As kids we made “cowboy coffee” in a speckled, enameled steel coffee pot in an open fire on boy scout camping trips. Dump in some ground Folgers, fill with water, and add egg shells to sink the grounds. I don’t remember thinking it was good, but it was hot and black and strong, just what was called for with our greasy bacon and eggs sprinkled with a little dirt and toast made in a greasy skillet. A few years ago I had some great cowboy coffee on a Xanterra Chuckwagon Dinner in Yellowstone National Park near the Theodore Roosevelt Lodge. They did it right – steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, apple cobbler and a huge enameled coffee pot with freshly brewed cowboy coffee. It was good given the setting – a great meal in a magnificent landscape while a black bear hovered amongst the trees, trying to sneak up on us for a handout. Drama always makes the coffee tastier. Still, cowboy coffee is usually a 2 or 3 for me on a scale of 10. It ranks slightly above INSTANT, a 1 or 2 in my book, but better than no coffee at all.
The new technologies in coffee brewing are a bit baffling. We run into Keurig machines in hotel rooms and they are always fun. However, I just don’t like froo-froo coffee. Coffee should not have vanilla or other subverting flavors mixed in (except CHOCOLATE – mocha is OK). I have never had a cup of Keurig coffee that caused the word “Wow!” to bubble up from deep in my CAC (coffee
appreciation center – I don’t know this exists, but think it must). I would give the untainted cup of Keurig a 4 or 5, but it loses points for being environmentally unfriendly with its single serve plastic containers.
I feel like I have had every kind of Mr. Coffee ever made from the usual drip kind to their affordable approach to Espresso. Most drip coffee makers produce a reasonable cup of coffee. I give them a 5 or 6 on a 10 scale. Some hotels and motels have gone to drip machines for one cup. You pour a cup of cold water in the top, add the filter-packet of coffee to the flimsy plastic holder and hit the button. Voila – a really mediocre cup of drip coffee – maybe a 3.
Then there’s Starbucks, Seattle’s Best and a plethora of nouveau coffee houses. They have really expensive equipment and every additive you can imagine. That’s probably good because the coffee itself is good but not exceptional. Coffee houses are designed more for the total experience – comfortable seating, nice music, fresh coffee aromas, delicious super-calorific snacks. I would give their coffee only a 6 or 7 in most cases.
When we were staying at Forest Lodge in Gisakura, Rwanda, near Nyungwe National Park, our friendly food manager, Jean-Marie, would bring coffee to the table in a French Press and we would let it steep three or four minutes and then pour and drink it, amazed at the fullness of the flavor. It’s not just a cup of coffee at breakfast to accompany eggs and bacon. It’s the reason to crawl out of bed, look up at the sunshine over the rainforest and savor that first cup of coffee, awash in the aroma of tea fields, steaming coffee and morning rain. We were converted. Our drip machine went to the storage closet.
According to Wikipedia, “A French press, also known as a cafetière, cafetière à piston, Cafeteria, press pot, coffee press, or coffee plunger, is a coffee brewing device patented by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929. . . Coffee is brewed by placing coarsely ground coffee in the empty beaker and adding hot—between 93–96 °C (199–205 °F)—water, in proportions of about 30 g (1.1 oz) of coffee grounds to 500 ml (17 US fl oz) of water, more or less to taste. The brewing time is about two to four minutes. Then the mesh plunger or piston is pressed, to separate the grounds and hold them at the bottom of the beaker.”
At home we now have a stainless steel French Press and make coffee in it each morning first thing. We fill up an insulated Tiger thermos as we make coffee, so we can keep it hot all day and enjoy it over and over without that burnt flavor of over-warmed coffee. It’s still hot at 5 PM though it was brewed at 6 AM.
We take our freshly brewed Tiger thermos out on the lanai and relax with our morning coffee as we watch the changing face of the Pacific Ocean sprawled out to the south and west. It’s late March and the rainy season has started. We might see a humpback whale blow or breach, waving goodbye as it heads back to Alaskan waters for the summer feeding season. Coffee trees are blooming and most limbs are already festooned with green coffee cherry at various stages of growth with occasional white flowers after a rain. Saffron finches and yellow-billed cardinals dive in and out for a drink or dip at our koi pond waterfall. When the sun rolls over Mauna Loa behind us and lights up the coffee groves, we are likely on our second cup of coffee. Life is good.
We grow Heartfelt Kona Coffee, our own estate brand. When we brew it and serve friends and guests, we want it to amaze them with the rich flavor, the magic of fresh-roasted Kona coffee, a medium roast too good to quit on after only one cup. For me it always scores a “10.” The French press makes the best of great coffee beans grown right here on our tiny farm and lovingly hand picked and processed by the two of us.
You can still enjoy our coffee wherever you are, even if you’re not sharing a cup with us on our lanai, but be warned – you may find yourself inexplicably thinking of ocean breezes gently reminding you to slow down and smell the coffee blossoms. Think about trying French press as the way to brew it. You’ll be glad you did.