I’m by no means a coffee aficionado, however, I do understand the last dregs of dark roast poured from a dispenser labeled: French Vanilla, is “swill” compared to the craft-coffee served up by more reputable roasters. Regardless, when the post-lunch fatigue sets in during the average workday, I’ll gladly down anything with a caffeine content high enough to jolt me from my 2 p.m. stupor.
I have a few friends whose standard of what constitutes “real” coffee far surpass my own. Their kitchens are outfitted with sleek, Italian-engineered espresso machines and every coffee oriented accessory on the market, ranging from the basic to the obscure. Over the years I’ve picked up on some of their fundamental tips and tricks. Here are a few of my favourite coffee hacks to help improve your daily grind (pun intended), and elevate your average cup of jo.
Kick Back A Minute And Let It Cool – Tepid coffee is the stuff of nightmares and ranks high on my list of “Oh, Hell No’s”, along with previews of the movie IT and soggy bowls of cereal. As it turns out though, coffee served scalding hot can taste bitterer, whereas coffee that has cooled, even slightly, is more tempered in terms of acidity. Letting your coffee cool not only spares your taste buds from being burnt, it allows the subtle nuances of your brew to develop and more complex flavours to emerge. Next time you make a pot of coffee let it sit for a minute. Pass the time by checking your email, watching the news, or clenching your teeth as you white knuckle the counter top and count the seconds until you can down a cup of liquid sanity.
Before Pouring, Rinse Your Mug With Warm Water – This next bit of advice will forever stay with me after a scornful reaction from a friend who regarded my hot-coffee-in-cool-mug technique with a degree of judgment usually reserved for those lawless folk who drink straight from the milk container. Rinsing your cup or to-go mug in warm water before adding your coffee helps keep your java hotter for longer. My friend’s disdainful expression coupled with the fact that this tip does make a difference (and takes all of two seconds to do), has made it part of my daily coffee-prep routine.
Don’t Be A Psychopath (Or Suffer From High Acidity) – If you suffer from acidity, adding milk to your coffee can help neutralize the high pH level of your roast. If milk doesn’t strike your fancy or you’re lactose intolerant, opt for a splash of almond, cashew or coconut milk. On an unrelated, but intriguing note, a recent study published in the journal Appetite found a correlation between the preference of bitter flavors and antisocial personality traits. Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 adults, asking them to give their preferences when it came to food and flavours like sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Participants then took a series of personality tests to assess their personality traits, focusing on antisocial traits such as sadism, narcissism and psychopathy. Participants who were partial to bitter-tasting beverages and foods, including: black coffee, radishes, celery, tonic water and gin, were reportedly more likely to exhibit antisocial traits. Unfortunately, I’m 4 for 5 already, so do insist on adding a splash of milk to my morning java, in part to temper its acidity, but also to prove that I don’t have the mental proclivity of a sociopath.
Make Ice Cubes Out Of Coffee, Not Water – Don’t let melting cubes dilute and compromise the otherwise robust flavours of your blend. A friend of mine recommended making a pot of coffee, letting it cool, then pouring the liquid into ice cube trays to be frozen. You can add these coffee cubes to future batches of cold brew without watering down the taste. Alternately, you can freeze cubes of milk with a touch of sweetener.
Lovingly Curate A Kick Ass Mug Collection – I used to regard people who stacked their cabinets high with a haphazard assortment of mugs as some mild breed of hoarder. In retrospect, their arbitrary collection of coffee cups actually represented a meaningful narrative. Each time they went to use one, they channeled fond memories of experiences past. I know, I know – I’m pouring a cup of the warm and fuzzy and asking you to down it without gagging on the sentimental aftertaste, but bear with me a moment. When I travel somewhere new, I snag a mug that strikes my fancy – a pastime that has grown into an eclectic collection of mugs, which I’ve lovingly curated. It may sound hokey, but when I’m curled up on my couch on a Saturday morning, drinking from my favourite cup, I do feel a satisfying sense of nostalgia. It’s a small, but impactful thing that fills me with good vibes and sets a positive tone for the day ahead. There may be some research based study to back this sentiment up, but for the purposes of this post, I’m more inclined to have it ride on pure, unsubstantiated feeling.
Keep Your Coffee Stuff Clean – Don’t let your coffee mugs get gruddy. Is gruddy a word? Likely not, but I feel that it accurately sums up the disgusting, caked-on-crap that plagues mugs like some sweeping stain epidemic. Enter baking soda. Mix it with water and scrub your mugs with a rough sponge to make them glisten with renewed vitality. When the oils from beans get rancid inside your grinder or machine, or sediment from water builds up inside your machines, you’re going to start tasting something funky. And I don’t mean “funky” in an appealing Sly and the Family Stone kind of way – I mean funky in the unappealing aftertaste kind of way. It’s recommended that you clean thermoses and stainless steel travel mugs with baking soda, white vinegar, and a bristled brush. You can clean auto-drip machines by running a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water through the brewing process, then repeating this step with plain water. You can clean your coffee grinder regularly with a brush and every once in a while, grind up white rice to absorb the residual oils. My reliable source for these recommendations is a guy named Gary, who makes a mean cup of coffee that never tastes funky. Therefore, Gary is a credible source in my books.
Reduce Bitterness With A Pinch Of Salt – If you find your blend a bit too bitter, adding a pinch of salt before steeping your coffee grounds in water will help reduce the acidity of your brew.
For Something Different, Add A New Flavour – If you’re finding your morning cuppa a little too humdrum, adding a bit of cinnamon to your grounds can breathe new life into your brew. If cinnamon doesn’t meet your palette’s fancy then try adding cloves, nutmeg or cardamom, to infuse your coffee with a pinch of the exotic.
I hope you fellow caffeine addicts found this list of coffee hacks useful and that you will test out one or two to help elevate your daily brew!