February 07, 2014

On any given day my productivity and general morale hang in the balance of one factor: whether I’ve had my morning coffee. And after years of letting it serve my bleary-eyed utilitarian purpose, it took a conversation with a connoisseur to reawaken me to the idea of coffee as more than a 7 a.m. necessity. Frank Matz is CEO of Maison Camus, a coffee company born from the acclaimed cognac house Camus. This week, Matz and I spoke about all things relating to the beverage he lovingly refers to as “the last legal sin.”

Storage: For the best cup of coffee your beans need to be fresh, so Matz recommends buying whole beans and grinding them yourself if possible. Once ground, beans should be stored in a cool place to maintain freshness. The one caveat is that beans should never be stored in the refrigerator. “The biggest enemy of, particularly ground coffee, is air,” he says. “The refrigerator works by circulating air to keep things cool, so that is counterproductive.” Instead, Matz seals his container tightly and stores ground coffee in the freezer.

Brewing: When brewing coffee, take note of the temperature of your water. If the water is too hot, the coffee may become bitter. If too cold, the aroma won’t have a chance to fully develop. Use Matz's trick to hit the sweet spot by bringing water to a boil, taking it off of the heat, and waiting just until all of the bubbles disappear. Of equal importance to the final cup is the grind you use, and it depends on your brewing method. “The more pressure you apply during the pulling process, the finer the grind,” Matz says. Espresso machines use a finer grind than automatic drip machines while French presses use a coarse grind.

Cold brewing: Hard to imagine in the throes of winter storms, but in a few months when the air starts getting sticky, iced coffee will be a necessity. You could simply brew a regular pot of coffee and chill it, but cold brewing sidesteps the bitterness hot brewed coffee tends to have when it cools. Cold brewed coffee steeps at room temperature for about 15 hours, but a big batch can be stored in the refrigerator for days [learn how Maison Camus cold brews coffee here]. “Unfortunately, it’s kind of an effort to get it done, but the rewards are very high,” he says. “It’s worthwhile if you have the time.” Once you’ve brewed your coffee, Matz suggests freezing some in an ice tray instead of using ice cubes to avoid diluting the finished product.

Coffee and food: Unsurprisingly, the substance that keeps the human race blissfully caffeinated is a multitasker. From barbecue sauce to dry rubs, coffee’s earthiness makes a great companion to more than your morning muffin. Steak, chicken, and pork take particularly well to coffee-based rubs, because coffee seals the meat’s juices and helps it caramelize says Matz. Tiramisu is a classic example of how well coffee plays with desserts. Add brewed coffee to cake, brownies, and pie for a buzzy twist. “And, of course, coffee always goes well with chocolate.” Duly noted.

Get our favorite coffee recipes:Coffee-Rubbed Texas-Style BrisketChocolate Espresso CakesCoffee and Brown Sugar Bacon

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