A Truly Great Cup of Coffee

Secrets to making a better cup of coffee using techniques learned in Colombia.

Coffee in The United States is terrible in taste. I feel pretty confident that some are raising their hackles to that statement and ready to spout forth their damnation of what they may consider blasphemy. Please read on though before you put fingers to keyboard pounding out a curt missive expressing your displeasure with my comment and love of some coffee brand. Now for those of you who drink the black brew only for its affect as a drug - well, never mind continuing to read. This is not for you.

For those who savor the taste of the beverage, let me shed some light on my initial statement. It is based upon personal experience of having drank coffee in many different countries for many years and upon comments from others. Americans seem to add more sugar, milk and other ingredients to their coffee than people do it other countries. I believe to mask the taste of the coffee. When my Colombian born and raised wife and I traveled across the USA we always asked for the 100 percent Colombian coffee. Many times we could not finish the cup because of the taste.

My first trip to the land of Juan Valdez perked up my taste buds. The flavor of the coffee exceeded anything tasted in the USA. I purchased several bags of different Colombian coffees and brought them back to a group of coffee aficionados who met weekly at coffee shop in California. All were amazed at the taste. Each cup had a full body clean taste with no after bite.

Earlier this year a coffee connoisseurs dream came true for me, and helped me discover more about making an excellent cup of coffee. Each year eight people, that are not employees, are allowed past the armed guards and fingerprint checking computers into the inner sanctum taste testing labs at the Juan Valdez headquarters in Bogota. Coffee makers of every kind line the walls. A coffee engineer introduced herself. She conducted a very through seminar about coffee including how to test it and how to prepare a great cup of the beverage. There are a number of factors which affect the taste of the final liquid. These include types of beans, growing region, roasting, grinding, water used, length of time between grinding and brewing  and brewing method.

The factors could be duplicated in both countries so I asked about the rumor. Some believe that American coffee companies, in order to save money and/or increase coffee sales, have been little by little over the years adding something to the coffee. The idea is to slowly get Americans use to the taste. Our guide stated she could not comment about the rumor. She mentioned that she had also heard the taste of coffee in the USA is bad. However, her company sends only the very best beans to America, leaving Colombians with beans of lower quality. She speculated that perhaps it was from poor water, improper brewing, or most likely letting the coffee sit in the pot or thermos too long.

Ok, now let me offer an opinion shared by many on how to make a great cup of coffee. It is based upon a formula for campinsino coffee used by many coffee street vendors in Bogota. First, get rid of that drip coffee maker and purchase a French Press. Put course, recently ground 100% Colombian coffee into the container. Now add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, four cloves and three to four drops of lime juice. If you like a sweetener in your coffee add brown sugar to the mix. Use distilled water heated on the stove (not in a microwave) to just before boiling, about 195 degrees.  Pour the hot water into the press, give a slight stir to the slurry, add the top with the plunger up and let it sit for two to four minutes. Push the plunger down very slowly and evenly until it reaches the bottom. Now pour yourself a great cup of coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy every drop.

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Olga Swarthout June 20, 2012 at 01:10 PM
The Bitter Truth About Why Your Coffee Isn't Tasting as Good Lately By Rich Smith, The Motley Fool Posted 5:30AM 06/19/12 Reuters is reporting that many of America's major brands have been quietly tweaking their coffee blends. While most coffee companies consider their blends trade secrets, and are loath to disclose exactly what goes into them, both circumstantial and direct evidence suggests they're now substituting lower-grade Robusta beans for some of their pricier Arabica, and degrading the quality of our coffee. Research out of agricultural bank Rabobank confirms that demand for Arabica beans among coffee buyers "has fallen 27% year-to-date, while Robusta [demand] is 25% higher." This seems to confirm a widespread alteration of the bean mix. At least one coffee roaster has admitted it. In November, Massimo Zanetti USA, which roasts for both Chock full o'Nuts and Hills Bros., publicly confirmed upping its Robusta usage by 25% this year. Why the switcheroo? Prepare to not be shocked. The answer is: price. Last year, a shortage of Arabica caused prices of the premium bean to spike as high as $3 a pound -- $2 more than what a pound of Robusta would cost. This compares to a five-year historical trend of Arabica costing closer to 70 cents more than Robusta. In recent weeks, the trend has reversed, with Arabica prices falling to just a 62-cent premium over Robusta.
Joe Kershaw June 20, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Olga - you caught that one before I did. I still believe there is nothing like 100% Colombian coffee from Colombia. Best in the world.
Olga Swarthout June 20, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I get frustrated with the constant "dumbing down" of food in the USA. Producers and distributors must assume that the average consumer neither knows the difference or deserves better. It seems like grocery shopping is a constant pursuit of real food in the ever increasing supply of "Frankenfood".
Olga Swarthout April 27, 2013 at 04:39 PM
A link to more info for coffee aficionados from NPR-Michigan Radio "Coffee Week" April 22-27 : http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=178007479
Joe Kershaw April 28, 2013 at 12:02 AM
Olga - just took a look at the info in the link. Again great information. Thanks for coming through with such stuff.


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