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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.