Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ode to Coffee

There is a fine art to making a wonderful cup of coffee. It has crossed my mind to apply at Starbucks as a barista in order to perfect my skills. I am concerned with this tactic as they may make me bus tables or clean restrooms and work my way up to barista over an excruciating time period. Although bussing tables and cleaning restrooms actually fits nicely in my bailiwick, I prefer to keep those skills closer to home. So becoming a barista will have to stay on the back burner. For now I will continue to work on my coffee skills at home.

I have figured out a few things as a coffee lover.
  1. Heat is very important. Water needs to be heated between 195 and 205 F, heating water on the stove and using a french press actually gets better results than my Mr Coffee. I am sure there are coffee makers out there that heat up the water to the desired level but I currently cannot afford any more investment into this habit. Normally, I simply get my water as hot as possible from the tap before it goes into the coffee maker and make the coffee immediately - no timers for me. As my husband says, no one likes warm tea - either cold or hot please. Same goes for coffee. I also prefer a coffee cup shaped like a champagne flute because it holds the heat in longer. My cup is on the left in the picture.

  2. Bean quality matters. I have tried a lot of coffee, I believe my favorite is straight from the source. Getting beans from South America directly is the way to go. This is a bit difficult simply because I am not in South America all that frequently. However, you can order beans directly from the coffee farms online. I actually don't think they taste as good as they do when you haul them back yourself, but that could be because they are sitting around for sometime and not as fresh. So barring a trip to Costa Rica or Honduras, I stick with high end beans from US companies. Mostly Starbucks, but right now I am working through some Caribou Coffee and it is good.
  3. Grinding fresh beans helps. Grinding the beans right before you make the cup always makes it taste better. I rarely buy ground coffee, but every once in awhile will grind my beans ahead of time to save time. I like a fine grind because I like really dark coffee. This is where you can make a difference in dark versus light, if you grind it finely you will get more surface area for your water and you will get darker coffee. Here is the art. You also need to be careful with high end machines and super fine coffee, because it will clog your machine.

  4. Quantity of grounds. This is difficult and takes practice. I have found that I make 10 cups of coffee really well because I know exactly how many beans to grind. However, when I make less coffee I tend to make it too dark (which is hard considering I like my spoon to stand up in it). Normally I just make 10 cups and pitch whatever I don't drink.

For all of you non coffee drinkers who make coffee, good for you! There will never be a complaint from me. Any coffee is better than no coffee and your efforts are always appreciated regardless of how much your coffee looks like tea (you shouldn't be able to see the bottom of the cup). It is comparable to my attempts at being interested in college football every fall. My husband appreciates it no matter how lame the attempt. He loves that I go to the games with him even if I tend to talk to my girlfriends the whole time and only cheer when the fight song is played.

Go drink a cuppa and enjoy!

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