Birds and Proper Coffee

A great unsolved mystery of the natural world is how so many species of life on our planet survive without coffee.  Birds and other animals appear to go straight from deep sleep into instant wakefulness without the slightest need for two cups of coffee. While that seems impossible, we must not flinch in the face of evidence.

Nevertheless, humans require it and here, reprinted from the Golden State blog — with permission — is the proper way to make coffee.

August 23, 2009 by goldenstate

It’s not easy being a yuppie in an industrialized, developed country at the beginning of the 21st Century.  You have to have one dedicated faucet in your home from which runs only the finest quality, filtered water and from another must flow only the best white wine, chilled to the proper serving temperature.

And that is the easy part.

coffee-1The difficult part is the coffee.  In olden, pre-Enlightenment times your parents or grandparents went to a grocery store — imagine buying coffee in a grocery store — and bought Folgers coffee in a big metal coffee can, took it home, opened it with a can opener, dumped some of the already ground coffee into a drip coffee maker; or, even worse, into a percolator — the horror — and actually drank the results. Before that people drank cowboy coffee, which was made by dumping a bunch of ground coffee (and a egg shell) into a coffee pot with some water and boiling the stuff. It is a wonder our species survived.

But now, from the magazine Cook’s Illustrated — which is a really fine magazine, even if you are not a cook — comes the latest, most scientific word about the correct way to brew the best cup of coffee. (One doesn’t “make” coffee, one “brews” it.)

1.  Use only fresh ground coffee that you yourself ground just before making the coffee.  Exposed coffee cells begin to break down within an hour of grinding.  (So much for making the coffee the night before and having the coffee pot come on a few minutes before your alarm.)

And the coffee beans you grind must have been roasted not more than 12 days before, assuming you stored the beans in a bag that allows carbon dioxide to escape and prevents oxygen from entering.  Woe betide you if you have not stored your beans properly.

2.  Use only filtered water.  Ordinary tap water, you see, can mask the coffee’s “complexity.”  Which you already lost, if you failed step one.

bodum3.  The water must then be heated to exactly 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you lack the proper thermometer, you can approximate that temperature — if you live at sea level — by bringing the water to a boil and then letting it rest for 10 to 15 seconds.  At 5000 feet above sea level, water boils at 202 degrees, so let it rest for only 5 seconds before pouring it over the freshly ground coffee.  (The precise boiling temperature of the water depends also on the current barometric pressure at your locale. You’ll need a high quality barometer to do this properly.  The lower the air pressure, the lower the temperature of boiling water.)  If you live at 7000 feet above sea level, water boils at 199 degrees so you have to pour it without rest.  I don’t know what you are going to do if you live, or have a second yuppie home, in the mountains. At 10,000 feet water boils at only 192 degrees so you can’t possibly get it hot enough.  Like altitude sickness, the only sure remedy is to descend to a lower altitude.

4.  You must also insure that you use the right grind for the right amount of brewing time.  The longer the brewing time, the coarser the grounds ought to be.  In this way, you protect yourself from over or under “extraction.” (Brewing time should be 4 to 6 minutes, if you have the water temperature correct.)

5.  Use the correct amount of coffee with the correct amount of water.  That is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water.  Unless you like your coffee stronger.  Slight variations at this step are permitted by the coffee police.

6.  Finally, you must accomplish the brewing by using the proper device. The best choice is a French press.  The recommended one cost $40.00. (Bodum Chambord, 8 cup size) You dump the medium – ground coffee in, pour the water steadily over it, and let it steep. (This is entirely different, of course, than cowboy coffee, but don’t embarrass me by asking how.)

If you choose not to use the French press method, you are allowed to do a “manual” drip, which consists of a stately pour of water over a medium grind (like coarse cornmeal) through a paper filter.  If you use one of those gold metal fillers, you must use a fine grind of coffee.  (Like fine cornmeal)

But the pour must be performed in two stages; one-half cup, followed by the remainder — in batches — beginning 30 seconds later.  Stir between batches.
If, after all this, you still want an automatic drip machine and do not want to be labeled a hopeless cretin, you must buy the Technivorm Moccamaster Coffee Maker.  It is the only one that heats the water to the correct temperature. If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.  ($265.00)

Or you could deny human progress, return to the days of the British Empire, and drink tea.


Read more about coffee science here.


The Fat Finch blog will be on a short hiatus until next Monday, October 12th.  We’ll be off looking for California Condors in the Big Ditch — sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon.  See you on the other side.

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