Coffee!?!?

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  • #90799
    DeeAnn Hopings
    Ambassador

    So, a bit of an offbeat question, but then again I am a bit offbeat as a general rule!

    Do we have any died-in-the-wool coffee mavens amongst us? If so, spill the details (but <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>NOT</span> the coffee)!?!?

    For me, I started drinking coffee at the beginning of college. In those days (late 60’s) machine coffee was horrendous. That was all we had in the library building. To get real brewed coffee from an urn you had to go part way across campus to the Student Union to where the cafeteria and snack bar were. Anyway, the machines used some sort of ugly artificial sweetener and that permanently turned me away from putting anything sweet in coffee. I drank my coffee black for a while, but I began to develop hyperacidity, with is the precursor for developing an ulcer. My doctor advised that I either drink tea or add milk. I’ve never been a tea drinker, so that made the decision for me. Ultimately I used a bit of Half & Half (a 50/50 blend of milk and cream) for a nice golden brown color and that continues to this day. From my trip to Australia some years ago, I believe it is called a Flat White.

    However, over the years there has been an evolution to my coffee making. Originally it was hot water and instant coffee, an expedient but thoroughly mundane and unsophisticated methodology. Personally, I tend to take exception to the word “instant”. Things like Instant Oatmeal annoy me to no end!

    In the early 2000’s I started grinding my own beans. Several years ago I retired from Corning, Inc. Many years before my tenure, they made stove top percolators out of clear Pyrex glass. I stumbled across a 6-cup model in a thrift store and I had to have it because it was really “cool”. But, it was several years before I used it. When I did start, it worked well and I used that for some time. Eventually I found the 9-cup and 4-cup models to complete the set. I tend to cycle between 4 to 7 varieties of coffee beans of medium to medium-dark roasts. It’s kind of like “What variety shall I make next?” and that is part of the fun for me. But, the color of the brew determines when you consider it to be done. With different varieties, the darkness of the brew can be a bit different. In terms of process, the engineer in me recognizes that as a potential source of inconsistency.

    So, next up was a French press. I liked how that worked. It was simple and straightforward, which translates to a consistent methodology. The only problem is that French presses are relatively small. I think the largest one that I’ve seen is a 4-cup. To me it is inefficient to make 4 cups or less at a time. I like to make a larger volume and store it in glass in the refrigerator. I’m OK with a minor bit of flavor loss.

    For the next iteration I purchased a 10-cup Chemex pot for pour-over. Bear in mind that a “cup” is more like the size of cup that you find in a tableware set that is fairly small (4oz maybe, I forget). At this time I also bought and inexpensive burr grinder and a water pot with an adjustable temperature setting. I forget the exact numbers, but coffee brews best between 197.xF and 204.yF, so I set the pot for 200F. There isn’t much to do in the procedural sense, so this method is pretty consistent; to the point where I can spend a couple of minutes telling someone how to do it and they’ll be fine.

    But, for some reason, my head was turned by the siren song of the vacuum or siphon coffee maker. This is a very cool device, both visually and mechanically. It consists of 2 globes that are mated, one on top of the other. Sounds suggestive already!?!? The water goes in the bottom globe. By the way, I have been using bottled water that I keep in my refrigerator for coffee making since I’ve been here in California. Our kitchen faces eastward and that wall of the house stays warm. During the course of the day, the concrete slab also stays warm. The result is that tap water is always at least lukewarm and that drives the oxygen off. Good oxygen content in the water improves the flavor. So, the globes are mated via a rubber seal and the ground coffee goes in the upper globe. There is a cloth filter between the globes that is crucial the the process. Since the globes are sealed to one another, as the water is heated, the water vapor rises and passes through the cloth. Eventually the bulk of the water vapor progresses to the upper globe and brews the coffee. At that point it is removed from the stove. As the lower globe cools, a vacuum will develop and it will pull the brewed coffee into the lower globe. But, the cloth filter only passes the liquid coffee and not the grounds (I hate crunchy coffee!). Once all of the coffee comes down into the lower globe, I separate them and pour the coffee into my Chemex pot and that is stored in the refrigerator. Once again, the process is very straightforward and it’s hard to go wrong. For a time, Corning also made these coffee makers, but mine is a Silex product (now Proctor-Silex I think), but the globes are Pyrex made by Corning. I’m guessing that this was manufactured in the 60’s.

    My wife, who is an occasional coffee drinker, said to me “This is a ritual for you, isn’t it?” and I guess that it is…

    So, for you coffee drinkers, what’s your story?!?!

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    • #90904
      DeeAnn Hopings
      Ambassador

      AMBASSADOR

      GIVE ME COFFEE, OT LET ME SLEEP.  By far, the best cuppa I ever had was in Costa Rica.  I sat at a coffee bar, ordered a simple black brew.  I watched the barista open a new bag of unroasted beans and put them in a huge roaster.  He turned and told me the coffee would be a minute.  I smelled the beans as they roasted.   I watched him cull a scoop at fresh roasted beans into a grinder, and as he dripped the water through them.  It was a rich steamy drink in a deep cup.  20 minutes from bag to lips, but the brew was beyond belief.

      20 minutes is how long the vacuum coffee maker takes.

      Funny what you said. There are a couple of coffee shops in Ithaca, NY called GIMME COFFEE! The one that was most accessible was a nice place, but we only went there a few times as there was no off-street parking and little else of interest around it. There were some places that we liked in downtown Ithaca that were essentially in the heart of things…

    • #90902
      Carly Holloway
      Participant

      GOLD

      GIVE ME COFFEE, OT LET ME SLEEP.  By far, the best cuppa I ever had was in Costa Rica.  I sat at a coffee bar, ordered a simple black brew.  I watched the barista open a new bag of unroasted beans and put them in a huge roaster.  He turned and told me the coffee would be a minute.  I smelled the beans as they roasted.   I watched him cull a scoop at fresh roasted beans into a grinder, and as he dripped the water through them.  It was a rich steamy drink in a deep cup.  20 minutes from bag to lips, but the brew was beyond belief.

    • #90809
      DeeAnn Hopings
      Ambassador

      AMBASSADOR

      My wife does that. She sometimes drinks a bit of what I make but she usually does a hazelnut flavored instant coffee, sometimes with Bailey’s or Carolan’s.

      For some reason, I am a purist about certain things. I don’t know why; it is just the way it is, I guess. That was part of the thought that led to grinding my own beans. Flavorings don’t do it for me either. In other realms, I’ve never owned a car with an automatic transmission. My MINI is a 2009 owned from new. It has only had hand washings or been through quarter car washes or no-touch car washes; never one of those flappy whatever’s. I only cook old fashioned oatmeal or grits (never instant or quick) as a breakfast cereal. We do not have cold cereals in the house. I only buy Basmati rice from India or Jasmine rice from Thailand as they are naturally Non-GMO.

      A good friend and former co-worker pours out about half a cup of coffee and the rest is milk or creamer and sugar. Every now and then I would ask if he was having coffee with his cream and sugar. Definitely NOT a purist!!

      Anyway, I guess it is part of my charm and quirkiness!?!? I just did a count. At the moment I have 7 varieties and one decaf. I don’t drink decaf. It is reserved for guests. Of those 7, 2 are name brands, one is a grocery store house brand and 4 are Starbuck’s variants. A few will continue to be part of the rotation and others will be replaced. The consistency of the process comes into play to aide understanding of whether or not it is a variety I like and would buy again. If the process consistency is all over the place, the flavor may be good, mediocre or whatever and you just can’t get a good read on it.

      Speaking of Starbuck’s, they do a Christmas Blend every year that I like. The grocery store that I go to has an internal Starbuck’s installation. There was a Christmas Blend on sale the other day, but it was a flavored variety. Hopefully an unflavored variety will be along soon.

      The various methods do feed my techie/gadgetie predisposition, but it is ultimately aimed at minimizing process inconsistency so that I am happy with a cup of a given variety every time…

    • #90808
      Shawna Layne
      Participant

      SILVER

      For me, it’s the blend of the coffee that’s more important than the brewing process (french press, drip machine, etc.) I mix a personal blend of equal parts “Kirkland 100% Columbian” (from Costco)…Starbucks French Roast…and a macadamia-infused blend that I order and have shipped from Kauai. I love the taste, and it’s excellent with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream!

      Hugs, Shawna

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