German Coffee: Why we (and Germans) Love it?
When one mentions German coffee they’re typically referring to one of two things. Either (A) the cocktail drink known as “German Coffee”, or (B) coffee in and from Germany itself. We’ll get to (A) in a minute but first, let’s talk about coffee from Germany in general.
Coffee in Germany is a unique beast. According to anyone who lives there, the local coffee isn’t anything special – They tend to import the same brands as seen through-out the United States and Europe, and even their locally-produced brands are roasted and served about the same as coffee anywhere else in the world.
So what makes German coffee so special? A lot of it simply has to do with the local love of the stuff. Over 75% of the entire German population over the age of 15 drinks coffee more than once per month, and coffee is consumed on average by Germans more than water or even beer! To say Germany loves its coffee would be an understatement; here’s a few fun facts about Germany’s relationship to coffee you might not have known.
Precision German Engineering, Coffee Style
If you’ve ever plugged in an electric coffee machine for your morning fix? You have a German to thank for that – Two of them, in fact.
First, Mrs. Bentz was a woman on the search for a good cup of coffee and kept coming up short. After experimenting with a number of different methods and finding all of them lacking she had an idea – Her son’s school blotting paper. A few pots of grounds-free, perfectly brewed coffee later and it was on to the patent office in 1908.
Needless to say it didn’t take long for the concept to catch on, and after just twenty years the “M. Bentz” company was ready to move to an upgraded facility in what is now North Rhine-Westphalia, where it remains to this day. So every time you’ve slapped a paper filter into your favorite electric coffee pot? You have Melitta Bentz to thank for that. And – surprise twist! – for the coffee pot itself you have yet another German to thank!
That’s right, the world’s very first electric drip-style coffee maker was created and patented in Germany, where it was known as “the Wigomat“. Inventor Gottlob Widmann was someone else tired of bitter, over-brewed coffee, and his vision of making sure he could get a perfect cup focused on one key component of the brewing process: Temperature.
Prior to Widmann’s invention most coffee was brewed via use of percolators, vacuum brewers, or just good old-fashioned steeping of grounds in boiling water. The electronic drip coffee machine was designed with a thermostat as a central element ensuring for the first time that coffee would reach the right temperature and not overheat – Culprit number one when it comes to bitterness in a cup of joe.
Between Bentz and Widmann it’s safe to say that even though coffee doesn’t grow in Germany their contributions to coffee science absolutely changed the beverage world as we know it. There’s one more German who’s important to mention when it comes to coffee too, but we’ve been saving this one for last because it might be… contentious.
Decaf? Yep, that’s Germany too. Specifically the merchant Ludwig Roselius who, having accidentally had a shipment of coffee beans end up soaked in the local sea water, decided he wasn’t going to take the loss and tried brewing some up anyway. Turned out that the resulting coffee was just about as tasty as the original variety but without all those pesky jitters and thus decaffeinated coffee was born. Much to the chagrin of some.
Small side note: The original decaffeination process used the chemical benzene to help strip away the caffeine at the end. Benzene, as we now know, is an incredibly toxic carcinogen, increasing the risk of both cancer and bone marrow failure. So…. y’know. Glad we moved on from that method.
What’s it Like Drinking Coffee in Germany?
You’re out and about in Germany on a random day and you see a sign: “Kaffee”. You’ve just found an establishment that serves coffee. But what type of establishment can greatly change your experience.
If you’re looking for your traditional style of cafe you’ll find those labeled as such, though you might be a bit surprised when you find patrons not just enjoying coffee or tea but also beer and sometimes even other alcohols. Having a beer casually during the day is a routine part of life throughout much of Europe and the Germans are quite happy taking on that tradition. But just because there’s beer don’t expect a rowdy crowd – Though some cafes can turn into more bar-like establishments during the evening the day crowd is (usually) exactly what you’d expect from your average, more low-key cafe dwellers.
Your average cafe will have a wide array of drinks available to suit just about any tastes, and the best part? The menu should look pretty familiar. Most items use their usual Italian names (like cappuccinos or macchiatos), and the rest are usually pretty easy to figure out with a little lateral thinking. Just remember: If you want a cup of plain black coffee you’re looking for a “schwarzkaffee” (literally “Blackcoffee”) and if you’re looking for a cup with cream that’s a “milchkaffe” (literally “Milkcoffee”).
If the “Kaffee” sign you’re seeing is next to another sign that says “Bäckerei” then you’ve found yourself a bakery, and you might want to head inside. Bakeries are a staple of life in Germany, and a great place to grab a quick bite to eat through-out the day. Your average bäckerei might not have the wide selection of coffee products a traditional cafe would but a good cup of schwarzkaffee should be easy to find and cheaper than at said “traditional” establishments. Sitting down with a mug of coffee and a pastry (we recommend the franzbrötchen, a croissant-esque treat usually filled with cinnamon and sugar) and watching the world go by for a few minutes is always an excellent way to destress.
No matter where you are, though, there’s one simple phrase that should get you what you’re looking for. “Einen kaffee, bitte”, or literally translated “One coffee, please”. And don’t be afraid of the pronunciation; phonetically you’re looking to say something akin to “Eye-nin coffee, bit-uh”. If you mess it up a bit that’s ok – English is spoken frequently through-out Germany, and most locals will just be happy you at least gave it a go.
PS: Don’t worry too much about tipping. Most people won’t get angry if you leave them a small tip but in Germany and through-out most of Europe they’ve long since abandoned the practice of tipping in favor of paying their workers a fair wage, meaning (unlike in America) your server isn’t dependent on your tip to survive. Tip if you’d like but just know it isn’t expected or necessary.
Now, if you’re looking for a drink called a “German Coffee” we have some interesting news for you….
How to Make German Coffee
Turns out the drink called “German Coffee”? Surprise – Looks like it’s an American creation. Though the actual invention of this cocktail recipe is lost to the annals of time we do know that it’s been referenced as far back as the Savoy Cocktail Book first published in 1930. And while it may not be the first application one thinks of when it comes to coffee, it may darn well be the tastiest. The classic recipe as per Savoy goes as follows:
* 1 egg white
* .5 tbsp sugar
* 1 oz Kirsch
* 1 small glass cold coffee
Instructions are simple: Add ingredients and then shake to achieve the frothy white. But there’s one thing there you might not be familiar with – Kirsch.
Kirsch, also known as Kirschwasser or Cherry Eau de Vie, is a cherry-based brandy, popular for use in both mixed drinks and desserts in Germany and the surrounding regions. If you plan on making this drink be warned – A lot of the “kirsch” sold in the United States is cheap, artificially flavored cherry spirits, not actual Kirsch. These products usually taste nothing like the real thing so if you’re interested in checking out this cocktail (and we highly recommend you do) it’s worth making sure you’re picking up the real deal. Ask your local wine & spirits seller for their recommendation, and always check the label on the back of the bottle.
A Wrap Up
We hope you’ve learned a few things about Germany, it’s coffee, and it’s people’s love for their favorite caffeinated beverage. And if you’re looking to make a German Coffee cocktail the recipe above should be a great starting point on your coffee cocktail journey. Next time you’re ever in Berlin? Don’t be afraid about getting your fix – Just remember “einen kaffee, bitte” and once you’ve got that fresh cup of coffee? Everything else should fall right into place. Enjoy!
German Coffee: Why we (and Germans) Love it?
When one mentions German coffee they're typically referring to one of two things. Either (A) the cocktail drink known as "German Coffee", or (B) coffee in