Inside Your Cup of Coffee

I can’t live without my cup of Joe, but as I read through the book Uncommon Grounds, I find out more and more about this mysterious beverage.

Coffee

Like how a goat herder in Ethiopia discovered it when his goats went missing. He found them jumping around, buzzed off the red coffee berries. Fast forward a few centuries, and we have coffee in every store on the planet. But what exactly is in a cup?

coffee-berry

It all starts with a coffee berry. Too bad what we really want is nestled deep inside. Two seeds surrounded by a silver skin that’s hard to remove.

Acording to Al Rayan, there are many grades of roasting you can get from a bean. (Side note, when Americans first got hold of these beans, we liked them green. Then we’d roast them right before making a cup.)

roasts

The bitterness associated with coffee comes from the roasting. Think about licking a singed hunk of wood. Yeah, not so great.

The bitterness comes from O-caffeoylquinic acids, present in raw coffee beans. A light or medium roast dehydrates the acids to create various lactones and a pleasant bitterness that most coffee lovers adore. Keep roasting, and the lactones break apart to from 4-vinylcatechol, which goes through some more chemical steps to create compounds that give a harsh bitter that lingers on the tongue.

Once roasted, coffee beans can stay fresh for months. Once ground, however, and you have only about two weeks to make your coffee (key here, grind your own). But even after being brewed, the chemistry of coffee changes. Lactones become free acids, dropping the pH from between 5 and 5.2 down to a 4.6. This shifts the acidity from a green bean level to that of a tomato.

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The longer you keep your coffee hot, the more sour and bitter it will taste.

Although many studies have found antioxidant qualities in coffee, you could be canceling these out by adding cream or sugar. A study by a fella named Crozier showed that adding cream to strawberries slowed the absorption of antioxidants. So if you want the best health benefits from java, drink it black.

This fun video shows you some of the more interesting compounds in the aroma of coffee. Check it out.

Happy drinking, and check out my Pinterest collection of all things coffee.

Tim Kane

The Fall of Twinkies a Signal of Armageddon

A tear falls from my eye as I foresee a world with no Twinkies. Forget the Mayan calendar. This is it people. the end is neigh. I mean this was the food Woody Harrelson enjoyed in a zombie filled America. How can I enjoy the little things now?

Zombieland Movie Poster – Redesignby ~ppuntel

In case you haven’t heard, Hostess will close its doors and that means all its tasty snacks, Ding Dongs, Zingers, the whole lot, gone. I survived on this food in college. I mean if you look at the wrapper, a Twinkie doesn’t have that many calories. It was respectable.

What about the Twinkie defense? How will murders secure that not guilty plea with no snack food to blame. This event undermines everything that we call American.

I need to store up on Twinkies. Now.

Tim Kane

Smashing Pumpkins (The Puree Way)

October means pumpkins, not just for carving, but gobbling up in soups, stews, pancakes, and pies. It all starts with a sugar pumpkin. I used to wonder what this was because they aren’t available at pumpkin patches. Search for pie pumpkins (or sugar pumpkins) at the grocery store.

Transforming a pumpkin into puree is not as hard as it looks. Most websites will tell you crank up the oven and toss the pumpkin inside and wait. Yeah, I tried that. One problem, was the waiting. It takes time for the oven to heat up and quite a while for the pumpkin to cook. Worse yet, when I tried this the first time, I decided to add water to the glass pan while it was in the oven (did I mention that it was glass). Yes, shards scattered everywhere: in the oven, on the floor.

I found a better way: Microwave. But let’s start with the slicing and dicing. Cut the pumpkin into quarters and then scoop out all the seeds and gook.

Make sure you place the pumpkin pieces into a microwave safe container. The secret here is the water. Just enough to come up to the pulpy part of the pumpkin. You’re basically steaming the pumpkin.

Cover up the bowl (allowing a little space for super heated air to vent) and microwave for 10-15 minutes. With this pumpkin, 15 minutes was the magic number. You know you’re done when a fork goes straight through.

Careful, when the pumpkin is cooked, it is crazy hot. Further proof that you’re on the right track is when the rind pulls easily away from the pulp.

Now it’s time to puree. If you don’t have a food processor, don’t sweat it. Get a potato masher and go to town. For the food processor, you may find that the pulp is too thick to spin. It just sits there like a slug. Try adding up to a half a cup of water.

You’ll only need two cups to make a pumpkin pie (recipe in the next post).

The rest you can save for pancakes, muffins, heck, I even added some to pasta sauce. It’s fall, go crazy.

Tim Kane

View of Rain and Cheese

My wife and I celebrated Valentine’s day early. We both hate crowds. As we nibbled on amazing French cuisine, I noticed two things.

Firstly, about me. I’m a foodie. At least I try to be. When I eat out with my wife, I sample new foods. A few months back, with a gift certificate to Olive Garden, I tried mussels for the first time. I liked it. So for my Valentine’s day feast, I had mussels and fries (a north French staple). Delish.

I will also go umami over sweet every time. We opted for the cheese plate for dessert. Not disappointed. Though there was a slice of fig and a hunk of honey comb to sweeten things up.

Finally, I’d like to point out how everyone was seated. This was a Saturday night at prime dining time. My wife and I were seated in the couples section. I scanned left and right. Every guy sat with a view out the window and the rain washed streets. Every girl faced inward, with a view of her man. Me? The same. Is is an unconscious decision? Has this happened to you?

Tim Kane