I gently pour my coffee from my french press coffee maker into one of my favorite coffee cups. I let it cool for a few minutes and let the air permeate with the smell of freshly made coffee. I lift the cup to my lips and take a small sip to minimize burning my tongue if the coffee is still too hot. It's not and the hot liquid easily slides past my taste buds and down my throat. Getting the full taste of today's brew, I make a small grimace as the sound "Eh..." pops out my mouth. It's then that I finally admit to myself - I'm a coffee snob.
From Humble Beginnings
That's right, I admit it, I'm a bit of a coffee snob. I suppose it was always this way in some form or another. When I was younger and began drinking coffee, only Community Coffee would do. The difference between then and now is that back then (and still to this day), Community Coffee is considered the State coffee of Louisiana. It's served everywhere and is a staple of the coffee diet in the deep south. So I really wasn't being a snob per se, I was just going with the natural order of things.
Then came the coffee house boom of the 90's, where Starbucks began popping up on every corner along with mom-and-pop shops and alternative chains. All of a sudden it seemed you weren't cool if you didn't frequent a store that specialized in coffee. Naturally, I stopped into near by Perks, since Starbucks hadn't made it to Baton Rouge. It was there that I was introduced to such coffee drinks as Cappuccinos and Espressos. There was a whole world out there that I had yet to experience, so I sampled everything they had to offer.
Getting Back To Basics
At that time, I was still into putting lots of cream and sugar in my regular coffee, but as became more and more fond of Espresso, I began to wean myself away from cream. I realized that it was just standing in the way of that rich coffee flavor. A few years later I went on the Sugar Busters diet and that meant having to omit sugar from my coffee. I went cold turkey, but it took a few months before I could truly enjoy a good cup of coffee without sugar.
My next challenge was to learn to drink espresso without sugar. While on my honeymoon in Italy, I sipped my first espresso without sugar. I felt like I had been punched in the mouth. You see in Italy they make their espresso with about half of the water that we use, which makes for a stronger cup of coffee to say the least. When I had been in Portugal several years previous, staying with a local family, I noticed that girlfriend of the boy I was staying with would always ask for an "espresso Italiane", she claimed that this is how they make them in Italy. I didn't realize the full reality of her statement until I tried it first hand.
Coming back to the States, I was off sugar for good when it came to coffee and I've never looked back. Today, if I'm not brewing at home, I'll order a double espresso and a large dark roast coffee. I find that most coffee is served way to hot for my tastes, so I allow the coffee to cool a bit while I enjoy the espresso. It's the coffee equivalent of a "shot with a beer back", but I really enjoy it.
Home Brewing Goes Up A Notch
At home, I was using a nice Krups AromaMaster with a thermal carafe. I used to use just your standard Mr. Coffee style coffee maker, but as my tastes for coffee improved, so did my brewing habits. Allowing the coffee to "cook" on a burner just wasn't going to work. I had to have a thermal carafe so that my coffee could stay properly heated without becoming bitter. I thought that was the pinnacle of coffee brewing until I opted to try a French Press coffee maker.
Thinking I had damaged my carafe one day, I tried a Bodum French Press coffee maker and was astounded at the taste. Turning my friend Mike Rohde onto it, he summed it up best when he said "It tastes like coffee smells". All the oils and what not are typically captured by the filter in a drip style coffee maker. With the French Press, all that goodness is left in. Of course all the cholesterol is too, but that's another matter. So these days, I'd have to say that 80% of my coffee drinking is done with a French Press and it's a truly awesome treat.
However, I didn't stop there. Now that I had a new way of brewing coffee, a method that allowed for a much "closer" experience with the coffee bean, I needed to upgrade my coffee. I was still enjoying Community Coffee, although I had now moved to the New Orleans Blend that contains chicory, but that wasn't good enough. I began buying whole beans locally and grinding them right before brewing. As Emeril would say, this just "kicked it up another notch!" It just kept getting better and better each step of the way. From Mr. Coffee, to Krups Thermal, to French Press and from Supermarket, to boutique blends to whole bean - each step furthered my enjoyment of coffee. Surly THIS was as good as it could get. I was wrong.
During the 2004 Tour de France, I kept hearing how Lance had to have his cup of Peet's coffee first thing in the morning. What stuck me was the fact that he didn't say he had to have just any cup of coffee, it had to be Peet's. Then I began hearing the word "Peet's" used elsewhere, on TV and in magazines, which lead me to wonder what all the fuss was about.
In September, me and my buddies were discussing what to get our friend Ken Harelson for his birthday. The four of us typically all go in to buy each other a gift for our birthdays. This keeps our cost to about $25 - $30, but it allows us to get a $75 - $90 gift. Three of us all go in on the gift and the fourth receives a nice present on their birthday. It's worked pretty well and become a bit of a staple now. Anyway, Ken Duffy and I were contemplating what to get Harelson and I suggested a Coffee Tour from Peet's. Ken owns a very expensive coffee maker, so it seemed like a good fit. Not only that, but I in no subtle manner what-so-ever, suggested that this would make a great gift for me next month for my birthday. Little did I know what I was asking for.
On October 18, 2004, the day of my birthday, a box arrived containing a fresh roasted bag of whole bean coffee from Peet's. My guys had come through for me! I could finally see what all the fuss was about. The only way I can sum it up without resorting to lyric poetry, is that the coffee is so unbelievably fresh and roasted to perfection that the taste is out of this world. They roast the coffee in small batches, only what's needed for that day's shipment, and then mail it to you with a vacuum seal. The end result is that you end up with a bag of coffee that is perfectly roasted and incredibly fresh.
Cue audience: How fresh is it?
The best example that I can give is that when you first make up a French Pot of coffee, you have to pour a small amount of water over the grounds in order to let the coffee "bloom". Gases escape as the grounds expand and rise in the pot. If I had to guess, they just about double in size. After about two minutes, you can then pour the rest of the water to fill the pot. Wait 4 minutes, then stir, press and pour. All of the details of hour to make a perfect pot of French Press coffee can be found at this link. For those of you that are beer drinkers, Peet's is the Guinness of coffee and as such demands a certain amount of respect.
The thing is, now that I've tried Peet's it's hard to try anything else. The coffee is just so damn good that other roasts just don't compare. It's not that I don't enjoy other types of coffee, it's just that when presented with the option, I'll take Peet's any day. This is most evident in the fact that I now tend to brew my own coffee instead of just picking up a Starbucks when I'm out visiting clients. I actually prefer the taste of making it at home than purchasing it at a coffee house.
Today's Bitches Brew
So imagine my conundrum this morning when I went to make my coffee. There was only one scoop left of my Peet's Major Dickason's Blend® in the container. :o Looking at the last of my Alterra Blue Heeler that I purchased when visiting Mike in Milwaukee, I able to eek out two more scoops. This left one scoop and I was forced to use my old favorite Community Coffee.
I felt so dirty.
I ground the whole beans, added the pre-ground coffee to the mix and heated up the water. There was no bloom to speak of and the flavor was all over the map. I've definitely had worse, but then again I've definitely had much better. As much as I turn my nose up to this wild concoction, I'm savoring it because there's 5 more days until my next shipment arrives from Peet's - oh the humanity! www.mashby.com