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coffee roasting, brewing

coffee-makerI really enjoy GOOD coffee, down wimpy stuff just enough to be polite and pour out the crankcase-oil version after the first sip (trying to do it discretely, mind you). Truly good coffee is hard to come by. I have evolved through many processes to my current setup that is pretty reliable and sustainable.

I buy 20-pound bags of very select green beans from Sweet Maria’s in Oakland, California. I roast a pint of them every week over a medium heat on my camp stove using a pot dedicated to that task and a wooden spatula for 20 minutes of constant stirring.

I find the best flavor for me is achieved if I have a slightly higher heat until I hear the very first crack, then drop it down a scosh. I shut the heat off at the beginning of the phase called “second crack” and go another minute or two at a place some call “Full City +“, stopping just short of “French Roast” where the oils come to the surface.

Coffee roasting is smokey. Getting into the darker roasts is REALLY SMOKEY – enough so I am operating by the sound of the cracking as much as appearance of the beans through the smoke. As they roast, you can hear the outer shell of the beans crack. That chorus of snaps is called “the first crack”. All roasts get past that stage. Dark roasts are created by reaching or getting into the cracking of the inner shell, “the second crack”.

If the chorus of snaps slows down you are burning the coffee. The beans are very sensitive to over-cooking, going from great to bad in a hurry. When my beans are early into the second crack, I pour them into a lovely thrift-store copper colander and stir to cool them down.

I’m currently roasting in the breezway, but by winter I’ll be in the Mud Room with my coffee roasting station in front of a box fan carrying most of the smoke out the window. I have never found a satisfactory way of roasting in a house. Try that one at your own risk.

I grind two-day’s-worth of beans in my electric grinder, but have a backup hand-crank garage-sale coffee grinder that works every bit as well, just a lot slower. I have very freshly ground, richly-flavored coffee every day for the same out-of-pocket cost as the ancient pre-ground tasteless stuff sold in large cans by the gazillions to a huge, appreciative audience leaving no doubt that my ‘needs’ are highly unusual.

I bought a large cone online that fits inside the neck of a standard carafe along with a case of filter papers. Four mounded coffee scoops to one teapot of boiling water lovingly poured over it makes a carafe-full that Missy shares with me. I have a French Press as a backup when the filter papers run out.

If the coffee grounds remain in contact with the boiling water too long, bad flavors join the good. If, heaven forbid, the brewed coffee gets boiled or remains over the heat too long – ech! – the dreaded crankcase-oil flavor replaces the lovely coffee flavor. Thus, percolators and cowboy coffee are for those who enjoy some coffee-bean-related drink other than the one I like.

As you can tell from all this, my coffee brewing system goes on nearly unaffected by disruptions in power delivery and other potential disruptions in everyday living.

When Sweet Maria’s can no longer import green beans from equatorial Earth or export them from the People’s Republic of the Left Coast to Montana, I’ll give up coffee. Actually, about six months after that happens, depending on where in my ordering cycle I am with the green beans.