The Art, the Science, and the Ritual Behind Brewing That Perfect Cuppa Joe by Ian Levine

I’m always looking for the perfect cup of coffee, and a great doughnut to complement it. I’ve been everywhere from the legendary Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, California to the unique Federal Donuts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—driving from Maryland each time for the experience of a classic dish in and of itself. I’ve tasted roasts from all over the world: café, kape, caife, coffee, C 8 10 4 2 (caffeine). It seems that no matter what language you say it in, coffee evokes something in us. Maybe you think of your first taste when you were a child. Bitter. Acidic. Face like you just sucked a lemon.

When I think of java’s counterpart, I remember driving up to Philly just for a freshly fried doughnut dusted with strawberry and lavender flavored sugar. Good jamocha and doughnuts are really hard to come by. Or so it seems. I tend to think of how I desecrated my first cup with sugar. I thought I didn’t like a strong brew, when what I really didn’t like was a bitter brew. I had no idea that ordinary kosher salt could make the grounds less acidic, or that the optimum time to pour my boiled water was fifteen seconds off the burner.

Great mud doesn’t have to be hard, expensive, or time consuming. To me, it’s about the art, the science, and the ritual of brewing something that dates back to 800 B.C.E Africa; when one goat, having chewed on some cherry-red berries, changed the course of human history. It’s time to change it again.

Brew yourself the perfect cup of coffee.

FOOD_10_cropped_for-web

You’ll need:

  • Six ounces of cold, filtered water, boiled
  • Two tablespoons (ground) of whole, sustainably farmed, freshly roasted coffee beans

    Buy your coffee in small quantities to preserve freshness. Look for a roast date on the bag, as well as a bag that has a valve to release gas.


  • Burr grinder or blade grinder
  • Two metal spoons
  • French press
  • Warmed coffee mug or Thermos (fresh out of the dishwasher is perfect)
  • A few grains of kosher salt; yes, salt!
  • Tea kettle
  • Food scale, if possible

Directions:

  1. Measure out two grams of whole coffee beans for every six ounces of water, or two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water
  2. Grind beans for fifteen seconds on “coarse” setting

    It’s important to note that there are different grind sizes for each method of brewing. If you want the science behind it, grind size affects the extraction rate because it affects surface area. Beans that are ground coarsely have less surface area than the same amount of beans finely ground, making it more difficult for the water to penetrate and extract the solids.


  3. Pre-heat your French press by pouring boiled water in it for a few seconds
  4. Pour out water
  5. Dump ground coffee into heated French press
  6. Mix in a few grains of kosher salt to remove acidity
  7. Boil water, remove from burner for fifteen seconds (195º F), then pour over coffee as quickly as possible to agitate the grounds
  8. Dance for 3 ½ minutes
  9. Break the ‘crust,’ or the brown foam at the top by scooping out with two spoons FOOD_06_for-web
  10. Slowly push the plunger down on the French press, and immediately pour into warmed mug
  11. Add your favorite accoutrements like real cream and raw sugar
  12. Enjoy immediately, and never reheat your coffee
  13. Clean your French press with hot water and a towel so the coffee’s oils don’t rot

When I brewed my first cup of French press perk, it helped to think of it like tea. You steep the grounds in boiled water, wait 3 ½ minutes, and then push down the plunger. You can be as simple or as fussy as you choose. But no matter how much gear, technique, and fuss you invest into your battery acid, it won’t taste good unless you take the time to savor it. Learn how to create designs with your cream to make viewing your java as pleasant as tasting it. Associate the sounds and smells of the brewing process with starting out a great day. Cup your mug with both hands, feeling the warmth. (Imagining holding a warm ball of energy is a widely practiced form of meditation). Be like the pros and slurp your first taste from a broad spoon, letting it dance on your tongue as you notice the layers of notes. Think of the varnish remover as having a bloodline, a rich history in which you are taking a part. And if you’re feeling inspired, travel the world like Dom Dwight to find the ultimate ingredients for the ultimate cup. Then stick around after the video to learn how to make the perfect doughnut for a quintessentially American dish.

The doughnut, coffee’s pudgy little friend.

How did it get that hole? They say that a 19th century sailor’s mom used to make fried balls of dough for him to help stave off scurvy. Supposedly, the sailor found that the only way he could steer his ship and keep hold of the dough was by piercing it with the spokes of his wheel. A more likely explanation is that when chefs began adding egg to their fried dough, the middle wouldn’t cook at the same rate as the rest: I prefer the more fanciful story. However when doughnuts with holes first came about, it took a war to make them popular.

In World War I, women known as “Doughnut Girls” would pace the trenches, offering up nourishment. When soldiers returned stateside, the craving stuck. Soon, coffee and a doughnut became the go-to for busy Americans. The only question then becomes to dunk or not to dunk? Fry up a dozen crullers and then decide.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons shortening
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup melted chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Put 4 tablespoons sugar, salt, shortening and orange rind in saucepan with 1 cup hot water. Bring to a boil
  2. Mix in 1 cup of flour; Cook until thick, stirring constantly
  3. Remove from heat and cool slightly
  4. Beat in one egg at a time, beating each one in thoroughly before adding another
  5. Using a rose tip, press dough through pastry bag, in desired shape, onto a well-greased square of heavy paper. Turn paper upside down and let crullers drop into deep, hot fat (375° F – 190° C). Fry until well puffed up and golden brown in color, about 6 to 7 minutes
  6. Drain on unglazed paper

Confectioners’ Frosting:

  1. Cream 1 1/2 tablespoons shortening and continue creaming while slowly adding sugar
  2. Add cream, salt, vanilla, melted chocolate and mix smooth
  3. Ice crullers to your preference and enjoy!

coffee.donut

What’s next for the coffee and doughnut? Dunkin Donuts just launched doughnuts with coffee on the inside. And as we continue forward with innovations like the ‘cronut,’ a portmanteau of the croissant and doughnut, it seems almost anything is possible. (My favorite snack, for instance, is dipping a spoonful of peanut butter into a jar of instant coffee crystals.) When I think of brewing truly good coffee and frying the best doughnuts, I’m reminded of my graduate school professor saying once you’ve mastered English, you can then break the rules. Tomorrow morning, break the rules.

Ian S. LevineBaltimore-bred freelance writer Ian Levine provides business and personal writing support for clients worldwide. Browse Ian’s LinkedIn for a full list of services. Contact him for a free consultation!

 

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