ARTICLES

And Good Coffee’s So Easy To Make

Our coffee is a national calamity. But it doesn’t need mustard or mumbo jumbo, only care and cleanliness. If you follow these rules you can look a Brazilian in the eye

ROBERT ELLIOTT August 15 1949
ARTICLES

And Good Coffee’s So Easy To Make

Our coffee is a national calamity. But it doesn’t need mustard or mumbo jumbo, only care and cleanliness. If you follow these rules you can look a Brazilian in the eye

ROBERT ELLIOTT August 15 1949

And Good Coffee’s So Easy To Make

Our coffee is a national calamity. But it doesn’t need mustard or mumbo jumbo, only care and cleanliness. If you follow these rules you can look a Brazilian in the eye

ROBERT ELLIOTT

WHEN Spike Jones, leader of the ear-bruising City Slickers band, was interviewed recently by a Canadian radio columnist, he was asked, “How do you like our coffee?”

“Canadian coffee’s all right,” the king of clatter replied gravely, “to take a bath in.”

He was being polite. Some of the stuff dished up at 10 cents a cup in our public eating houses tastes as though someone has taken a bath in it.

Early this spring the New York Times carried a news item about Robert Brown, a Brooklyn manufacturer who makes soap, shampoo and stuff for cleaning the hands. It said Mr. Brown hopes to make still other things later on—face powder, headache tablets, shoe polish and cookies. The reason the Times considered this newsworthy was that the raw material of all Mr. Brown’s products is coffee.

Canadian housewives and restaurant cooks have been starting with good samples of the same raw material for years and winding up too often with something which isn’t a whole lot more Like coffee than the stuff Mr. B’s factory turns out.

Instead of a rich and glorious liquid, paled with cream from deep dark brown to the tawny color of Carmen Miranda’s skin, and smelling as wonderful as it looks, what they brew is apt to baffle description.

Terrible though coffee often is in Canadian homes, what some Canadian restaurants serve is

even worse. Americans, who once started a revolution over tea, would undoubtedly start another one if they had to drink coffee like much of ours.

Don’t Rely On Guesswork

WHY CAN’T we get a good cup of coffee here, not just sometimes but all the time? The reasons range from plain lack of cleanliness, through carelessness, penny-pinching and crackpot tampering.

Bad coffee, at home or in a restaurant, is always disappointing. It is also unnecessary. There is plenty of good coffee available and you can make a good cup of it every bit as easily as you can ruin it, whether you use a glass gadget, a percolator, a drip pot, an urn, a plain old-fashioned coffeepot, or even a lard pail over an open fire in the woods.

The secret, as with everything from playing the violin to putting a new washer on a tap, lies in knowing what to do and then doing it—not just once in a while, but day in and day out.

If you go by the rules that follow you can’t miss, whether you’re a housewife or a restaurant keeper. If you don’t go by them it is possible you might turn out an acceptable cup of coffee now and again by accident, but don’t count on it.

The Pan-American Coffee Bureau, the world’s top authority, has spent a mint of money finding out how you can get the best out of coffee. It lays down these three rules.

First, your coffee equipment, whatever type of

outfit you favor, must be scrupulously clean. Rinse away every last trace of soap. If your filter is cloth, wash it in plain cold water without soap right after you’ve used it and keep it soaking till you’re ready to use it again.

Second, be sure you use the right amount of coffee for the pot. Don’t guess. For coffee at home the bureau advises two level tablespoons to each six ounces of water—that is three quarters of a standard measuring cup.

Third, take care to measure the quantity of water and be sure it’s freshly boiling.

The quantity of coffee indicated gives the strength generally liked in the United States. If your own taste runs to a weaker brew (there is a widespread theory which may be true, that most of us find American coffee a shade too strong), try using eight ounces of wafer instead of six.

The quantity is so important it can’t be overemphasized—two level tablespoons of coffee to each six (or eight) ounces of water, no matter what method you’re using. Measure carefully.

Now for a fast fill-in on how to get best results from the four main methods used in Canadian homes. Each has fans who sneer at all the others, but the fact is that all four methods are equally good if they’re done properly and equally lousy if they aren’t.

BY VACUUM (SILEX TYPE): If you’re

going to use a vacuum glass coffeemaker start by turning on the cold water tap and letting it run for half a minute or so. Don’t try to save time by taking water from the hot tap. When water is heated in your basement boiler it undergoes a kind of structural change, and the coffee you’ll make with it will taste slightly fiat.

Measure the amount of fresh cold water you’re going to need and pour it into the lower glass bowl. Put it on the stove. While it’s coming to a boil fit the filter into the upper bowl and put in the correct amount of coffee. When the water is boiling, and not before, put the two halves of the gadget together. If you put them together right, from the start, the water from the bottom would have started coming up long before it reached boiling. It would thus have had a damp soggy mass to work on when it finally did boil, instead of a crisp brown aromatic heap. And the most wonderful taste possible is never released from coffee unless the first water that bits it is at the proper temperature.

The moment the boiling water has risen into the upper bowl (there will always be some that doesn’t come through), reduce the heat to simmering point, and stir the coffee and water together thoroughly. Leave the mixture heaving gently from one to three minutes, take it off the heat and wait for the coffee to he drawn hack again into the lower howl. It should then be served at once before the fine edge of flavor can blunt; reheating is an even surer way of spoiling coffee than leaving it standing around too long.

First You Ileat the Pot

Finally, he sure to use the right grind. If you buy it ready-ground it should he the kind specified for glass coffeemakers. If you have it ground at the store see that the indicator on the grinder is adjusted to the very finest setting.

THE PERCOLATOR: The first

step should he the same— pouring a measured quantity of fresh cold water into the pot. Put the pot on the stove and as soon as the water begins to boil furiously remove it from the heat. If water at boiling point (212 deg. F.) remains in contact with coffee for more than a couple of seconds it releases hitter elements as well as the smacking good ones you’re after.

Next, measure the required amount of coffee (drip grind, mind you; not

either fine or regular) into the basket part of the percolator. Fit this into the pot part. Put the cover on, return the assembled percolator to the heat and let it perk slowly for six to eight minutes. Turn off the heat, take out the basket (if you don’t, bitter droplets will start trickling through), put the cover back on again and there you are.

THE DRIP: Good coffeemaking by this method begins a little differently. First preheat the pot by scalding it with hot water, just as you would a teapot. Measure drip-ground coffee, remembering the golden rule of two level tablespoons to every cup you intend to serve, into the upper half of the outfit. After that pour the measured amount of freshly boiling water over the coffee, put the cover on and wait for the dripping to end. As soon as it’s finished take the filter out of the pot, stir the brewed coffee lightly for a second or two and serve.

THE OLD-FASHIONED COFFEE POT: You’re probably so familiar with this method you figure you haven’t got a thing to learn about it, and maybe you’re right. But don’t be too sure.

Do you preheat the pot? You should to get best results. Are you always careful and exact about the quantities you use? When you’ve scalded the pot and thrown away that water, put in the amount of coffee you’re going to need and pour on the proper measured amount of fresh boiling water—either six or eight ounces to each two level tablespoons of coffee, depending on whether you want it at American or Canadian strength. I^et the pot stand over the faintest flame possible with a gas burner, on an electric element still hot from having just been turned off, from three to eight minutes.

No matter what your dear old mother may have told you, there’s no need to put a couple of eggshells in to clarify it or add a dollop of cold water to settle the grounds. Just use regulargrind coffee and follow the rules.

These instructions apply with equal force to coffee made in a lard pail, an old tin can, or any other receptacle commonly taken along on picnics or camping trips.

Tampering with old-style coffeemaking doesn’t stop at the addition of eggshells or cold water. Some otherwise normal people put in a pinch of dry mustard, or even a small blob of butter; some do both.

'These practices definitely make coffee taste different.

Don’t be led astray by the advice you sometimes get from cookbooks. The author of one widely circulated book urges her readers to pour at least half a cup of cold water over the dry coffee in the top bowl of a glass coffeemaker or in a pot before the boiling water comes up or is added. She insists this brings out the full delicacy of the taste. Unfortunately she’s quite wrong. The volatile oils and aromatic essences that give coffee its rousing flavor aren’t fully released unless the water temperature is never less than 195 deg. and never more than 205 deg. while it and the coffee are in contact, except for the first second or two.

Another famous cookbook is equally wide of the mark. It advises people who use glass coffeemakers to put hot water in the bottom bowl to begin with, to fit the two halves of the thing together right away and to take it off the fire the instant the boiling water from the bottom has finished rising. All three moves run counter to the Pan-American Coffee Bureau’s rules.

Unless your palate is a whole lot more discriminating than most people’s you won’t be able to tell the difference between ready-ground coffee and coffee ground freshly for you. The great thing is to use up your coffee before it goes stale, whichever way you buy it. And there isn’t a single popular brand of ready-roasted coffee sold in this country that isn’t plenty good enough for anyone—always provided it’s properly made.

Let’s leave home now and go into the depressing question of why some Canadian restaurant coffee is so lamentable.

Coffee —67% of All Orders

Canada’s café drinkers are so used to accepting that greyish-brown stuff at a dime a time that a buyers’ strike is not likely. But if good coffee came out of those urns every time and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t -the customers would he that much happier and the restaurants more popular.

And being known for good coffee is a great asset to an eating place. A survey in 1948 by the Joint Committee of the Restaurant and Coffee Industries, with the help of the Coffee Bureau, showed that in a typical restaurant 14% of orders were for ice cream—the most popular single

item on the food list. Orders for a cup of coffee, however, amounted to no less than 67% of all orders. Putting it another way, if the amount of ice cream asked for were to be represented by a small apple, the symbol for the amount of coffee would be a big cantaloupe.

There are no statistics on the number of customers who actually liked the coffee they got, but informal spot checks suggest the proper-sized symbol would be half of a dried pea.

The same basic rules that the Coffee Bureau lays down for your home coffeemaking apply to restaurants, too: care with measuring, care with the water, and spotless hygiene.

That Urn Must Be Scrubbed

The bureau recommends for urn coffee one pound of coffee to two gallons of water—American gallons, which figure out about one fifth less than our imperial gallon. By Canadian measure then, each two gallons of water needs 1 lb. 3 oz. of coffee.

When the water in the urn comes to the boil it should be poured very slowly through the coffee, a gallon at a time, with a circular motion to ensure even distribution. Water that merely passes through the cloth sides of the bag will weaken the brew.

After each brew the urn should be washed out with hot water until the tap runs clear. If the urn is a basket type, the basket should be washed in hot water immediately and frequently scoured with steel wool. If a cloth bag is used it should be washed in cold water (never with soap) and left soaking until the next use.

The urn should be scrubbed out with a couple of gallons of fresh hot water and a brush at the end of each day, and scoured with special cleaning compound twice a week. Every two weeks the metal gadgets at the ends of the glass indicator tube, and the tilin' itself, should be removed and cleaned.

Once coffee is made in an urn if should stay there no longer than one hour at a uniform 185 deg. F.

In some Canadian restaurants serving urn coffee all of these rules are skipped or skimped. And that’s why Spike Jones gets away with that wisecrack. -yk"