Here’s a short anecdote that will certainly make your day. Coffee was an accidental discovery by Kaldi an Ethiopian herdsman in the 9th century: He observed that his goats were energized and would jump vigorously when they nibbled on cherries from a certain type of bush. He too tried the fruit of the bush and was similarly energized. So he carried the fruits to a monastery – the dwellings of Islamic holy men. But they disapproved of their use and threw them into a fire. Soon the air was filled with an enticing aroma. The world’s first coffee beans had just been roasted, which were subsequently collected, ground and mixed with water to yield the first cup of coffee.
There is no reason why our reader too cannot enjoy similar exhilaration. We have outlined some easy, yet essential points to remember while preparing coffee.
The Simpleton’s Guideposts Are:
- Fresh Cold Water. Water that has been in a storage vessel for some time or has been previously heated is not recommended. It will make the coffee insipid or flat. In India we have added problem of brackish or salty ground water. The salts deprive the coffee extract of taste. We recommend water from an RO system or bottled mineral water.
- Good Milk: Generally speaking, full cream milk is preferred for froth based coffees such as cappuccino or latte. Toned milk is good to top up in case of drip brew or other methods of extraction (French press, South Indian drip, Moka stove top). Keep in mind that milk fights coffee. So the creamier the milk the milder the coffee will taste (other things being equal). Therefore if you are using a milder coffee then combine it with low fat milk. Dairy whitener, Coffee Mate and Condensed milk in our opinion make the tastiest coffee. (Weight watchers and fitness/health devotees will however disapprove)
- Equipment: Many beginners get confused over choice of equipment. However, in our opinion good quality freshly roasted coffee is far more important. It is very much possible to extract a good satisfying cup of coffee from simple percolators, French Press or a Moka stove top. It is now possible to pick up simple appliances for domestic or small office use at appliances stores or online retailers.
- Correct Grind: Simply stated, the grind size affects the contact time of the coffee with water. If the grind is too coarse, then there will not be sufficient time to extract the flavours, and if the grind is too fine then the water may not drain out completely and the resulting coffee will be bitter. It is also important to use a grinder which produces uniform grind. Uneven grind will give aberration in taste.
- Grind Quantity: Universally followed quantities are:
French Press: 7 Gm (two tablespoons) for 180 ml cup.
Espresso: 7 Gm (two tablespoons) for 45 ml single shot of espresso.
Drip Brew: 6.5 Gm (two tablespoons) for 100 ml water.
Stove Top: 8 Gms for 60 ml water.
- Contact Time of Coffee Grind With Water:
Espresso machines 20 sec
Brewers: 5-6 min.
French Press: 4 min.
When using drip coffee or Brewers keep in mind that if the coffee is bitter in taste then the water is dripping through the filter too slowly, and if the coffee is tasting weak then it is an indication that the coffee is dripping through very fast. Drip brewers should be used 70-80% of its capacity; else the resultant coffee will taste weak.
- Temperature: As a rule coffee tastes best if it is extracted and consumed at the recommended temperature range of 82-85 degree Celsius. Most multinational equipment manufacturers fix the above range. Funnily, enough we Indians drink our beverages very hot, and we have noticed customers request that the coffee be reheated (as in a micro wave oven). This practice will result in hot coffee, but not the best tasting coffee. It is also advised to warm the mugs before hand, because the coffee temperature drops rapidly when it comes in contact with a cold cup. (Sometimes by as much as 10 degrees Celsius).
- Storage of Beans/Grinds. The Rule of Thumb is: Least contact time of coffee with air, humidity and heat. Coffee should be stored in sealed non return valve bags, and if opened, in an air tight container (preferably non plastic), away from light. It is best consumed within a week or ten days of opening the bag. Some people store sealed coffee bags in refrigerators. That’s fine as long as they are sealed. Once opened they should be consumed. The fresher the coffee the better the aroma and taste.
Here, then are the important ingredients for making a good cup of authentic, fresh, full bodied, brewed coffee. You don’t have to settle for second best. For those of you who choose original label fashion wear versus a knock off, the above simple steps will put you at par with most veterans. You will make mistakes initially, but you will quickly learn to get it right. You will tweak around a little bit and get your own proportions based on your preferences. The important point is; no more self denial; no more settling for weak tasting milky knock offs; no more sweet powdered broth from the booth down your street corner. This is the complete Do it yourself kit for starters. So in two words: get started.