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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Home Brew

I know more about coffee than the average coffee enthusiast, although not much more than what you can learn by reading the article about coffee in The Joy of Cooking (thanks for the book, Mom). Turns out The Joy of Cooking is not just a cookbook. It is a cookbook that is filled with very informative articles about foods and cooking techniques in addition to all its recipes. I suppose that's where the "joy" part comes in -- celebrating food instead of just providing an instruction manual for its preparation.

Anyway, the article about coffee taught me a number of interesting things:

  1. There is no difference between Coffee Beans and Espresso Beans. The difference between coffee and espresso is in both the grind and the brew method. The finer the grind, the stronger the coffee, so espresso is generally ground to a very fine grain. And whereas coffee is a slow drip brew that takes several minutes, espresso is a high pressure brew that takes about 30 seconds.

  2. There are two major species of coffee beans: Arabica and robusto. Arabica is the higher quality of the two because, although it has about half as much caffeine as robusto, it has much richer flavor. Cheap grocery store coffee is most likely robusto, as are flavored coffees. Coffee house coffee is generally Arabica. Check the bag before you buy.

  3. The fresher your coffee is, the better it tastes. Coffee may be kept in the fridge or freezer to help maintain freshness; however, coffee is about as absorbent as the baking soda you keep in your fridge to ward off stink, so unless you want your coffee to taste like stink, you'd better make sure there isn't stink to begin with. If you really want to capitalize on freshness, you should grind your own beans as you need them.

Bullet point number 3 is something I have ignored up until now. But, fortuitously, I accidentally bought a package of whole bean coffee from Caffee Niche. I don't think it was really my fault. I think the girl who sold me the beans ought to have asked me if I would like them ground. But she didn't, and when I got to work and started the process of making coffee, I discovered the whole beans in my bag.

Desperate for my morning fix, I wondered for a moment if I could brew a decent tasting cup of coffee using whole beans. But since I know about bullet point number 1 up there, I quickly dismissed these thoughts and proceeded to curse the girl who sold me whole bean coffee without first pointing out that it was whole bean coffee. (Of course, it hadn't occurred to me to ask, or better yet, to check the damn package. Note to self: never trust a salesperson to do your thinking for you.)

So I placed my whole bean coffee on the shelf and resigned myself to doing without the morning caffeine whilst mentally noting that I would now have to shell out 20 bucks for a grinder. But it's looking like those 20 bucks were bucks well spent, because my first cup of freshly ground home brew was the best tasting home brew I've ever made! (The second cup was exceptional too!)

I had been frustrated that I couldn't seem to brew coffee as good as the coffee I can get at the local coffee shops downtown. Mine usually tastes more like 7-Eleven coffee or Village Inn coffee or -- worst of all -- hotel room coffee. That's why this past winter I usually made tea in the mornings rather than coffee. It's much easier to brew a fine cup of tea. But now I can make delicious coffee shop style coffee for a fraction of the price! And when you're a daily drinker like me, that really adds up. I reckon I'll have saved myself the cost of that grinder before the end of the month.

So if you're a daily drinking coffee enthusiast like me, do yourself a favor and get in on the whole beans and coffee grinding right now. And pick up a copy of The Joy of Cooking while you're at it.


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13 comments:

Melliferous Pants said...

Joy of Cooking rocks!

Loralee Choate said...

I have to make do with instant coffee as my husband would lay his dead body down and die before allowing a coffee maker in the house (He.really.loathes.any.trace.of.smell)

It sucks six ways from sunday.

Sra said...

Six ways from Sunday... that's a very interesting saying.

I used to drink instant Nestle coffee when I was in Germany, and I rather liked it. I bought what looked to be the same jar of it in America, and it wasn't quite as good but still drinkable. One thing I like about instant coffee is that you can pre-mix the powdered coffee with powdered creamer and then just scoop and add water. Not that that's so much more convenient, but I like it.

At least you can go out and get a nice coffee house brew.

Sovknight said...

I have never tasted coffee. Not once in my entire life have I had so much as a drop of coffee in my mouth. Does that make me weird?

It sure smells good though. I have no idea why I've never had coffee. I have no religious beliefs, so that's not it. I have no aversion to it, because it obviously smells so good. I don't know why... this is weird. I feel sub-human somehow.

Sra... for the second time in as many days, I've typed a witty and thoughtful response and clicked the "Publish your comment" button, only to be denied and have my comment cast into the void. Have you heard of anyone else having this issue? It's like the button doesn't work sometimes. Either that, or your blog is really smart and my comments aren't as witty and thoughtful as I thought...

Sra said...

You are the only one who has reported this problem so far, and I don't know why it's happening to you. I've never experienced it myself here or on any other blogger blog. My advice? Copy your comment by highlighting it and pressing CTRL+C before posting. Then if it gets lost you can try again. Or try the back button on your browser. That might bring back your text.

Well, I think it's weird that you've never tried coffee, but that's only because I love it so much. But let me just say this: its smell and taste, while related, are different. Some people love the smell and hate the taste. Probably if you want to try coffee, you should start with a flavored latte, like a mocha, or a hazelnut, or a pumpkin spice. From there you can start trying less sugary drinks until you are down to just coffee with cream and sugar to taste.

Coffee is a lot like beer. It's an acquired taste, and once you acquire it, you can put up with drinking some pretty shitty brew. But if you haven't acquired it yet, you want to make sure you start with some really good stuff. Like I hated beer until I went to Germany where the beer tastes like healven. Now I can drink Budweiser if I have to.

So start with a tasty Starbucks tall mocha latte and go from there.

Adam said...

I like my coffee like I like my women: Quick, cheap, totally lacking in taste, and purchased on a street corner. Also, tasting slightly of cigarette butts.

I'm actually a tea person myself. I abhor the bitter taste of coffee.

Sra said...

Tea hee hee!

Tea is incomparable, and generally under appreciated in America. But luckily there are a lot of hippies in America, and hippies love tea, so we get to reap the benefits of hippiedom.

The Over-Thinker said...

Adam's comment made me laugh...reminds me of an Eddie Izzard line: "Yes, I like my coffee hot and strong … Like I like my women: hot and ..strong … with a spoon in them."

Sra said...

Ha ha! classic Eddie Izzard line! I think that's my favorite EI DVD.

Sra said...

Ha ha! classic Eddie Izzard line! I think that's my favorite EI DVD.

The Over-Thinker said...

Adam's comment made me laugh...reminds me of an Eddie Izzard line: "Yes, I like my coffee hot and strong … Like I like my women: hot and ..strong … with a spoon in them."

Adam said...

I like my coffee like I like my women: Quick, cheap, totally lacking in taste, and purchased on a street corner. Also, tasting slightly of cigarette butts.

I'm actually a tea person myself. I abhor the bitter taste of coffee.

Sra said...

You are the only one who has reported this problem so far, and I don't know why it's happening to you. I've never experienced it myself here or on any other blogger blog. My advice? Copy your comment by highlighting it and pressing CTRL+C before posting. Then if it gets lost you can try again. Or try the back button on your browser. That might bring back your text.

Well, I think it's weird that you've never tried coffee, but that's only because I love it so much. But let me just say this: its smell and taste, while related, are different. Some people love the smell and hate the taste. Probably if you want to try coffee, you should start with a flavored latte, like a mocha, or a hazelnut, or a pumpkin spice. From there you can start trying less sugary drinks until you are down to just coffee with cream and sugar to taste.

Coffee is a lot like beer. It's an acquired taste, and once you acquire it, you can put up with drinking some pretty shitty brew. But if you haven't acquired it yet, you want to make sure you start with some really good stuff. Like I hated beer until I went to Germany where the beer tastes like healven. Now I can drink Budweiser if I have to.

So start with a tasty Starbucks tall mocha latte and go from there.

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