This section is from the book "Philadelphia Cook Book: A Manual Of Home Economies", by Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer. Also available from Amazon: Philadelphia Cook Book.
The coffee tree is a native of southern Arabia and Abyssinia, and is cultivated in various parts of the world where the temperature is sufficiently high and uniform. The seeds are inclosed in the fruit, which is a roundish berry, umbilicate at top, at first green, then red, and then a dark purple - resembling our common morello cherry; each contains two seeds surrounded by a paperish membrane and inclosed in a yellowish, pulpy matter. These berries are allowed to ferment, then they are crushed under heavy rollers, separated, the seeds divested of their coverings, and dried. These seeds constitute our coffee. The character of coffee varies considerably with the climate and mode of culture. The Mocha coffee, which is known by its small, roundish grains, agreeable odor and flavor, takes the precedence of all others. The Java, a large, flat grain, is highly esteemed in this country. The Brazilian coffees are between the two in size and inferior to both in flavor. Coffee improves by age. It ripens in the mat, losing a portion of its strength, and thus acquires a more agreeable flavor. If you buy your coffee roasted, do so in small quantities. Keep it closely corked and grind just before using; the finer it is ground, the better. The peculiar odor and flavor of roasted coffee are due to the caffeic acid, the aromatic oil, and, doubtless, also, to the sugar, which is changed to caramel. An infusion made at a low temperature (not exceeding 2000 Fahr.) is much better than a decoction made by boiling. The darker the coffee is roasted, the more injurious the effects. If coffee be boiled, there is extracted a poisonous oil, and the delicate aroma and flavor of the true coffee escape in the steam; and, if you wish to enjoy them, repair at once to the top of the house, and you will find them there. To my mind, there is but one true and healthful way of making coffee, and that is by percolation - an infusion, not a decoction, being made.
The most important point in making good coffee is to use the water at the first boil; after it boils a few minutes it parts with its gases, and becomes flat and hard, and will not make a perfect infusion if you use the finest berries that Mocha ever exported. Consequently, wash the teakettle perfectly clean every morning, fill it with fresh cold water, and bring it quickly to boiling-point. Have the coffee in the pot, allowing one heaping tablespoonful of finely ground coffee to each cup, pour over it the water; as soon as it drains through the biggin, fill the top again, and so on until you have the desired quantity. Serve immediately in the same pot, if possible, I have always produced the best coffee from a mixture of two-thirds Java and one-third Mocha, and prefer the old-fashioned biggin to any other pot.
For those who do, and always will boil their coffee, I hesitatingly insert the following recipe: -
Put four heaping tablespoonfuls of finely ground coffee into any sort of a pot. Put the white of an egg into a bowl, add to it a half-pint of cold water, beat slightly, and put one-third of it into the pot with the coffee; add sufficient cold water to thoroughly moisten. Then add sufficient boiling water to make the quantity desired. Cover the pot, stand it over a brisk fire, and bring it quickly to a boil. Let it boil up thoroughly about a half-minute, add a half-cup of cold water, and stand on one side of the fire a few minutes to settle.