Sunday, November 14, 2004

Navy Coffee

It's amazing just how prevalent these gourmet coffee shops are. Not just Starbuck's, but Timothy's, Second Cup, Seattle's Best, et cetera. And that's just the franchises operating here in Ottawa. I'll bet there are tons more where you live.

And of course you have the blends. Kona, Dark Roast, Guatemalan, flavored blends like Irish Creme, Hazelnut and Raspberry -- it's getting so that getting coffee is like getting a bottle of wine from a snooty sommelier.

Enough is enough. The Urban Possum's morning preference is a regular cup of coffee--no blends, no roasts specified, nothing exotic. Just plain coffee, thank you very much.

And to brew that coffee right, you need to do it the Navy way.

It's hard to say who came up with the idea -- the Royal Navy, or the United States Navy. (I lean towards the latter.) But whoever came up with it, it's the perfect brew for fulfilling what is coffee's major function--to stimulate the brain into a sense of alertness. This is vitally important when you're trying to work on a pitching ship in the middle of the ocean. And it's no less vital just because the ship you're in is actually the no. 95 bus to downtown.

So, here we go:

1. Use an economy-brand coffee. Mother Parker's, for example, or Chase & Sanborn. If you have to talk in terms of roasts, these brands are a light to medium--perfectly acceptable to a majority of people. Their virtue is that they're cheap--hey, it's Navy coffee. We're talking government suppliers here.

2. Use 2 level tablespoons for each 8-ounce cup. The standard measure for coffee is 1 level tablespoon for a 6-ounce cup. The power of Navy Coffee does not derive from the strength of the roast, but from the amount of coffee used, so as you can see, this one is stronger than most. Some old chiefs like the coffee so strong that it actually seems chewy (that comes from the tannins in the coffee and their effects on the tooth surface), but we don't need to go quite that far.

3. Salt the grounds before you begin brewing. Salt, as in ordinary table salt. The measurement is a pinch, which is about 1/8th to a maximum of 1/4 teaspoon per 5 cups brewed. This is the secret to True Navy coffee: the salt will cut the initial bitterness of the coffee, but takes nothing away from the aroma. Don't worry too much about the taste, Navy coffee won't taste salty unless you use too much of it.

You drink it strong and black--no cream or sugar in the morning, you want that caffeine to hit your brain unencumbered by sweetness or fats. (Afternoon and evening, of course, it's a different story--then you'll need the caloric energy of the sugar and cream to get through the night watch.) It's the kind of coffee that's best served in a heavy china mug--no weak army tin, no wimpy plastic commuter's thermos or styrofoam cup.

Not that is a True Cup of Coffee, Mister Starbuck.

3 Comments:

At 10:56 PM, Blogger RTB OR RTNB said...

Thanks for your comment on navy coffee with salt.

When I read the Tom Clancy's novels, he sometimes wrote about the coffee with salt.

Your comment solved my long lasting question.

Thanks!

R/S

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger Rob Annandale said...

Thanks for the good site, I agree that the Americans most likely concocted the first naval brew as the Royal Navy were fixated on more important things: Pussers Naval Rum. American government ships are "dry" which means no alchohol.
I have tried Pussers as a guest at Royal Naval Association get-togethers, and I wonder who is missing their pintstripper. From Rob Annandale, South Africa

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger halfwayround said...

As an ex serving RN officer I can absolutely guarantee this is not our idea...!!! I had heard of it in the USN before, though I haven't tried it myself. The coffee on every warship I ever served in was uniformly awful - either from an urn and tasted like beef juice filtered through well worn nylons, or instant that was even worse.

 

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