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Coffee, Coffee Pots, and Coffee Bean Grinders

Copyright April 1, 2011 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.


Coffee Cup and Coffee Beans If coffee is one of the beverages you enjoy during normal times, then you will need to make some plans on how you can continue to enjoy coffee during a long-term hard times event.

Coffee has a relatively short shelf life compared to most other foods.

There are three basic options for storing coffee:

1. Instant coffee.
2. Ground coffee.
3. Coffee beans.

Let's examine each of the above three types of coffee one-at-a-time.

Instant Coffee

To prepare instant coffee you will need to heat some water to an acceptable temperature and then pour the hot water onto a spoonful of instant coffee inside a coffee mug. Stir with a spoon and you have coffee.

The advantages of instant coffee are:
  1. It is quick and easy to prepare.
  2. It does not require an investment in paper coffee filters.
  3. It does not emit the powerful coffee aroma that fresh brewed coffee releases. This may be a significant advantage during a hard times tragedy event because you would not be attracting unwanted attention to your food preparation area. In other words, you could enjoy your cup of coffee in peace.
The disadvantage of instant coffee is:
  1. Some individuals do not like the taste of instant coffee.
You will need to make your own decision on whether or not you will include some jars of instant coffee in your emergency food reserves.

Ground Coffee

Most people prepare ground coffee using an electric drip coffee maker. The ground coffee is placed inside a paper coffee filter and the correct quantity of water is poured into the coffee maker. The coffee maker is then activated, the water is heated, and the water is dispensed on top of the ground coffee. The coffee slowly drips out the bottom of the basket into the coffee pot.

To make coffee without electricity you could do the following:
  1. Transfer the coffee basket to a secure position above your coffee pot. Some drip coffee makers allow you to swing out the coffee basket while the coffee basket is still attached to the coffee maker. If your coffee maker is made this way then swing out the coffee basket and position the coffee pot on the counter directly below the bottom hole in the coffee basket.
  2. Put a paper coffee filter into the basket and add the correct amount of ground coffee.
  3. Boil the proper amount of water in a separate cook pot.
  4. Slowly and carefully pour the boiling water onto the ground coffee inside the paper coffee filter inside the coffee filter basket.
  5. Wait for the coffee to drip into the coffee pot.
The advantage of a drip coffee maker is:
  1. The taste is acceptable to most people.
The disadvantages of a drip coffee maker are:
  1. You will need to maintain an inventory of paper coffee filters.
  2. It takes longer to brew fresh coffee than to prepare instant coffee.
  3. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee will attract every coffee drinker within a half-block radius to your kitchen and they will beg you, and beg you, and beg you to please share some of your fresh brewed coffee with them.
Coffee Percolator An alternative to the drip coffee maker is an old fashioned coffee percolator. This device requires a coarser ground of coffee than the drip coffee makers. You put some water in the bottom of the percolator and then add some ground coffee into the metal basket that fits in the top of the percolator. Then you attach the lid, add heat, and wait for the water to boil which "perks" the hot water up through center spout and the water then flows down over the ground coffee in the metal basket and back into the bottom of the percolator with the rest of the water. This process continues until you have your coffee at the strength you prefer.

The advantages of a percolator are:
  1. The coffee has a taste that is agreeable to most people.
  2. You do not need any paper coffee filters.
The disadvantages of a percolator are the same as for the drip coffee maker.

Coffee Beans

Coffee Grinder Finally, you can purchase whole coffee beans and grind them yourself as you need them. This will require that you have a coffee grinder for this specific application. The reason is because you do not want the flavor of your coffee beans to pick up the flavor of something else that may have been ground previously in some type of multipurpose grinder. If you have a coffee grinder that is only used for coffee then you will know that the flavor of your coffee will not pick up any stray unusual flavors that may be offensive to your taste buds. If you grind your own coffee beans then you can set the grind to the coarseness you require, such as a fine grind or a medium grind or a coarse grind.

Coffee beans should be stored in their original bag or container. This bag or container should be placed inside a heavy-duty freezer bag and stored in a dark, dry, cool area. Do not freeze coffee beans because freezing will deplete them of their natural moisture.

Different varieties of green coffee beans have different shelf lives. Before you invest in green coffee beans you should determine the actual remaining shelf life of the beans you are interested in. In other words, you should first determine when the green coffee beans were originally harvested and how long they have already been in storage before you make your purchase.

Green coffee beans that are stored in a dry temperature controlled environment will remain fresh for approximately ten-years. In the coffee industry these are referred to as "aged coffee beans." As the beans are aged they gradually lose some of their bitter taste.

Green coffee beans will need to be roasted before they are used to brew coffee. However, roasted coffee beans have a much shorter shelf life than green coffee beans. Therefore you should not roast your beans until you are ready to use them. Generally you should only roast about one-week's worth of beans at one time to maximize the freshness and flavor of those beans.

Coffee Beans Before Turning Green Coffee Beans - Lightly Roasted Coffee Beans - Dark Roasted
Coffee Beans Before Turning Green Coffee Beans - Lightly Roasted Coffee Beans - Dark Roasted
There are two basic methods for roasting coffee beans at home. Regardless of which method you use you will need to use some type of fan to ventilate the area because the coffee beans will generate smoke as they are roasted.
  1. Skillet Method: Place the green coffee beans in a large covered cast iron skillet over high heat. Shake the beans inside the skillet to keep the beans in constant motion. Or you can omit the skillet cover and stir the beans continuously as they are roasting. The beans will gradually turn yellow and then a light brown. After about 5, 6, or 7 minutes the beans will crack and you will hear the first popping sound. If you wish you may stop roasting the beans at this time. Or you may continue to roast the beans for a darker roast. After a total of about 15 or 20 minutes the beans will crack or pop a second time and the beans will have a dark brown color. Now is the time to remove the beans from the heat.

  2. Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 500F (260C). Place a single layer of beans inside a metal colander or a folding metal vegetable steamer. Place the colander or steamer on a metal cookie sheet or a metal pizza pan. Place the coffee beans on the center rack of the oven. You will hear the first crack or pop in about 5, 6, or 7 minutes. You may remove the beans from the oven at this time or you may allow them to continue roasting for a darker roast. However, you must open the oven and stir the beans once per minute after the first pop. When the desired bean color is achieved, or when you hear the second crack or pop, remove the beans from the oven.
Cool the beans as quickly as possible after you remove them from the skillet or from the oven. Shake the roasted beans inside a colander to separate the beans from the tiny particles that are now mixed in with the beans. Discard the tiny particles. Allow the beans to mature for at least four hours before using them. For the optimal coffee flavor, wait twenty-four hours before using the beans.

Coffee beans should be ground as you need them to capture their full flavor. When you grind coffee beans they will retain their maximum freshness and flavor for about one or two-hours. However, ground roasted coffee beans may still be used for about four-weeks after grinding. But after about two weeks many people will notice a distinctive loss of some of the original flavor that was in the freshly ground coffee beans.

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