Entertaining has always been easy around a cup of coffee. I can still remember my parents firing up the percolator on Sunday evenings as friends came by to visit. The memories of my first attempts at learning to work that percolator on Saturday mornings are still fresh in my mind. Of course the kitchen appliances that make our morning cup are more modern now, so let’s look at few.
In the United States and Canada the most common coffee appliance is the automatic drip coffee machine. Easy to operate would be a common characteristic. Fill the filter basket with coffee grounds (freshly ground I hope), pour in tap water and push a button. Some even have timers so the coffee is ready when you first wake up. The coffee drips out into a thermal or glass carafe and is soon poured into your cup. There is a wide variety of drip machines ranging in size, filter type and price, with most being very affordable.
For single folk, or those who are the only coffee drinkers (perish the thought) in the house, a single-serving coffee maker works well. Some allow you to measure your own while others utilize a custom package, called a coffee pod, which exclusively fits their machine. While this works well for your weekday morning cup, it isn’t a solution for entertaining. Keep the ten or twelve cup machine handy for such occasions.
For those who like to control the brewing process a French Press is perfect. It is a tubular carafe with a plunger and wire strainer that fits inside. The ground coffee, usually course, is placed in the bottom of the carafe. Hot water, just short of boiling, is poured on top and the two are mixed together, and allowed to brew (steep) for several minutes. When ready, the plunger is pushed toward the bottom of the carafe separating the grounds from the coffee. The French Press makes a stronger flavored cup since there are no paper filters to remove the oils with the grounds. This coffee tends to have a fuller body than that produced by a drip machine.
Then there is the espresso machine. Once only found in coffeehouses, this modern marvel is now available in home sized (and priced) models. Espresso is made with finely ground dark roasted coffee. Pressurized hot water is forced through the grounds to produce a “”shot”” of espresso. Much thicker and with a more pronounced flavor it is drunk from small cups that are the coffee equivalent to the shot glass. Most people equate this strong flavor to a higher caffeine level, but that isn’t so. Caffeine is reduced the longer the coffee bean is roasted. So the darker the roast the less caffeine the resulting coffee contains.
Espresso is used as a base, or starter, for several other coffee drinks, including cappuccino and Americano.
The more you become a home barista the more you need your own coffee grinder. Coffee tastes better when brewed within fifteen minutes of grinding, so having one of these gives you more control and fresher flavor. If a more course grind is your pleasure a blade grinder will do. For finer grinds, like espresso, a burr grinder is best, if just a bit more expensive. If you enjoy flavored coffees you should invest in a separate grinder for your flavored grinding. Once the flavoring agent touches a grinder it is almost impossible to remove the smell and taste. Coffee oil is renowned for absorbing odors so even regular coffee will pick up the taste and aroma from the residue from a flavored coffee.