Kopi Joss – The charcoal coffee of Yogyakarta

When I’m on the road I’m always on the lookout for interesting cafes and new coffee experiences. On my trip to Yogyakarta I found an unusual brew called Jopi Joss: charcoal coffee.

Charcoal in coffee
[Kopi Joss - it tastes better than it looks.]

Kopi Joss preparation starts off in the usual Javanese style, with loose coffee grinds and sugar added to a cup and hot water poured on top. The magic ingredient – flaming hot charcoal – is then added to the brew. So basically this is a coffee with a piece of burnt wood floating in it.

Apparently the charcoal neutralizes the acidity of the coffee, making it easier to drink for those who get an upset stomach from coffee. I must have an iron stomach when it comes to coffee as I didn’t notice the difference. The coffee is surprisingly smooth though and it has no burnt or woody aftertaste like I thought it might.

Wood-fired stove

Wood-fired stove.

Blowing hot charcoal

A flaming red piece of charcoal is taken from the stove and the ash and loose embers are blown off.

Hot charcoal into coffee

The hot charcoal is added to the coffee.

Steaming cups of Kopi Joss

The satisfying sight and sound of watching the charcoal sizzle as it cools.

Messy Kopi Joss - Yogyakarta

Once the fire is out you can then fish the charcoal from your cup. Sometimes the coffee bubbles over, leaving messy cup covered in coffee grinds. No napkins here, so if you are offended by a few loose coffee grinds then you are in the wrong place.

I was in Jogja for over a week and I went back several times to get a charcoal coffee fix. One afternoon there was a storm passing through and it was getting dark. The kopi joss dealer lit up a kerosene lantern and continued on his business of preparing coffee. With the light of the lantern and the glow of the fire it felt like I was drinking The Devil’s Cup. It crossed my mind that this would probably not be legal in Australia.

There are a row of kopi joss stalls on the north side of main train station (Tugu) and they open around 4pm. One cup was 3500 IDR (35 cents USD).

Comments

  1. I love my coffee and I’m not so sure how I’d feel about getting a taste of kopi joss but I’ll take your word for it!

  2. Wow! I wish I read this before my last trip to Yogyakarta. Definitely something I would have liked to try. Love the photos and story. We tried kopi luwak at a couple of different places in Bali, but nobody ever mentioned this when we were in Java!

  3. This is so interesting! I’m amazed that you say the coffee doesn’t develop an unpleasant smokey taste. Weirdly, last week, I saw a cafe in Kyoto advertising charcoal coffee, but I didn’t get a chance to check it out. I wonder if it’s the same as kopi joss? I really want to try it!

  4. Mad. Indonesia has so many weird and wonderful region-specific foods and drinks that there’s always something new and interesting to experience. Love this story!

  5. I thought I knew a bit about coffee until I read this. This is actually the most interesting thing I’ve read in quite some time. I can’t believe the charcoal doesn’t alter the flavor. Great blog!

  6. Brian Hill says:

    I am going to make some myself! I have everything need, including hardwood char (no coal). Then I am going to add frothed milk and have cappuccino char! And please use only a torch to light char or charcoal. I have several, big and small. Please never use charcoal lighter fluid! Yummy!

  7. Jeepers…surely that’s a health hazard! I’m not a fan of coffee myself but I think I would have to give this a try. What a unique method of making sure your brew is piping hot!

  8. Hi James! I wonder how it tastes. I have never tried any coffee than regular one and don’t know will ever try or not.. But you are awesome to have it

  9. This looks amazing! My favorite coffee ever were the frappes in Greece. I haven’t been able to find one similar in Italy and tried experimenting at home… not the same.

  10. Wow, i think this has got to be one of the most unique coffees you’ve tried thus far! I can’t say it looks inviting, but I trust you if you say it tastes much better than it appears. I like how you needed to get your “charcoal coffee fix.” I guess I should make my way over to Indonesia!

  11. Maybe Indonesia is the place to go for weird regional coffees. An Indonesian friend once told me that in her home region people crack a raw egg into a cup of coffee, but I’ve never heard of this anywhere else.

    • Thanks for the tip. I didn’t know there was egg coffee in Indonesia. The only place I have heard of it is in Hanoi:
      [http://www.legalnomads.com/2013/01/vietnamese-egg-coffee-recipe.html]

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