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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Making Coffee

Chris Campbell

clever.jpg

This is the beginning of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC) or the more hashtaggy #clmooc. It's a neat summer project for educators to make, reflect, and connect using the principles of connected learning. We'll be sharing and connecting and making things each week. This is how I'm starting out by writing something about how I make coffee every morning.

One of the constant aspects of my morning for the past many years has been coffee. Making it is a good way to start the day and I've gone through various methods over the years and have settled into one that works for me. Maybe it's not perfect, but like many things it is comfortable and something I can do with very little thought. Mornings usually start early for me during the school year with the alarm going off usually around 5:30. Then it is time to get up, plug in the rice cooker and fill it with oatmeal and water and start it going. The great thing about the oatmeal is that it cooks until it is done and the rice cooker keeps it nice and warm for when it gets scooped into a bowl with some vanilla yogurt for a warm breakfast.

At first I had a drip coffee maker. A simple one with a filter basket and I'd grind the beans with a blade grinder and put them in the filter, fill the coffee maker with water and it would make a pot of coffee. That lasted for a few years and then I wanted to get a bit fancier so the next step was to start using a French press. The simple Bodum one was just the ticket. The challenge with that is that it is a bit more work to clean, but it does make good, strong coffee. It was in use constantly for a few years until a switch to a hybrid method of just a filter basket with boiling water poured over it into a carafe. Simpler and a bit less bitter than the French press. That worked well with a bit more effort, but a little less cleanup. The good thing is that it was quite simple to get going in the morning.

Then I found out about vacuum extracting coffee. The first coffee that I had made with that method a few years ago was from The Smiling Goat which has a Clover machine that makes amazing coffee using a vacuum extraction method. The coffee was great and then I saw the Bodum Santos which is a beautiful thing to behold. Two circular globes are arranged vertically with one having a glass tube that extends into the bottom carafe. They are held together with a rubber gasket and a plastic filter held in place with a spring keeps the coffee grounds in the top from going into the carafe. The carafe has water in it and you bring the water to a boil. As the temperature rises the pressure pushes the water up the tube and mixes in with the coffee grounds. As the water is almost out of the bottom you remove it from the heat and then as it cools the vacuum formed in the bottom extracts the coffee (but not the grounds as they are blocked by the filter) out of the top. Then you carefully take the top off and pour a flavourful cup of coffee.

Vacuum extraction is my favourite method and it is the most labour-intensive one as well. You need to watch carefully as the timing is key. If you let the bottom boil dry it will break. If you don't let it heat up enough there won't be a good vacuum and the coffee won't be drawn out of the top. The other challenge is that most of the apparatus is made out of glass and that is not good if you are a bit clumsy. Smooth and elegant coffee preparation is not that easy in the morning and that is why I broke my beautiful coffee maker. Thrice.

After three times with the vacuum method it was time to try something else as this couldn't be my primary method as it was becoming a challenge not to break things. I fell back to the pourover method with a porcelain filter holder over my travel mug. Then I discovered the Clever Coffee Dripper which combines the pourover methods with a bit of the French press method. The key is a seal at the bottom of the filter basket. The seal stays in place until you put it on top of a mug which opens the bottom and allows the coffee to drain into the mug. This allows the water to stay in contact with the grounds for longer than traditional pourover, which extracts more flavour.

The standard morning routine now is to get up, get the oatmeal going, put the filter in the Clever, weigh the beans (35 - 45 g of beans), fill the kettle and turn it on. Then I hop in the shower and when I get out I pour a bit of water into the clever to wet the filter. Drain that water and grind the beans and put the grounds in the filter. Then slowly fill the basket with water and set the timer for 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Part way through I stir the grounds. Then when the time is up I put the Clever onto my travel mug if it is a work day or on a regular mug if it is not. The coffee drains out and if I am making coffee for more than one person I refill it and fill the other mug. That's how I start every day and it works well for me.