I love coffee. I remember when I was a kid, and Mum and Dad bought an electric coffee percolator. It was a bit of a big deal and made coffee a bit of an event, generally reserved for after the dinner coffee. Dad would grind the coffee beans by hand in a little wooden grinder with a drawer to catch the grounds. Then he’d fill the percolator and turn it on, and we’d hear it going blurp, blurp until it stopped, and the coffee was ready. I wasn’t allowed coffee at that stage — it was not a drink for children — but the smell was so enticing. This was proper coffee, not instant, which my parents drank at other times.
When I left home to go to university, I lived in Carlton, a Melbourne suburb where there were lots of Italian cafes and restaurants. As well as learning to cook Italian-style food, I learned to make Italian-style coffee, using a moka pot, like the one in this photo. The only trouble was, mine only made three small cups, so for larger groups it was a hassle. But I never bought instant coffee again.
Then one year, my lovely evening class students bought me an electric coffee maker of the sort that used paper filters. I used it for a while, but ended up giving it to Mum and Dad, as my kitchen was so tiny there was no room for it on the bench, and it was a nuisance getting it out of a cupboard two or three times a day to make coffee.
I bought a French press coffee maker, because it made more coffee at one time which was easier if I had guests. Mum had given me an elegant 1960’s coffee pot as a gift once — a “Susie Cooper” coffee pot — a tall china pot, like a teapot, only it was for coffee. It came with a little jug and sugar container. That’s the set in the photo. I assumed you made the coffee then poured it into the pot to serve, mainly to be elegant, the way we were supposed to pour milk from the carton into a pretty little jug when guests were present. Naturally I didn’t bother with the tall coffee pot at all, I just used the French press. Why dirty two pots?
I still have the French press and the moka pot as well as the Susie Cooper pot, but these days, most of the time, I don’t use any equipment at all. I just add boiling water to a heaped spoonful of ground coffee in a mug, stir well, let it sit a moment, then add a little milk. The grounds sink to the bottom, and unless I drain the cup or mug dry with my last mouthful, I never taste any grounds. And there’s so much less washing up and no filters to clean. I just tip the grounds into my compost bin (or down the sink — shhhh.)
I discovered this method when I was camping one time, and had forgotten to bring any filters. I made the coffee in a thermos — just ground beans and boiling water and then a little milk, reasoning that if it was horrible I could just throw it out. But when I came to drink it, it was perfect — all the grounds stayed sitting at the bottom of the thermos. And I’ve made it like that ever since — only just for me. It’s a bit hard to see in the photo below, but that’s the coffee I just finished, tipped at an angle so you can see how the grounds have sunk to the bottom and are still clinging to the base of the mug. The paler semicircle is the last mouthful of my coffee, which I won’t drink, as there will be some grounds in it.
Recently, I was browsing through my mother’s old cookbooks — I love old cookbooks — and I came across a description of how to make coffee. It was very similar to the way you make tea — warm the pot, add the ground coffee (the amount depending on how strong you wanted it) pour boiling water in, stir well and allow the grounds to sink. It added that you could strain the coffee when pouring, but that it wasn’t necessary if you didn’t swirl the pot around too much when pouring. And clearly they were using the kind of tall china pot like the one my mother gave me.
So you don’t need to boil up coffee over a campfire, or buy an electric machine and use paper filters, or wasteful little foil pods, you can just make it in a mug. I’ve been trying it on friends lately — most of them were very dubious about it at first, but they’ve had to confess it’s as good as the French press version, as long as you don’t try to drain the cup dry. Try it and see. I’ll still use my French press for dinner parties, and the moka pot for making espresso-style coffee, but 90% of the time, it’s straight into the mug for me.
On the left is my “writing” coffee mug, a souvenir of a Romance Writers of Australia conference many years ago. I love it. And yes, enough of blogging — back to the wip (that’s Work In Progress.)