Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fabulous Coffee

As I gaze out the window of my Big Bear Lake, CA home I can see (and feel) evidence of the season changing. There's a distinct chill in the air and I can see the dog's breath as they run around the yard chasing squirrels. Soon the "Silent Rain" (my business partner Mitch Mandell's name for snow) will start to fall.

Likewise, I know the time has come to change my morning ritual of iced coffee and answering email to the more traditional hot coffee and answering email.Coffee is such an integral part of the average American morning routine that many folks take coffee for granted, which is something I don't understand. What other food has such a wide discrepancy between good and bad? Think about it.

What could be better than a fresh, hot cup of perfectly brewed coffee? And what could be worse than a bad cup of coffee - old, stale, with more sludge in the bottom than the Mississippi River delta.

So today I thought I'd give you some tips, tricks and trivia related to making
Fabulous Coffee, as well as links to even more detailed info and great recipes so that all your coffee drinking experiences will be fabulous!

Kinds of Coffee
There are two main types of coffee that are produced in various parts of the world: Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica Beans - Named for the Arabs who first grew them, Arabica beans are characterized by rich, complex flavors. The individual coffees will vary in flavor and nuance depending on where they are grown. Coffee connoisseurs prize Arabica Beans. Coffee fanatics will be able to distinguish the different regions where the Arabica beans came from, much in the same way that wine experts can recognize where certain grapes were grown. The finest coffee beans tend to come from mountainous tropical areas near the equator.

Robusta Beans - Higher in caffeine than their Arabica cousins, Robusta beans, despite their impressive sounding name, have less complex flavors. Most of your mass produced supermarket blends will be made from Robusta beans, sometimes with a little Arabica thrown in to boost the quality.

Coffee Brewing Tips

  • Never pour water over used grounds a second time. You will not get a stronger coffee, you will get a cup of coffee filled with bitter and acidic elements - in other words, the part of the coffee that you want to stay behind with the grounds.

  • Water quality matters - if the water you brew with has an off flavor, so will your coffee. Use bottled or filtered water if necessary to get a great tasting cup of coffee.

  • Instead of using paper filters, consider a gold plated metal filter for better taste. It's also more economical over the long run as gold plated filters can last for several years. They also eliminate paper waste so are better for the environment.

  • When buying a drip coffee maker, try to get one with a flat bottomed filter cone, as opposed to one that that tapers to point. The flat bottom allows for better saturation of the coffee grounds, and likewise a more flavorful cup of coffee.

  • The higher wattage on a coffee maker, the stronger the coffee maker's heating element. A higher heating element will produce a better cup of coffee than a weak one.

  • Do not leave brewed coffee on the heating element for more that 10 minutes. After that transfer to a thermal carafe and turn off the heat. Some coffee makers, such as Capresso's 500 come with a thermal carafe instead of a glass pot, so you can brew your coffee and enjoy it all morning long, right from the very same pot.

  • Be sure to clean your electric coffee pot every few months by running a mixture of one part distilled white vinegar and four parts water through the machine. Follow that by running clear water through the machine three or four times to get rid of any trace of vinegar flavor before brewing coffee. " As French Press or Plunger Pots cool quickly, rinse them with hot water before brewing to help the coffee stay warm longer. Transfer what you don't drink to insulated carafe for further drinking.

  • Always clean the steam tube of your espresso machine immediately after using, as dried on milk can clog the tube.

  • Got extra coffee? Don't throw it out! Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Use later in ice coffee - you'll get a delicious drink that won't dilute as the ice melts.

Favorite Coffee Gadget The Moka Pot
If you're looking for an easy, inexpensive way to make espresso, look no further than the Moka Pot. This little device brews right on the stove top. The pot consists of a tightly sealed bottom chamber (which holds the water), a central tube and filter basket, and an upper chamber to hold the brewed coffee. When water is heated in the bottom chamber, steam builds and forces the water through the center tube and filter and into the upper chamber. Moka pots are easy and inexpensive to use, and result in a cup of coffee with a flavor and consistency somewhere between regular drip coffee and that made by a pump espresso machine. An annual replacement of the
pot's rubber gasket is all that's necessary to maintain a Moka Pot.

Coffee Trivia
Are you a true java junkie? If so then you should know all about your favorite drink. This trivia will help make you the "Cliff Clavin" of coffee knowledge. (If you're a television junkie, you know who that is.)

  • Espresso has 1/3 of the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee! That's right, contrary to popular belief, the darker the roast, the less caffeine the coffee will contain.

  • ALL coffee is grown within 1000 miles of the equator between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

  • In the coffee world, "excelso" or "supremo" do not indicate the quality of the beans, but rather, the size of the beans.

  • Coffee was first known in Europe as "Arabian Wine."

  • Brazil, the world's largest producer, grows about 35% of the world's coffee.

  • Because they ripen at varying degrees, all coffee beans must be individually hand picked.

  • A mature coffee tree will produce about one pound of coffee per growing season.

  • It takes 2,000 hand-picked Arabica coffee cherries to make one roasted pound of coffee - or approximately 4,000 beans.

  • Coffee, grown in more than 50 countries, is the second largest export in the world (in dollar value) after oil.

  • The heavy tea tax imposed on the colonies in 1773, (remember the Boston Tea Party from your history class) was the catalyst that made Americans switch their beverage of choice from tea to coffee.

  • The first commercial espresso machine was manufactured in Italy in 1906.

  • Raw coffee beans, soaked in water and spices, are chewed like candy in many parts of Africa.

  • Coffee represents 75% of all the caffeine consumed in the United States.

  • Jamaica Blue Mountain is regarded as the best coffee in the world (not to mention the most expensive).

  • Turkish bridegrooms were once required to make a promise during their wedding ceremonies to always provide their new wives with coffee. If they failed to do so, it was grounds for divorce!

Related Articles:

Favorite Coffee Drink Recipes:

Recommended Reading

In a worthy follow up to his previous book, Hot Chocolate, author Michael Turback explores this combination in it most popular forms from cocktails to nonalcoholic drinks to decadent desserts. You'll find a collection of 50 recipes (35 drinks, 15 desserts) illustrated by more than 15 beautiful full color photos.

Coffee Creations
Coffee Creations will have you thinking about coffee in new ways, as there is a wide variety of recipes in this tasty little collection. Chapters include: Coffee Drinks; Coffee for Breakfast; Coffee for Lunch or Dinner; Coffee for Dessert; Gifts for Coffee Lovers.


Stephan said...

Good Coffee Brewing Tips. I was looking for a thermal carafe coffee makers. I found the best thermal carafe coffee maker and uesing your tips to get perfect coffee.You have done good job.

Cheri Sicard said...

Thanks Stephan. I agree, the thermal carafe makes a big difference, as I like my coffee hot (unless of course, I'm drinking iced, which I suppose could still benefit from a thermal container).

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