I’ve done something of a partial experiment on coffee brewing chemistry.
I think we all know that the water used changes foods, drinks, beer making, and more. There are places with horrible drinking water (a place outside Phoenix Arizona comes to mind… very hard water with a dirty rocks flavor…) and they often have bad coffee too. BUT run the water through a purification process and you can get good coffee.
Well, I had some “less than stellar” coffee bought because it was cheap at Bargain Market Discount Grocery (or whatever…) and I was taking my time about getting through it. Along the way, I bought a supply of better coffee (Folgers I think…) that’s leaving faster. I’ve resorted to using the ‘less stellar’ coffee for DIY Mocha. Realize just how “less than stellar” it must be if Folgers beats it… But put it in the Italian stove top mini-pot espresso maker, mixed with excess chocolate & milk, and it’s not bad.
But before I got there, I was trying to choke down a cup one morning and there, on the dresser in front of me, was a salt shaker. Left over from a snack the night before. I remembered folks in my old home town who would put salt in their beer. And I vaguely remembered one guy salting his coffee cup… Just a sprinkle or so, not much.
I gave it a try. Coffee was much improved. A good long sprinkle gave me… salty coffee that was not so good. What I learned from that was that coffee is sensitive to salt, and just a tiny bit can shift the flavor a LOT. BUT, it does improve bad coffee.
This morning, I had a bit of water with bicarbonate of soda left in it (from an unfortunate incident involving taco sauce to excess in chicken quesadillas the night before ;-) This gave me the bright idea of seeing if it would cut back the acidity of coffee in the first cup of the day. Off to the kitchen…
Well, it certainly does. MAYBE there was 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of bicarbonate in the whole cup of water ( not the ‘official’ 6 oz. coffee makers lie cup, and not the 8 ounce actual size of a cup, but the 16 ounce mug of coffee I make first thing, that’s about 15 ounces after the drip grinds drink their fill…) But it DID have a dramatic effect on the coffee.
No bite. No acidity. Damn near no flavor at all to speak of other than a vaguely “coffee was here” reminder.
So, OK, I’m onto something, but it will take a lot more care in the testing to ‘get it right’. I’m probably looking at something like a match head size bit of carbonate in a mug to really cut back the “strength” of it, and about 1/2 that of salt to make it more interesting. We’re talking tiny amounts for significant flavor shifts.
Then there’s that whole ‘tuning it to the particulars of local water and coffee brand’. So no, I’m not able to give a recipe or directions on fixing bad coffee. But I can point a way…
IF the coffee is just too acidic and brash, a little bit of baking soda, barely a touch. If the coffee is a bit dull and also harsh, a little salt can lift it, barely a 1/2 shake. And, IF your local water is alkaline or not that great, it is highly likely that some bottled water or a water filter will improve your morning brew a lot.
So now I’m off to finish my cup of “almost has flavor” coffee and try again using the harsh acidic coffee and a lot less bicarbonate. I’m pretty sure none of this will change the caffeine levels, so I’m likely to end up a bit hyper by the time dinner rolls around ;-)