How to cure obsessive coffee disorder (OCD)

This is a story about love, loss and a magnificent obsession. It is not for the faint-hearted, nor those easily moved to tears. If you can handle it, read on: a couple of weeks ago my five-star, super-duper, hyper-magnificent Gaggia espresso machine blew its last fuse, melted its last gasket and went to its final resting place in the rubbish bin.
Issue Date: 30 March 2007

There are those among us who wrongly believe that tea is the only drink available to the discerning drinker. These people are deluded and need to be shown the way to truth. This takes the form of coffee, a drink so complex, so subtle, so uncompromising in its salutary effect on a sluggish nervous system that once tasted, you will never let it go. While this is beginning to sound like a pitch from a crack dealer, never forget for a moment that coffee is the world’s best-selling legal drug, if we assume for the moment that a drug is a chemical that alters and enhances consciousness. So much for the hard sell.

The big issue is simply this: how can each and every one of us create a cup of coffee not only equal but often superior to the expensive stuff available in boutique coffee shops? The answer is to begin with the bean. To misquote that great country and western singer Hank Williams, a good bean like a good woman, is hard to find.

While there is no shortage of expensive coffee beans available, some with famous logos, others packed in nitrogen canisters, the best beans are invariably those that have been freshly roasted. But what about the cultivar I hear you say? In the first instance, an arabica is better than a robusta. Next, and my personal prejudices are being unpacked as you read this, East African coffees are the best, followed by South American and followed by the products of Asian estates.  Among varieties, I have a passion for Ethiopian beans of which several outstanding varieties exist.

If you are lucky enough to get green beans from your dealer, you can of course roast these fresh each time you make a cup. this may add a good half hour to the coffee-making moment, the effect is so startling that you may never go back to pre-roasted beans again.

There’s a bit of an art to this, as in all arcane culinary processes. I cover the bottom of a heavy frying pan with one layer of green beans, place it on the hob and watch very carefully as the colour changes. Then I flip them over and let the other sides darken.

From here the hot beans go into my grinder and from there into the hopper of a stove-top coffee-maker. I shove this on the hob and within minutes superheated water is blasted through the coffee, resulting in a rich, dark, aromatic brew so perfect neither milk, cream nor sugar are required.

What a blast. – David Basckin

For more details on coffee and the various ways to make it, visit www.coffeegeek.com, or obtain your Ethiopian coffee beans from Peter Winter at the Bean Green Coffee Company on 083 325 3218. |fw