Perk up: Connoisseur wants to spread ‘a different mentality’ about coffeeST. LOUIS – Drop in for breakfast at Half & Half restaurant in Clayton, Mo., and the first choices on the menu will be the day’s two featured coffees, available via an assortment of brewing methods.
By: Joe Bonwich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT), INFORUM
ST. LOUIS – Drop in for breakfast at Half & Half restaurant in Clayton, Mo., and the first choices on the menu will be the day’s two featured coffees, available via an assortment of brewing methods. A recent selection consisted of Ethiopia Idido, touted as having “blueberry, strawberry and chocolate” elements, and Brazil Sertaozinho, with notes of “dried fruit, cocoa nibs and toffee.”
“It was very hard to put that on a menu,” says Mike Marquard, who oversees coffee at Half & Half. “I’m sure a lot of customers sit down and probably just laugh when they see it.”
What’s more, some customers experience less agreeable emotions when they see that one cup, depending upon the brewing method, can cost around $5.
Marquard has trained his staff to steer those giggly or unhappy diners to the “bottomless diner mug,” a more traditional way of tanking up to start the day. It’s usually about $2.75 – and it is made with one of the featured coffees, providing a sniff into the realm of dried fruit and cocoa nibs to anyone who’s interested.
Marquard is diligent and dedicated while pursuing what he calls “a different mentality about coffee,” but at the same time, he nimbly straddles the line between evangelism and pretentiousness. Part of this involves finding ways to educate customers about the subtleties of coffee aromas and flavors, much the way wine drinkers have become more sophisticated about wine.
Marquard views the increased dissection of coffee qualities as part of an evolution in the way Americans view coffee.
“In this next step, it’s not about the brewing method – it’s about the coffee itself,” Marquard says. “Any great coffee should taste good any way it’s brewed.”
He adds that comparative coffee tastings are a challenge to set up, whether in restaurants and coffee shops or at home.
“The best thing to do is to taste coffees side by side using a consistent brewing method,” Marquard says. “But it’s pretty labor-intensive to brew three cups simultaneously for the same customer – and most people who come into a shop or restaurant don’t want to take 15 minutes out of their day to do a coffee tasting. I’ve been trying to come up with ways of doing a tasting menu as opposed to a drinking menu.”
Marquard suggests that one easy and inexpensive way of comparing coffees at home would be to purchase two or three inexpensive single-cup drip brewers, which would allow you to brew three different cups at almost the same time.
The fruits, berries and chocolate used to describe coffee qualities come from a “coffee taster’s flavor wheel,” which is similar to but less elaborate than the wheel used for wine tasting. The coffee taster’s wheel was developed in 1997 by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and its collaborators. Half of the wheel divides flavors into the standard broad categories of sweet, sour, salty and bitter, then breaks down those descriptions into 32 individual qualities.
The aroma portion of the wheel gets even more specific, starting with the broad and somewhat scientific categories of enzymatic, sugar brewing and dry distillation. However, it breaks those down into 36 distinct, easily recognizable descriptions of aromas such as apple, toast and cedar.
“Basically, it meant fewer people were just making stuff up,” Marquard jokes.
Yield: About 1 cup syrup, enough for 8 servings
1 cup water
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 drops anise oil or 4 drops anise extract
½ cup granulated sugar
Freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
- Put water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Break up star anise and add to the saucepan along with fennel seeds. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Add anise oil and stir to combine.
- Strain the mixture and discard solids. Return the strained mixture to the saucepan; add sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat. Let cool. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate.
- For each serving, pour ¼ cup hot coffee into a preheated espresso cup or similar cup. Add 2 tablespoons syrup, stir and serve.
Per serving: 50 calories; no fat; no protein; 13g carbohydrate; 13g sugar; no fiber; 1mg sodium; 1mg calcium.
Adapted from a recipe by St. Louis barista
Lou Barrale in “Coffee Drinks” by Michael Turback (Ten Speed Press, 2008)
MEZCAL VIETNAMESE COFFEE
Yield: 1 serving
1 tablespoon espresso-flavored sugar or plain granulated sugar
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, plus more for the glass
2 tablespoons mezcal or tequila
½ cup strong coffee, cooled
- Put the sugar on a flat plate. Moisten the edge of an 8-ounce glass with a bit of the sweetened condensed milk, then dip the moistened rim into the sugar and rotate the glass until the rim is evenly coated.
- Pour 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk into the glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Add mezcal and coffee, stir and serve.
Per serving: 245 calories; 3.5g fat; 2g saturated fat; 15mg cholesterol; 3g protein; 33g carbohydrate; 33g sugar; no fiber; 50mg sodium; 110mg calcium.
Adapted from a recipe by Rochester, N.Y., barista Christopher Carlsson in “Coffee Drinks” by Michael Turback (Ten Speed Press, 2008)
Yield: 10 tablespoons
½ cup ground coffee
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Combine all ingredients and mix well.
- If using anything coarser than espresso grind, run the mixture briefly through a coffee or spice grinder until it takes on a uniform, sandy texture. Sift if desired to remove lumps.
Per teaspoon: 8 calories; no fat; no protein; 2g carbohydrate; 2g sugar; no fiber; 1mg sodium; 3mg calcium.
Note: Rub is good on beef and fuller-bodied fish such as salmon. Salt fish or meat to taste. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons for every 4 ounces of fish and 2 to 4 teaspoons per 4 ounces of beef. On a grill, sear the meat or fish over direct heat, then finish cooking over indirect heat. Indoors, sear on the stove in an oven-safe skillet, then finish in the oven.
Adapted from a recipe by the
Grillin Fools (grillinfools.com)
COFFEE SOUFFLÉ WITH COFFEE CREAM SAUCE
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
For the soufflé:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan and foil
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided, plus more for dusting
½ cup freshly brewed strong coffee
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur, brandy or freshly brewed strong coffee
- Make the soufflé. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wrap a double thickness of foil around a 1 ½-quart soufflé dish to form a collar that extends 2 to 3 inches above the rim of the dish. Butter the soufflé dish and the foil; dust with granulated sugar.
- In a heavy medium saucepan, combine coffee, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil for 2 minutes.
- While mixture is boiling, combine Zc cup granulated sugar and flour until well blended. Add Zc cup cream, stirring until smooth.
- Reduce the heat under coffee mixture and whisk in the cream mixture. Raise the heat to medium-high. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and cook until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, stirring until melted and smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- Gradually add egg yolks, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla.
- In a medium bowl using an electric mixer set at high speed, beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Using a rubber spatula, gently and thoroughly fold in the remaining whites.
- Gently spoon the batter into the prepared soufflé dish. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the outer edge of the soufflé and moist when inserted into the center.
- While the soufflé is baking, make the sauce. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer set at medium-high speed, beat 1 cup cream, powdered sugar and liqueur until soft peaks form. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- When soufflé is done, remove it from the oven and take off the collar. Crack the center and spoon in some of the sauce, then serve immediately, passing the remainder of the sauce at the table.
Per serving (based on 8): 330 calories; 20g fat; 12g saturated fat; 155mg cholesterol; 5g protein; 32g carbohydrate; 27g sugar; no fiber; 90mg sodium; 50mg calcium.
Adapted from “The Best of Coffee” by Sandra Gluck (CollinsPublishers, 1994)