My lady-friend is a stone cold hipster. Besides my desensitization to the careless use of flannel, I haven't changed much since falling in love with
her. But over time her inherent snobbery and ridicule of my plebeian tastes has fundamentally altered my once flippant attitude towards the finer
things in life into something I would describe as—surprisingly—semi-refined.
This is true even of my taste for coffee. Where I once could go for months with only a cup or two of joe here and there (preferably the instant kind),
now I wake up early, take the time every morning to measure, grind, take temperatures, and to brew my coffee by hand, all in the vain pursuit of that
Thankfully, with a little trial and error, some note taking, I have acquired knowledge that might be of interest to the uninitiated.
The proverbial key is in the literal ingredients. Freshly roasted, whole coffee beans are a prerequisite to that perfect cup. If you prefer the
pre-ground stuff that comes from a tin can, remember that the volatility of coffee oils greatly enhances it’s likelihood that it will be
contaminated by other odors. That subtle, meaty taste in your coffee may in fact be the remnants of someone’s bodily scents.
What country the beans hail from is largely a matter of taste, but where you purchase these beans could send you further down the path to mediocrity.
Never purchase coffee from a grocery store. Don’t be afraid to be a little elitist on this point. Their products are mass produced, stale, often
allowed to sit there for a year or so until they remove it, or until some schlub buys it, whatever comes first. Opt instead for locally-roasted, small
batch coffee if you can get your hands on it. The nearer to the time it was roasted the better. Coffee degrades in character, flavour and aroma as
time goes on, so only buy as much as needed to avoid unnecessary waste. (Are we not waste conscious yet?)
Grind your beans with a good Burr grinder. The Burr grinder offers a more consistent and finer grind than your typical blade grinder. The even grounds
promise less variation in the extraction of flavours and aromas, promising a better cup of coffee.
For brewing methods, I have come to prefer the pour-over method over anything else. The freshly ground coffee is placed in a filter above a cup,
usually in a pour-over brewer. The filter was previously rinsed in hot water so as to remove any trace tastes of the paper. Baristas, when they
aren’t refusing to make a good cup of coffee, suggest a 1:17 coffee to water ratio, and I have conceded that this is indeed the perfect ratio for my
own tastes. The optimum brewing temperature for water is 200˚F-205˚F, and for the perfect pour, a swannecked (goosenecked?) kettle is preferable.
At first, the hot water is poured over the coffee just enough cover it, allowing the coffee to “bloom”, which is hipster jargon to describe the
moment when the coffee is puffing and swelling as it releases CO2 in a nice, coffee-scented bouquet. Afterwords, the rest of the pour evolves in
subtle spirals from the outside to the center, then from the center to the outside, stopping every now and then for 15-20 seconds or so to let the
coffee drip, as it fills the vessel with the hot, aromatic fruits of your hard work.
Maybe some Proust, maybe some jazz, most definitely a fine woman—not much else—is all that could ever make your morning any better now that you
have your morning coffee.
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