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Odd spots: Coffee fungi and feral burgundy

I heard on ABC radio this afternoon that it is fungi that give coffee its distinctive flavor. I have no reason to think this research is wrong. Indeed it rationalizes the fact that the half-drunk cups of coffee that I discover, after several days, in nooks and crannies around my office, are often encrusted in a mattress of mould. It also explains the response made once to me in a café when I asked the proprietor how he made his coffee so well. The claim: the trick is never to wash the coffee-making equipment.

Well, maybe…but I have been fooled…

Years ago I heard that great French burgundies were enriched by throwing a shovel of cow manure into each barrel. The claim was it gave wines that element of French pong (more correctly, ‘feral characteristics’) so appreciated by burgundy lovers – this is distinct from burying female cow horns full of the stuff in fields where burgundy is produced. I naively believed this preposterous claim for years until I asked a knowledgeable wine-maker what effect this additive to pinot noir was likely to have.

His laconic (and, with hindsight, obvious) response: It would probably kill you!

4 comments to Odd spots: Coffee fungi and feral burgundy

  • Lesley de Voil

    My granma maintained that one should never use more than a small rinse of water in the teapot – just sufficient to remove the old leaves. Don’t even think of taking a potscrubber to it. The brown crusting adds to the flavour.
    Burying cowhorns of manure in fields is of course the bio-dynamic original. I’ve always assumed that this was a pre-industrial era method of supplying legume inoculant material.
    As for putting it in the wine – surely 14% alcohol will dispose of any pathogens. After all, this is one reason why wine was drunk like water.

  • derrida derider

    The fungi encrusting your old coffee cups (probably a Penicillium species)are unlikely to be related to the fungi that’s on the coffee beans. Fungi ain’t just fungi – there’s over 100,000 known species.

    And old coffee residues oxidise and therefore acidify – not conducive to nice tastes.

    The 14% alcohol in cheap wines is an indication things have been added or subtracted from them – yeast stops reproducing at about 11 or 12% alcohol (they’re much more tolerant of it than humans – I’d be unable to reproduce long before my blood alcohol reached that level).

    But Lesley’s point about alcohol being as much a traditional drink preservative as an intoxicant is correct.

  • taust

    The work on coffee and fungi came out of Brasil I think. It may only apply to Robusta beans

    Another interesting fact is the remarkable length of time coffee grouts can be left before a mould takes hold.

  • mlesich

    And people ask me why I don’t drink coffee

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