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Hacker Public Radio

Your ideas, projects, opinions - podcasted.

New episodes Monday through Friday.


In-Depth Series

Coffee

All aspects of making the perfect cup of Coffee

How I make coffee - Alpha32 | 2016-09-21

The coffee gator is a pretty nice device, as is the swan-necked kettle they have. I recommend both.


Coffee Making Basics - JustMe | 2015-10-27

Hi. This is "JustMe". I've been in & out of computing since the late 70s. I'm currently running the latest version of Linux Mint LMDE Mate on this Intel Core2 Q8300 CPU running @ 2.50GHz, on an ASRock motherboard with 8G of memory. Storage is provided by a 120Gb Samsung 850 EVO SSD for the OS and a Western Digital WD20 2T HD as home & swap. Video is provided by nVidia. My monitor is an LG E2441 wide screen. I built this box a few years ago and haven't seen a need to modernize it beyond upgrading the OS because it suits my purposes well. Although I'm seriously contemplating switch my desk top to XFCE because Mate is still too buggy.

'nught about me. Let's get on to the subject at hand.

I just finished listening to the HPR Community News for September 2015 episode 1871 a couple of days ago. I listened to the two volunteer hosts talking about coffee, coffee preparation and how hard it was to get water to the correct temperature for that optimal cup of coffee. I'd like to ask the two of them a couple of questions before I continue elucidating on this topic.

The first question is, can you blind taste test the difference between Nescafé Instant and a cup of, let's say, Starbucks brewed coffee? (a blind taste test is where someone prepares cups of coffee without you knowing which cup has which coffee.) Also notice, I didn't say cappuccino or latte. I said, good ol' fashioned brewed coffee, drunk black.

Don't be ashamed if you can't because many people don't have the taste buds for it. But if you can't, I'd say forget making your own and stay with the crappy, Nescafé instant. You'll save yourself a lot of time, money.

On the other hand, if you can taste the difference, and you live in the San Francisco area of California, then I'd like to ask another question. Can you taste the difference between Starbucks and Pete's Brewed coffee?

If you can, then I propose one more question. Can you taste the difference between a cup of coffee made with Columbian beans and one made with Brazilian beans or Ethiopian beans or Costa Rica Beans?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then I'd say you should take the time to learn how to make a proper cup of coffee. You will be rewarded a thousand times over with each cup.

Now, providing you have answered all in the affirmative or you're just interested in listening to the rest of this podcast, let's digress no further and proceed to the heart of the matter.

Making a cup of good coffee, just like making a bottle of good wine or a good omelet, takes understanding of the basics and practice in preparation.

The basics of coffee making are simple: Freshly roasted whole beans, a good grinder & proper grind for the type of coffee preparation method, water, water temperature, and brew time.

I'm not going to go into a step-by-step dissertation on each brewing method. Suffice it to say, you can take the time for that later. I'll only discuss the essentials here.

Let me dally a moment longer. Do you drink wine or beer? When you do or if you do, do you add ice to it? Do you want watered down beer or wine? NO!!! Then why in the hell would you add milk or sugar to your coffee?????? 'nough said on that subject.

Let's proceed:

  1. By freshly roasted whole beans, I mean just that. Whole beans that have been roasted in the past couple of days. NOT two, three, four, five or more months ago. Beans lose their flavor, go stale, with time. Just like day-old bread. Ground beans lose their flavor even faster, so use only whole beans and grind them as you need them just before brewing. In addition, to maintain their freshness, keep whole beans in an air-tight bag or container, out of direct sunlight and in a cool, dry place (NOT refrigerated). Beans hate time, temperature, sunlight, and air.

    Another side note here. How much ground coffee per cup? General rule of thumb - 10 grams of ground coffee per 6 ounces of water. The average American cup/mug holds 8-14 ounces of water. So adjust the amount of ground coffee accordingly - experiment. Keep all the other factors the same and only vary the quantity of ground coffee until you get that "just right" cup. But, of course, if you like Nescafé instant, you'll like stale coffee beans and add extra just for fun.

  2. Grinder. A good grinder is imperative. The greatest cost is going to be the grinder. Not all grinders are equal, nor do they grind beans equally well. So don't be afraid to spend good money for a good grinder. Look for a conical or burr grinder. No damn blade grinders. Blade grinders are for spices and grinding dog food. And I don't mean Kitchen Aid or Sunbeam or Cuisinart or Mr. Coffee or such. Look for brand names like Mazzer, Rancilio, Gaggia, Bunn, Macap, or Baratza. Spend good money now, it'll save you money and ensure years of good service.

    Note that each brewing method needs a different "grind" - coarseness/fineness. Experiment. Keep all the other factors the same and only vary the grind until you get that "just right" cup. But, of course, if you like Nescafé instant, don't worry about the grind.

    Another side note here. If you answered yes to all of the above questions, I'll guarantee that if I were to prepare two cups of coffee where all of the factors are the same except for the grinder (one cheap & one quality), that you would most definitely swear that different beans were used to make each cup. No Joke. That's the difference a good grinder makes. It, more than any other factor, will change the flavor of your coffee. And you'll more likely than not be missing out on a great cup and be constantly plagued with shit coffee if you cheap out.

    I can personally attest to this fact. I cheaped out in the beginning. Then I spent the money to buy a great grinder. My first sip of my first cup using the great grinder knocked my socks off. Night and day! I discovered the great taste of coffee that a great grinder provides. So don't cheap out. But, of course, if you like Nescafé instant, you'll like the cheap blade grinder. Or, hell, do it caveman style, just use a hammer to smash the beans.

  3. Water. Mountain spring water is a MUST. The minerals in it help extract the delicate flavors of the coffee giving it a much more fuller, richer flavor. Distilled water leaves coffee tasting flat and lifeless. But, of course, if you like Nescafé instant, you'll like distilled water.

  4. Water temp. Yes. Water temp makes a difference. It's like the difference between scalding milk and burning milk. Coffee's delicate flavors require a temp between 195-200 degrees F or 90-94 degrees C. Too cold, no flavor extraction - flat coffee. Too hot and the oils are extruded - bitter coffee.

    First bring water to a rolling boil. This airiates the water. Once the water comes to a full boil, remove from the heat. Wait 30-40 seconds then pour into or over your freshly ground coffee beans and stir. For an even more accurate temp reading, use a thermometer. If you make espresso, the espresso maker will take care of the temp, provided you bought a GOOD espresso maker and not a cheap Cuisinart or the likes thereof. But, of course, if you like Nescafé instant, use boiling hot water.

  5. Brew time. Each brewing method's brew time varies (French Press, espresso, pour over, drip, Aero Press, etc.). As little as 30 seconds (espresso) to between three to four minutes for the others is needed. So, experiment. Keep all the other factors the same and only vary the brew time until you get that "just right" cup. But, of course, if you like Nescafé instant, let it steep for 10 minutes.

Does all of this seem like a lot of time and bother just for a cup of coffee? Hell, yes!! But didn't it seem like a lot of time and bother to make that first perfect omelet? And wasn't it worth it, once you got the hang of it. It was no fuss at all. It's just like putting your pants on or brushing your teeth. You no longer have to think about it. You just do it.

And once you get the hang of it, the timing and flow to making that "Just right" cup of coffee, you'll be able to enjoy a perfect cup every time without breaking a sweat or furrowing a brow.

So, here's to ya. Enjoy. And maybe next time we'll look at blending beans to create a euphoric cacophany of mouth flavors.

Bye bye


Adventures In Coffee - Curtis Adkins (CPrompt^) | 2015-09-15

  1. CPrompts French Press: http://www.amazon.com/Bodum-Chambord-French-Coffee-Chrome/dp/B00008XEWG
  2. Grocer that has some great coffee: http://www.thefreshmarket.com/
  3. The only creamer that will go in CPrompt's coffee: http://www.califiafarms.com/products/coffee-creamer/

How I make coffee - Dave Morriss | 2014-11-10

My Coffee History

I'm a coffee lover. I have tried many ways of making coffee.

When I was a child my parents made their coffee in a percolator on the stove top. I remember how great it smelled though it tasted awful to me at that age.

I have owned a variety of filter machines over the years, and these have also been available at the places I have worked. They seemed to do a reasonable job, but nothing special.

One time I owned an all-glass Cona coffee maker, which was very fancy and expensive. It was too fragile for me and eventually met its end while being washed. I don't recall it making particularly wonderful coffee, but it would also make tea, which was a novelty.

I made a number of visits to Indonesia several years ago. There are a lot of pretty good coffee beans available there but the way of making a cup of coffee is not really to my taste. A good dollop of ground coffee in a large cup with boiling water added and large quantities of sugar. Straining those coffee grounds out through your teeth is not a pleasant experience.

As the fashion for the Cafetiere or French Press developed I acquired a number of these. Until recently these were all glass. I found I invariably broke them either by being over zealous when pressing down the plunger or being clumsy when washing them up. It's not a bad way of making coffee, but I have an alternative that I much prefer - the Moka Pot.

Moka Pot

A few years ago I bought a Bialetti Moka Pot. I had never heard of these before, but my son, another avid coffee drinker, pointed me to them. I bought a three-cup pot to start with. This is a small pot; the three refers to three 50ml espresso cups. I also bought a 9-cup pot which is much bigger.

My Bialetti 3-cup and 9-cup pots
Picture: My Bialetti 3-cup and 9-cup pots

The pot consists of three main elements: a base which holds the water, a funnel which holds the ground coffee and the top which holds the coffee once made. There is a gasket and a metal filter on the underside of the top part to prevent coffee grounds entering.

A disassembled Bialetti
Picture: A disassembled Bialetti

The Bialetti is heated on a gas or electric stove and forces boiling water through ground coffee under steam pressure. It makes coffee similar to but not the same as espresso coffee.

The base is filled with water just under the level of the pressure release valve.

Bialetti filled with water
Picture: Bialetti filled with water

I use Italian coffee for the Bialetti since it seems to taste better than any others I have tried.

My current favourite coffee
Picture: My current favourite coffee

Once opened I keep my coffee in a vacuum container.

Coffee in a vacuum container
Picture: Coffee in a vacuum container

The funnel is placed into the water-filled base.

Bialetti ready for coffee
Picture: Bialetti ready for coffee

The funnel takes about two scoops of coffee

Bialetti being filled with coffee
Picture: Bialetti being filled with coffee

The pot is placed on the stove. I have a gas stove and so I use a trivet for stability. I have to take care that the gas flame is not too high or the handle will melt, as has happened in the past!

Bialetti in action
Picture: Bialetti in action

You need to listen out for the bubbling sound the pot makes when the water has passed through the coffee into the top compartment. Letting the remaining steam pass through will over-heat the coffee which you do not want to happen.

Coffee is brewed
Picture: Coffee is brewed

I make a cup of coffee consisting of one part coffee, one part cold milk and one part boiling water. This makes a large cup of pretty strong yet very smooth coffee which helps to wake me up each morning.

A comforting brew in the wrong cup!
Picture: A comforting brew - in the wrong cup!

The Bialetti usually gets one use per day, after which it is washed up. Some purists say that it should only be rinsed out so that the coffee residues on the inside are not removed. I have not noticed any difference personally.

Links


How I make Coffee - x1101 | 2014-06-24

x1101 explains how he makes coffee


Coffee - klaatu | 2008-04-21

klaatu talks about coffee