On the perfect cup of coffee, or the best cortado

I do believe that if you take care to make a great cup of coffee, you don’t need to flavor it with anything else. Leave the vanilla for the ice cream, the hazel nut for chocolate spread, pumpkin for the pie. Yet the reality of most brewed coffee, especially if it has been pre-staled by one of the major coffee companies, is really pretty sad. Most brewed coffee is pretty bad–a weak, watery concoction that tastes more like umbrella juice than coffee. Recently roasted and freshly ground coffee, whether drip or espresso, is a pungent, fragrant, bitter array of robust flavors that have nothing to do with the coffee you buy at the local supermarket that comes ground in a can. Why Americans insist on dressing up their coffee with chocolate, caramel, pumpkin spice, vanilla, hazel nut, cinnamon and a bunch of other flavors is really easy to understand–they are drinking a stale, weak brew that doesn’t taste like anything at all. First, they never use enough coffee, so what they brew is as thin as water and isn’t opaque enough to obscure the bottom of the cup, much less taste like anything more than dirty water. Pre-ground coffee is also already stale, the vast majority of its flavor greatness lost with the passage of time as the bean’s essential oils are allowed to change and turn bitter with time, disappearing and losing any potency it once had. Never buy pre-ground coffee; pre-ground coffee is but a ghost of its whole-bean self. Even freshly roasted coffee has a shelf-life that is really very short. If you cannot roast your own, find a local roaster that roasts on a regular basis and buy into their production, buying small quantities so that your supply never gets very old before it is replenished. Old coffee is bad coffee, no question about it.