If you think this blog is written by someone obsessed with wine and nothing else, you’d be mistaken. We are well-rounded obsessives. To start 2016 off I thought I’d review the ways we make coffee when we leave town for the weekend. This is not to be mistaken with the Saeco cum Gaggia espresso machine at home (before Saeco was bought by Phillips), the more expensive but less desirable Saeco semi-automatic at work, or the places in the world where coffee is best (I vote first for Australia, with the Italian and Greek communities in Sydney and Melbourne, the hard water, and the whole milk, as finer than anything in Italy, and while we’re at it, the much ignored Arcaffé in Israel who, again, sources and roasts much better than most of the renown European houses, and the list goes on). No, this is the “casual” method for brewing coffee on the weekend.
Not pictured: The burr grinder. Nothing gets brewed without a uniform grind! Super fine for espresso, rough cut for perc.
Far left front: The Handpresso. It works, it’s not a gimmick, you can actually create an espresso in the wilderness, on a hike, it’s light, there isn’t too much fuss, just the necessity to manually create the pressure using a bicycle pump-like action. You are left with organic pods to dispose of though. While there is something ingenious (and a little phallic) about the device, I have a lighter, less fussy alternative: Instant. Or tea. In other words, the novelty wasn’t worth it from my view.
Left rear: Percolator. Nothing will upset a coffee aficionado more than the mere idea of a percolator. Boiling the water, scorching the coffee, regurgitating the brew, it’s all antithetical to the coffee elite. But there’s something incredibly satisfying about the aroma, it wafts through the cabin then the sliders and across the deck and hunkers down in the forest canopy like a campfire. It’s magic. The stinking hot cup you pour on the deck with a golden eagle passing over, that makes it taste so much better than it’s supposed to. Do I recommend a perc? Never. But even Chartreuse has its utility.
Melitta cone into a thermos. In the winter, or any time it’s cool, and you want to bundle up and drink outside, this is the perfect fix. I’m old enough to remember how Melitta swept across North America in the late sixties and by the mid-70s it was de rigueur to have Melitta cones in four or five shapes and sizes in each house, many with the custom glass pots. For the households that let their perc perc too long, or sit around waiting to be reheated, Melitta transformed homemade coffee overnight. The obsessives have done away with what is in effect a brilliant concept and considered nowadays a touch common. All hail Melitta (in a non-bleached filter of course).
Bialetti Moka stovetop: Do you know how you’re supposed to make coffee in these? How the Italians do it? You boil water. You put boiled water into the bottom, fit the coffee bowl over, screw on the top, then gently heat to get the filtered espresso. Most Canadians put cold water in the bottom, turn up the heat to high, or too high, and wait for the perc. Is the coffee good? Yes. It there enough? Never. Is it the same as a crema espresso from a fully automatic? Not even close.
Starbucks Barista. They got out of this business (which was a subcontract anyway). I was told off the record it was because of theft from stores. Regardless, the thermal pot through a Melitta cone is another way to take hot coffee outdoors for a relaxing breakfast. Push to pour and up to seal does seem counterintuitive though. As drip coffeemakers go, I’ve never found one I like more but drip coffeemakers are never ideal and the fuss of a machine versus the Melitta cone is less than ideal.
Speaking of less than ideal, there is no reason, ever, to drink French press. I am not on the fence; I am anti-FP. Let’s imagine you are staying in a hotel, and they have a French press with, oh, I don’t know, Lavazza coffee, well lucky you, better than those pancake pods that churn out lukewarm pap, but even then, don’t bother. No FP. The coffee will never be hot enough when it’s ready to drink, because the arc of the cool down is directly in opposition to the brew time. The brew will have sediment and your teeth will be left with a nasty paste. It’s a lose, lose, lose proposition.
Then came Espro. Canada takes gold. Overnight the modified FP became the most spectacular way to drink coffee at home. You need to heat the carafe prior, but if you do, no matter what you brew, it is smooth, full bodied and exceptionally aromatic. True, it can’t make magic out of Maxwell House, but it has transformed “regular” beans the way the other machines can’t approach. The double filter reduces all the grit and sediment. The smoothness is evocative of the paleo trend right now to “butter” coffee. The Espro is luscious. Pictured is the medium, the 18 ounce which, were I to do this again, I might supersize. Downside? Expensive. It might be solid state and near indestructible but the pennies per cup cost of a Melitta will, I think, prevent Espro from ever becoming a household name. But if you are willing to shell out, this is tops.