What Happens to Your Coffee As It Sits, and the Science Behind It

Is there a hard time stamp on how long a cup of coffee retains its freshly brewed flavor before it’s past saving and might as well be thrown away? We investigated.

coffee through out the day gif
Serious Eats/Sarah Maiden

I am not a morning person. Despite spending most of my 20s working opening shifts at coffee shops—waking up with just enough time to brush my teeth and throw on some clothes before my usual 6 a.m. shifts—being a barista was an ongoing fight against my natural state. I am a morning curmudgeon who can't be bothered to stir from bed before hitting the snooze button thousands of times. Once I’m up, I tend to move at a snail's speed getting my day started. 

Being a slow starter in the morning also means I often pour myself a mug of coffee and completely forget about it, which I'm sure has happened to us all. Maybe you get a phone call, or maybe a kid needs something. Or maybe you just walk into a room, set your mug down, forget about it and walk away, only to discover your frigid cup hours later. 

So, what should you do with that forgotten mug? Should you throw out your cup of coffee, even if you just abandoned it for a few minutes? Is there a hard time stamp on how long a cup of coffee retains its freshly brewed flavor before its past saving and might as well be thrown away? (Or just slammed down if you really need that caffeine and don’t have time to make a new cup?)

We wanted to see how coffee flavor changes over time as it cools, so we put it to the test. I brewed coffee and tasted it at set intervals over two hours to analyze its flavor and to look into the science of what is happening to the coffee’s flavor as its temperature drops. I wanted to find out if there is an ideal time frame during which a cup of coffee tastes its best. Just how bad does coffee really get as it cools? I also performed side by side taste tests in which I compared the flavor of coffee that had been reheated in the microwave to the same batch of coffee left sitting for the same time, without reheating, and to fresh coffee to see how zapping it affects the quality. Finally, I applied my knowledge of flavor science to fully understand coffee’s flavor journey. Here’s what I found.

The Science Behind What Happen's to Coffee's Flavor as It Cools

Two significant factors impact how we perceive the flavor of coffee over time. Strangely enough, they almost fight one another. First, volatile components in coffee dissipate over time, meaning the sooner we can drink our coffee, the more flavor components are available to us. But the second component, temperature, inhibits our ability to experience the full range of flavors because humans are bad at tasting at temperature extremes (either hot or cold), meaning the closer to body temperature you can drink your coffee, the more flavor and complexity you can taste. 

coffee temp testing headnote 1
Serious Eats/Ashley Rodriguez

How volatile compounds affect flavor: First, volatile components in coffee dissipate as coffee cools. This includes things like lipids, amino acids, and chlorogenic acid—but the specific type and amount of volatile components in a bean are significantly affected by the variety of bean, roast profile, grind size, brewing method, and even the kind of water you use.

Dr. Christopher Hendon, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon and co-author of the book Water for Coffee: Science Story Manual*says that the specific compounds you lose over time depend on the coffee itself, but you're generally losing aromatics (the things that make coffee smell good). Since flavor comes from both our sense of taste and smell, this significantly impacts what we perceive in the cup. Hendon notes that "If you like the smell of the coffee when you grind it, that's what you're losing [when you allow it to cool]."

*(He’s currently working on a second edition of the book, the first edition is nearly impossible to find. I had to check out a copy from a friend of mine like it was a library book, and when visiting my house for dinner weeks later, he stealthily took it back).

What we describe as the flavor of coffee is a combination of what we taste and what we smell, and because many of the things that contribute to what we smell dissipate over time, we want to enjoy them as quickly as possible. “Most of coffee's flavor is retro nasal, which is lost with the cup sitting over time,” says Hendon. 

How temperature affects flavor: The second major factor that impacts our ability to perceive specific flavors is the coffee’s temperature. "As you move further away from your body temperature, the thing you're tasting and smelling becomes more difficult to perceive," says Hendon. He notes that we're bad at perceiving flavor at the polar opposite ends of temperature—very hot or cold. If you’ve ever heard you should drink crappy beer ice cold, this is why: When a beer is very cold, it’s hard to taste the off or negative flavors. The same is true with coffee, just on the other end of the temperature spectrum. 

Hendon cites a study published in 2000 in the journal Nature "Thermal stimulation of taste," by Alberto Cruz and Barry G. Green, which tracked flavor sensations and their perceptibility over different temperatures. "Not every smell and taste comes into your perception at the same rate," Hendon explains. Hendon says this is biological: “Humans can taste sweetness more as things progress towards body temperature… because you need to know if the plant you're eating is going to kill you (bitter) at more temperatures than if the plant you’re eating tastes sweet.” 

Coffee has bitter components called chlorogenic acids, which you can pretty much taste at most temperatures. It’s other more pleasant notes that generally come out as coffee cools. "You need coffee to be dropping as close to body temperature as possible to be able to taste everything,” says Hendon. 

But let’s go back to the crappy beer analogy. Like beer, coffee can vary in flavor based on quality. And quality isn’t just impacted by growing conditions, but rather all along the supply chain, from how it’s stored at various stages to how it’s roasted. As coffee cools, quality issues will really jump out. "For some coffees, you might not want to taste everything," Hendon says. High quality coffee that’s brewed well will probably taste pretty good as it cools, but low quality coffee or coffee that’s brewed poorly will show all of its bad flavors. 

It feels like the loss of volatile components is competing with our ability to taste more fully as items get closer to body temperature, so what’s the ideal temperature to enjoy coffee? Because every coffee is made of different compounds, it really depends. A coffee from Colombia might have different volatile components than one from Ethiopia; a darker roasted coffee will have different volatile components than a lighter roasted coffee, so that ideal point can be hard to find. “So the tipping point [is] between being able to taste everything, and not everything being available to taste,” says Hendon. With those caveats, I forged ahead and tested one of my own favorite brews at various temperatures to see how it changed over time. 

The Temperature and Time Taste Test

There's a lot of science and research dedicated to exploring how flavor changes in coffee, from how it's grown to how it's brewed. But theory is different from practice, and I wanted to see if I, an experienced but realistic coffee taster, could tell the difference in flavor as a coffee cooled. 

coffee temp testing headnote 3
Serious Eats/Ashley Rodriguez

The Test Set-Up

I designed an experiment in which I brewed a cup of coffee on my everyday coffee brewer (a Ratio 6, which I picked as my favorite brewer when I tested coffee makers for Serious Eats) and tasted and temperature tested (using an instant-read thermometer) every ten minutes for the first hour, then again at the one-hour and two-hour mark. Precision was key to this experiment: I took the temperature of the room (it stayed consistently 69℉), and I didn't open any doors or use other appliances that might change the temperature of the room (Hendon notes that this could impact how the coffee cools and changes). 

I brewed a blend from Kin Kin Coffee called Weirdland at a 1:16 ratio of ground coffee to water (for this experiment, I used 60 grams of coffee to 960g of water). After the coffee was brewed, I immediately poured exactly eight ounces of coffee into the most standard diner-style mug I own, since volume affects the rate of temperature change. (Side note: Finding a standard sized coffee mug was difficult as I live in a house full of coffee lovers and we have an interesting collection of funky mugs, few of which were the right size for my tests. My only diner mug features an illustration of David Letterman, made by Variety Coffee Roasters back when I worked there in the mid-2010s.)

The Results

Here is a breakdown of the coffee’s temperature, my tasting notes, and a brief explanation of what’s happening in the cup at every interval of tasting.

0 to 30 Minutes

Temperature: Under ordinary circumstances, the rate at which coffee cools depends on several variables—how much was poured, room temperature, size of sips—but in general, coffee will lose most of its temperature in the first minutes and then begin to taper. With my highly controlled testing parameters outlined above, I noted a significant drop in temperature from the first reading (taken right when I poured the coffee) to the second (taken ten minutes later). The coffee temperature in this test dropped a steep 32℉ from 157 to 125℉ in just the first 10 minutes. After the initial 30 minutes the rate of cooling did seem to slow down.

Tasting Summary: I enjoyed the coffee overall most around the 20 to 30 minute mark (before that the coffee was either too hot, or I just didn’t experience as much flavor expression as when the coffee cooled down more). At that range, the coffee was still hot, between 102 to 110℉, and I could perceive the most flavor complexity—there was a nice balance of sweetness and acidity on the front end balanced by a bit of bitterness on the back end of tasting. 

coffee temp tasting headnote 2
Serious Eats/Ashley Rodriguez

40 to 50 Minutes

Temperature: Between 40 and 50 minutes, the coffee temperature only dropped 4℉. At the 40 minute mark I wished the coffee was hotter, but it was still pleasantly warm, while at the 50 minute mark was the first point where the coffee tasted cold.

Tasting Summary: Around the 40-minute mark, I noticed a really specific (and delicious!) note of caramel, which reminded me of something Hendon said: "I tell roasters, 'Hey, you can give [customers] your flavor notes all you want, but if you don't tell them the temperature to taste that, then they're not going to taste it.'"

He's talking about the flavor notes on a bag of coffee. The bag of coffee beans I used for my tests said it tasted like dried fruit and caramel, and while I perceived sweetness pretty much throughout the drinking experience, it became crystal clear much later. This also made sense given my experience in professional tasting settings. (I’ve worked for roasting companies where lots of members of our team come together to taste new coffees and set flavor notes that get printed on retail bags and we taste a coffee repeatedly, often letting it get to room temperature before we finalize our notes. 

1 to 2 hours

Temperature: At this time range, the coffee was cold—below body temperature—dropping from 81 to 75℉ over the course of the hour. 

Tasting Summary: I was dying for this cup to be hotter, even though I got the most specific "flavors" later in the coffee-drinking journey. I didn’t perceive a ton of negative or off flavors, but the flavor transformed from caramel to flat cola, which makes sense (flat cola basically just tastes sweet without any complexity). The fact that the coffee still didn’t have any extreme unpleasant flavor when cold is a testament to starting with well roasted beans.

Keeping It Tasty: How Long Before Coffee's Flavor Takes a Turn for the Worse

So is there a preferred time and temperature range when coffee is at its best? Well, it’s complicated. With this test my ideal sipping time was the 10 to 20 minute range, where the coffee hovered around the 110°F mark, and it had a complex flavor as described above. But different coffees have different compounds that are different with each batch roasted. 

As I wrapped up my testing notes, I realized I gave the coffee every opportunity to thrive: I used quality beans, ground my coffee fresh (using a grinder I love, the Fellow Ode Gen 2), and used a highly effective brewer. This makes me think that the issues with coffee tasting "bad" or "stale" as it cools have more to do with the tools and ingredients you choose to make coffee than it simply going bad over time.

If anything, this experiment convinced me that quality is everything and that a well-sourced and roasted coffee will remain pleasant as it cools. At no point did I find the coffee’s flavor unpleasant. And flavor-wise it even stood up well to freshly brewed coffee. 

Although I perceived flavor sensations differently as the temperature changed, the coffee never tasted stale or old. So, if you notice that your coffee goes south the minute it cools, that might be more indicative of the quality of your coffee. 

I've referenced this quote before in my review of temperature-controlled mugs, but it feels apt here: Coffee legend George Howell once said that drinking coffee should be a "thirty-minute pleasure trip," and part of the experience is enjoying it as it cools. 

It’s incredibly pleasurable to drink something when it’s warm, but a really lovely coffee should taste good at all temperatures. Hendon says his ideal drinking temperature is around 140° F )60° C) “where it's hot enough that I won't just chug it, but it's cold enough that I can actually taste it." So, while I can say delicious coffee should be good at all temperatures, I don't mean to say you should just enjoy your room-temperature coffee—rather, you should try to keep your coffee hot as long as possible. 

Regardless, there are some ways to prevent such a stark drop off in temperature: preheat your mug, cover your mug, or use one of the temperature-controlled mugs I mentioned above. The ones I recommend do a superb job of keeping the coffee hot without applying excessive heat that can impact flavor.

Let's Reheat It: What Happen's to Coffee's Flavor When It's Reheated in the Microwave

When your coffee gets unpleasantly cold, you might be inclined to throw it in the microwave. That's totally fine, but based on my tests and research, you'll never recapture the flavor it had when it was hot. 

Hendon says microwaves "apply a specific energy associated with exciting OH bonds," or the bonds between water molecules. Things with a high water content—like coffee—get hot in the microwave "because the water vibrates." When water molecules vibrate, they generate heat, which can catalyze other chemical reactions of the particles surrounding water. Bonds between other compounds in your coffee can break down, with unpleasant results. For example chlorogenic acids break down into caffeic acid and quinic acid and are more perceptible as bitter. 

Basically, you're not simply heating coffee when you throw it in the microwave but causing a whole new set of chemical reactions to happen, which can alter the flavor. But to see how the science plays out under real-life tests, I went ahead and zapped some coffee.

coffee temp testing headnote 4
Serious Eats/Ashley Rodriguez

The Microwave Test

In the most millennial sentence I've ever written, I don't own a microwave, so my first step in testing was purchasing a cheap one at Goodwill. After my coffee sat for two hours, I threw it in the microwave for 45 seconds and measured its temperature using an instant read thermometer (a Thermapen in this case). 

Taking the temperature of this coffee was wild. If I stuck the Thermapen all the way to the bottom, the temperature was significantly cooler than towards the top. (Hendon mentioned that because microwaves target OH bonds, things like a porcelain mug can remain pretty cool to the touch while the coffee inside gets hot.) The reading towards the top was around 160° F, so I took a sip immediately after reheating (warning: it was HOT. Don't do this.) and about five minutes later when it cooled down slightly to 140℉ and tasted it and compared it to coffee that was freshly brewed and coffee from the same batch that had been sitting for two hours, but not reheated.

The Result of the Microwave Test

The nuked coffee didn't taste like the coffee when freshly brewed or sitting and left lukewarm . By my professional standards, it tasted… weird. There were some strange "cooked" notes, and it had a fake sugar sweetness. But did I hate it? No. It was different, but it wasn't bad, and it felt nice to sip on something hot again after slurping lukewarm coffee all afternoon. 

The Takeaway

My main advice is that you should always drink what you like: if you want your coffee piping hot at all times, I won't stop you from throwing it in the microwave. If you're like George Howell and are ready to embark on the 30 pleasure ride, try this experiment out for yourself and see how the coffee changes and opens up over time. There are no right or wrong ways to drink coffee, but understanding what variables impact flavor is key to delivering your best brew.

Coffee Vs. Spice Grinder: When to Use Which, and Why

We’ve tested both coffee and spice grinders. Both have their pros and cons and a place in your kitchen.

Person's hand touching the Breville The Smart Grinder Pro Coffee Bean Grinder displayed on a stainless steel surface
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Many coffee grinder models look suspiciously similar to spice grinders, and it makes sense. Both have essentially the same function: They take big things and make them smaller. But you've also probably heard your regular barista chirping in your ear to not use a spice grinder for your coffee. But why? Is there a difference between a coffee grinder and a spice grinder, and do you need a separate device for each function?

A Bit on Functionality

Person's hand pouring ground coffee into a bowl after grinding beans using the OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

It’s not a "one does this, and one does that" situation.

"The difference between a spice grinder and a coffee blade grinder is somewhat confusing, yet relatively simple," says Julien Langevin, founder of Tomato Coffee Class and the 2022 United States Cup Tasters Champion (a competition where you have to taste sets of coffee cups and pick out the different one—a much more daunting task than you might think). "This is because electric spice grinders and coffee blade grinders are almost exactly the same." 

So basically, if you drew a Venn diagram of spice and coffee grinders, in the middle would be a blade grinder. But in the other two sections, there would be lots of other tools. A pepper mill is a spice grinder, and that fancy espresso gadget you see spitting out ground coffee you see at your local cafe is a coffee grinder. But that thing in the middle of the Venn diagram—the blade grinder—is pretty much the same tool, whether you call it a spice grinder or a coffee grinder. 

"Coffee blade grinders use a single central blade to chop coffee beans into a fine powder, ready to brew," Langevin says. "Most electric spice grinders actually use this same technique, and blade grinders like the Krups Coffee and Spice Grinder are sometimes marketed for use with both spices and coffee." 

A person pouring coffee beans into a blade grinder.
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Ok, so problem solved, right? You might think, "Let me just buy the one blade grinder, and I'm good to go." Not so fast—while there are spice grinders and coffee grinders that have the same functionality, that doesn't mean you should use this tool for your coffee and spice needs. 

What Does a Good Coffee Grinder Do? 

Person sifting coffee for the Baratza Virtuoso + Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Grinding coffee well is a critical step in the brewing process because coffee has such few ingredients: It's just grounds and water, and the way you pull flavor from coffee depends a lot on how it's ground. "Grinding coffee is critical to pulling the best flavor from coffee more efficiently because it exposes more of a coffee bean's surface area to water," says Alvin Kim, marketing manager for Baratza, a manufacturer of coffee and espresso grinders. "Can I use a spice grinder to achieve that goal? Sure. But will it taste good? Maybe, but not consistently." 

A person washing the cup of a blade grinder
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

That's because blade grinders (what Kim refers to above) chop coffee unevenly and inconsistently—there's no formula for how long you should hold down the button on an electric blade grinder to get grounds for a specific brew method, and blade grinders offer no uniformity. 

"If you were to brew whole coffee beans it wouldn't taste very good because the surface area of the bean is actually smaller than the sum of the surface area of all the little particles of ground coffee combined," Langevin says. "The more surface area, the more coffee flavor is being pulled out of the bean."

You might have whole beans floating around with finely ground coffee dust, which makes coffee extraction challenging: Imagine it like sauteeing an onion, except you took one half and chopped it up finely, and the other half you just threw in whole. "There's virtually no way to control the grind size of a blade grinder," Kim says. "If you're very careful with how you grind, you absolutely can enjoy a decent cup of coffee from a blade grinder, but good luck repeating it." 

Burr Grinders: Do I Need One? 

Instead, many coffee folks recommend burr grinders, which work to gently crush beans to achieve uniformity in grind size. "Burr grinders produce a much more uniform set of coffee grounds because they force beans between two cutting surfaces," says Kim. "No coffee grounds can be larger than the space between the burrs, which means you can adjust the grind size for different brew methods simply by moving burrs closer together or further apart." 

Person's hand cranking a setting on the OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

However, it's important to note that burr grinders are generally more expensive than blade grinders, and if your goal is simply to make better coffee, a blade grinder can be a good step in the right direction. "If your goal is to get away from pre-ground coffee to try more whole bean options at home, then purchasing a blade grinder seems like a fine option if that's what works for your budget," Langevin says. Coffee stales over time, and that process goes by even faster once you grind the coffee, so switching from pre-ground coffee to coffee ground at home—regardless of the grinder—will be a meaningful upgrade.

That being said, if you're looking to improve your overall coffee game, the best place to start is with your grinder, and I'd encourage folks to look into a burr grinder before thinking about a fancy espresso machine or an expensive brewer. Coffee is a game of constants: To home in on finding out what you like, it's helpful to set parameters and change only one variable at a time, and burr grinders give you that added level of control over grind size that a blade grinder can't. "A grinder is to the coffee brewer as a lens is to a camera," Kim explains. "It's the critical, precise piece of the process that brings everything into clarity. With a good grinder, you'll not only brew a more delicious cup, but you can also reliably repeat it." 

Why It's (Probably) Worth Having Multiple Grinders

multiple burr grinders and hand grinders on a grey surface
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

It depends on how dedicated you are to cleaning. Both coffee and spices leave residues when ground, so if you grind some coffee in your spice grinder, be prepared for your newly ground coffee to taste like spices

But you can clean those residues away. "For blade grinders, it’s suggested to grind a portion of raw white rice and then wipe with a damp paper towel to clean our spice or coffee residue. Some people even grind a slice of stale bread to soak up the flavors and oils," says Langevin. 

In terms of using a burr grinder for spices, you'll run into the same problems, and burr grinders are even trickier to clean—you usually have to take them apart or use a dedicated burr cleaner. I only have a burr grinder at home, and I would turn to a mortar and pestle first before thinking about running my spices through a burr grinder. 

There are so many options for both coffee and spice grinders, and you can choose how you want to equip your kitchen and coffee setup based on your needs and how often you're grinding spices and coffee. A burr grinder for coffee, a pepper mill solely for peppercorns, and a mortar and pestle for every other spice works for me, but you can adjust based on your cooking and brewing habits. As long as you understand the limitations and capabilities of each item, you'll be able to find the right tool that improves both your coffee and spice game. 

FAQs

Can a blender grind coffee beans? 

Technically, yes, but you'll get even more inconsistency from a blender than a blade grinder since you'll have grinds flying all around. The blades of a blender are also really difficult to clean, and you'll face the same problems with cross-contamination (don't make a smoothie in your blender after grinding coffee, unless you want a gritty, coffee-flavored strawberry banana smoothie!).

How fine should you grind coffee?

It depends! French press brewing usually requires a coarser grind, while espresso wants to be fine (and the finer your grind, the more difficult it is to get consistency in your grind—that's why, generally, grinders designed for espresso are more expensive). 

Can you use a coffee grinder for spices? 

You can! There are no rules! But should you? Depends. I know I would forget that I ground a bunch of spices in my grinder and then make coffee the next day, only to be wildly confused about why I'm tasting cumin in my morning cup. Cross-contamination is real, and you do have to be pretty precise when you clean since fresh spices—and freshly ground coffee—are incredibly potent. 

Why We're the Experts

  • Ashley Rodriguez is a coffee expert and writer who's worked in the coffee industry since 2010.
  • She regularly contributes coffee content to this site and has written several product reviews for us, including cold brew makers.
  • For this story, Ashley spoke to Julien Langevin (founder of Tomato Coffee Class and the 2022 United States Cup Tasters Champion) and Alvin Kim (marketing manager for Baratza).

Why the Porrón Is the Drinking Vessel You Need in Your Life

The Spanish drinking vessel is a fit for celebrations and all sorts of sprits, including wine.

a hand holding a porron filled with wine
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

In 2019, I just started freelancing for a beer website based out of Chicago, and the first thing I noticed when I walked into their office was a porrón. Made of glass with a tipped spout and a rounded handle that almost goes straight up, I had no idea what the porrón was for—but its unique build made an impression on me. I immediately googled it when I got home.

A porrón (sometimes written as porró or without the accent mark as porron) is a Catalonian drinking vessel designed to share wine. Some websites suggest that its roots lie in Ancient Roman drinking vessels, but now the porrón has a life of its own. 

As my fourth COVID-cautious birthday began creeping up on me (it seems impossible, but my first COVID birthday fell just about a week after initial lockdowns in 2020), I began dreaming of the porrón again, remembering one of its defining details: you can convivially share wine and pass around the porrón without the vessel touching your lips. Using a porrón involves hawking your head backward, holding it over your mouth, and tipping the spout close to—but not on—your lips. 

a person drinking from a porron
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Watching someone drink from a porrón is quite a sight, especially if they're good at it (yes, it requires skill and practice) and can move the porrón further and further away, creating a long stream from the tip of the spout to the eventual endpoint: your mouth. 

Like me, the porrón also left an impression on author George Orwell, who described it in his book, Homage to Catalonia, which he released right after fighting in the Spanish Civil War: 

We ate at long trestle-tables out of permanently greasy tin pannikins, and drank out of a dreadful thing called a porron. A porron is a sort of glass bottle with a pointed spout from which a thin jet of wine spurts out whenever you tip it up; you can thus drink from a distance, without touching it with your lips, and it can be passed from hand to hand. I went on strike and demanded a drinking-cup as soon as I saw a porron in use.

What Do You Drink Out of a Porrón? 

a hand pouring from a porron into a cup
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Despite his disdain, Orwell's description is apt, but his ire puts him in the minority of drinkers. Unlike Orwell, most of the people I chatted with describe drinking from a porrón as a delightful—albeit sometimes messy—experience. "I was already a fan of a long pour before I first drank from a porrón," says Dave Riddile, Director of Marketing and Operations/Manager at Here Today Brewery & Kitchen in Seattle. "But when I saw the porrón and its beautiful utility in action, I was immediately smitten." 

Barcelona-based wine educator and communicator Nika Shevela (who is also the co-founder of the wine consultancy and events organization Wine Alphabet) notes that the porrón is often associated with the countryside of Catalonia, a northwest region of Spain. “Porrón is not necessarily that common in Barcelona, but once you get out to the countryside, you start paying attention to them: they are in many wineries, masías (Catalan farmhouses), restaurants…,” she says. “You rarely used to see it in urban environments, it's traditionally been considered something typical of the countryside pagesos (Catalan farmers), or spending summers in the countryside...until a more recent vermouth revival!” 

Traditionally, porróns were used to drink wine, but as Shevela notes, a recent vermouth revival has moved the porrón out of its countryside setting and folks are experimenting with serving different kinds of beverages in it. “It used to be a mere substitute for individual glasses in the wine country, and in the countryside generally. Today, some urban bodegas and some bars in cities do have them, either as part of the decoration, or actually available to order as an entire porrón, or sometimes, half a porrón,” she says. “Traditionally, it's been used for sharing just wine, but today some places have gotten pretty creative! Bodega Monferry in Barcelona also uses it for vermouth and even beer, while Wine Fandango, a wine bar in Logroño, Rioja, are serving its signature 'vintonic' in it (wine with tonic).” 

Shevela also notes that the porrón is beginning to cross generational barriers. “You definitely see the older generation sipping their vi ranci (an oxidized style of wine) as a digestif, or even drinking a red wine with their menú del día! However, it's fun to see the younger crowd use it too: birthday parties or just a fun night out, porrón might end up on the group celebration table.” 

The sources I chatted with seemed open to serving almost anything out of a porrón—I couldn’t find any etiquette rules or frowned-upon practices, but there are some practical implications to consider when trying out a porrón. "Like, maybe not milk?" Riddile suggests. "I've porróned pisco sours, hype-y hazy IPAs, bourbon barrel-aged stouts to settle a bet, and so much more. Not every beverage has [worked]—like when we porróned cheap sparkling rose (too many bubbles) or a really dry sherry." 

a porron against a tan backdrop/surface
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

What you put in a porrón also depends on your experience—and maybe on what you're wearing. "The first time I drank from a porrón was in the late 1990s in Barcelona. Some American friends were living there, and they had one, and they broke it out at a party and filled it with red wine. It was very messy," says Jason Wilson, author of books like Godforsaken Grapes: and Boozehound and the voice behind Everyday Drinking, a newsletter about wine, spirits, travel, and culture. "I think with the porrón, there are levels of danger and confidence. If you put white wine in the porrón, there's not much risk if you spill. But with red wine, you're really taking a chance of ruining your clothes. I watched a friend from Barcelona drink red wine from a porrón while she wore a white sweater. That is a level of confidence I may never have."

How Do You Drink Out of a Porrón?

For those wondering, 'How the heck do I drink from this?' Riddile has a foolproof guide: 

a hand pouring from a porron
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

"If porróning for yourself, start at your mouth and raise the porrón while pouring until your arm is straight, and then return back the way you came before your mouth overflows. If porróning with others—if you're the one drinking, DON'T MOVE. This is essentially a trust fall exercise in beverage form. You need to trust the person pouring from the porrón that they will hit your mouth and not make a big mess of it. If you're pouring, have a steady hand and be a trustful partner in this endeavor, and ya know, hit their mouth and don't make a big mess of it."

He also strongly encourages all imbibers to enjoy the fun of a porrón. "YOU DON'T HAVE TO PORRON BOOZE," he typed emphatically. "Whether taking a break or living an NA lifestyle, you too can enjoy the magic of a porrón. Pop some dressed-up lemonade or a tasty NA version of a cocktail in that thing and be the life of the party you're trying to have."

When Should You Drink Out of a Porrón?

a hand holding a porron outside
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

A porrón is for drinking with friends. Although technically, you can pour a porrón anytime, the best time to pull the glass vessel off your shelf is to keep the party going. "It can liven up a party in a big way. I was at a beer festival at a Chicago music venue, and the folks from Cruz Blanca had brought a porrón to the festival," Riddile says. "We probably put a keg of beer through that porrón that day, and it was a wonderful catalyst for some now deeply cherished memories that I hold." 

"In my experience, it always seemed to be broken out at a point where the party is about to go off the rails, to be honest," says Wilson. "Other than that, though, I've mostly had it at very traditional restaurants in Catalonia. I'm no expert on the porrón, but I think it's fun, and it's definitely not 'touristy' though obviously tourists probably love it."

The porrón feels especially suitable for drinking situations where you want to avoid sharing the same vessel—not that you're going to parties and all sipping from one cup, but the porrón is a fun way to do something fun with a group of friends. And beyond being germ-safe, the porrón is a fun way to show care. "During the pandemic, some dear friends bought me a porrón as a housewarming gift for my new apartment that I had moved into a week after lockdown," Riddile sats. "The presence of that porrón and the thought behind it brought some warmth to that little studio apartment. I am now happy that I can share a porrón or, frankly, any beverage, a little closer with my dearest friends." 

FAQs

What is a porrón? 

A porrón is a Catalonian drinking vessel designed to share wine with friends and drinking compatriots. Because of its tip and design, you can drink from a porrón without putting your lips on the spout, making it a safer option for people who want to avoid drinking from the same vessel—but still want to have a raucous good time. 

Where can you buy a porrón? 

Porróns aren't the most accessible vessels to come by—you couldn't walk into a big-box store and find them with your kitchen tools, but they're relatively easy to find online. Most are made from glass and can easily hold an entire bottle of wine.

Robusta May Be The Future of Coffee—Here’s How To Try It

We break down what to expect with robusta coffee, plus how it compares to Arabica coffee.

A closeup shot of labels on three bags of coffee beans
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

If you walk into a coffee shop, you might be inundated with choices; beans from all over the world may stock the shelves, boasting various and diverse tasting notes, from floral and fruity to chocolatey and smoky. But, more likely than not, the coffees on your local coffee shop shelf might have more in common than you think. 

Almost all coffee can be divided into two sub-categories: arabica and robusta. Arabica (Coffea arabica) is a species of coffee that accounts for about 55% of all coffee grown, while robusta (Coffea canephora) makes up the other 45%. And, for the most part, coffee experts and roasters tend to gravitate towards arabica: it's generally regarded as better tasting. But a new wave of robusta enthusiasts is challenging why arabica has been the favored species for so long, pushing coffee pros and drinkers alike to consider robusta seriously. 

Arabica vs. Robusta: What's the Difference? 

A closeup look at the label of a coffee bag
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Coffee beans are the seed of a fruit and, like other agricultural products, have several different species that fall under the umbrella genus of coffee. There are more than 100 different coffee species, but arabica and robusta account for almost all coffee grown, and they have distinct differences. You've likely had both species without knowing it: if you've ordered coffee at a coffee shop, you were probably sipping on arabica beans, while many instant coffee blends have been made from robusta beans. In some instances, coffee roasters have used robusta in espresso blends, but robusta beans have yet to receive top billing at most shops. 

Generally, arabica coffee is more delicate and fruity and is the primary species grown in countries like Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Colombia, which are prized for their coffee cultivation. However, arabica beans can be challenging to grow and sensitive to fluctuations in growing conditions and plant diseases. 

On the other hand, robusta tends to be heartier: it can grow at lower elevations, has roughly double the caffeine as arabica, and generally has more resistance to common coffee plant diseases. So why isn't it as popular? Robusta has been hampered by the perception of its flavor and quality in comparison to Arabica. "People usually associate robustas with a burnt rubber taste and an aftertaste of peanuts," says Namisha Parthasarathy, co-founder of Ārāmse, a coffee subscription service, and founder of a YouTube channel, who is based in Mysore, India. 

Parthasarathy points out that ascribing one flavor profile to robusta beans is impossible because robusta is grown worldwide. Vietnam is the world leader in robusta production, and while robusta coffee is regularly brewed and sipped in-country, robusta also grows elsewhere, including Brazil, India, and Indonesia. However, robusta’s reputation was bad enough that many brands used marketing tactics like “100% arabica” to sell their coffees (McDonald's, for example, still uses this language to promote its McCafé line of drinks). For a long time—before there were coffee shops on every corner—robusta was in a lot of grocery blends you might find in cans and in instant coffee, which helped set the perception that it was inferior. “Indeed, the specialty-coffee boom of the 1990s—the demand shock that carried Starbucks to global dominance—came in reaction, and revulsion, to instant coffee made from robusta, which had been ubiquitous up until that point,” writes Alina Simone for The Atlantic

However, the problem seems to be that we’ve never gotten past this initial judgment of robusta. “We will never find out what robusta’s potential is if we keep it shut up in a conceptual box constructed out of judgments concocted by well-meaning people 40 years ago,” Kenneth Davids, founder of the coffee evaluation site Coffee Review, told Simone. 

It also doesn't help that arabica and robusta are often talked about in contrast to one another simply because no other coffee species are grown in the same abundance. "It's almost always been an answer to arabica in terms of growing difficulty—i.e., post coffee leaf rust (a coffee growing disease that kills plants that arabica is especially susceptible to)," Parthasarathy says. "So when it's viewed as this plan B for arabica, people just don't put any effort into seeing it for what it is and getting the most out of it. It's not sexy enough, so it suffers from a perception problem. That's the story that needs to change." 

Changing Perceptions About Robusta Coffee

A hand pouring a can of coffee into a mug
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

When Sahra Nguyen launched Nguyen Coffee Supply five years ago, she was fighting a coffee industry that generally looked down on robusta. "For folks who worked in the coffee industry, I definitely received some snarky remarks and skepticism, the tired narratives of 'robusta is gross, robusta is cheap, robusta is inferior,'" she says. She notes that not every comment was negative: she received some genuine questions from coffee people but noticed that people with no baggage associated with the term "robusta" were willing to try it out. "For folks who didn't understand the difference between arabica and robusta and weren't familiar with the binary narrative, they were very open-minded and excited to try something they previously didn't have access to." 

Nguyen Coffee Supply is "America's first specialty Vietnamese coffee company and proud champion of the resilient robusta bean," according to their website, and part of Nguyen's success has been customers responding positively to their coffee beans. "Customers love our coffee—we publish 100% of reviews on our website so that you can see firsthand their positive reactions," she says. "Many people have said it's the best coffee they've ever had." 

While Nguyen works with growers who produce both arabica and robusta beans, the company is still focused on elevating and exploring the potential of robusta—and getting the results into more people's hands, which is why they launched a series of ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee beverages made from 100% robusta beans earlier this year. Available in three flavors—classic black, coconut, and condensed milk, which is "an homage to the beloved cà phê sữa đá of Vietnam (the iconic 'Vietnamese iced coffee')"—cans can be ordered online and are also available in supermarkets and coffee shops across the US. 

Of course, there are still skeptics questioning robusta's role in coffee. Still, Nguyen Coffee Supply's success—along with their public reviews, which you can find at the bottom of each product page—speaks to how varied coffee can be and the potential to explore new avenues. "Just as we're curious to try different wines or have a preference for white during a hot summer's day and maybe a bolder red with dinner," Parthasarathy says, "consumers should view robusta as an alternative offering in the world of coffee."

Nguyen agrees that robusta isn't about replacing or changing preferences but opening up new possibilities for consumers who have felt left out of the coffee conversation. "Coffee is personal and subjective, so we can't expect all consumers to like the same thing," she says. "Be mindful that robusta may or may not be for you personally, but including robusta in the conversation and investing in its potential is for the betterment of the whole." 

The Future of Robusta

cans of coffee and a bag of coffee on a light blue surface
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Chances are you've seen some alarming headlines about coffee and climate change. Numerous studies have come to an arrestingly dire conclusion: we're at pace to lose 50% of suitable growing areas for coffee by 2050. 

Coffee is perhaps much more delicate than you might assume for a beverage charged with waking us up and inspiring us to hit the pedal to the metal. Like many agricultural goods, coffee is harvested in predictable, seasonal patterns (they can differ from country to country, but generally speaking, there is a rainy season of growth and nurturing and a dry one of flowering and harvesting) and just one climate event that falls out of line with projections could wield disastrous consequences, from coffees tasting subpar to farmers losing significant portions of their crop.

Robusta tends to be regarded as heartier, although some studies suggest that robusta might be more sensitive to climate change than previously known. While it's unclear if robusta can be a solution to the effects of climate change on coffee, it's clear that taking it seriously could advance farmers' lives, particularly in countries where robusta is the main coffee crop. "Paying attention to robusta is about investing in the future of coffee and all coffee-growing communities," Nguyen says. She also noted that the “robusta is bad” refrain can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy: writing off an entire segment of coffee can cause divestment of resources. This is a big deal in coffee, where investment and care are fundamental to quality. "By elevating the robusta coffee experience, we're able to uplift an entire segment of the coffee industry that has historically been excluded from opportunities to elevate their crop and livelihoods." 

Other roasters are beginning to explore the potential for robusta. Blue Bottle Coffee just released its first blend specifically designed to highlight the smoky flavors of robusta (it's important to note that roasters have likely been using robustas in blends without naming the beans, keeping robusta anonymous). "This blend stands to question everything the world believes about the robusta species," the company said in an Instagram post, and others note that we're in the very beginning stages of understanding the potential of robusta. (Note: the Robusta Blend No. 1 is currently sold out, but Blue Bottle still features robusta in 17ft Ceiling, which is one of their flagship blends.) "[Robusta is] newer (first seen around 1870 in the Congo and 350+ years after arabica), so we just don't know as much," says Parthasarathy. "We're so early in the robusta process, and it's an exciting time. But it's slow going. The key to coming out of this climate crisis in coffee is to be open and appreciate variance and quirks in coffee rather than the forced consistency we are taught to love." 

FAQs

What is robusta coffee? 

Robusta is a species of coffee. There are over 10,000 species of coffee, but the two most popular are arabica and robusta. Robusta is often talked about in contrast to arabica: it has double the caffeine of arabica beans and is generally thought of as easier to grow (arabica thrives at higher elevations, which can make it more difficult to harvest, while robusta can tolerate lower elevations). It's also more resistant to diseases that can harm coffee crops. 

Where is robusta coffee grown? 

Vietnam is the world’s leader in robusta production, and you can also find robusta beans growing in Brazil, India, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Where can you buy robusta coffee beans? 

You wouldn’t go into a coffee shop and ask for robusta beans—most coffee shops use arabica beans. You might see some coffee brands advertise their coffee has “double the caffeine,” which might be shorthand for the fact they’re using robusta, but unless they offer information about where the coffee is sourced from, I’d suggest steering clear of these companies. It’s best to try robusta coffee from brands that specialize in robusta sourcing or have a well-established coffee sourcing program, like Nguyen Coffee Supply or Blue Bottle. 

Kitchen Gear and Tools We Think You Should Have Two (Or More) Of

Here are the kitchen tools we think are worth buying multiples of (with product picks from our equipment reviews).

Pastry cream being strained through a fine mesh strainer into a stainless steel bowl
Serious Eats / Eric King

You've probably heard cooks or food people (and maybe we are guilty of this here at Serious Eats) lament the use of unitaskers, e.g., things with one very specific purpose, like avocado slicers, bagel cutters, or meat claws.

But what about the tools that are so useful and necessary that you need more than one? Have you ever started boiling pasta only to discover that your one and only strainer is in the dishwasher—and then abruptly stopped the dishwasher mid-cycle because you have nothing else to strain with? I sure have. Have you had to repeatedly wash and rewash a tool as you prep a recipe, stretching out what was supposed to be a 30-minute meal into a much longer affair? Yup, that's been me on a hurried weeknight.

Here's a list of items we find highly useful to have multiples of. Note: we didn't include cookware (that's a whole separate list!) or knives.

Two strainers (or more, of varying sizes)

If you're going to have one strainer, it should be a fine-mesh strainer, capable of so much more than just straining pasta and other things we rinse or boil in water. But strainers are one of those items that can't really be substituted for anything else—at least not well or comfortably. We've all—or maybe this is just me—tried to strain pasta water out of a pot by holding the lid and carefully pouring out the water, only to a) have lots of pasta water still leftover in the pot or b) splash yourself with hot starchy water. Simple tasks can become unnecessarily cumbersome if your only strainer is out of commission for any reason (i.e., running merrily through the dishwasher, as we mentioned before). 

Along with my pair of fine-mesh strainers, I also have a colander with larger holes, which isn't quite as much of a workhorse, but can handle larger batches of pasta and strain large pieces out of stock. I also have a small mesh strainer perfect for double-straining cocktails and tea drinks, along with straining out oil and water solutions for things like olives and pickles.

A handful of quarter and half sheet trays

Quarter-sheet pans are my go-to for dry-brining meat. As you can probably guess, they're half the size of half-sheet pans

Half-sheet pans are great for cooking and roasting, but I find quarter-sheet plans ideal for prep work and storage. I've gotten a little creative with my quarter-sheet pans (I have three), using them instead of half-sheet pans when I can, mostly because quarter-sheet pans fit in the toaster oven, which cooks food quicker for meals when I’m just feeding myself or one other person. But I also use quarter-sheet pans to wrap up leftovers I know are destined to be thrown in the oven (I'll cover the top with reusable beeswax covers or, in a pinch, aluminum foil).

Multiple sets of measuring spoons and cups

It is quite annoying to be going through a recipe and realize the measuring spoon you need is, say, slick with oil and not suitable for measuring spices until it's washed. It's worth having at least two (maybe three!) sets of measuring spoons. The same can be said for dry and liquid measuring cups. Having multiples around will save you a whole lot of time when prepping.

100-plus mini measuring cups

Ok, maybe not 100, but I have at least 10 of these small measuring cups by OXO. Having multiple measuring cups makes recipe prep a breeze: you don't have to wash out your measuring cups as you set up ingredients, which can be particularly annoying if you measure out something liquid or viscous, like olive oil, and then realize you need the measuring cup or spoon for dried spices. 

I like the OXO mini measuring cups, which hold about 1/4 cup of liquid; the cups also display measurements in milliliters, ounces, and tablespoons, so you can use them to measure almost anything. They have a flat bottom and can serve as vessels for your prepped ingredients.

A few cutting boards

For cutting boards, you need at least one large wooden one, one large plastic one, and one small plastic one. No arguments! After that, a very large wooden one is nice to have as well, as it can also act as a serving board. Having multiple cutting boards is great for keeping food prep safe, e.g. cutting meats on one board and saving vegetables for another to avoid cross-contamination.

Two-plus pairs of tongs

How many pairs of tongs do I have? Don't ask. I have no idea, but it's more than two. Tongs can stir, scatter, and mix. Tongs can also pick stuff up and flip it, like a giant, dry-aged porterhouse steak. I've found myself in situations where I've used two tongs to flip over particularly large items, using the second set of tongs almost like a lever.

Tongs turning a steak that's cooking in a cast iron skillet
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Sauce spoons

This is actually a pick from senior culinary director Daniel Gritzer: "I own one long-handled serving spoon, but I often find it annoying, since with home cooking I rarely need a metal spoon with such a long handle given the smaller pot size. It's nice to have one on occasion and for the table, but that's about it. Otherwise, sauce spoons that restaurant cooks use, both regular and slotted/perforated, are the way to go. They're less clunky thanks to their shorter handles, and make an easier transition between kitchen and dining table since they can be used in both places. And given how much use one gets out of this kind of spoon both in the kitchen and on the table, having a couple of each, or at least a couple of the solid (non-slotted) ones is very useful."

Silicone spatulas

I used to think silicone spatulas were only useful for baking—and I was wrong. Now silicone spatulas are what I'll use to scrape clean any plate, bowl, or dish. Why have just one!? Why have just two!?

Two Microplanes

Microplanes can be challenging to clean, so I have two. One I use for things like garlic, ginger, and citrus. The second I use for cheese, mostly to prevent cross-contamination with the items listed above, which get stuck easily in a microplane. Cheese is also something I might just grate a small amount from a larger block, so I try to keep anything that’s touched strongly-scented or flavored things away from them. How you categorize your microplanes is up to you: if you bake a lot, you might want one for whole spices like nutmeg, for example. 

A couple of vegetable peelers

Our favorite super-affordable vegetable peelers are well worth having a few stashed in your drawer. Maybe you're peeling two different things, maybe you want to enlist a peeling partner, maybe you're a fan of different colors! Don't even ask about swivel peelers—Y-peelers are way better.

A y-peeler peeling the top of an apple
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Wooden spoons

You probably already have more than one wooden spoon, but if you don't get on it! They can be used for scrapping, stirring, and scooping—all things helpful. Plus, if you care for them (i.e. hand wash-only), they'll last a very long time. We have a few wooden spoons we recommend here.

Stainless steel prep bowls, of all sizes

This doesn't need a lot of explanation: you need a ton of prep bowls. We like stainless steel ones. You can get a set like the one above or just go to a restaurant supply store (if you go the latter route, we recommend getting a lot of small ones).

Two pepper mills

If we're getting really granular, having two pepper mills on hand is a very nice thing—one for black and one for white pepper.

Multiple ice cream scoops

For portioning out cookies, cupcakes, and muffins and scooping ice cream, it's helpful to have a few of these scoops on hand. You can also just go to a restaurant supply store to get these, but, either way, they shouldn't cost you a lot.

Cookie scoop portioning ricotta-brown butter cookie dough on parchment-lined baking sheet
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

FAQs

What essential kitchen gear do I need?

The list above comprises a lot of essentials (like tongs, spatulas, measuring spoons, etc.). However, we have guides to essential cookware and general essentials (including knives, cookware, cutting boards, and more).

Should I buy a kitchen utensil set?

We don't recommend buying a utensil set because, likely, you're getting some tools you don't actually need and that aren't the absolute best quality. Instead, we recommend buying things piece-by-piece. That way, you can also easily double up on tools you find you use the most.

Lamb Braised in Forest Floor with Charred Apricot Achar

*This post was created in partnership with American lamb. Thanks for supporting the brands that support the work I do here. The month of July was filled with menu planning, recipe testing, ingredient gathering and cooking for 60 people in a 7 acre private garden in the middle of Seattle. I’ve had the great pleasure… Read more »

*This post was created in partnership with American lamb. Thanks for supporting the brands that support the work I do here.

The month of July was filled with menu planning, recipe testing, ingredient gathering and cooking for 60 people in a 7 acre private garden in the middle of Seattle.

I’ve had the great pleasure of sitting at a Secret Supper table and I’ve known Jacob and Danielle, the owners, for years. I’m not sure they even knew that I harbored a secret desire to cook for one of their dinners. These dinners are pure magic. Something happens when you gather people at a long table, in a stunning, almost dream-like setting. Flowers run down the center of the wooden tables as the birds sing and the fresh air breathes around you. As much as I loved sitting at that table I wanted to be the one in the outdoor kitchen, standing around the grill and watching the guests at the table from that standpoint.

This July I had the chance to do that very thing twice and while I’m still exhausted I am also incredibly proud. There’s such a sense of accomplishment when you do something that you’ve dreamed of doing even when that thing scares you a bit. Actually, especially when that thing scares you.

The Seattle supper was held at Dunn gardens. A stunning 7 acre garden filled with native plants arranged in a way that is both wild and structured. Before this dinner I never knew this garden existed in my city and the crazy thing is, it’s 10 minutes from my front door.

The menu reflected a life in the northwest. I wanted to feature what is absolutely best of this season at the height of summer and also bring in some flavors of the wild. I had gathered mushrooms and conifer tips in the spring for this very reason. For a chef the menu is how we tell a story and this menu tells the story of the abundance of the northwest. It is the story of a friendship. My sous chef, Hina, spent much of her life growing up in Pakistan and many flavors in this menu reflect her life and what she has taught me and opened my eyes up to over the years. It is the story of the wild that surrounds us and how generous it is but also how fragile if we don’t return the generosity with our own gratitude and gifts.

I’m including the menu from the Seattle dinner below and thanks to our partner for the dinner, American Lamb, I get the pleasure of sharing the recipe of Lamb Braised in Forest Floor with Apricot Achar.

This dish tells the story I intended to tell beautifully. This stunning and sustainably raised lamb, sits on a bed of leaves, twigs, mushrooms, berries and earth found while I was hiking near my home. It’s a genius method from friend and fellow forager, Pascal Boudar, that brings the scent we all love while walking through the woods, to the plate. The lamb is finished with a bright, tart and spiced apricot pickle and apricots grilled until charred and slumped. It’s a stunning dish worthy of an occasion.

Secret Supper
July 17, 2021

Seattle

Start

Zucchini blossom and pea pakora, wild mint & cilantro chutney

+
Smoked salmon rilletes on homemade butter cracker, black mustard seed caviar, chive flower

First

Greens, herbs and flowers in a summer goddess dressing

Second

Charred summer squash, smoked raita, candied seeds and spruce tip salt

Pickled salmon, blistered tomatoes, ginger, curried chickpeas

Main

Lamb braised in forest floor with roasted apricot achar, on fresh corn polenta, feta and wild mushroom powder

Vegetarian Option

Charred eggplant curry, on fresh corn polenta, feta and wild mushroom powder

Dessert

Wild rose & raspberry pavlova with fresh bay cream

Thanks to Danielle and Jacob from Secret Supper for making this dinner happen. For American Lamb for helping to bring it to life. And to MilkRun for sourcing the gorgeous produce.

 

 

Photos provided by:

Alba Betancourt – Absence Studio

Gabe Rodriguez

Lamb Braised in Forest Floor with Charred Apricot Achar

Ingredients

Serves 8-10

1 6-8 pound American lamb shoulder

2 1/2 tablespoons garam masala

1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Enough forest floor* to fill the bottom of the roasting pan or Dutch oven

1 onion, cut into large chunks

6 garlic cloves

3 inch piece of ginger, sliced

*Forest floor is meant to mimic the intoxicating scent of a forest hike. You can use most varieties of spruce branches, fir, maple, and alder. If you’re lucky enough to find a few edible mushrooms, throw those in there. Fallen maple leaves add a lovely flavor. You could also use woody herbs like rosemary, sage, and time. 

Charred Apricot Achar

 

3 pounds apricots, halved and pits removed

1 large red onion, sliced

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup – 3/4 cup brown sugar

Juice and zest of two limes

1 inch piece of ginger

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch fresh nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Sea salt

2 cups white wine

Instructions

For the lamb:

The day before you plan to cook the lamb season with garam masala and kosher salt. 

Refrigerate overnight or up to two days before cooking.

Bring the lamb out of the fridge one hour before you start to cook.

Preheat your oven or grill to 350*F

Line the bottom of the pot with your forest floor. Set the lamb on time. Add the onion, garlic and ginger around the lamb. Then pour in the white wine. 

Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid then roast for 3 – 4 hours, until tender but not quite falling off of the bone.  Remove the lid, turn the oven up to 450*F and continue to roast for one hour more, until deeply charred and the lamb is fork tender. 

Let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving with the Charred Apricot Achar.

For the achar:

Preheat your oven or grill to 425*F

In a large roasting dish combine 2 pounds of the apricot halves, red onion, vinegar, brown sugar, lime zest and juice, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili and a hearty pinch of salt.

Roast in an oven or grill until the apricots and onions are deeply charred in parts and the brine is bubbly. 

Let cool before pureeing in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Grill the remaining apricots then add those to the purée. Serve with lamb. 

*USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F followed by a 3 minute rest.

New Year

It feels a bit surreal to write a new year. I recognize that a new year doesn’t mean much more than a shifting page on the calendar except with it also comes a collective consciousness of hope, prayers of peace and intentions for growth. And that, I believe, is where the shift happens. There is… Read more »

It feels a bit surreal to write a new year. I recognize that a new year doesn’t mean much more than a shifting page on the calendar except with it also comes a collective consciousness of hope, prayers of peace and intentions for growth. And that, I believe, is where the shift happens.

There is great power in hope. In a deep belief that better days are ahead of us. There is massive strength in intention. With it brings a listening ear, seeing eyes and an open heart for where to live out of that intention.

We also know that after a year like 2020 whatever we think we can control and aspire to is ultimately outside of us and yet, here we are. We not only survived but I’m sure in many areas, ways that most likely surprised us, we thrived.

2020 was a year of great discomfort. Because we felt the lack of control so fundamentally and daily, I’m sure many of you, like myself, felt the body tightening anxiety and apathetic ache of depression at times. Every day revealed death, suffering and an end to normalcy. The privileged and comfortable lenses that hid my eyes from injustice fell away and the world will never look the same. And still beauty exists. We may have had to look harder or see it in simplicity; like a perfectly made cup of coffee, a profound sentence that shifts us to the core, or a sweet cherry tomato grown in your own garden. But it’s there.

In that great discomfort and dis-ease I found a truer version of me. And I’m certain many of you could say the same.

As the calendar has steadily, albeit slowly, marched towards a new year, a new beginning, I’ve thought often of myself standing at the cusp of 2020. I imagine myself like Ebenezer Scrooge, getting visited by a ghost from the future. This ghosts paints a dire picture of the coming year. The death, loss, heartbreak, isolation, financial stress, division… okay, I’ll stop.

I would have punched that ghost in the face and ran for cover.

I can’t help but think that had I known all that were to happen in 2020 I’m not sure I would believe it to be survivable and yet here we are.

We survived and I truly believe that in many ways were stronger than ever. I’m taking that truth with me into the new year and all the years to come. Whatever comes we can survive it. Even when it feels un-survive-able. Hour by hour. Day by day. And in a few moments of grace you’ll forget you’re simply surviving and you’ll notice goodness, beauty, love and these are the things that keep pushing us forward.

So I am leaving 2021 plans without resolutions. Without specific goals. Instead I want to focus on the values and intentions I want to bring to each and every day. How I see the world and what I can bring to it; these are the things I can control.

One of my resounding values that I hold dear is to find the beauty in each and every day. I hope that perhaps together we can find and bring beauty to a world that so desperately needs it.

Happy New Year.

 

Camp Cooking Essentials + Lamb Kofte with Feta Tzatziki

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Albertsons and Safeway. All opinions are 100% my own. *I’m beyond excited to partner with Safeway and Albertsons and their line of Open Nature® products to bring you this post about feasting in the outdoors. These products are created with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients… Read more »

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Albertsons and Safeway. All opinions are 100% my own.

*I’m beyond excited to partner with Safeway and Albertsons and their line of Open Nature® products to bring you this post about feasting in the outdoors. These products are created with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients without any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, just as nature intended. These products are available in my area at Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions stores., and you can find them exclusively at Albertsons Companies family of stores, including ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets and Carrs/Safeway. Visit safeway.com to find a store near you

Camping season in the PNW may be coming to a close, but we still have one more epic adventure left in us. This summer has been full of outdoor adventures. I’ve pushed myself in the outdoors in ways that have made me feel stronger and less fearful. From camping alone, to camping with a couple of moms and a whole lot of kids, to mastering the art of baking sourdough over the fire. It has been a summer filled with joyful and delicious memories, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Through all these adventures I’ve learned how to refine our pack list, what’s necessary and what isn’t, and I can guarantee you throughout every adventure we’ve eaten so very well.
So as our family is about to embark on our biggest camping trip yet, I thought I’d take you along in the planning process. If you’re just here for the food, that’s fine too. There is a Lamb Kofte recipe below that is equally delicious prepared over the fire or in the warmth of your kitchen. Click “recipe” above and you’ll be brought right to it.
For those of you who aspire to camp and want to do so with memorable meals then read on, my friends.

 

Create a plan.

My first step in preparing for camping is always to create a Google Doc with a plan for our meals. If we’re going with a small group, I also include links to the campsite and activities that we may want to consider while camping but the bulk of the doc is all about food.
Generally, if we are camping with other families, we do breakfast and dinner as a group then leave each family to take care of their own lunch.
Breakfast is usually a mix of yogurt and homemade granola and some sort of egg and potato scramble. And in our family, it’s also lots and lots of coffee enjoyed around a morning campfire.
I divide the doc into days and list out what is for dinner each day. Then, I write out a grocery list for each family and include the specifics of how the ingredients should come to the campsite. For example, we generally will have some salad with each meal so the greens should already be washed and chopped; ready to dress. This saves so much time and hassle trying to chop and clean on the campsite. Generally, I’ll ask that vegetables be already chopped as well. It saves so much time in the cooking process so we can enjoy that leisurely afternoon hike instead of having to rush back to the campsite to cook for hours – although I often don’t mind that either.
Plan your meals in such a way that the most perishable or vulnerable food items will be enjoyed first. For example, on a recent trip our first dinner was mussels in a fennel cream broth with sausage and potatoes. I picked up the mussels on the way to the campsite and kept them on ice for a couple of hours. It’s too stressful to worry if the ice in the cooler will hold long enough to keep fragile items fresh. For our last meal, on day three, we enjoyed potatoes baked in the coals with all the fixings. It’s a great meal to use up remaining ingredients and leftovers that may have accrued during the trip.

 

Know your limits.

 

I started upping our camp food game because for me, good food adds to the experience. I take great joy in feeding the people I love food that delights and wows them. The campfire became a fun challenge; could I create the same or similar food I do with ease back in my kitchen at home around the fire? The answer is YES! And often it is so much better prepared over the fire.
Something happens to me when I’m cooking with flames lapping at my cast iron and smoke is dancing around me while I move around the fire pit. I’m connecting to something primal, an instinctual nature kicks in and it satisfies me to my core. But listen, no one needs fresh baked sourdough baked over coals in order to have a memorable camping trip. You need to find what delights you in the outdoors and lean into that.
When I started cooking elaborate meals for my family over the fire, I may have taken it a little too far. There were 17 of us on the campsite and I brought real plates – not fine china mind you – but actual plates that needed washing. Lucky for me as the cook I don’t need to do the dishes but I’m quite certain my brothers were not my biggest fans when they had to hand wash 17 sets of dishes in cold camp water. Since then I’ve embraced compostable plates and utensils. My heart for the environment would prefer to use all reusable, and I do if it’s just me camping or a rather small group, but I don’t want to miss the smell of the pine, the dull roar of the waves and the time sitting around the campfire because everyone is too busy doing the dishes. I’ve found my limit and am now bringing all the Open Nature compostable products that can fit in my car.
Start small. Wrap some russet potatoes in aluminum and toss them into the coals without a care. Turn them every 10 minutes or so then top the fluffy potatoes with crisp bacon, sour cream and whatever you may have lingering in your cooler. This is one of the easiest and most satisfying meals we have had on the campsite.
Know your own limits. Find what works for you and your family and friends and lean into that.

 

Divide and conquer.

 

For us the point of the Google doc is to create a shared plan. While I tend to do the majority of the dinner cooking while camping, I’m using ingredients that everyone contributed. And since I’ve done the cooking, after dinner I’m sitting around the fire drinking a glass of wine while the dishes are being cleaned.
After many camping trips we have found what works best for our family. A system that feels equitable and shared so that we all get to enjoy our time outdoors as much as possible.
Don’t be a hero, share the tasks and divvy up the responsibilities.

Go, enjoy and let whatever may be, be.

A loaf of sourdough baked over coals is one of the most rewarding things there is but inevitably that loaf contains at least a part that is a bit charred and may require a bit of shaving unless someone is quite partial to burnt bread. But char or not it is still a loaf of fresh baked bread that has been cooked in the fire!
Embrace the char. Embrace the dirt. Embrace what is beyond your control so that you may breathe in the smell of cedar warmed by the sun, the laughter of kids who are not playing on devices, the leisurely hours spent not checking anything off of a to-do list. This is what truly delights and this is what camping is all about.

Pack List

Every trip will be different and every pack list will vary as well. It depends greatly on what is on the menu but I’ve created an extensive list of products and tools that I always bring with me when cooking outdoors and I’ll also add our pack list from a recent camping trip. Leave any questions you may have in the comments below or come find me on Instagram. I’d be happy to answer any questions. My heart is for getting everyone in the outdoors so I’m delighted to do whatever I can to make that feel accessible to all.

Outdoor Cooking Essentials

Sample Google Doc Meal Plan:

Dinner:

Sunday

Mussels in a Fennel Cream with Potatoes and Sausage
Sourdough bread
Salad
Stone Fruit Cobbler with Butter Biscuits

Monday

Roasted Mushroom & Truffle Macaroni & Cheese
Bread
Salad

Tuesday

Coal Baked Potatoes and alllllll the fixings
Salad

 

TO BRING:

Gerald & Lynne:
Firewood
Beer
Wine
Ax
Tablecloth
Paper plates
Utensils
Napkins
Aluminum foil
Salad greens, washed and chopped
Sour cream
Bacon
Cream
Briquettes/charcoal

 

Chris & Deb:
Marshmallows
Graham crackers
Chocolate
Wine
Beer
Salad greens, washed and chopped
Sausages (or Brauts)
3 Onions, diced
3 Red peppers, diced
Cream
Briquettes/charcoal
Grated sharp cheddar

 

Geoff & Amy:
Bacon
Eggs
Granola
Yogurt
Dish bin
Paper bowls (? – for granola/yogurt)

Ashley & Gabe:
Russet potatoes
Garden potatoes
Fennel
Salad dressing
Sourdough bread dough
Ritz crackers
Water
Beer
Wine
Paper plates
Salad greens
Chives
Pasta ingredients
Mama lil’s
Large cast iron
Medium cast iron
Dutch oven
Cooking utensils
Cobbler ingredients

 

Lamb Kofte with Feta Tzatziki

If lamb is not your jam feel free to substitute any ground meat here. I often like to use a mix of ground lamb and chicken or pork. If preparing this to bring to a campsite bring the seasoned meat with you along with the prepared yogurt. You can warm store-bought naan over the fire or if you want to take it next level prepare the dough at home then bake the naan over the fire. This is my favorite recipe: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/homemade-naan-recipe/

Ingredients

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground fennel

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon chili flake

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt

16 ounces Open Nature Ground Lamb

Feta Tzatziki

1 cup Open Nature whole milk yogurt

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1 teaspoon dried mint

1/4 cup crumbled feta

Pinch salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 pita

Fresh cilantro, mint or other greens

Hot sauce, optional

Instructions

In a large bowl combine all the spices with the yogurt and stir well. Stir in the meat. If you are planning to cook over the fire, have everyone at the campsite gather sturdy roasting sticks.

Take about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture then form the meat around the top 4-6 inches of the stick. Roast the meat over a fire of coals (avoid cooking in the flames as it won’t cook evenly and the flavor won’t be as good). Roast until the meat is completely cooked through. This will take about 10 minutes of steady heat. Serve the kofte in a warm pita with the yogurt sauce and greens.

Prepare the yogurt sauce by mixing all of the ingredients in a small bowl. The yogurt can be made up to three days in advance.

 

Esquites Tacos

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh organic spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients in its spices, spice blends, and herbs…. Read more »

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh organic spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients in its spices, spice blends, and herbs. You can find their products at Watkins1868.com and select stores nationwide.

As always, the words and photos are mine. I appreciate your support and the companies who graciously partner with me so I can continue to share my stories through the recipes that fill our table.

 

You may have heard of the popular street food recipe in Mexico called Elote. If not, it’s an incredible dish that starts with corn on the cob; grilled until blackened and smoky then slathered in a creamy and spicy sauce before being rolled in cheese then finished with fresh lime juice. It is now absolutely my preferred way of eating corn. Esquites is the same idea but minus the cob. Corn kernels are blackened (or the cobs are grilled then the kernels removed) and then mixed with mayonnaise, cheese, chili powder, cilantro leaves, ground cumin, adobo seasoning and lots of lime.

Because I’m a believer in “all things are better when wrapped in a tortilla” we’ve turned this classic Mexican corn dish into a taco. It’s paired with what is basically a chunky guacamole that is loaded with scallions and a touch of sour cream (or if you’re an Antoni fan you can use Greek yogurt).

This recipe is written to feed a crowd or to have plenty of leftovers. I also added slow simmered pinto beans to bulk up the tacos but you can add grilled fish, chicken, steak, or carnitas – the options are endless.

 

 

Esquites Tacos

Ingredients

Esquites

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija or Parmesan cheese

2 tsp lime zest

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 tsp salt1 tsp Watkins Organic Chili Powder

2 TBL butter

8 corn cobs, kernels removed (or about 24 ounces corn kernels – you can use frozen corn here too)

Instructions

In a medium size bowl stir together the mayonnaise, cheese, lime zest, juice, salt and chili powder. Feel free to add more chili powder if you want more heat.

Add the butter to a large skillet set over medium high heat. When the butter sizzles add the corn then let blacken. Give a quick stir after a couple of minutes then let sit again. Add a hefty pinch of salt then turn off the heat.

Stir the blackened corn into the creamy mayonnaise mixture.

Alternately you can grill the corn cobs then let cool and remove the kernels from the cob before stirring into the creamy sauce.

Creamy Avocado and Scallion Salsa

2 large avocados, peeled and diced

5 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

2 TBL sour cream

1/2 tsp Watkins Organic Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Watkins Organic Adobo Seasoning Pinch salt

1 TBL fresh lime juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBL minced jalapeño (more or less depending on your spice preference)

1 TBL Watkins Organic Cilantro Leaves

In a medium size bowl stir together the avocado, scallions, cumin, adobo, salt, lime juice, garlic, jalapeño and dried cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired

Tacos

12 small flour or corn tortillas

Meat or beans (optional)

Crumbled cotija or queso fresco

Pickled jalapeños

Warm the tortillas then serve with meat or beans, esquites, salsa and whatever other toppings you prefer. I’ve listed my favorites.

 

Rosemary Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. You can find their products at Watkins1868.com and… Read more »

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. You can find their products at Watkins1868.com and select grocery stores nationwide.

As always, the words and photos are mine. I appreciate your support and the companies who graciously partner with me so I can continue to share my stories through the recipes that fill our table.

 

We dump the flour on the table, a simple action that is right but feels a bit defiant. With our hands, they are in fact the best tool for the job, we dip into the cool powder to form a soft bowl to hold the eggs. While Ivy cracks the fragile white shells, I anticipate the day when we can cross our backyard and visit our hens (who are now chicks) to gather eggs, still warm with yolks that practically glow. I’m interrupted from this dream as the last egg runs out of our flour bowl and onto the table. Ivy and I both laugh while we attempt to capture the runaway egg. Once safely contained she generously shakes fragrant rosemary onto the dough. We both breathe in deep, taking in the piney scent that now surrounds us.

While kneading the sturdy dough I take in the simplicity of this moment, these ingredients. It’s a rare reprieve from the noise and chaos that has grown familiar in my mind. Here in this moment, with all my senses engaged, I can be at the table, fingers covered in dough, laughing with my daughter while stories of past pasta making memories entertain us during our kneading.

We knead the dough until smooth then tuck it in for rest. This is not a rushed process, nor is it complicated. It’s simple yet asks you to be present, to adjust an otherwise busy schedule around its timing, not ours. I gladly accept this offer for it is also an invitation to be here now. To meditate while covered in flour and bask in gratitude with a fragrant bowl of homemade pasta under our nose.

It’s a simple act, humble, messy and imperfect but as with so much in life these are the ones that make all the difference.

 

 

 

Rosemary Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

Yield 6-8 Servings

The pasta dough quantity here is enough for 6 – 8 servings. The sauce quantity below is enough for about 1/3 of the dough. You can easily double or triple the sauce to feed a crowd. The pasta dough can be made in advance. The dough and any leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for one day. The color may shift just slightly.

Ingredients

400 grams all-purpose flour4 large eggs1 tablespoon Watkins Organic Rosemary

For 2 large or 4 small servings (about 1/3 of the above pasta dough)

60 grams/4 tablespoons unsalted butter1 tablespoon fresh lemon juiceSea saltWatkins Organic Ground Black Pepper2 teaspoons lemon zest1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Instructions

For the pasta.Dump the flour on a large surface. Make a shallow and wide bowl in the middle of the flour. Crack the four eggs directly into the flour bowl. Add the Watkins Organic Rosemary to the eggs.Using a fork gently start to whisk the eggs, incorporating a little bit of the flour at a time. Continue to do this until the eggs and flour are the consistency of waffle batter. At this point it’s best to get your hands dirty and start kneading. Pasta dough should feel quite stiff. If it’s too dry you may add a touch of water but not too much, we don’t want a sticky dough. Knead until smooth, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Wrap well in plastic wrap then let the dough rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes. During this rest the gluten will relax and absorb the liquid. The dough will feel much smoother and cohesive after its nap.

You may use a rolling pin to make the pasta dough but if you have a pasta machine it will go quite a bit faster.Take about 1/10th of the pasta dough and keep the rest covered. On the widest setting of your pasta maker run the dough through then fold in half and run through again. Repeat at least three times. This is another way to knead the dough which will strengthen the gluten and give the pasta a pleasant bite in the end. Continue rolling the dough until you reach the desired thickness, for my pasta machine that is a 6 out of 8 settings. Add a little flour to the dough if there is any stickiness. Fold the pasta sheet in half, then half again, and again, until it’s about 2 inches wide. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in rough 1/2-inch strips. Set aside on a lightly floured sheet pan.

Prepare the sauce.