The Daily Grind
- Covert Ops Oct 20, 2006 03:06 PM
Everytime we move, we end up throwing out/giving away our coffee pot because we never drink it. Then we buy/inherit another one, to repeat the process. Well, THIS time we're actually drinking coffee in the morning, so we broke down and bought another one, as well as a grinder.
DH, a former barista (baristo?) INSISTS on grinding the coffee at home. However, I'm not coherent in the morning before I have my coffee -- I can't even coordinate a shower before I have some -- so I grind and set up the coffee maker before bed and set the timer.
He insists this is terrible, because the beans must be ground IMMEDIATELY before brewing, not the night before. My response? "It's only Eight O'Clock French roast, for cryin' out loud!"
Neither of us, despite our pretensions, is a connoiseur. I can tell if a coffee is freshly BREWED, but grinded? Honestly, does it make much of a difference, especially with cheap coffee?
Absolutely it does, however, with a cheaper coffee you should be able to get away with grinding it the night before, and keeping it sealed somewhere. You probably won't lose too much flavor, in fact many coffee houses do this. Preground coffee isn't a terrible thing, it's how long it sits around after being exposed to oxygen.
My friend keeps a sack of preground in her freezer and puts it straight in her coffee machine every morning.
I keep beans in the freezer, but let the beans defrost in my coffee grinder overnight and grind them when I wake up. I guess I should defrost them in the fridge and not on a counter, but then I'd have to involve an extra container to do the job.
I say if you can't taste the difference, you do what you want to do. Stage a blind taste test for DH and see if he still thinks preground is terrible.
I grind beans with an electric pulse grinder each morning and I think btwn the fresh ground, ice cold water and fancy brew gadget we get a decent cup o java..but I can manage it at 7am...making a full breakfast (eggs, toast, pancakes) would be another matter..which is why we enjoy breakfast for dinner alot!
re: Becca Porter
I worked for 7 years for a gourmet coffee outfit, and this is accurate. The change in humidity and temperature wrecks the oils on the beans and makes them taste 'off'. They should be kept cool and dark, and you should only buy what you will consume in a week's time.
And I am totally able to tell the difference between fresh ground and brewed coffee and stuff that isn't freshly ground. I tried for a while to set up my coffee maker at night to have the pot done when I got out of the shower, but it always tasted icky so I stopped.
re: Becca Porter
It's a Catch 22. Best method is to store roasted beans, tightly wrapped, in a dark place, in an absolutely airtight container.
If this isn't possible, or you won't be using them up within about a week, you can wrap them tightly, freeze them, and grind them while still frozen. You'll lose some flavour notes, but it'll still taste good.
Never leave them exposed to oxygen and never store them in the fridge.
re: Becca Porter
I've been storing my coffee beans in the freezer for going on 20 years -- I use it up quickly (i.e. not long term storage), and grind it freshly right before brewing the pot, and I must confess that I've been told by a wide variety of people that I make the best home-brewed coffee they've ever had.
For me, the keys are (1) buy good coffee to start with (I rarely go with dark roasts -- typically mocca java or hawaiian, light or medium roast), (2) grind right before brewing, and use a bit more coffee than the coffee machine calls for per cup, and (3) use filtered water. Oh, and unless you've got one of those insulated carafes, DO NOT leave the heating unit on for very long after brewing -- nothing ruins a good pot of coffee than letting it sit around, getting over-heated/burnt.
We just got a new coffee grinder (getting married means great upgrades) that stores the beans. At the touch of a button, it grinds enough for the amount of coffee you want to make.
Although I guess we are breaking the rules by letting the beans sit in the machine at room temp, I can't taste the difference between this method and what I used to do, taking the bag out of the fridge each morning and putting beans in the grinder.
Come to think of it, I remember Alton Brown did a show on coffee, and said that it's not the temp, it's the oxygen. He said air would strip the beans of their precious oil. An airtight container is what he recommended, which I guess is what we are achieving with the new grinder.
Here's Alton saying to store at room temp
Our grinder (which I love
Well, ours stays in the bag it came in (with fold-down top) until griding time the night before, then it goes in the filter and into the machine. So not exactly perfectly airtight, but not in the open, either, and certainly cool and dark.
And yay for me, Eight O'Clock contains the "one-way valve" Alton was talking about (from the EOC site):
What is the round "button-like thing" on my coffee bag?
This round item is Eight O'Clock Coffee’s proprietary "freshness" valve. During the roasting process, the bags are vacuum-packed. Since the beans are packaged while still warm, it is necessary for this valve to release the built-up steam and gas the roasted beans emit. Being "one-way", these valves release air and gases without allowing air to enter the bag. This process makes for a longer period of fresh coffee.
Not sure this is information that should be shared, but we got into home roasting our own coffee beans, and the differences are tremendous. The problem is that we hardly ever get a comparable cup out. With that warning, I highly recommend this site, http://www.sweetmarias.com/ They have great products, and the coffee is very reasonably priced. We started out with a roaster that works like a popcorn machine with circulated hot air (like the iRoast) and have moved up to the HotTop for larger quantities. We roast about a half pound, and move to a new batch just before it runs out. The beans, unroasted, last a very long time. Roasted, they have about a week, and ground just an hour or so. In our house, whoever is up first, grinds the coffee and starts the coffee. We brew in a vacuum brewer. We like the Bodum electric Santos (the weird looking thing that seems to be on a slant) even though Sweet Maria doesn't sell them.
BTW, a note about coffee. If you give it a try, it was truly amazing how the results can vary from coffee to coffee and even how dark you roast the coffee. After a lot of testing we found that the Mexican Organic Oaxaca was our favorite ( http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.cen... ) and we like it roasted a little lighter than most, at about what they call "first crack". Sometimes this coffee isn't available and we go into withdraw .
If you're a coffee lover, I highly recommend checking out Sweet Maria's, and trying your hand at roasting. It's a great hobby, that goes well with your cooking skills, and adds a wonderful end to that well designed meal. Kind-of like getting into fine wines... plenty of choices and variations, but here, you get to control at a much more reasonable price.
Sweet Maria's is wonderful. Ive settled on a mixture of Ethiopian Harar, Ethiopian Yrgacheffe, Sumatra, and Guatamala Huehuetenango. Each is roasted to a different stage before blending. The problem is that the mind boggling selection makes choosing beans really hard. The tasting notes seem to complicate choice rather than simplify it. Where oh where to begin....
I'm curious about your experience with the electric Santos. I've been using one for about 5 years, since buying it in its original incarnation, the Starbucks Utopia. I think my current one is about the 12th. The coffee it makes is fabulous, but the quality control is apalling. Every one developed a safety-related problem, leaked, and/or stopped working. Bodum kept replacing them long after the warranty expired, but they have become much less customer-centred since moving from Wisconsin to New York City last year. Number 12 will be the last.
We've had problems as well, we're probably on our 4th. But it's funny you ask, as I've been thinking about getting a Technivorm from Sweet Marias. Seems like everyone raves about them. A few may have purchased faulty units, but they were quickly replaced. Other than that, the only criticism seems to be the thermal carafe. I've seen posts from people who have had one for 20 years !!! ONE !!!!
Our grinder broke two weeks ago and I am saving my $$ to buy a good one. In the meantime I have resorted to buying ground coffee (Peet's, Starbucks, or Java City). To me there is a difference but not an extreme difference. IMVHO, After trying several different coffee makers, having one that makes a good cup of coffee makes more of a difference than if the beans are ground elsewhere. Perhaps the two of you can compromise, have preground coffee on the weekdays and home ground coffee on the weekends.
I think the best coffee maker is one with an insulated carafe. Ours keeps our coffee hot long into the afternoon.
I buy freshly roasted coffee beans enough to last one week and store in a air-tight container. And I grind them every morning right before making coffee, it does make a big difference in taste... I also cannot recommmend enough the simple french press... The taste is so pure and clean that I don't even think of using the drip coffee maker at home any more...
We have been using a Cuisinart grind and brew as far back as my memory works. They are not very expensive- list price is $99-$129. but can usually find on sale for less. Set up the beans and water the night before or just do it quickly in the am. The pot grinds the beans and you will have freshly ground coffee.
I've experimented with all of the variables involved in brewing drip coffee. My current practices:
- buy good beans (I use Peet's 50-50 Sulawesi-Kalosi and Blend 101)
- buy from a store with high turnover (the Peet's stores near my work often have stale-tasting beans)
- keep whole beans in freezer (better than room temperature, even though I buy beans every two weeks)
- let beans come to room temperature at least overnight in fairly airtight hopper of grinder
- grind fresh with a burr grinder, experiment to find optimum grind
- unbleached cone filter (better than gold or bleached)
- in some areas, use bottled water
- vacuum carafe
- stir before pouring
Cookware board discussion of burr grinders:
Bah humbug. I've doen almost everything mentioned on this thread and I can not taste the diff.
I buy my coffee at Costco, 2.5 pound dark roast. Grind the whole bag when I get home and keep in an airproof container in a dark place.
I wake up, waddle to the kitchen, make some coffee, feed the dog, let her out and by the time she's back with a bisquit in her mouth, the coffee is ready. Pure heaven.
It's 130 now and I'm finishing up the pot from 830 this morning. Still heaven.
No fuss, no muss, I love my coffee.
I have tried all the top coffee purveyors and have found Costco's in house roasted House Blend to be in my top 2. Add in price and it cannot be beat.
Coffee can be a pleasure, a hobby, or just a drug. It can be all three at different times. At least it is for me.
I use an electric vacuum pot, a quite unusual device. On work mornings, I grind "Presidents Choice West Coast Dark Roast" beans from Loblaws, a local supermarket chain.
When I have time, I experiment with home roasted beans from Sweet Marias. It blows my "everyday" coffee away, but I can't roast coffee daily and freezing home roasted coffee is a waste.
When I'm on the road and I'm tired, it's Starbucks when it's available; Tim Hortons when it isn't. Lacking either, I'll chug down sweetened creamy swill as a drug.
With ANY coffee, good or bad, you'll find profound differences when you brew with a French press, a Melitta, an automatic drip, a vacuum pot, or a steam pressure device. Different drip machines produce different tasting coffee.
If you go the Sweet Maria's route, you will be staggered by the differences in flavour, aroma, and even texture/mouthfeel of different kinds of beans, different roasting methods, and different roasting and final temperatures. This is a HOBBY that demands time and care. When you grind can make a profound difference in some cases, but no difference at all in others. Freezing kills tangible flavour notes with some beans, but has little impact on others. Some coffees can sit for an hour on low heat and taste reasonably OK; others become undrinkable in five minutes.
When you are drinking crappy coffee, little of this matters. If it's bad to begin with, it doesn't much matter how you store it or how you prepare it.
You can really taste the difference when you buy a small batch roasted locally. I've gotten coffee from the Laguna Coffee Company and from Keans, and they both taste magnificent. Keans sells a Kona, expensive, but really rich, which my wife makes in a plain old Cuisinart coffee maker, and I make in my AeroPress, and both taste good. We like Trader Joes decaf Mocha Java but it isn't as good as the other coffees we get from these two small places.