Two of life’s most satisfying libations- a great glass of wine and a freshly brewed cup of coffee. One of my pet peeves is the poor quality, or improperly made, coffee I have endured over 45 years of eating in restaurants. I remember the quality and freshness of the food and the selection and pricing of the wine service. The last impression I have of the restaurant is the coffee service, good or bad.
Coffee and wine tasting terminology are very similar. Estate coffee is sold in whole bean form as opposed to supermarket brands sold in cans or jars. Flavor, acidity and body are the three fundamental tasting terms. Flavor is the total impression of aroma (the odor or fragrance of the brewed coffee); acidity is the brisk, snappy quality that makes it refreshing; body is the weight of the coffee in the mouth.
Bitterness is perceived at the back of the tongue, often the result of too little coffee, or too fine a grain. Earthy describes the earth or spiciness of certain coffees. Mellow means well-balanced coffee of low to medium acidity. Mild denotes a coffee with harmonious, delicate flavor. Strong is often the assertive flavor of dark-roasted beans. Sweet means smooth, palatable coffee, free from defects and harsh flavors. Winey is a desirable flavor reminiscent of fine red wine.
Other similarities with wine abound. Coffee bearing trees are at their prime at 7 or 8 years. The annual yield is only about one pound of roasted coffee per tree (4,000 or so beans make up a pound of coffee). Production of quality coffee is similar in complexity and detail to a world-class wine. Mountain grown coffee is better than low valley grown. Altitude is very important. Coffee beans ripen at different times and are picked separately. Farmers are paid extra for smaller yields; many beans are hand picked. Consistency is important in picking coffee beans. Like wine grapes, coffee gets much of its flavor from the specific growing conditions and preparation methods of each producing region, which may vary from season to season. Ultimately, the finest coffee is bought on the basis of flavor and taste, the same as wine.
America’s Number 1 coffee myth-If you grind finer, you can use less coffee per pot. Grinding too fine extracts the bitter tasting components of the coffee. The magic formula-Two level tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water. How to make a perfect cup of coffee-1- Boiling causes bitterness. Brew, don’t boil your coffee at 195-205 degrees.2- don’t reheat the coffee; make it fresh.3- Use freshly drawn tap water. Water is 98% of every cup of coffee.4- don’t reuse the grounds; they are bitter. 5- Use the correct grind for your coffeemaker; too fine, it is bitter; too coarse, it is watery. For drip brewers, the best grind should allow the coffee to finish dripping in 2 to 4 minutes.6- Coffee can be kept warm for only about 20 minutes before the flavor becomes unpleasant. Use a vacuum server to keep it fresh.
There is no romance, deal, friendship, case, project, problem or crisis that has not been discussed over a cup of coffee, in the movies as well as in real life.
Ron is a Professor at the International School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University where he built the Ron Kapon Wine Library. He also teaches at Hudson County Community College's Culinary Center. You can read Ron in Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Tasters Guild Journal, Wine Country Intern. Mag, Real Travel Adventures, Allways Traveller, The Fifty Best, NATJA, Fab Senior Travel, Nightlife Magazine, Resident Magazine, Travel Writers Assoc. & Local Wine Events