A Coffee Break

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I have always loved waking up to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee in the morning.

And there is always an energy boost from the caffeine to kick start my day.

It leaves me with the feeling that an extraordinary person has just hugged me – and that makes me smile because I know it is from you.

It is the second nicest thing to wake up to in the morning.

The first thing is, of course, Holly Golightly, my dog.

Holly Golightly – a Coton de Tulear.

As I mentioned in my recently published  A Write to be the Wrong story, I have been searching for the best way to brew the perfect cup of coffee at home.

And the search is continuous and never-ending because there is always a new competitor vying to be the best coffee grower, importer, roaster, brewer, and or retailer.

Although it is a long learning process of trial-by-error, waking up to the best coffee cup each morning is a great reward and worth the effort.

And  I’ve done much of the research for you!

Here’s what I have learned about making a perfect cup of coffee.

********

Although the methods for brewing coffee are many – I have narrowed the list down to three important factors in brewing a perfect cup of ‘java’ at home, namely:

  1. Coffee
  2. Equipment
  3. Water

Coffee

Most of my friends love coffee, but they probably differ in their opinion of the best coffee brand.

I’ll cover coffee brands later in this story.  But a distinction needs to be made to avoid any confusion.

First of all, it is important to understand that ‘Instant’ coffee is not coffee.

Yes, it is, Danny.  I have Instant coffee every morning and think it’s great!

Well, Spanky, then answer this question:

How many fine restaurants serve ‘instant’ coffee?  Or name even one fast-food chain that does?

Instant coffee should never be confused with ‘brewed’ or ‘percolated’ coffee.

It is like comparing non-alcohol beer to real beer.

And although Spanky may believe that it is a quick way to make a cup of coffee – it is not.

My method is almost as quick and efficient and is definitely worth the extra effort.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s move on to the next important consideration – beans or ground?

Whole Bean or Ground

When I was a youngster, I often went to the grocery store with my mother.

I especially liked to help her when we got to the coffee section of the store.

Mom would choose a certain type of coffee bean, put them into the grinder machine, and selected the type of grind she wanted.

The different grind settings are:

  • Extra-coarse grind – cold brew
  • Coarse grind – french press
  • Medium coarse grind –
  • Medium grind – pour-over
  • Medium fine grind – pour-over
  • Fine grind – expresso and pour-over
  • Extra fine grind – Turkish Coffee

Next, she would hold an empty bag under the spout while the machine ground the coffee into the bag.

I remember taking the now-empty coffee bag, holding it to my nose, and breathing in the awesome fragrance of freshly ground coffee!  I still hold the empty bag to my nose – to enjoy the moment.

Mom would empty the coffee into a storage container and store it in the freezer when we got home.

Mom explained she had learned about storing coffee in the freezer to keep it fresh from an Ann Landers advice column.

But Ann Landers, and her twin sister, Abby Landers, didn’t always give the correct advice in their respective daily newspaper columns (i.e., putting the toilet roll in the dispenser with the paper being released under, instead of over the roll).

Maybe, that’s why the sisters were estranged from each other for so many years.

The second important thing to understand about storing coffee is:

Coffee must be stored in an air-tight container in the cupboard – never the fridge or freezer!

A few years ago, I  purchased a container from a coffeehouse in Bellingham.  Here’s a video clip of me closing the container – listen carefully to the sound of the air escaping.

 

I don’t remember what grind setting my mom selected, but I know that it was for the coffee percolators like the one pictured here:

You put a couple of heaping tablespoons of ground coffee into the insert, placed the insert into the pot, and then filled the pot (3/4 full) with cold water.

Mom also placed a filter in the insert to prevent the coffee grounds from escaping into the coffee.

There’s nothing more annoying than having coffee grounds swirling around the inside of your mouth when drinking.

You placed the pot on the stove on the HIGH-temperature setting to percolate for several minutes.

Then you lower the temperature setting to MINIMUM and leave the pot on the stove element to keep warm for refills.

I remember watching the little glass bulb on top of the pot, showing the coffee as it percolated.  And the sound of the coffee percolating is almost an opera to a coffee lover.

That is how my mom made coffee in the ’50s and ’60s.

I also remember that my dad bought Ma an electric coffee percolator for Christmas.

My parents never bought neat stuff for each other at Christmas.

Mom might receive an electric coffee percolator or food blender, or something for the house.

Dad would get an electric drill or a new dress shirt and tie for work.

It makes me sad to think that they sacrificed never to be hungry and would always have a roof over our heads.  And I know you think the same about your folks.

However, none of the above-mentioned is how I now buy, store, or brew my coffee.

And that brings us to an important rule:

Once the coffee has brewed – you must remove the pot from the stove or unplug the electric pot. 

Otherwise, the source of heat will continue to ‘cook’ the coffee – resulting in a very strong, and bitter-tasting coffee.

Freshly brewed coffee remains at its best in a thermos-type container.  

But don’t get me wrong – I bought, stored, and made coffee the same way as my Mom did, until the early 2ooos.

And until about fifteen years ago, I thought that Tim Hortons made the best coffee in the world.

If you’re a Canuck, over the age of forty, you would know that Tim Horton was a famous hockey player with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the ’60s.

He founded the fast-food chain in 1964 but then died tragically in a car accident in 1974.

The Tim Horton Donut is now the largest quick-service restaurant chain in Canada, with 4,846 restaurants in 14 countries.

Canadians love Tim Hortons coffee.

But back in the ’80s, you could mostly only find Tim Hortons in Canada’s central and eastern provinces.

I lived in the Atlantic Provinces from 1989-97, and remember that you could find multiple Tim Hortons outlets (Tims as they are known to Canucks) in every city, town, and village.

When I was transferred back to Vancouver in 1997, there were only one or two Tim Hortons outlets in the Lower Mainland!

But there was a Starbucks – seemingly on every corner.

And that’s probably because Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971 by three men from academic backgrounds.

Their first store was located in Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market.

Starbucks is the largest chain of coffeehouses in the world, with over 15,000 outlets in 50 countries!

However, they didn’t open their first ‘coffeehouse’ until 1984, twenty years after Tim Hortons first opened in Canada.

And although it is beyond my research scope, my opinion is that Tims serves a much nicer tasting coffee.

However, a few years ago, my friend Reg Dutton introduced me to Starbuck’s Blonde blend of coffee, and it is comparable to a Tims medium roast, but not better.

I also like Starbucks lattes – but their medium and dark roasted coffees are too strong and bitter for my liking.

Which brings me to another important fact:

Light and Medium Roast have more caffeine than Dark Roast coffee.

When you order a coffee at most coffeehouses restaurants and fast food outlets – you’re getting a medium-roast coffee.

Although this is somewhat off-subject – when I was very young, I remember that whenever grownups went to parties and had consumed too much alcohol, they would drink ‘black coffee’ to sober up – before getting into their cars to drive home.

I’ll bet you a pound of coffee that you can’t get sober drinking black coffee.

And by the way, I’m not sure what adding cream and sugar to the coffee would make it less effective.

********

About seventeen years ago, I bought a pound of Seattle’s Best Coffee at a Fred Meyer’s store in Bellingham, WA, and it was the best coffee I had ever tasted!

And not only was it the best coffee that I had ever made at home, but I could also buy it in some of the Canadian grocery stores – albeit for a couple of bucks more ($12 CDN vs. $8).

But before buying Seattle’s Best Coffee, I was buying whatever coffee was on sale.  And I hadn’t started grinding my beans yet, so this was my ‘favorite’ ground coffee.

Before the Covid19 pandemic and the border closures, I traveled to the USA at least once or twice a week to buy gas and groceries.

It’s only a fifteen-minute drive from my place to the border in Blaine, Washington.

For years, I would stop at a Tim Hortons to get a coffee to drink on my drive to Costco in Bellingham.

But several years ago, I found better coffee than Tims.

And it was at a Wood’s coffeehouse down the street from Costco, on Bakerview Street, in Bellingham.

Woods Coffee was founded in Lynden, WA, one of the most beautiful towns that I have ever seen.

The main street is like a Norman Rockwell painting.

The lawns and gardens are always pristine, and the homeowners keep their properties well-maintained.

Wood’s Coffee is also where I tasted my first pumpkin-spice latte several Halloweens ago.

I love their medium roast blends and wished that they had a Woods outlet in Canada.  They also sell plastic cups – as an alternative to paper cups.

         or paper         

Be kind to the environment!

But – what’s that, Spanky?

Danny, there has been a Woods Coffee outlet in Tsawwassen, BC, for two years? Duh!

Nice try, Spanky, but I already know about that place.

A few weeks ago, while doing a Google search for Woods Coffee, I was surprised to see a Woods Coffee House in Tsawwassen, BC!

I quickly entered its address in my GPS, got in my car, and drove to Tsawwassen.  It’s about a twenty-minute drive from home.

I was excited at the thought of finally being able to enjoy a Woods Coffee here in the Lower Mainland.

But when I got to the address, the coffee house had changed its name to Nats Coffee House.

 

It had the look and atmosphere of a Woods outlet, so I spoke to the manager and advised him that the Woods website and Google Search were still showing this as one of their locations.

He said that it hadn’t been a Woods Coffeehouse since June 2019.

 

He was a very nice person, and I bought a 3/4 pound of medium-roast beans.

So, Spanky, you were almost correct.  Duh!

And although I enjoyed the cup of Nat’s Coffee that I had on the drive home, my favorite coffeehouse remains the Woods Coffeehouse in the States.

And although I enjoy buying their coffee to drink while in northwest Washington State, I don’t buy their beans anymore – although they are outstanding.

My favorite coffee beans that I’ve bought in the States come from where my friends Gina and Norm (the southern one) live – in Fairhaven, a western suburb of Bellingham.

 

Tony’s Coffee is located in Fairhaven, and their beans are fantastic.  But don’t take my word for it – Roast Magazine has awarded Tony’s Coffee – the coveted 2021 Roaster of the Year Award!

You can purchase their coffee at grocery stores in the northwest, and they have a great variety of blends.

It’s also where I bought my coffee bean grinder.

Although I have an electric grinder – it wasn’t designed for coffee beans.

And it doesn’t uniformly grind the beans – resulting in more powder, which makes the coffee more bitter-tasting, in my opinion.

********

One last thing to mention about my favorite coffee brands in the USA – the canuck dollar makes buying coffee from Tony’s a bit of a challenge.

But there is something that I’ve been saving for last – Canada’s best brand of coffee.

And the winning brand is the JJ Bean Company and located here, in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

And I can thank my fellow walkers at the Vancouver ‘Venturers Walking Club for introducing me to JJ Bean.

We meet at the JJ Bean outlet on the corner of Bute and Alberni Street, for some of our scheduled walks.

Our club walks are an excellent opportunity to meet and greet a new friend.  I never had so many friends!

I think the first time I had their coffee was shortly after joining the club in 2017.

It was also the first time I had tasted their coffee.  It was love at first sip!

After the walk, I returned to JJ Bean and bought a 3/4 lb. package of their Eastside blend.

They ground it for me because I didn’t own a coffee grinder at the time.

I also like their Railtown blend.  And sometimes, I mix the different blends.

The price was $16.40 for the 3/4 lb. package or $20.00 for a pound.

Yes, I know, it seems expensive but it is absolutely worth it.  And so is their El Tanque blend – at $26.00 for the 3/4 lb. package.

If you are having difficulty with the cost – think back to when you used to like the ‘dollar five, come alive’ wine you drank as a teenager.  But as your tastes mature, you prefer a Chateau du Pape wine at $40 a bottle.  Got it?

The JJ Bean clerks are very friendly and knowledgeable, and it was one of them who advised me that freshly-roasted beans should be used as soon as possible, and that’s why their coffee bags are re-sealable (if you don’t have an air-tight container).

********

Finally, I will now provide a simple formula for making an awesome cup of coffee in the privacy of your home!

It is known as the ‘pour-over method.’

Don’t worry about buying a coffee pot – you only need to purchase a #2 Melita cone coffee filters (unbleached), a filter holder, and a tablespoon.

I also recommend that you don’t use tap water because it has fluoride and other things that will affect the taste.

I have a water dispenser that purifies and filters the water and dispenses it as either hot or cold.  But you can boil the water on the stove or electric kettle.

I put two heaping tablespoons of freshly ground coffee into the filter.

If using Tony’s manual grinder, I grind enough beans to reach the ‘2’ mark on the container after they’re ground.

Next, I pour a small amount of boiling water over the coffee to let the ground beans ‘bloom’ for about 30 seconds.

Then I pour the rest of the water until I get the desired amount.

I have created a slide show to illustrate the method:

Store beans, or ground coffee
Ground is okay but only if you

in an air-tight container

Always buy 3/4 lb. bag

put beans in grinder

grinder is preset at medium

two tablespoons of coffee

pour small amount of boiled water

for 30 seconds to bloom beans

enjoy in the cup or

or Yeti to keep coffee hot

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how to dispose of your discarded coffee grounds and filter:

By the way, I don’t put cream or sugar in my coffee.

However, I use a tiny bit of 2% milk because I haven’t graduated to the ‘purist’ level.

But to me, it’s the best way to have a cup of coffee.

For Christmas, I am buying myself a Chemex coffee system.

It is a pour-over system, but it is the best one on the market.

Dedicated to Carlos Sanchez (Juan Valdez) 

I hope my stories are a gift to your head and heart.

Hugs,

Danny

Click on this Index to view my 210+ stories.

Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):

Love Hurts – lyrics

Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars
Any heart not tough nor strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud holds a lot of rain
Love hurts, mmm, mmm, love hurts

I’m young I know but even so
I know a thing or two I’ve learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a stove burns you when it’s hot
Love hurts, mmm, mmm, love hurts

Some fools think of happiness
Blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves I guess
But they’re not fooling me
I know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true
Love is just a lie made to make you blue
Love hurts, mmm, mmm, love hurts

Love hurts, mmm, mmm, love hurts

Songwriters: Kevin Raleigh
Love Hurts lyrics © Sony/atv Acuff Rose Music

About Post Author

Daniel (Danny) St. Andrews

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor (as in almost pregnant) living in Vancouver, BC His other passions include cancer patient advocate (he had stage 3 throat cancer), walking with the Vancouver 'Venturers Walking Club, and of course, spoiling his dog, Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).
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By Daniel (Danny) St. Andrews

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor (as in almost pregnant) living in Vancouver, BC His other passions include cancer patient advocate (he had stage 3 throat cancer), walking with the Vancouver 'Venturers Walking Club, and of course, spoiling his dog, Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).

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