Life must be good when one of your primary focuses these days is the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. The world of coffee has become terribly complicated in the years since Mike Mulholland and I roamed the roads in Lafayette County stirring up trouble in our patrol cars night and day. When time permitted, we would adjourn to Branson’s MFA restaurant at the junction of I-70 and M-13 where we would count coup while enjoying a cup of stout, black coffee. Our tastes were not particularly refined and our ability to discriminate between good coffee and bad coffee had more to do with the temperature of the brew and whether it was comprised of a fresh pot or the bottom of a glass carafe, aged just enough to make it suitable to treat fenceposts, thus delaying their inevitable destruction by Mother Nature.
Back in the day, we relied upon a simple aluminum percolator to brew up a few cups of joe at home. Sure, the real aficionados might have had an electric pot, but on a trooper’s salary in those days, the five dollar percolator worked just fine. These pots were a necessity on the last days of the month, as coffee constituted an offer of gratitude to the trooper on duty as he relayed our paychecks to each off duty officer in the zone. Coffee was one of the many adhesives that bonded officers who depended upon one another in the inevitable life or death situations that surfaced in our lives. So it was in the day; home, an all night truck stop or a favorite eatery was the source of the black blood called coffee. Have times ever changed!
Our coffee bar at home is a focal point in our dining room. Gone is the percolator and in it’s place we now have an ultra-modern pod coffee maker, an ingenious device that makes a perfectly consistent cup of about any kind of coffee you might want. It is boringly predictable, with each cup being the same exact temperature and strength. On the other side of our bar resides a equally efficient expresso machine, capable of delivering an expresso or a nice frothed brew, also heated to exactly the right temperature and strength. This little jewel also relies on cute and inordinately expensive little pods for the essence of the drink. We also own a milk frother, in the event we need to concoct a specialty brew. To feed our coffee addiction, we stock many flavors and strengths of coffees for these devices, I suppose to cater to the tastes of those who might visit us with infinitely more refined tastes than I have. To be honest, I miss the good old days of inconsistent coffee with pedigrees long lost in the grinding process in some obscure coffee grinding warehouse. To this end, we have adopted a couple of the latest brewing processes, both relatively inexpensive and surprisingly good. Enter the “pour over” and “french press” methods of coffee making. What is happening to us?
The folks who market coffee and coffee products are unashamed capitalists out to exploit one of America’s greatest sanctioned addictions. May the force be with them. We recently acquired a small, glass, pour over device that simply rests on your coffee cup with a paper filter pressed into it. You heat your water in yet another recently acquired water heater that will heat and hold your water at a pre-selected temperature and you simply pour this water over the selected grounds. The water is delivered via a cleverly designed little, goose necked, spout on the heater. The coffee is said to be smoother and more robust using this method. I am sure it is, but remember that I also enjoyed the black nectar of truck stops out of a seldom cleaned drip maker behind the counter, poured by a sleepy eyed waitress in the middle of the night. (It could be that truck stop waitresses had a knack for taking your mind off of the swill they were pouring…..). My point is this. This coffee is good, damned good, but I am having trouble discriminating between it and other coffees brewed with less detail than is offered by the “pour over” method. Enter the french press. Yes, we also acquired one of these, that is said to further enhance the coffee by delivering the true flavor of the grind by pressing out the finer flavors buried deep in the grounds. We’ll see. So far, the one advantage of the pour over method is the simplicity of brewing a very good cup of coffee in a relatively unsophisticated way, in the Airstream after a night of deep sleep in some far away place.
The photographs accompanying this piece are representative of our deep addiction to coffee. It is good that health care scientists have now decreed that coffee, in any amount, is beneficial to longevity. I should be around awhile. In the furtherance of my quest for eternal youth (a fantasy easily destroyed by a glance in the mirror) I am enjoying my second cup of pour over as I write. I think I just detected a subtle essential oil, coaxed out of my grounds by the clever manipulation of precisely heated water over the grind. On the other hand, it tastes a lot like other coffees……each cup the new, perfect cup of coffee.
Today’s favorite is Royal Rum Pecan, ground by, and I am not kidding here, the Mystic Monk Monastery located in a mountain valley in Wyoming. Their coffees are unbelievably good, so aromatic and easy on the palate. They lend themselves to a gentle pour over, thus preserving their delicate balance and full potential. I have no idea whether or not I believe this, but, in my next life, I am going to be a coffee salesman. It just might be my second calling!