This is Party Time, a column featuring Young Gun-approved approaches for acing a dinner party.
Eater Young Gun Sumi Ali (’18) has worked in the coffee industry for over a decade, but he says brewing coffee at home isn’t as difficult as fancy baristas want you to think it is. “It’s just beans and water,” the Yes Plz co-founder says. “When you start with really good, freshly-roasted coffee and a general idea of how much water to use, it’s actually really easy to make great coffee at home.” And when it comes to serving guests, Ali knows that a big batch of great coffee and just a few accoutrements are all you need.
The same basic rules apply whether you’re making a pot for yourself or for a crowd to cap off a dinner party: To achieve a quality brew, Ali swears by a basic kitchen scale that measures in grams. “Being able to have a ratio of the amount of coffee in grams to the amount of water in milliliters unlocks everything. It removes all the trickery and magic,” he says. He always starts with 15 milliliters of water to every one gram of coffee and goes from there.
If you’re sticking with hot coffee, Ali recommends harder, drier desserts. “A hot coffee and a cookie is a good evening pairing,” he says. But when he wants to wow a group, he leans into cold coffee as a dessert course.
After the meal, Ali and his wife Christine set up a DIY coffee station, which they call the Creamer Bar. “Before the party, we’ll make a giant batch of cold coffee, whether that’s chilled or cold brew, and prep different creamers.” Ali uses the Coldwave Beverage Chiller to turn freshly-brewed, hot coffee into crisp, cold coffee instantly. Then it’s time to mix the add-ins. “You could have oat milk, almond milk, and heavy cream. We add sweetened condensed milk to one, vanilla extract or almond extract to another, offering two or three options for people to build their own dessert coffee.”
Ali recommends coffee-infused whipped cream for an extra treat. “You could steep some heavy cream and coffee grinds, throw it on the stove for a minute or so, strain it, and whip up some cream. That’d be great. Put it on your chilled coffee or on a piece of cake to have with your coffee.”
If your style is more booze than sweets, Ali suggests subtly working coffee into cocktails. He looks beyond the obvious espresso martini, treating coffee as an ingredient, rather than the base of the cocktail. “I make simple syrup out of coffee, water, and sugar. It’s a great way to get a little bit of coffee flavor into a cocktail without it being a coffee cocktail. A simple syrup made with a lighter, floral coffee would lend interesting character to a gin cocktail, while one made with a chocolatey, darker coffee would be great for a whiskey cocktail.” Though for a great drink, beans and water are all you really need.
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