Coffee

How to Make Coffee the Way Beethoven Liked It

February 12, 2021Blake Stilwell
beethoven coffee

No one was more serious about how he took his morning coffee than the classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Despite living in Vienna, whose coffeehouses are now considered an asset of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, Beethoven was unlikely to be seen actually ordering coffee in one.


The notorious LVB was obsessively particular about making his own coffee. Unlike many composers of his day, he was a commoner and had the culinary skills for the task.


Beethoven was the youngest member of the Habsburg Empire’s court orchestra at age 19. When the group was sent to play for the imperial prince-elector in Schwetzingen, they traveled up the Rhine by yacht. As the youngest, and without a noble title, young Beethoven was given kitchen duties, serving in the galley as a scullion.


Biographer, contemporary, pupil, secretary, servant, and “factotum” Anton Schindler was as close to the composer as one could get. After Beethoven died, Schindler literally wrote the book on all things Beethoven, which included his food preferences.


beethoven coffee
Ludwig van Beethoven, the German composer and pianist, in the book Biographies of Famous Composers by A. Ilinskiy, Moscow, 1904. Adobe Stock image.


According to Schindler, Beethoven wasn’t very particular about his eating habits, often preferring macaroni and cheese over anything else. His biographer also noted that, save for his coffee, he was a terrible cook.


But the skills he picked up in that yacht kitchen would go a long way toward his dedication to the perfect cup of coffee.


It’s not known how he came by this personal recipe, but its measurements are exact. It starts with grinding precisely 60 coffee beans — no more, no less. He would even count the beans out to be certain, and if he made a mistake in his count, he would start over. He did it even if he had visitors watching him.


This was important to creating the coffee he wanted, and I don’t blame him. No one willingly drinks terrible coffee.


After counting the beans (and presumably grinding them), the composer then brewed the coffee in a glass contraption of his own design. These days, there are many kinds of glass coffee makers, including the Chemex pour over and French press (or, if you’re cooking meth, maybe a laboratory-level Florence siphon).


No one knows what tools Beethoven used to make his 60-bean coffee, but the amount of grounds provided by 60 beans could be an indicator. That exact number of beans produces about 8 grams of ground coffee. This would be enough to make a shot of espresso, which hadn’t been invented yet. A French press brew, known as cafetiere back then, requires twice as much coffee. So those two are out.



But since Schindler notes that Beethoven was “oriental” in his tastes, his coffee could have been prepared in the Turkish style, which would be extra strong using that much coffee. Another possible and more likely option is a glass balloon-style brewer, which is similar to today’s siphon brewers and featured a metal spigot on the lower chamber.


What would cause a grown man like Ludwig van Beethoven to obsess so much about his coffee every morning? Likely the same driving force that led him to become a classical composer in the first place: his drunken father.


Beethoven grew up in a house of performers. It was his father, a singer in the Habsburg Court, who taught the young boy musical composition. His dad was also an abusive alcoholic. Children of alcoholics are prone to developing obsessive-compulsive disorders, like the one Beethoven had about his morning joe. These children are also known to develop alcoholic tendencies themselves.


And Beethoven did that, too. As an older man, he loved drinking wine, and consumed it in large quantities, no matter what kind of wine it was. Later in life, his doctors advised him to avoid both booze and coffee — advice he completely ignored. It was, in fact, the alcohol that killed him. He died of liver damage in 1827.



Blake Stilwell
Blake Stilwell

Blake Stilwell is a traveler and writer with degrees in design, television & film, journalism, public relations, international relations, and business administration. He is a former US Air Force combat photographer with experience covering politics, entertainment, development, nonprofit, military, and government. His work can be found at We Are The Mighty, Business Insider, Fox News, ABC News, NBC, HBO, and the White House.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Military
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Military
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Intel
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Military
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Intel
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
Dear John letter
History
‘Dear John Letters’ — A History of Wartime Breakups

The dreaded Dear John: the wartime breakup notice that took weeks to arrive in the mail.

February 3, 2023Matt Fratus
National Defense Service Medal
Military
A Brief History of the National Defense Service Medal

First issued at the end of the Korean War, the National Defense Service Medal has been awarded durin...

February 2, 2023Jenna Biter
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved