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How to make camp coffee that doesn’t suck: The French Press

This entry is WAY old and out of date. I updated it on my new website, so click here to head on over to http://www.theironbuzz.com to check it out.

I don’t sleep well when I’m camping. I never have, and I probably never will. When I go to camp, I don’t go so I can spend the whole time in bed. Oh no sir. When I camp, I like to be all full of piss and vinegar, and coffee sure makes an awful lot of piss.

To be honest, I had resigned myself to drinking terrible coffee at camp. Instant or percolated, it was always just terrible. Bitter, gritty, and acidic. I just accepted it and drank it anyway. Then, someone gave me a French press. After a scan of the instructions, I made my first cup of French press coffee at camp.

I took a sip.

It was GOOD.

The problem I was running into at camp was that I was relying on boiling water to make my coffee. There’s never electricity in a campsite, and even if there were, I wouldn’t drag my espresso machine into the woods. Boiling water has a nasty tendency to over-extract the coffee, which explains why I was so used to it tasting like bitter vinegar. Milk would help cut the acidity, but in the summer, storing milk just isn’t an option.

Enter the French Press.

1. Grind your beans to a coarse grind. This is crucial, because if your grind is too fine, you’ll get more and more grit at the bottom of your cup, and you’ll get it floating in your coffee. It’s nice and manly to spit out a wadful of coffee grounds, but let’s be honest. Grit blows. I follow the rule of 2 tablespoons of beans per 8 oz of water.

See those chunks of coffee beans? That means I need a new grinder. I’ll be getting a burr grinder.

2. Heat your water. Either boil it and let it cool for a couple minutes or use a thermometer to get it between 195-205 degrees. If it’s at a rolling boil your coffee is going to suck mad hard. Give yourself a couple minutes and let it cool. While it’s cooling, cover the bottom of the French Press with your coarse ground coffee. My French press will hold 5.5 cups of water, so we’ll do 11 tablespoons of coffee in the bottom.

It puts the water on the stove or else it gets the hose again.

3. Pour the ALL of the NON-BOILING water over the coffee.

If I have to tell you to be careful while you’re pouring hot water then you probably shouldn’t be playing with a stove. Moron.

4. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, for a full five minutes. After the five minutes, stir and really mix up the coffee with a non-metal spoon. Stir some more, maybe another minute. If you use a metal spoon, ninja kittens with tear our your eyes and feed them to goldfish as treats. If you’ve done the stirring right (and if you didn’t you will lose the approval of your father) you should have a layer of foam on top. This is good. This means that we’re on the last step.

5. Now comes the fun part. Put the top of the lid onto the jar portion of the lid. Push gently but firmly DOWN. When the screen hits the bottom, just pour and serve.

If you’re an ultra-light backpacker, it’s probably not the best route to take, but for someone who doesn’t mind a few extra ounces in their pack, it’s a GREAT way to make delicious, mellow coffee without the nasty vinegary taste of traditional camp coffee.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in camping, coffee, food, scouting

 

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How to make coffee that doesn’t suck: Grinding your beans

This entry is way old and out of date. I’ve updated it on my new blog at http://wwww.theironbuzz.com/  so click here to read it!

We’ve all been there. Someone offers us a cup of coffee and It’s. Just. Wrong. It’s vinegary. It’s gritty. It’s nasty and bitter. It’s (worst of all) way too weak. Bad coffee can reduce a grown man to tears. It can ruin marriages. It can even ruin your shot at salvation. God HATES bad coffee.

Bad coffee is bad news.

“But El Chris!” You’ll cry, “I’m no coffee nut, I just like drinking the stuff! What can I DOOO?” Fear not, dear readers, for El Chris will show you how to grind your coffee RIGHT.

The grind is a VERY important part of brewing good coffee. It makes as much of a difference as the beans you use. Today you’ll learn how to grind for a percolator, French press, drip coffee pot, and espresso maker. You’ll also learn what to look for on pre-packaged coffee. More on that later.

Grinders

This is my grinder. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Without it, I am nothing. NOTHING.

Aside from being a delicious type of sandwich, a grinder is crucial. There are two types of grinders: a burr grinder and a blade grinder. Blade grinders use two blades shaped like a propeller to chop up the beans. Blade grinders are cheaper, simpler, and infinitely more popular, but they lack consistency in the grind. When I grind coarse coffee in my blade grinder, I’ll find some whole beans leftover that weren’t touched by the blades. A Burr grinder is a preferred grinder, but they veer toward the pricier end. I’m currently saving for one. I will be demonstrating with a blade grinder today. I love my grinder because it has markings on it to grind for each of these methods. If you REALLY like mine, you can get one here for about 15 dollars. I’ve had it for about ten years and it’s still going strong.

Percolator and French Press

This is a percolator, idiot.

This is a French press, or a Freedom Press if you’re a turd. You aren’t a turd, ARE you?

Percolation is one of the oldest modern methods of brewing coffee. It’s still used to make lots of coffee quickly, but it’s often done with drip-grind coffee, which is too fine.

The same issue happens with a French press. A French press, like a percolator, doesn’t use a paper filter. If your coffee is too fine, it will slip through the mesh filter and give you gritty sludge at the bottom of your cup. A mouthful of that will destroy everything you love. Properly ground coarse coffee should feel like kosher salt.

Coarse ground coffee, perfect for a French press or a percolator.

Drip Brewers

My awesome drip brewer. One time it killed a guy.

These are your Mr Coffees, your “Free coffee maker if you sign up for Gevalia!” and likely your office coffee maker. If you ever buy a bag or can of coffee in the grocery store, odds are it’s a drip grind. Electric drip brewers revolutionized home brewing because the temperature could be more precisely controlled and suddenly coffee tasted good. Boiling water is so hot that it over-extracts the coffee and makes really acidic, REALLY bitter coffee. Drip brewers don’t do that.
Drip brew coffee should be ground finer than percolator or French press. It should feel like sand.

Proper drip grind

Espresso makers

The espresso machine that makes me so awesome.

Camping espresso maker. Most scoutmasters have one of these hooked to an IV bag.

This one is tricky. Espresso is both a roast and a grind and that throws a LOT of people off. If you buy a bag of espresso at the store and it’s ground, odds are it’s ground for a drip brewer and NOT for an espresso maker. Starbucks and Caribou are AWFUL at this. This is too coarse for an espresso maker and will result in weak, watery espresso and an excruciatingly painful death. Even if it isn’t labeled as drip grind, you can tell it is if you read the instructions. If it says to use 1 tablespoon of coffee for 6-8 ounces of water, then it’s drip grind. You can actually grind any roast of coffee into espresso, but we’ll get to that another time. Well ground espresso should look like fine sugar. If it’s more like flour or powdered sugar, your espresso maker will clog and you’ll probably get cancer, so watch for that.

Properly ground fine coffee.

This week, I’ll teach you how to make coffee using each of these methods, plus a bonus method not covered here. Never again will you make a crappy cup of coffee. Remember folks, God HATES bad coffee.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in coffee, espresso, food

 

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Good way to start the morning

My machine may not be top of the line, but mercy me does it make a fine shot of espresso.

This morning’s drink of choice:

4 Ounces espresso
5 Ounces Almond milk

That is four ounces of the finest espresso I can make. After a waking up and finding out that I got to go back to sleep, my day got WAY better and I had only been awake for about 6 minutes. Then I got to wake up and have espresso. It was solid, and it was awesome. I sat on the couch, did some last-minute paperwork, sipped some delicious dark go-juice, and started my day. Leave your favorite coffee drink in the comments, I’ll pick one and teach you guys how to make it.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in coffee, crema, espresso, homebrew, shot, vegan

 

Hot Water

Some Venezuelan beans I roasted last weekend.

As a young child, my mother sought ENDLESS ways to entertain me. I was like a charming, hyperactive, intensely de-focused hummingbird who positively THREW himself into each day, sometimes quite literally. Out of desperation one day, she gave me a pair of Matchbox cars that would change color when placed in hot water. This opened up WORLDS of possibilities. I could now play with my bathtub toys when I wasn’t taking a bath! Days before, I didn’t even know that was LEGAL. Hot water now became synonymous with FUN, and to this day, 24 years later, I smell steamy tap water and shoot back to those little cars, wrinkly fingers, and dry towels.


As I grew, hot water became better and better. I bathed in it. I showered in it. My mom bought a hot tub and I had girls over and I flirted in it. Every time I interacted with hot water, I came away feeling good. But nothing prepared me for what it did to a small brown powder.

As an adult, hot water plays a significant role in my mood and energy level. Hot water makes the stuff I love so much: Coffee. I roast coffee. Roasting coffee is an iron of mine (the metaphor will be explained tomorrow) and the smell is HEAVENLY. If I could blog a smell, I would send you the smell of the first batch of coffee beans that I ever roasted. They smelled rich and complex, completely unlike Folgers and the gas station swill I had sold at a convenience store. If I crushed those beans just right, I would get a coarse powder that would turn into a beautiful, creamy coffee when run through a French press. This. This is where my buzz comes from. Making, roasting, and teaching about coffee. That’s my buzz. Working with kids who look at you and say “Wow, building a fire IS pretty cool!” is my buzz. Making my wife a cup of coffee that tastes EXACTLY like it does from Starbucks is my buzz.
Tomorrow, you guys get iron. Come back after that, and I’ll show you another buzz.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in coffee, firstpost, water