Good Coffee Makes Good Cheer - 1921
Fishermen, our fire fighters and other men who work in bitter cold and wet say coffee is a better stimulant than alcohol, with none of the depressing aftereffects; besides, it soothes one out of dull sobriety and makes one talk of all pleasant things that ever happened.
It has been said that half of the coffee drinking people in the world die without knowing the real taste of coffee. Whether this statement is true or not, it is a fact that a good cup of coffee is difficult to get.
This is no doubt true, because it seems to be taken for granted that, given any kind of ground coffee and a quantity of boiling water, by forming a combination of the two, the resulting beverage will be coffee. Sometimes it is, but more often it is only a libel on the name of real coffee.
Coffee making is one of the cookery processes that should first be understood and then undertaken with care. Until the majority of those who prepare our coffee recognize these facts many of the present day coffee drinkers are doomed to join those who have traveled on without knowing the real pleasure of this most popular drink for the breakfast table.
The black name that is sometimes given coffee is no doubt due to its abuse, both in preparation and in use. Most physicians admit that the moderate use of coffee by healthy persons is not harmful and those who are coffee lovers go so far as to state that it aids gastric digestion and does not retard the digestive action of the saliva as much as does tea.
On the other hand, there is much evidence that coffee in some cases causes heart palpitation, insomnia and nervous prostration, and it seems the part of wisdom to know one’s self and to watch the action of coffee before indulgingg too heavily.
Sometimes, too, black coffee can while coffee with milk or cream cannot; sometimes unsweetened coffee seems to be perfectly digestible, while the addition of sugar renders it impossible. Such individual idiosyncrasies should be carefully observed and one’s habits governed by them.
The friends of coffee among the laymen are always superlatively enthusiastic; to them it is the drink that “intoxicates without exciting; soothes you softly out of dull sobriety, making you think and talk of all the pleasant things that ever happened to you.”
They have at their finger ends cases of mental and bodily fatigue which was lessened by a cup of hot black coffee; they can show you how persons who are subject to severe exposure find they are better able to withstand cold if they have hot coffee.
They assert that it is far more valuable as a stimulant than alcohol and has none of its depressing after effects; they cite that the medicinal value of coffee as an antidote for alcohol or opium poisoning is well established; that it acts on the liver and is a good remedy for constipation and biliousness if it is taken without milk.
Strong black coffee and lemon juice are said to be a sure cure for malaria chills.
A strange coffee incident recently came to the writer’s attention. A woman friend stricken with neuritis became completely paralyzed and for ten days and nights never closed her eyes.
New York’s best nerve specialists had administered every type of sedative without success. Desperate for sleep and with acute neurotic pains she begged her nurse to give her a hot cup of coffee at 2 A. M.
Very reluctantly the nurse complied with her request, saying, “But what will I tell the doctor?” The coffee put the patient to sleep for several hours, seemingly breaking a nerve tension that all drugs had failed to reach.
Next day the great nerve specialist was told of the incident and he said, “I have seen coffee do wonderful things,” and ordered that the patient have all the coffee she desired at any hour of the day or night.
Recovery set in so soon as the power of sleep was restored. I have given this incident only to show that it is next to impossible to prognosticate the action of coffee in a general way and to emphasize the fact that it is necessary to study individual idiosyncrasies before accepting or rejecting this most pleasurable morning drink.
All of the good effects of coffee are, however, dependent on its proper preparation. The active principals of coffee are caffeine, tannic acid and a volatile oil called caffeol. Caffeine is the stimulating property in coffee; caffeol or caffeine, as it is sometimes called, provides the rich aroma and flavor.
This property according to some authorities is not present in raw coffee but is developed during the roasting process and is very volatile; tannic acid is developed by long boiling and gives the bitter flavor to coffee made by such a process.
The methods of preparing coffee for table use are almost too numerous to name. However, as most of its beneficial influence depends on its proper preparation the following objects should be carefully kept in mind no matter what method is used:
The recipe selected should be such as will give, first, the greatest amount of strength and aroma, without extracting the astringent properties; secondly, a rich, transparent nut brown liquor, free from cloudiness and grounds. In order to obtain both of these objectives the coffee purchased must be pure, freshly roasted, and ground as it is used. Coffee that has been roasted for some time may be reheated in a slow oven for a few minutes before grinding.
Three Ways to Perfection
There are three methods that are most commonly used and that will give the desired results if carefully followed. These are (1) by infusion, (2) by decoction or boiling, (3) by filtration or distillation.
The first method consists in pouring actively boiling water over finely ground coffee in a hot coffee pot and allowing the mixture to stand for 10 minutes on the back of the stove before serving.
Coffee made in this way is very aromatic and of good flavor but contains very little caffein and hardly a trace of tannin. Prolonged infusion, however, will extract the tannin and a large amount of caffein.
Boiled coffee when properly made contains the aromatic properties together with a desirable amount of the extract and stimulating properties. The objection to boiled coffee is that it is generally boiled so long that the aroma is lost by evaporation and the decoction made bitter by the development of a relatively large amount of tannin.
Filtered, percolated or distilled coffee is usually of good flavor and aroma and is as stimulating as boiled coffee. There is as much danger of overcooking percolated coffee as there is of the boiled, thus producing a bitter beverage. From a dietetic standpoint infused coffee is probably the best to use for everyday purposes but is not stimulating enough to use medicinally.
- 1 cup coffee
- 1 egg or 2 egg shells
- 1 cup cold water
- 6 cups boiling water
Grind the coffee medium fine. Scald the coffee pot and put in the coffee. Wash the egg, break and beat slightly. Dilute with half the cold water and add to the coffee with the crushed shell.
Mix thoroughly, add the boiling water and boil 3 minutes. Stuffing the spout with soft paper while boiling improves the flavor. Pour a little of the coffee out to be sure the spout is free from grounds, add the rest of the cold water and set on the back of the stove for ten minutes, but do not boil. The cold water being heavier than the hot sinks to the bottom carrying the grounds with it and so helps to clear the coffee.
Filtered French Coffee
1 cup very finely ground coffee 6 or 7 cups boiling water
Filtered coffee is made in a coffeepot that has a bag or strainer to hold the coffee and keep it from mixing with the infusion. There are many kinds on the market and most of them are good.
Scald the coffee-pot, place the coffee in the strainer in the coffee-pot and the coffee-pot on the stove; add the boiling water gradually and allow it to filter through.
Cover the coffeepot between the additions of water. If desired stronger, refilter. Serve at once with cream or hot milk and sugar. If the hot milk or cream is put in the cup before the coffee is poured in the flavor will be much better. The coffee must be finely ground so that the flavor can be easily extracted.
Allow one tablespoon of coffee to each cup of boiling water unless very strong coffee is desired. The coffee should be ground medium fine and placed in the top of the percolator.
Pour the cold water in the bottom, put the top in place and place on the stove. Allow to percolate about 5 minutes or until the mixture is dark in color. Do not boil. Serve with hot milk or cream.
Allow a rounding tablespoonful of finely ground coffee for each cup of boiling water. Put the coffee in the pot and let it stand in a warm place until the coffee and the pot are hot. Be careful not to scorch the coffee.
Then pour in the required amount of actively boiling water, stir for a minute, cover closely and let stand on the back of the stove for 10 minutes. Strain carefully and serve with hot milk.
Left-over coffee should not be thrown away. There are many delicious desserts, puddings, cakes, etc., that can be made with such coffee as a flavoring, or it may be reheated and added to the coffee-pot next morning just before serving.
Do not chill coffee that is to be reheated or it will lose a great deal of its flavor. Coffee that is to be served cold or used for coffee frappe, ice cream or sherbet may be chilled if desired.
Jessie A. Knox, "How to Brew Coffee and Keep All Its Flavor and Aroma" in The Forecast: A Magazine of Home Efficiency, February 1921, p.105-107.