The Joys of Muddy Coffee

I drink coffee because it is delicious. As a member of the roasting and QC team at Groundswell I get to drink every batch of coffee and take meticulous notes on every subtle difference and flavor nuance. With each roast and cupping session comes another opportunity to unlock flavor and learn more about beauty and mystery of the coffee.

I realize that the relationship most people have with their coffee is much less complicated and as the ice thickens outside of my window and spring feels a lifetime away, I find myself craving the comforts of simple muddy coffee. It is easy to get caught up in tasting notes or pour-over techniques but some of the most pleasurable cups of coffee are the ones that bring warmth or a little lift of caffeine to make shoveling slightly less daunting.

When I am brewing coffee for myself in the winter and not tasting for work I usually use my French Press or moka pot. Both create a deliciously thick and slightly syrupy brew. Without a paper filter, the coffee retains its natural oils giving it a rich buttery texture like biting into hot pudding. Lots of coffee pros prefer filter coffee for its clarity and ability to showcase bright and fruity flavors. But the experience of a coffee is about more than just the sum of its flavors. This morning I’m drinking Nido de Aguila, Mexico on French Press and while I could pick out some cherry or hints of rosewater, I find myself savoring the creamy cocoa butter texture and deep fudge-y sweetness that lingers between sips. It creates a blissful coziness to sink into as the rattle of the radiator sings along with the spinning tires of the car stuck in ice outside.

In my years of making coffee I have thrown away countless undrinkable pour-overs, but I never mess up a French Press. Full immersion techniques like French Press are very forgiving so you don’t need to worry about getting the perfect grind or pouring the water at the precise temperature for the exact amount of time. I usually go with a medium to corse grind at a 15:1 ratio for 4 minutes. But don’t be afraid to try something different, like I said, it's hard to mess up a French Press.

One of my favorite things about making coffee is the ritual of preparations and creating a time and place to sit with something warm before starting the day. A 12 or 16oz brew gives me up to an hour of warmth and contemplation. But sometimes I want something a little bit denser and quicker in the spirit of an afternoon espresso- that’s when I reach for the moka pot. I’ve had my Bialetti 3 cup for more than a decade and it is as consistent and delicious as the day I bought it. Moka pot brewing can be a little trickier than French Press but with the right grind and little attention you can make it easier and more consistent than a real espresso machine. I use a fine grind(finer than drip, more course than espresso) and I pre-boil the water before adding the coffee. I never worry about weighing the coffee or water, I just fill the basket and water chamber, pull it off the heat once you hear it start bubbling and it turns out excellent every time.

I’ve been using the Expedition Blend in my Moka Pot because it makes incredibly syrupy and rich coffee that is perfect complemented by a bit of cream or splash of creme de menthe. The moka pot makes a brew that is about twice as concentrated as a traditional drip method so it is perfect for pouring over ice or to use in baking if you need to pack a lot of coffee flavor into a dough or glaze.

Winter won’t last forever and I know that by the time there are flowers on the trees and boats back in the harbor I’ll want some super fruity natural Ethiopian coffees, but until then I’m looking forward to a few more lazy mornings sipping muddy coffee in my fuzzy slippers.