Coffee: rocket ships or old socks?

So, you have some freshly roasted, gorgeously brown beans, from Ethiopia or Costa

What to do next?

Mahmoud Hazr has one approach:

Mahmoud set the mortar and pestle to one side and reached for the incongruously homely English saucepan of steaming water that Ali had set to boil, filled from a skin hanging off the rafters. Picking up the tallest of three long, thin brass coffee pots, he poured the ground coffee into it, followed by the steaming water. After a minute he skimmed off the foam and allowed the coffee to subside, then poured the mixture into a smaller pot of the same shape. He added a pinch of spice, stirred and skimmed it again, and finally poured the tar-like coffee into four porcelain cups without handles that nested into the palm of the hand. It was unlike any Turkish coffee I had ever tasted, fragrant with the cardamom and thick enough to spoon from the cup.

150px-DallahAnd there’s another method—two of them—in an upcoming story:

I watched Holmes’ growing impatience as his brother fiddled with his new patent coffee contraption (which, frankly, produced a beverage indistinguishable from the boiling-beaker-and-old-sock method we used over our laboratory’s Bunsen burner)

Problem is, there’s such a dizzying array of brewing methods, where to begin? Me, I prefer the French press system, where you put the coarse grounds in your (warmed) glass or (in my case) insulated metal pot, pour in the less-than-boiling water,photo 2

and let it sit for a minute before pushing down the mesh filter. It’s not as thick a brew as Mahmoud’s, but if you object to a film in the bottom of your cup, you’ll probably want to use a paper filter instead. Or old socks, I suppose (assuming they’re clean.)

You could also play with the more exotic methods: if you find coffee acidic on your stomach, there’s a number of cold-brew methods. If you just want a cup when you wake up in the morning, use a good automatic drip pot with a time setter. (Although if you use an automatic pot, for God’s sake drink your coffee quickly, since letting the delicate oils stew over a hot plate makes for a truly disgusting brew.) If you want to go for a method with flair, try a Chemex, or join the Aeropress cult, or something that resembles a 16th century rocket.history-4

Coffee is one of life’s real joys: play with it, pay attention to it, and experiment with all its possibilities.


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  1. Affenschmidt on November 5, 2015 at 6:47 am

    Coffee that’s been sitting on the hot plate of an automatic drip coffee maker is indeed dreadful, but such machines can be had instead with insulated pots (which also have the advantage of keeping the unpoured coffee hot for your second cupful while sitting beside you on the breakfast table).

  2. Lynn Hirshman on November 5, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I received my first Chemex as a gift in 1962, back when, like everyone else I knew, I made horrible coffee in a percolator. What a revelation! I’ve been a filter addict ever since.

  3. Janis Kiehl Harrison on November 5, 2015 at 11:21 am

    I’ve always been fascinated by the Silex method: hocus-pocus!

  4. Sandy Kozinn on November 5, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    I’m a fan of the French press myself, grinding the dark roast coffee a bit finer than suggested just before adding the almost-boiling water. By the time I’m done, it’s nearly espresso, which is the way I like it. Makes the world’s best iced coffee (IMHO) in the summer, too.

    I always feel that having all the parts easily washable means no bitterness hiding in a tube somewhere, and I don’t mind the sludge resulting from my method, as I’ve gotten rather good at drinking every drop of coffee without ingesting any sludge at all.

  5. TheMadLibrarian on November 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Agreed that Mocca Java is a particularly nice varietal. There are indeed different shadings, including a few I’m pretty sure were MJ in name only. I was introduced to it through the Gevalia store by accident. I checked the wrong box on my order form, and was hooked.

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