step 2: Grind 36 grams of coffee to a medium coarseness
  • Step 3: Wet the coffee with 60 grams of water just off the boil for approximately 30 seconds
  • Step 4: Pour half of the remaining water in circular motion, about a centimeter from the edge
  • Step 5: After about a minute, pour the remaining water in circular motions

The entire process should take about 3-4 minutes, and once the water has dripped through entirely, you have yourself a filter coffee ready to be enjoyed.

What You’ll Need

Chemex carafeChemex filters – Kettle – Grinder – Digital scale – Timer

While we sat down to chat more over speculaas, a Dutch spiced biscuit, I was admittedly distracted by every piece of thoughtfully selected interior decor. From the lamps to the wall art.. each was functional, beautiful, and blended seamlessly with the rest. Merijn credits his partner for the work, as he was busy preparing for the Dutch Barista Championship finals during the renovations.

I noticed a coffee book on the, ahem, coffee table and inquired about it, only to find out I had opened Pandora’s box. Merijn scurried upstairs and returned with a stack of books up to his chin, ranging from books for beginners to professionals.

La Bella Macchina: het geheim van de espressomachine Everything but Espresso The Little Coffee Know-It-All: A Miscellany for growing, roasting, and brewing, uncompromising and unapologetic
Very helpful for beginner baristas, explains a lot about the technique of coffee machines If you want to know about filter coffee, though it does go a bit further into the technical aspect of it A fantastic read that explains the science behind coffee in an easy-to-understand, uncomplicated way
Coffee Obsession Coffee: Growing, Processing, Sustainable Production From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail
An interesting read if you’d like to learn more about the coffee producing regions Merijn’s coffee bible, which he refers to if he needs inspiration for competitions of if he wants to know more about the why’s of coffee. Interesting read for professionals who want to understand how particular coffees get particular flavours. As a hobbyist photographer, this book combines two of Merijn’s passions: coffee and photography. It’s also by another hero of his, Steve McCurry.

For some coffee meets bagel, here are Merijn’s recommendations:

Caravan Coffee in London, Bagels & Juice in Eindhoven, KOKO Coffee & Design, Bagels & Wraps, Tony’s NY Bagela, and Bagels & Beans in Amsterdam.

One thought on “Interview with Dutch Barista Champion Merijn Gijsbers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s