COFFEE 101

Whenever I meet someone, the first thing that usually comes out of their mouth is, “You’re the girl that made me coffee that time.” And as long as that statement is followed by, “It was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had,” I am a happy girl. I had 6 years of coffee-slinging under my belt before laying down the steam wand and picking up a sewing needle, so I’ve learned a few things about this “black gold” that so many find themselves indulging in on a daily basis.

People that love coffee tend to be among my favorite people – kindred spirits, of sorts. Benjamin Franklin stated that, “Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” I’m one of those that not only loves coffee as a hot beverage, but I also love the entire ritual of it all; it’s more than just a drink, it’s an experience: the selection of the perfect coffee bean, the method you utilize to brew, and your additions or tweaks that make your coffee the perfect enhancement to a normal day. I may even enjoy making coffee more than I like drinking it.

As with everything in life, a good finished product starts with a strong foundation. You should feel free to experiment as long as you follow basic rules. I am a firm believer that anything you do should be done carefully, with love and attention to details; it should also enhance the spirit of you and yours. Whether you’re making coffee for yourself or someone else, you want the outcome to be worth the time and effort. The coffee we brew at Alabama Chanin is from Higher Grounds Trading Company, an amazing Alabama-based company that does so much more than just roast coffee. They are committed to providing the best coffee through the most sustainable practices, while forwarding up to 10% of profits back to various non-profit organizations. We usually brew the Appalachian Trail Blend, that benefits the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and management of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a nice dark roast that is very versatile, whether you are making a regular pot of coffee, French press, or espresso beverage. After careful bean selection, I also pay close attention to cup choice when pouring my cup of coffee. I usually reach for a drinking glass paired with an Alabama Chanin coffee cozy when preparing the perfect latte or cappuccino.

Here in the studio, we all have our standard, everyday (well almost every day) coffee rituals. Erin loves a good strong cup of black coffee, Natalie enjoys an unsweetened cappuccino, Butch likes sugar in his cappuccino, and June likes to mix it up. My personal favorite way to drink coffee is with a nice, fresh French press, mandatory on a lazy Sunday morning and a special treat during the work week. I also like to have a fresh pot of coffee ready to offer the guests that come and go at Alabama Chanin during the day. If you ever visit our studio, you will certainly be offered one of my specialty cappuccinos.

In the months to come, I will explore some unique ways to consume coffee. It will be like a monthly tea party, just with coffee. Most importantly, I want to express to you how much I take pleasure in the preparation of something so simple and seeing people smile when I hand them something that I enjoy. I also look forward to sharing some basic coffee knowledge that you may or may not be familiar with.

If you are a coffee lover or just a novice, you should own a French press. It brews a nice, full-bodied cup of coffee that warms my soul and brings me much joy.

FRENCH PRESS

To start, there are three things you need to make a French pressed coffee: water, coffee and a French press. Bottled spring water is by far the best water for brewing any type of coffee. I use fresh, course ground coffee, although I tend to set my grinder a bit finer than what is called for. (Like I said, never be afraid of experimenting.)

The Method:

-Heat your water (you may want to heat a bit extra to pour into your coffee mug to preheat it)

-Use 1/2 cup of freshly ground coffee and place in an 8 cup (large size) French press.

-Just before boiling is reached remove water from heat, start the timer, and pour over the grounds.

-Stir, and watch your coffee grinds bloom (one of my favorite parts!). This is where you watch that nice thick cremadevelop on top of your brew.

-Wait 4 minutes.

-Stir your coffee mixture once again before pressing down the plunger on the French press.

-Press gently, or else you may have a mess on your hands. Once the plunger reaches the bottom, it is recommended that the brewed coffee be removed immediately to stop the brewing process. If the coffee remains in the press it will continue to extract and cause huge variations between cups.

-And you’ve done it! At this point, depending on the roast, I like to add just a touch of heavy whipping cream or half and half, and a sprinkle of raw sugar. Simplistic luxury, yes?

Don’t forget to save your grinds for your garden or your next fabric dying adventure!

-Olivia

** The coffee illustration was created for our local coffee shop by my good friend, Drew Botts. It simply explains the basics.

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6 thoughts on “COFFEE 101

  1. jonn

    Olivia your enthusiam and caring was evident when you served me a cup of your special cappuccino and throughout my visit at the workshop – a thoughful gesture from a thoughtful person – i look forward to seeing all of you again in the fall

    Reply
  2. Tina Leigh

    My husband & I only started drinking coffee about 3 years ago (at 37 and 32) and now we know what it is all about. I think we enjoy making it as much as we do drinking it. We got an espresso machine from my inlaws that was never used and my husband brews up espresso that can rival our local coffee shop. Who knew?? Thanks for this article. I could not agree more. We will have to pick up some local coffee the next we are in Florence. My mother in law is from there originally and most of her family is still there.

    Reply

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