I recently left Ohio and spent a week in Europe, and what I immediately noticed was that apartment dwellers, at least where I was, in Belgium and The Netherlands, didn’t brew their own coffee.
I found this to be amazing, given that in Ohio, I have been grinding beans and using a Chemex to brew the most delicious coffee known to man.
If Portland has every grind and bean imaginable, then I would guess that the Europeans would have us topped; but Europe was Nescafe land.
An Italian-French woman living in Belgium joked that she could not believe anyone would buy pre-made mayonnaise or tomato sauce. “It is so easy to make,” she would rant. But she made instant coffee! How can this be possible?
I must say that her Nescafe gold instant coffee made in 45 seconds with those 220 volt electric kettles was very tasty–but it is not as good as my freshly ground pour over-style coffee.
A friend of Mexican descent and I were discussing this, and I remarked that I could not easily find a non-instant coffee in Mexico. He related to me that in Mexico, generally speaking, they don’t like “American coffee” and prefer Nescafe.
He later produced a special blend of Nescafe instant coffee that can only be purchased in Mexico. I have to say that it too was quite tasty, but nothing beats my freshly ground pour over. What is going on?
Is everyone in the world drinking Nescafe instant coffee?
After Europe, I traveled to the Middle East where I will be living for a year. These guys will be small-batch roasting and hand grinding Arabian beans, yes? No. Nescafe land once again.
Upon entering what would be my new apartment, I found the 220 volt kettle and a jar of Nescafe, purchased by my wife, a coffee aficionado, on the kitchen counter. I felt like I was in the last scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nescafe had gotten to her?
This situation was going to get corrected…but not without some difficulties.
After a few days in Abu Dhabi, a very large and wonderful metropolitan city, I came across a dry goods area of a supermarket that had beautiful, oily coffee beans, as well as more spices, branches, dried fruits, leaves and things than I have ever seen in my life–barrels of things everywhere.
I requested about a half of a pound of the best looking coffee beans and asked the attendant if he could grind it.
“Grind it to a powder?” he asked.
I tried to reply with words and pinching hands that I only wanted it to be grinded a little bit, and then he turned to the machine and grinded it to a baby powder. He then bagged it and sealed the bag in another bag, all with the utmost delicacy.
When I got home, I clipped with clothespins, a generic coffee filter to the top of a glass pitcher, fired up the 220 volt kettle, and brewed my first batch of “American coffee.”
The filter broke immediately, and I had to double up. I had not anticipated the very strong flavor of cardamom, which was, no doubt, a result of the grinding machine (kind of like how Hazelnut creeps into one’s coffee back home, seemingly out of nowhere), and the coffee itself was chalky due to the extreme grinding process; but it was a start, and when one is living abroad, a start is all that one is looking for.
In my next article, I will show how to brew a delicious pour over coffee in any setting, regardless of one’s lack of equipment. I’ll show many ways to grind your own beans, roast them if necessary, and filter them using a variety of ways.
You don’t need a glass Chemex container or other store-bought solutions and, as I have discovered, you do not even need filters. You don’t necessarily need a stove or tea kettle either. If you have some of these things and not others, we’ll cover how to make it work with what’s available.
Assuming you can buy coffee beans, you’ll be making guerilla-style pour over coffee at the camp site, in the desert, in the bush, or in Brussels.
Read the new article on Guerilla gourmet coffee
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