13 Ways of Looking at a Coffeepot: An Expat Fable

Brilliant photo that captures my inner state by Lotzman Katzman, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Let’s face it: everyone has an opinion on the best way to make coffee. Some are downright elitist about the obvious supremacy of their method, others are looking to trade up in the world of home brewed caffeine. Others, like myself, shoot for an optimal blend, if you will, of their priorities: for me, it’s convenience, consistency, and flavor. So when I found my perfect French press coffee maker about 2.5 years ago, it stuck. And as this summer has been all about daily routines– writing routines; research at libraries, archives and doing interviews; waking up before 11am–the coffee routine has settled into a flow of shared French-pressing with my coffee-drinking roommate.

Until the day. The Coffee. Stopped.

This is actually a very melodramatic re-telling of the simple staggered death of two french press coffee pots, but it threw our apartment’s coffee routine into quite the tizzy, since our trusted Ikea was OUT OF STOCK. After 15 minutes with a salesman trying to explain a French press coffee maker in Chinese– turns out, according to him, it’s just 咖非壺, which means “coffee” “pot,” how descriptive, le frustrated sigh– he returned a positive ID on the coveted glass French press for just under $13: “We’re all out.”

Perhaps this *should* have led us to simply seek a slightly more expensive French press coffeepot elsewhere– but instead, when we discovered a drip-coffee filter and pot set-up at the nearby Japanese discount housewares store, we decided to branch out…. this proved to lead us on a trail not unlike the one in If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, spanning many varieties of coffee-making…. with fun, and always caffeinated, results.

What’s your favorite way to brew coffee and/or procrastinate when trying to write and/or find an innovative solution to an expat-kind of problem when living abroad?? Please share your thoughts in a comment below!

1. French Press the Sucker!

Photo by illustir, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Back in our heyday, we had not one, but two French presses. So we grew a bit complacent about all things coffee-related. Like took for granted that we should grind the two bags of Ikea coffee that we bought in a “French press” style coarse grind BEFORE sourcing the coffee maker with which to concoct our fragrant brew. Oops.

2. Drip drip drip– filter coffee is a great standby.

I quite like drip-brewed coffee. It’s a lovely throwback to a less technologically advanced age, and there is something satisfying about letting gravity do all the work. However, LET THIS BE A WARNING TO YOU: Never, ever, put coarsely ground coffee in a drip filter. The results will be a translucent, tan water that tastes like you forgot to wash your coffeepot out before filling it with water. Le gross. This is also why my serious-coffee-snob friend scoffed at me, “You don’t have your own grinder?” Point taken, snob friend. Point taken. Snobs: 1. Kim: 0.

3. When drip falls flat, go boiled, café à la Colombia…

So my roommate Tascha has spent some time traveling in Colombia. So have I. In fact, it was a shared common experience that nurtured our burgeoning friendship! However, I never made coffee there, so I had no idea that it was made on the stove, in a saucepan, boiled. Please note: coffee is heated until just BELOW boiling– that frothy simmer, not full tilt bubbles, which would scald the coffee and get gross. This may be a slight improvisation on the “traditional Colombian way,” but suffice it to say, when the world gives you tan coffee-water and a filter full of beautiful damp grinds, throw them all together and make some Colombian coffee!! Thanks, Tascha.

4. Boiled then dripped? Dripped then boiled?

For more on Boiled Coffee, including a recipe, click here to go to "Wake Up Buzzing," a great name for a coffee blog if there ever was one.

Once you have boiled said coffee, you can then drain it the same way but running it through your trusty drip filter…. at least that’s what we did. It was good! Tasted roasted, nutty…

5. If you can wait… cold brewed coffee is the ultimate in delayed gratification.

This is my personal favorite solution to French press abandonment. According to the New York Times, you leave coffee and water (in your preferred ratio of course) in a room-temperature jug or pitcher for approx. 12 hours, then strain through cheesecloth. Con of this method: you have to plan 12 hours in advance.

6. Cold brewed then dripped? Does anyone else see a pattern here?

Oh percolator, you are so beautiful, yet so mysterious. Unattainable. Intimidate me no longer, and let's make some coffee together! Photo by _Zeta_ courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Guess what also works? Yup, that handy dandy drip filter. Hey, even if our coffee is ground wrong, at least the filter is versatile.

7. To percolate or not to percolate?

We chose “not,” but boiling isn’t far off. Percolation takes away the need to drip, from what I gather.

8. The elusive, sexy, ingénue: the siphon coffee.

Okay, so a quick word on siphons: they are the trendiest coffee-making technology, straight out of Japan, and EVERYWHERE in Taipei (and even make appearances in southern Taiwan), and they are super trendy, super complex-looking, super-intimidating, and the coffee is like heaven in your mouth. Coffee lovers everywhere, take yourself away from your computer, find the snootiest coffee joint in town, and ask them about siphon coffee. It’s worth it, just to have experienced bliss at least once.

Siphon coffee maker lays in wait, stalking its prey: us. Photo by dustin askins, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Do we want to buy a siphon? It’s expensive (more expensive than an expensive French press for example), somewhat labor intensive, fragile (the fact that our kitchen seems to be cursed by a glassware and porcelain breaking curse not withstanding), and overall just a bit intense: but the payoff. Oh the payoff. See, I want a siphon AND a person to make me siphon coffee in the morning. Can I put a Classified Ad for that on Tealit??! (For all of you Americans, this is the Taiwanese Craigslist.)

9. The even more elusive, even sexier cup of coffee: the iced siphon with iced siphon coffee ICE CUBE.

Go to Mélange Café in Taipei for this, don’t even think about making it yourself. (Unless that Classified Ad pans out for you!)

Photo of the incomparable Mélange Café coffee by the incomparable Grace Chao.

10. An Espresso Machine!? (No no, see siphon for expensive.) A Mr. Coffee American-style coffee machine??

(We suspect these are only American models, set to spit out a specific variety of vaguely-watered-down from whatever you expected it to be coffee. On the other hand, I miss American Diners, and specifically, American Diner coffee, so don’t worry, I’m not a hater. It’s just not really an option right now.)

11. Go to Starbucks, prostrate yourself on the ground, and cry.

This gets old in about 30 seconds.

12. Get up, go home, and make some boiled, dripped, cold-brewed home masterpiece.

Siphon in action! Photo by Caffe Vita. Click here to check out their blog, complete with a siphon demo video!

Cf: every morning/night at our place. Depending on which of us is more on top our coffee routine, we either go boiled-and-dripped, or cold-brewed then dripped. Variety is the spice of life!

13. Crumble, and buy yourself another French press.

Ask me if I’ve done this in another week. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, I’ll be somehow-caffeinatedly writing or procrastinating.

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One response to “13 Ways of Looking at a Coffeepot: An Expat Fable

  1. Pingback: What I’ve Been Eating Lately | Girl Meets Formosa

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