Sunday, May 8, 2011

All I Want Is A Proper Cup of Coffee Made in a Proper Copper Coffee Pot

The Sultan and Kersia

In spite of my well-documented tea enthusiasm, I am also a devotee of coffee.  In fact, I would estimate that I drink more coffee than I drink tea.  This is probably partly due to having had the past decade of circumstances dictating remarkably peculiar sleep schedules (while tea contains more caffeine per pound than coffee, a cup of coffee actually contains more caffeine than a cup of tea.  We will unpack the reason for this anon.  It has to do with what one does with the product.)  But undoubtedly it also has to do with my tendency to gravitate toward deep, dark, rich flavors (e.g. dark chocolate, red wine, black tea, opaque beers, heavily spicy foods, and, back in the days before I was stricken with asthma, pipe tobacco.)  

Before we get started on brewing methods, a quick word about purchasing a good coffee.  There are fabulously grand brands of coffee and, indeed, an entire culture of extraordinarily fancy, ornate, and sublime coffees out there.  A fine starting point for the novice is this book: God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee which deals with the world of hyper-excellent coffee-making and the hyper-obsessive people embroiled in the quest for the peak coffee experience. When one ventures into the finer varieties of those beverages, one finds that they contain flavors that one never would have associated with the drink.  As our hero Mr. Lagerfeld might say, they go "beyond coffee" to places where one gains a deeper understanding of the drink and, I would even dare falling into pretension to suggest, the universe around them.

It is a deep rabbit hole which one who wishes to engage further in the world can spend a lot of time exploring.  However, for our purposes here, we are hardly talking about cupping or techniques of roasting or "God in a Cup."  I will leave exploration thereof to the enthusiastic.  You can geek out significantly on coffee and I recommend that you do.  Here, on the other hand, I mean to focus, via my new gadget, on waking up of an average morning and brewing one's self a very good cup of coffee as a reward for continuing to exist.  There is a reason why it is the second most traded commodity on Earth today, second only to crude oil (and, as a renewable resource, less vulnerable in the marketplace to the whims of speculators.)

As for the diurnal cup, find a decent dark roast whole bean coffee (leave the roasting and blending to the professionals unless you become so much of an enthusiast that you branch out in that direction too.  It really is a craft in the most Germanic sense of the word.)  Eschew the aluminum can.  Ideally, grind it yourself and don't buy more than a week's worth at one time.  Use about two tablespoons of grounds to six ounces of water.  As to what to use to brew it, I've used a French Press for the past six months until my friend Paul sent me a style of coffee-maker, entirely new to me, for my birthday.

Of course, with tea, the idea is to infuse the water with the flavor of the tea leaves by pouring water over them (my mnemonic device of my own devising:
"Tea over water
isn't how you oughta.
Water over tea,
that's how it should be") and seeping the leaves in the water for a few minutes.  With coffee, I do not recommend a drip coffee-maker because the concept is similar to tea infusion and you miss several of the elements present in other coffee-makers with the goal of extracting as much flavor from the bally beans as you can.  Coffee and tea are comparable to apples and oranges.  Also, drip brewing systems are difficult to clean properly and, in my experience, will never last you as long as a French Press.  You get a much better cup from wetting the grounds, allowing them to infuse into the water, then pressing every last bit of flavor back out of them.  An espresso maker (one of which we also own.  It was a wedding gift) is good for this as you compact the grounds very tightly and the high temperature and high pressure of the water sort of do that job for you.  However, in my experience, an espresso maker in the home is a bit too involved when you wake up at 3:40 and have to get on the road by 4:00.  Besides, it is called an Espresso maker because it was intended to make the form of specific coffee drink known as Espresso, which is galaxies away from what we're talking about here.  Like so much of life, one must take into account the age-old wisdom "Just because we can do a thing doesn't necessarily mean that we should." 

I have also heard convincing arguments in favor of what is known as a vacuum coffee pot, but every time I look at one I think "You know, I couldn't imagine having one of those in my home before I own a Tesla Coil and a Theremin."

But, let's get to today's experiment with my brand new AeroPress Coffee Maker which the package boasts is the best coffee maker that someone who said that has ever owned:

One places the cylinder on top of one's coffee mug, places a small round filter (provided in abundance with the maker, but also easily fashioned on one's own) at the bottom and fills the cylinder with coffee grounds, then water.  Stir the two for a few seconds, then place the plunger in the top of the cylinder.

Simply by firmly pressing the plunger down with firm but slow pressure, you are super-brewing your coffee by harnessing several forces of physics at once.  Gravity, infusion, and pressure are all making a very strong cup of coffee for you.  Now here's the taste test.

Yes, I have to admit, it is a darned fine cup of coffee.  In fact, better than I'd anticipated.  The speed with which is makes a good cup of coffee and the ease of cleanup were beyond my expectations.

Aroma Comments: Excellent, heady, whisps of the aroma waft up the nose to tickle the olfactory bulbs of your brain.

Acidity: Good and hearty without giving cause for fear.

Mouthfeel: Superlative.  Like a mouthful of rich caramel (See previous post)

Flavour: Dark, rich, heavy, everything I love about coffee.  The fantastic aroma slaps a bit of the bitter away.

Aftertaste: Fumigating my oral cavity like holding a puff of cigar smoke.

Balance, overall notes: Extremely balanced.  Balanced beyond measure.  Balancing itself off kilter.

Final Scoring:  I feel I am not overstating by saying that this was one of the better cups of coffee I've ever made.

And now we have a cute little coffee-making nook on our kitchen counter.

 The one advantage I would still say the French Press has over the AeroPress is that it makes about a pot's worth of coffee at once.  However, I must needs concede that the AeroPress makes a better cup of coffee.  Thank you, Paul.

I hope you've enjoyed my brief, remedial coffee tutorial.  Now here's a novelty song:


  1. Awesome! I'm glad you liked it. I enjoyed your post, and the song by Trout Fishing's a hoot. I was going to get a French Press when I came across this little gem and thought I'd give it a shot first. It does make a fine cup of coffee in a jiffy, and as you said the cleanup is ridiculously easy. Enjoy, my friend!

    Paul Mansmann

  2. Having started and owned a single origin coffee roasting business in the past, I'd suggest that the problem with drip brewing is not so much the infusion or pressure of a press or espresso environment. Instead, my experience has shown that it really has to do with incorrect water temperature as most brewers on the market are woefully inadequate in both providing and maintaining a high enough temperature to really allow the coffee and water to properly interact. You might look into the Technivorm brewer or another high end drip brewer like Capresso if you are really interested in comparing them to the press. True, the French Press is nearly unbeatable in terms of bringing the full-orbed experience of coffee to the palate, but not everyone has the time or patience for such methods especially if you have a fair amount of people over and need more volume than just a couple might use. I have used the Aero before and liked it too though I think we lost ours in the last move we made. Just some random thoughts here, glad to see a distinct expertise developing here. Great post!

  3. I don't drink coffee much anymore because my stomach won't handle the acidity. My daily cup was from a semi-local roaster, and my preference was toward regional coffees, but particularly the Kenya AA. Favorite method of brew -- la сafetière à piston. Every now and then I'd pull out the turkish and go for insanely sweet and dense Turkish coffee.

    And I, too, am a pipe smoker who rarely smokes a pipe due to allergies. I find I can get away with cigars better than pipes -- for whatever reason they cause me less problems and, honestly, I probably enjoy them more. A strong, dark maduro wrapped cigar is my favorite. In pipe tobacco I prefer English or Turkish blends with lots of Latakia. I've tried the Virginias many times and find I smoke them too hot.