Thursday, December 6, 2012
A Good Cup of Coffee
My lovely wife and I drink a fair amount of coffee. We take our coffee seriously. Life is too short for bad coffee, but a small bag of organic fair trade coffee costs dearly at the grocery store. To save money, I buy in bulk 35 – 40 pounds of coffee at a time. It only costs a few more dollars to ship 40 pounds as it does to ship 5.
Green coffee (unroasted) is the way to go. Green coffee can go years without an loss of flavor. It's only after it's roasted that the clock starts running. It's also much cheaper to buy it green. I get mine from Dean's Beans. We have to relationship with the company other than the fact that I buy their coffee.
Why fair trade organic? The fair trade label indicates that the farmer who actually grew the coffee makes a living wage. Usually, most of the profit from coffee goes to middle men. Organic means the trees were grown in a more natural setting. There are other trees and plants mixed in. In fact, unlike a plantation, birds and animals live among the coffee trees. With all the coffee I drink, there's a small forest out there that I'm supporting.
Of course, you need a way of roasting the coffee. The easiest is to buy a regular coffee roaster. Mine cost about 80 bucks some years ago. Measure out the coffee, set the timer, and the coffee is done. There are many different models out there, but there's no need to spend over $150. When camping, I can roast coffee using a dry cast iron frying pan with a cover. This takes a bit of skill. The fire has to be hot but not too hot. The pans needs to be shook, like making popcorn. In fact as the coffee roasts, it makes a sound like popcorn. The first pop is called the “first crack.” Once all the coffee pops, it's usable. If you like a darker roast, listen for the second softer pop, known as the “second crack.” The outer skin of the coffee bean, the chaff, separates when roasted. A coffee roasting machine will have a ways of dealing with the chaff. If you pan roast, just dump the coffee into a shallow cooling pan and blow the chaff away. There are whole books written about coffee roasting, but this will get you started.
Here's where I differ from the coffee purist. A true coffee fanatic will only use a burr grinder to grind coffee. That's great, but none of the one's I've bought have held up. In the end, I go back to the cheapo coffee grinders that you can get anywhere. I'm still looking for a good hand grinder. The older ones that actually grind coffee have caught the eye of collectors and decorate shelves. Prices are high. The modern knock offs don't work nearly as well. I bought one and soon came to conclusion that it's main function was decorative.
A drip style coffee maker is supposed to capture more of the flavor. That may be true, but my lovely wife and I did so much tent camping that we got used to using a stainless steel peculator. It's your basic old fashioned place on the fire coffee maker. The coffee is hotter than from a drip machine so it stays hot longer in a thermos or an air pot. The coffee made in the morning is still hot enough to drink in the afternoon. Another bonus is that there's no coffee filters to throw away. (or to buy)
Okay, how's this for a green hippy dippy cup of coffee. Fair trade organic and bought in bulk to reduce packaging. Roasted using a roaster power by solar generated electricity. The coffee is brewed in a reusable percolator with no disposable filters. It's heated on a woodstove burning sustainability harvested firewood. The coffee is poured into reusable ceramic mugs, some of which were made by a local potter. I drink my coffee black, but my lovely wife sweetens it with either local honey or maple syrup. Her creamer comes from local farms.
My dad said that if he had to do all that for a cup of coffee, he'd quit drinking the stuff. What does he know, the poor guy drinks instant.