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There are many, many kinds of coffee I enjoy while in cafés locally and travelling around the world. Here I share the various techniques we use to enjoy the brew of the bean. We raise a cup to you!

Turkish coffee house, T. Allom, Cal Tech

dormitory-style drip coffee

The first home-brew method is pretty easy, especially if you follow the two-phase preparation method.

Phase one happens in the evening, after the children have gone to bed, and all the world is calm.

I pull my trusty Melitta 4-cup coffee maker to the edge of the counter, so the steam doesn't bother the kitchen cabinets. I open up the pie safe (what did you expect in a cottage built in the 1890s?) and dig around until I find the box of brown ubleached paper filters, which I drop into the coffee maker's cone.

Next I open the refrigerator and extract a bag of Kauai Coffee Company macadamia flavored coffee. (Yes, yes, normally I won't go near flavored coffees, but this is surprisingly good stuff.) Grab a measuring spoon and ladle 2½ tea-spoons of coffee into the aforementioned filter, then get a carafe and pour water into the coffee maker's water heater to about the 3½ cups mark. Go to sleep.

Phase two happens in the morning, as all sorts of craziness are beginning. Flick on the coffee maker's switch; watch the orange light glow. Smell the coffee brewing.

Open the refrigerator again and take a pint of half-and-half (cream and milk mixture), pour a bit of the white, add a cup of the brown, taste, close eyes and enjoy.

Qahwah Saadah / Turkish khavè / Arab qahwah

Variously known as Qahwah Saadah (Bedouin coffee), Arab qahwah, Qahwa Arabeya (Arabian coffee), Kahwe bala Hal (coffee with cardamom), and Turkish (or Greek, or Macedonian, or Israeli) khavè, this brew comes to us through the mists of time. It's flavored with cardamom - sometimes called Grains of Paradise - and optionally with sugar. (UPDATE: I've had a Moroccan variant, flavored with cinnamon instead of cardomom. Also wonderful.)

One doesn't need an ibrik (Greek; the Arabs call it a cezve) in which to cook the coffee, but it does make things easier. Copper or stainless steel, plain or fancy, ancient or modern. Or an old, small pot. Your choice.

ibrik schematic

Making Turkish coffee (as it's known best over here) is really easy. It's best drunk from a demitasse; any tiny cup will do (cheap and plentiful at thrift shops and import stores). Figure out how many demitasse can be filled from an three-quarters-full ibrik. That number, let's call it n, is important. Write it down. You'll need it from day to day until you've got everything figured out and seasoned to taste.

Fill the ibrik with n demitasse of water, n teaspoons of the coffee-cardamom mixture, and n teaspoons of white sugar.

Bring this mixture to a boil, taking it quickly from the flame before the frothy head cascades out of the ibrik onto your stovetop. Bring back to a boil two more times. Remove the ibrik; allow the coffee to settle for a few seconds and pour immediately. Be gentle: don't allow the "the cream of the coffee" (as the liquid is called) to stir up the grounds on the bottom of the ibrik.

Sucking the demitasse with your mouth a bit open will mix a bit of too-hot coffee with cool room air, making for a strong, sweet, and arousing sip of hot pleasure. Enjoy!

stovetop espresso

We own a Ranchillo espresso machine, but it's too tall for our kitchen and too much trouble to use in my office. So mostly it gathers dust.

When I want to brew the torrefacto coffee we've brought back from the Canary Islands I pull out the Junior Express stovetop espresso pot.

stovetop junior espresso

The macchinetta, as it's properly known, works by heating water to create pressure which forces the water through the coffee grounds. The result is much closer to espresso than drip coffee. Here's how I do a brew:

  • fill the bottom chamber with cold water up to the overpressure valve
  • insert the funnel filter into the bottom chamber and fill it with two tablespoons of espresso-ground coffee; don't tamp!
  • ensure the filter plate and rubber gasket are firmly seated; after all, you're generating a load of force
  • screw the top chamber on to a finger-tight level, no tighter
  • put it atop a flame large enough to cover the bottom but not so large that it heats the bakelite handle
  • put the flip-top up so you can see the brewing
  • the gurgling sound will signal the beginning of the brew. Coffee will dribble from the central column until it begins spitting. Put down the flip-top and wait another 15 seconds
  • extinguish the flame, enjoy

stainless steel ibrik

Have you found errors nontrivial or marginal, factual, analytical and illogical, arithmetical, temporal, or even typographical? Please let me know; drop me email. Thanks!

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