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July 1998 Issue
by Chris Schaefer
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Let me briefly begin by saying that to you, the reader, I don't expect a complete understanding as to why I expound on this particular subject. But rather I ask you to embrace it and put on your mind, how coffee ties in with the environment you are familiar with here, at Seasoned Cooking.

With that out of the way, let me tell you a story....

It was a cool, slightly breezy spring night -- a Friday. Work had gone well, a few errands ran, and now the dirty dishes from the evening meal sit soaking in the sink. It was time to cap the evening with a cup of joe. You have your favourite café, like myself and the next person, and so you expect to find the random assortment of characters that pervade your coffee stomping grounds. This time, you didn't forget your favorite book.

When you arrive, you see the front door closed. The sign in the window: Closed. What do you do now?

You have some coffee at home. It was a gift from a friend. The last time you used it was when that friend came over for dinner. How long ago was that? A month? Two? It should still be good, right?

The truth of the matter is that many coffee drinkers will compromise their same standards of quality for meals on their after-meal beverage. Wine, tonic, coffee, whatever that may be. The questions we must ask ourselves are "What is an acceptable quality for my after-dinner drink?" and "What will compliment my meal rather than just stand in the shadows and exist?"

Below, I've assembled some pointers for improving the after-dinner coffee experience. These tips come from past experience, both mine and from others, as well as general good habits about food and beverage preparation. The key to all of this is to appreciate the after-dinner meal time and enhance the experience. Enjoy!

  • Tip 1. Always use fresh coffee.
    While this seems obvious, you may catch yourself trying to skimp by on whatever you have in the house. Don't! Purchase freshly roasted, whole-bean coffee that day; preferably from a noted source who understands and appreciates coffee. Some supermarkets this day and age are offering beans from local roasteries. This is most obvious in the form of price and that the beans bought will come in a bag and not a tin.

  • Tip 2. Grind before you use.
    While this may not be possible, it will indeed provide you with the "Freshest" coffee possible. If you go the route and have the coffee ground that day, please use it that day. Coffee stales quickly; first losing the aroma and then other desirable qualities. Depending on your brewing technique, it may be very beneficial to invest in a small, blade-style coffee grinder.

  • Tip 3. Use fresh water.
    The water you use will impart many tastes to your coffee. Use clean, fresh water free of impurities. Distilled and filtered waters are recommended. Treated (such as softened) and spring waters contain high mineral content and will lessen the life of your coffee brewing device.

  • Tip 4. Brew it according to manufacturer's suggestions.
    Some like it strong, others not. Here's something to remember: You can always brew it strong, and dilute it, but never brew it weak. Under extraction will not bring to the cup those attributes of the coffee you want to taste. And over extraction (which is not the same as brewing it strongly) will draw out those attributes you do not desire, such as bitterness. A strongly brewed coffee is always adjustable with the addition of hot water. For example, when I make drip coffee, I aim for a tablespoon of grounds for 4 ounces of water.

  • Tip 5. The brewing.
    I can't recommend one particular method of brewing coffee. Every person has their own style. But I can recommend a water temperature that should provide favorable results. Try to keep your water below boiling, but about 190 Fahrenheit. Cooler water will be grounds for under extraction (no pun intended). And boiling water will harm and burn the grounds. Not many home drip brewers will brew consistently within the said window. Be aware. Perhaps your next birthday gift may be a new coffee maker?

A final note: I prefer coffee made many different ways. A simple web search will turn up items such as moka pots, espresso machines, gravity brewers, vacuum brewers, and plunger pots.

In addition, you will find coffees from all around the globe! With so many combinations of brewing devices and coffees available, I can only wish you happy hunting and the best of luck the next time you finish your meal with a cup of java!



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