Sunday, January 17, 2010


The prophet Mohammad said that coffee gave him the strength to unhorse forty men and to possess forty women.

It gives me the strength to get out a saw horse and possess one woman. Guess that's why he started a major religion and I didn't.

Coffee is one of my luxuries. I can cut back on a lot of stuff, but coffee is one of the last things to go. During a particularly rough financial patch, our middle daughter only realized how tough things were when I came home with a vacuum packed bag of generic store brand coffee. That hit home more than the fact we hardly had any Christmas presents that year. We were drinking crappy coffee -times were tough.

I never want things to get that bad again. That's why I keep a fair stockpile of coffee. Green beans store well. Coffee only starts to lose its flavor a couple days after after it's roasted. By roasting your own green beans, you pretty much always have a good cup of coffee. How long do green beans last? I've heard anything from two years to ten. Personally, I keep about a year's worth of beans and have not noticed any lost of flavor.

My beans come from Dean's Beans. I've no connection to the company other than liking their coffee. There a lot of different coffee roasters out there. There's one for sale at the Dean's Beans site. Another popular coffee supplier is Sweet Maria's. They have a lot of good information and selection of roasters.

When camping I use a cast iron fry pan with a lid to roast coffee. Roasting coffee is similar to making popcorn. You use a medium hot fire, and keep the beans moving along in a dry pan. Like popcorn, you listen for a popping sound. In coffee parlance, that's known as the first "crack." After all your beans have gone though the first crack, it's coffee. If you like darker roasted coffee, listen for a more subtle pop later in the roast, that's the second crack. Beyond that you can roast it a bit more, but risk turning coffee into very expensive charcoal. Pour the beans into a shallow pan for cooling. The outer skin of the coffee leaves behind a light chaff. Just blow that away.

In the warmer months, I roast coffee outside on the deck. My roaster makes a fair amount of smoke and I also like being able to dump the chaff outside. In the winter, I roast my coffee in the bathroom. Sounds odd, I know: Sixbears's Bathroom Blend. The reason is that the smoke would set off every smoke detector in the house. The bathroom fan blows the smoke outside. My bathroom ends up smelling like roasted coffee, but that's better than most bathroom smells.

People ask me how I store roasted coffee. I really don't. Usually I'm about one day ahead of my consumption, so storage really isn't a problem. The beans just go on an old mason jar one day then into the coffee pot the next.

Your average coffee tree only produces a couple of pounds of coffee per year. I'm supporting a whole forest of trees somewhere out in the world. Because of that, my coffee is fair trade organic shade grown. Organic coffee growing supports a whole ecosystem of plants, birds and animals, unlike plantation grown which is a chemically dependent mono crop. Fair trade makes sure the farmers earn a living. That way I can enjoy my coffee without the bitter aftertaste of labor exploitation.

Buying in bulk, including the cost of shipping, my coffee comes in at under $5/lb. Pretty darn good price for quality coffee.

The only problem with coffee is that I can't grow it myself. If I lived in Hawaii or the Florida Key, I might try it. Here in NH, I'm out of luck. I am encouraged that coffee was being traded around the world back in the days of sailing ships. If all the oil runs dry, sailing ships can bring my coffee once more.

Sure, there are so called substitutes to coffee. If you mean by substitute that it's dark, bitter and lacks caffeine, then there is. I've tried everything from roasted dandelion root to wild chicory. Believe me, they aren't substitutes. My only hope is that I have enough green beans in storage to weather any disruption in world coffee trade.

If I have to give it up, it won't be pretty.


1 comment:

  1. For me, coffee is plasma. Trying like hell to switch over to home grown herb teas (chocolate mint is pretty good) cuz doom might disrupt the supply lines. At any rate A lot of the Doom Room shelf space is allotted for my junkie stash!

    comrade simba