Coff drops

One of my husband’s many siblings had a birthday party at the beach, where almost all my in-laws live, this week. I usually snap photos on the down low with a pocket camera but this time I brought one of my two Nikons and shot a full round of pictures.

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Geoffrey got his brother a new chipper and I got him a coffee maker and coffee.  We had a small difference of opinion as to what was the right gift this time, so we got both.

The last time the whole group got together, we discussed K-cups and how everyone who had become obsessed with those machines and plasticized coffee was now moving back to drinking the real thing, made in a more traditional way.

At our house, we never invested in one of those. For one thing, we like Peet’s coffee best of all the chain coffees available.  I don’t think the others come even close.  I know there are people who swear by Starbucks, but to me it is cut with Robusta beans, making the product harsh and usually bitter or acid.  Even going to a Peet’s is for the courageous because all these coffee houses brew to super high temperatures.  I once had to wait a full 45 minutes for a Starbucks Tall to cool off.  After I ventured a timid sip, it was so intense that I tossed it.  I wouldn’t have even tried it normally but I was stuck at a freeway rest area back East and that was the only stuff they had. That was my last Starbucks, over five years ago.

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During our discussion, I reflected on my long off-again, on-again love affair with coffee and caffeine. Growing up, my parents drank instant coffee at home, I am sorry to report. They both worked and could get a brewed cup at their respective offices, and they didn’t drink coffee late at night, so that was all they kept in the house.  I certainly didn’t care, as I was not allowed to drink it.  Amelia, the woman who took care of me when I was young, drank Medaglia D’Oro, which is still an excellent choice if you can only get to a supermarket. But she made it in a percolator and it looked pretty frightening.  The only way I got a chance to taste it was when Malo would spill some out onto a saucer from his cup, which was laced with grappa. My parents had no idea.  Now that I reflect on it, I always thought it was a treat, but maybe he was trying to make me sleepy so I would take a nap, LOL!

As time went on, I had some additional positive experiences with non-American coffee.  One was with my Puerto Rican boyfriend in high school.  His family drank Bustelo, which I think you could get ground or instant at that time. It was far better than the dishwater instant my parents had, but it was dark and strong and I was not accustomed to having coffee anyway. When I started traveling (which, of course we did a lot as a family and with friends), I got a chance to drink Turkish coffee, French café filtre, Italian espresso, and Brazilian cafezinho.

Brazil is a major coffee exporter and they are all addicted to the stuff, which they serve at regular intervals, all day long, in little demitasse cups.  The coffee itself is something akin to espresso, but thicker, like Turkish coffee and much smoother.  They drink it black with gobs of sugar.  To put a dairy product into a cup of coffee in Brazil would be akin to putting whipped cream on filet mignon here.  It was the best coffee I had ever had and they make it everywhere in a really low-tech way:

the Brazilian coador or colador in Spanish, what my Puerto Rican boyfriend’s mother called, rather unappealingly, ‘the sock’. The first time she made coffee, I marveled at how great it was (compared to the swill at home, naturally) and asked her how it was done.  I almost passed out when she said she poured it through a sock, picturing the not-too-fastidious kitchen and her casual approach to housekeeping in general.  I was relieved when I saw what it was, even though it was probably not washed, let alone replaced for over a decade (or more).

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When we lived in New York, we got into one of those obsessive phases — OK, truth be told, I got into it — where we bought the green beans in one place, took them to a roaster, had them custom cooked, then raced the beans home, froze the bulk of it and ground each morning’s batch, fresh.  That got old real quick, just like our once nauseating experience with having fresh wheat grass juice delivered to our co-op every morning, after having failed to properly juice the stuff we tried growing ourselves out on our balcony.  That was about the same time that I was buying fresh wheat berries and grinding my own whole wheat flour.  Manhattan being what it is, all this was easily doable, for a price. I know for a fact that one can do this in Berkeley too — but why would we want to? It was a thing, at the time.

There is another reason that I never went in for modularized coffee.  I hate flavoring added to coffee or tea, for that matter, with the exception of the bergamot put in Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas.  It is just a personal fetish, but the addition of vanilla or hazelnut or maple or whatever, literally screams cheap coffee to me.  If you know otherwise, I would love to hear it. To me it is the equivalent of masking low quality beer by adding salt.

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The in-laws maintain that the only way to make a single cup of coffee is with one of those K-contraptions.  No! We have a Cuisinart 12-cup machine that makes one or twelve cups with equal ease and consistency.  But if we really want to get into it, honestly, the best way to make a single or dual cup of coffee is with that sock.  Nothing could be easier and we keep a few on hand.  I don’t like washing mine, and technically they should just be rinsed and reused. When we use them though, we just cut them up and put them in the compost and use a fresh one for the next occasion. When I open up a new one, I rinse it out with cold water to remove lint, then position the wet coador on the rim of the cup, spoon in the right amount of freshly ground coffee and pour the hot water (180F) through the material, letting it drip through naturally, slowly on its own.  By wetting the flannel first, you eliminate a lot of the coffee liquid being absorbed and thus lost in the fabric. All of the coffee ends up in your cup. By the way, I always pour plain hot water into the cups first, and let them sit while I prepare the coffee, discarding it before I pour in the brewed liquid.  By the time the water has dripped through the coador, the coffee has cooled to a slightly lower temperature so you never burn your mouth and throat.

My favorite coffee is Major Dickason, which has Sumatra beans in it, which are smooth but spicy — again, my preference.

But, most of the time we simply pre-program the Cuisinart the night before, put in the ground coffee, which we make ourselves once a week from the beans we get from Peet’s.  We are up so early that stumbling around making coffee is not high on my list, even though it would be the purist thing to do.

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By the way, burr grinders are the best.  We got Geoff’s brother a Cuisinart grinder, but we have a Capresso and love it.  The one thing you absolutely must do with a burr grinder is clean it between uses.  If you grind all your beans once a week, cleaning it is not too much of a chore. If you don’t, the whole thing bogs down and makes an unspeakable mess.  Once a month or so, we clean the coffee maker with hot water and vinegar. We have had our coffee maker and grinder for about ten years and they are still going strong.

There is a part of me that questions the need for a stimulant like coffee.  I really don’t care for decaff.  If you need a low caffeine product, try the ones they carry at Whole Foods.  I used to drink naturally low-caffeine Allegro back in the day but I am not sure it is made the same way it once was, as Whole Foods has somewhat mainstreamed a lot of its now proprietary products.

While I may not have appreciated the mental boost that coffee imparts at one time in my life, I sure do now. And when I am feeling a bit down (which is almost never, thankfully), coffee is virtually medicinal.  First of all, I really love it.  Not so with any alcohol product and those of you who have followed this blog for some time also know that I am averse to most pharmaceuticals except in dire cases.  So, having reviewed and researched coffee somewhat extensively in my typical Plutonian way, I have concluded that, net-net, it is safe and rather therapeutic.  It is for me, anyway.  I have a delicate princess-and-the-pea sort of constitution, so I have to be judicious about the strength and amount of coffee I drink.  It definitely varies from day to day.  Geoffrey could drink a whole pot with no adverse reactions but he really isn’t that much of a fan.  He has one cup, I have two, typically and only in the morning.

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In Brazil, they put an unrefined block sugar called rapadura in their coffee.  It really isn’t easy to get in its original form (hard blocks) here, so brown sugar can be used instead, but it isn’t quite the same.  Rapadura has a distinct density and clinginess that somehow thickens coffee.  It is hard and dark, like a rock, but friable. If you can get it, or better yet, find a genuine Brazilian restaurant (honestly, there are very few around — most are just glorified barbecue joints serving schwarma , which they borrowed from the substantial Lebanese population there, called rodizio in Portuguese) and ask for a cafezinho (cah-feh-zeen-yo) with rapadura (if there are actual Brazilians running the place, believe me, they have it to drink themselves, even if it isn’t on the menu).  They will probably fall over with surprise, but it will be worth it. And, for heaven sake, don’t go to a place that serves guava paste with cream cheese or worse, flan, and pretends those are Brazilian deserts. They aren’t!

I will tell you my take on tea in an upcoming post, but I think I have given you enough to swallow and will let you digest this first. 😀

Images: Beth Byrnes

 

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17 Comments on “Coff drops

  1. I LOVE good coffee. Never understood the lure of the K-cups or of any sort of syrup/flavour added to undermine the taste of pure java (although I do admit to loving Vietnamese coffee- but that’s more a dessert, than a caffeinated beverage…). That distaste is extended to the Earl/Lady Grey teas, I’m afraid. I’ll drink it in a pinch- but I always feel as if someone has added perfume to my cuppa.

    I find that I’m having to watch the caffeine intake as the years go by- I have sleep issues at the best of times, and a coffee in the evening doesn’t help that at all. I usually have two cups in the morning (from my Cuisinart Coffee Maker- with its attached grinder. I like the ‘fresh ground’ but I’m lazy and don’t currently have the cupboard/counter space for the extra appliance) and then switch to tea- usually Twinings Irish Breakfast or plain ol’ Orange Pekoe.

    When the weather’s warm (something for which I’m STILL waiting- felt like -7 (!) here this morning) I keep a pitcher of iced coffee in the fridge and will sip that in lieu of the hot stuff.

    And on that note… time for the second cup of the day and then back to work!

    Have a lovely weekend! xo

    Like

    • Wow, we are almost identical in all of this Cole. My tea of choice morning and afternoon is Irish Breakfast. I drink it hot in the winter and keep a pitcher of it in the fridge in the summer.

      I cannot drink either one late in the day — too light a sleeper.

      But, I do relish a good cup of either one in the morning.

      I also like my Cuisinart (we probably have the same one). We keep a few bags of the ground coffee in the freezer just so we can always be sure to have coffee if we forget to grind it. I leave that to my SO.

      Thank heaven I no longer drink American coffee. To this day, my mother still gets that stuff and drinks it black. Honestly, I can’t bear it!

      Oh, and now I am intrigued and will have to look into Vietnamese coffee! Had no idea of that.

      😀 Thank you Cole, twins again!

      Like

  2. I drink coffee made with Peet’s k-cups, Major Dickasons. I don’t like flavored coffees. I like coffee with some cream and sugar. When I first got a Keurig, I thought I’d like some of the flavored coffees, but they turn my stomach. I love my Keurig because somebody gifted it to me.

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    • You know, it is such a blessing that Peet’s sells k-cups so people can continue to use their Keurig but with better coffee.

      My brother-in-law had been lamenting that he had bought several Keurig machines over the last ten years and they all broke down. So, I thought I would give him the one we have, that has been chugging along like a champ.

      I have sugar in my Major Dickasons, I have to admit. I really should wean myself away from it but it is one of my remaining vices, LOL.

      What I have never cared for is non-dairy creamer. It doesn’t taste like cream at all!

      Have you had Peet’s Holiday blend? It is supposed to be their best beans along the lines of Major Dickason. They only have it during the holidays, so we stock up. I love that stuff!

      Thank you Patty — kindred spirits, we are … 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am almost out of time here at the computer, so will tell you little bits about my feelings about coffee.
    I love coffee, but am now obsessed with adding flavors.
    I enjoy my simple coffee maker but used to have a ‘refined’ boyfriend who loved to make me French pressed coffee after he daily ground coffee. I loved his cofffee and he usually bought a healthy coffee creamer, which there are a few that don’t have hydrogenated fat nor corn syrup. I miss those mornings when I could wake up (on visiting weekends) to “Smelling the coffee!”
    I also am against the K-cups, I heard the inventor and founder of this company speak. He was shocked when they became part of everyday homes. He wished they hadn’t since he had thought companies and workplaces were the places where individual cups made sense. He is also concerned about the waste of the cups. He has a group of workers or engineers working on recyclable products or throw away cardboard ones which would biodegrade.
    Lastly, I love any kind of country which has strong coffee: I enjoy Turkish, Brazilian, Spanish and …. I would enjoy Italian espresso but usually ‘ruin’ it in many people’s eyes by adding half and half and sugar.Turbinado brown sugar is delicious and has crystals in the bottom of the last sip of coffee…. Hugs for this fun topic and it is also controversial. Will be back tomorrow! Smiles, Robin

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    • I hear you Robin. I saw that interview with the Mr. Keurig and was stunned at what he said and the fact that he is in a completely different field now. He and a roommate invented the system in college. You would think they would go on to more inventions.

      I would love to know about the flavors you add. I have never thought of doing that myself and would have to seek out some to see if they would be something I would like. I was thinking of the ones that come for Keurig, which I have had at my in-laws when they all ran out and bought the first machines way back.

      Controversial is right. Tell me more.

      The jury is out, health-wise and since I am pretty careful about such things, my impression is that coffee does more good than harm unless you binge on it, which I couldn’t do — I get caffeinism very easily. Infuriating that my husband can drink it as strong and as late as he wants and sleeps like a stone.

      I think biodegradable cups are the future. People love the convenience but the waste is shocking.

      Thank you Robin. I will be back for more discussion too. 🙂

      Like

  4. I’m going have to try Peet’s holiday blend. Even if it does not come in K-cups, I use ground coffee in a special filter in the Keurig. When my Keurig dies, I’ll have to look into the Cuisinart. I loved this post because I really love my coffee. I’m 49, and while lots of people my age have grandchildren, I have 3 small sons….4,6,and 7 years old. I need that coffee to help me keep up with them!

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    • Patty, you will LOVE it. We almost hate to drink it because we use it up and then have to wait for 9 months for it to come back.

      There are probably far better machines than my Cuisinart, but they cost many times more. For the money, getting 10 years out of a $200 coffee maker is a bargain, imho.

      Three little boys! Like my mother-in-law, she had six! You need energy Patty and still you found the time to stop and comment here. That was so nice of you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth, my boys are adopted from foster care. They came to us 3.5 years ago. My wife and I had already fostered 40 other children over the 10 years before these boys came. They are awesome. We were meant to be together. They are also wild and have many medical and emotional needs, thus the need for coffee.

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            • Patty, that would be a wonderful, generous thing to do because I don’t think many people do have blogs about it and it is an important part of the lives of so many people. It takes a special person to be a foster or adoptive parent. You would likely help both parents and children. You must be a very, very good and busy person to even contemplate this! x

              Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t drink much coffee or tea, maybe an occasional peppermint tea and all my family drink English Breakfast tea but my friends love strong coffee and bought me a small hob percolator for Christmas, it’s just too strong 😝

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    • I know what you mean. It is an acquired taste. I didn’t start drinking coffee really until after I was married! Tea can be lovely, especially a lemon tea with honey to soothe your throat. 🙂

      Like

  6. I have one of those K-contraptions, but only because I make one cup of coffee a day for my husband – I don’t even drink it. I also don’t use the k-cups but use his favorite brand and the reusable cup, making it as strong as he likes it. Community Coffee here in the south! Loved that video even though I don’t speak the language! ~Elle

    Like

    • Those Keurig-genre machines are perfect for your situation. It is hard for a non-coffee drinker to make coffee for someone else. I cannot drink strong coffee — I get jittery very easily, but I admire people like my parents who drink it black.

      Isn’t that video great? Luckily he demonstrates the system clearly despite the Portuguese.

      Thanks Elle!

      Liked by 1 person

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