Egg Coffee, Boiled Coffee - or: Why Would Grandma use Eggs to Make Coffee?

There are two kinds of 'egg' coffee.  One uses the whole egg, including shells, the other just uses an egg white.  Neither of which seem to be used much today and there is a lot of misinformation and confusion over how and why an egg would have anything to do with brewing coffee.  I've even heard of some mistaken souls break and beat a whole egg in their coffee cup and add brewed hot coffee to it...  and wonder why anyone would drink what basically is coffee egg drop soup. 

Well... no one would.  You're doing it wrong. 

My heritage is Swedish and German and although it's well known for being a Swedish or Norwegian coffee, the side of my family that used egg in their coffee was the German side.  Also, my father-in-law (who comes from a German background) made coffee this way.

The first reason for using egg shells and/or egg whites in coffee is to give the coffee clarity as well as improving the flavor.  The second reason is for a boiled coffee, the egg traps the grounds, which is again, for clarity but serves a purpose as well.  Until percolators and coffee brewers came into use, using an egg to make boiled coffee was a given.  After brewing styles improved, the need for the egg was lost. 

Today you might only need to utilize egg coffee if you are camping making "camp coffee" or "boiled coffee" in a pot or pan or if you want to give it a go in a pour over coffee for fun.  These are 2 versions to get you started and are out of a cookbook from the 30's.

Boiled Coffee with Egg White

Use 2 tablespoons coffee to each 3 cups of water.  
Use cold, clean water and grind the coffee beans just before using to a moderately fine grind.  

Add half of the white of an egg to each 2 tablespoons coffee and put into a perfectly clean coffee pot.  
Add enough cold water to moisten the coffee. 
Pour the measured water over. 
Cover the pot closely and boil 10 minutes. 
Pour in half a cup of cold water, draw the pot to the side, off the heat and allow it to stand 5 minutes to settle the grounds.
Never let the coffee boil after the cold water has been added.
Pour carefully into cups to serve piping hot, keeping the grounds on the bottom, trapped in the egg.

Egg Coffee
Put 6 cups of water to boil in a kettle.  
Meanwhile, break an egg into a cup, crunching up the shell as well.  Add about 1/4 c water to the egg and beat with a fork.
Place 4 T fresh ground coffee into a coffee pot.  Pour about 1/4 of the egg mixture into the grounds.
Put the rest of the egg mixture into the refrigerator for later use.
When your water comes to a boil carefully pour it over the coffee in the pot.
Place the pot on very low heat and very, very slowly bring it to just the point of boiling. 
Remove from heat, pour in about 1/4 cup very cold water and let sit for 5 minutes to settle grounds.  
If you wish you can now pour the coffee through a fine sieve or simply pour slowly into serving cups to keep grounds trapped on the bottom. 

One of my grandmother's would save the egg shells from baking and cooking to crush and place over the grounds in her percolator.  As a child I remember watching her do this as she used a percolator well into the early 80's as she loved the flavor of the percolated coffee over the taste of the coffee made in the Mr. Coffee machine she was given by her kids.   In many churches where the 'church ladies' in charge of making the coffee in the urns for after service coffee and donuts, you will still find them breaking an egg and adding it to the grounds in the large urn. 

Whether or not the egg white and shells lower the acidity of the coffee, I don't know.  That would involve testing I don't have access to, nor do I really care enough to go down that road!  However, the older folk that I know in my own life that grew up making coffee this way will tell you it made the most delicious cup of coffee that was light, not too acidic and often times didn't even need the addition of sugar or cream it was so good on its own.

I have a camp coffee pot in our camping storage bin that I'm thinking I may need to pull out and give it a try.   Just for kicks.  I'll let you know..........

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