Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee


Post-Script: In my desire to keep this piece a one-pager, I ran out of room to mention that we've also tried a Bialetti brand Moka Pot, stove-top espresso maker. While it makes an okay espresso, it's always a bit burnt-tasting, because of the heat required to get the little thing to generate steam pressure. But it is a genuine espresso experience, in the sense that this has been the traditional way many Italians make their daily coffee; or so the advertising informs us.

About that top picture of the beans; these aren't the darkest, oiliest coffee beans I've ever seen. I was struggling for a decent coffee-related photo this morning, and this was all I could come up with. As I mentioned in the piece, we've for years bought our beans from Winning Coffee, who do their own roasting. But their main roaster dude (is that a title?) finally moved on after many years, and since then the beans haven't been the same. Also, I know several coffee geeks at work, and these people are truly obsessed, in ways I never was. For example, I don't like straight espresso, preferring it sweetened with sugar and a dash of whole milk. Not so these hardcore types. They've also informed me that dark, oily beans supposedly don't work as well in an espresso machine.

So then there's this thing called "third wave coffee;" which, in case you didn't get the memo, is already outdated by "fourth wave coffee." But here in New Mexico, we're usually a few years behind everyone else, so we've just now seen so-called third wave coffee shops spring up around town. Sometimes news travels slow along I-40 from LA. These are places that do pour-overs and siphon extractions, and also offer cold-pressed coffee. And their espresso beans are less dark and oily, the results a bit more bright chocolate tasting. Kind of like the recent trend in bitter, hoppy IPA beers. You're supposed to like them, because everyone else who matters likes them. Except I don't like them; I prefer dark ales, porters and stouts, by the way.

The thing is, I still haven't had a decent cup of coffee at a third wave coffee shop. The pour overs and such taste like old Navy coffee, which is where you brew a pot in a percolator, then dispense the results, via a large container, back into the machine and re-perk it for a second time. The kind of coffee where the spoon will stand straight up in the cup without touching the sides. Where us younger fellas would need a mess of sugar and creamer just to make it palatable; unless you were an old Chief Petty Officer, beer gut hanging over your uniform belt, your coffee cup hand permanently deformed into that hook-shaped cup-holding posture. These old boys could walk up the steepest shipboard ladders, in the roughest seas, without spilling a drop.

I also got into trying Vietnamese coffee. Even went to the trouble of buying a little metal coffee maker, with the Vietnamese-brand coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Tastes like some dessert beverage, not something you'd want to drink first thing in the morning. Oh well.

As I said earlier, the Aeropress is the only alternative method I've tried that's any good. But it's one cup at a time, and you have to get your process down exactly. Scientific, laboratory-grade repeatability. If you alter the grind, or water temperature, or any other "process parameter" by just a smidgen, the results will vary wildly. It's like developing black & white film. Your agitation method, how long you stir the grinds in the hot water, how soon you start the press, whether you use it right-side-up or upside-down, paper or metal screen filter - these all effect the results to a noticeable degree. Some mornings it's great, others you get this bad taste in your mouth and wonder whether you should've first brushed you teeth (is there any coffee-flavored toothpaste out there?). Even our Starbucks Barista machine varies from day-to-day. Weird.

But then there's the old drip machine. This morning I brought it in from the garage, dusted it off, washed out the tank and carafe, and made a pot. Wonderful, basic, fresh, hot coffee. Like coffee was meant to taste. And enough for a refill or two.

Typecast via Smith-Corona Silent-Super. This is the first chance I've had to put it through its paces since last week's successful repair session, and it types wonderfully. There's still a bit of smearing on some of the uppercase characters, something to do with the way the type slugs hit the type guide fingers on the way to striking the ribbon, that will require more tinkering at a later date. But I'll live with it for now. This is why I'd never make a good typewriter repairman, it takes too long for me to get all the bugs worked out of these sensitive machines. The customer would be calling me, months later, inquiring about their unit, and I'd hem and haw about how I'm still testing it for reliability.

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Blogger Walter said...

French press does the job 'round here. Grind the beans of course.

11:11 AM  
Blogger DonN said...

A familiar tale, well told! Now I use a little french press pot that makes 12 oz of coffee. I grind my beans in a burr grinder I got for $10 2nd hand, and although fresher is better I generally grind a day or two's worth in advance so I can make a pot anytime I wish without delay. One of my best loved coffee brews for a group of friends is to simply fill up a large aluminum coffee pot with boiling water and toss in a lot of fresh ground coffee then wait until it settles. No filtering, no nothing, but it always gets great reviews. Some call this cowboy style, but I learned it from peasant farmers in France 40 years ago, so it could be called authentic French style too.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I really liked this piece. I've been thinking about your post Type-In comments and how you would like an avenue to share your writing as well as your typewriters. It got me thinking so I started up a new blog just for my own typewritten thoughts that are not about typewriters themselves. My first post was inspired by your java jottings. http://manwithatypewriter.blogspot.com/

4:54 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

We Army grunts were happy with lukewarm instant and a cigarette, at least in memories. The new Cuisinart All-in-One is ok, yet old Mr. Coffee remains on standby in storage, anticipating redeployment

8:41 PM  
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