The Black Blood of the Almighty Coffee God

27th of January, 2011 ·  1 Comment

The quick, bulleted version:

  • Get fresh beans, not SLO Brew in their plastic vending machine or CostCo coffee.
  • Use good water. If your tap water tastes bad, tap water coffee tastes bad.
  • Use organic half and half. Don’t use flavored creamer.
  • Try honey as a sweetener. It’s very tasty, and greener than sugar.
  • Don’t put crap into your coffee. Stuff you add should enhance flavor, not cover it up.
  • Drink often and lots.

The leisurely, detailed version:

I love coffee. I love the way it tastes, I love the way my body requires it to work properly, I love the different ways it can be made, and I love how, excluding civet-poop varieties, great coffee can be had by anyone.

Here’s how I do mine, and why I do what I do.

First, I generally buy my coffee in those coffee cans at Trader Joe’s. I like to mix it up, so I’ll get a medium roast this week and a dark roast next week. But I always buy beans and grind them myself as I need them. I use a crappy little Mr. Coffee grinder. It’s just a couple of blades that rotate, yielding grounds in a very un-uniform size. I would really like to get a hand grinder like this one, which provide a more uniform sized ground. That would be better for a French press or percolator. For a standard coffee maker though, it’s not a big deal.

In the best case, you’d find a local roaster and buy coffee from him the day it gets roasted. This isn’t terribly reasonable for most of us, so just get the freshest cans you can at your local shop. Never buy your coffee at CostCo: who knows how long it’s been sitting there?

The tap water in my town is healthier than most of the surrounding areas, but tastes terrible. Dunno what that’s all about. So we use a Brita filter in our house. It makes the water taste much cleaner. This is what we make our coffee with.

So: fill the coffee maker with filtered water, fill the basket with fresh grounds, hit the alarm, and go to bed, wake up to good coffee.

On weekends, when I’ve got more time, I like to use this French press. It’s insane how much better French press coffee tastes. The only real disadvantage to using the French press and the grinder I have is, as I mentioned before, the grinder gives you tiny little particles and also nearly whole beans. Again, not a big deal in the coffee maker, but in the French press, your last couple of cups end up a bit sludgy with this method. Ah, well.

Also hugely important is the creamer you use. After all, what use is filtering your water, buying the best beans you can find, and grinding them the night before (or morning of!) use, if you’re just gonna put International Delight into it?1

No, in the strongest possible way, I recommend you use organic half and half. First, organic means no artificial or modified ingredients, and no pesticides. Second, if your coffee sucks so much you need hazelnut or vanilla flavoring, you’ve got crap coffee and might as well just drink Pepsi.

A lot of us like sweetener. I only use honey in my coffee. Honey is delicious, and unlike sugar, requires no processing (just harvesting and filtering), and also gives bees a place to live. Also unlike sugar, it gives your coffee some fantastic premium coffee shop flavor. You can also add a tiny smidge of vanilla extract to your sweetened coffee for a wonderful variation.

Another wonderful thing about coffee is it’s great iced. Make your coffee slightly stronger than normal, allow it to cool, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Make more coffee, jar it, put it in the fridge. You’ll need a little more honey, as cold foods generally have less flavor than hot foods, but it’ll be wonderful. I found it made giving up soda much easier to have iced coffee waiting in the fridge.

Think of it as wine tasting. Or beer tasting. Or enjoying a steak. You wouldn’t put anything in your wine. You don’t even put ice into a beer. A good steak doesn’t need A1 sauce. Don’t put anything more than necessary into your coffee, and what you do put in should be simple, natural, and add to the flavor, not cover it up.

Coffee is one of the best things in the world. It helps grumps become civilized in the morning. It helps us lose weight by suppressing appetite. It employs thousands of people in third-world countries who would otherwise be destitue. It keeps teenagers and unwed mothers employed at Starbucks in the U.S. And you should be enjoying every sip, not mechanically pouring it down your gullett. Try it my way if you’re not already.

  1. International Delight has the following horrible ingredients: Water, Palm Oil, Corn Syrup (Adds a Trivial Amount of Sugar)2% or less of Each of the Following Ingredients: Maltodextrin, Sodium Caseinate (Sodium Caseinate is not a Source of Lactose) a Milk Derivate) Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Carrageenan, Sucralose, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Acesulfame Potassium, Natural and Artificial Flavors.

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