5 Brewing has become one of my favourite coffee shops in Seoul. It’s the high level of hospitality and the consistent great brewing of coffee that makes me come back every time. It is Do Hyung Soo who is the driving force behind 5 Brewing using his personal motto: You brew, I guide.
Meeting up with Do Hyung Soo.
I was running late; the shuttle-bus had an issue and thus I had to take a taxi. 10 minutes late for a meeting to which I was really looking forward, how would Do Hyung Soo react to this? I guess I was kind of nervous meeting this Korean icon. When I arrived, I ran into the shop and passed a young looking man who was clearly relaxed and enjoying himself in the warm Korean summer sun.
I walked up to the counter where my favourite barista greeted me with a wide smile of recognition. Before I knew it, I had a fresh cold brewed Ethiopia Chelba in my hand and saw the same young man walk up to me.
The young man turned out to be none other than Do Hyung Soo; multiple award winner, author of ‘Brewing Coffee’ and Professor of Coffeeology. But above all that a loving father and husband.
Before I knew it we were chatting away about 5 Brewing. How the name stood for the 5 things that make up a great cup of coffee: Sweetness, Bitterness, Acidity, Aroma and Body. How 5 Brewing previously was a shop called 5 Extracts. And how 5 Extracts was named for the team of Baristas that he set up in 2009. But im getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start with how Do Hyung Soo got into coffee.
Do Hyung Soo: Early life.
It was the year 2006, Do was only 25 years old when he started working for a sandwich shop in Seoul. After only a year, he started working in a German coffee shop. The coffee scene back then was small; everybody knew each other and there were not many speciality coffee shops. Do remembers well how he had to brew coffee with the German ‘Dallmayer’ blend that was given to him by the owner. She was a German lady who happened to be a Barista championship judge on the side. Immediately his interest in coffee was peaked and soon the owner started learning Do how to be a Barista.
Do turned out to be a fast learner for it took him no longer than a year for his first attempt at the Korean Barista Championships. He came in on a nice 7th spot in 2008 but he wanted more, much more. Do decided to start a team of Baristas that would share knowledge and teach each other al there was to know; 5 Extracts was born. Right of the start the team was a force to be reckoned with; in 2009 they participated in the Korean Barista Championships and won the first prize. 2009 was also the year that 5 Extracts opened its doors as a coffee shop in Seoul.
In 2012 Do Hyung Soo opened a shop of his own: 5 Brewing, but it wasn’t until 2015 that 5 Brewing would be in the shop that it is now.
2014 was the year that Do became Korean champion in the Brewers cup and coached the runner up in the world roasting championships at the same time. In 2017 and 2019 Do won the Korean Barista Award and has been in the Korean Barista Committee ever since. Aside from all this; Do is a professor in Coffeeology, a roast master and an author to the book ‘Coffee Brewing’.
My motivation? Coffee is always different.
When you have done so much in the coffee scene at the age of 38, one wonders how to keep one motivated each and every day. Do had a simple answer:
“I stay motivated because coffee is always different. Coffee is a product that keeps surprising me day after day. After I roast coffee I always discover something new in the brew. Even if it is my second, third or fourth time roasting that same batch of coffee. And as long as I find new sensations in my coffee after I brew it, I know I’m not done learning”
To keep educating himself, Do also go’s to a lot of coffee seminars where people get to ask him questions. By asking questions, Do is forced to think about coffee and come to new insights. This is also the way he teaches his Baristas to brew coffee in his shop.
“Whenever one of my Baristas start working with me, I follow a simple motto: You brew, I guide. I will give the Barista a coffee and won’t tell him or her anything about it. I will let them brew the coffee, taste it and then ask questions. ‘Why’ is one of the most important questions one can ask. For example: why did you brew it like this? Why did you use that amount of coffee? Why are you tasting what you’re tasting? These questions will let the Barista think about the way they brew, what they’re experiencing while drinking, what they’re tasting and so on. I know that each Barista will brew with his own personality, creating different tasting brews even though it’s the same coffee. I just want them to realise why their coffee tastes like it does. In a way, I’m already training them for a championship. During a championship the Barista will have to explain what the judges will taste, and what they can expect.”
Water first, then green beans, roasting and brewing.
Do showed me the beautiful 4kg Probat roaster that he has on display in his shop. Roasting is his passion and he believes that roasting is even more important than brewing when it comes to creating a great cup of coffee.
“When you think of coffee there are certain things you should keep in mind. Water is most the important ingredient of coffee and so I roast according to the specifics of the water. I know how the water in Seoul will affect my coffee when I brew it. So I anticipated that by altering my roasting profile. If you want a perfect cup of coffee you must think about the green bean. 60% of the result of a great cup of coffee comes with a perfect green coffee bean. Next up is the roasting of that bean. I estimate that 30% of a great cup of coffee depends on how well the coffee has been roasted. The remaining 10% comes with brewing. No matter how good of a brewer you are, if the farmer and roaster did not do a good job, you will not get a quality cup of coffee.”
We chat for while longer and the more we chat, the more I learn. Do Hyung Soo has been in the Korean coffee scene when everybody knew each other. Learning about coffee was all about sharing and talking to each other. Nowadays Seoul is overrun with coffee shops and everybody seems to want a piece of the action. This expansion of the coffee scene is both a blessing and a curse. People open shops and start roasting without really knowing what they’re doing and that is shame in my opinion. On the other hand it creates opportunities for talent to bloom in this crowded industry.