Written by Lori Thiessen
These days we are used to seeing coffee made almost as if by magic. Domestic coffee makers are push-button efficient and the professional coffee makers are overseen by those conjurers of coffee, the barista.
But coffee wasn’t always such a fast and fun process. In the coffeehouses of the 17th century, coffee making was a lengthy and skilful process. First the coffee beans were bought in their unroasted state. Have you ever seen an unroasted coffee bean? I know I haven’t.
Then the coffeeman whose job it was to roast the beans to perfection would get the fire started in the grate and pour a handful of beans into the barrel-shaped roaster. Round and round the handle went until the beans were roasted. However, due to the technology, the beans would likely be a mixture of warmed green beans, burnt black beans, and half roasted, half warm beans. The author, Jonathan Swift, had so little trust in the coffeeman’s ability to roast the beans well, he would often do the roasting himself when he wanted a cup of coffee. The landlady of the establishment didn’t take offense apparently. Celebrity has its advantages, even then apparently.
The freshly roasted beans would be put into a grinder and one of the coffee lads would grind away until they were mostly crushed. Water would be on the hob, boiling away in preparation for receiving the beans. The ratio of ground coffee to water was quite varied, but generally speaking it was something like 1 part coffee to 12 parts water. If it was a slow day, the coffee was saved and re-heated over and over again. Freshly brewed coffee was a fairly rare occurrence.
It produced a weak and watery brew that would be quite unrecognizable to any self-respecting modern day coffee drinker. Remember the show “Black Adder”? In the third series, which took place in 18th England, Blackadder walks into Mrs. Miggins Coffeehouse and orders, “Your best hot water with brown grit in it.” And that’s a pretty fair assessment of what coffee was really like back then.
Q; What is your favourite kind of coffee?
Until Next Time,
May your coffee always be freshly brewed!