So yesterday I posted the following picture to Twitter and Tumblr via Instagram on my iPhone (remember that comic I shared on Tuesday with a character reading news from “this thing I can’t put down to save my life”? Yeah, that’s me. Anyway):
And today I’m going to elaborate considerably on that picture. Because that’s just how I roll.
I usually read The New Yorker straight through, cover to cover (and I really like that it’s possible to do so, without having to flip forward and back as articles start in one place and end elsewhere, like in pretty much every other magazine of my experience, but I digress), barely looking at the table of contents except if I’m curious to find out who did the cover art. I skim the arts and theater (should I spell that “theatre”? This is The New Yorker we’re talking about here; they love them some Britishisms) listings, but only really stop to look if there’s something particularly eye-catching. This week’s food issue was a slight exception; I actually read the list of articles on offer and even turned some pages to get a preview of the piece that looked most interesting â€” “Sacred Grounds,” Kelefa Sanneh’s “Letter from El Salvador” profile of “Aida Batlle and the new coffee evangelists” (described as “a revolution in coffee” in the front matter and the electronic newsletter the magazine keeps sending me in the hopes I’ll get an iPad someday). Then I turned back to the front pages and commenced my usual reading.
I finished the whole issue in two days, and the coffee article did indeed turn out to be my favorite. In particular I was very excited to read its recipe for pour-over coffee by weights instead of volumes! This I knew I would have to try.
So a brief digression and confession here: I own a single-cup pour-over coffee makers (the kind that takes a paper cone and grounds and suchforth, as pictured above and elsewhere on this blog), but I totally got it for making cold brewed iced coffee this summer. As I think I’ve maybe raved before on this blog, cold brewing is ridiculously fun and easy! What I do is grind about 2/3 cup of coffee beans, put them in a one-quart Mason jar (is that supposed to be capitalized? I don’t know), and fill the jar almost the rest of the way with water. Then I put the lid on the jar, give it a shake, then let it sit overnight. The next morning, I give it another shake before pouring it through the filter cone, into another quart-size Mason jar:
The resultant brew is surprisingly complex and flavorful â€” and tastes completely wrong to me when warmed up to regular coffee temperatures, another fun surprise. Turns out all the bitterness brought out by hot brewing? Totally good in a hot drink, but its absence is profoundly delicious in cold-brewed iced coffee. Fact. (Ok, not really a fact â€” my opinion. Not the parts about bitterness or lack thereof from different brewing techniques, just the opinion about the proper place and time for said bitterness. ANYWAY.) So that’s why I impulse-bought pour-over coffee gear, but of course it was only a matter of time before I started using it when a full French press of coffee would just be too much.
Suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised when my first attempt at pour-over coffee turned out great. I brewed it based on a vague memory of watching coworkers in the deli at Sundance Natural Foods in Eugene. It was a training shift, I remember that much, and also that in the weeks following starting at Sundance, I had to train myself not to drink coffee too late in the day, because it started keeping me up at night. (This had never been a problem at my previous kitchen job, where management eventually put up a sign on the coffee bar reminding employees that staff beverages were limited to four shots of espresso per day. Never able to find out whether the policy was because our collective coffee habits had gotten too expensive, or if someone had done something else suggesting that we were all just too tweaked out, I secretly thought maybe both reasons were true. Also, I count the fact that coffee never kept me up when I worked there as proof that it was a way higher-stress job; caffeine hardly registered compared to all the adrenaline. But I digress. AGAIN.) Jeff, who trained me for evening deli shifts, and Mikey, who trained me on mornings, owned their own coffee business, it turned out, and eventually went on to quit Sundance and do it full-time, so I kind of got the best possible (or at least unexpectedly professional) introduction to the pour-over technique, even if that wasn’t exactly what I was taking notes on at the time, since there was that whole new job to learn thing. Still, based on the memory of Jeff â€” or maybe it was Mikey, or more likely I saw each of them do this at some point â€” I ground what looked like a good amount of beans, put them in a filter, then poured just-boiled water in until the grounds were all wet, but not so the water level went above the beans. I repeated this process as the water drained through, until my cup was full with just a little room left over for cream.
Yes, cream. Half and half, to be exact. To paraphrase Emma Goldman, if I can’t put cream and sugar in my coffee, I won’t be part of your food revolution. Health is all well and good and all, but as another Sundance coworker of mine used to say, “Everything in moderation. Including moderation.” Anyway. That coffee was flavored with cream, just a little sugar, and happiness at how well it turned out considering how hard I was just making stuff up. Thanks Jeff and Mikey!
Um, where was I? So then later I found an America’s Test Kitchen video quick tip about how best to make pour-over coffee, and that was maybe after I found the issue of Cook’s Illustrated that did its big centerfold all about coffee and compared and recommended best practices for different brewing techniques? I don’t really remember, but those sources gave me the rough ratio of 2 tablespoons of coffee beans to six ounces of water. Which has been serving me very well… until now.
Eighteen to 22 grams coffee beans! Ground! Pre-moisten the paper filter with a first pour of just-boiled water, and reap the added benefit of a pre-warmed cup (but empty it before getting your actual coffee-brewing on, natch)!
Put ground beans in filter and “bloom” them with 40 grams (40 mL, yay metric system) just-boiled water! (They’ll swell and bubble if they’re still fresh!) After about 45 seconds, add more water, making sure the water never goes higher than the grounds! Repeat until you’ve used 325 grams (325 mL, yes) water!
I screwed up my first attempt at this technique (tried to photo-document every step, found out my thing-I-can’t-put-down’s memory was full, then on top of that got distracted by a cat) and the resultant coffee was a little weak for my taste. But you betcha I’ll be trying that again soon, I noted to myself as I finished that first cup, black so I could taste every bit of it… and sure enough, the cup whose making I InstaTumblTwitted yesterday? Was freaking delicious. I thought maybe I’d over-ground the beans, since the water seemed to be draining through really slowly, but even if that was the case I ended up super-delighted with the result. Yay coffee-brewing that plays to my obsessive-compulsive fussy superpower! (The great Alison Bechdel calls it attention surfeit disorder, which is pretty awesome, too.) Anyway, that’s my story for today. Happy weekend, everybody!
The excessive verbosity of this post was brought to you by yet another successful use of this coffee-brewing technique, but its first draft was made possible by Written? Kitten! â€” a fantastic writing incentive site shown to me by Peter Boothe on 16 November 2011, a day that will live on in infamy, or at least repetitive stress injuries from typing and typing because clearly I need to see more pictures of cats! However, since I do need to write and write to finish NaBloPoMo and just in general, all this is another way to say: My spouse, he is the very best at partner husbandry. &heart;