Yum… I wish I could just end my blog post here.
What else is there to say?
As much as I like coffee, I actually came into it late in the game. Growing up, I had always liked coffee ice cream when we could get it, but it wasn’t until my third place of employment when I was probably 28 years old that I had my first cup that I actually appreciated, and started me on that long slide to my addiction, I mean, my vast appreciation, for this precious fruit.
I was a dark and stormy night…
Actually, it was a crisp, but chilly night when I was walking through Little Italy in Manhattan in 1997, heading home after a dinner with other members of The Pipeline, one of the first internet service providers started by science fiction writer James Gleck. As is my habit, I am loathe to say farewell to summer, and I found myself wearing a tee-shirt and shorts, having to traverse six long city blocks to the subway station while the temperature had plummeted to the 40s compared to the relatively comfortable late afternoon temperature.
As I made my way down the dark city streets, a halo of light was ahead beckoning me inside… One of the first Starbucks in the city was in my path. I was welcomed into the light like a moth to a flame thinking “I hear they sell hot stuff that you drink…” Not caring what kind of beverage it was, as long as it was hot and would allow me to get to the next point toward my destination, I was welcomed inside.
Experiencing the experience
I can’t tell you what kind of coffee I bought, but I remember after adding half-and-half and sugar to it I remember it wasn’t all that bad… Kind of good, actually. But the sights, the sounds, the music, the lighting, the professionally trained happy people … I was forever changed by The Starbucks Experience.
Go go gadget coffeemaker…
They definitely knew what they were doing. They had me… A lifelong coffee agnostic, I soon became an aficionado and while my tastes grew, so did my love for coffee gadgetry. Each different device brought out different unique characteristics of the bean and to this day I continue to sample new devices as they become available as I seek The Perfect Cup.
My current arsenal:
Here is a list of some of my favorite gadgets, in order of quickest / most efficient to most methodical which helps add to the aura of the art of coffee making.
The Melitta Ready Set Joe!
The Melitta Ready Set Joe is a bare-bones, back-to-basics brewer. You pretty much put the Ready Set Joe on top of your coffee mug, drop in a filter, add the desired amount of coffee to the filter, and pour in the hot water! This is the quickest way to make a single cup of coffee, lets you always have a hot up available, and obviously, every cup will be as fresh and hot as the last because you do not have a carafe full of coffee getting cold, getting burnt, or oxidizing in the open air.
Being extremely portable, you can take it with you to hotels, stash it in your desk at work, and always have it handy for your coffee break. As long as you have access to hot water, you have access to great coffee!
The only downside I have with this filter is if you have an overly-wide mug the base may fall into the mug. Two of my favorite coffee mugs have a wide mouth and I cannot rest the brewer on top of it. Otherwise, for my taller/narrower mugs, this works great! The Ready-Set-Joe brewer takes a #2 coffee filter.
The Clever Coffee Dripper
The Clever Coffee Dripper is one of my favorite, and at this time, most used, coffee brewing systems as it provides a larger cup of coffee (up to 18 ounces) and it lets the coffee steep before it drips, offering a nice balance between a French Press and a Pour-over.
To brew the perfect cup, you insert a #4 filter, add course-ground coffee (as you would a coffee press) then add hot water to the desired level. Then you add the lid to keep in the heat and let it steep for up to 4 minutes for the perfect cup. Once your time is up, place the brewer on top of your mug and the coffee will dispense into your mug.
To clean, just remove the filter, rinse the unit and the lid, and you are ready for your next cup!
The Hamilton Beach Brewstation
When you need to make several cups of coffee at once (like for a large breakfast gathering, or a long day’s work ahead!) this design of coffeemaker is my favorite.
The Brewstation is basically a carafe with a thermal plate in it, so you will brew up to 12 cups of coffee, and it will stay warm for up to 4 hours with the digital timer. You can also turn the timer back on if you want to reheat what is already in the carafe without running another brew cycle. There is also a “bold” setting which lets the water go through the grinds more slowly, but you get a richer pot of coffee.
To dispense (and this is the genius part) you simply push your mug against the base, and the hot coffee will dispense right into your mug.
This unit came in handy when my wife and I were caring for her mother after she broke her shoulder and was living with us for a while. I would brew a “pot” of coffee in the morning, and whenever she wanted some coffee she would simply press her mug against the back (as she didn’t have the hand strength to pour from a pot) and have as much as she wanted! Easy-peezy.
LeMeilleur French Press
A French Press arguably produces one of the best cups of coffee and this is no exception. I prefer the stainless steel version such as this one over the glass ones which are so popular (and less expensive) because they hold the heat better, so I won’t have to microwave my second cup. I do pre-heat the press with 1/2 liter of water for a minute so I don’t pour hot water into a cold french press, negating the benefits of the double-walled construction.
The only downside to a french press is that there are several more parts to clean, and there is a slight “sludge” at the bottom of your cup of coffee that you have to look out for, but the LeMeilleur also comes with a double-screen system which helps mitigate a lot of that compared to other French Presses.
The Rok Presso
The Rok Presso Espresso maker holds a hallowed place in my kitchen. It is an exquisite device that through the power of your hands, and not some huge contraption that generates pressurized steam, you can make an excellent cup of espresso. I particularly enjoy demonstrating this to friends when they are over for dinner, and it is pleasure to operate.
You basically fill a center chamber with your boiling water, and lift up/press down two levers to drive the water through the espresso portafilter. It very fun to watch (and demonstrate) and after making several cups you will find the perfect balance of coffee grind, tamping pressure, and hand technique to make the perfect cup of espresso.
Of course, what better way to complement the Rok espresso maker than with the…
Rok Coffee Grinder
The Rok Coffee Grinder is the most used of all my coffee tools… since 90% of my coffee, no matter which brewing method I use, comes from fresh locally-roasted beans. To use the Rok Coffee Grinder you basically measure out your beans, place them into the hopper, dial in your grind setting from one to thirty, and start grinding!
The Rok Coffee Grinder is a classic burr grinder that grinds your coffee completely and consistently. No matter what kind of coffee grinder you choose to get, get a burr grinder for consistent results. Once you see the comparison between a burr grinder and a blade grinder, you will quickly see that there is no comparison.
The one tip I will give you is that regarding any burr grinder, you are bound to experience static electricity, and the freshly ground coffee will want to fly and scatter everywhere. Before grinding, I place my coffee beans out on a paper towel and give then 4-5 sprays with a fine mist from a water bottle. That will prevent the grounds from jumping all over like rabid Mexican jumping beans during the grind.
It’s all about the ritual
No matter what method you use to make your coffee, remember to enjoy the process. Although coffee is often used as a “pick me up” I view the act of making coffee to be therapeutic, giving me several timed breaks throughout the day. When I step away from my computer to make a cup of coffee, I am looking at a 10-15 minute getaway where I am doing something with my hands, where I am enjoying the blessings of one of the finest fruits in nature, and I am able to take a much needed time-out from the rush of the world.
What’s your ritual?
Coffee is just one way to step away from the hustle and bustle. What do you do for a mid-day “sanity check”? Are there any other coffee gadgets that you enjoy using? Let me know! I look forward to your comments below!