Friday, January 09, 2009

Nerdness and Coffee and Combining the Two

The members of the consultancy firm my mom is part of, Brain Trust Inc., was having a roundtable discussion when the topic of coffee was brought up. One of my mom's epicurian friends said that officials of Cafe Puro told him the secret of preparing the best cup of instant coffee.

Step 1. Heat the water to boiling.
Step 2. Put two teaspoons of coffee in a mug.
Step 3. Pour a small amount of water INTO the coffee and not the other way around. Add sugar (if you wish) and mix into a slurry.
Step 4. Add the rest of the hot water.
Step 5. Add milk or creamer.
Step 6. Add other flavorings (cinnamon, choco powder, etc.)

By this time I was already aware of this process. I even wrote a vignette describing the preparation of the "ideal cup". What struck me was the question "Why does it taste better if you put the water into the coffee?"

On the trip back, my mind was mulling over possible theories and here is the most sensible one:

From what I know, instant coffee does not dissolve, per se. Parts of the coffee are "leached", meaning a chemical reaction occurs between the coffee grains and the water. So, instant coffee is actually the product of the leaching process PLUS the inert parts of the coffee that were dissolved by the hot water. If I understand this correctly, these dissolved parts are not desirable. If we put the coffee into the water, the rate of dissolution competes with the leaching process. The full flavor of the coffee is therefore not realized. On the other hand, if there is a lot of coffee and a little water, I imagine that, somehow, dissolution is minimized while leaching is maximized, thus making a better cup of coffee.

So there. x_x Yes. I'm thinking too much about this. Going back to PIC model and shape factors now...

TRIVIA: The volatile parts of your coffee are continuously lost to the atmosphere. Coffee beans lose these flavorful oils at a lower rate simply because coffee beans have a lower surface area than coffee ground of the same mass. Therefore, when buying coffee, it is good to check the date when the coffee beans were packed. Also, it is not advised to have your coffee beans ground if you don't plan on drinking it within the day.

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