…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
As you have been reading (if you’ve already read part one and part two of my Coffee Snob series) I bought myself a coffee machine (I’ve actually had it a few months already and I’m still figuring things out!). The idea was that I could move away from drinking instant coffee… actually I don’t think there is much truth in that since I have enough instant coffee to last me a year or more… oh well, it will do for guests *grins*
I think there were a couple of ways I had justified my decision to buy a coffee machine, one was that ‘fresh coffee’ seemed to be a similar price to instant, another was that I was also aware that instant coffee goes through an energy-consuming process, in order to freeze-dry it during processing. Perhaps fresh coffee would be more environmentally-friendly. I have learned something similar with UHT milk and reading about that put me off buying it so much – not that it works with the milk steamer or coffee in general, but I find it all right in tea, or 50/50 in porridge with full fat milk (yummy).
However, while gram-for-gram fresh coffee was about the same price, if not cheaper, I had failed to factor in that you use more per cup with fresh coffee – with instant I use a heaped teaspoon-full, but with fresh coffee a heaped tablespoon-full is used.
But that leaves fresh coffee being more environmentally-friendly right? Well, instant coffee is supplied in a glass jar which can be recycled, whereas to begin with the ‘fresh’ coffee I was buying was supplied to me in a plastic/foil-lined bag – not so green (now I have a coffee bean grinder I’m hoping to source coffee beans that are supplied in paper bags). The other issue is the energy required to turn coffee into instant granules, which as mentioned, takes some energy in order to free-dry it, so this would make fresh coffee greener, right? Well, coffee beans arrive in a greener state (if at least packaged in recycled/easily-recyclable material) but perhaps the coffee machine consumes more energy to produce a cup of coffee than the kettle consumes to boil a cup-full of water… plus there is the electric coffee grinder. I had looked into a hand-grinder, but seeing a Youtube on a hand-grinder vs. electric grinder, that seemed like too much hard work.
It’s not that I’ve ever disliked the taste of instant coffee, it’s more that I started drinking proper coffee at work, and now every cup feels like a treat. I’m actually caffeine sensitive and feel like I have to try and stick to no more than one cup a day, but with the move to fresh coffee I’m pretty certain there is more caffeine in it… there certainly was in the first cup I made myself!
I’ll add this final part now I’ve received my coffee grinder – another cheapie off ebay, well relatively expensive since it cost the same amount as my pre-loved coffee machine… but it’s virtually brand new… and boxed… but no instructions (what do people do with these things!?).
When buying bags of pre-ground coffee, a chunk of work has been done for you, not only are the beans ready ground, but they’re also ground to an amount that suits those particular beans (at least I assume so with the stuff I bought from the supermarket!) – so one less thing to think about. When you grind your own beans you have that additional variable to play with – some sellers on ebay will grind the beans for you, but I think that defeats the purpose of making “fresh coffee”, especially if you’re a home-drinker (whole beans will keep fresher).
In the coffee shop I was used to seeing them chuck a bag of beans into their big coffee grinder and just leave it to do its (noisy work) – they could ignore it and it would chuck out the ground beans. Now I realise they must have pre-set the machine to grid to their preferred consistence – something I was never aware of.
With my simple little electric grinder, with no instructions to go by, I put in beans up to a line inside that separates the metal grinding section and the plastic shell above, left the slider on 2 (not knowing what that meant), put on the lid (being careful with the tab/catch because I have read they are prone to breaking on this model (leaving the whole machine defunct), and pressed the power button.
The grinder spins into action and gradually each light lights in turn, first on Coarse, then on Medium, and finally on Fine. For my first trial I stopped grinding the moment the Fine light lit. I peeped in and smiled as I saw (and smelled) nicely ground coffee – I was expecting half ground beans and an inconsistency in the stuff, but actually it was perfect through out.
I tipped the ground contents into the lid (which is a little messy) and then scooped out my usual heaped tablespoon full, and made the rest of the coffee as normal. The coffee took a lot longer to flow than normal, and when it did start to flow it didn’t flow well, it dribbled out in a thick treacly flow of, well, yumminess, but not good. I knew from a previous Youtube video about coffee grinding, one that compared Coarse, Medium, and Fine, that I had ground the beans too fine, causing the water to struggle to flow through (and risking burning the coffee). It tasted all right to me though, but I’m not that fussy.
I compared my Finely ground coffee to the ready-ground beans I still had – the Fine stuff I made (below-right) is very smooth when pressed lightly with a finger, like powder, the coffee is also lighter in colour.
On my next attempt I thought about stopping at Medium, but thought I’d get silly and stop the grinder somewhere between Medium and Fine. A limitation of this basic grinder is that you really only have three marked stages, anywhere in between is a guess, or rather it takes some Mississippi counting… I guessed at somewhere between Medium and Fine because I hadn’t counted how long there was between when the Medium light lit and the Fine one. But I got it right – the coffee flowed well as can (I believe) be shown in the slight foam around the edge of the cup below-left.
Returning to the slider on the grinder, that is numbered 4,6,8,10,12, with a cup symbol next to it, I assume this means the number of cups worth of beans you are grinding. And I’m therefore assuming that is maybe what the lines are for on the lid, which perhaps acts as a measuring guide: you’d put the means into the lid, up to the relevant line, set the slide to match, pour in the beans, apply the lid, and grind. I’ll just leave it on 2. Putting beans up to the dividing line inside the grinder produced more ground coffee than I needed for one cup, but I have a container with a good lid to keep the excess for the next day. I’ve only made one cup at a time with my little coffee machine… mixing things up for two or more cups is going to be whole new set of permutations… and I like to keep things simple 😉
Edit: No wait, a final final part. The coffee beans. I tried my best to go green and get beans in a paper bad, but I bought them off ebay, and while they were in a paper bag… that bag was wrapped in black plasticy shrink-wrap stuff. So, *fail*