Brewing The Other Brew

Brewing another one of Nature’s liquid blessings
– Henry Bienert

Now that Georgine and I have mostly shed the shackles of employment, international travel has become of major import, a lifestyle shift accelerated by the fact that two airlines (apparently some of the many organizations that spy on us and take appropriate actions) fly Non-Stop from New Orleans to Europe plus having a daughter married to an Englishman and living in London for good.

We love getting around but one of my big challenges of overseas travel is getting a good cup of coffee within 20 minutes of Awakening. There are coffee shops around but Sunday morning is a whole different story.

I have seen too many doors bearing that dreaded sign- FERME’. CHIUSO. CERRADO. GESCHLOSSEN. Ji’t domov, pi’t pivo. (The last is a little Czech language humor… I truthfully have never seen a sign there saying “go home, drink beer”, but if there was ever a place we would see such, it would be in that lovely country.)

Many apartment rentals provide a pod based coffee maker wherein a lot of steam is passed through coffee of questionable quality in a whole lot of plastic and only one cup at a time can be made.

European instant coffees are excellent and much better than what we have in that category. Nescafe Alta Rica which is sold in the UK but is hard to find on the Continent is excellent. You can order it online here but I do not find it as good as non-instant coffee.

As I began looking into this I entered a tunnel, one whose sign posts are attention to water temperature and ingredient selection and adjustment – a familiar path for a home Brewer.
Here’s some basics on brewing coffee. When a tasting session is set up for competition or more likely for some mega-corporation to buy millions of dollars of coffee beans, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Put a measured amount of freshly ground and recently roasted coffee in the bottom of a cup.
  2. Boil water and let it sit for about 25 to 50 seconds which will drop it down to about 200 degrees and then pour it into the cup.
  3. Steep 3 minutes
  4. Skim any material from the top of the liquid.
  5. Immediately take a tablespoon of coffee, inhale deeply,exhale then inhale + gently slurp at the same time and sequentially expose it to the front and then the sides and then the back of the mouth and then spit it out. The most common device used after this simple cup approach is a pour-over cone in which 190-200 F water is used to wet coffee grounds to “bloom” for 30-45 seconds then the grind is drenched with the same high temperature water over 3 minutes. I have encountered many people on the internet who travel a lot and a pour-over cone is an essential part of their luggage. I am with that crowd who pronounces the resultant coffee most delicious.
    Lets focus on attention to water temperature!
    I tested the temperature of water as it would be as it drenched the grind of almost a dozen drip type coffee makers, some of which were almost new, and the water never got over 170°. Check your temp of your present device and if 190+, you are OK and a rare person – HUG YOUR MACHINE!!
    So it is NOT that high? If you do not want to spend 0 to 15 bucks for a cone and the extra time, you can modify by blooming the grounds in your traditional home drip coffee pot and then pouring hot water over it over 3 minutes BUT not by using the water generated by the coffee maker but using water from a kettle. After it whistles, count to 30 then bloom x 45 seconds then pour. NOW see if that is what kind of coffee you want!

There are automatic coffee makers that will Bloom and then sparge appropriately hot water over the grounds. They run anywhere from $100 to $360 and there are even some built into your kitchen which include a bean grinder which are much more expensive.

Ingredient selection and adjustment
EXPRESSO/CAPPUCCINO/LATTE is the same drink with more milk added with each name change . . . tasty because the water is extremely hot..STEAM and the grains are ground very fine. Espresso and these variants and dark roast coffees like that are never used in tastings because the roasting eliminates much of the beans flavor – equivalent to buying cheaper meat and cooking it very well done which disguises a lot of inadequacies.

Starbucks and it’s subsidiaries through Costco and Sam’s leans towards this roast and do a lot of European coffee shops when they offer the Italian or French roast. They can use cheaper beans and offer more of a roasted liquid rather than a coffee flavor. Which coffee roasting times and which beans go with what type of preparation, etc is more information than you need to be pummeled with today.

When all is said and done, as in homebrewing of beer, it is ALL up to you.
De gustibus non disputandum est. (the debate is not about tastes)

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