Coffee and Coffee Making - 1922
By Edward ABORN
Chairman Better Coffee Making Committee and Former Vice President National Coffee Roasters Association.
I am going to speak to you, about a beverage that rightly has been called the “universal drink.” Its use is as wide as civilization itself. In the United States we consume 40,000,000,000 cups of it every year. Every day in the year it appears on the dining tables in 95 out of 100 American homes. My subject is Coffee.
Its history goes back at least 1,000 years. In 900 we find a “Wise Man of the East,” an Arab physician, bearing the gift of coffee. The charmed East, that treasure land, with a wealth of products and a greater wealth of human experience, with prophets and seers whose teachings we live by, the cradle land of humanity, was the birthplace of coffee drinking.
As early as 1600 coffee became a sensation in England and France, where it was daily partaken of by the leading geniuses of the day, great artists, writers, sculptors, and statesmen. The coffee house was literally a Hall of Fame, with coffee as inspiration. Indeed, coffee is always associated in history with brains and talent.
There is also an interesting historical association of coffee with the growth of political independence. Its use was contemporaneous with the establishment of the English Commonwealth, and an important document, the forerunner of the American Declaration of Independence, was signed by the Sons of Liberty in the Merchants' Coffee House. over the coffee cups, at Wall and Water Sts., New York, on May 23, 1774.
A New York market report of 1829 reads, “The import of coffee this week was 2 tierces, 1 barrel, 715 bags,” less than 100,000 pounds. The average weekly import into the United States during 1921 was 25,500,000 pounds. Our annual per capita consumption has increased from three pounds in 1830 to 12% pounds in 1921.
Coffee in Nature
Could vision be broadcasted like sound, I would show you a gracious sight-a coffee tree in blossom and fruitage, about as high as your porch roof, with laurel-like leaves, one of a family of shrubs and flowers, a relative of the gardenia, covered with a flurry of fragrant snow-white blossoms, and bearing at the same time cherries with bright red coats as though to attract that human “eye which seeth every precious thing.”
Now, in Brazil, which produces 70% of the world's, coffee, the cherries are being picked. In those cherries, or pods, when the various coverings are removed, are found two green little berries, like pearls in a jewel case. Sometimes there is but one, which curls itself into a round shape and is called a peaherry. After being undressed of its growing clothes and properly washed and dried, the immaculately clean green coffee is sent upon its journey round the world.
Observe the cunning providence of Nature! The coffee berry is ripened like fruit on a tropical tree. and yet, unlike fruit, it is not in perishable condition. Improving by age in the green state, it seems destined for transportation to the peoples of the earth, in good condition for final development at its point of consumption.
Should Be Cooked Only Once
The green berry must now go to the cook, which means the roaster. After more cleaning by milling machines, it is sent running into a revolving, perforated oven called a roasting cylinder. Peeping in, you can see it excitedly tumbling about in a high temperature over a roaring red fire. It is slowly turning brown and swelling and popping as the wonderful aromatic element is developed.
It is receiving the only cooking necessary to coffee in any state. It is “done to a turn” here, light, medium, or dark, as desired, corresponding with “rare, medium, well done.” The strength of flavor, from mild to a burned taste, and the corresponding color of brew, are determined finally in this roasting process. The brown, crisp, roasted berry should not be considered or treated as raw material. To prove how thoroughly perfected is its aromatic quality, note the delightful fragrance when the coffee is being ground.
Observe again Nature's infinite wisdom. The roasted berry, all cooked, though now perishable and requiring reasonably quick use and protection against air and moisture, is still an unopened container, a fiber construction of tiny cells, each containing its treasure of aromatic substance, which is the whole value of coffee.
The fiber structure itself has no drinkable value. It should be thrown out like an empty carton after the aromatic oils have been extracted. It should never be cooked in with the brew.
Spoiled in the Home
But in the home coffee pot a sad fate too often awaits the great product, so carefully produced and protected to this point. The coffee trade has realized for years that the quality of coffee served in the home cup is far from equal to that sold in the bean. Many times it found the choicest brands unrecognizable in liquid form.
When Mutt was asked in Jeff's restaurant whether he wished to order coffee or tea, Mutt said, “Give me one of them, but don't tell me which. I want the fun of guessing what it is, like I did the soup.”
Why should quality in coffee be so frequently ruined in the pot, and how can this be changed so that it will be enjoyed at its very best? is a question that has just been answered by scientific trade research.
Official reports by coffee experts, chemists, trained investigators, have established a set of principles, simple to follow, which should be known and practiced in every home.
They are briefly as follows:
How to Make the Beverage
After the roasted berry has been opened by the grinder, the volatile aromatic element begins to escape, and the released oils, subject to the air, seriously change. The nearer the grinding is to the brewing the better. Air-tight, moisture-proof containers should be used when ground coffee is kept.
The finer the grind, the quicker, the better, and the more complete is the extraction by the water. Every particle, as it is broken open, exposes additional surfaces.
The minute cells, visible only under the microscope, yield more and more as they are broken open by finer and finer grinding. Anyone may make this comparative absorption test:
Put a rounded tablespoonful of medium ground coffee into one cup and a similar quantity of the same coffee, pulverized, into another. Pour an equal quantity of boiling water on each.
You will immediately notice that the pulverized produces about double the color and strength, with a truer, fuller flavor, proving that the finer the grind the quicker, the better, and the more complete is the extraction.
Do not boil or stew the coffee grounds and water together. Prolonged or repeated contact of the water and the grounds dispels aroma, develops bitter and astringent elements, and seriously changes and impairs the quality and character of the brew.
“Boiled Coffee Is Spoiled Coffee”
A recent official report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirms previous trade reports as to the serious inferiority of boiled coffee, which is spoiled coffee.
Roasted coffee, being already cooked, requires no further cooking. Correct, non-cooking infusion with water obtains the full value from the grounds, which then becomes dregs, not to be extracted or used again.
The United States Army, after several years of official tests of advices of the National Coffee Roasters Association against boiled coffee, has completely changed the official army rule of 40 years' standing, adopting the association recipe, eliminating the boiling principle and greatly improving the soldiers' coffee.
The boiling of coffee is a tradition. It dates back to barbarous times 900 years ago, before roasting was discovered, when the whole green berry was boiled.
Afterward the whole roasted berry was boiled, as were the coarse pieces produced later by pounding in a mortar. Notwithstanding the advent of grinding machinery and the scientific proof of better methods, the boiling of coffee is still a vicious habit in this country, depriving thousands of its full enjoyment.
The water must be started at the absolutely boiling point. When the kettle is removed from the fire, with the water galloping, the temperature inevitably lowers somewhat.
By the time it penetrates the grounds it is at the correct temperature, provided the operation is not over a hot fire whereby a cooking process begins. Water started under the boiling point, reaching the grounds at inefficiently low temperature, is a sure cause of weak, defective brew. Boil the water. Don't boil the water and grounds together, and don't boil the brewed liquid.
Neither Cook nor Cool It
Neither cook nor cool the finished brew. Serve it smoking hot, always. Serve it immediately after it is brewed, or, if unavoidably delaved, keep it over indirect heat where it will remain-hot without cooking. Always use heated vessels. A chilled brew cannot be successfully reheated.
Strain correctly. So-called muddy or cloudy coffee is never due to the quality or character of the coffee itself, but solely to faulty straining or settling. . Among the crude “old settlers” are salt codfish skin, isinglass, eggshells, eggs, etc., operating only to weight and sink the grounds, which should be filtered or strained out completely, making a radiantly clear coffee always sure.
Strainers of wire and perforated metal do not hold the finest particles, lack free filtering surface, and are difficult to keep clean and uncontaminated. Perforated glazed porcelain strainers finest particles and are of insufficient outlet. When a paper filter is used, it requires support by a solid ware strainer.
Cotton cloth of fine mesh holds the finest particles, has a free filtering surface, and can be frequently changed, but requires care in being kept sweet after using.
A filter or drip bag of cotton, after being used, should be rinsed in cold water, not hot water, and then kept submerged in cold water, as in a covered glass tumbler, until next used. The water seals it from the spores in the air, which cause souring. Never dry it. Filter cloths or bags keep sweet if kept wet.
Use correct utensils. Clean thoroughly, watch every crevice, corner, tube, sieve hole, and spout. Metal has long been discredited for tea and has the same disadvantage for coffee.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports:
Metallic substances -yield pronounced flavors when cooked with an organic solution such as coffee infusion. We show in the laboratory that even a short contact of coffee infusion with metals is accompanied by a formation on the metal of a thin deposit which, we believe, is a chemical combination.”
The commonly used metal percolator, where the liquid is pumped up and sprayed over the grounds, has these faults: Metal strainer will not hold pulverized particles; water reaches grounds at insufficient temperature, as low as 140 to 150 degrees; sputtering, but not near enough to boiling to extract the aromatic substances fully; repeated contact of liquid and grounds, which dispels fragrance and extracts undesirable dreg elements.
When a percolator is used, allow a brief time of percolating. Obtain the desired strength by using the finest grind practicable for the sieve and an ample allowance of coffee. Measure water and coffee in all methods.
The Drip Method
Drip-method pots are obtainable in many forms. The drip or filtration method is generally accepted and approved as the best by coffee authorities. The Technology Research prefers it and says, “The filtration (drip) processes yield a clear, good coffee, with the right conditions of time, temperature, and utensil.”
Here is a correct recipe for the filtration or drip method with a close-mesh cotton cloth as a filter, like the hotel and restaurant custom of using a suspended cloth filter bag:
Have the filter bag of such dimension as will permit a thorough but not delayed flow of water through the coffee. Put a measured quantity of coffee into the filter.
The quantity must be governed by the strength of brew desired and the fineness of grind used. For best results use a very fine grind, not coarser than fine cornmeal or finer than powdered sugar (not powdered like flour).
Start with water at the boiling point and pour a measured quantity once through the grounds, dripping it into a previously heated earthenware vessel. Serve at once, and don't chill or cook the brew.
Serve it daintily, as befits so perfect a product. To prove that one pouring through obtains the full strength out of very finely ground coffee, pass more water through the used grounds and see how this last extraction shows that only are sanitary and easily cleaned, but do not hold faint color and dreg flavor remain.
A brew made by this recipe may be strong and dark-colored and yet free from bitterness or astringency, with the native aroma of the kind of coffee strikingly evident.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, summarizing all recorded scientific reports, states that the stimulating element in coffee, caffeine, has been proved an uplifting stimulant, with no after depression.
Used in moderation, coffee is a great human resource. It deserves your intelligent interest and your understanding of modern information about better brewing, which will multiply
By Edward Aborn
Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, July 1922, p. 48-50