Making Great Coffee  

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How do I make great coffee? - There are several ways to make coffee, some better than others and some that extract coffee's special character for special drinks. The brewing method will affect the amount and quality of flavor extracted.

Percolator - It should be a felony to use a percolator. The coffee beverage is actually being boiled during the brewing process. Only the water used to brew the coffee should be boiled before applying it to ground coffee and the resulting beverage should never be boiled, reboiled and recirculated through the coffee grounds. Unfortunately, this is how the evil percolator works.
Evil Percolator
   
Drip Process - is among the best methods. Hot water is introduced to roasted and ground coffee beans. As the water passes through the grinds and a filter, the flavorful elements of the roasted coffee are extracted and carried off with the brew water. The water is filtered to remove large solids producing brewed coffee.
Drip Coffee Maker
   
French Press - loose ground coffee is spooned into the glass cylinder and hot water is poured over. The coffee and water are allowed to swirl and brew for several minutes. A piston made of durable screen material, which fits snugly in the cylinder, is pressed down through the hot water separating the water from the ground coffee extracting the essence and flavor of the beans. The resulting beverage is left behind making an excellent cup of coffee.
French Press
   
Vacuum Pot - sometimes called a coffee syphon. Invented by Madame Vassieux of Lyons, France in the 1840's, it makes an excellent cup of coffee. This is a fixture in almost every Scandinavian home. Rare in the US since the 1950's but they seem to be making a minor come-back. Water is placed in the lower coffee pot and ground coffee is put in the upper pot. When the water begins to boil, the vacuum process causes water to rise up the tube to mix with the ground coffee. Two or three minutes later, the newly brewed coffee runs back down to the lower pot ready to serve while the grounds stay in the upper pot. The process may either be stove top or done right at your kitchen table with a fondue style heater, or you can find electric versions. Fascinating to watch.
Vacuum Pot
   
Espresso - The Espresso method of brewing coffee is a French invention later perfected and embraced by the Italians. The coffee beans used are heavily caramelized and dark. They are finely ground and tightly packed into a small filter basket where hot water under pressure is injected through the grounds. This method extracts the richest flavors of the coffee into a powerfully concentrated liquid. It can be consumed as a straight shot or as the basis of many other espresso based drinks.
Pulling an espresso shot
   
Mokka or Moka - A very dark, thick coffee that comes from a mokka pot, sometimes referred to as a stovetop espresso maker. The coffee really isn't espresso, it just comes out feeling that strong. Don't confuse this with a mocha drink that contains chocolate. Mokka is the name of a small sea port in Yemen (Arabic: mukhâ) where the roots of the coffee shipping industry began. Mokka pots are three peice items; a boiling container mated rim to rim with a serving container and a metal coffee filter basket between. Water is boiled on one side of the container on the stovetop, then the entire assembly is inverted allowing the still boiling water to seep through the ground coffee into the serving container.
Mokka Pot
   
Turkish - A very dark roasted coffee is pulverized almost to talcum powder and generously spooned into an 'ibrik' or 'cezve' along with sugar where the grinds are boiled. The coffee is removed from the heat then put back on boil again. This is usually done three times. The coffee is expected to be frothy or you will be charged with using poor quality beans. Some of the grounds settle to the bottom of your cup in an almost sludge-like consistency. The coffee is unfiltered and quite strong. Not for the faint-hearted. In Germany, this is called Türkischer Mokka which differentiates it from regular mokka.
Turkish Ibrik
   

Espresso CremaWhile these are all fascinating coffee brewing methods (and there are certainly more), the one we've come to love most is the espresso beverage. Relative to other methods, the espresso shot takes only seconds to make and transports the most richness of a coffee bean into your cup.

The secret of good espresso is successfully extracting the sweet crema of the coffee. Crema dissipates quickly, so a straight espresso shot should be consumed within moments of extraction. Espresso is also the basis of a variety of coffee drinks such as Cappuccino, and food recipes such as Tira Misú.

Coffee Tastes may be broken into several categories that, when combined, provide a quantifiable description of the coffee. Much like wine tasting experts describe the various flavors and sensations of wine, coffee experts communicate the experience of a coffee in a similar way. A variety of terms are used, but the most important are Flavor, Acidity and Body.

Flavor refers to the overall experience of drinking a particular coffee, which includes both taste and aroma. Taste is what is directly applied to the taste buds and aroma are sensations of smell before and after you drink the coffee. Certain flavor attributes are associated with specific coffees, such as a chocolaty taste or a nutty aroma.

Acidity in coffee sounds bad but is actually a very desirable, refreshing, mouth-cleansing quality. It leaves a sparkling, lively taste that makes it the ideal morning wake-up. This "taste" of acidity doesn't mean coffee is highly acidic. In fact, when measured on an objective pH scale, coffee is one of the least acidic beverages found in the typical household.

Body refers to the perceived oilyness and thickness of brewed coffee on the tongue and can range from light to very heavy depending on the origin and choice of brewing method of the coffee.

These attributes are rated on a scale of 1 to 5. You must resist the urge to think that 1 is the worst and 5 is the best. For example, the acidity of coffee is rated where 1 is the sweetest flavor and 5 is the most acidic with neutral in the middle. Here's a table of what coffees are considered sweet, neutral and acidic.

Sweet Coffees
Neutral Coffees
Acidic Coffees
Arabian Mocha
Costa Rican
Dark French Roast
Sumatra
Hawaiian Kona AA
Guatemala Antigua
Colombian
Jamaican Blue Mountain
Dark Roasted Brazilian Santos

Coffee Species are an important part of the flavors in coffee. A coffee that is "100% Columbian" may only tell you the country of origin when in fact they are producing several coffee species such as Liberica, Robusta and Arabica. Only the Arabica Species, which have the most desirable flavors, can provide a true gourmet coffee taste. No matter what the country of origin, be sure your coffee is solely Arabica.

Coffee Grades play an important part in flavor. Since coffee is an agricultural product, the quality will vary because of seasonal growing conditions and other factors, such as if there happens to be a war in the region and the coffee trees are left untended for a time. AA is the highest quality, then A,B,C, and D in descending order. Always be sure you buy AA and A grade coffees.


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