In praise of a decent cup of coffee

There are those small and reassuringly delightful things in our life, something to look forward to, and it probably isn’t an expensive luxury — for me one of those things is a decent cup of coffee.

Coffee happens to be the perfect writers’ drink (so long as you’re not already too wired), because as well as having that unmistakeable aroma and deliciously bitter taste, it perks you up and recharges your concentration. I can’t think of a better way to see in a winter’s sunrise than with a pleasingly brewed coffee, done just the way you like it.

There are many elements to the perfect coffee: the beans, how they’re roasted, the type of brewing method, and how much attention is paid to brewing it, the cup, and even the space where you drink it. I don’t profess to be a massive coffee snob, I find Sainsbury’s own brand, a general purpose grind (Strength 3), in the silver and red packet makes a lovely ‘everyday’ coffee. Sure, you can get ‘fancy’ specialist coffee, perhaps with an intriguing liquorice flavour, or whatever, but you, most likely, won’t want to have this as your ordinary breakfast coffee.

I’ve even enjoyed decaffeinated ground coffee (decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Method usually works out best, because it doesn’t have that odd slightly ‘chemical’ aftertaste). Yes, you do lose something in the flavour department with decaffeinated coffee, but if you don’t want caffeine it’s your only option.

Anyway, back to the production method — there are many. There’s no perfect method. A coffee filter dripper, sometimes called pour-over (preferably using a porcelain Melitta cone, if you’re going to be fussy) with Melitta filters. This method uses gravity to decide the strength of your coffee so you can never really ‘over-brew’ it. Another benefit is that the filter paper reputedly captures the fats, which are, apparently, high in cholesterol. The filter coffee method is a sound technique — just remember to pre-heat the ceramic dripper before you put the filter in, and pre-head your coffee cup.

The cafetière has bounced back in my esteem as my preferred coffee brewing method, it’s easy and reliably produces a consistently robust brew. Personally, I avoid expensive coffee machines, the ones with ‘pod’ (coffee tea-bags) and the like. Some people might have to have an espresso machine at home, but for me coffee is a simple pleasure, and it doesn’t get any better by over-complicating it.

I’m not keen on brewing coffee in the pot and pouring it into a cup Greek style (it requires an extra fine grind to work), and I’ve never been into the Italian stovetop coffee makers. I have had excellent coffee from them — as well as coffee that tastes like it’s gone through someone’s kitchen plumbing. Incidentally, the taste of the water you make your coffee with is important. There’s no point making the perfect coffee if it has an annoying, lingering taste of chlorine. But I’m not saying use ‘special’ water — you know what I mean.

As for the cup, yes, you do have to have your own specially dedicated coffee cup. That might sound a bit OCD, or something, but no — seriously, you do need your own coffee cup. It doesn’t have to possess magical properties: it’s just your coffee cup you use for your coffee, so you know it won’t smell of someone’s perfume or chicken cup-a-soup. For me, I prefer a plain white porcelain cup with a basic shape.

Finally, there’s the environment. You might like a busy space with family or friends to chat with, but for this coffee-curmudgeon I prefer a quiet spot on my own to celebrate the coffee moment. Like I said, it’s the perfect start in preparation for writing a first draft, and the chances are it won’t be long before you want another cup.