Perfect Coffee - Outdoor Skills
Perfect Coffee - Outdoor Skills
To make perfect coffee, just two ingredients are necessary, and only two. These are water and coffee. It is owing to the bad management of the latter that we drink poor coffee.
There are establishments all over the country that make a business of browning the berry, and sending . it out in barrels to the retail grocer. It is all browned too lightly, and, kept loosely in barrels or boxes, it loses what little aroma it ever had, in a few days. We allow the grocer to run it on us, because it saves so much bother, this having our coffee ready browned and ground to our hands. But it is not the way to have good coffee. This can only be had by using the fresh browned, fresh ground berry, and plenty of it; and it must not be of a light brown, as often recommended. To brown it rightly, put a pound of the green berry into a large spider over a hot fire, and stir it constantly until it turns very dark, with a greasy appearance on the surface of the berry. Put it in a tight can at once, if intended for home use, and grind as wanted. If intended for the woods, grind it while hot, and can it tightly.
As for the best berry, Mocha is generally conceded first place, with Java a close second. It is the fashion at present to mix the two in proportions to suit, some taking two parts Java to one of Mocha, others reversing these proportions. Either way is good, or the Mocha is quite as good alone. But there is a better berry than either for the genuine coffee toper. This is the small, dark green berry that comes to market under the generic name of Rio, that name covering half a dozen grades of coffee raised in different provinces of Brazil, throughout a country extending north and south for more than 1,200 miles. The berry alluded to is produced along the range of high hills to the westward of Bahia, and extending north toward the Parnahiba. It has never arrested attention as a distinct grade of the article, but it contains more coffee or caffeine to the pound than any berry known to commerce. It is the smallest, heaviest and darkest green of any coffee that comes to our market from Brazil, and may be known by these traits. I have tested it in the land where it is grown, and also at home, for the past sixteen years, and I place it at the head of the list, with Mocha next. Either will make perfect coffee, if treated as follows: Of the berry, browned and ground, as before directed, take six heaping tablespoonfuls, and add three pints of cold water; place the kettle over the fire and bring to a sharp boil; set it a little aside where it will bubble and simmer until wanted, and just before pouring, drip in a half gill of cold water to settle it. That is all there is of it. The quantity of berry is about twice as much as useable given in recipes; but if you want coffee, you had better add two spoonfuls than cut off one.
In 1867, and again in 1870, I had occasion to visit the West India Islands and Brazil. In common with most coffee topers, I had heard much of the super excellence ascribed to "West India coffee" and "Brazilian coffee.' I concluded to investigate. I had rooms at the Hotel d'Europe, Para, North Erazil. There were six of us, English and American boarders. Every morning, before we were out of our hammocks, a barefooted, half naked Mina negress came around and served each of us with a small cup of strong, black coffee, and sugar ad libitum. There was not enough of it for a drink; it was rather in the nature of a medicine, and so intended—"To kill the biscos," they said. The coffee was above criticism.
I went, in the dark of a tropical morning, with Senor Joao, to the coffee factory where they browned the berry, and saw him buy a pound, smoking hot, for which he paid twenty-five cents, or quite as much as it would cost in New York. In ten minutes the coffee was at the hotel, and ground. This is the way they brewed it: A round-bottomed kettle was sitting on the brick range, with a half gallon of boiling water in it. Over the kettle a square piece of white flannel was suspended, caught up at the corners like a dip net. In this the coffee was placed, and a small darky put in his time steadily with a soup ladle, dipping the boiling water from the kettle and pouring it on the coffee. There was a constant stream percolating through coffee and cloth, which, in the course of half an hour, became almost black, and clear as brandy. This was "Brazilian coffee." As the cups used were very small, and as none but the Northerners drank more than one cup, I found that the hotel did not use over two quarts of coffee each morning. It struck me that a pound of fresh Rio coffee berry ought to make a half gallon of rather powerful coffee.
On my arrival horns—not having any small darky or any convenient arrangement for the dip net—I had a sack made of light, white flannel, holding about one pint. Into this I put one-quarter pound of freshly ground berry, with water enough for five large cups. It was boiled thoroughly, and proved just as good as the Brazilian article, but too strong for any of the family except the writer. Those who have a fancy for clear, strong 'Brazilian coffee," will see how easily and simply it can be made.
Sears, George Washington. Woodcraft. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1884.
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