The Perfect Cup of Coffee


Musicians, filmmakers and programmers are very serious about their respective arts. Having experience working as all three, I have the somewhat unfortunate experience of being a workaholic. However, I also have the very fortunate experience of a shared passion that all three embrace without hesitation, an experience that creates an almost religious fervor in the more artistic members of these groups. As you have probably surmised by the title of the article, I am talking about the wonderful elixir whose parent bean causes goats to dance on the mountain tops, that dark and energizing brew we know as coffee.

As magic elixirs go, this is arguably the very finest. There are many different roasts available in just about every store in my country and, quite probably, throughout the world. People search endlessly for the method of making the perfect cup. It is, of course, a somewhat subjective matter, so you may argue with this article with no fear of chastisement from me. However, I am happy to present to you my recipe for the perfect cup of coffee.

It’s all about the bean!

Perfect coffee starts with a perfect coffee bean and a perfect roasting of that bean. Most people are used to drinking a bitter concoction consisting of beans that are almost burned in comparison with what I prefer. High attitude beans are considered the best quality bean and shade grown beans are all the rage.

High altitude beans have the unfortunate trait of having a high acid content. For people who drink coffee on a regular basis, this can result in stomach problems. Darker roasts present the drinker with a bitter flavor profile and, you guessed it, a higher acid content. If you imbibe to the extreme, grab the Prilosec and hang on for the ride.

Personally, I prefer a mild, Columbian roast. In fact, I smell beans before making a purchase to make sure they have the rich flavor I prefer. My favorite to date is a mild, Columbian roast from Whole Foods’ Allegro coffees. The coffee is shade grown, which matures the bean more slowly for a richer flavor. There is another mild coffee at Whole Foods called Ubuntu that I intend to try. The name embraces the African philosophy that a man is only a man through his interaction with others, signifying that the things we do to and for others defines who we are. It should also be a favorite to Linux programmers who find it because it is also the name of an operating system that is totally free and open source and embraces this philosophy.

Grind and brew!

I only buy whole beans, grinding at the time of brewing. I eschew the burr grinders that evenly grind every bean to consistent perfection, preferring to use a simple blade grinder. My family owns one of those fancy, automatic machines that grinds the beans and brews the coffee at pre-programmed times but we rarely use it. Instead, we have a larger French press and a couple of single-serving modeIs designed to brew a single cup. Mine is pictured.

Grinding beans for a single serving presents a problem. Grinders are designed to brew a regular pot of coffee, The smaller amount of beans, usually a heaping tablespoon for my perfect cup of coffee, does not grind properly with a sustained grind. Instead, l use six to eight short pulses, stopping when the grinds are at the desired consistency. I do not grind them as fine as I would for a regular pot of coffee made in an automatic drip coffee maker because the screen on the French press allows the finer grounds to slip into the coffee.

For my perfect cup of coffee, I prefer to heat the water in the cup. I don’t mind microwaved water. Some people say it tastes different to them than boiled water but I can’t tell the difference. Heating the water in my coffee cup also makes the cup hot. Added ingredients do not contribute as much to the cooling of the drink when they sit in a hot cup. I am assured a piping hot cup every time.

I brew the coffee in the French press for five minutes, then press it and pour it into the cup.

Do added ingredients spoil the brew?

Some people prefer a hot, black, bitter cup of Joe. Personally, I prefer a blending of flavors in my coffee. I found a long time ago that a little ground cinnamon in the brew had others raving about the wonderfully delicious coffee I made. I have since learned that the Mexican people use a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar in their coffee. I don’t use the powder, which contaminates the drink. Instead, I grind a chunk of cinnamon stick to a coarser consistency and add it to the coffee grounds. I grind it separately in my coffee grinder, using short bursts, because it grinds differently than the coffee beans.

Like the people of Mexico, I love brown sugar in my coffee. White sugar will also do nicely in a pinch but it lacks the darker, more robust, molasses flavor of its less processed cousin. Four to four and a half teaspoons is my preffered amount,

l love cream in coffee but it is loaded with saturated fats. Except for special occasions, I use 2% milk. I prefer organic milk. There is a difference in flavor. I use a double shot glass to measure a perfect two ounces in my cup.

As I stated before, I let these added ingredients sit in the hot cup while brewing. This helps ensure that my coffee is hot when I serve it. One other addition I use on rare occasions is a shot or two of rum or brandy. Presidente is my favorite brandy for this purpose, another wonderful flavor from Mexico. More often, I choose Flor de Cana, a Nicaraguan rum with a wonderful, dark, molasses flavor.

Even the cup matters!

Yes, even the cup matters. I have a great coffee cup I was given at a leadership conference presented by Breakfast With Fred a few years ago, It is a great organization whose goal is not coffee cups, but furthering ethical leadership in business. However, they also created the perfect coffee cup for my purposes. It is slightly larger than a standard cup, allowing addition of my extras while still giving me room for a full cup of my favorite beverage.

Enjoying it responsibly!

Too much of anything is bad for you. I enjoy responsible amounts of coffee. While it gives a nice boost to your day, and it tastes great, coffee’s properties and slightly addictive quality, make it a drink best enjoyed in limited amounts. I invite you, oh coffee lover, to try my recipe for a perfect cup of coffee. Conform it to your taste and enjoy it in responsible amounts so it can be a boon to your day.

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