Friday, January 20, 2012

Let's Talk Coffee

1/365: jan 1 First off, I'm sure you (all two of you!) thought I'd abandoned this blog, but I promise, I have not! One of my resolutions this year is to actually post about the things I've been busy making.

So let's dive into one of my favorite worlds - coffee. I'm pretty passionate about my coffee. It's something that's developed over time, my tastebuds gaining a love of stronger and purer coffee bit-by-bit. I get a lot of compliments on my coffee (hey, it's not bragging if it's fact!), and people asking what my secret is. But it's really not a secret. It's just the right choices in equipment and coffee storage. I will warn you now, this may be too high-maintenance and costly for some of you. It's worth it to me, but if that doesn't sound like you, you can skip the rest of this post.

Pour-over drip coffee instructions, via Blue Bottle Coffee
Let me clarify that I'm going to be referring to drip coffee here. If you're really a purist, you'll use a french press or pour-over drip ceramic filter. The latter is how Blue Bottle brews all their drip coffee, and you can now find the ceramic (much preferred over the plastic for flavor purity) filters in major chains like Peet's and even Starbucks carries them now. I happen to have purchased mine a while ago at the japanese dollar store for $1.50, but it is a single serving size and some of these in-store are larger. Since I'm the only coffee-drinker in the house, that works just fine!

However, for my first-thing coffee, I want simple and I'm going to need more than one cup. The french press gets cold too quickly, and the single serving pour-over is only one cup at a time. Plus, I don't have a reusable filter for the pour-over and feel bad using multiple filters if I want more than one cup.

But I digress. If you're intrigued by these two methods, the links above have pictures and walk-through instructions.

So what makes my coffee special?
- Beans:
I pick dark roasts, but as long as your beans have robust flavor, pick whatever you like. I always buy whole bean and have a burr grinder to grind them right before brewing. It's pricer than the blade grinder, but the consistency and accuracy in the grind are well worth it for me. Do some research and find a burr grinder that doesn't heat up too much (heat in the grind equals loss of flavor in the cup) and that has the range of grinds you need. And being easy to take apart and clean is a huge plus too! The only negative about mine is that it has a plastic coffee-catcher, which means static electricity and more mess on the counter. A few taps with the scoop on the side of the reservoir will help, but it's something I just deal with.

29/365: Jan. 29 Also, make sure you're grinding the right consistency for your filter. If you ever buy pre-ground coffee, it's a mid-range grind. Which means it's probably too fine for a flat-bottom filter and not fine enough for a cone. Grr! But whole bean is better anyway. If you have sludge at the bottom of your cup, it's too fine. If you're not getting enough flavor, it's too coarse. Your grinder should specify each level of coarseness - make sure you adjust accordingly if you're going between filters, french press, and espresso!

Lastly, don't buy more beans than you're going to use in a week or two. Store them in a dry, air-tight container, preferably in a cool area without exposure to light (so those glass containers aren't great - mine are bamboo). And I know stashing beans in the freezer is tempting, but another enemy of coffee is moisture, and what happens when coffee beans thaw? Condensation, which equals loss of oils, aroma, and flavor. Not such a tasty cup. Are we all on board so far?

- Machine:
Think that $10 Mr. Coffee is going to brew fantastic coffee? Think again. The machine is one of the biggest factors in how your coffee will taste, and I am extremely picky about mine.
Things to look for:
- thermal carafe - keeps your coffee warm without getting that horrible burned flavor over time. Very important!
French press makes steamy coffee- spray head - this is how the water comes in contact with your coffee grounds. Look for a spray head that has multiple holes distributed over the top area of the filter. This will disperse the water evenly through your grounds, making sure you get consistent flavor, instead of over-extracting the middle (single hole, traditional style) and under-extracting the edges. It may sound minor, but it makes a big difference in flavor!
- water filter - this isn't mandatory, as you can filter your water beforehand, but it sure makes it easy to use tap water

Those are the biggies. I also am very particular about how my water gets poured in, the cup markings, ease of cleaning, and having a versatile-enough pot to serve just me or a dinner party. I also like to have a timer for auto-shutoff, as well as auto-start for those early mornings where I want my coffee ready to go when I get up. But those won't affect your coffee flavor, they're just nice add-ons.

- Proportion:
This is huge. It's also something you'll get more of a feel for the more you experiment to your taste. But I do 2 generous Tablespoons of (freshly) ground coffee per cup marking. If you didn't already know, one coffee cup equals 6oz instead of the normal 8oz. So just follow the water markings for your machine. The problem I run into is that most coffee makers don't have filters that are big enough to hold that amount in grounds if you make a full pot. So I taper off in grounds a bit as I get over the 6 or 8 cup mark. Basically I try to get as close to the 2 Tbsps per cup as possible, without the possibility of the grounds flooding over into the brewing pot once the water gets started. (Yes, I speak from experience.) This is something that you'll have to figure out for your specific machine. But I always err on the stronger side if possible.

That's it, really. Once you have the set-up, it's really not that complicated. And for me, someone who drinks her coffee black, the flavor is absolutely worth it!

1 comment:

  1. Good article and right to the point. I am not sure if this is truly the best place to ask but do you guys have any ideea where to get some professional writers? Thanks :)
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