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Scottish Agriculture

We think the following observations will be found of material use to our farming readers, and valuable to all who study comfort and economy.

In this age of peculation and adulteration, when we can depend on the genuineness of scarcely one article of consumption, it behoves all who regard their health and enjoyment, to manufacture as many of their consumable aliments as possible beneath their own roofs. Tea is become an essential in every family, and is at present sufficiently reasonable in price, to come within the limits of every grade of society, short of actual pauperism. But what “villanous compounds'” of home-grown leaves, nay, it may be, “weeds of foreign growth,” go to the manufacture of that beverage, which, when made from genuine tea leaves, is the most refreshing, and perhaps, par excellence, the most salubrious of any that can be taken! It is lamentable to contemplate the state of demoralization to which trade and traders have attained in this highly moral country; it is cruel that the very health of the community is remorselessly sacrificed by almost every tradesman who caters for our daily food! Tea, then, being adulterated to actual nauseousness, it becomes requisite to find a substitute for it, that cannot be subjected to the trickery of man. Coffee is a healthful and exhilarating beverage, though not so refreshing and soothing as tea. We would not advise our readers to turn to the pages of their cyclopaedias, or those of any other work, where the learned sport their ipse-dixits upon its medical properties, and dole out their tiresome dogmas, on “the insalubrity of coffee for persons of such a temperament,” on “its drying nature,” “its heating tendency,” &c. “Try all things, and hold fast that which is good.” Form the judgment, we would say, upon the rational, extensive, obvious proof, that the whole population of Turkey, Arabia, &c., and nearly the entire community of France, &c., imbibe it daily with advantage, and have done from time immemorial. It is soon enough to reject the use of a boon, given by the prodigal and beneficent hand of nature, when we have fairly tried its effects, individually, and under all circumstances.

We confess that we are perfect epicures in this very delightful beverage; and as we abominate the muddy, mawkish rubbish, which is too often administered, and take it for granted that others who may be similarly impressed with its nauseousness, would be gratified to be informed of the most economical method of obtaining the best coffee, we will proceed to instruct them in our simple plan. There are two kinds of the berry to which we would recommend our readers to restrict their choice, the Mocha, and the Plantation, or rather Betbice; there is a third, which is cheap, but very coarse flavoured— the Ceylon—but we repeat, that the two first named are those to which we give the preference. To rigid economists we would advise, that Berbice only be purchased; but the flavour of the Mocha is so fine, that a portion should always be mixed with the former. It is quite essential that buyers should be intimately acquainted with the appearance of the various berries ; because, although a grocer cannot adulterate the article in its raw state, he can deceive and pass off upon his uninitiated customers the worst, for the most approved kinds;—and this we knew to be the case in many instances.

They who have once seen the two berries or beans, Jdocha and Plantation, can never again be deceived; as we cannot shew we will describe them. We speak of coffee in the raw state, for on every account we would strenuously advise that our readers should purchase it unroasted. Mocha coffee is the smallest of all the usual sorts; it is round, plump, rough, equal sized, the colour inclining to buff, with a tinge of pale brown. The Jamaica, Plantation, Berbice (for they much resemble one another) are fine large flat handsome-looking berries, with a hue of grey-green, very different from those of Mocha, or even of Ceylon; which last, from similarity of colour, might deceive those who are not aware of this distinctive difference, namely, that they, the Ceylon berries, are of irregular sizes, ill shaped, and of a spotted, dirty creamcolour. The grey-green shade of the Western coffees is entirely deficient in those of Asia. In its raw state, this article of consumption, unlike other grains, such as rice, wheat, it appears to be entirely exempt from the destructive ravages of insects; it will keep good, nay, perhaps improve, .or an indefinite length of time; and may consequently be purchased at any period, and in any quantity, when an opportunity may offer for obtaining it at a wholesale price.

Roasted coffee, on the contrary, deteriorates rapidly; and if exposed to the air, loses its aroma; hence one of the causes that this beverage is so seldom good. Instead of being exposed, as we see it in shops, it should be kept closely stopped in wide-mouthed glass bottles—such as “magnums," “Scotch pints,” and “Winchester quarts.” The sooner coffee is used after it is roasted, the finer will be its flavour; hence we prefer to roast only the quantity intended for the consumption of one week. The process is very simple, and occupies but twenty minutes. It is for more easily accomplished than other domestic occupations, such as bread making, churning, &c.; and when the plan shall have been tried for two or three consecutive weeks, so as to form a habit, that which our housewifely readers may be induced at first to start from as a trouble and innovation, will fall in with the regular hebdomadal routine of requisite housekeeping avocations and duties. Few persons are aware of the value of habit, nor how quickly a sense of duty will conduce to form that, which, when formed, renders the severe attention to the business of life a pleasure instead of a toil. We should not have said so much on so trifling a matter as roasting coffee, but that we know how difficult it is sometimes found to persuade a managing matron to swerve from her clock-work duties, to admit of another that would prove of equal, if not superior, utility to those already rigidly practised; besides, we are aware that a prejudice exists against roasting coffee at home, in consequence of the disappointment which attends the process when ill performed. “What man has done, man can do,"so woman has roasted mutton, and may roast coffee by attending to the plain and explicit rules by which we have en-joyed for years our own daily refreshment, in undeviating excellence.

We have heard that persons have actually cooked our Arabian dainty in a frying-pan, and smothered it in butter to ceep it from burning! “Oh the pity of it!” Who can be surprised that the results of such an ungainly, antediluvian method should be otherwise than delightful? In private families, when this beverage is taken once a-day, a coffee-roaster should be provided, which will contain a pound of the raw berries, although only two-thirds of that quantity should be put into it; as, in the operation of roasting, they will swell to nearly one-third more than the space they occupy when raw, and room must be given them to move about and be well shaken during the process. These domestic utensils, although not common, are to be purchased at any furnishing ironmonger’s. They are of iron, cylindrical shaped, and of various sizes; those which will contain a pound of raw coffee, are about four inches wide, and seven in length, with a small sliding-door, also of iron, having a ledge by which it can be opened and shut, by means of a pair of pincers, or even by tapping it with any convenient article, such as a pocket-knife. In the middle of this cylinder, at one end, is fixed an iron handle, about eight inches long, and hollow, into which a round wooden handle is fastened, two feet in length.

Having made a clear fire below the upper bar of the grate, so as to admit of the action of rolling the roaster backwards and forwards along the top without impediment, put into the machine as much raw coffee as will rather more than three parts fill it, and commence roasting, by turning the handle quickly and incessantly, though not velociously. If this rotatory motion be stopped, a snap-png noise will be heard; this is caused by the berries being unequally roasted: those at the bottom will be burning, while others are not exposed to any heat. The. rolling backwards and forwards, therefore, must not be discontinued, except while another motion is substituted, which is, to lift the roaster up now and then, and shake it the contrary way, in order more thoroughly to intermix and change the position of the berries, so that the process may proceed equally. The great secret to obtain fine flavoured coffee, is to prevent the escape >f the aroma, hence the roaster should be opened as seldom as possible; and for a quarter of an hour it will be wholly unnecessary.

As the process draws to a close, however, it will be requisite to investigate its progress; but this must be done quickly. No kind of manual dexterity is acquired at once: out practice will soon render this as easy and certain as any ’ther. On no account must any butter or other extraneous natter be introduced; coffee exudes an essential oil, which will prove the best, as it must be the only oily medium in the process. In a quarter of an hour the little door should be opened, and the state of the berries inspected. If they look brown, but of various shades, the heat has not been equally disseminated; and the roaster must be well shaken for half a minute, and then replaced on a cooler part of the fire, on the top bar, to finish gradually, still being rolled and shaken alternately. As twenty minutes is the time in which a batch will be finished with proper management, it must be looked at once or twice more, when the eye, as well as sense of smell, will soon acquire experience in deciding whether the operation is finished. It must now be taken off the fire; but as there is naturally a great body of heat still remaining in the cylinder (sufficient indeed to burn the berries), it must not be left; but should be shaken for two or three minutes away from the fire, in order that, while it cools gradually, all that fine aroma, on which depends the spirit, flavour, and excellence of coffee, may be imbibed, instead of being lost by opening and emptying the roaster while any heat remains. As soon as it is cold, it must be poured into a glass bottle, as before mentioned, and kept close stopped for use. Coffee wastes in roasting about two ounces in the pound.

When it is wanted for a meal, let only the quantity be ground that is required, put it at once into an old-fashioned coffee-pot, with two or three shreds of isinglass, fill the pot to within four inches of the top, with hot water, shut down the lid, set it on the fire, watch it, and as soon as it boils, clear it and put it on the stock or hob to settle and keep warm; but by no means on so hot a situation as to raise the grounds, or it can never be cleared again. Our readers will see how strenuously we insist on the essential circumstance of preserving coffee from exposure to the air. On the knowledge or ignorance of a trifling knack in almost every practical domestic operation, depends our success or failure; and as it is assuredly better worth while to perform a duty well rather than ill, especially with no additional trouble, minuteness of directions is most desirable. With the utmost care, so much of that exquisite aroma escapes, that no one can grind and make a pot of coffee without its being diflused all over a house; now this scent would become flavour if it could be confined.

We have named an old-fashioned coffee-pot, because we hare “tried all things" of this kind, and have returned to our earliest friend. Percolators, French and English, biggins, —bags leno and muslin—new-fangled pots without a name,— cold water and hot, slow heating and quick, simmering and boiling, and simple infusion,—every plan, in short, that has ever been written about or thought of, has been fairly tried; —and the above is by far the most perfect method. Half an ounce for each person is perhaps a fair average quantity; but this must be left to choice. We have heard that coffee made very strong, and bottled, will be found exceedingly fine in a year or two. There are doubtless situations on the globe where a corps de reserve of this description might be very useful; but with our daily facilities of making it, with so little trouble, the bottling system appears valueless.

We have spoken hitherto of coffee as a morning and evening meal; but there is a purpose to which we have known it applied for a year or two past (and is still maintained) to which we are desirous to call the attention of our readers: this is, as a substitute for wine during and after dinner. There are many persons to whom the idea has probably never occurred, that they could enjoy a luxury, at once so cheap, refreshing, and delicious. If any would abstain from beer, wine, and spirits for “conscience's sake," what can he resort to so innocent and cheering as coffee ? If any feel the pressure of the times, and is warned that his failing circumstances will not admit of the indulgence he has hitherto enjoyed, where will he find a succedaneum so little costly? If the sedentary man, with weakened powers of digestion, is necessitated to abjure pernicious stimulants, and comes to his midday meal cheerless and exhausted with mental labour, or chilled with inactive employment, what will so effectually restore circulation, and impart a genial warmth to the system, as a few cups of warm and invigorating coffee? If a thrifty farmer have been thrashing in his barn, and come in to his homely dinner hot and thirsty, what so likely to cool him and allay that thirst as a pot of this invaluable beverage ? We have known such satisfactory results attend its daily use, that we fearlessly recommend it; and should rejoice to be assured

From The Quarterly Journal of Agriculture Vol. IX. June 1838 - March 1839

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