Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coffee

It has been cold and windy the last few days, so not getting a lot done outside the boat (where much of the remaining bigger work items are).  Instead I've been inside huddled around my warm Thermos cup of coffee while working my day job.

When I moved onto the boat I didn't really want to bring a regular coffee maker on board.  The lightweight glass carafes on a boat just don't seem like a good idea.  I considered a coffee maker with a thermal carafe, but this seemed like a bulky solution for a limited space and also requires 110v power supply...not handy at anchor.  When we were taking the live-aboard ASA 114 course, the captain had a metal, thermal, French press that seemed like a reasonable option.  The down side of the French press is the cleanup since the grounds are only contained in the bottom of the carafe by the metal mesh plunger.

Then I happened upon a post by Windtraveler on a new coffee making device they found and were happy with.  The AeroPress Coffee and Espresso maker.  It is a delightfully simple manual design and seems to make cleanup easy.  So, when someone was bugging me for a Christmas gift last year, I suggested it and I received one.


The system is really quite simple.  You place a small filter in the bottom of the plunger apparatus, add coffee, add hot water, stir a little bit if desired, and then slowly push the plunger down to dispense the coffee into a cup or mug.  Once you are done, you unscrew the cap at the bottom and push the plunger to pop out the slug of coffee grounds into the trash or compost.

The only thing I didn't like about this coffee maker is that it does still use a paper filter.  While the filters are much smaller than typical coffee maker filters, I still prefer not throwing more paper away. I looked around and found screen type filters similar to the metal ones for a regular coffeemaker, but they didn't seem to have good reviews. I found someone on Amazon that was selling a metal reusable filter that wasn't a screen but was a disk with very fine holes punched in it (from Able Brewing) that had good reviews so I got one of those to try as well.

What I use to make my coffee in the morning.
Having had a chance to use it for a little while now, I have to say I like it.  I can heat water in my electric kettle (pictured above) or on the stove.  Pressing the coffee is easy and cleanup is pretty easy too.  I have altered the process some from what they recommend for my own taste and to conserve coffee.  Instead of using 1 of their scoops of coffee per cup (I think the scoop is about 2 tablespoons, I use one for my whole Thermos cup (2 mugs worth) of coffee and instead of just adding hot water to fill up the cup, I run all the water through the AeroPress (filling it up twice to fill the Thermos).


With the metal filter, there is an orientation as the holes on one side of the metal disk are smaller than the other.  You place the disk in with the label on the disk facing up.  I then put the contraption on the Thermos, add the dry coffee and add water to the (4) mark on the AeroPress.  Depending on how I feel I will either stir the coffee a bit or just let it steep for a few seconds, then use the plunger to push it slowly through until all the coffee is in the cup and I can hear air passing through the filter.  I then slowly remove the plunger, add more hot water to the (4) mark, wait a few seconds, and then slowly press the plunger down until the plunger contacts the coffee grounds and squeezes the last bit of the coffee from the grounds.  I don't press too hard though, as I don't want to try and force grounds through the filter.  I then set the press aside to let it cool.

Once the press is cooled a bit, I remove the cap to expose the metal filter.  I slide the filter off sideways to make sure the "puck" of coffee in the bottom of the press remains intact and doesn't stick to the filter.  I then use the plunger to pop the "puck" of coffee into the trash and clean up the rest of the AeroPress when I wash my other dishes...which usually only needs a light rinse.  About once a week, I will gently scrub the metal filter with a dish scrub brush while doing dishes to make sure the tiny holes remain clear.

I think the press makes a good cup of coffee and it is easy to use and clean.  I haven't found the metal filter to make the coffee gritty, even with fine ground coffee. The AeroPress' small size makes it easy to store in the limited spaces on a boat.  Even if you count the size of the electric kettle in the overall size, I think it is smaller than the average coffee maker and you have the added benefit of a kettle for heating water for other things.  Both the press and the filter are simple construction and I don't expect to have any issues with them going forward so I give the AeroPress a thumbs up.

If you are like me and don't down your coffee right away, I would also recommend an insulated coffee mug/cup.  The Thermos one I have claims to keep things hot or cold for many hours and I can tell you that my 1/4 to 1/2 full Thermos coffee is still hot 4 or more hours later.

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