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Brewing Great Coffee

There are lots of different gourmet coffees, flavorings, and machines you can buy, but you can improve your coffee in a big way by simply changing how you brew.

Make instant coffees can taste and smell just like the real thing: the secret is to cover the cup or mug with a saucer after you've added the hot water and let the brew steep for a full minute. Sealing in the aroma as your coffee steeps will give it a fuller flavor.

If you drink decaffeinated coffee or you're trying to switch off caffeinated, try one of the coffee substitutes on the market. They are made from roasted grains, nuts, chicory, or dandelion root. You can mellow their taste by adding a vanilla bean to the grounds.

You can stretch a pound (450 g) of coffee by adding 3/8 cup (3 oz or 85 g) of roasted chicory; it increases the yield by about ten cups. It's a little bitter, and if the pleasant bitterness of chicory suits your taste, add still more—up to 1 cup (8 oz or 225g).

Don't have a coffee pot on hand? Try these alternatives:

  • Line a funnel or a strainer with a coffee filter paper (a white paper napkin or a double thickness of paper towel or muslin will do if you don't have a filter). Spoon in 2 level tablespoons of finely ground coffee for every 3/4 cup (6 fl oz or 175 ml) of water, then set the funnel or strainer over a heatproof container and pour the boiling water through.
  • Use a jug or saucepan. First warm it with hot water and empty it; then spoon in the measured coffee. Pour in freshly boiled water, stir, cover, and allow to steep for about four minutes. Allow the grounds to settle, and strain through a fine tea strainer.

If your coffee has been warming on your automatic coffee maker for over an hour, chances are it will taste less than fresh. But don't throw it out! All you need to do to freshen up your coffee is toss in a pinch of salt to improve the flavor and neutralize the bitterness.

Have you ever thought to freeze very strong leftover coffee in ice cube trays? Then when you want a cup, you can put a couple of cubes in a mug, top off with water, and heat in a microwave without brewing any new grinds.

Make Turkish coffee when you need a change:

  1. Heat 3/4 cup water in a saucepan until lukewarm.
  2. Add 2 heaped tablespoons of coffee and 1 tablespoon of sugar (grind the coffee beans to a very fine powder—mocha is a good choice).
  3. Stir thoroughly, then heat the coffee until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan.
  4. Remove from heat and leave to settle for a few minutes.
  5. Heat again until froth forms on the surface. Do not boil.
  6. Serve immediately.

Makes four small cups.

 

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