Productivity Friday: The Best Cup of Coffee
Coffee, the sober drink, the mighty nourishment of the brain, which unlike other spirits, heightens purity and lucidity; coffee, which clears the clouds of the imagination and their gloomy weight; which illuminates the reality of things suddenly with the flash of truth.
I should just leave it at that – I can’t put it any better than Ms. Michelet. But I still have a few things to say before we get down to the nitty-gritty of brewing the perfect cup of coffee.
I was a coffee addict – I needed it first thing in the morning, at my first break, and another for the afternoon slump. I realized that was a problem and have cut back (mostly thanks to an improved diet), but my love for coffee has not been diminished – if anything I have grown to appreciate my favorite hot drink even more. As I’ve cut down to one cup a day, I have learned to slow down and savor the flavor, feel, and effects of my coffee; I have learned to enjoy the smell of the beans, the sound of the grinder running, and the anticipation as I observe the brewing process.
As with most things in life, this growing appreciation has led to a flourishing interest in the processes of brewing “the sober drink, the mighty nourishment of the brain.” I’ve by no means explored all the options, and this list is bound by own limitations – but I want to take a look at my three go-to coffee brewing methods.
Many coffee aficionados sneer at the popular drip coffee makers of the world – and I understand the temptation, but I want to speak in their defense. Much of the bad reputation comes from the bad coffee that people put into their drip coffee makers – and no brewing method will save old, low-quality beans. So don’t be afraid to pull out the old Mr. Coffee and put it to good use. Drip coffee makes are quick, easy, and can make a lot of coffee – perfect for entertaining a larger group or on those mornings you just don’t the time and energy to all out on your coffee experience.
If you are using a drip machines, follow these four tips to get the most out of your brew:
- Freshly Roasted Coffee – true no matter how you brew, try to get the freshest coffee possible. If you’re buying it pre-ground in a large, plastic tub – it’s not fresh; specialty coffees are going to be fresher but still have extended travel times. If you want the freshest possible roast, find a local coffee roaster and buy directly from them – I use Colorado Legacy (if you happen to be in the Grand Junction, CO area, they are the best).
- Fresh Grind – Pre-ground coffee is easy, but you sacrifice some serious flavor for that convenience. If you’re looking to get maximum flavor in your drip coffee – consider investing in your own grinder so that you can buy whole bean coffee. The best are burr grinders, but you pay a premium for them and a blade grinder is great for just starting out.
- Water Matters – With all this focus on the bean, it’s easy to forget about the water. But hard, soft, or chlorinated will impart funky flavors in your brew. For the best results use distilled, filtered, or bottled water in your next pot of joe.
- Wet the Grounds – This is a lesser known trick, but will help to get the most flavor out of your grind. Before beginning the brewing process, add about an ounce of hot water to the ground coffee. This jump-starts the flavor extraction process and will result in a richer, fuller-bodied brew.
My favorite method to brew – the Moka pot – is a stovetop brewing device that produces a coffee like an espresso machine (at a fraction of the cost). It’s more involved than a drip coffee maker, but your hard work is rewarded with a rich, thick brew. Brewing in a Moka takes practice – so don’t give up if your first cup isn’t perfect. The product is versatile – you can drink it straight as an espresso, with hot water as an Americano, or in a latte flavored with your favorite tastes.
If you do venture into the Moka world, just follow these seven steps and you’ll be well on your way to the perfect cup:
- Preheat – Your coffee will brew on the stovetop, but you don’t want to overcook the coffee. So, bring your water to a bowl in a separate kettle before starting the actual Moka process.
- Prep the Pot – Fill the basket with freshly ground coffee, add the hot water to the base, screw on the top, and prepare yourself for the treat you’re about to have. Just remember to leave the lid open while it’s on the heat.
- Brew – Place your Moka over medium heat and sit back and wait for water, heat, and pressure to do all the work for you. Thanks science!
- Keep a Close Eye – Don’t venture too far while it’s brewing. You’ll want to keep an eye on a few things – if the coffee is erupting from the top your heat is too high, if the coffee barely trickles out the heat is too low, and when it starts to hiss/gurgle/ bubble get that beauty off the heat.
- Cool it Down – Brewing with the Moka a precise art – so you want to get your pot cool before it over cooks your brew. Use a cold towel or a cold-water-bath to stop the process quickly.
- Pour and Enjoy – Pour your cup immediately and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
This one’s included as a bonus – since it’s technically not a brewing method. Bullet-proof coffee is a method of preparing your coffee to maximize its effects and benefits with a healthy dose of good fats. Here’s how it goes down: brew a cup of coffee with your favorite method (I prefer a French press for bullet-proof, but anything will work), add a tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of grass-fed butter, and blend up the whole delicious concoction. If you’re brave, you can up the oil and butter to two tablespoons – but that’s not for the novice or weak of heart!
The result will be a frothy, oily drink that provides an amazing amount of energy with no crash later – just don’t add sugar! According it it’s proponents, bullet-proof coffee is entirely healthy; but it takes some time for your body to get used to this new brew. So, start slow with the oil and butter to see how you react and up the amounts until you find the amount that works for you.
I was a bullet-proof sceptic, until I tried it for myself. The truth is in the drinking and I must say, bullet-proof is the truth. I don’t drink it every day, but when I need something to really get me going nothing does the trick like bullet-proof.
Drink and Be Merry
However you choose to drink your coffee (even if you pump it full of sugar, syrups, and chocolate toppings), drink it for your health, for your enjoyment, and for your productivity. Enjoy each sip as it awakens your brain and rouses your creative instincts from their foggy slumber. I”m no coffee expert, so take my advice for what it’s worth – I’m sure there’s plenty out there who will scoff at my lack of experience with pour over, cold brew, and the AeroPress. But at the end of the day, taste, explore, venture out and find the coffee that makes you happy.
I’ll leave you with one final though from H.E. Jacob’s Coffee: The Epic of a Commodity, “A cup of coffee is a miracle. A miracle like a musical harmony, a wonderfully compounded assemblage of relationship.”