Perhaps each of us has our own unique culinary quest. I told you about my sister and the evolution of her Sauerbraten recipe. Likewise, my husband labored for a while to produce the ultimate pancake. I don’t know whether he perfected his batter recipe or just decided pancakes were too unhealthy to eat anyway, but he seems to have abandoned his quest for the time being.
My quest is for the perfect cup of coffee...
Don’t let its simplicity fool you, though. There are more variables to good coffee than first meets the eye.
I became a coffee aficionada when I fell in love with the java served at a local restaurant. I learned I could order the same brand direct from the company that makes it. It’s a real kick. You call the company and say you want two pounds of flavor X, and they respond with something like this: “We will be roasting our flavor X beans on Thursday, so you order will be ground to your specifications and shipped out of Friday. You should receive you coffee by Saturday.”
Two days after it’s roasted! You could hardly do better if you owned your own coffee plantation.
When my first order arrived, I just wanted to sit there all day and smell the grounds. I mean, this was real coffee: black as night and richly aromatic. It made our store-bought stuff look like peat moss. And the taste was superb.
When you find yourself so close to gastronomical perfection, there is a force that takes hold of you and draws you imperceptibly deeper under its spell, entangling itself into the very fiber of your taste buds, until one day you wake up and you know beyond a doubt – as if it has come to you in a vision – that you must dedicate your culinary talents to attaining that pinnacle of epicurean perfection.
And so it was with me. It started out with subtle additions: an airtight canister to preserve the freshness of the grounds, then a coffee carafe to maintain the beverage temperature without overcooking it on the burner. And, of course, I heated the carafe with warm water before pouring the coffee in, taking the greatest advantage of the carafe’s thermal properties.
Next I turned my attention to the water. Since our water comes in the “chunky” variety replete with pine needles, twigs, unidentifiable floating objects, and Lord-only-knows-what invisible pollutants, I felt a water filtration system would greatly enhance the quality of the second major ingredient in my recipe. We bought a system that not only makes the water liquid and clear again, but also takes the lead out. A major improvement. The only problem is that the filter quickly clogged, and our “clean” water supply has been reduced to a paltry trickle while we try to locate replacement filter cartridges. So now it takes about 20 minutes to fill the pot with suitable water each time. No big deal.
New gadgets kept appearing in the kitchen. An electric coffee grinder and a gold-plated filter were my latest acquisitions. By this time, coffee brewing in our household had advanced from a one-minute activity performed by rote to a lengthy procedure requiring more and more paraphernalia. The kitchen began to take on that post-tornado appearance.
I think I’ve almost got it, though. I just have to work out the taste differential between regular coffee and decaf. And then there’s the “mug versus cup” dilemma. And I haven’t even tried the French Press method yet. And there is also espresso to explore. I can see I’m going to be very busy for a long time…
Then again, maybe I should just switch to tea.
# # #