An “Old Fashioned” Cup of Coffee

By , September 5, 2009

I recently read an excellent book by Jenna Woginrich called Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life (available through your local bookstore). Ms Woginrich wanted to homestead, and didn’t let the fact that she didn’t own the perfect piece of land—or any land for that matter—deter her. She took her situation into her own hands, and made things happen.

Hers is a great story, which I will surely discuss at a later time. What got me thinking about her book lately is her advocacy for percolated coffee. She flatly states that coffee made in a glass-topped percolating pot is the best you can have.

My preferred coffee maker is an Italian style stovetop espresso maker. This is, actually, a percolator too. However, I’m of an age when I can remember grandparents and older friends making coffee in a percolating pot. And, as it so happens, we have one of those pots. We acquired it years ago for our sailboat, Selkie.

So, the other day when we went to check Selkie, I grabbed the pot and brought it home. I grabbed our 1944 edition Good Housekeeping Cook Book off the shelf and read how to make coffee in a percolator last night, and this morning, I gave it a try.

Unfortunately, I’m the only member of the family who drinks coffee, so I had to answer the question of how much to make. I settled on “4 cups,” which I put in quotes because percolating, like all methods of making coffee, makes a quantity of coffee that bears little or no relation to the amount of water used.

I followed the recipe, though, and used 2 tablespoons of coffee for each cup of water. That’s a lot of coffee! Since I grind my beans myself, I suspect I could probably use less next time. At any rate, I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of coffee, a cup in my case being about 14 ounces.

It was good! It’s hard to say without thorough, side-by-side taste testing, but it seemed as good as what my espresso maker gives me. The aesthetics of sight, sound and smell of a perking pot provided added benefit. However, the math doesn’t add up economically: 4 times the grounds for ½ again as much coffee as I get with the espresso maker does not qualify this as a sustainable method of coffee making. The percolator goes back to the boat next trip, I’m afraid. It was a fun experiment, but I’ll stick to my espresso maker.

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