Meet In Your Kitchen | Kiduk Reus’ Bonanza – The Perfect Coffee

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

There was no movement there. We were the movement.” – Kiduk Reus

When a friend took me to Bonanza Coffee on Berlin’s buzzing Oderberger Strasse back in 2006, I felt disturbed and suspicious about the whole thing. This had nothing to do with my beloved old-fashioned Italian-style espresso places where I’d usually have a cup of the dark, thick, bitter drink, a bite of flaky sfogliatella, while Italian opera was soothing my mind, playing in the background. It took me years to understand this new kind of coffee, to taste, to smell, and appreciate the whole complex flavor and aroma profile; to accept that an old tradition was taken in the hands of a bunch of young people to experiment and to create something different with the good old coffee bean that’s been a part of our culinary heritage since at least the 15th century.

Young Kiduk Reus, one of the founders of Bonanza, was one of those kids – curious, brave, and fearless, and ready for a new chapter in his life. After studying design at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and at the Rietveld Academy of Arts in Amsterdam, after successfully working in the advertising industry, he felt that Berlin was calling his name in 2004. He packed his bags, the vague idea of starting a speciality coffee shop at the back of his mind. That was the beginning of a time that would later become known as the worldwide Third Wave Coffee Movement.

I did it all myself. I fixed it. It wasn’t like the machines were actually working. I had figured out how to get them running and put modern equipment into it so it ran even better. And honestly, that even also took off. That actually saved our business in the end because what happened one day, it became a trend this thing with the cast-iron machines. And then I had a whole side business on that in the evening, which financed the whole Bonanza thing. I must have helped over 250 roasteries worldwide getting their equipment. It was huge.” – Kiduk Reus

Born in Seoul, South Korea, adopted at the age of 4 by an American mother and a Dutch father, Kiduk grew up in the Netherlands in a town famous for cheese, in Gouda. Food played an important role. He remembers being a picky child knowing exactly what he wanted to eat and what he didn’t. His palate was already refined, a skill that would come in handy later in his life. In the following years, Kiduk learned what would become a mantra in his life: I need this, it needs to be better, I improve it. And then, miraculously (or not), other people pick up on it.

Understanding that he has to be the motor to bring movement to his ideas, he always had the soul of an entrepreneur. Not waiting for others to come up with something great or to improve something existing, he jumped in first to create what he needed to move on and fulfill his mission. So when he started the first Bonanza coffee shop together with his partner he knew he wanted to roast his own beans as soon as possible to simply reach and keep the quality that he had in mind.

Coincidentally, Kiduk noticed that some old cast-iron equipment – stored in an old airplane hangar by a friend of his and that he had access to – was the best possible equipment for roasting coffee beans. So he jumped on the occasion and spontaneously started a business that would in the end finance Bonanza for a long time. He bought the old parts and machines, added new parts to make them work even better, and became the Berlin man to supply roasting machines to all the big names in the speciality coffee roasting business worldwide. Blue Bottle, Seven Seeds, and about another 250 coffee roasters went to Kiduk Reus’ workshop and got their vintage equipment, customized by Kiduk himself and his growing team of mechanics.

Kiduk says he listens to his mind more than to his feeling. His intuition is definitely absolutely reliable. Many of his decisions seem random at first but then turn into something great. The street where his first shop is on, on Oderberger Strasse, was called Street of Death by house owners and estate agents as none of the businesses lasted long. This street changed a couple years after Kiduk arrived. Leading to Mauerpark – a park that would become famous and turn into a weekly festival scene attracting 30,000 people on a Sunday, all passing by Kiduk’s coffee shop – this street would become one of the most buzzing spots in the city. In hindsight, he couldn’t have chosen a better location.

I get also pushback from my staff because they are again more like It should be like wine, it should be the terroir, it should be the way we’re roasting it, you should be tasting the processing and the varietal! And I’m like But this is so boring, we’ve been doing that all the time, can we not do this! But no, that is not a serious drink! and then I look at the cashier and I’m like Aha, you didn’t sell any of it! No, we recommend them away from that drink, and I’m like Ok.” – Kiduk Reus

When you pay so much attention to each single bean, when you know the farmers, when you set the quality bar so high, you want your customers to taste the whole range of flavors packed into that little bean by nature. Bad beans strongly roasted taste bitter, which covers up bad taste, but you don’t want that to happen with good beans.

And now coffee geeks like Scott Tedder from Leeds (pictured below during a coffee tasting to prep for a coffee competition), Bonanza‘s head roaster and green bean buyer for years, come in to define the perfect roasting process that each bean will go through so that I can actually enjoy the complete complex flavor profile. This means that I have to – or rather want to – question my rigid ideas of how an espresso should taste. I want to give people like Scott a chance to show me something I haven’t experienced before and to allow my taste to develop. And I must admit, it did change. The coffee beans that I buy now aren’t as dark, aren’t roasted as strong anymore. I’m slowly discovering the profiles of good coffee beans.

Kiduk and I might always be a little more experimental and willing to compromise than Scott when it comes to creating new drinks including espresso or hand-brewed coffee, but that’s fine. A baker will always tell you to eat the warm bread just with butter, a farmer will recommend to enjoy the soil-studded carrot on its own, the wine maker wants you to stand in between the vines to feel the terroir when you take the first sip. It’s an appreciation for nature and its miraculous creations, for the pure flavor. Maybe there’s also a little pride involved – which isn’t a bad thing – that they all manage to make nature’s produce shine without distracting from the inner qualities.

Kiduk showed me how to hand-brew the perfect coffee with affordable equipment (you can find the recipe below). You can work with the most basic equipment you have in your kitchen but it’s definitely worth investing a) in a digital gram scale and b) in good coffee beans from a coffee roaster who understands what you’re looking for in taste and who will also grind the beans for you. However, go for small quantities as ground beans will lose their aroma quicker. You will slowly discover flavors in a hand-brewed coffee that you never tasted before and that’s quite an experience. It turns making and drinking coffee into a ritual, like making a cup of special tea.

The podcast episode with Kiduk Reus of Bonanza Coffee is in English. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Kiduk on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

The Perfect Hand-Brewed Coffee

by Kiduk Reus / Bonanza

Makes 2 small cups, or 1 large cup

Equipment

  • 1 coffee paper filter (such as Melita, Hario or Kalita)
  • Coffee dripper / filter (such as Melita, Hario or Kalita)
  • Glass hand drip coffee pot (or any other heat resistant glass pot)
  • Digital gram scale (Kiduk uses an Acaia scale)
  • Kettle with spout (or pour the boiling water into a tea pot with a spout)

Ingredients

  • 220g water (at 95°C / 203°F)
  • 16g coffee, medium grind (most speciality coffee shops will grind your coffee beans if you don’t have a coffee grinder at home; the baristi at Bonanza will happily grind the beans for you if you happen to be in Berlin)

Type of coffee* used by Kiduk (which is also Scott Tedder’s competition coffee)

  • Country: Costa Rica 
  • Producer: William Mora
  • Varietal: Geisha
  • Processing method: natural / anaerobic (anaerobic coffee is fermented / processed in an environment that lacks oxygen)

* Ask your local speciality coffee shop for recommendations for coffee beans suitable for hand-brewing.

Place the paper filter in the coffee dripper, put the dripper on top of the heat resistant glass pot then place the pot on top of the scale.

Fill roughly 240ml / 1 cup of water into your kettle and bring to a boil. Let the water cool in the kettle for a minute until the temperature drops down to roughly 95°C / 203°F.

Add the ground coffee to the paper filter. Tare the scale so that it’s on zero then wet the coffee with a little of the hot water. Wait a few seconds then pour 110g of water on top of the coffee in the paper filter, pouring circular, and wait a minute. Pour the other 110g of water on top, this time straight in the middle. Don’t pour the water in at once, let it drip through the coffee gradually and evenly and make sure that the ground coffee doesn’t swim in water. The brewing time (or water to coffee contact time) should be around 2:20 minutes.

Pour the coffee into 2 cups and enjoy immediately.