"A Good Cup of Joe"
September 24, 2009 - Volume 1 - Issue 18
| Morning Therapy
Some mornings it's the only thing that entices us out of bed - the
anticipation of that first great cup of coffee! The total experience
begins with a good dose of aromatherapy, the fragrance of the beans as
they're scooped from their container into the grinder. Then it's the
vibration of the grinder as it transforms the beans to their brew-ready
stage. Next, the sound of water pouring continues to wake our senses.
The second dose of aromatherapy floods the room as the brew is formed
and the perfume released. Finally, it's time for the first sip - almost
always followed by an "ahhh...." It's going to be a good day! In this
issue, we indulge our passion for coffee by exploring just what it
takes to make a good cup of joe - the bean, the grind, the water, and
the brewing. And what goes better with coffee than just a little bit of
sweet? We offer three recipes from a charming cookbook, Bite-Size Desserts, that will complement your coffee encounters in a most delightful way!
| Special Workshop
| The Bean
beans are the fruit of the coffee tree, actually, more of a shrub. They
grow in the tropics in a band on either side of the equator as seeds
inside red fruit known as coffee cherries. Each fruit contains a pair of seeds, flat sides together. A coffee cherry with only one seed inside is known as a "peaberry"
and is highly prized and uniquely marketed. Beans and brews are often
sold by country of origin - Sumatra, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Columbia,
etc. There are two basic types of coffee trees used for culinary
purposes, those that produce arabica beans and those producing robusta
beans. Arabica beans are the more favored fruit and produce the better
coffees that most of us are quite fond of. Robusta beans, easier to
grow for a variety of reasons, comprise the more mass-marketed coffees.
coffee growing practices have received a fair amount of attention.
Agricultural systems in the uniquely tropical coffee regions are
growing rapidly to meet global demand. Here's a glossary of a few
common terms associated with coffee bean choices:
- Fair trade certifications were established to provide a standard for
ethical coffee growing. Beans with the fair trade designation are grown
in working conditions that are safe and fair for the employees,
produced through environmentally sound growing practices, and where the
farmers are guaranteed a minimum price for their coffee. The fair trade
label is determined by a third-party organization that inspects and
certifies coffee growing operations.
- Naturally, coffee shrubs prefer a shady location with dappled light.
However, some species can thrive in full sunlight. Shade grown coffee
implies that the forest's upper canopy have been left intact and that
the environment remains in its more natural state with minimal use of
fertilizers and mass-farming techniques. Shade grown coffee may not
produce in the quantities that full sun coffee growing conditions
might, but does not reward commercial deforestation, and, therefore, is
considered to be more friendly to the environment and protective of
- The "organic" designation for coffee beans also defines "how" the
beans were grown - that is, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
The choice for organic beans reflects personal health concerns and
general environmental concerns. Organic beans are usually more
expensive due to the increased costs involved in organic growing,
certification processes, and the expense in providing an adequate
motive for farmers to grow organically.
From the tree, coffee
cherries are picked as they ripen. Finer coffee beans are picked by
hand. This is due to the variable ripening of the cherries where a look
and evaluation is required for each pluck. Cherries that are underripe,
or those that are overripe, will taint the final brew in undesirable
ways. Perfectly picked coffee cherries are then processed in one of
- In this method, cherries are placed on trays and dried in full sun
for 10 - 20 days. The dried fruit pulp is removed by machine leaving
the inside seed.
- Through this method, the skins of the freshly harvested cherries are
removed mechanically leaving the inside pulp. The berries are left to
ferment in a tank for nearly a day, then are washed and dried. This
method is considered preferable for finer coffees with added flavor
gained from the fermentation step.
- Similar to washed processing, just harvested berries are processed
with both skins and the pulp removed. The beans are dried with no
fermentation step involved.
From post-harvest processing, the
beans are readied for roasting. They are sorted and graded according to
their size, density, and color. Excellent beans are hand-sorted
multiple times. As can be seen with each of these steps, the labor
intensity of coffee is high! On to where the "green beans" go from
| The Roast and the Grind
Plenty of artistry has
already gone into the coffee before it is shipped from the farm. But the fine
craft continues as the beans proceed to the roaster. Coffee wouldn't resemble
coffee if it weren't for the roast - bitterness, smokiness, floral overtones -
it all gets built into the bean at the point of roasting. In fact, the same
batch of beans can take on completely different characteristics when roasted
differently. A coffee roaster heats the beans and moves them constantly to
promote an even roast. During the first stage of a roast moisture is released
from the bean. As heating continues, sugars in the bean begin to caramelize.
Finally, during extended roastings, natural oils are released. The timing and
temperatures of roasting will greatly impact the flavor and determine the type
of roast moniker applied to the ready-for-market beans:
Light roasts - As one might guess, light roasted beans have
received the least heat and are pulled from the roaster before sugar
caramelization has occurred.
Medium roasts - These beans have released their natural moisture
and have some sugar caramelization, but no oils unveiled.
Dark roasts - This roast has continued longer to the point where
the bean's natural oils have been released and the bean roasted to a darker
color. Within this designation of dark roasts you'll find French, Italian, and
Coffee is best enjoyed from
freshly roasted beans. Choose your beans from purveyors that roast or purchase
in smaller quantities thereby providing turnover and greater freshness.
Grinding the Beans:
Grind whole beans just before
brewing. This allows the nuanced flavors and volatile aromas to be retained and
infused in your coffee. The fineness of the grind is determined by how long the
coffee is in contact with the water during the brewing cycle. Finer grinds are
used for drip brewing, where a coarser grind is suitable for French press
brewing. Very fine grinds are used for espresso brewing.
There are many styles of
coffee grinders to choose from; they generally fall into one of two
Burr Grinders - This style of coffee grinder allows the most
control over the grinding process. The beans are crushed between a moving wheel
and a stationary surface. With a burr grinder you can variously adjust the
fineness of the grind and achieve consistent results. Burr grinders may have
either a wheel or conical style grinding mechanism. Conical burr grinders
are considered preferable, especially for darker, oilier roasts which may clog
Blade Grinders - Also called "impact" grinders, these machines use a
metal blade to crush the beans. The fineness of the grind is governed by the
length of operation, a potentially imprecise science. Impact grinders will also
produce less consistency in the evenness of the grind.
When choosing a grinder,
evaluate how it operates, durability of its motor, the heat generated (avoid
burnt grounds), its capacity, and on/off safety mechanisms. Match your need for
different grinds with the grinders' capabilities. Check Capresso's Features Chart.
| The Brew
No pressure, but now the
artistry of the final product is all on you! You've chosen the right bean,
accomplished the right grind, it's time to brew.
Coffee is mostly water, so this is a critical step. Use freshly filtered water
that has had any chlorine removed. Many simple water filtering systems are
available that will yield great water for coffee and for general consumption.
Do not use distilled water as it has no character. Softened water has too many
minerals added and can prove to have a distracting taste.
How Much Coffee to How Much Water - This is a subjective topic -- general guidelines
call for 1-2 tablespoons of coffee grounds for every six ounces of water. From
that broad range of instruction, the ratio is governed by the type of bean, the
grind, and personal strength and taste preferences.
Brewing Systems: Gone are the percolators of the olden days that
produced many a pot of questionable product. Today, brewing systems are built
specifically to brew a better cup of coffee.
Drip Brewers - Drip brewing produces an excellent cup of coffee.
Better machines will have good mechanisms for heating the water to the perfect
pitch of 200°F.
Espresso Machines - A shot of espresso is the basis for many, many
coffee drinks. Different from brewed coffee, steam is forced through dark-roasted,
finely ground, tamped beans. Water contact with the grounds is about 20
seconds, hence the name "espresso." The result is an ounce of concentrated
flavor savored directly or as the basis for a latte, cappuccino, Americano,
breve, or a host of other coffee delights. Versatility is one of the primary
reasons to have your own espresso machine. Choose a machine with durability,
ease of operation, compatible level of automation, and the desired accessories.
- Consider the filtering system deployed with each
machine. A gold-filter is inert, and will not impart any taste to the
coffee as paper filtering methods might. It's essential that any filtering
mechanism be kept impeccably clean for the best tasting pot.
- A thermal carafe will keep the coffee at the
proper drinking temperature for about an hour. A hot plate may be of use
to warm a thermal carafe, but care should be taken to not apply heat
directly to the coffee through a single-walled pot.
- Timing and programmability features may be
important to you; assess their ease of use.
- Many drip brewing systems offer integrated coffee
grinders - one less step.
- Single-serving brewers make coffee always
available at its freshest. If you like to vary your coffee choices, the
single serving packs are a great way to experiment with different flavors.
French Presses - Enjoying a recent revival, French presses are
another great tool for making a good cup of joe. Utilizing a steeping method
instead of drip brewing or forced steam, the press allows making and serving in
a single pot. French presses are available in many sizes and styles, but all
use a spring-powered method for corralling the grounds at the bottom of the pot
prior to pouring.
Enjoy your coffee immediately
after brewing! Hot plates or warming burners will lend a burnt flavor to the
coffee. Instead, keep brewed coffee in insulated carafes.
Smart Coffee Tips
|Tip #1: Need additional help waking up and functioning
in the morning? A programmable coffee maker prepped the night before is the
best alarm clock and a kind way to face the day with immediate gratification.
Tip #2: Keep
your grinder and coffee brewer immaculately clean! Coffee grounds left in the
grinder will go stale and carryover that staleness in your next grind.
Similarly, your coffee pot must be kept exceptionally clean in order to get the
best brew. Coffee gets much of its flavor from the volatile oils released from
the beans, but it's precisely these oils that can turn rancid and cause your
next pot to be bitter and foul tasting. A good cleaning removes any residue,
and any potentially offending oils. Clean your pot after every use and once a
month brew a cleaning solution (usually some type of citric acid) through the
Tip #3: The
best coffee is made from water that is heated to 200°F. Water boils at 212°F; the temperature should stay
below that critical point. Never allow the brewing water or coffee to boil, nor
should coffee be reheated to the boiling point.
Steam or heat milk for coffee or espresso drinks to a temperature between
150-170°F. Milk easily gathers a scorched taste at higher
temperatures than these.
Coffee isn't just for drinking, think of coffee as a flavor used to enhance all
types of dishes. Use whole beans as a garnish and finely ground coffee as a
seasoning to be incorporated into rubs, infused into syrups, or sprinkled as a
Tip #6: Like
wine, coffees pair differently with different foods. Generally, pair bold food
flavors with a bold coffee, and delicate foods with a smoother coffee.
Tip #7: If
your drip coffee is bitter, you may have over-ground the beans producing too
fine of a grind for the brewing method. If the coffee lacks flavor, the grind of
the beans may be too coarse.
Q & A's
|Q: What is the cold-brewing process for coffee?
Cold brewing of coffee uses medium ground
coffee steeped in a glass jar with room temperature water for 3-4 hours, or up to
overnight. The grounds are strained away and the coffee is ready for use. Some
choose to use cold brewing techniques to form a concentrated coffee. Cold
brewing aficionados claim that coffee bre
wed in this manner has a more
full-bodied character and less acidity. This is an ideal method for making iced
Q: A lighter roast means a weak coffee and a dark
roast means a strong coffee, right?
No, the strength of the coffee, weak or
strong, has to do with the ratio of coffee beans to brewing water, and is not
associated with the type of coffee roast.
Q: Darker roasts have more caffeine than lighter
No, wrong again! The darker the roast, the
less the caffeine. Longer roasting affects the bean's caffeine decreasing it
over time. A bold flavor does not always
equate with a bold caffeine effect.
Q: What is cupping?
Cupping is the process for coffee tasting and
evaluation. Using both taste and smell, the aroma, body, acidity, flavor and
finish are evaluated. Coffee cuppings are similar in many respects to wine
tasting. There are good and bad coffees with a wide range of subjectivity throughout
the spectrum of choices.
Q: Is brewing coffee with a French press
superior to a drip machine?
Neither method is superior to the other, but
rather, it's a matter of taste. We think there is a place for both methods in
the same kitchen. Brewing coffee for dessert using a French press is a
delightful ritual and fits the leisurely pace found at the end of a meal.
Coffee in a French press may cool more quickly than coffee brewed into a thermal
carafe. Explore the newer double-walled French presses that address that issue.
Creating Mini Sweet Treats, from Cupcakes and Cobblers to Custards and Cookies by Carole Bloom. Copyright 2009. Published by John
Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken,
Both the title and the cover
photo compelled us to look at this book further! We acknowledge, sometimes
regrettably, that sweets are a treat to be enjoyed in moderation, so this
seemed a perfect solution - bite-size! Ms. Bloom has assembled a treasure chest
of mini-pleasures that delight the eye, satisfy the sweet tooth, and complement
a great cup of coffee! The book honors traditional and classic favorites only
now in miniature form, and includes some new treats that fare well in petite
sizes. Cakes, muffins, tarts, galettes, cobblers, custards, cookies and candy -
they're all there in miniature sizes. We appreciate the consistent organization
of each recipe which begins with brief author's notes, yield quantities, an inclusive
ingredient list, and very detailed instructions. Each recipe concludes with
"keeping," "streamlining," and "adding style" tips that further enhance the
success built into each entry. And, if the subject matter were not enough to
entice us, the photography by Glenn Cormier makes this book an artistic delight
suitable for any, well . . . coffee table!
| Recipes for Sweet Treats
Recipes excerpted from Bite-Size Desserts, Creating
Mini Sweet Treats, from Cupcakes and Cobblers to Custards and Cookies by
Carole Bloom. Copyright 2009. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Bittersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Tartlets
Beautiful to look at and even
better to eat, these little tartlets have a delicate crust featuring a hint of
orange zest. The filling is a thick blend of a classic pairing -- bittersweet
chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. The assembly of these tiny tarts was
accomplished easily and the results were picture perfect and delightfully
Click here to view the full, illustrated recipe.
Click here for a printable version of
Cinnamon-Sour Cream Cupcakes
Moist beyond belief, these
diminutive cakes offered the comfort flavor of cinnamon with just the right
sweetness - reminiscent of our favorite sour cream coffeecake. The
cinnamon-flavored chocolate ganache completed the moment. (The sturdy, small-sized
silicone cups used to bake these cupcakes were perfect in this application).
Click here to view the full, illustrated recipe.
Click here for a printable version of
Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Crème
It had been some time since
we'd used our little pots de crème set. Finding this recipe inspired us to find
our special lidded cups and experiment with this recipe. The results did not
disappoint! Neither mousse, nor custard, the chocolate-espresso flavor caused
swooning all around the table to the point of embarrassment. You'll enjoy and
be satisfied with these dainty, but potent pleasures.
Click here to view the full, illustrated recipe.
Click here for a printable version of
Make a great cup of coffee,
and take a few extra minutes to relax and enjoy it thoroughly!
Lorraine, Katie, and all of the Staff at Beyond Pots and Pans