How do you like your Java?
This week’s column is out of the norm for me because it is something that I am not an expert on and, in fact, something I very seldom include in my diet. Today, I am talking about COFFEE. I don’t really enjoy drinking a cup of this popular beverage even though I love the flavor of coffee. I know that does not make sense to you but it is like bananas. I love the flavor but not the texture in my mouth.
The flavor of coffee (and especially the aroma) is pleasing when it is combined with a little sugar and a whole lot of cream, but the after-taste and effect on my stomach is something I would rather do without. Today I had to do some research on it so I could pass on this information about coffee to you.
Making a good cup of coffee
There are several things to consider when making “a good cup of coffee”. Most of us believe that a cup of coffee is determined by the brand of coffee used. Yes, this is true, a higher quality coffee is essential in getting the best flavor possible. But, just as important is the equipment you use.
The quality of water is another important issue. Most tap water contains a high amount of chlorine, minerals and salts. Consider buying filtered water to use when making your coffee.
The last important issue is the filter you use. It is highly suggested that an unbleached paper filter, or better yet, a permanent gold wire mesh filter is used.
Kuerig Coffee Maker
The latest design in coffee makers is the Kuerig Coffee Maker. We purchased one of these new style coffee makers this past winter and have found it is great for our coffee drinking lifestyle. Since my husband is the only one drinking coffee and only drinks one cup a day, we save money on coffee that is not used. Because the coffee comes in individual K-Cups, another great feature, he can select a different coffee flavor or type each morning.
This style of coffee maker offers many different types of coffee (including decaffeinated) as well as tea and hot chocolate.
Another advantage with a Kuerig Coffee Maker is that if someone stops in at the last minute, you don’t have to brew a whole pot of coffee, just pop in a K-cup and brew a cup of coffee in less than a minute. Clean up is as easy as pulling out the disposable cup and you are ready for the next cup.
Other styles of coffee makers
There are so many types and brands of other coffee makers on the market that a consumer has a difficult time determining which one to buy. I suggest you do some computer research before buying a new machine. Through my research I have found a couple of things that may help.
More flavor can be extracted from a finer grind without increasing the amount of coffee you use. But the type of coffee machine used determines what grind you can get away with, so for best results, you should use the grind the product calls for. This is something that again should be a factor in selecting the brand of maker you buy.
The second consideration should be the amount of water and timing required for dispersing. Research has proven that “good” flavors are extracted early in the brewing process while the bitterness come out during the end of the brewing session. This results when grounds come in contact with too much water leading to over-extraction of the grounds which causes a bitter tasting cup.
The timing of water dispersion is again determined by the type of maker you use. Some conventional drip types call for a finer grind of coffee which can decrease the amount of coffee used, but also uses too much water causing the grounds to turn into “sludge” and stew the coffee into a pot of “mud”.
It is hard to find out the information you need to determine the right coffee maker for you by reading the back of the box. I would suggest that you go online to the website for Consumer Reports and request information on Coffee Makers and research for yourself to match one that fits your needs.
Now let’s talk about the coffee itsel. Grinding your own coffee, at the time of purchase or before each use, results in a fresher taste. Coffee grinders are fairly inexpensive and may be worth the cost to increase the freshness of your grind. After all, there is no way to determine when those coffee beans were ground, breaking up the flavor of the final bean itself.
Grinders can be found almost everywhere that you purchase your coffee maker or better yet, check out a kitchen store for a larger variety.
How long the coffee has been on the shelf is important. It is important to check the expiration date on the package. The longer coffee sits on the shelf the less fresh it will be. Many people buy their coffee in coffee shops for this reason. Most of the coffee sold there is fresher because they have direct access to the coffee companies and sell it quicker than supermarkets.
Which company produces the best flavored coffee? This is strictly based on your personal preference of the flavor you are looking for. You also have a choice of the richness of the flavor. You can choose from a rich bold flavor, giving you a stronger taste or a milder breakfast blend which results in a milder smooth taste, and anywhere in between.
How much coffee do I use is another question asked often. Again, this is a personal preference. The most standard instructions call for 1 heaping tablespoon per cup but research has found that this is excessive. Instead they find that 1 level tablespoon is enough for most coffee makers and has a less bitter taste.
This is another nice thing about using a Kuerig Coffee Maker: the coffee is pre-measured for you and, to make it stronger, an adjustment setting is built into the coffee maker.
The final thing that I want to address is all of the coffee creamers on today’s market. They are available in both powder and liquid, with the liquid available in more different flavors. Remember that since they contain sugar, no sugar needs to be added to the coffee. I especially like the Coconut Cream and the Macodamia Nut blend.
Today’s recipes are ones that are made with and offer a coffee flavor.
“A great light airy sweet treat which is more like candy than cookies and so easy to make.”
2 egg whites (make sure they are free from any yolk)
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
4 tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
Beat egg whites and cream of tarter with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla, cocoa and coffee, mixing until well blended and form stiff peaks (but do not over beat). Drop mixture onto 2 large cookie sheets lined with either foil or parchment paper (I prefer the latter) placing meringues 2 inches apart forming 24-30 equal cookies.
Bake 40 minutes at 250 degrees (non convection oven). Do not open the oven until the end of the baking time and then check to make sure meringues are firm to the touch. If not, bake for few minutes until they are firm. Turn off oven and let meringues cool in oven for 1 hour. Again, do not open oven door while the cookies are cooling. Carefully remove and place on wire cooling rack until completely cool. Store in air tight container. Makes 24-30 meringues.
STREUSEL-CARAMEL COFFEE CAKE
“This coffee cake is rich with chewy caramel and nutty streusel topping. One of my favorite breakfast treats or makes a fabulous dessert topped with coffee ice cream.”
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1½ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
15-20 caramels (unwrapped) — the more you use, the chewier the cake
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup melted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts
Unwrap caramels and place on a cookie sheet or metal baking pan which has been “lightly” sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (about 2 inches apart). Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven but leave oven on to later bake the cake. Cool slightly and then pull each caramel into 4 inch ribbons (long strips made by pulling and flattening with the palm of your hand) and place on waxed paper.
In large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar, beating until creamy. In small bowl stir together sour cream, cream and vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking powder, coffee powder and salt and mix into liquid mixture. Generously grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and coat with flour (don’t use cooking spray). Spread ⅔ of the batter in to the pan. Place individual caramels evenly over top of dough and press them into the batter. Cover with remaining batter and tap on top to release air bubbles.
In medium mixing bowl combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, melted butter and chopped walnuts. Evenly distribute streusel mixture over top of cake. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Serves about 10 pieces.
I hope this gives some ideas of how to dress up that cup of coffee for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column Welcome to My Kitchen out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.