So brewing good coffee like any number of kitchen witchery topics is a lot about having the right ingredients and equipment.
First you need to know that what tastes good in coffe is the volatile oils, that is, the bit that evaporates and gives that coffee smell. Really you are smelling coffee a lot more than you are tasting it. When the oils are all gone, the coffee just tastes bitter.
Consequently, the quality of your coffee beans is a lot less important than the freshness of the grind. You can use pretty poor quality beans, and if you grind fresh you will still get a decent cup of coffee. You can also revitalise already ground coffee by regrinding it, thus releasing more of the oils and refreshing the smell.
Below you can see my setup – I am using Aldi beans, and a little grinder I also got from Aldi for less than AUD $20. I have a sealable container and a dedicated teaspoon, mainly so I can find a spoon when I need one! You need to seal your ground coffee so that the volatile oils don’t escape and leave your grounds tasteless and bitter.
The next thing you need to know is that the temperature of the water as it goes through the beans is critical. Really, you want steam, not boiling water to really release all the flavour, which is why we have had a succession of these stove top expresso machines. They come camping with us so they end up pretty battered.
These stove-top machines have a bottom water reservoir (with a safety valve), a central ground coffee reservoir, and a top reservoir which fills with coffee and keeps the grounds out.
Once you get the hang of these machines, they are very easy to use. I dump the used grounds in the compost and simply rinse the machine. Every now and then I give it a good scrub, but I make sure I rinse all parts really well in running water. Trust me, detergent residue in your coffee is not something you want to wake up to.
Forget about instant coffee – it’s really just a coffee-like substance. It does have some caffeine but that’s about it. I’ll never forget finding a fossilised jar of instant coffee in the back of the pantry and all the crystals had gone a clear purple colour. Possibly modern instants are a bit better as far as chemicals go, but really, if you buy beans, and grind them yourself, you can’t go far wrong.
I’d love to be able to grow all my own coffee, and a coffee bush is certainly on the agenda, but I think I would need a lot more land if I was to deal with all our coffee consumption in a year!
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