I’m not a coffee aficionado
I’m not a connoisseur, not by a long shot.
I do like what I call “diner coffee” that being what one finds in short order restaurants that have twenty-four hour breakfast menus.
When I went to restaurants, be it breakfast or dinner, alone or with friends, if I had coffee that was particularly good I would ask the server what brand of coffee they poured. Notably, the best tasting brew was almost always Farmer Brothers Coffee.
I must try to duplicate this at home!
And there the fun started…Because you can no longer “just make coffee.”
You have decisions…choices…
Which brand to buy from all the choices screaming for your attention?
To grind beans or not grind beans…
Do I get a drip type coffee maker?
A pour through (Melita)?
A French Press?
There are no “samplers” where you can try different brands over a period of days. No. You had to buy a goodly quantity. No events similar to wine tastings where one gets to sample different brews…
I decided to save time and target Farmer Brothers Coffee.
Farmer Brothers Coffee is not retailed at my supermarket which meant I had to go online to get some.
To Grind Or Not To Grind
I bought a grinder and ground my beans for a while but since I brew coffee at five in the morning I didn’t want to subject my neighbors to the raucous noise of a grinder in the wee hours. Which meant grinding it in the daytime.
This was allegedly a sin because I didn’t use it immediately after grinding. This kinda took away from the whole reason for grinding my own since afternoon or evening grinding would lose it’s alleged mojo by morning.
Still, when I did grind my own (as I did for a while) I didn’t notice a huge difference between store ground or on-demand ground when it came to the actual taste in retrospect.
Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble… The Brewing Process
I went online to see what the French Press was about and soon decided my life was already too complicated to fuss with that damn thing!
Right from the beginning I always used filtered water, having no love for the local tap water.
At first I used a Melita system which is a cone filter pour through designed to make a cup at a time. It was OK, suitably ritualistic, maybe a little cumbersome but it was impressive because of the very ritual it entailed.
Still, it was a lot of fooling around early in the morning.
So I bought a Mr. Coffee.
Mr. Coffee is a clever device, a step up from the old fashioned percolator.
It copies the drip brewers one finds in restaurants everywhere. It delivers what it claims is hot water at the proper temperature and keeps the carafe hot as it brews.
It makes clean coffee and does not deliver muddy dregs and grounds in your cup like the old percolators did. My Mr. Coffee uses smaller versions of the restaurant paper filter to keep the liquid clean.
I bought the “4 cup” version and quickly found out that “cup” dimension varied. Their “cup” was a boldfaced lie, in my estimation. There is no “standard cup” when it comes to coffee. It was pretty much what a coffeemaker or cup maker wanted to call it. There is no agreed upon “cup” except in baking.
The “cup” markings on the Mr. Coffee carafe are almost espresso in size.
I drink from your basic 11 .oz coffee mug which does not harmonize with “cup” at all. A coffee mug is around ten or eleven ounces of liquid. The Mr. Coffee 4 cupper cannot make two mugs of coffee. There is not enough room in the reservoir or carafe. When you look at the measure lines on the Mr. Coffee reservoir window the liquid required for a mug of coffee is just a little above the two and a half cup area. Finding a portion recommendation was a challenge. Even online recommendations couldn’t agree.
I bought a yuppie stainless steel “coffee scoop” which turned out to be a six dollar tablespoon measure. Just what the doctor ordered when the recipes call for “use one scoop of coffee per cup.”
But a mug needed more. I despaired finding a single unit measuring scoop. I finally spotted a steel measure marked “1/8 cup.” Later on I found a brew of 11 .oz of water, called for a tablespoon plus a teaspoon of grounds. After checking with a portion scale I found The 1/8 cup measure was exactly that.
I still had a problem. Mr. Coffee uses a basket that holds a filter. The basket filter has a flat bottom about 3.5” across.
I could only brew one mug of coffee from the contraption.
This meant I had to jiggle the dry grounds as evenly as I could across the bottom of the filter. This was to ensure an even flow of hot water through the grounds in the brewing process. The result was always mixed because the grounds were spread so thin that the nozzle spraying hot water punched a thin spot in the grounds. Water always looks for the way of least resistance. This meant more of the water would go through the weak spot rather than evenly through the grounds. The resultant coffee came out on the weak side.
What was needed, I decided, was a baffle to deflect the force of the water.
I cannot tell a lie. For the next few months, (yes, Months) I cut disks out of several different materials, Styrofoam (from egg cartons) to two or three types of plastic, even an aluminum soft drink can cut to fit.. Each baffle had to have holes made in it and a simple handle for taking it out of the basket.
All of them were lacking in some way. Mainly in finding a way to make smooth holes in the baffles and finding a material that wouldn’t stain and would easily rinse clean. The baffle would always have grounds sticking to it requiring at least a rinsing at the end of the brewing cycle.
I finally found success by buying a disposable aluminum bread pan. The metal is so thin it cuts easily with regular scissors. I cut my disk and bought one of those hand held paper punches and punched a bunch of holes in the disk. For a handle I took a chopstick and whittled one end to resemble an upside down “T” and put it in the center with the stem of the T pointing up so I could grab it.
That worked pretty well but sometimes I would still see a thin spot because I failed to spread the grounds evenly and I would also see evidence of grounds having floated through the baffle holes.
One day I had a brilliant idea.
First, I put the filter in the basket. Then I take a straw and use it as a pipette and transferred a small amount of water from the Mr. Coffee reservoir to the basket. You do this by sticking the straw in the water and closing the end off with your thumb. Air pressure keeps the water from draining out of the straw as you transfer the water.
The filter, of course, gets wet and I would tip it around to make sure the entire bottom gets covered with moisture.
When I dumped my grounds on that it was easy to be sure I got full coverage because the dry grounds now stick to the wetted area.
As a final touch, I took some of the paper filters and cut disks out of them that just fit over the grounds. I place one of these atop the distributed grounds. The baffle holds the top filter down so it won’t float. Voila! The water nozzle can no longer make pressure holes in the grounds.
The baffle is easier to keep clean, also.
So it goes like this…
1. I put filtered water in the reservoir in late afternoon, early evening. I use a plastic measuring cup for this that has a Sharpie line that tells me exactly how much water to put in the reservoir.
2. In the morning I put the paper filter in the basket and wet the bottom of the filter.
3. I have a small plastic box with a lid on it that I have previously measured my coffee grounds into. Pop the lid. Dump the grounds in, shift them around to be sure of even coverage.
4. Put the basket into the brewer.
5. Add the pre-cut top filter, then the baffle and turn it on.
Totter into the bathroom to “meditate” and get dressed.
When I come back to the kitchen I measure the next day’s coffee grounds into the little plastic box I mentioned earlier, I put the box in the airtight canister that also houses my grounds and measure scoop. I get the next day’s pre-cut top filter disk ready. And finally put my sugar and straw in my cup.
This preparation routine makes sure the brewer has time to drain the basket of liquid into the carafe.
Remove basket, rinse baffle, pour coffee. Voila!
All that for one morning cup of coffee…plus Farmer Brothers Coffee, bought online.
Keeps my mustache dry and acts as a stir stick.