Unveil the Facts about Norwegian Egg Coffee - Ultimate GuidePublished Date:
Granted, Norway: The Land of Midnight Sun is a more commonly known phrase than Norway: The Land of Egg Coffee, and to level with you, it’s not exactly true that this egg coffee malarkey is solely a Norwegian thing. Rather, it’s reported that Swedes were also historically proponents of this curious coffee brewing technique, even bringing it to the American Midwest in the 1800s.
You may have guessed that this is going to be a rundown of everything we know about egg coffee: from its origins and why it came to be, to the effect egg has on coffee, and finally, how you can make your own egg coffee at home! Keep your mind open, and you never know, you might be proudly brewing your very own batches of egg coffee for your puzzled dinner guests after reading this article!
So… what is egg coffee?
Ah, the golden question. In short: egg coffee is a specific way of brewing coffee that originates from pre-1800s Scandinavia. It involves crushing a whole raw egg (shell and all) into coffee grounds till it makes a paste, adding it to boiling water, and voila! Norway egg coffee!
When it comes to the exact genesis of egg coffee, the jury’s out. However, it’s generally accepted that Norwegian and Swedish migrants brought this intriguing coffee-brewing method to the American Midwest around the 1800s, where it became a surprise hit in churches. Egg coffee is even affectionately referred to as ‘Church Basement Coffee’ because of the ability this hearty brew had to serve entire Sunday congregations.
You might be imagining something akin to the fluffy, creamy egg coffee of Vietnam which is made by beating a raw egg with sweet condensed milk and adding it to strong black coffee, but you’d be wrong. Norwegian or Scandinavian egg coffee is usually served without milk and has a unique warm amber glow to its color.
Why the egg?
Think of the egg as a filter. Nowadays, we might use a percolator, a french press, or a pour-over drip set up to generate our daily cup of joe. In other words, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to snazzy methods of brewing coffee at home. Wind back to Scandinavia pre-1800s and it’s safe to say the choice was a little more limited!
Coffee was punishingly bitter, water was hard, coffee brewing paraphernalia was non-existent, and yet the desire for a satisfying cup of coffee - naturally - remained. So, the Scandies had to get creative.
Crushing a raw egg with its shell into the coffee grounds acts as a kind of coffee filter, removing bitterness and impurities from the brew. Genius, right? It’s even said that before the clever old egg coffee came into fruition, Scandinavians commonly used fish bladders to filter their coffee grounds. These guys sure are industrious! Suddenly a crushed egg doesn’t sound so bad…
How does egg coffee work?
We know what you’re thinking, but what exactly does the egg do to the coffee? So, we know that the egg functions as a kind of filter for the coffee grounds, but how?
Clarifies the coffee
The addition of the raw egg to the coffee grounds helps the grounds to separate from the water. Another word for clarified coffee is ‘clean’ coffee - i.e. a smooth brew without silty fragments of grounds or oils muddying the texture of the coffee.
The egg helps the water to extract coffee from the grounds and leave the rest behind! Clarifying the properties of the egg is what gives Norway egg coffee its unmistakable resin-colored hue. Clean, pure, and free from ground coffee debris. That’s what we want to hear!
The egg binds to the coffee grounds, forming a protective layer that helps to stop the coffee grounds from burning in the boiling water.
Egg contains a protein compound called Albumin which is pretty handy when it comes to softening the blow of bitter coffee. Albumin does a good job of absorbing tannins in the coffee, therefore helping it to be less bitter. But – what are tannins? Tannins are a group of compounds responsible for bitter and astringent tastes in foods like red wine, tea leaves, and coffee.
If you like milk in your coffee, think of the egg doing pretty much the same job. Milk proteins bind to tannins, masking bitterness. Albumin from the egg does the same!
Shell and all
It’s true, a classic Norway egg coffee includes the shell of the egg as well as the raw egg white and yolk. But nothing here is an accident: the crushed up eggshell bolsters the filtering effect and also helps the coffee-egg paste to clump together more effectively, meaning it’s easier to remove from the brew once it’s ready.
Of course, nowadays we would probably have a sieve at our disposal, but remember, this smart brewing technique is hailing from Scandinavia in the 1800s! With limited kitchen utensils, this clumping together of egg and coffee grounds would have been a lifesaver for the brew and the people on washing up duty.
Is egg coffee safe?
We’re generally told to avoid raw egg, so the notion of adding it to your morning coffee might be a little hard to wrap your head around, we know. Contracting Salmonella is the main risk of eating raw egg, and rare as it may be, we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemies. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about Salmonella when it comes to Norway egg coffee.
Yes, you add a raw egg to the coffee grounds to make this ‘paste’, but you then add this mixture to boiling water, which kills all the harmful bacteria that may be lurking around in your eggs. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any nasties that are going to survive a few minutes submerged in water at a rolling boil.
How to make egg coffee at home
It’s time to take matters into your own hands. We’d be surprised if you managed to find a traditional Norway egg coffee in the trendy coffee shops of today’s main streets, so you have no choice but to brew one yourself at home. Here’s how.
What you’ll need
- Your favorite ground coffee (medium to coarse grind)
- 1 egg
- A pan
Makes 2 cups of egg coffee
What to do
- Fill up 2 coffee cups with water and pour them into a pan. Bring the water to a rolling boil on medium to high heat.
- While you’re waiting for the water to boil, measure out 3 ½ - 4 tablespoons of ground coffee into a bowl. Feel free to use more or less, depending on how strong you generally like your coffee.
- Crush a whole raw egg into the ground coffee. If you want to go the whole hog and pay homage to 1800s Scandinavia, add the shell as well.
- Add a tablespoon of water to the egg and coffee and mix well to form a paste.
- Once the water is boiling, pour the egg coffee paste into the pan. Turn the heat down to low and let the whole mixture simmer for 3 minutes.
- Keep a careful eye on the pan. You’ll see that the coffee begins to amass itself in one strange, fluffy clump on the surface of the liquid. When it’s done this, take the pan off the heat.
- Pour in 1 cup of cold water and allow the whole pan to sit and steep for 10 minutes. At this time, the coffee grounds should settle to the bottom of the pan.
- Pour liquid through a sieve and into coffee cups. You’re good to go!
Things to remember
- If you want a deep, powerful, full-bodied flavor, feel free to let your egg coffee simmer gently for longer than 3 minutes.
- You don’t need to use a sieve, you can just pour coffee from the pan, leaving the grounds at the bottom. If you’re intent on doing things the old-fashioned way, leave that sieve to one side!
- You can, of course, add milk to this egg coffee if you are that way inclined. However, you won’t necessarily get the full force of the clarified brew.
Pros and cons of egg coffee
And there you have it! You are now fully equipped to make Norway egg coffee at home whenever the moment takes you. If you’re still on the fence, here are some of the pros and cons of making egg coffee yourself to help you make up your mind:
- It’s fun! If you’re adventurous with your coffee, we recommend you dive in with this peculiar brewing method because, well… why not?
- The use of the egg produces a clear, clarified, smooth, beautifully amber-colored brew.
- If you’re ever in a scenario where you don’t have access to a coffee filter but you DO have access to an egg, you’ll know what to do!
- This method brings out the best in low-quality coffee grounds.
- The clean-up operation afterward is not ideal.
- It takes more time than a french press or percolator.
- Not suitable for vegans.
As you can see, in our humble opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to egg coffee! What have you got to lose?
Cracked: how to make egg coffee…
There you have it: Norway egg coffee in an eggshell! (nutshell, eggshell, you know what we mean!) So, whether you’re a fanatic who wants to broaden your scope of how coffee can be brewed, you’re on a camping trip and you forgot to pack the coffee pot, or you have a particular affinity to Scandinavia, you now know everything you need to know about the phenomenon of egg coffee!
The Scandinavians knew the score. All they wanted was a decent cup of coffee, and they managed to achieve a smooth, uniquely amber-colored brew, improvised from such limited materials! We love the humble beginnings of the intriguing egg coffee.
We’ve taken you on a whistle-stop tour of the history, science, and the method behind how to make egg coffee; something we have our friends over in Scandinavia to thank for. Hopefully, you feel ready and able to give this coffee grounds brewing method a good go. Let’s keep the tradition alive and keep on cracking those eggs, shells, and all!