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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Black Coffee (in Bed, or Anywhere Else…)

Highly appropriate, as I’m writing this on New Year’s Day after a very good and very late night, and have woken with the Squeeze song suggested in the title running through my head like a mindworm, and in great need of several buckets of the black elixir.

I blogged recently on how to make real coffee, hopefully demystifying the subject somewhat, and tempting you away from the instant jar forever. It’s a subject dear to my heart: I can’t imagine facing the day without a strong coffee or two to kick-start my system, and the aroma alone is enough to make the world seem a better place.

I mentioned several easy ways to make the brew, my tried and tested methods being the stove-top Moka type percolator and the electric drip-filter machines, with the cafetiere coming a distant third. Although the cafetiere is convenient and very easy, I felt that the resulting coffee could turn out a little muddy-tasting and over-brewed.

Well, I’m never too old to learn new tricks, or too proud to admit my mistakes; turns out that I’d been using the cafetiere incorrectly for all these years. My discovery came while reading Victoria Moore’s excellent book “How To Drink.” Now, those who know the Guerilla Griller well would probably suggest that giving him a book entitled “How to Drink” may be a little superfluous: the last thing I need is instructions on how to pour interesting liquids into my face.

Victoria Moore is a good writer; she is entertaining, informative and inspirational. Like a good cookbook, each piece tempts you to seek out and try; revisiting old favourites, perhaps with a twist, or a firm return to the classics, and to investigate new ideas. The only place we part company is on her obvious love for Campari, that most Marmite-love-it-or-hate-it drink; nothing will convince me that this nasty, bitter liqueur isn’t simply some industrial by-product rebranded by a clever Italian marketing genius for the tourists as a chic aperitif, rather than something to be swiftly poured down the drain.

Moving smartly back to the subject in hand, she is as strong on the non-alcoholic beverages as she is on the booze, and I found her take on coffee making, and particularly the cafetiere, very instructive.

As I mentioned above, it turns out that I’d been using the thing incorrectly. Unlike tea, coffee doesn’t need to brew. Put the required amount of grounds in the cafetiere (warmed, if it’s a cold day), pour in the freshly drawn and freshly boiled water, plunge immediately, or at least after no more than half a minute, then get it into your cup before the grounds have a chance to steep.

And, I am chastened to admit, after being slightly rude about the devices before, she is right. This method produces a lovely, fresh tasting coffee with no trace of stewing.

So, the tips are: pour in only as much water as you need coffee – one mug, two mugs, demitasse, espresso cups etc. The amount of coffee grounds you need will be a bit trial-and-error: for one mug of Americano long-drink coffee, I use two flat scoops of my favourite dark-roasted Italian blend, but fiddle with the amounts and the blend until you get something you like.

I only drink black coffee, but here’s another cafetiere tip for you milk lovers. Make the coffee as above and pour, rinse out the cafetiere, pour in hot milk and repeatedly push the plunger up and down in a semi-demented fashion until you have your frothy milk for your latte or whatever.

While my primary choice for coffee making remains the Moka stove-top machine, I have now relegated the electric drip-filter to the cupboard in favour of the cafetiere as my method for the big-mug-in-the-morning jolt. So, not only am I now making better coffee, but I have more space on my worktop for my cooking exploits: a good result all round.

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