Everyone has a rightful role during Thanksgiving. Some of us are magnificent carvers of the turkey. Others, like my sister, make the perfect pumpkin pie. There’s my mom’s mashed potatoes, my mother-in-law’s rolls, or my wife’s squash casserole (and, yes, I made sure to mention all the women in my life just there).
But what about those of us whose skills are more in the coffee variety? For the finicky among us who enjoy the hand-poured cup of coffee, is this the time of year when we have to use a machine for large groups? And are there good coffees that go best with turkey and stuffing — or with certain pies?
For these hard-hitting questions, I set out to ask Jake Robinson, who is at the Somerville training center for Counter Culture, a Durham, N.C.-based coffee roaster.
Robinson has always been the most coffee-enthusiastic person in his family during the holidays. And he has a tradition of brewing coffee for each table at Thanksgiving.
Initially, he brought a hand grinder and an Aeropress — a tube-like device that makes a small cup of coffee. He made each person’s cup individually, taking time to describe the coffee to each person.
It took him two hours. His family got agitated. And that tradition didn’t last past the first year.
Now, he brings a 10-cup Chemex, which can brew far more coffee at one time (he recommends a ratio of 47 grams of coffee to 750 milliliters of water)
“I leave the geekery in the kitchen, grinding and weighing the beans and measuring the water there before heading back into the dining room to brew and serve the coffee,” he writes in an e-mail. “While I still bring “the kit,” (a grinder, scale, kettle, filters, etc.), I keep that in the kitchen to keep the clutter away from the dining room table.”
So what about coffee pairings? Are there specific coffees that go well with certain Thanksgiving foods?
Since coffee is a fairly weak beverage, Robinson said, it tends to be washed out pretty easily with other strong foods. So he uses a heavy coffee-to-water ratio, which makes a stronger brew of coffee.
“Coffees with a measured acidity can really help wrap up the end of the meal, as Thanksgiving food can be pretty heavy or fatty,” he says. “If I were going to serve coffee with a specific dish or during the middle of the meal, I may use more savory or spice-like flavors. More directly, I would lean towards East African coffees for after-meal coffee, and lower altitude Latin American or Pacific Rim coffees for middle-of-the-meal coffee.”
As for me? I’ll be loading up the car with a variety of coffees, heading down to Greensboro, N.C. There will be several coffee devices in tow. And I’ll try to do my best to add my own subtle addition to the holiday.
What are your own coffee tips and Thanksgiving java-based traditions? Share them below in the comments or on Twitter using the hashtag #ThanksgivingCoffee.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.