Archives for category: Miscellaneous

Making coffee is a morning ritual I take a lot of pleasure in. Partly because I’m a creature of habit and enjoy the routine but also because I love the smell, process, and of course the taste. Most of us are accustomed to using the auto-drip coffee makers for their ease and ability to set it on a timer. To me, automatic coffee makers take the fun out of brewing coffee. Plus auto-drips (a least most of them) tend to burn the coffee and generally brew a less robust cup.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I spent some time working as a barista and lived in Italy for a semester and if that won’t do it, nothing will. That aside, with a little extra effort and the right tools, you can have excellent coffee at home every day. As with any task, having the proper tool is vital to getting a good result. So I thought I would do an overview of coffee makers that brew a great cup.

french press coffee maker

Personally, my favorite way to brew coffee is with a french press. With the french press you pour the coffee and hot water into the the glass cylinder, stir it up and put the lid/plunger on top. After four minutes you gently push the mesh plunger down, which forces the grounds to the bottom. This method retains all the oils in the coffee which gives it a deep flavor.

Moka Pot coffee maker

The moka pot, also known as the stovetop espresso maker (even though it doesn’t actually brew espresso) is another great method. This kind of coffee maker is more popular in Europe than it is here in the US. It makes a relatively small amount of coffee that is concentrated and rich in flavor. For this method, you put pre-warmed water in the bottom section. The coffee grounds go in a basket in the middle of the maker and the whole thing is placed on the stove. As the water is heating, it pushes up through the grounds into the top section.

AeroPress Coffee Maker

Another brewer that makes espresso strength coffee is the AeroPress. The first time I had coffee made with an AeroPress, I was immediately impressed. The coffee is smooth and less acidic than normal coffee but has a really strong flavor. The AeroPress hasn’t been around for a long time; it was invented only 6 years ago. It is basically a large syringe. A small filter is put in the bottom, then the coffee and water are added. It only steeps for 10 seconds before you plunge it and force the coffee through the filter into your cup.

Vacuum Pot

The Vacuum Pot is a much more delicate way to brew coffee but some people swear by it.  The method is a bit complicated and the equipment is fragile but it makes excellent coffee. The vacuum pot is two glass orbs with the coffee in the top and the water in the bottom. As the water heats up, it is forced up into the coffee. You remove the pot from the heat source after all of the water is pushed into the top. The resulting vacuum that is created pulls the liquid back down into the bottom leaving the grounds behind. Once all the coffee has been pulled back into the bottom, remove the top with the grounds and pour your coffee!

pour over method

The pour over method is arguably the simplest way to brew a fresh cup of coffee. It’s cheap too. Most plastic cones, such as the Melitta cones cost under five dollars (of course you can spend much more than that if you are inclined). You simply place the plastic cone on top of your cup. You place a filter in the cone and add your coffee. You pour the water in two steps. In the initial pour you pour just enough water to saturate the grounds. After about 15 seconds, begin pouring the rest of the water, pouring it in a spiral motion to evenly saturate the grounds.

For more detailed instructions, Stumptown Coffee Roasters has a great step-by-step guide to brewing coffee. A few final tips for brewing: always use fresh water and freshly roasted coffee,  always grind your coffee to fit your brewing method, and don’t forget to pre-warm your mug!

Happy brewing!

It has taken a year and half of living in California for me to work up the courage to try new produce. Growing up in North Carolina, there was not nearly the variety of fruits and vegetables that there is here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing fruits and veggies in NC, but they are much more seasonal and not nearly as diverse.  There is produce at the Berkeley Bowl that I have never in my life laid eyes upon, much less eaten. Most of the time I suspiciously peer at the alien fruits and veggies, keeping a safe distance, before I head over to select some apples and carrots. But this weekend I decided to buck up some courage and buy some of these unfamiliar fruits.

After contemplating a table of very interesting and exotic looking fruit I choose a horned melon, a dragon fruit, and cherimoya. Admittedly, I choose the dragon fruit and horned melon for their visual appeal. I knew I was going to draw them for Illustrated Bites and I couldn’t help but select the most eye catching fruit. I had heard of cherimoya before and decided to try one, even though it wasn’t as flashy as the other two.

Horned MelonThe first fruit that I sliced open was the horned melon. The interior of the fruit is bright green transparent packets of juice, similar in texture to citrus but much more slimy. The flavor of the flesh is slightly sweet. I thought it tasted similar to a cucumber, while my sweetie thought it tasted somewhat like kiwi. I read that the peel is edible but I don’t know why you would try to eat something covered in spikes.

Dragon FruitThe dragon fruit has a beautiful white, juicy interior speckled with tiny black seeds. To eat it you slice it half lengthwise and run a spoon the circumference of the section to remove the flesh from the peel. You can then lift the white part out and slice it. The peel is not edible. I found dragon fruit to be quite tasty but subtle. It was refreshing, crunchy, and only slightly sweet.

Cherimoya I was excited to try the cherimoya after reading a little about them. They are also known as a custard apple and Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to man.” To eat it you simply slice it in half and spoon out the interior. Don’t eat the seeds though, they are poisonous. The cherimoya was very sweet with a bananaish flavor and texture. It was a little too sweet for me, though after doing some reading the one I chose may have been over-ripe.

Overall I’m glad I’ve started to branch out from my usual apples and oranges. However, I don’t think I’ll purchase these particular fruit again. I found them more pleasing to the eye than the palate.  It was a fun taste test but no new favorites yet.

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