I am a bit of a snob when it comes to coffee so what I have to say on the subject will undoubtedly rub some people the wrong way as snobbery of any kind tends to piss people off, and rightfully so. That being said, when it comes to coffee, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Filtered automatic coffee pots don’t give you nearly enough flavor (the filter actually traps much of it), the stuff they sell at Tim Horton’s or other “fast food” coffee stops basically amounts to coffee flavored water, and don’t even get me started on Keurig style machines. All of these options produce inferior coffee at inflated prices. You can drink MUCH better quality coffee and save money doing it if you ignore the marketing and are willing to do a little extra work for a good cup of Joe.
When I was 19 I bought my first coffee pot, a Krups Café Duomo, which even at that age was somewhat advanced. It’s a filtered automatic drip coffee pot on one side and a basic espresso machine on the other. Not knowing any better I used totally generic vacuumed packed pre ground coffee from a can for the first few years. Eventually I graduated to the more expensive “grind it yourself in the store” variety of coffee and started keeping it in the freezer. Mind you, this is all still totally the wrong way to go about this but its light years ahead of instant Folders crystals or the bullshit abomination that is a “Keurig” (or similar) proprietary pod machine.
As I got more educated on the mysterious world of the coffee bean I came to find that good coffee is a relatively simple thing and that most machines just get in the way of the exquisite simplicity of a good cup of coffee.
I have toured coffee roasting factories and read the books such as “Coffee: A guide to Buying, Brewing & Enjoying by Kenneth Davids” and basically all you need for good coffee is good clean water, fresh whole locally roasted beans, a grinder and a coffee maker without any kind of paper filter. Ideally you want to interfere as little as possible with the beans and water during the brewing process.
Personally I use a French Press for my morning coffee and a basic stovetop espresso maker. Both of these require a little learning curve at first, getting down the amount of grounds to water ratio and brewing time/strength etc. but the quality of the coffee is so SO SO SO much better. Not only are these items cheaper than a lot of plug in coffee makers, they also use less coffee per cup so you can buy good locally roasted coffee beans without breaking the bank. Sure you might have to boil some water and measure/grind some beans as opposed to pushing a light up button on a plastic machine, but it is well worth the effort.
Laziness is no excuse for drinking crap coffee.
I get the majority of my coffee from Javas at the Market because I have known the proprietor, Joe, for about twenty years, but there are many excellent local coffee roasters to choose from. You should buy your beans one pound at a time and store them in a stainless steel air tight “coffee vault” in your freezer and use a kitchen coffee grinder to grind your beans per pot as needed. Educate yourself to the different types of beans, roasts and regions and don’t be afraid to try them all.
For example “light” roasts have more caffeine and “dark” roasts have less. South American beans are very different from say African beans in terms of flavor and natural oils. Kona Coffee from Hawaii is the only American origin coffee, if you want to buy domestic. This goes on and on and the most interesting thing about coffee, I think, is that given how many people drink it every single day of their lives no two people like it exactly the same way. Each person enjoys coffee in their own specific way; Black, with cream, without, sugar, no sugar, flavored, unflavored etc. The permutations of flavor combination are endless. Everyone has their own idea of “the perfect cup” and I think that good coffee is an affordable luxury. Its something you can treat yourself to and enjoy every day and I find it improves my quality of life on the whole and hopefully your life as well.
“Coffee is a sensual experience as well as a wake-up pill, and if drunk at all, it should be drunk well and deliberately, rather than swilled half cold out of Styrofoam cups.” –Kenneth Davids
Part 5 – Pragueish Flat Apple Tart:
Having a reliable dessert or morning pastry in your cooking repertoire is essential and this tart serves as both. It’s based on a street tart commonly sold in the Prague and is extremely simple to make but looks very impressive when done correctly, almost like a magic trick. It goes great with coffee or tea in the morning or after dinner. It can be sliced in the squares or in long thin strips like biscotti and happens to be a favorite of my mother.
You will need:
1 Apple (large “soft” variety is best)
Cake/Pastry Flour (I like King Arthur brand)
Honey (Local raw is best. I like Davis Honey Buckwheat Blossom, available at the Rochester Public Market)
1 Stick unsalted Butter
NOTE* this recipe can be made gluten free by using a gluten free pie crust.
Melt the stick of butter in a microwave (or stove top). Sift (if you have a sifter) about 1 cup of the flour into a bowl, add in about 2 tbsps of sugar and mix. In the center of the flour create a small well with a spoon and crack in the egg, then add 2 or 3 drops of vanilla extract. Add the melted butter and mix into dough until you can easily form a ball, adding more flour as necessary. Once you have a firm dough ball, refrigerate for about 15 min (or until the butter starts to firm up).
While you wait, preheat your oven to 375⁰F and peel/core then thinly slice the apple so that it can be arranged in overlapping rows.
Remove dough from refrigerator and on a flour dusted surface (like a baking mat or cutting board) roll the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. In the center make two side by side rows of overlapping apple. Drizzle about 3-4 tbsps of honey over the apples, sprinkle about the same amount of sugar (to taste) evenly over the honey and dust with cinnamon. Fold over the edges starting with the long sides so that the center is exposed but the edges of the rows of apple are coved with dough, making sure to firmly seal the four corners.
Transfer the tart to a greased (Crisco) baking pan, nonstick baking aluminum foil or baking mat. On a center rack bake the tart at 375⁰F for about 20-30 min or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about a half hour, then dust the tart with confection sugar.
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J.Nevadomski (also known as Juda) is an accomplished musician and artist from Rochester. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” (which he heads and produces) and is a veteran artist who’s paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers and exhibitions throughout the Rochester area. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. He lives in the NOTA area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.