When I did my research for my post on cowboy coffee, something that I came across quite a few times was the concept of putting egg shells in your coffee while it brews. While this may seem a little strange, there is apparently something in the chemical makeup of an eggshell that binds with the ground coffee and makes it sink to the bottom.
If you are interested in clarifying your cowboy coffee a bit, I recommend giving the eggshell method a try. Start with my cowboy coffee recipe and method and simply add the crushed eggshell from one or two eggs.
Recipes for Norwegian egg coffee take this egg concept in a different direction and include a whole egg minus the shell.
As I was reading about Norwegian egg coffee, I came across claims of the proteins in an egg binding with some of the astringent and bitter compounds contained in coffee and essentially removing them.
I was curious. Even though I know that a great coffee that is brewed properly should not be astringent or bitter (or at least the bitterness should be balanced with the sweet and acidic flavors), the thought of throwing an entire egg into the mix was too interesting to pass up.
Conventional wisdom says that adding an egg to your coffee would not be an improvement but as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The only thing to do was to get a few eggs and try it out.
The History of Norwegian Egg Coffee and Egg Coffee Hypotheses
According to my research, Norwegian (or Scandinavian) Egg Coffee has its roots in the American Midwest. Although the exact origin is unclear, Norwegian Egg Coffee has strong ties to Lutheran church gatherings by Scandinavian-Americans. I also found an Egg Coffee recipe (and a cold brew recipe) in the 1918 Fannie Farmer Cookbook (Check out the recipe here).
I will have to admit, the more I read about the practice of adding egg to coffee, the more skeptical I became. Meister from Serious Eats dubbed the practice “church basement coffee” and reported it to be like “a big, sloppy kiss from your chain-smoking Aunt Sylvia.”
Then there is the problem of scale. Most recipes call for up to a cup of medium to coarse ground coffee. That is a lot of coffee (over 150 grams). Committing over 1/3 pound of amazing coffee to a half-cocked experiment seemed cruel, but to use an inferior coffee I disliked seemed like laying up and not giving egg coffee a fair shake.
The Norwegian Egg Coffee Experiments
After looking at a few recipes and sorting through some articles about the subject, I came up with a two egg coffee experiments (essentially taste tests) to try. Even though I cringe at the thought of boiling coffee for three minutes, I decided to stick with the suggestions of nearly all the recipes and boil the coffee. I also decided it was not really practical to compare with a percolator brew of coffee. I supposed that comparing the egg coffee method to a French press of the same coffee would be a fair assessment of its capabilities.
My Norwegian Egg Coffee Recipe
- 600 grams boiling water plus 50 grams cold water
- 25 grams of coffee (Note: I changed the ratio to 1:18 for my second experiment)
- 1 egg beaten mixed with ¼ cup of water
Mix 50 grams of the egg mixture with the coffee grounds and add the mixture to boiling water. Boil your egg coffee for 3 minutes. At the 3 minute mark, take your coffee off of the heat and throw the cold water on top (like with cowboy coffee). Let sit for 10 minutes and enjoy. You will need to strain the mixture if you intent to drink more than a few ladles of it.
Egg Coffee with “Bad” Coffee Compared to French Press with “Bad” Coffee
For my first tasting experiment, I went with a pretty standard no-name “Bad” coffee. It was pre-ground and stale. I figured that if Norwegian Egg Coffee was going to shine anywhere, here was a good place to start. (This coffee was not enjoyable and could definitely use a little help.)
Using the recipe above, I made a batch of egg coffee and a batch of French press coffee for comparison. Here is what I found out:
- The egg coffee was lighter in color than the French pressed coffee. It is possible that the color difference was due to the difference in the brew ratios. The egg coffee was brewed at a 1:24 ratio and I brewed the French press at a 1:18.75 ratio.
- I preferred the egg coffee to the French press but neither was very good. The egg coffee was thinner and a little sweeter (the thinness could have been due to the dosage). As it cooled, the egg coffee pulled even further ahead of the French pressed coffee. Bad coffee is really bad at room temperature but the egg coffee was just a below average cup of coffee.
Don’t get me wrong, neither cup of coffee was good. I think it is possible that the reason that the egg coffee was preferred was more due to the dosage than the brewing method. Perhaps I liked the egg coffee better because it was more watered down and hence didn’t taste as bad. I did find it interesting that even though I boiled the coffee for 3 minutes, it did not have a harsh boiled or over-extracted taste.
Egg Coffee with Good Coffee versus a Good French Pressed Coffee
For the second tasting experiment, I decided it would be best to keep the brew ratios the same for both brewing methods. I decided to go with a 1:18 ratio for both (even though I will typically use 1:16.6 for my French press recipe). I was originally planning on removing the boiling step from the recipe, but I found the results from the first experiment intriguing enough to try the boiling again. Here are my thoughts and results from the second trial:
- I immediately could tell the difference between the two coffees. It was actually pretty surprising. The egg coffee was thin and one dimensional even though it had been boiled for 3 minutes and steeped for another 10. The French press (a nice Yirgacheffe from my friends over at Fresh Ground Roast), was balanced, interesting and a good cup of coffee. I strongly preferred the French Press coffee.
- As the egg coffee cooled, it became very tea-like to me. It occurred to me that I could drink it (maybe over ice) and enjoy it. It was very light in body, had a hint of sweetness and really no bitterness.
When compared to the French press coffee, I was not a fan of the egg coffee. However, I think that without the control coffee for comparison, I might have enjoyed the egg coffee more. It was different enough from a traditional cup of coffee that I could be open to experimenting with it a little.
Conclusions on Norwegian Egg Coffee
Norwegian egg coffee is an interesting way to brew coffee but I find it hard to pull very many positives from my experience. It was enough of a hassle and extra steps that it will probably be a long while until I fiddle with it again.
Adding an egg to your coffee is not going to be a miracle step that turns cheap coffee into a palette pleasing cup of Joe. Buying better coffee is still the best way to dramatically improve your cup quality.
Good coffee is (most of the time) painstakingly developed by the roaster to bring a balance of sweetness, acidity and bitterness. The egg removed things from my good coffee that were part of that balance and left it feeling incomplete and bland.
While Norwegian egg coffee may be a fun experiment or cool party trick, I really can’t recommend it as a viable way to improve coffee at any level. Stick to the basics: Buy good coffee that is fresh, grind it right before brewing and choose a manual brewing method you enjoy. Fry the eggs and leave them to the side your morning cup of coffee.
Have you ever experimented with egg coffee or other additives to the brewing process? Join the discussion below.