I’ve gone a bit mad on the coffee front.
My first foray into the world of coffee geeks was when I heard of the Aeropress coffee maker. This is basically a large syringe into which you put freshly ground coffee and water, you then inject the brew into your cup through a paper filter.
The whole thing only costs about £18 but it really does make a fantastic cup of coffee, being a combination between an espresso and a French Press. The resultant cup of coffee is cleaner than my usual Mokka pot or French pressl, with far more flavour due of course to having freshly ground coffee. This has to be of the right grind size and so I bought a Porlex hand grinder to process my coffee beans. This takes about two minutes to grind the beans needed for one cup of coffee. It’s a Japanese design and uses ceramic burr grinders for a consistent grind. My research steered me away from blade grinders and mixers which are too inconsistent.
Before I bought the Aeropress, I performed my usual diligent on-line research and saw many recipes and ways of using the Aeropress, including the inverted method, which involves turning it upside down to brew the coffee. The image above shows the normal method, with all of the parts you get for your £18. When first looking at YouTube clips I was slightly put off by the high hipster content, although having a beard and a bad haircut are not requirements for brewing a damn fine cup of coffee. The universal point was that just everybody praised the coffee one can make in the thing.
I was also initially sceptical (purely age and hair related) when seeing the hipsters measuring and weighing not only the beans but also the water. Some of them were even advocating the way to stir the brew before fully making it. However arsy these seemingly arcane points at first appeared, when thinking about it, and actually making the coffee at home, they made sense. After all you’re following a recipe; you wouldn’t bake a cake without measuring the ingredients, timing the bake and setting the temperature of the cooker. So it is with coffee. Get it right and you can repeat. Get it wrong and you know your start point to try something else.
So taking delivery of all the bits in the Aeropress kit and the hand grinder, I made several cups of coffee, following the on-line recipes. The hand grinder grinds the 16gms of beans which I have decided on using in a couple of minutes. The brew from an Aeropress, following the recommended method, is strong and somewhat concentrated, too strong for me neat but perfect when diluted with hot water. One of the advantages of the Aeropress is that there are so many variables, you can tweak how you use it to change your method and the quality of the coffee you make.
After using it for a couple of weeks and being very pleased with the results, I was finding the manual grinding to be a little bit of a chore. The Aeropress is excellent at making one cup of coffee but on some evenings and on lazy weekends, one cup is not enough.
Back on line I went. I wanted to see what electric grinders were recommended and what else would give me a tasteful, clean cup of coffee similar to the Aeropress. The latter objective was first and easily met.
A Chemex filter coffee maker, also know as a pour over, is a simple and beautifully designed filter system made from chemically inert glass and especially designed and composed Chemex filters. These are thicker than many other paper filters. Once again there are countless recipes on-line about how to get the best from a Chemex. I’ve tried a couple and the coffee has been delicious, although again sometimes too strong. I’ve not slept for several days given the caffeine-buzz following all my experimenting!
So the final thing to sort out was a decent electric grinder, to save my poor arthritic wrist from the daily torture session of manual grinding. There are many wonderful coffee forums and having skulked in a few, the general advice was to spend more on a grinder than any other component within your coffee making setup. Another piece of advice was to stay away from grinders that offer too many fancy functions with sliders, buttons and lights. The final piece of advice was to buy from a specialist coffee retailer and avoid some of the familiar brands available on Amazon.
After doing even more extensive research I put my Xmas cheque to good use and bought a Eureka Mignon Mk2 Grinder. This little beauty does only one thing, it grinds coffee. It uses flat metal burrs and can either be used on demand or to run for a set time. It is built like a tank and is easy to clean. It takes about 10 to 20 seconds to grind what I need to charge either my Aeropress or Chemex with freshly ground, beautifully smelling coffee.
While I don’t have an espresso machine, this grinder can grind coffee beans to the fineness required for espresso, not everything can. I change the grind dial to make the medium fine grinds for my Chemex to a slightly finer grind for my Aeropress. I also use a mokka pot and have a French Press but these have been relegated at the moment, yet the grinder can produce the appropriate grind for those methods too. It’s so easy and so quick.
As for the coffee I’ve been drinking, I started out buying some Sainsburys Fair Trade Colombian beans, which is medium roasted and has a tasty, nutty quality with a nice buzz. With the Aeropress and the Chemex, you can taste so much more of the flavour of the beans than an oily, over roasted bean. Since then I’ve tried some more up-market beans, from the very handy and knowledgeable ArtisanRoast in Broughton Street. I’m currently trying their Finca Eleta from Panama. It’s as they say a coffee you could drink all day. Personally that may not be wise, but it is delicious, light and sweet. The good news is that their shop contains many more varieties to try and taste, merely a quick bus ride from home. So if you see my jittering, wide-eyed down the road, you’ll now know I’ve been sampling again.