Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Odd spots: Coffee fungi and feral burgundy

I heard on ABC radio this afternoon that it is fungi that give coffee its distinctive flavor. I have no reason to think this research is wrong. Indeed it rationalizes the fact that the half-drunk cups of coffee that I discover, after several days, in nooks and crannies around my office, are often encrusted in a mattress of mould. It also explains the response made once to me in a café when I asked the proprietor how he made his coffee so well. The claim: the trick is never to wash the coffee-making equipment.

Well, maybe...but I have been fooled...

Years ago I heard that great French burgundies were enriched by throwing a shovel of cow manure into each barrel. The claim was it gave wines that element of French pong (more correctly, 'feral characteristics') so appreciated by burgundy lovers - this is distinct from burying female cow horns full of the stuff in fields where burgundy is produced. I naively believed this preposterous claim for years until I asked a knowledgeable wine-maker what effect this additive to pinot noir was likely to have.

His laconic (and, with hindsight, obvious) response: It would probably kill you!

5 comments:

Lesley de Voil said...

My granma maintained that one should never use more than a small rinse of water in the teapot - just sufficient to remove the old leaves. Don't even think of taking a potscrubber to it. The brown crusting adds to the flavour.
Burying cowhorns of manure in fields is of course the bio-dynamic original. I've always assumed that this was a pre-industrial era method of supplying legume inoculant material.
As for putting it in the wine - surely 14% alcohol will dispose of any pathogens. After all, this is one reason why wine was drunk like water.

derrida derider said...

The fungi encrusting your old coffee cups (probably a Penicillium species)are unlikely to be related to the fungi that's on the coffee beans. Fungi ain't just fungi - there's over 100,000 known species.

And old coffee residues oxidise and therefore acidify - not conducive to nice tastes.

The 14% alcohol in cheap wines is an indication things have been added or subtracted from them - yeast stops reproducing at about 11 or 12% alcohol (they're much more tolerant of it than humans - I'd be unable to reproduce long before my blood alcohol reached that level).

But Lesley's point about alcohol being as much a traditional drink preservative as an intoxicant is correct.

taust said...

The work on coffee and fungi came out of Brasil I think. It may only apply to Robusta beans

Another interesting fact is the remarkable length of time coffee grouts can be left before a mould takes hold.

mlesich said...

And people ask me why I don't drink coffee

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