Saturday, December 14, 2013

How to brew a perfect cup of coffee

What you need to know about coffee
By: Chef Cristian Feher

To many people, coffee is the essence of life. Whether you drink it to start your day, to beat that afternoon bout of narcolepsy, or to finish a great meal, coffee is a part of our lives. But what is coffee, and what do you need to know about coffee? What makes good and bad coffee? Here's what you need to know.

Coffee is a stimulant - actually, the caffeine inside coffee is a stimulant. "Yeah? Tell me something I don't know!" You might say.

Well, I mention it because of this fact: Most drugs work the same way (caffeine is a drug). A little bit of drug X has a stimulating effect, but a little more of that same drug X has the effect of a tranquilizer, and an even larger doze of drug X can even kill you. But we're talking about caffeine, so let's just focus on it as an upper and a downer - you're not going to die from drinking coffee.

A little coffee [caffeine] will act as an "upper". It will add itself to your endocrine system and speed you up! But, if you drink too much of it, you will get to a point where that caffeine will actually start acting as a "downer". It will make you even more tired than you were before you started drinking coffee. The amount will vary by your body size and tolerance for caffeine, but it will act this way.

So, that's the first thing you should know. Too much coffee will tranquilize you.

Equipment is important. What you brew your coffee with can be the deciding factor between a good cup, and a bad cup of coffee. You also need to know about time, temperature, and water.

You have to use a CLEAN COFFEE POT. You see, every batch of coffee you make, leaves a layer of oil in the coffee pot. If you don't properly clean out this oil with a degreaser (dish soap), your next batch of coffee will suck. The rancid oil left behind will ruin your next batch. Even a little spot of oily coffee residue can ruin your entire next batch. This is why an instant coffee machine, like a Keurig, is better than a traditional coffee pot. (I am not paid by Keurig and have no promotional relationship with them).

Use fresh coffee. Ground coffee has a limited shelf-life as soon as it's introduced to oxygen. It will only last 2 to 3 weeks before the oils start to go rancid - and that's when it's kept in a cold, dry place with a tight lid. So, either, buy small batches, or grind your own coffee. Again, K-cups (as in Keurig cups) are vacuum sealed to keep the ground coffee fresh right up until you brew it. Your local coffee shop also (probably) grinds their coffee daily.

Use filtered, bottled water. Tap water contains a cocktail of chemicals, resins, bacteria, and even metals that will affect the taste of the coffee. Only a neutral water from a bottle or filter will let your coffee shine through.

Temperature makes the difference. Coffee should be brewed between 195 and 203 degrees F. Above that, and you burn the coffee, making it bitter. Below that, you don't extract the essentials of the bean, and it turns out watery and bland. Again, a Keurig machine, and other high-end coffee makers keep this constant temperature for you while brewing. Or, you can do this yourself with a thermometer and a French-press.

Brewing time should not exceed 8 minutes - after this, you burn your coffee. Letting your coffee sit on a warming plate (as in most office coffee machines) burns the coffee and gives it a nasty taste. You should throw coffee out that is older than an hour - or make iced coffee drinks with it (as McDonalds and other fast food places do).

In keeping all these things in mind, you can now brew a perfect cup of coffee! What you put in it at this point is up to you. Milk, sugar, cream, flavoring agents - these are all good and will vary person-to-person. But the main point is that you know what makes good and bad coffee, and how much of it serves your purpose.

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