Modern coffee aficionados, it seems, believe - nay, insist – that the beans must be roasted en route to the grinder, which must be employed immediately, and the coffee brewed in the next instant. No delay is permitted for any reason. Beans roasted anything longer than two and a half minutes before brewing are stale, tasteless, aroma-less, and do not produce anything resembling a good crema. This is the gospel of good coffee as I (an inveterate tea-drinker) understand it. I have no doubt that I will be corrected if I am wrong.
I don’t know what the Barista Gospel says about the optimum age of coffee beans before they are roasted, however. I don’t ever remember seeing or hearing any argument at all on the subject. I was surprised then, by the following opinion, extracted from an article on coffee in The Food Journal (London, 1874)
“Coffee is much improved by age. An esteemed acquaintance, who was a part proprietor of one of the most magnificent properties in Ceylon, used to keep his coffee in bins in a dry room in his house in London, and was wont to give it to his friends, at his hospitable board, a great treat in the shape of a most delicious cup of coffee that had been kept some eight or ten years.”
I think it unlikely that this man had a coffee roaster in his house, and assume therefore that the beans with which he treated his guests had been roasted ten years previously. I eagerly await advice from one of the coffee experts amongst you on this idea.
As for the recipe for the day, I give you a couple of ideas from a Prohibition-inspired book which has been our source on other occasions - On Uncle Sam’s Water Wagon: 500 recipes for delicious drinks, which can be made at home (New York, 1919) by Helen Watkeys Moore. Coffee purists may take issue with the concepts below, so if you are one of them, and are easily offended, may I respectfully suggest that you do not read further?
Allow one tablespoonful of finely ground coffee to one cup of boiling water. Put clean eggshells in the pot, or a whole egg is beaten with a little cold water and mixed with the coffee before the boiling water is poured on. Put on the stove, and when it comes to a boil, take off cover and remove from fire. Let stand two or three minutes, then cover and return to the fire until it again comes to a boil. Remove at once, let stand five minutes, and it is then ready to serve.
Hot Coffee and Strawberry.
Break one egg into a shaker with one and one half tablespoonfuls each of vanilla and strawberry syrups and two tablespoonfuls of rich cream. Shake well, pour into glass, and fill up with hot coffee. Add whipped cream.
Hot Malted Milk and Coffee
Mix one teaspoonful of malted milk and one teaspoonful of ground coffee with enough hot water to fill a cup. Boil three minutes, sweeten to taste, and strain.
Quotation for the Day.
For Lo! The board with cups and spoons is crowned,
The berries crackle and the mill turns round.
Pope, Rape of the Lock.