Even though many "true" coffee people disdain them, I brewed my coffee with an old fashioned percolator. I find that as long as I start with good tasting cold water and the right amount of ground coffee, my percolator can brew a very nice cup of coffee.
Although I confess my taste for coffee has grown but more on that later.
I even got to the point of buying whole roasted coffee beans from some of the many coffee retail outlets here in Japan. I bought this grinder for ¥300 at a thrift shop and used it to grind my store bought whole coffee beans. (I use it to grind peppercorn these days.)
Then something happened.
A friend of mine gave me a hand coffee bean roaster pictured here:
After I tasted the coffee she made with her home roasted coffee, I ventured into the world of roasting my own coffee beans. The actual roasting process however turned out to be problematic. The roasting process takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the heat source and the degree of roasting I wanted in my coffee. I had to constantly shake the roaster with the beans in it. When the beans reach a certain temperature, the beans start to shed its outer skin and it comes out the top of the roaster and this can be a bit messy to say the least. At first I tried to take a zen like attitude and convinced myself that I was one with the coffee gods and trudged on.
The heat source should be a constant flame source of heat to be most effective. And Japanese gas ranges are NOT constant heat sources. They come with a built-in sensor that checks to make sure that something is on the gas range when the flame is on, if it thinks nothing is there or that what is there is too hot, it cuts back on the flame. Thats what any cook needs, the gas range telling me what kind of flame I need to cook with. But I digress. So I would pull out the table top gas stove (used for sukiyaki and shabu-shabu) with the small gas canisters to do the roasting. Again adding extra steps to the already time consuming process.
In any case, I would be able to get very nice roasted coffee using this hand roaster. But after all the effort, I only got enough coffee to brew about 2 pots worth of coffee. By the way, this hand roaster is available at Tokyu Hands if you are interested and I haven't already talked you out of it.
So I figured that there had to be a better way. And of course there is. I researched the many ways that others have tried to do home roasting including using popcorn poppers but I eventually decided on the commercially available FreshRoast plus8® home coffee roaster, mainly because of the price but also the many nice reviews of it.
After I brought my product home after a visit to the states this summer, I quickly put it to the test. And of course the 100v Japanese outlet did not provide all the oomph needed and all I got was a pale brown roasted coffee beans when I wanted espresso roast.
After contemplating returning the unit, but not wanting to concede defeat, I decided I needed a step-up transformer to do the job. So off I went to the surplus electronics shop by the Ishikawacho station and found this beauty for "only" ¥5,000.
I connected it to a 4 way switched "konsen" and fired it up. After some experimenting, I found I could get a decent espresso roast using the boosted voltage and additional time. Even though the amount of coffee beans I could roast each time was no more than what I got using the hand roaster, I could do multiple batches very easily. So I was now in the coffee roasting business.
When I brought back the roaster, I also brought back about 3 lbs of green coffee beans with me. I realized I should have brought back more because my coffee drinking has indeed picked up quite a lot. Just like drinking good beer, the better it tastes, the more of it you want to drink. Along with my roaster, I was smart enough to have also brought back with me an electric burr coffee grinder. My hand turned grinder was very small and could no longer keep up with the volume of coffee beans I was roasting. I picked this up from Costco in North Carolina. I also have a rotary blade grinder but I do not recommend them for grinding coffee. You cannot control the type of grind you get as you can with a burr grinder. I do have one of these rotary blade units but it is relegated to spice and herb grinding.
I thought I was satisfied with my coffee status quo and for a while I was. That is until I went to a Spanish restaurant in Kannai one day. After my meal, I ordered coffee while my friend ordered cappucino. My coffee was very good but was markedly different that the percolated coffee I was drinking at home. For one thing, it had a layer of creamy foam called crema on top of it and the taste was somehow richer with a bitter quality to it but in a very good way. I was familiar with espresso and espresso drinks in the past but to be truthful, I considered them to be drunk by effete snobs who had to have more than good old American coffee. But now I had turned into one of these effete snobs! My coffee senses had awakened and they were not to be denied.
I realized then that I had to move into the world beyond percolated coffee. My first step was to turkish coffee. I researched how to make good turkish coffee and after some experimentation with my existing pots, I had little success in making good turkish coffee. I even followed all the instructions the pretty Turkish lady on youtube showed me. So after some more research, I found on ebay a source of turkish coffee pots (cezve/ibrik) for a reasonable price and with shipping direct to Japan. This web site has a nice collection of them also. I ordered 3 of the copper ones along with 2 sets of turkish coffee cups.
Indeed the turkish coffee I brewed was very good but it did take time and effort to learn to brew it in true turkish fashion. And many times I did not want something that strong. I found that by using the larger cezve and a smaller amount of coffee, I could get a very nice cup of "regular" coffee. This is the method I use now when all I want is one cup of coffee.
My final (I hope!) foray into the world of coffee ends with the espresso machine. Even though I liked turkish coffee and the american style coffee brewed with the cezve, I still had the taste for the coffee made by the espresso machine with its crema that I had at the Spanish restaurant.
So once more (with my deep pockets becoming ever shallower) I learned about what it takes to make good espresso and espresso based drinks. I won't bore you with the details because if you don't know what I'm talking about, you can certainly find much better sources of information on the web. I decided a pump based espresso machine is what I needed. The price ranges on the available equipment is absurd. Starting at about $100 and to the sky after that. I did some research and found surprising consensus on a Mr. Coffee Espresso maker. I checked out all of the better known makers and each had their pros and cons but the price of the Mr Coffee Espresso maker did it for me. After all, I started my beer brewing with Mr. Beer, why not Mr. Coffee? That Mr sure knows how to make stuff.
And to date, I have not been disappointed. Although I am still learning to make the various espresso based drinks, I can whip out a good crema laden cup of coffee in under 20 minutes, and that is starting with green coffee beans! And that for me is coffee heaven.
But I still find that I like and drink each of the different coffees I learned to make along the way including the percolator as well as the turkish method. Each has a time and place in my coffee world.
An infuriating update: Several months ago I saw a DeLonghi Espresso maker for sale at the Kanazawa Costco for a very reasonable ¥7,450 but because I was in the process of researching which espresso machine I wantedso I did not buy it at the time. Later a friend of mine that works there told me the in order to create shelf space, Costco put the remaining 3 units it had on sale for ¥1,950!!! Needless to say I missed out on that deal.
But now I have some beer to brew, gonna do my first all-grain brew - yippy.