Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Coffee - Better and Cheaper at Home

The congregation in Sturgis had an idea about the coffee left in the urn. "You could warm it up to drink during the week,"

Instead of taking up that frugal suggestion, I made my own coffee. Reheated, percolated coffee left in an aluminum urn was not my culinary fantasy.

At Melo-Cream I was always happy to go down to the coffee barrel where the Yuban coffee was kept. My father mixed Maxwell House and Yuban, used a drip coffee maker, and insisted on keeping coffee no longer than 15 minutes.

The favor of coffee is mostly in the aroma, so drinking it fresh is the key to enjoying it. Here are some key steps in making delicious coffee.

Pure Water
The water has to have its off-flavors filtered out. We use a tap filter for that. Otherwise, the coffee competes with the flora and fauna of the lake water we get on tap. I would get spring water and use that ($1 gallon) if I had to.

The freshness of the coffee grounds will make an enormous difference. I stopped grinding it each time because the early morning or late night sounds were like gravel being ground up, and the results were uncertain. I put in too much in one batch or two and had truly awful coffee, too weak or too strong.

But we keep the coffee sealed up tightly in sealed containers, one from Gevalia, which we no longer buy. They used to offer wonderful coffee storage devices, and we still have one for the favorite variety of the day. We got a free one each time we tried Gevalia, every six months, so we did, and kept the jar. Alas we only have one jar left.

Now the free offers are for one measuring spoon, so I have two spoons I keep, and I keep track of the amounts used for a good pot of coffee.

Let us pause and consider cost. A large Starbucks cup of coffee is $2 plain. Their fancy concoctions are $4 and up, $24 a gallon, if you take 6 x the 20 ounce cup! Starbucks' plain coffee is one step above restaurant coffee, two steps above church coffee.

High quality coffee is $2 per 10-cup pot at home. The cost is even lower with premium grocery store coffee. Gevalia is found at Walmart and is fairly good. Some other brands can be found there too, and many favored ones as well.

K-cups are more costly per pound but convenient with a large group of people wanting fresh coffee - or hot cocoa - at various times. I was converted Keurig in Seattle, of all places, but the numbers are not favorable for beginning the day with a pot of fresh coffee.

I like Boca Java for several reasons. They have every possible kind and flavor of coffee, and they roast it once the order is in. Therefore, the coffee is quite fresh and the choices nearly reach infinity. They have the best flavored coffees, which are always risky. Most flavored coffees have a bad after-taste and a tendency to be bitter when made. That does not matter when balanced with 50% sweetener and fake cream, as the Starbucks customers know.

The only Boca Java flavors I enjoy are Blueberry and Chocolate Hazelnut. Nevertheless, the other attempts at flavoring are pretty good. I can make perfect cinnamon coffee by shaking some cinnamon on the coffee grounds before making the pot. Others do the same thing. It reminds me of apple sauce with cinnamon at the store. I remembered my mother doing that on her own, not picking it out at Geifman's store.

Roasts vary the flavor and the caffeine content. The light roasts are higher in caffeine and lighter in flavor. Dark, French, and Expresso roasts are not my cup of tea.

The Machine
Our previous drip-maker was a Mr. Coffee that emptied into a thermo-carafe. That wore out after six years. Their latest model  was panned in the Net so I looked around and settled on a Black and Decker thermo-carafe.

This maker is easy to fill and works very well. My only problem is the clock blinking 12:00 all day long, but I ignore that.

Coffee Varieties
The most expensive is Jamaica Blue Mountain, half the crop used for coffee liquor, a terrible waste. Boca Java must have made tons for Father's Day, because they sold it cheap afterwards. Otherwise, it is something like $50 a pound.  JBM is mellow but has a good flavor at the same time. If I had a choice between JBM and Kona, I would take Kona.

Kona is from Hawaii and combines a great flavor with smoothness. Often a coffee will get a bit much after a few cups, but Kona is so smooth that overdosing is likely. Fortunately, the high cost of $40 a pound will prevent that problem. I bought some on sale at Boca Java - and wow.

We favor light and medium roast coffee. Some come from on location, like Costa Rican and Kona, and JBM.

Another benefit of regular Boca Java ordering is their free sample. One two-ounce packet is offered free each time, so we have tried Banana Foster (a slight chocolate flavor with bananas), Maple Bacon (noping that one), and types with coconut in the background. Since coconut is so easy to obtain now, an artificial coconut flavor in coffee is not choice. Now I am more likely to pick various roasts, but they snagged me with Chocolate Hazelnut.

I used to make my own whipped cream to add to coffee, a slippery slope. Sometimes the old cup would be found in the basement, with howls of outrage coming from Little Ichabod, Mrs. Ichabod, or both.

The coffee aisle at Walmart is heavenly, because the coffee aromas are mixed with the artificial cream fragrance. Bending down into a case of half-pound coffees in bags, I thought about the old coffee barrel at Melo-Cream.

However, I would never put those artificial powders and cremes in my coffee. Whipped cream is off the menu for obvious reasons. I could easily finish a bowl off, but that is not wise.

The only amendment approved by the Melo-Cream Little Chef is Cream of Coconut, which is found in the mixed drink aisle of stores. How do I know, with my aversion to drinking alcohol? One customer came looking for it at the Neighborhood Market and the assistant manager directed us to the cubby hole for beer and liquor. On display was Cream of Coconut, used  for pina coladas. The concoction, made of coconut juice, coconut oil, and sugar, is perfect on desserts (like pineapple) and also good for taking the bitterness from a cup of coffee made a little too strong. The bottle is not expensive, a few dollars, and lasts a long time without refrigeration.

Combat typos - start the day with coffee.

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