THE GOCHISO GOURMET: That mornin’ cuppa Joe

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALThere’s one beverage I consume almost every morning. No, it’s not a glass of Champagne, wine or even a Negroni, as someone still pays me to show up 40 hours a week, and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage is seriously frowned upon. It’s that brewed beverage that was first consumed as we know it around the mid-15th century in what is now modern-day Yemen, and by the 16th century had spread throughout the rest of the Middle East, Africa and Europe. It’s the brew that made Starbucks a worldwide corporation, all from a simple cuppa Joe.

My Morning Ritual

I got into the habit of a morning cup of coffee while attending graduate school in the Bay Area. Back then, I simply had a coffee funnel that could perfectly accommodate a #4 size coffee filter, added two scoops of ground coffee and did that bob-and-drop thing with the hot water. The single hole in the bottom of the funnel allowed a longer interaction between the coffee grounds and hot water. Then about two years into graduate school, my girlfriend at the time (currently known as Ms. S), got me a Krups espresso maker for my birthday, so the last two years of graduate school started with a double espresso.

Upon graduation, I returned to the coffee funnel, reserving the espresso maker for weekends. But at some point, I found the Black and Decker Brew N Go machine that brewed just one cup of coffee and automatically shut off once all of the hot water had dripped over the coffee grounds. It used standard coffee filters so you didn’t feel guilty polluting the environment with used “pods.” But about a year ago, I changed my morning routine yet one more time. You see, I have what’s known as a “cat’s tongue” — I can’t consume any food or beverage that’s scalding hot. So, any brewed coffee needs to sit a while before I can even attempt to drink it. But with cold brewed coffee, I don’t need to wait anymore. I can simply pour and drink. So now, every Saturday morning I add 1 1/3 cups of ground coffee to 45 ounces of very hot (I cheat as true cold brewed coffee takes one to two days using cold water) water, then filter everything into a 40-ounce flask, which gives me eight ounces of cold brew every workday. I still make a hot brew on the weekends, pouring microwaved water just below the boiling temperature onto two heaping scoops of fine ground coffee through my AeroPress, which also uses filters versus pods. I simply add two to three ice cubes to the finished brew for immediate consumption. Both cold brewing and the AeroPress supposedly reduce the number of bitter compounds that are released in the final brew, but since I don’t mind any residual bitterness, I still use my abbreviated version of “cold” brewing with hot water.

Supporting Local

Since I reside in the 50th, I’m sure you assume I’m talking about Coffea arabica, which is cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. The combination of sunny mornings, overcast afternoons and mild evenings, with very little wind, plus porous, mineral rich volcanic soil produces the legendary Kona coffee. It’s ethereal when properly brewed and just a little less in cost than the fabled Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica. But no, when I speak of supporting local, it’s simply purchasing the locally roasted Lion Coffee, which often goes on sale at our local Longs/CVS stores for $8.99 for a 24-ounce bag. You see, pure Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is all about finesse. It’s for consumers who heat their filtered water between 195 to 205 degrees, then properly add just enough water to form the proper drip. These are probably the same consumers who brew their tea at 160 to 212 degrees for just three to five minutes. Me, I let my teabags sit in the water until the brew is cool to extract every last flavor molecule — sometimes I even brew a second cup from the same teabag. It’s the same for coffee, I simply like my cuppa Joe strong, dark and black.

The Ideal Cup

Many people feel that the ideal cup of coffee is created when you brew beans that were just ground, which is why you’ll find as many bags of whole coffee beans on supermarket shelves as pre-ground coffee. Actually, the freshness meter starts ticking as soon as coffee beans are roasted, which is well before you’ll find them on any supermarket shelf, including your favorite barista’s workplace.

One of Ms. S’ former co-workers was a foodie well before foodie was a catchword. He used to smuggle prosciutto back to Hawai‘i well before the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed the legal import of that luscious ham from Parma. He also had gadgets for coffee roasting and brewing in his kitchen that would put Starbucks to shame. He always purchased raw green coffee beans that he roasted just as dinner began, then once the roasting peaked — usually just as the entrees were finished, he would throw the freshly roasted beans in a coffee grinder about the size of a large blender. Just as dessert was being served, he would brew the freshly roasted and ground beans to serve with dessert. His coffee gadgets alone took up about six feet of kitchen counter space, but I will admit, it did produce the best cuppa Joe I’ve ever sampled.

Therefore, after visiting a friend whose parents lived on the Big Island on the slopes of Hualalai, I attempted to create my own fresh cuppa Joe from start to finish. When they purchased the property, it included about an acre planted with coffee trees. They intended on uprooting the coffee plants in favor of tomatoes, so I harvested a full Ziploc bag of ripe, red coffee “cherries.” After squeezing the beans out of their fleshy, outer covering, I dried the green beans in the sun for several days. Once they were fully dried, I had to crack the dried outer membrane that surrounds each bean to expose just the raw, green coffee bean. I then “roasted” my harvested beans in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, which took about 30 minutes of constant tossing as coffee beans can easily burn if they aren’t constantly tossed, and once the beans burn, there’s no going back. Once they were shiny from the released oils and very fragrant, I immediately ground the beans to a medium fine consistently then brewed with the pour-and-bob method. Delicious but quite a lot of work especially for just about three-fourths of a cup of ground coffee. That’s why I continue to purchase Lion Coffee on sale.

More Than Just Your Morning Stimulant

Since we’re in the midst of summer where Stateside residents finally get to bring those barbecue grills out of hibernation (grills never go into hibernation in the 50th), I’ve included a coffee rub you can use to spice up any protein that happens to go in the smoker or on the grill and a double coffee infused BBQ sauce:

Coffee Rub

Smoked Chicken Breast with Coffee Rub. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

3 tablespoons instant coffee ground to a fine powder

2 tablespoons smoked salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

2 tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ancho powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

Mix all ingredients then store in the refrigerator.

Coffee Bourbon BBQ Sauce

1 can (8oz) tomato sauce

1 can (6oz) tomato paste

1 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup dark molasses

1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons ancho powder

2 teaspoons mustard powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon smoked salt

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1/4 cup bourbon

In a saucepan on medium heat, stir together the tomato sauce, paste and the rest of the liquids until thoroughly combined. You can add the bourbon now just for that hint of bourbon or at the end for a stronger whisky flavor.

Stir in the dried spices then simmer over medium-low heat until the mixture slightly thickens, stirring often to prevent burning. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes then cool. Place in a squeeze bottle and refrigerate.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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