Monday, October 13, 2008

How to make a Good Cup of Smooth Coffee - and the Meaning of Life

I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Its a great drink and easy to prepare. Here's a simple step by step advice on how to make a good cup of coffee.

1. Buy Good Quality Coffee Beans.
Every person's taste is different. But most people prefer coffee that is less acidic and mellow like chocolate. Go for Columbian style or PNG coffee. Robert Timms is a good brand.

What I like is to mix Hazelnut blended coffee with French Vanilla blended coffee beans produced by Brown Brothers. They are in open containers in supermarkets however only the Maxi supermarket carries this type now.

2. Grind it fresh - just before you want it.
You need to grind the coffee beans fresh to get that fresh taste. I use a small Braun kitchen grinder. Its cheap - only cost $30. And its easy to clean with a kitchen paper towel. (memo- unplug it before you clean it!)

3. Grind properly - Coffee Grains
For plunger coffee. The grind has to be coarse - not like fine sand. The smaller the grains or particles - the more coffee grains will get through the plunger wire mesh and ruin the smoothness.

Let me backtrack a bit here. Coffee is bitter. Take a coffee bean. Smell it - it smell great! Now bite it and chew it for awhile. Its bitter. Now what we are trying to do is to extract the aroma and sweet flavor of the coffee - and minimize the bitterness.

That's why its important to grind the coffee beans to an appropriate size.

Too fine a grain- and the coffee will become very bitter.
Too coarse grains - and the coffee will not be so tasty.

This might sound quite complicated. But what I'm trying to do is to tell you how coffee works. Most people don't know how things in life works or come about. When I was a kid I thought that char-siew pao (pork buns) came from trees. But if you start wondering how things work - it creates in yourself a spirit of enquiry and self-awarness. You learn not to accept things as they are. You don't just go on plowing through life blindly. And its life-changing.

4. Get a good plunger. Bodium invented the coffee plunger. Other brands like Pyrex copied it (illegally). For some bizarre reason, coffee plungers in Singapore cost a fortune. But a good size plunger that can serve 3 cups of coffee should cost about $50 in Melbourne.

Some common sense - the plunger has to be solid - solid enough to withstand the plunger top. The first plunger I bought, a Braun, was paper thin. It smashed when the plunger top dropped on it. Crap.

Watch out also for the wire mesh - don't buy it if does not form a nice fit - otherwise the coffee grains will come through.

5. Boil the water.
Don't pour the boiled water into the coffee plunger straight away. If the water is too hot - it will make the coffee too bitter. I suggest you pour the water into another separate container - before pouring it into the coffee plunger. One idea is to pour the water into the coffee cups to warm them up - then pour the water into the plunger.

6. Put an appropriate amount of the grounded coffee into the plunger.
This is up to you. But a rule of thumb is two table spoons of coffee grains to one cup of water. If you like your coffee weak, use less. If you want to drink black coffee straight, without sugar or milk - use less coffee grains.

I have found that over a period of time, if you drink strong coffee - you are going to wreck your stomach and suffer reflux. If so - stop - and drink something else, ie tea. Then try using less coffee grains.

7. Give it a stir
Use a wooden or plastic spoon. Be careful using a metal spoon as it may scratch the plunger glass. As you stir - you can see a lovely layer of foam - called the cream - forming at the top. You can also see plenty of the coffee grains floating at the top. That's why you need the plunger wire mesh to separate that.

8. Wait
Two to four minutes, longer = stronger. This depends on how you like it. But its also ok to plunge the coffee after you gave it a good stir. Do it slowly and be careful - sometimes in poorly made plunger - the hot coffee shoots through the top and scalds people - badly.

9. Pour and Serve
Hurray. Drink! Add Milk, Sugar or just have it black.

If you are unable to finish the coffee in the plunger, pour it into a cup and keep it later to be microwaved for a 2nd round. The longer you keep the water in the plunger - the more bitter the coffee will get.

No comments: