Book Review / Coffee Talk

For someone who was recently unaccustomed to the aroma of such an intoxicating subject, it is hard for me to believe I have taken such interest in coffee.  Not fond of professing my love to something I don’t understand, I took it upon myself to learn all about the substance that has charmed the world for centuries.  Guiding me in my journey was the book Coffee Talk by Morton Satin.

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A book jammed packed with the history of the little red bean to the numerous ways people extract the flavor and jolt today, Satin solidified himself as a coffee connoisseur.  Although there may be some points where the information runs a little too deep for the home hobbyist, there certainly was no lack of information.  For example, did you know that American coffee met its demise in quality by the introduction of the bottomless cup at diners and truck stops?

As a person who only a year ago had never brewed her own cup of coffee, I am now a happy user of both the Chemex and French Press.  It amazes me to believe that this plant was only discovered after a goat herder found his goats, young and old, frolicking in a field upon eating the “coffee cherries” in Ethiopia, and today we enjoy the beverage to its utmost delight.

I look forward to learning much more about the subject, and chronicling my journey of different brewing methods, coffee origins, and the like on Hungry, Mostly, and also look forward to your input.

Coffee Talk is a wonderful read for any who enjoy science, history, culture, or just plain coffee.  It is a great companion to understanding the wonderful world of coffee, and how much the average American is missing out on.

Kitchen 101: How to Use a Chemex

It’s just for hipsters in their Brooklyn apartments with their exposed brick walls and Arcade Fire playing on their turntable, you say.

It’s just for brooding baristas, with their ironic paper crane tattoos and hair swooping over their hungry eyes, you say.

You like your $20 coffee maker, you say.

You don’t have time for pour over, you say.

Well, it’s not and your wrong, I say.

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Gone are the days where the brooding hipsters get all the good coffee because now we can all have explore the joys and taste the greatness of pour over coffee!  Simply put, pour over coffee is made manually, with the help of freshly ground beans, a strange looking hourglass shaped glass, and hot water.  The reason this coffee tastes so good (and is a little more expensive to order at a coffee shop) is because the technique leaves the beans evenly soaked, not acidic, and smooth.  Try for yourself.

Needed:

Chemex

Chemex unbleached square coffee filters

Coffee grinder

Really good coffee beans (Pelican is my favorite)

Kettle

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How to:

1. Bring enough water for however many cups you want to boil in a kettle.

2. When water is boiled, grind enough beans to cover the blade.  Grind until you can still see chunks of bean, as you don’t want the cofee too fine.  Never do this in advance, as beans lose flavor and aroma the minute they are ground.

3. Open up square filter.  You want it to be shaped like a funnel, with the paper two sides thick on one side and one side thick on the other.  Set the filter into the top of your Chemex and pour the ground coffee beans inside.

4.  Slowly begin to pour your hot water over the beans.  You want to do this in a circular motion, not just pour it on top in one location.  Start by pouring your water on the sides of the paper and slowly work closer to the beans.  Allow the water to settle, then continue to pour.

5.  Once all the water is poured, wait until it has drained into the basin of your Chemex.  Once you are finished, enjoy your delicious coffee!  Skinny jeans and a copy of Slaughter House 5 are optional.

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Key to Happiness

I woke up the other morning to a magazine sitting at the kitchen table.  I poured myself a glass of water and gleefully tucked into my eggs, until a headline caught my eye.  “Break Your Coffee Habit!” it suggested incredulously, as if America’s love of coffee was stoking our drug habit or killing puppies.  Along with the numerous other headlines over various publications about kicking xyz habit here, a mantra my mom taught me rang in my head, “everything in moderation.”

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When I was a kid, ice cream was my best friend.  I ate a large bowl of the sugary cream at least once a day, piled high with bright colored sprinkles and maybe ever some chocolate syrup.  I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s once a day for two weeks while living in Chicago, and going out to handmade gems is still one of the simplest pleasures in my life.  Although I have (thankfully) grown out of my gorging habit, I still like to enjoy a bowl more often than not.  Also, as I have grown older, my palate has changed from sweet to more savory, and coffee is one of my favorite indulgences.  Robust, dark, and mysterious, I save the velvety goodness for intense writing sessions, tastings at local joints, and dessert with my family.  It is not an everyday occurrence and affording myself a cup sometimes brings me to tears of joy.

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It makes me sad that people feel the need to cut ties altogether with a food or drink they love.  Certainly there are certain circumstances where it may be necessary to stop cold turkey, but should we give up that cup of coffee forever?  Never again taste the sickenly sweet frosting off a cupcake?  If something brings us that much joy why should we feel so guilty about it?

According to the CDC, 69.2% of American adults are overweight.  This fact can make it easy for doctors, nutritionists, and skeptics to point the finger at our love of sugary sweet and fatty foods.  This may be true, but I know many people who indulge in the occasional piece of cake or hamburger and look great.  The key words are indulge and occasional.   Treating decadent food for what it is, a treat, and truly enjoying the flavor is important.  You know how when you dive into a brownie sundae and after a few bites it doesn’t taste like anything anymore?  Instead of going for quantity, focus on the quality.

This whole idea of moderation also goes back to the quality of ingredients.  It is much easier to truly get lost in a dark, strong cup of coffee than the watery version most likely served at the gas station.  Enjoying the flavors of your food is more fulfilling than eating to sustain.

So to all those people who think they need to kick that habit, stop.  Start enjoying the food you eat and stop using it as a crutch to support you through each day.  We are fortunate enough to have an abundance of delicious options at our fingertips, so let them amuse your palate.

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The Making of a Vice

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There once was a time that I didn’t like coffee.  Up until about two years ago, I had never even had more than a sip of the stuff, declaring the taste was always too “bold” for me.  I didn’t even know what that meant.  Then, a friend suggested that we go to Awake Cafe off of Irving Park in Chicago.  We went, and I ordered a seasonal latte, and was hooked.  I also spent the bus ride home on the biggest caffeine buzz known to man.

Michael, the caffeine addict, demonstrated how it wasn't enough for him,

Michael, the caffeine addict, demonstrated how it wasn’t enough for him,

When I moved to Michigan, I began drinking coffee like there was no tomorrow.  A pot was started usually before I started work in the morning, and was kept fresh through the entire pasta making session.  Espressos were broken out on thirteen hour shift days, or when we had a lot of catering to put out.  I began to limit my intake, so I could feel the full effect on the really tough days.  Soon, coffee became a favorite treat of mine.

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Living in Chicago, I must say that we are spoiled.  Chicago has many coffee roasters and a plethora of delicious coffee shops.  Metropolis, Dark Matter, and Bow Truss and three of my favorite roasters, all producing a few different types of coffee, and great espressos.

For a nice little treat, try a Mexican Mocha

1 shot of espresso (I recommend Bow Truss’s Hoist)

1 1/2 c hot cocoa

1 t (or more!) of chili powder

Make hot cocoa and espresso, mix together.  Add a dash of chili powder, and taste.  Keep adding chili powder until you can taste the chili.  Now add one more dash.

Enjoy!

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What’s your tried and true coffee?