Guest post from Featured Photographer Maureen Porto of Maureen Porto Photography:
Joe. Java. Dirt. Mud. Cuppa. Jolt. Elixir of the gods. I still remember my first dance with coffee. Prepping for final exams in college, my roommate and I brewed a big pot to fuel ourselves for a long night of studying. We stayed awake until the sun rose and passed those exams, but found ourselves sick with jitters and acidic stomachs the next day. She’s never had another sip since, while I was hooked for life.
A few years later, I met and married a Sicilian man who can’t recall his first taste of coffee (because his baby bottles of milk included a healthy splash of chilled coffee). Through the years, coffee has been a faithful friend who’s shaken me awake earlier than I’d like, has reinvigorated me during long afternoons, and of course has even helped power me through the night again.
My husband would certainly agree that the comforting buzz and hum of our espresso machine was the soundtrack of those bleary-eyed, new baby years and as a professional Photographer, a strong cappuccino has been my weapon of choice to fight fatigue so I can edit photos late into the night.
I’ve mastered the creation of a decent cappuccino using my machine, but if you don’t have one, you can still make a close runner-up:
- While your coffee is brewing, combine roughly 2 teaspoons of sugar and a cup of milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue stirring the milk nonstop until it is piping hot, but not boiling.
- Next, whip the heated milk/sugar mixture in your blender for about a minute until it’s a fluffy foam. Fill your cup two thirds full of coffee, top it off with your heated froth, and sip slowly while pretending you’re relaxing in the piazza of Rome’s Gran Caffe La Caffettiera.
My Italian family has taught me that good coffee is both an art and a ritual, and here on the east coast, many of us are relying on coffee to help push us through these last weeks of Winter’s dark evenings.
I’ve found that one of the most convenient and enjoyable ways to brew coffee is with a Chemex. A Chemex is an hourglass-shaped glass flask with a funneled neck, usually covered by a wooden collar (for safer handling when the flask is heated). Coffee is brewed by placing the paper filter and coffee grounds in the neck of the flask, while heating water separately.
Pouring some of the hot water onto the dry coffee and pausing allows the coffee to moisten and “bloom.” You can then pour the rest of the hot water over the grounds, waiting for it to percolate down through the coffee, past the paper filter, and finally into the flask. Chemex-brewed coffee is not only easy to make, but has a distinct taste since the thicker, chemically-bonded paper removes more oil and impurities from the coffee than standard paper filters.
If interesting flavor combinations are your thing, walk past that aisle of fake creamers and head to your favorite coffee house for suggestions. In Annapolis, I love any excuse to plug my laptop in at Ceremony Coffee, where their creative Baristas are handcrafting beautiful, seasonal drinks like this sweet potato latte made with pulled espresso, sweet potato simple syrup, a candied ginger rim, and topped with an egg white/ginger/whipped cream.
In other words, it’s a high-octane dessert that I can justify by how efficient I am afterwards. Of course, if you’re a purist in search of a thoughtfully curated selection of fair-trade beans roasted in-house, they’ve got that covered, too.
When the weather finally heats up, iced coffee is the mover and shaker’s answer to staying cool and energized all day. Iced coffee isn’t just hot brewed coffee poured over ice, but it is almost as easy to make:
- In a small pitcher, combine a cup of medium-ground coffee and 4 cups of cold filtered water, and whisk until all of the lumps are gone.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (it’s best overnight, but not much longer or it’ll get bitter).
- Pour through a coffee filter-lined strainer and into a tall glass of ice.
- Add milk and sugar to taste, and you’re ready to conquer the world.
From Ethiopia to Yemen, the Middle East, Europe, Indonesia, and America, coffee has spread across borders and down through the ages. It’s cured hangovers, prevented disease, inspired tradition, and sparked creativity (ever wonder why it’s one of the last perks your company still covers?).
So whatever your coffee beverage of choice may be, raise your cup and remember that you’re part of a global community who appreciates how tired and busy you are. Salute!