The Swedish Trilogy, 1: Coffee

Coffee should be dark and bitter.
Coffee should be dark and bitter.

It’s early on a summer’s morning and I have just ordered an Americano in a rather nice cafe in a suburb of Stockholm. The barista makes a double espresso, pours it into a cup and tops it up with filter coffee. The result is extremely strong and packed with caffeine. There’s a good reason for why I don’t send it back.

The Swedes like their coffee strong. Very strong. American coffee is derided for being tasteless and weak and Italian coffee for being served in far too small cups. What you really want is a lot of strong coffee, possibly with a splash of milk. Our love of coffee is such that when I grew up coffee by the kilo was the most popular prize for quizzes and raffles.

There are three main types of coffee:

  • boiling coffee: put ground coffee in cold water, bring to the boil and boil for five minutes, then let the coffee grounds sink and serve. Boiling coffee is economical because you get all the flavour and caffeine out of the grounds.
  • filter coffee: let boiling water filter through a thick layer of ground coffee. Less economical than boiling coffee but somewhat more delicately flavoured.
  • instant coffee: put two or three teaspoons of instant coffee in a cup and pour over a small amount of water. Fast, needs a minimum of equipment and is better than no coffee.

The resulting liquid, whichever method you use, should be black and bitter. With your coffee you can indulge your sweet tooth, for example by having a chocolate ball. (You’ll find a recipe for this below.) With my extra-strong Americano, I have a massive cinnamon bun since this is breakfast and not elevenses. I will not sleep for the next three nights.

Chocolate Balls

Chocolate ball, super-sized

Chocolate ball, super-sized


  • 100 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200 grams porridge oats
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa (not drinking chocolate but good, dark, cocoa)
  • 125 grams sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar or a small dash vanilla essence
  • 2-3 tea spoons water, strong coffee, brandy or other liqueur (optional)
  • desiccated coconut, sesame seeds or hundred and thousands, for decoration.


  1. Mix the cocoa and sugar.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the butter and porridge oats to a grainy consistency.
  3. Add cocoa and sugar to the oat mixture and mix.
  4. Add coffee or liqueur and mix.
  5. The mixture should stick together in a ball when pressed. If it doesn’t, add a little more butter or liquid.
  6. Form 40 small (or 10 large) balls.
  7. Roll in coconut, sesame seeds or hundreds and thousands.
  8. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.

Eat. But not too many at a time – chocolate balls are yummy, safe for children to make, and store well in the fridge for up to a week, but they are not at all healthy.

Last updated by at .


About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.