Monday, August 21, 2006

Back on the Carafe - Part II

I've generated some nice comments on my earlier post "Back on the Carafe."

One commentator recommended I check out Japanese Green Tea Hibiki-an; a family owned tea leaf farm in Japan. I dropped by their site and they have a beautiful selection of teas, gift boxes, and tea ware. In addition, their site is loaded with information and tips about teas. Their site reflects a desire to simply shipping over here to the States. I was very impressed. I plan to place an order soon and will let you know what I encounter.

Harmon kindly recommended I try using a vacuum pot to brew my coffee and offered some whole-bean choices. I haven't tried using a "larger" style vacuum pot setup. I'll need to look into getting one to try out.

That got me reminiscing and surfing.

My father-in-law gave us a small aluminum style vacuum brewer for espresso. I really enjoyed the small size. It worked great. I'm not sure where it is right now, however. The Coffee Kid wrote a couple of very nice articles regarding vacuum coffee brewing interested folks might want to check out: The VacPot HeyDay and VacBrew Method.

If vacuum brewing your coffee isn't quite your method, I Need Coffee offers Six Coffee Brewing Techniques. Of these, the only ones I haven't tried yet are "Middle Eastern" and "French Press" methods.

I do see they left out what I call the "Cowboy Coffee" method. (Did I read it in a Larry McMurtry novel or see it a Western?) Anyway, my method of "Cowboy Coffee went like this. I was desperate for coffee, I had beans and a grinder, but no filters and didn't feel like dragging the 12-potter out and making do with paper towels. So I filled the kettle up with water, ground down an appropriate amount of beans and dumped them in the pot. I brought the pot to almost a boil, then took it off the burner to sit for about 5 or so minutes. I then got our finest strainer and poured out the coffee through the strainer into a big mug.

It sufficed. Not one of my prouder coffee brewing moments, but it did the job in a pinch. Alvis was intrigued by the whole production and found it quite amusing.

I think a lot of cowboys sufficed on coffee in a similar way. Except I don't think they used a strainer. I want to say I saw one wind-mill it around in a circle a few times to help the grounds settle to the bottom of the pot.

Now this got me thinking about that scene in "City Slickers" where they can't figure out where to plug in their coffee making gear....moving on.....

When I'm not buying and using "cheaper" bulk style coffee like "Folgers" I do keep a bag or two of whole-bean coffee around. I like to have one caff and one de-caff variety. I don't usually get more than one bag of each so I can cycle through them while they remain relatively fresh. That also helps me to keep the variety flowing.

Lavie gifted me a wonderfully classy and lovely Zassenhaus 151DG box hand coffee grinder for our first anniversary. Searching the Web, I discovered that it is now very rare and hard to come by as they don't seem to be producing many (any?) for export right now. It produces a very nice medium-fine grind (on the setting I use) and filling the hopper to just below the lid provides the perfect amount of grinds for my 4-cup drip pot. There is something very satisfying getting up on the weekends and hand-grinding my own beans; feeling the crunch of the beans as they grind up is very neat. EspressoZone has a wonderful page showing many of the other Zassenhaus hand box grinders.

When I first "got into" this coffee thing, I picked up a Braun coffee grinder. You kept the beans in a hopper, set the grind setting from "crouton" to "powder" (not really but pretty close). I used it for quite a while, but eventually got rid of it. It was too loud, too hard to clean, and pretty messy.

Alton Brown (Food Network celebrity chef) is one of my heroes. I love the balance of food science, history and clever commentary and cinematography he mixes together. Anyway, Alton loves a good "multi-tasker" in the kitchen. So I've found the Braun coffee mill a very useful appliance around our house. It is much quieter than the grinder, and I can use it for coffee beans, spices, powdering (dry) oatmeal for soothing baths...the list goes on.

Growing up, my first coffee experiences were with coffee percolators. I really didn't know there were many other ways to make coffee besides these. My parents and both sets of grandparents had a beautiful chrome versions. I think they were Sunbeam models. I would watch fascinated as a child as they assembled all the parts together, added the water and then coffee to the basket. Then lock the lid and wait for the splashes of coffee to appear in the crystal topper. I'm not sure when I was introduced to drip coffee makers. Probably later in high-school or college.

Jitterbuzz has a great look back in time on some coffee paraphernalia. Fun old magazine ads, various hardware and pots, some schematics. I'm getting nostalgic. For more coffee nostalgia, stop in at 1aaa American Green Coffee Beans Coffee Brewers page. The font and page layout needs some serious updating but the pictures are pretty neat to look into.

This Victoria Arduino Athena Classic lever machine for making espresso looks classy and just something Claus would encounter. I love this design style with the brass and copper, the levers and tubes. It looks almost Steampunk. (Steampunk FAQ) More beautiful coffee appliances can be drooled over from the 2003 HOST exhibition in Milan.

Methinks, time to go make another pot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Claus - I forgot to sign my comment earlier - I am the Anonymous that suggested you check out the Hibiki-an Tea site. Glad you enjoyed the site!