How Do You Brew?

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Megan Smith

Some coffee tips and tricks to warm you through the winter months

The author's darling kitchen coffee station. PHOTO BY MEGAN SMITH

Early in our marriage my husband was a Starbucks barista. He would wake up at 5 a.m. to brew, steam, froth and pour hundreds of fussy coffee drinks a day. Thankfully for me, I continue to reap the benefits from that short occupational stint. Each morning I wake up to the sounds of coffee beans whirling around the grinder and the evocative, energizing smell of my morning perk wafting from the kitchen.

Coffee was first mentioned in historical writings around the late 800s and from the start was downright scandalous. With tales of coffee drinker beheadings in Constantinople during the Ottoman Empire to the protests and petitions of women in England about the impotent effect coffee was having on their husbands, coffee has had a long journey to become the best part of waking up.

It wasn’t until the late 1400s that this coffee thing started revolutionizing the world’s social landscape. The shift came with the opening of the first coffeehouse. Early coffeehouses were elaborate, to say the least. Expensive furnishings, luxurious fabrics, tapestries and rugs beckoned patrons to lounge for hours. They were the sanctuary for artists and musicians, and a safe house for political discussions. Coffeehouses eventually spread into England with over 3,000 coffeehouses in England by the late 1600s. That bit in our history books about the Boston harbor incident of 1773 helped pave the way for coffee consumption in America. By the early 1900s America was consuming over half of the coffee produced in the world. Wherein the British honored “tea time” each day, Americans came to embrace the coffee break.

The historical aspect, albeit fascinating, really wasn’t what sparked my interest in coffee this month. In fact, I have a confession to make. This homemaker that bakes more hours a week than watches TV doesn’t know how to brew a cup of coffee.

Brewing a perfect cup, I have come to learn, is both far less complicated and far more complex than I had imagined. Yes, a drinkable cuppa joe is attainable with nothing more than a coffee pot and the correct ratio of grounds to water, but to brew a really great cup, it’ll take just a little more. It seems new methods for obtaining that morning jolt are continually coming on the scene. No doubt the drip method still proves most popular, but even the hype of the espresso machines in the ‘90s has now given way to new (and old) techniques like the Neapolitan Flip, Vacuum brewing and Turkish coffee all vying for the top spot of producing that “good to the last drop” cup.

Norwegian Egg Coffee

In Midwest states, many locals drink egg coffee, and it really is as weird as it sounds. Although said to be Scandinavian in origin, egg coffee was likely an immigrant drink akin to the traditional Norwegian method of adding fish skin while boiling coffee. Both fish skin and egg have protein, which is said to help clarify the brew and remove bitterness.


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