Posted by: Brian Andrew Davis | March 6, 2011

My New Coffee Toy

The first time I remember voluntarily drinking a cup of coffee I was on a post-7th grade summer youth group choir trip to Alaska. The stuff was semi-burnt, liquidy, and probably too old. But I drank it all and decided I liked it. Or I was going to make myself like it at least.

Thus began a lifelong infatuation and exploration with my favorite hot, dark, rich drink: coffee. I generally drink it black and undiluted, unless I’m specifically going for a latte / cappuccino kind of thing. It’s actually a little embarrassing how quickly people will associate me with coffee. I’ve had to intentionally cut back the amount of coffee that I drink per day. Last year I would drink a mug (10 oz)  before going to work, a travel mug (16 oz) on the car ride, and then probably two 16 oz cups at work. That’s 58 oz right there–almost half a gallon. Some days I would have Starbucks in the afternoon as well. Which would launch me into a full-blown withdrawal cycle in the following days.

So I’ve cut back.

But it still remains a daily ritual, I just have less entering my body. Moderation is key.

I have tried coffee all sorts of ways and learned to make it different ways myself. I was a drip coffee guy for a while (standard coffee brewer), then I got into the espresso drinks craze when Starbucks was expanding like mad at the end of the 90s. In college I fell in love with the french press, and now I even have a travel french press mug (thanks Joel!).

But one method still remained out of reach and a mystery to me: the percolator.

Opinions vary widely about percolating: the worst method, the best method, the most virtuous method, the most tedious method, blah blah, blah. But I needed to try it for myself to get the ‘full brew’. So I was very interested when Bethany visited her friends Amy and Justin and started telling me about this hexagonal metallic pot that produced some of the best coffee Bethany’s ever had. After some quick research I discovered that this peculiar pot was none other than a stovetop espresso percolator. These things are made in Italy and they’re apparently pretty proud of it too.

I was so interested that the pot became one of the my birthday gifts. From Bethany and from Jonathan / Tommy / Nate. Unfortunately the one Bethany picked up had a bizarre hole blown in the top of the base, but fortunately we had another thanks to my buds. We got our money back on the broken one too!

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now (along with a Bodum milk frother wand that Bethany gave me for last year’s birthday, but has been underused) to make some fun cappuccino  drinks. The machine is amazing because it produces great coffee very quickly and has surprisingly little clean-up. We have a grinder and use whole beans. For a percolator you should always use finely ground coffee (as opposed to the course grind of a french press or the medium grind of a drip machine). I’ve read that it’s best to use espresso beans or Italian roast (something dark roasted) but all we have is the Starbucks Christmas blend right now. It’s working for the time-being.

You place tap water in the lower basin, which is connected to the top basin via a funnel and chute. You fill the funnel with your finely ground coffee which you ‘tamp down’ and then it forces boiling water through this fine coffee and up to the top for a powerful brew. As soon as the coffee begins to percolate, you should remove it from the heat source. It will continue to collect in the top chamber. If you’re brave or European, you can drink it straight. Otherwise you probably want to add some milk.

I’ve researched espresso drinks and learned all about how bubbles in the milk, or more specifically the SIZE of the bubbles, is what differentiates the professional level a latte. One guy described three different levels as “microfoam” – the awesome microscopic style bubbles you get from a professional milk frothing espresso machine, “meringue-like foam” – which can be made via a cheap spinning frother like ours, and “dishwasher foam” – which basically means massive bubbles that pop within a minute leaving only the milk as it was straight from the carton. This last one is what you get from many ‘cheap’ home espresso machines. We’ve learned to heat our milk (about 3/4 a mug if we’re both having some) on stovetop (along with a tsp sugar for each of us in it). We’ll froth it in the mugs after pouring it in and then pour our coffee on top. You can also add cinnamon, sugar, or cocoa to the top of the milk froth to give it some extra dignity.

While this isn’t quite professional, I’m sure it’s about the closest we’re going to get without purchasing a $1000 home-espresso machine. I’ll gladly take it! Now to purchase some espresso beans…

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Responses

  1. Ok. You have me convinced. When do I get to come over and try some?

    • soon! just thinking we want to have ya’ll over. 🙂

  2. You should check out an Aeropress. They make a great cup of coffee and are cheap as well.

    • we haven’t heard of them, but will definitely check it out!

  3. what is your favorite starbucks coffee?

    • Brian says his is anniversary blend and yukon.
      Mine is also anniversary blend and Guatemala. 🙂
      what’s yours??

  4. shaddddddde grown mexico!


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