Regular readers know my Miss K does not assume a human life form until that first cup of morning coffee is complete. Hey, it is what it is and a good man learns how to deal with it. Back in the day I fueled with Diet Pepsi. Many, many cans consumed over the course of a day and even a fool knows that is no bueno. Older and wiser, work smarter not harder is the mantra these days. I still drink 2 cans of soda at the start of my long gate guarding day and the preferred fuel is Code Red Mountain Dew. 3am comes damned early on any man’s watch but I have had the distinct pleasure of watching each and every sunrise since we came back from time off December 1, 2013. Don’t miss much of any day thataway.
After I toss down those 2 Code Reds, I switch off to coffee and we have a divergence on board the Princess Palace. Miss K loves her Keurig Platinum with fervent passion. Mainly, it ain’t coffee in her book unless it comes from that Keurig. I have written before how that Keurig is no friend to us folks boondocking out on the edge. It will bring a good generator to its’ knees and those K-cups are expensive rascals. I am the first one to say it makes damned fine coffee; I just can’t justify the downside my ownself. I have been rockin’ along for months drinkin’ boiled coffee. It don’t get much simpler. For two years now I have been loading up my Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator with some Maxwell House and putting the fire to it. Back in my shiny shoe days, I indulged in all manner of elite snottery. Cars, clothes, houses, Cuban cigars, ummm bowling balls; nothing but the newest and bestest for me which generally equaled beaucoup dinero as well. Not so much any more. I still draw the line at ugly women and cheap whiskey but most everything else is in play.
The boiled coffee was good for what it was. If you were down to a last few chunks of mesquite wood, a cowboy percolator and some stale Maxwell House it would be sumptuous but we ain’t there - yet. A month or so back, I realized that good coffee was a base requirement for life in our Puckerbrush World. If the zombie horde was scratchin’ at the very door of the Palace, Miss K would have to get that first cup of Keurig brew done with before she dispatched ‘em with large bowling equipment. Since I am the brains (!) of this outfit, it falls to me to figger out how to have coffee even until the End of Days.
First off, the cowboy percolator got packed up and hustled off to one of our undisclosed storage bunkers. I replaced it with a zombie fighter endorsed Hamilton Beach Single Serve Scoop Coffee Maker. It beats one of those Mr Coffee drippers all to hell and back. I had one of those Mr Coffee machines in the Old Girl and it was always a crap shoot. Some days it would gush water everywhere and other days it might brew a pot that tasted like dog ass. Just never could tell. The Hamilton Beach machine is a joy to use. The measuring scoop is the drip basket and you fill up what ever coffee cup you use with water and add it to the reservoir. No measure this and measure that and no damned paper filters –easy peasy!
I have never been a coffee snob; my idea of gourmet coffee was Maxwell House Dark Roast. I began researching long term storage of coffee and it was obvious right off the bat that ground coffee had a pretty short shelf life. We purchased two items so far this year to help out with food storage — the Danby 3.6 cu.ft. Chest Freezer and the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System. (Both items continue to perform well.) Sadly, even whole roasted beans in a vacuum pack only last 3-4 months in the freezer. The next step up the ladder is unroasted green coffee beans.
I am still not a coffee snob but venturing into the world of green coffee beans sure does expose you to them that are. Cupping, flavor notes, bouquet and all that mish mash that is bothersome to me had to be waded through. All I wanted was some damned coffee that would keep good for a year or more. Nada mas! It was simple.
I kept the mildly interested Miss K informed of my quest for survival coffee and when I told her it looked like we were gonna have to grind our own she said ‘Get a burr grinder.’ I don’t know where she learned so much about stuff like that but come to find out a burr grinder is a must have tool for every effete coffee snob. I pulled up Amazon and looked for the most highly rated burr grinder that didn’t cost a week’s money and ended up with the Kuissential Manual Ceramic Burr Coffee Grinder. For the green coffee beans, I stepped away from Amazon. Sometimes Amazon is a great place to shop — if the item is fairly common and there are lots of folks selling it. I guess the main idea for Amazon sellers is to be the lowest price — even if it is only by a penny — on a given item. That way your item shows up first and more folks buy it. Makes sense, right? If you dive off into niche specialty items, the game changes. Several times I have found those vendors on Amazon may be charging a pretty penny more than what you can get the same same item for at other places on the internet. It just pays to shop around and this proved to be the case with the green coffee beans.
I purchased coffee beans from an outfit called The Coffee Bean Corral and I gotta say I like the way they do business. I figured I would be buyin’ the beans from some outfit in Seattle or California and maybe I would have to prove to them I was worthy by sending them a picture of my high dollar Espresso machine or somesuch. Not hardly with the folks from Coffee Bean Corral. The first line of their website says ‘We have been here helpin’ folks roast their own coffee at home since 1996.’ – and they are in Mississippi! They pretty much had my business at that point. Prices are going to run around $5-$8 per pound and they offered a half dozen different shipping options. The price per pound was not that much more than a pound of Maxwell House in the store. Being such a coffee newb, I ordered one from Guatemala and two from Brazil just for starters. My coffee was at the PO Box in Cotulla in just a few days.
Now, I was figurin’ I would just throw those beans in my cast iron skillet and roast ‘em up, right? (sigh) Not so fast…… As with everything to do with coffee beans, it is not as simple as it sounds. I could buy me an electric coffee roasting machine for somewhere between $150 – $200. Seeing as how I was already into this thing for about $70 or so ( The Hamilton Beach Scoop and the grinder) and not to mention the $30 something spent on green coffee beans, I just couldn’t see buying an electric roaster. The next best choice was a popcorn popper. Don’t ask me how these coffee folks discovered a popcorn popper works dandy for roasting beans but apparently that is the case. Again, you got two routes you can go. You can get a hot air popper or you can get a manual popper with a crank handle that keeps the coffee (or popcorn) stirred up while heating. I opted for the Whirly Pop manual machine because, you know, I am an old school guy and the less electrical outlets involved the better. I do get to use my Lodge cast iron skillet as a base to set the popper in. Distributes the heat more evenly that way.
I got off shift the other afternoon and decided it was time to get this coffee show on the road. About a half pound of Guatemalan beans in the Whirly Pop, set that rascal in the cast iron skillet, turn the heat up and start cranking! After a bit, we had popping and smoke and more popping which according to my internet reading is normal. I just kept turnin’ that handle and after a bit Miss K says ‘I smell burnt coffee’. I said ‘No way!’ but at the same time I took the Whirly Pop off the heat ’cause she is usually right about those things. I got a colander and a metal pan and went outside to cool those beans down. You sorta just toss ‘em back and forth from one pan to the other and if you have a pretty stiff wind blowing it is a bonus! The wind blows the husks away from the beans– just like in the Bible where it talks about winnowing the chaff from the wheat. I threw the roasted beans in my new Friis 12-Ounce Stainless Steel Coffee Vault to rest until the next day. Oh, that is another $17 bucks so our investment is getting close to $125.
I ground up those beans the next day and it was a bit of a let down. They smelled good but they just didn’t have the aroma I expected from premium fresh roast. Opening a can of Maxwell House smelled better. I figured maybe it was just a thing and when I brewed a cup it would get better. Umm, no. While the coffee did not taste like complete dog ass it definitely had some canine posterior notes when consumed. I did my best to not make the squinchy face and hollered at Miss K ‘Hey, try some of this!’ Well, it did give her the squinchy face and earned me the admonishment of ‘WTF ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME?@!?’ OK then, time for me to rethink this dealio. Miss K helped me out with an after the fact damage assessment and our best cumulative guess was I scorched the beans by using too much heat before they could fully get roasted up. I served her up half-roasted, radically scorched mostly green coffee. She said apologizing still didn’t get the taste of dog ass outta her mouth.
Sometimes I am just a driven sumbitch so I tried it again the next day. I set the burner on medium heat this go ’round and let that cast iron skillet and Whirly Pop come to temp before I threw the beans in. Went through all the rest of the rigamarole and set down to grind ‘em the next day. Let me tell ya, the aroma was unbelievable! Beat the socks off that Maxwell House. Miss K even said it smelled good. I brewed up a cup and took a sup and even my crude palate knew I was drinkin’ some damned good coffee. Let me back up a bit and tell ya a week or so before I had gotten some already roasted whole bean Community Club coffee and ground it up and drank it. It was pretty tasty by my standards but Miss K give it a thumbs down. For her to say this coffee is wonderful I reckon Mr. Starbuck hisself would have to brew her a cup from fresh ground Kona beans that was picked in Hawaii just the day before or something. She is just damned picky about her coffee and that is what landed me in the middle of this whole jim jam to start with, remember? This second go ’round of coffee smelled good enough that she wanted to taste it. She said it was good which is a top shelf review in my book. Good enough that she asked me if that Mississippi outfit had Kenya coffee. Truth be known, I had not even considered African coffee but I do remember they were growin’ coffee in that Meryl Streep movie Out of Africa. Yep, Coffee Bean Corral has multiple African coffees available and there are several selections enroute from MS to TX as I write this. They got Kona coffee too — at about $26 per lb! Don’t be tellin’ Miss K that! Talk about breakin’ the bank!
The plan is to find a reasonably priced green coffee we both like and to vacuum bag it for the freezer. I want to lay several pounds back and then rotate them out for use every few months. Y’all may or may not agree with me when I say inflation is eating up our food budget. Inflation because the dollar is not worth what it was even last year because of fiscal mismanagement and inflation because of factors like drought and the porcine epidemic which are affecting supply. I feel like ANY foods purchased now at a reasonable price are going to be more expensive in the future. While I am preachin’, new equipment purchased in preparation for the uncertain road that lies ahead should not languish in the back of a closet until needed. Learn how to use it NOW while you can still readily buy any additional equipment that may be necessary!
End Note: Call Me the Breeze by J.J. Cale from the Naturally cd. Lynyrd Skynyrd did not write this song, JJ Cale did. Little known fact.
Not saying that Skynyrd did not just flat tear it up though esp. Billy Powell on piano….. 40 years ago, where did the time go?? R.I.P Danny Taylor. I never hear this song that remembrances of him do not come to mind.
…. and now I get off on a Skynyrd tangent well before daylight on a South Texas morning. Gawd, I love me some of those Honkettes – Cassie Gaines, Leslie Hawkins and Jo Jo Billingsley –; nothing like some hot hippie chicks to get me goin’. This video is unnamed as far as location and year but I seem to remember it was some festival in England probably 1974-75. For all you young ‘uns — the quality of this video is crap mainly because this was a decade before any one even called something like this a music video. Even with the crappy quality, this is my favorite Skynyrd youtube. And the white girls sing ‘Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide Alabama! Ride!’
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