Ten Adventures in Coffee

In 1972, North American Systems, Inc. made coffee history by introducing a new invention to the American public. The Mr. Coffee coffee maker went on to revolutionize how most people drink coffee. In just 35 years, automatic drip coffee makers have become the appliance most likely to be owned by most Americans. Chances are that the very first kitchen appliance you ever bought was an automatic drip coffee maker. Since the early 1990s, though, drip coffee makers have been challenged by newcomers in the field of coffee making. As specialty coffee shops like Starbucks have spread across the country, more and more people are getting adventurous about their morning standby.

Are you a Coffee Adventurer?

Next time you’re feeling a little adventurous, try a different way to make your coffee. Some of these suggestions are new-fangled inventions. Some have been around nearly as long as coffee. And a few are just a way to add a little extra spice to your morning or after dinner coffee habit.

1. Try a different coffee.

It’s been a long time since your choice of coffee was Maxwell House or A&P. The supermarket coffee aisle is an adventure in itself. Next time you go shopping, pick up a can of something different. Try a different brand of coffee, or a different flavor of the same brand. Dabble in something dangerous – real Hawaiian kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee may be a bit expensive for your daily habit, but it makes a wonderful little luxury type of splurge.

2. Learn to make coffee in a different way.

Making coffee is easy. Put coffee in the filter, add water, turn the coffee maker on and wait. But there are other ways to make coffee, some of them harking back to the earliest days of coffee culture. If you’ve been relying on Mr. Coffee all your life, step outside the safe bounds and try making coffee a la Brasilia, or with a stovetop moka pot. Check out our “how-to’s” for different coffee making techniques. (link to how-to make coffee articles here if you want)

3. Become a home barista.

Making espresso is an adventure in itself. As home espresso machines have become more popular, the prices have come down considerably. You can pick up a home espresso machine that’s simple enough for a beginner for less than $100. Some of them are combo machines that will make both regular drip coffee and espresso. Look for a machine that uses a pump rather than steam for pressure.

4. Buy a coffee grinder.

Ask any coffee connoisseur for advice about making good coffee, and the first thing they’ll tell you is to get a good coffee grinder. If you can change one thing about your coffee making routine, make it this one. Buy a good coffee grinder (a burr grinder is preferred, but expensive) and grind the coffee for each pot fresh.

5. Roast your own coffee at home.

Until the mid-1930s or so, most people bought green coffee beans and roasted their own at home. Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple. You can do it in a wok or pan if you want, but it’s a lot more fun to do it in a popcorn popper. Of course, you can also buy a home coffee roaster, but give it a try with things you have at home first.

6. Go to a coffee cupping – or hold your own.

A coffee cupping is the coffee culture’s answer to a wine tasting party. Coffee has a complex range of flavors, aromas and textures that vary even more than wine does. A coffee cupping is a great excuse for a party. Just pull together several varieties of coffee beans, a bunch of congenial friends (coffee lovers are a plus here), a good supply of coffee cups and spoons and some pencils and pads of paper. Heat up the water, pour and have fun.

7. Check out the coffee houses in your area.

Wherever you live, chances are that there are several coffee shops and coffee houses within easy driving distance. While you can always expect the same experience at Starbucks or another chain coffee shop, independent coffee houses offer a wide variety of coffee adventures. You may find one coffee house that has a great open mike night, another with a bookshelf and comfortable couches for reading and sipping and yet a third where congenial customers and staff think nothing of striking up conversations with strangers.

8. Grow your own coffee.

While coffee farming is impossible outside the regions that never get a frost, coffee plants do grow very happily as house plants and on your patio, as long as you remember to get them indoors before the weather turns cold. You can start your own plants from seeds, or buy a coffee plant that’s ready to set fruit if you’re not patient enough to wait four or five years for a cup of coffee. A mature coffee plant will set enough fruit for eight to ten pounds of dried coffee beans a year.

9. Experiment with coffee recipes.

Coffee has been an ingredient in cooking for as long as people have been brewing it. There are recipes for everything from coffee cakes and puddings to coffee infused vodka.

You don’t have to buy flavored coffee to enjoy flavored coffees. There are a number of different ways to flavor your own coffee. Start with your favorite coffee blend, and try adding some spice to the ground coffee before you brew it, or use a flavored syrup to add spice after you brew it. Since coffee beans readily absorb other flavors and scents, you can even try storing your coffee beans in a container with cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.

Some of these coffee adventures would have self-admitted coffee snobs rolling their eyes in disdain, but coffee can be a fun subject. Kick up your heels a little, and get coffee adventurous.