Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Good, Hot, Black Coffee"

A coworker, for whom I made his first cup of AeroPress coffee yesterday, agrees with me that the reason most people do not like strong, black coffee ("black as midnight on a moonless night") is because they have never had a good (as in "great") cup of coffee. It's either been brewed at the wrong temperature or for too long so it's too bitter, or the beans were not freshly-roasted and freshly-ground, or it's a combination of some or all of these things. Thus, they doctor it up or cover it up with milk and sugar and flavorings and/or dilute it to weaken its bad qualities, not realizing that coffee isn't supposed to taste that way - and doesn't have to.

One day, some day ... I'm going to try roasting my own beans at home. But that's not so urgent, as I now have four reasonably close sources for fresh-roasted coffee: Bookish Coffee, Texas Roast, Dunn Bros, and Addison Coffee Roasters. If it's been roasted within two days of buying it, it should be about the same as doing it myself, since fresh-roasted coffee needs a day or two to degas (coffee gives off CO2 for a couple days after it's been roasted) and reach optimal flavor before grinding and brewing.

But no matter how you brew it - whether with a drip coffee maker or a French Press or an AeroPress - the first rule for making great coffee is to use freshly-roasted beans that have been freshly ground. (The second rule is to use the right amount of coffee when making it - i.e., about 2 Tablespoons per 6 oz. cup. The third and fourth rules have to do with using the proper grinder and grind, and the right water temperature.) Whole bean coffee is good for a week or two after roasting, and ideally should not be ground until the day you are going to drink it. Don't buy any more coffee than you will use within two weeks of the roast date, if possible. This means that if you want the best coffee, you'll have to say "good-bye" to ground coffee and prepackaged off-the-shelf coffee beans and bulk beans that have been sitting for who knows how long. These can all be acceptable, and sometimes even good. But why settle for poor or at best "good" coffee when you can enjoy great coffee?

Now, watch this video:

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