Friday, April 27, 2012

Coffee! (or koohii): In Which Dr. Inkenstein diverts, somewhat.

Left to right,  Back row: Mad Science Maker
Middle row: Stainless steel Bialetti, small Chemex, small percolator
Front row: Cute li’l Moka pot, plain carafe, plunger pot
This is by no means a complete coffeemaking monograph, but Dr. Inkenstein’s usual flippant, easygoing round-up.
My interest in koohiimaking began in my aunt’s mini-kitchen, one of those teeny apartment affairs that could actually be hidden behind a screen when not in use. She always brewed and served Brown Gold, and it was the first coffee Dr. Inkenstein ever sampled that actually tasted as good as it smelled.
Then later on, my mom gave me a decorating magazine (which I still have), featuring the home of a coffee enthusiast who collected all sorts of pots and makers. The visual of all those TOYS set me on fire to collect and experience coffeemakers, from the simplest ceramic filter-cone that makes one cup at a time, to the most arcane steam-powered unit available.
We are not quite there yet.
At one point or another, Dr. Inkenstein owned many types of coffeemakers, from those aluminum stove-top moka pots, to numerous percolators, to some once-popular single-cup model that wasn’t a K-cup, to an aluminum drip maker that you had to turn upside down to make work, and a six-cup stainless-steel moka pot from Bialetti. Alas, Dr. I gave them all away under the delusion that they were ‘too difficult to clean.’
Dr. Inkenstein also used to own a blue enamel Turkish Ibrik, which could not be said in any way, shape or form to be hard to clean, but gave that away too.
Live and learn, and acquire new coffeemakers. (I think I still have a Brazilian coffee sock, strictly as a curiosity.)
We started our quest by NOT giving away the large old Chemex and the mad-scientist pot (on which, more below). Next we located a couple of moka-types ON SALE. For HALF OFF. And one had a cute orange plastic handle. How could we resist??? And we got a smaller Chemex, and replaced the big Bialetti. But you KNOW that’s not all there is to report.
We also began researching the art of the brew, and were dismayed, but not all that surprised, to learn we had given away just about all our coffeemaking books, too. Which led to some innerwebs research. We discovered that coffee elitists sneer in undisguised, contemptuous horror at the humble percolator, whether stove-top or plug-in.
We, on the other hand, do not.
We used to have a plug-in type, but now own two stove-top percolators, in different sizes, and are on the hunt for some of those Corning masterpieces we (yes, you guessed it!) gave away. So while we awaited delivery of the replacement coffeemakers, Dr. Inkenstein experimented, and came up with this quick coffeemaking roster:
Comatose Coffee: When you are too asleep to manage anything else, Mr. Coffee to the rescue. Insert filter, insert coffee and water (which you can even set up the night before), flip switch. Presto. Ur coffee, we has its.
Kewl Koohii: Yes. We use a percolator. It requires some fiddling with measuring, timing, and so on, but when you want coffee with BODY, this is it. My children, do not fear the percolator!
Continental Coffee: The ubiquitous moka pot, often called a stove-top espresso maker, is a two-story affair made of aluminum or stainless steel, with the amount of water and grounds pre-determined. Comes in all sorts of sizes, from one to six cups (a ‘cup’ here being two and a half ounces) or even larger, and some expensive models have these cute ceramic tops with designs on them and everything. Put water and grounds in pot, screw together, place on stove top to boil, water forces through grounds and ends up in the top. Even more body than the perc brew, so THERE.
Plunger Pot: A glass cylinder into which you insert coffee grounds and boiling water together, stare at your watch, then press down on the plunger, trapping the grounds beneath the built-in strainer. Some body, not as much as perc or moka.
It’s Science! Coffee, Part One: Chemex. It’s laboratory glassware, so you KNOW Dr. Inkenstein loves this. Basically a filter drip method in which you put the filter paper in the cone, add coffee, boil water separately, and run the water through. Produces a clear, almost bodiless brew. One might even be able to use it for ink! (Had to drag that in somewhere, being a fond user of J Herbin’s Café des Isles ink).
It’s Science! Coffee, Part Two: Vaccum maker. This is the true Mad-Scientist pot, one so complicated and science-y that it requires a dark and stormy night, appropriate spooky music, and lightning bolts. And as the magic of vacuum sucks the coffee into the correct glass bulb, people will gather round to watch.
Bare Cupboards Coffee: Use a drip filter cone (such as Melitta) with appropriate grounds/liner and set it on a heavy glass carafe. Pour in boiling water as usual.
Kamikaze Koohii: No carafes or filter cones? Out of brew machines? Stuck with nothin’ but a pot? Dump koohii and water in the pot, boil, let grounds settle, pour carefully into cups, or be a wimp and pour through a strainer.
And because we are basically a blue-collar Mad Scientist, we never did and probably never will acquire a Nespresso (though we were sore tempted!) or any other device that costs more than fitty smackers.
So many makers! Coffee to suit any mood or budget! Be not ashamed of the method you like.
I should probably rename this blog The Cheapskate Chronicles, or, My Blue-Collar Life. We shall soon return to our regular posting.

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