Coffee Notes, by Jay Spencer Seiler

Best way to brew coffee
December 20, 2009, 2:09 am
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , ,

There really is no best way to brew coffee. Coffee is such a drink that is used all over the world and every region has its own way of making it. Good choice of brewing equipment is essential to have a good flavor and aroma from a cup of coffee. It is essential that this brewing equipment is clean. There are a large number of brewing devices available on the market. Most of them make coffee in one of the seven brewing principles. There is no single correct or best way to brew a cup of coffee. The selection of coffee brewing method depends upon one choice and interest. For brewing coffee, one out of two features are used.
First either, put the coffee in boiling water, wait for at least five minutes, and then filter it, or boiling water is made to flow through ground coffee (and a filter) forcibly either by its own weight, by a little steam pressure, or by high pressure.
The easiest and the most popular in the USA is the drip brewing method. Water at a close to boiling temperature is poured gradually through the grounds at once. The resulting cup is clear and smooth. The hotter the water within the stated range, the brighter the coffee. Medium ground coffee is used. The filtering devices can be wedges or baskets made from paper, cloth, metal, plastic, or coated plastic. Paper filters are also vary widely. Drip makers come either in manual or electric versions.
I personally prefer the Bunn that we use. Though the Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker has got to be the most popular in the US. The drip method makes a great cup of coffee and by using freshly ground coffee and a clean brewing device and fresh water, you can get one helluva good cuppa. So far we discussed percolating, french press, and now the drip process. Next we can spend a little time talking about vacuum coffee makers.
Now all that said go here and take advantage of a chance to buy good coffee at great prices. See you next week.


How to use a French Press.
November 23, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , , ,

I have a french press that I use to make coffee in the office. It brews a nice cup and many people find that it is preferable to other coffee brewing methods. I got this little instruction set from Albert T. on the Wake Up Vibes Coffee blog

French press is a one of the best ways to make coffee, it’s quick and relatively easy to use and makes beverage that has rich and full flavor that is often higher in quality than drip machine can produce. Also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or cafetiere, it is a device that most often has glass carafe, filter plate and a plunger attached to the lid. There are variations to this, but we’ll get to that later.

How to use the French press?

* For a French press use coarsely-ground coffee, it won’t be caught in the filter. If the beans are too finely ground, some of it may not be caught by the filter and will end up in your cup. Also, it can block the filter, so it’s hard to press the plunger down. It’s suggested to use burr grinder for grinding the beans, because it creates equal sized boulders. Blade grinders tend to create dust and boulders are varying in size, so the taste of coffee suffers.

* Lift off the plunger and add coffee grounds to the carafe. In average you can use about one rounded tablespoon per 6 oz. of water.

* Pour in the water. It should be little bit below the boiling temperature. Pour it slowly and evenly, so the water can mix with the grounds. Don’t overfill the press, the water level should be below the edge so it won’t overflow when you insert filter. You have to be careful with this, since the water is very hot.

* Stir with the wooden spoon or chopsticks. Don’t use metal spoon to avoid damaging or breaking the glass.

* Put the top on and don’t press down yet, leave the filter up.

* Let it steep for about 3-4 four minutes. Generally the steeping time is smaller for small presses and longer for bigger presses.

* Now, press the plunger down. Do it slowly and with equal pressure. If you press too fast the water might splash out and burn you.

* Pour the coffee into the cup.

French press coffee is meant for using right after it’s ready. Don’t let it sit out, because the coffee will cool down and the taste will also be affected.

As for the amount of coffee grounds and steeping time you can and should do some experimenting yourself, so you can find the best options to suite your taste.

How to choose a French press?

First of all – capacity. There are various sizes available starting with single serve and going up to 12 cups (maybe there are even bigger ones, but I haven’t come across them yet). So, if you are using it mainly for your personal use the small press will be enough, if you’re using it for making coffee for several people go for a bigger size and for gatherings/parties a 12-cup version is often a good choice.

Stronger glass version is recommended as it doesn’t break so easily. Also I suggest to get one where you can change the glass carafe, so if you happen break it, you can replace it and don’t have to buy whole new press. If you want to take your press along with you on travel pick the one with plastic body or get the travel mug version of a French press which is also available.

There are also French presses that are insulated or have double walled glass so they can keep the coffee warm for a couple hours. This is an option to go for if you need to keep coffee warm for longer time, since the coffee in regular French press cools down rather soon.

Jay here:
A word of warning and an interesting story to boot. If you are using the french press in the office as I do you are probably boiling your water right in the glass carafe using the microwave. This is all well and good BUT make sure that the water boils to the point where the surface tension of the water is broken. I once brought the water to an “almost” boil and when I reached in to grab the carafe it literally exploded in a blast of boiling water. It scalded my arm quite badly. This does happen, see here and here Better yet of course use a teapot or different container to boil your water. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Some examples of French presses:

Bodum Chambord Coffee Press

This is pretty classic French press in 3-cup size (4, 8 and 12 cup versions are also available). It has replaceable glass carafe and chrome-plated brass frame.

Bodum Columbia Thermal 48-Ounce Stainless-Steel Coffee Press

This is stainless steel French press with insulation that holds 12 cups of coffee and keeps it warm for up to two hours.

BonJour 8 Cup Rhone Ribbed French Press, Double Wall Glass

This French press has double walled glass, so it also keeps coffee hot longer and is more resistant to the shock and breakage.

Percolating Coffee. Yes We still do that.
November 16, 2009, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , , , ,

Percolating coffee is basically verboten for those who are coffee snobs, however it is still a very popular way of making coffee for those who like their coffe dark and strong. Plus percolators, both the stove-top and electric kinds, are cheap and easy to use and quickly brew up strong coffee for a caffeine fix. Below I have pasted in some quick instructions on using a percolator for a decent cup of joe.

First you grind the Coffee
If you use a regular ground coffee for an automatic drip coffee maker you will be straining grounds through your teeth. Not really pleasant. The fine grind results in the finer coffee bean bits going through the strainer basket. If you have a grinder at home, set it to a course grind and grind the coffee beans that way. If you don’t have a grinder, then grind the coffee at the store to a course grind that you need to properly make percolated coffee. Basically you want the same grind that you would for a french press.

Now you fill the Percolator
With the percolator taken apart, add water into the base of it up to the fill line. Usually this is just below the bottom of the coffee strainer basket. Put your ground (fresh?) coffee into the strainer basket. After doing some websearches for opinions, it turns out this should be in the ratio of 1 tbsp. ground coffee to each cup of water in the percolator. But tastes may vary. Play with it a little to find what you like. Replace the strainer basket and put the lid on.

Now we Brew the Coffee
If you are using an electric percolator, just plug it in to start the percolator. If you are using a stovetop percolator, set your stove on a medium-high heat and put the percolator on the burner. Every percolator has a little glass “bubble” on the lid that will show the coffee as it bubbles up through. Remember those Maxwell House commercials? That’s right. Now the jingle is going through your head. If this is before your time, search for it on youtube I bet you can find it. As the water inside comes to a boil, it will be pushed up over the coffee grounds and the coffee will strain down into the base of the percolator water-filled reservoir. The process repeats itself and through the little glass bubble you can see how dark and strong the coffee is getting. The process on the stove top should take about 5 minutes. An electric percolator can take a little longer, between 7 to 10 minutes. Once the coffee is ready, or strong enough for your tastes, remove the lid and take out the basket before you pour it. This prevents the used grounds from ending up in your coffee cup.

Sit back and enjoy.
Those of us who are older can remember that this was the way our parents made coffee. Before Joe Dimaggio made the Mr. Coffee drip machine a household item. Those people who are avid outdoors people still brew this way over the campfire or coleman stove. My father in law used to just throw his ground coffee into a sauce pot and boil it up. Now that is old school! It is possible to make a pretty good cup of coffee by percolating it, and it is also really easy to ruin it too. So watch the percolating process carefully and you may find you like it this way better than drip!

The history of Coffee
November 3, 2009, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Since the title of my blog is coffee notes, I thought it apropos to provide a history of Coffee,that wonderful beverage, one of the elixirs of life. This history is from ABOUT.COM.

For us Westerners coffee is three hundred years old, but in the East it was widespread as a beverage, in every level of society, since earlier times. The first definite dates go back to 800 b.C.; but already Homer, and many Arabian legends, tell the story of a mysterious black and bitter beverage with powers of stimulation. In the year 1000 about, Avicenna was administering coffee as a medecine. And there is a strange story, dating from 1400, of a Yemeni shepherd who, having observed some goats cropping reddish berries from a bush, and subsequently becoming restless and excited, reported the incident to a monk. The latter boiled the berries, and then distilled a bitter beverage, rich in strength, and capable of dispersing sleep and weariness.

However the discovery occurred, the fact remains that the coffee plant was born in Africa in an Ethiopian region (Kaffa). From there it spread to Yemen, Arabia and Egypt, where it developed enormously, and entered popular daily life.

By the late 1500’s the first traders were selling coffee in Europe, thus introducing the new beverage into Western life and custom. Most of the coffee exported to European markets came from the ports of Alexandria and Smyrna. But the increasing needs of a growing market, improved botanical knowledge of the coffee plant, and high taxes imposed at the ports of shipment, led dealers and scientists to try transplanting coffee in other countries. The Dutch in their overseas colonies (Batavia and Java), the French in 1723 in Martinique, and later on in the Antilles, and then the English, Spanish and Portuguese, started to invade the tropical belts of Asia and America.

In 1727 coffee growing was started in North Brazil, but the poor climatic conditions gradually shifted the crops, first to Rio de Janeiro and finally (1800-1850) to the States of San Paolo and Minas, where coffee found its ideal environment. Coffee growing began to develop here, until it became the most important economic resource of Brazil.

It was precisely in the period 1740-1805 that coffee growing reached its top spread, in Center and South America.

Although coffee was born in Africa, plantations and home consumption are comparatively recent introductions. Actually it was Europeans who introduced it again, into their colonies, where, thanks to favourable land and climatic conditions, it was able to thrive.