Science Makes The Best Coffee

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davew's picture

Bold claim? You bet. Bold coffee!

The secret is to make the coffee at room temperature. That's it. That's the big secret. The rest is science and honestly who doesn't want science for breakfast? Coffee takes longer to make at room temperature, over night is just about right, but most folks set up their drip coffee maker the night before anyway so what's the difference?

Oh, but the difference in taste is incredible. Extracting coffee with hot water pulls out entirely different brew. For one thing -- you know the off-flavor that coffee gets after a while especially if you keep in on a burner? That taste is oils from the coffee going rancid. When you extract at room temperature you only get traces of that oil so the result is much more stable. I've kept it in the fridge for a week with no noticeable change in quality. You also don't get nearly as much acid so it is much kinder to your tummy. Lastly the very subtlest flavor notes do not float away with the steam so the flavor is rich and complex. I frequently taste just a hint of chocolate in the mix which is okay by me. Judging by the way I feel after drinking some the caffeine extraction is at least as good.

The other neat thing about this is the small investment hardware: a coffee grinder, a jar, and a strainer. Even a gradual student can afford this. I use one cup of beans (ground medium to fine) mixed with 4 cups of water. Dump in the coffee into jar (I use a quart-sized mason jar) and top it up with water. The absolute quantities don't matter as long as the ratio is 1 to 4 by volume. Then agitate vigorously. You want the grounds to be thoroughly wet and they will resist somewhat. This is why a mason jar is so nice because you can shake the bejeebers out of it, but any container with a lid will do. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 14 hours. That's it. Just walk away. Nothing to see here.

The next morning pour the result through a sieve, a strainer, cheese cloth, old hose, a fine colander, or, my favorite, the gold filter from my now highly disused drip coffee maker. There will always be a few fine grounds that make it through the filter. Just remember to not use the last tablespoon of coffee (or do if you like your coffee chunky style as I do).

What you have now is a coffee concentrate. Drink it straight if you dare. I like diluting it about 1 part coffee to 3 or 4 parts water depending on how flavorful the original beans are. Ellen likes it a bit stronger. Either way the choice is up to you. I've had good luck both warming up the diluted coffee in the microwave or just adding boiling water to the coffee concentrate. As I said before the concentrate keeps at least a week in the fridge so you could make a week's worth of coffee in advance and know that at all times a steaming cup of flavorful liquid productivity is only moments away.

The other amazing application for this is iced coffee. See? The coffee concentrate is already cool so you don't have to waste a bunch of ice to get it to serving temperature. Boiling a bunch of water just to pour it over a bunch of frozen water always struck me as stupid long before I went off the green-end. If you know one of those people who think that four shots of espresso in a mug is the perfect way to start the day you could serve them a glass of the chilled concentrate with ice cubes also made from the coffee concentrate and they'd be your friend forever. Or at least until their heart exploded. More realistically I think you'd want a 1 part coffee to 8 parts water plus ice for a fairly stiff iced coffee.
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