Coffee is a drink that originates from humble agricultural origins. Its origins are attributed to many high-altitude climates around the world; each region has produced diverse flavors of coffee that range from fruity to spicy. The manner in which coffee has been harvested has remained fairly the same for many years. It has been a systematic process that utilizes skilled workers who know how to observe the changes in the coffee beans as they are gathered, dried, and prepared for roasting. It is after the roasting process that diverse changes in brewing methods have developed across the world. This is my story with coffee.
My Engagement with Coffee.
My early story with coffee began in my senior year of high school. On a field trip, the continental breakfast had coffee and I drank a 10 oz cup. The effect was that it kept me awake for about 24 hours; even while my body and mind were exhausted. After that incident, I was not inclined to coffee. My first decade with coffee began when I was in graduate school and met with some people for a social gathering at a chain coffee shop. I don't remember the name of the coffee I ordered, but I do remember it had a flavor additive. I also remember that it was never consistent in its preparation nor in its blend, so I had to add much sugar and milk/cream cups to lower its acidity and reduce its bitter flavor. As the years went by, the price went up, so I regressed into drinking non-flavor low-price coffee.
Towards the end of graduate school, due to increasing prices of coffee, I began to prepare my own coffee at home. Years later, I have come to know that the price increase was due to a time when there was a rise in demand for "fair trade" coffee. Hence, I turned to instant coffee by Nestle, which is a popular brand throughout Mexican grocery stores and along the Texas-Mexico border. I liked it and kept drinking it for a while, but it got boring at times. In addition, I also tried instant coffee by Folgers, which is a popular brand in the U. S. for homes, businesses, and many restaurants. I did not take a liking to the regular blend, but my palette was inclined towards drinking the diverse flavor packets that were sold for a 10 to 12 oz. mug. As I continued drinking coffee, I would buy these packets and rotate them out as I took them with me to work or places that did not serve coffee.
Although the coffee packets were good for travel or work, I did desire something richer in flavor for my home-brewed coffee. I searched my home for a coffee brewer and found my grandmother's old 4 or 5 cup coffee maker. However, I quickly learned that this size of coffee maker had a design flaw for the "carafe". The coffee poured out well for the first two cups, yet when it got into the third and fourth cup serving, the coffee spilled from the sides of the cover, even though it was being held down with one hand. Hence, I began to look for a 12 to 15 cup coffee maker.
As I researched reviews, I would share my findings with different people. Hence, one time when my mother arrived home, I found her walking into the house with a coffee maker for me, by Mr. Coffee brand. It was a standard coffee maker, but I was glad to receive it and anxious to try it out. I used the coffee maker and even would upgrade the filter to a fine brass mesh. I also learned to use it for making a 12-cup carafe of tea. But with all things, I slowly learned its limitations. For one thing, it did not heat up the water to the ideal temperature range of 195 to 205 degrees. In addition, it took work to clean the coil tube that heated the water transfer from the water reservoir to the drip tube. Furthermore, the drip method was not consistent in hydrating the ground coffee evenly. That is to say, that one area was always more moist than the others, leaving one with a chance of not always getting a good cup of coffee. Finally, in order to get a good cup of coffee out of the coffee maker, I had to field the coffee basket with ground coffee for a 12-cup serving. It was not a good scenario for me since I am the only coffee drinker in my home. Needless to say, a whole carafe was never possible to drink by myself and brewed coffee had to be thrown out.
Place of Work.
After graduate school I worked in the field of education for a while, then I moved into working at a bookshop. At my place of employment, I worked with a manager who was a self-proclaimed "coffee snob". He would be very critical on coffee roast dates, buying whole-bean coffee and grinding his own coffee beans. Furthermore, he was into buying single-origin and not blended or flavored coffee, and trying out diverse methods of coffee preparation. In the end, he settled on the preference of brewing Ethiopian coffee, because of its fruity smell and using a pour-over method, with a Chemex glass coffee maker. In addition, he utilized a digital scale for using a system of measuring the mass of coffee and water for each serving size that was prepared. In my perception, this was extreme in coffee making. However, I did open my mind into the pour-over method of preparing coffee.
Pour-Over Cup or Brew Cone.
Although I did not desire to be a coffee snob, I was in search for a method of making a cup or two for a 10 to 12 oz coffee mug. I decided to try the pour-over method. I looked for an affordable Pour-Over cup or Pour-Over cup-pitcher combo. The most affordable thing I could find was a plastic Melitta 1-cup Brew Cone. It was under five dollars and came with a few paper coffee filters. A couple of years later I upgraded my Pour-Over cup to one made of stoneware, by Threshold company; I bought two on clearance, just in case one broke. My Pour-Over cup came with a handle, had molded vertical ribs on the inside of the cone and the bottom had three small holes. It's not the top of the line, but it's my Pour-Over cup and it makes a good cup of coffee.
Water Canister for Pour-Over Cup.
For my water canister, I did not buy a kettle, but instead turned to a glass measuring cup by Pyrex (2-cup, 16 oz); one that was microwaveable. Through trial and error, this water canister helped me learn the most accurate time for my microwave to heat up water to my desired temperature and at a desired measured volume. Thereafter, I would fill-up my canister with water, put it in the microwave, set the time, and press the "start" button. Once done, I would put on an oven mitt and take it out of the microwave, then I would verify the correct temperature with a thermometer and begin the pour-over method for brewing coffee. Although it is not as easy to pour water with a Pyrex cup than with a goose-neck water canister, through skill refinement, I have learned to make my coffee bloom throughout the pour-over process. It makes a compatible flavor coffee drink that I and family members have come to enjoy.
A couple of years ago, I bought a small French Press. It was a novelty for me, yet it was something I wanted to learn about. My French Press was small, only held about 12-oz of a coffee drink or 3-cups of espresso-style mugs. The major things I learned from it were that I have to exercise both caution and control when pushing the mesh filter in a downward motion. If too much pressure builds up in the bottom portion of the canister, the finer ground coffee will find its way through the mesh or side thereof. The other thing I learned was that if you press too hard, the pressure may cause the canister (especially glass) to crack or break; this happened to a family member. Although the French Press helped me taste a full-body coffee drink, it still required more hard work to clean the fine mesh filter and narrow canister than it took me to remove and trash the paper filter with brewed ground coffee from the Pour-Over cup. I don't use the French Press anymore, but I still keep it around in case a guest stops by my home and wants to use it.
Around the same time that I bought the small French Press, I bought a small Moka Pot. I had learned that these coffee makers were considered the "espresso machine" of home coffee brewers. Since I could never afford a good "espresso machine", I decided to try it out. I found a local retail store that had different models in stock. However, I was also tight on money at that time. So I bought a small Moka Pot that could brew the equivalent of a small cappuccino cup. The method is between the Pour-Over cup and the French Press in time of preparation and brewing time. It also is a nice little machine that utilizes the physics of water pressure to brew coffee in it; watching it work is exciting. The brewed coffee comes out a bit bolder than the other two methods, yet the flavor from the oils really gives me a sense of the flavor from the coffee. Although I like the enhanced flavor, I still add half-and-half milk/cream as well as Stevia sweetener. I like this little brewer, however I would prefer something that could brew 12 to 15 oz of coffee. A few months before the completion of this article, I found one and it has been working nicely.
Chocolate Making Pitcher.
I have learned to cook several Hispanic and Mexican dishes in my life, yet never learned how to prepare a cultural drink. So I did some research to learn how to prepare some hot Chocolate. I bought an aluminum "chocolatera" (chocolate maker; 2-Liter) by Imusa company as well as a "molinillo" (Mexican wood whisk); it came out well. Furthermore, I also learned to make "cafe con leche" (coffee with milk) and "cafe de olla" (coffee in a pot). In addition, I have recently learned to make Sada coffee from Jordan. The "chocolatera" is both a good product and a tool that can be used on a stove top, it is easy to work with and clean too.
This past fall I came across an economical Turkish Pot for brewing coffee. It is made of stainless steel with a plastic handle. It cost under $10 and holds about 15 fluid ounces. This pot has come in handy to make small amounts of Sada coffee from Jordon over a stove top. I have yet to explore other uses for it.
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.
There is much that can be learned about coffee. I have learned that fresh coffee is the best tasting coffee any person may ever enjoy. If you are the only person who drinks coffee in a home, buy it in small amounts or separate your supply into smaller batches, then store them in an air-tight container and place it in both a cool and dark place. Exercising these skills helped me to extend the freshness of my coffee. It is also wise to buy whole bean coffee, and store your batches in such a manner. Although ground coffee seems convenient to get out of a bag, the chemistry of the coffee causes it to deteriorate at a faster rate and both looses its fragrance and flavor quickly. It is wiser to take out a weekly batch of whole bean coffee, grind it and store it for use during that week. Exercising this practice will help you enjoy the rich flavors of your coffee.
I have also learned much about the brewing tools for coffee. It is important to keep in mind that coffee is acidic and brings with it attributes that will cause your tools to deteriorate quicker. It is important for you to thoroughly clean your tools with regards to their properties, that is to say, plastics, steel, and aluminum. For instance, aluminum does not react well to being cleaned with soap and abrasives, hence using alternative means to clean and dry well with the use of soft brushes, sponges, and hot water is preferable.
In my coffee life-story, I have consumed many brewed coffee beans from Central America, some from South America, and both Turkey and Jordon. I have used a coffee maker, pour-over cup, drip coffee machine, French Press, chocolatera, Moka Pot, as well as a Turkish pot. I am proud of what I have learned, yet it can be overwhelming at times. Maybe it will all come in handy one day when I manage a small coffee bar. For the time being, I encourage you to explore the diverse coffees and brewing methods that exist; one day you will find one that you will enjoy that goes beyond an electric coffee maker.
© copyright 2005 - 2022;
R. A. Gómez