Serving : Keeping It Hot

The only absolutely practical contribution that serving paraphernalia can make to coffee-drinking pleasure is keeping the coffee hot. This contribution is an extremely important one, however. It involves a delicate balance between too much heat, which bakes the coffee, and too little, which leaves the coffee lukewarm and our senses ungratified.

One way to keep coffee warm is to brew it in, or into, a preheated, insulated carafe. The other way is to apply some heat under the coffee as it is brewed.

An insulated carafe is by far the best approach technically. Any external heat, no matter how gentle, drives off delicate flavor oils, cooking the coffee and hardening its flavor.

Fortunately, there is no lack of brewing devices that protect coffee heat in insulated receptacles during and after brewing. Automatic filter drip machines that brew directly into insulated carafes are available in a variety of styles and prices, and several designs of French-press brewer replace the usual glass brewing decanter with an insulated metal or plastic decanter. Designs incorporating insulated carafes typically cost a bit more than those that brew in or into conventional glass decanters, but for anyone who cares about coffee quality it is money well spent.

As for the less-desirable expedient of keeping coffee hot by putting some heat under it, solutions range from the familiar hot plates on automatic drip machines to gentler approaches like candle warmers and insulated cloth wraps for French-press pots. Filter-drip-brewing purists who pour the water over the coffee by hand have the option of keeping their coffee hot by immersing their brewing decanters in a bath of warm water. Simply gently heat some water in any kitchen pan or pot large enough to accommodate both water and brewing decanter, and leave the combination over a very low flame as you enjoy the coffee. Of all of the heat-applying approaches to keeping coffee hot, this one is probably the least destructive to flavor.