Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where Else Could I Start?

Given that it's how most people start their day each and every day, I think it makes sense to start with coffee. At our house, we have two parallel methods for brewing java, both of which are extremely effective in their own way. The first one is a Keurig model, which we use for our day-to-day coffee needs.

A little pricey, true, but that's what wedding registries are for. As you can see, there's a large water tank on the side which can handle multiple cups. What is less obvious is the digital readout on the side and the easy variety of options it gives you. It offers up multiple size options, as well as the ability to adjust the temperature and preset brewing time.

We've had great luck with ours, and what they tell you about the versatility really is true. With this one machine (read: only taking up one amount of space in the kitchen), not only can we do our daily coffee (which is fast, easy and impossible to burn yourself--definitely three good things first thing in the morning), but we can keep a box of decaf around for guests. My wife loves the cider K-Cups, and we've had pretty good luck with the hot chocolate as well (though be warned: I notice a little hint of chocolate in my coffee for the first cup you make after a hot chocolate).

Actually, this new model is better than the one we got, because it comes with the My K-Cup add-on, which is a reusable K-Cup into which you can put your own favorite brand of (flavored) coffee. However, we don't use one ourselves. Rather, I've found that I like the Donut Shop coffee the best.

Not only that, but by using Amazon's Subscribe & Save, we get an extra 15% off each box. I keep the machine defaulted to 187 degrees and the small size and I get a very solid, reliable cup of coffee every time.

Of course, there are times when I'm willing to put in a little extra effort to enjoy something special, or maybe flavored (coffee snobs: don't judge me; Trader Joe's seasonal flavored coffees are excellent). However, special doesn't need to mean more expensive:

I originally found out about this from Lifehacker. The method is very simple: measure your grounds into the cylinder, pour in boiling water, mix for ten seconds, seal it up and press it down straight into your cup. Like the Keurig, it only makes one cup at a time. However, since it hits a larger amount of grounds with the hot water briefly, it draws out a lot of coffee flavor without the bitterness. Cleanup is also super easy: just remove the lid, push out the grounds (they should now resemble a hockey puck), then rinse out the plastic lid and the stirrer. Since the piston wipes the interior clean ever time, there's nothing else to worry about.

For some reason, the instructions told me to secure the paper filter in place, put the machine on top of the coffee cup and then add in the grounds and water. However, even without pressing in place, the water starts to seep through the filter before it has time to mix with the grounds. What I do instead is put the plunger just barely in, then turn it upside down before making the coffee. I then add the lid with the paper filter, then flip it over onto the cup (make sure the piston is at least a good quarter inch inside, lest you spill the coffee and grounds all over the counter).

What's that you say? It's too much of a hassle to heat up water on the stove every time you want a cup of coffee? Well, my friend, that brings us to our last item for today:

I really love this thing. In almost no time at all, it brings water to a full rolling boil, which is not only good for tea and coffee, but a variety of other uses in the kitchen as well. Making cheesecake, flan, or anything else that needs to sit in a warm water bath? This is your baby. The much-beloved (at least by anyone who's eaten them) brownie recipe from Cooks Illustrated needs boiling water, and it's great to have it on hand whenever I need it.

Plus, I learned an extra-fun little trick from Alton Brown: use it to hard boil eggs. Gently load the eggs into the kettle (I got a full dozen in there with room for a few more), add in enough water to cover them by an inch or two, and turn it on. The kettle turns itself off as soon as it hits a boil, so just wait another 10-15 minutes after that and you'll be set to go. Absolutely perfect hard boiled eggs (which I have not had much luck making otherwise).

Somewhere in a closet we do have a more traditional type of coffee maker for big parties. Of course, the size of our current dwellings puts a limit on how many people can be here, so the Keurig has worked very well for us. All in all, I don't want for lack of coffee*.

* Or espresso (yes, there is a difference), but that's another post.

UPDATE: Someone reminded me about this:

My wife got it for me for Christmas a few years ago, and it's terrific for the office. Super-simple: press the button to open, pop in a K-Cup and then fill it to the line with water, press "on" and you're set. It doesn't have the variety of settings that the big unit does, but if you've found a K-Cup you like with it, it's got a very small footprint for your desk at work (though you'll want to keep a pitcher of filtered water nearby). Loved it so much, it made the big fancy version one of the first things we added to our wedding registry. It's good stuff.

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