Saturday, December 5, 2015

For Want of a Good Cup

Coffee is suposed to punch me in the face, right?  Wait, is that a toilet-infused water-goddess Olhydra?  Roll initiative!


This coffee tastes like hot-dog water!  Those buns!
You've seen it before, work places with pots of coffee available for free, or worse-still, for a small "donation".  The pot hasn't been properly washed in years and has a brown, permanent stain that no amount of that disease-ridden, stanky, dish "wand" slathered with half a bottle of Dawn anti-bacterial dish-soap can fix.  The wand itself a "magic" one that will guarantee rhinovirus in no-time flat despite Dawn's medicinal claims, the virus and bacteria so strengthened by weakened, diluted use and left to consider the soapy-enemy after a quick use a sure example of evolution if I ever saw one.  The pot suffers for it.  You'll never be able to get all that soap and Dawn-immune bacterial death out of it.  You sigh, knowing your battle is fruitless, being the only one who tries to fix that pot's cleanliness, and hope the old-men-comments of "seasoning" the pot, or mug, has merit.  It doesn't.
This tastes like Mumphord and Sons.

  There are some urban legends about coffee but I'll tell you despite it being a matter-of-taste, there's ways to make a decent cup.
I have no legs and live in a void.

  First, curse-out the guy running the assuredly illegal "coffee fund" who buys Yuma, Folger's, or Pinon coffee, the cheapest you can buy.  He's on-the-take, especially if you ask to see his "books" on accounts payable and receivable, mumbling something about sometimes making a mild profit.  He's paying $5 a pound for the coffee, and his "Great Value" "creamer" is of "No Quality".  Creamer is something that should be avoided.  If you're lactose-intolerant, you can try almond or soy "milk" (juice, really) or learn to enjoy "black".  You really should use table cream, whole or heavy cream, or half-and-half if you're going to "lighten" your cup's pure coffee, but more on that later.  The "creamer" is just freeze-dried vegetable oil and other chemicals to simulate "mouth feel".  Be wary.  It's gross, anyway.
Welcome to Disney World, Princess!


Coffee fruits (seeds "beans" are green inside and are roasted until brown)
  So.. you don't like black coffee.  There's a reson for that; usually it's because the coffee you use is crap.  Coffee is 2 ingredients:  roasted and ground-up coffee seeds (from the coffee fruit) and water.  Growing the coffee fruit takes good soil and the seeds extracted from the fruit which we call coffee "beans" (they're not a bean) absorbs a lot of that soil's elements.  As an example, Kona Coffee is a sub-species grown in various parts of Hawaii, the most popular is the least tasty in Kauai and represents a large percentage of the Kona variety bought, the purest having a rooster from the tell-tale primary creature living on the island.  I've been there.  There's a lotta cock there!  Almost a plague of roosters dominate the island in the same way the "Main Island" has a plague of cats on a biblical level.
Wait, this isn't motor oil, is it?

  Let's look at some mistakes about coffee:
Toilet backed-up again...

1.  Coffee is too bitter.  I need to add a ton of milk, sugar, flavors, to make it tolerable.
  The reason your coffee is bitter "straight-up" is because the beans are of low-quality and the water used is poor.  Lightly sipping good coffee, properly-ground with quality water should taste either fruity, nutty, or chocolaty naturally.  If yours does not, find another source of either of the two main ingredients.
Someone put sulphuric acid in my coffee!  Tastes like old-man soup!

2.  Starbucks Coffee is actually pretty good.
Scarlett knows the struggle is real.

Starbucks is a corporate machine and successful because its overhead costs are low and charge over 1000% the cost of the item sold.  All their flavors are corn-syrup which is very high in calories and carbohydrates.  One "shot" of vanilla syrup is 20g of carbs.  In an iced "cappuccino" they put 3 of those (at least) which is the equivalent of half a six-pack of Mountain Dews or more.  They "homogenize" their product by buying the cheapest selection of beans all over the world, then over-roast them so they all tastes the same, "burnt".  One would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Wonder Bread and Pepperidge Farm White bread that was burnt in a blind taste-test, and that's the idea.  By doing so, Starbucks can always buy the cheapest sources of coffee internationally in mass-bulk to maintain huge profit-margins while tasting "the same" anywhere in the world (which is "burnt").  If they over-burn a batch, closest to the heat, they mark that as "French Roast" which is "extra burnt by mistake".  When bidding for mass-bulk, cheapest coffee, sometimes they come across micro-batches of only a few tons that were failed crops and the coffee farmers know it was failed and a complete loss.  Starbucks buys it very cheaply and slaps a name on the batch as a limited-run from some pseudo-exotic location and up-charges for it for the tastebud-less coffee-snobs who don't know the difference, suckered into false labeling.  Just because it says it's "Etheopian" doesn't mean it was from there, likely California after a drought.  Starbucks is the cheapest coffee in the world getting the cheapest ingredients they can find and hide the flavor with corn-syrup.  Don't buy it.  Ever.
Hates blacks too.

3.  If I drink "espresso" it gives me more caffeine.
  Espresso is just a stronger flavor of the cup you'd normally drink it a smaller dose.  To get "more caffeine" you'd have to drink a full mug of espresso.  People do it for the intense taste, though most places do espresso wrong because they use cheap-as-frack beans and chlorinated tap water (see #2).  With that, now you get even more burnt, cheap flavor and chlorine.  Want lemon with that?  You don't.  It should be exquisite and delicious, not some bitter demon to hide the taste with lemon (same as tequila by the way, good tequila is delicious, you don't need lime or salt to hide the wonderful taste of fresh, quality tequila).
  Hey, Starbucks?  A macchiatto doesn't have caramel in it.  It's an espresso with a dash of milk.
4.  If I grind the beans finer, I get better coffee.
  You get more dense, espresso-like coffee that will probably suck.  Examine how Dunkin' Donuts grinds their coffee and make your grinds the same size.  They got that down pretty well.  The grind size of particles of coffee beans needs to be uniform.  Using a whirling "blade" grinder is cute but will make small particles smaller and leave large chunks of coffee bean parts on-top no matter what you try, shake, etc.  Buy yourself a ceramic burr-grinder such as Breville or Hairo.  You can get-by with one by Cuisinart or Kitchen-Aid as well, though these don't slow-down to not scortch the coffee as it's ground (the mill grinder allows pieces to fall-through like mini-gumballs through a chute in the right size if that makes sense).  Uniform, ground-pieces are key.  If you think you're making espresso by grinding it into ash and then using a coffee-drip system you're wrong to do so, and it will suck.  Espresso must be made with highly pressurized water to taste right.
GB Coffee Incident of 2005 (documented).

5.  Mike Cronis is not an expert.
  Mike Cronis is an expert.
Miniature couch (for obvious reasons).

6.  I'm lazy so I like my Keurig.  I also prefer to use pre-ground coffee and set my maker's timer.
  You are lazy, yes, but the amount of work to make a fantastic cup is merely a movement of a hand more to make 1000 times better coffee. 
  If coffee is ground to its proper size, it will be good, though it's flavor will only last 30 seconds unless in a vacuum, then it might last 2-3 hours.  Giant plants like Maxwell House and Folgers roast then grind coffee quickly but it's not bagged within 30 seconds as it's put in large silo-bins and dumped into bags which might sit on shelves for months.  Coffee, like bread, goes stale.  Some companies add preservatives.  You don't want that, which adds to the acrid, bitter taste.  If coffee tastes bitter, it was either roasted wrong and is bitter or has added chemicals (which are usually bitter).  Coffee really goes stale within 30 seconds of grinding.  You need to make a cup within that time if you can.  Keurig mini-cups are pre-ground and therefore of poor quality.  Any ground coffee is poor quality.  Starbucks is always poor-quality because they get their coffee from the gutter.
Americans prefer convenience over quality at the expense of dumb misery.

Now.. how to make a very good cup of coffee.
1.  Buy a good coffee-maker.
  I prefer drip, though some prefer an elaborate vacuum method with beakers or a press, which I generally find to taste okay but not that great.  I'm a fan of drip so the two I'd recommend is Bona Vita's BV-1900 or Technivorm MoccaMaster KBT-741.  Both have large-evenly spaced shower-heads and disperse water slowly and carefully. These are a bit pricey but if you want to go cheap, any coffee drip pot will do, really, with the added trick of after about 1 cup of water has gone down the reservoir, shut it off for 2 minutes, then start it back up again to create a coffee "soup" to let the grounds "bloom" for a minute or two.  This allows the coffee to mild-up quite a bit.  I did this with a $4 coffee-maker from Walgreens and it was somewhat acceptable and much cheaper.  The Bonavita does this automatically (once you set it up to do so).  This method takes-away the acidic taste.
Bonavita 1900TS

2.  Buy a good grinder.
  You can spend literally thousands of dollars on good grinders.  A lot of that money goes to get better and better cups of espresso (do not call it "expresso" because that's a Plymouth Neon car.)  The money goes into finer grinds that are uniform in size.  The finer the better for espresso aficionados.  If you just want coffee, a modest grinder will work.  I recommend the Breville Smart Grinder Pro but you can get-by with a moderately satisfactory Cuisinart DBM-8.  Remember how much you spend on coffee when you go out every year and make your choices from that.  $6/day times 300 days a year is $1800.  You should spend at least a third of that for a setup that will last 10-20 years, no?  Give yourself $350 and you'll be good to start for both a maker and grinder.  Clive Coffee's website is a good place for quality, home-use grinders and coffee-makers.

3.  Buy good beans.
  I can't express this enough.  Good coffee is hard to find.  Jamaican Blue Mountain is rated the best in the world.  I recommend as a source to start.  They have micro-farms and are pushing Papa New Guinnea hybrid stuff that's pretty good for beginners.  All JBM coffee tastes chocolaty and rich like deep, melted Hershey's Dark Chocolate bars and a hint of fruity papaya aftertaste with an oily, sweet, rich finish.  Be wary of beans roasted 30 days or later.  Roasting-dates are key to fresh, good coffee.  JBM is best for colder months.
This man was white, that's how good the coffee is.

  In warmer climates, I recommend Kona, though not from Kauai which is most common because the sugar-fields that the farm originally started from recently failed and the soil is very iron-rich and you can taste that forefrontedly on the pallate and I find it undesirable.  I recommend the main-island of Hawaii, such as Greenwell Farms, particularly the Private Reserve.  Their "Full-City-Roast" is some leftover stuff you don't want.
No tigers ate anyone today.

  But if you don't want those, don't want to wait or spend $30-$90 per-pound quite yet, then get some good ol' Dunkin' Donuts beans (not the ground stuff).  It's acceptable, though it tastes kiddy.  Whole Foods has some marginally acceptable African types as well.  Look for light-roasts and check roasting-dates if you can.  Columbian is iffy, usually, but you can get some good stuff online.  Some supermarkets might have something interesting to try as well.  Usually more expensive means better, but not always.  Expect $20 per-pound to be acceptable.  Stay away from "dark roast" or "french roasted" because it's a flaw they're trying to hide and still sell, either mold or a failed crop.  STAY AWAY FROM BLENDS because it's some good coffee (like 5%) and the rest is very very cheap crap (see Starbucks).  Try to resist the urge to buy in bulk.  1lb. at a time, please.  Freezing or chilling the beans is not a good idea unless you can vacuum-seal them, which is tricky, and even then the flavor is lost within a few weeks.
Bostonian delight.

4.  Use a good filter.
  Unbleached, brown paper filters are best.  The gold ones are only good for about 2 uses and therefore aren't worth the effort after re-cleaning.  That's all I got for that.
Can double as a napkin or toilet-paper.

5.  Use good water.
  Higher PH water is best.  If you can get a 7.5 or so alkalinity you're doin' good.  Pure water is best.  Stay away from distilled, though, if you can.  Using reverse-osmosis, higher-PH water is really good.  If you're on-the-cheap, though, you can use tap and filter it with a Britta filter first, then leave it in the fridge.  Colder water seems to be better based on density.  You can use Fiji or even Dasani water, or supermarket "artisian" water as well.  Hint:  If you drink the water straight beforehand, does it taste good?  If so, you're good.
Ching-CHOW!  Water good enough if dog not float in it!  If dog, extra price! You BUY!

6.  Magic
Get this..
  Oddly, the best color cup to use is a light blue.  I call that "magic".  Find yourself a nice ceramic 16oz mug in light-blue not made in China who uses radioactive clay.  I'm not sure why this is light-blue though, is the best, but most people also agree on that.  Is it psychological?  Is there something about the light-waves?  Nope, it's magic.  Trust me on this one.  Trust me.
The orange LSD from Woodstock dissolved from his fat stores.. now.. magic!

7.  But I like cream and sugar!
  Okay, fine.  Get Horizon's or Organic's Half-and-Half cream or their table-cream and have a ball.  Don't use bovine-growth-hormone or other cream, Cremora, powdered-crap, etc.  If you're lactose intolerant, consider not using cream.  You can use sucralose (Splenda) as well as sugar itself.  Sugar-in-the-Raw is a gimmic to push brown-sugar expensively and not worth it.  Equal (aspertame) tastes odd and gives a chemical taste.  Saccarine is only for '70s superfans who want extra cancer in their coffee.
Cheap.  Good.  Get it.

8.  But I like vanilla!
  Okay, fine, but that's like ketchup on a good steak.  So get some Rodelle or Nielsen-Massey bourbon-based vanilla extract and put in a teaspoon.  Stay away from syrups for the love of all that is holy.  They have Rodelle at WalMart for $15.  It will last you 5 years because it is potent and good.  If you turn your nose up to WalMart and prefer WholeFoods or Trader Joe's then fine, get the same product for $35 if it makes you feel better buying in downtown CtpaTown or SoDoSoPa.
Don't be a bitch, get this.

Now, once brewed, before adding anything, sip lightly and let the magic dance on your tongue.
"My tongue is dancing with something white and bubbly!"

Enjoy your cup and send me money in-thanks.
One for the guys...
You here for the coffee, or...

One for the ladies...
I got your cup right here.

and one for the "others"...  hahahahaha..
"Jesith Chris!"

Oh.. MYyyyyy!