Coffee for Pete – and coffee knowledge for you

Dear Reader,

Maybe you read here, that I offered Pete a cup of coffee. And you might have read my claim to know about spirits. Well, here comes the next beverage on diablog, coffee.

Actually, this is about Espresso. To me that is coffee. Or Turkish coffee. Everything else is, well, let’s be polite for now.

Like with all food and drinks, you cannot expect a good result with poor ingredients. Please forget about Nestle, Kraft, Folgers, etc. No, those pad or capsule machines do not make coffee. And, if you think Starf**ks serves coffee, you might as well believe, McDonalds serves food.

What is important about coffee? Four things are of equal importance, when preparing a real coffee:

  1. beans
  2. roast
  3. grinder
  4. machine

Buying ground beans is a no go. Why?
During grinding the beans partially give away their aroma. If that happens at some factory and not at your home, this part of aroma will not find its way into your cup.
So, instead of the factory workers enjoying the aroma of your coffee, I insist you buy beans.
The best ones by far are Jamaica Blue Mountain. But they’ll cost you an arm and a leg. A good Arabica does it for me, I suggest you try different ones to find your own favorite.
About storage: Do not put beans in the fridge or freezer, where they are watered down in condensate. Buy enough for a week and store sealed in a cupboard.

Your mass market beans are roasted quickly and at higher temperatures. Often, the result is a burned taste, yuck. You can tell by the look of the beans. If there are beige or grayish ones in there, stay away. Your perfectly roasted beans are evenly dark, shiny, with an oily look and smell delicious.
About price: A slow roast takes more energy and time. That equals more money. So unless you are lucky, the roaster is stupid or you are stealing the beans, expect to pay a little more. It is worth it.

If I see one of those blade grinders in your home, I know, you have no clue about coffee. First of all, the beans are cut over and over in there and loose aroma in the grinder. Again, that won’t get into your cup, or mine. Secondly, while being chopped instead of ground, the beans get warm. Heat takes out aroma. So even less of it ends in the cup. Who is paying for aroma, the grinder or you?
What you want is a rolling grinder (!), which takes away almost no aroma. There is one perfect coffee grinder in the world: the Solis Scala from Switzerland. It is surprisingly inexpensive (~100), needs no servicing and lasts for ever, a good investment.

You have done great so far, all is fine. And, much to everyone’s surprise, you have not blown a lot of money yet. Now comes the expensive part, right? Wrong!

There is no reason to spend a fortune on espresso machines. There are excellent, affordable machines for home or office use. Let idiots blow five hundreds or a thousand on Jura, Saeco, Gaggia, etc.. You must not. Fully automated machines are nothing but a Tamagotchi. They keep you busy and paying, the espresso usually is poor. Why? Because the beans are in there for ever, so is the stale water and the milk? I could puke just thinking about the fungi and bacteria in there.

Get a portafilter machine, with good pumps and enough pressure, that is it. Check stores and online auction sites for used ones, if you want. This is how I buy mine. Usually for less then 200. Some newlyweds usually have two or three and are ready to sell.

One last thing, the “crema”.
Why is there or should there be crema on your coffee? For exactly the same reason, beer should have froth: to conserve the aroma. If someone serves a beer without froth, he does not know anything about beer. And the same is true for coffee.

More about Turkish coffee later.

Stay tuned,
Engine Room

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