If I were writing for Slate online magazine, I would be tempted to make the title of this article, "Super-strong coffee: you're doing it wrong." That is one of the more annoying things that Slate does: they post food articles with insulting titles and then expect you to read them. I did, when the actual recipe involved interests me because it is one of my personal favorites, but I soon found that I was not "doing it wrong," and furthermore some of the authors don't do it right as far as I am concerned.
I'm not exactly Emeril Lagasse here, but I do believe that I know how to make the strongest coffee that you can make. Oddly, it is not based on the premise for the article that I read online today on the Huffington Post Food page.
That article is called Death Wish Coffee: 'World's Strongest' Cup Claim Put To The Test, and its author is Andy Campbell, whose style is an expert combination of information and humor. I enjoy Campbell's articles, and this one didn't disappoint as far as his writing is concerned. If you want to look it up, I can add that there are some photos to go with it.
Apparently there is such a company as Death Wish Coffee, and they produce a super-coffee that you can buy and make up to produce what they claim is the strongest coffee that can be achieved by human hands. Campbell writes:
"So when Death Wish Coffee Company sent a press release claiming that its coffee was the most highly caffeinated premium dark roast organic coffee in the world, I immediately sent an intern to find me some. Apparently, the company has a guy, because it found a bean that has 200-percent more caffeine than your average coffee shop's bean."
Campbell brewed himself some using a French press, which will produce strong coffee if it is simply loaded correctly. So he got that right, and then:
"I spent three days drinking the self-proclaimed masterful blend exclusively, using a French press. No, it's not supposed to be made stronger by way of French press -- but my death wish is a wolverine riding an intercontinental ballistic missile over the Grand Canyon into my face, so I did it anyway."
And how was it? Says Campbell:
"I'll happily go to the grimiest deli in Brooklyn and fill up a 20-ounce styrofoam cup with coffee that's been burning for five hours and leave without adding sugar or milk. Matched up with that, Death Wish is delicious. I shouldn't be so harsh, though -- it's not a terrible tasting cup of coffee. In fact, it's not even the darkest roast I've ever seen. As you may know, the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content. This is a dark roast, but with Robusta beans rather than Arabica, which has a lower caffeine content. This stuff is palatable without sugar or milk, and has a smooth finish."
Okay then; it may be the world's strongest coffee--it may be--but it is definitely not the world's worst-tasting brew. Fine; I ordered Geisha Arabica coffee beans last year when I read that they are supposed to make the best-tasting coffee on earth. And the coffee is indeed very good...but not that overwhelmingly great that I plan to re-order. How about Campbell?
"I'll continue to drink Death Wish until the bag is gone. But I probably won't seek out another bag, even with my extreme caffeine addiction. It's probably not worth buying on flavor alone, and the kick isn't so fever-inducing that I want to start a soul train in the Huffington Post nap room."
There you have it: one coffee is not so overwhelmingly strong that you can't get it out of your life, and the other is not absolutely delicious and you can't live without it. So much for marketing and hype. But what are you supposed to do if you want really strong coffee for some reason?
I admit that I will not be making some anytime soon, because my doctor would forbid it if I were to ask him first. I have had health issues, and hyping up my blood pressure isn't on my list. But when I was in college I lived in a dormitory, and if you did too, you know what Supercoffee is, as opposed to super-coffee that is sold in stores or online.
In my salad days of Exam Week and eight girls sharing the same study room, everyone knew that even if you were not a coffee drinker, you drank Supercoffee during exams so that you could study all night, go take the exam, and then sleep (if and when the caffeine wore off). That might involve no sleep for five days, if your exam schedule turned out to be awful.
What the kids in the dorms and campus apartments did was simple: brew up a pot of strong coffee. Throw out the grounds. Refill the basket with fresh coffee. Brew again.
Today, if I were to do that, I would get out my Chemex or another drip pot, load it with coffee and pour the boiling water through once. Then I would remove the Chemex filter, put in a new one, fill it with fresh coffee and pour the same brewed coffee through once again. I promise you that such coffee will give you the stamina you need.
The light-roasted coffee that I would use for this procedure would definitely be Starbucks' Blonde Roast, which if Campbell is correct about light roasts, will have the highest caffeine content in the supermarket. I first saw it at Safeway in Tucson, but it is available anywhere that Starbucks is sold by now. I do like shopping at the Starbucks' kiosk at Safeway on Broadway and Campbell in Tucson, though, because they also carry the line of coffee gear that is Starbucks makes so attractive. You can also check out their seasonal coffees there, which are always available on a limited basis.
Though my blood pressure will not withstand such abuse, I know that not only would this coffee be strong--hey, it would taste good! That is the difference between second-quality Robusta beans and fine drip-grind Arabica beans. So if you need, for some reason, to jack up your stamina for a limited period--please, limited--make Supercoffee and you will probably get more of a kick out of it than Campbell did with Death Wish. Just sayin'.