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Jason Panella

Coffee

217 posts in this topic

I have always loved coffee, but it makes me a bit mad and gives me the shakes...

I have had to forsake coffee for this reason. I have a brother that roasts beans and then brews coffee in this maniacal glass beaker contraption that simply cannot be resisted. But I turn to black tea otherwise.

Edited by M. Leary

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However, I can't seem to get the brewing bit right. It's always just that bit too bitter. I think I may turn it off before it's ready, or fill up too much with ground coffee.

Hints and tips would be welcome.

Now, whatever you find available across the pond might be different than in the New World where, I believe, coffee has been cultivated. Cheaper stuff can have bitter robusto (sounds romantic, but that name must be a cheap marketting ploy). So, hopefully the "better" stuff will not have that. However, salt is an antidote to bitter. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the grounds before brewing. Also, experiment with just how much grounds you use. Experiment with different roasts. All of these factors might affect your taste buds.

BTW, everyone, I still take half&half or cream.

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Now, whatever you find available across the pond might be different than in the New World where, I believe, coffee has been cultivated. Cheaper stuff can have bitter robusto (sounds romantic, but that name must be a cheap marketting ploy). So, hopefully the "better" stuff will not have that. However, salt is an antidote to bitter. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the grounds before brewing. Also, experiment with just how much grounds you use. Experiment with different roasts. All of these factors might affect your taste buds.

BTW, everyone, I still take half&half or cream.

Rich, I *think* you mean robusta (Coffea Canephora), a type of plant (and, in turn, a type of bean). Most of the cheaper coffees (as in, the pre-ground stuff you get from a grocery store) are robusta beans. There are several different types of coffee plants, with the two most common being robusta and arabica, the latter usually from where most good coffee cups come. I've heard legends about some good robusta single origin batches out there, but...never actually seen one.

And yes, robusta generally tastes like...fill in the blank with something bad. Another antidote is putting a little bit of cinnamon in with the ground coffee before you brew it. As Rich pointed out, salt does work on cutting down on the bitter taste (acidity isn't the right word here, since it's a good description when talking about a coffee's taste profile).

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So I've started to add a couple shakes of vanilla to my Americano, and I love the smell and flavor of it, and like that it's not in syrup form.

Vanilla. I didn't know Starbucks offered vanilla in a shaker until sometime last year. Where's it been all my life?

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Thumbs up to that, Christian. Sometimes a dash of nutmeg does wonders too.

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Rich, I *think* you mean robusta (Coffea Canephora), a type of plant (and, in turn, a type of bean). Most of the cheaper coffees (as in, the pre-ground stuff you get from a grocery store) are robusta beans. There are several different types of coffee plants, with the two most common being robusta and arabica, the latter usually from where most good coffee cups come. I've heard legends about some good robusta single origin batches out there, but...never actually seen one.

I defer to you on most all things coffee. Sorry about that. I usually transpose numbers, not letters.

And yes, robusta generally tastes like...fill in the blank with something bad. Another antidote is putting a little bit of cinnamon in with the ground coffee before you brew it. As Rich pointed out, salt does work on cutting down on the bitter taste (acidity isn't the right word here, since it's a good description when talking about a coffee's taste profile).

Oh, there is a big difference between acidity and bitterness, the bitterness of cheap (diner/supermarket complementary) coffee. I may have mentioned before that I find much coffee ready to drink at supermarkets and gas stations almost flavorless (hence desperately needing flavorings) with unbelievable bitter aftertastes. For me, spices and flavorings like cinnamon and vanilla only mask, like cologne over body odor. Salt tricks the pallet or provides a sensory counterbalance.

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However, I can't seem to get the brewing bit right. It's always just that bit too bitter. I think I may turn it off before it's ready, or fill up too much with ground coffee.

Hints and tips would be welcome.

Now, whatever you find available across the pond might be different than in the New World where, I believe, coffee has been cultivated.

I think this is a me-thing as I bought this coffee from a well-considered restauranteur/grocer after having had a brew of it on his premises. It was by far the best coffee I have tasted in the UK, not at all bitter, and in fact rated well alongside a mind-blowing espresso I had on San Marco Piazza in Venice. Granted they had the big old coffee machine and I have one of those pressure stove-top kind.

Salt is an interesting tip. I shall give it a go. Thanks guys :)

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I defer to you on most all things coffee. Sorry about that. I usually transpose numbers, not letters.

Oh, Rich, don't apologize — I'm just trying to help. You know a lot about coffee yourself. Seriously. The salt trick is something I forgot, and I'm really glad you mentioned it here. While our neighboring department gets coffee for the office from our local independent coffee place (where I used to be manager), I might pass on the salt idea to them when they forget and brew stuff from the backup can of Folger's that we've had for several years.

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Sweet n Low!? Why care about the taste of the coffee if you're just going to poison its taste profile with that?

Adding anything alters the taste profile of coffee. It's a matter of degree.

More a shot at Sweet N Low than anything else. (But don't you find the sacchariny aftertaste unpleasant?) I hate when I run out of creamer here at work and feel like I have to resort to some of the preserved single serves. Its the preservatives that give such a chemically aftertaste that I'm training myself to like black coffee.

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Buckeye, it takes super coffee-tasting sensitivity to love coffee with Sweet n Low. You have to be able to taste the subtleties of the bean through the harsh bitterness of the artificial sweetener.

It's a gift. I have it, others, sadly, don't. :)

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But aren't you worried its a gift that will expose you to cancer causing phenylkinetics*?

*when added in doses of 3 to 5 times the mass of the test subject.

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Oh, you're worried about cancer, not the actual taste?

No, no worries about that. Saccharine was removed from the carcinogen list long ago.

Still, you raise a good point. I've wanted to move away from the stuff simply because it's artificial, and I like to avoid sugar, which is natural but so ubiquitous as to be a constant threat. That's why I tried to wean myself off Sweet N Low, but I've regressed recently. I can take Splenda, too, but don't prefer it to Sweet N Low. Equal has a clear, negative effect on me, so I try to avoid aspartame.

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I think this is a me-thing as I bought this coffee from a well-considered restauranteur/grocer after having had a brew of it on his premises. It was by far the best coffee I have tasted in the UK, not at all bitter, and in fact rated well alongside a mind-blowing espresso I had on San Marco Piazza in Venice. Granted they had the big old coffee machine and I have one of those pressure stove-top kind.

"The pressure stovetop kind"? Are you trying to make espresso, or the simple cuppajoe with that thing? Stovetop, you have to be careful. It depends entirely on boiling the water and most systems try to avoid that. I defer to Jason on how those large espresso machines develop pressure for espresso at coffeeshops. He ran one. Coffeeshop I mean. I'd try a simple drip system for home brewing of coffee. Either a "Mr. Coffee" type all in one coffee maker, or a simple hourglass type beaker into which you can put a funnel-shaped filter and your grounds and pour slightly off-boiled water yourself. As a fellow amateur, I say that you'll get WAY better results with even somewhat mundane roasts and brands of coffee!

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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"The pressure stovetop kind"? Are you trying to make espresso, or the simple cuppajoe with that thing? Stovetop, you have to be careful. It depends entirely on boiling the water and most systems try to avoid that. I defer to Jason on how those large espresso machines develop pressure for espresso at coffeeshops. He ran one. Coffeeshop I mean. I'd try a simple drip system for home brewing of coffee. Either a "Mr. Coffee" type all in one coffee maker, or a simple hourglass type beaker into which you can put a funnel-shaped filter and your grounds and pour slightly off-boiled water yourself. As a fellow amateur, I say that you'll get WAY better results with even somewhat mundane roasts and brands of coffee!

If you're using a Moka pot...er, get something else. Seriously! I don't even use a drip maker these days; I use a simple 'pour over' method, a cone-shaped deal that you put a filter in, put the grounds, and pour the ~205 degree F (almost boiling) water in, stir, let sit for three minutes, put on top of cup and let gravity do the trick. Cost me $10, US. Makes great cups. There are other cheap-ish devices out there (vacuum pot is a person favorite, and the Aeropress, which you might have to order, is just killer). Regular drip makers work fine too, in a pinch.

Industry standard espresso machines build pressure with a motor-driven pump inside of the thing (and it's usually hooked up to the buildings plumbing). That, plus the fact that there are (no joke) almost as many parts in an espresso machine as in an automobile, is why they usually retail at around $20K.

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If you're using a Moka pot...er, get something else. Seriously!

Jason will be pained, but the Atlantic is asking, "Will Moka Be America's Next Coffee Tradition?"

While the process is simple to understand, knowing some finer points makes all the difference. First and foremost is grind. If you have a home grinder, go for medium. Too fine of a grind, like you'd use for espresso, results in a burnt and bitter taste from water passing through the ground coffee too slowly, causing over-extraction. Beans ground too coarsely, as for French press, produces an overly light body and sour taste, as water passing through the grounds too quickly leads to under-extraction.

Important: do not press (tamp) the coffee in the filter. If you do, the pressure won't be sufficient for the rest of the process to work properly, leading once again to over-extraction. If you prefer a stronger flavor profile, fill up the filter just up to its capacity, not more and not less. Fill the lower chamber with cold water up to the valve or marked line—read the manual carefully—and set it on a low flame, properly extracting the coffee slowly at a lower temperature.

Critical final step: turn off the flame when the upper section is half full, to avoid overheating and burning the coffee. As the water approaches boiling, which you don't want to happen, the process rapidly accelerates, extracting bitter, unpleasant flavors—creating a burnt taste—and upsetting the beautifully balanced aromatic equilibrium the Moka method is known for. That hiss my grandmother took as "coffee's done" signal comes from steam, and steam burns coffee.

Bottom line: Moka preparation is simple, but it takes attention and time. It's not a "set it and forget it" method.

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I use one of these and have just now learned I have been using it incorrectly. I will try to remedy that tonight, albeit with decaf.

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Yeah, I think I might've been way off here. For years, lots of places like the Coffee Beanery have been selling (cheap) Moka pots and telling people how to use them (poorly), so I've just brushed them off. They seem to work like a vacuum brewer, which I prefer, but hey — looks like you can make a good brew if you're careful and patient :-)

Speaking of good brews, the fiancee and I put a killer home drip maker (by Bunn) on our wedding registry, and — behold! — her grandmother got it for us! I've been enjoying using it the past few weeks (and I'm pretty excited for us to get married next week so Jenny can enjoy it too!) Anyway, it keeps a heated reservoir of water in the back at all times, so you just pour in the amount of water you're using and it draws the same amount from the heated area. It'll brew ~60oz in about two minutes. It's impressive. And, as a plus, the owners manual was clearly written by huge coffee dorks, because there are lots of in-the-know tips. I feel like I'm in good hands!

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Ahh, newly weds and the about-to-be-married.

Lemme understand here: her grandmother buys this humdinger coffeemaker (no problem so far) and you open it BEFORE the reception (I'm not done) and YOU use the thing. Huh. I suppose you should deserve props for barely containing the anticipation of the opportunity for your bride to enjoy the wondrous gift from her Grandmamma.

Nice. menacegrin.gifcoffeecup.gif

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Her grandmother got it for the bridal shower, and — considering that I've been living by myself in the new apartment for over a month — not opening any of the bridal shower gifts would've made for a mostly bare apartment with no appliances and dishes/silverware. Plus, she opened it :)

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OK, didn't know about the Bridal Shower thing. Makes sense now. Still, it was fun taking a poke.

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OK, didn't know about the Bridal Shower thing. Makes sense now. Still, it was fun taking a poke.

Sure is!

For what it's worth, this is the brewer. I love how the burner doesn't turn on automatically, and how they DON'T give you a scooper that doesn't correspond with traditional coffee measuring rations (Mr. Coffee, etc. all fall victim to this problem).

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I'm fascinated by the engineering. However, I can't seem to see the difference (other than thermal caraffe) of the various resevoir coffeemakers at the linked site. They all seem the same.

I'm particularly curious of the "sprinkler system" of water distribution, as opposed to everyone elses drain unit that bores a ctater into the grounds.

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Tried the techniques for the Moka pot--wow! what a difference. Tasted like I was in Europe.

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Jason, or anyone else familiar with the physics of coffee-bean roasting: Two questions.

1. I've been roasting my beans to "third crack" (by my count, as best I can tell) rather than second lately, and have discovered the batches roasted a longer time have less chaff! I would've thought more cracks would mean more chaff. What gives? Is it just my imagination that there's less chaff after longer roasting? Is the oil released by the beans adhering the chaff to the beans, so that it doesn't blow away as I cool the beans?

2. The decaf beans come in a darker color in their raw form than the caffeinated beans. Is that because of the decaf process, whether it be chemical or water-based, or whatever? Have the beans already been treated with heat, making them appear darker in their "raw" form? Also, these beans feature little to no chaff. I thought this might be because of whatever treatment they'd received before I received them, but given point "1" above, I'm thinking maybe I just roasted them longer, and whatever priciple is causing less chaff among the other beans also applies to these beans.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

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You guys are way ahead of me on roasting, something I am intending to start up soon. However, the first thing that entered my mind apon reading the preceding post is this: if by chaff, you mean skins and shell and other "non-bean" materials adhering to the bean, then it might be that longer roasting might burn off dried membrane and such? Just a thought.

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