Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Coffee is one thing I'm pretty snobby about. I find I enact the same philosophy with coffee as I do with bed linens, I'm going to use them every night, so they better be good. Most of the time, I could care less if I'm drinking a $4 or $40 bottle of wine, but I almost always care about what kind of coffee I'm drinking. That's why I was very excited to participate in a coffee cupping with Peet's coffee last week.
Peet's coffee is based on the West coast, and has had a healthy mail order business to supply their excellent coffee to those of us who live too far away to visit one of their retail stores. However, my invite to this particular cupping coincided with the release of Peet's Coffee into ACME supermarkets in the Philadelphia region. I met with a coffee educator named Erica Hess, who taught me how to correctly French press coffee and answered all the questions I could muster about coffee growing, roasting, storage, and brewing technique. Above are samples of the brews I had the pleasure to sample (Colombian, Major Dickason's Blend, Panama Esmeralda (unroasted) and Panama Esmeralda (Roasted). Most importantly, Peet's coffee is obsessed with freshness. Every package that you'll find in a local Genuardi's or ACME is guaranteed to have been shipped to the store within 24 hours of being roasted and to remain there for only 90 days.
When using a French Press to brew coffee, it's important not to grind the roasted beans too finely. If you over-grind, the grounds will pass through the filter and you'll have gritty coffee.
Some things I was surprised to learn:
1. Use 2 heaping tablespoons of ground coffee per 6oz of hot water. For a 32oz French Press such as the one pictured, you should use approximately 10 tablespoons of medium ground coffee.
2. After the your water has come to a boil, let it sit a minute before pouring the hot water over the coffee grounds. Boiling water can actually scorch coffee, so by letting it sit for 30 seconds to a minute off heat will bring the temperature of the water down by just enough to prevent burning.
3. Start timing 3 minutes from when you initially pour the water over the coffee grounds. Less time will give you weak coffee, more time may over-extract from the beans.
4. Pour half the water in the French Press and let the coffee "bloom" as you swirl carefully with your hands or with a spoon. Erica Hess explained that coffee is very gassy and letting it expanded or "bloom" before pouring the full amount of water gives it room to let excess gases to escape.
5. After you've poured in all the hot water, press steadily and evenly, but only half way down with the plunger. Wait for the three minutes to pass, and then press the plunger as far as it will go.
By following these steps you'll be rewarded with a rich and flavorful cup of coffee with just a touch of extra effort.
Prior to this educational experience I could have only told you that I liked certain coffees a great deal and others I was less impressed with. It wasn't until I sat down and tasted numerous coffees side by side could I really piece out distinct flavors and notes. While I'm still no expert, I definitely have a broader understanding of the nuances between beans grown on different continents and roasted to different degrees.
I also had the immense pleasure of meeting Eric Hales, the Four Seasons Executive Pastry Chef, who created some special dessert pairings for the coffees I sampled that afternoon. Starting at the top is a triangular Tiramisu, to the right is an almond cake with pear jelly, in front is a chocolate cake with figs and honey and finally to the left is a croissant bread pudding with white chocolate shavings. All were delicious, but the bread pudding was my favorite and paired very well with the Major Dickason's Blend.
Check out Fork You's video episode of the Peet's coffee tasting.
A local Inquirer writer also covered the cupping. Read about it here.
Look for Peet's coffee in an ACME or Genuardi's near you!