I Learn to Boil Water

5 Dec

I received a new Simpson & Vail catalog today. S&V is my favorite Internet supplier of tisane and tea.

A few weeks back I saw Ocean’s 13. In it, a guy orders green tea and tells the waiter to get the water temp right and not “burn it.” The S&V catalog contains brewing instructions, which include some really specific temperatures like exactly 175°F.

Now, I did not know you could “burn” tea (apparently too high a temperature will extract too much caffeine and impart a bitter taste). Since I didn’t see any thermometers offered in their catalog or on the website, I’m left wondering, “How does one tell when the water is the right temp?” I could use a candy thermometer (it uses honest-to-goodness mercury, which I’m told is the best), but I’m saving my quarters for the penny bubble gum machine (alright, you caught me; I own a candy thermometer, but it seems like a whole lot of effort to drag it out every time I want a cuppa).

So off to the Internet I go and [shock and awe] I find out there is a real art to boiling water (who knew!) and there is even [gasp!] a recipe:

  1. Choose a pot that’s large enough to hold the amount of water you want to boil and has a lid that fits. You might be tempted to use water that’s already warm or hot from the tap, but this water has been sitting in your pipes for some time getting stale. Use cold water if you’re going to drink it or cook with it. (As opposed to when you are going to be rendering and disposing of an unwanted body you have lying around the house.)
  2. Don’t fill the pot all the way up – keep in mind that anything you add to the boiling water will increase the volume and you’ll need to allow room for those bubbles to do their thing. Without enough room in the pot, for example, rice or pasta will boil over. (Scrubbing burnt lard off the burners does get to be so annoying! And the smell — whew!)
  3. Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. If you want to speed up the process, put a cover on it. (And we all know that speed is of the essence in today’s society; when was the last time you disposed of an unwanted body slowly?)
  4. Check for steam escaping from under the lid, then lift the lid carefully to see how the water is doing. (Be sure to ask how it is doing politely; there’s nothing worse than pissed off hot water.)
  5. Look at the water. If large bubbles are rising from the bottom of the pot to the surface, the water is boiling. (Do not stare at the water’s big bubbles; staring is impolite! And never comment on how big a water’s bubbles are; your mother taught you better than that.)
  6. Small bubbles that stay at the bottom or sides of the pot are air bubbles present in the water; they don’t necessarily indicate that boiling is imminent. Wait for bubbles that rise to the top of the pot. (Make sure bubbles are the only thing that rises or you will be in a world of hurt.)

Here are the highly technical descriptions for temperatures of water (but only if you live at sea level, which I do; if you don’t, I feel sorry for you (and if you’re nerdy enough to want to know how to adjust all these temps, click here)):

  • Tepid Water – 85 to 105°F. The water is comparable to the temperature of the human body. (Provided it has not been stored in your freezer.)
  • Warm Water – 115 to 120°F. The water is touchable but not hot. (However, it doesn’t really like you, so keep your hands to yourself.)
  • Hot Water – 130 to 135°F. The water is too hot to touch without injury. (Go ahead, I dutch double dare you to touch it!)
  • Poach – 160 to 180°F. The water is beginning to move, to shiver. (It is just faking that it is cold, so do not go get it a sweater.)
  • Simmer – 185 to 200°F. There is movement, and little bubbles appear in the water. (If you start to sing “Tiny Bubbles” at this point, you will be summarily executed.)
  • Slow Boil – 205°F. There is more movement and noticeably larger bubbles. (This phenomenon is very similar to when little boys fart in the bathtub.)
  • Real Boil – 212°F. The water is rolling, vigorously bubbling, and steaming. (It is at this point that both the teapot and the fat lady will sing.)

What I have learned from all this is that I will be drinking my white and green tea “poached” from now on. (And that it is perfectly okay to use stagnant water to get rid of people you never liked in the first place~and if you are faint-hearted, bring it to a “real boil” and use it to make their tea. They’ll never come back to you for seconds.)

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