Coffee Zen

I’ve recently been simplifying my coffee equipment at home, aiming for low-maintenance, inexpensive equipment without sacrificing the great coffee. Here’s my latest.

Lee's latest coffee setup1 – Cuisinart electric kettle. Add water, pick a temperature, and wait for the beep! Couldn’t be easier.

2 – Rancilio Rocky “doserless” burr grinder. This is the one essential–but expensive–component. (More important than a fancy brewer!) If you want great coffee, you need a fresh grind (ideally, right before you brew) and the grounds have to be consistently the right size, which means it must be a burr grinder.

3 – Aeropress. This is where the magic happens. Like a french press, but faster and with higher pressure. Add ground coffee (use a finer espresso grind, not the coarser french press grind), pour in water, and push the plunger. Voila!

4 – Scoop. For transferring ground coffee from the grinder to the Aeropress. (Comes with Aeropress.) For simplicity, I grind directly into the scoop.

5 – Milk frother. Warm the milk in a coffee mug in the microwave, then use this basic $10 frother for foam. It’s not quite the same as a steamer, but close enough for me and Kristin.

6 – Knock box. When finished with the Aeropress, dump the used grounds here. (This is leftover from when I used an espresso machine and had to actually knock the grounds out of the filter cup. Now it’s just a handy place to put the grounds.)

7 – Chocolate syrup and cinnamon. I always dust my lattés and flat whites with cinnamon. (Get the good stuff in bulk from Penzeys.) Everybody needs a mocha now and then, right?

Bonus: This setup is ridiculously easy to take and use while traveling! Grind some coffee before leaving, put it in a bag, and pack the rest. Most places these days have a microwave for heating water and milk.

What isn’t shown here, of course, is the coffee! I prefer to roast my own, starting with single origins from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia and sourced through Sweet Maria’s, but my roaster gave up the ghost recently. So I’ve temporarily fallen back to my favorite source of fairly traded coffee, Equal Exchange. Their espresso blends are terrific and usually quite fresh. I keep the cost down by buying the 5-pound wholesale bags.

On confederate monuments

A few thoughts in the wake of violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, VA

(1) A public monument isn’t a record of history, it’s a statement of something the community is proud of. History is recorded in books and other records that are there for anyone who cares to use them. Preserving history is no defense for public monuments. Replace “erasing our history” with “erasing our culture” or “erasing our values” and you might get a better sense of what’s really being said. Personally, I think the culture and values these monuments convey are no longer appropriate for public places anywhere in this country.

(2) The monuments in question aren’t “beautiful.” I don’t think Mr. Trump has a healthy sense of beauty, judging by how he lives. These monuments were put in place during the Jim Crow years (long after the end of the war) to intimidate blacks and other minorities who were thinking that civil rights might actually happen in their communities. They’re cultural signposts that say, “We may have lost the war, but you can’t make us change our ways.” Since “the ways” in question involve racial discrimination, that’s anything but beautiful: it’s ugly and mean-spirited. More likely, “beautiful” is being used as a code word for “what we believe in but can’t say out loud.”

(3) To those who say, “Slavery, discrimination, racial bias, etc. are over, and have no power,” one has to ask, then why are we still celebrating and honoring–in our public places–individuals who were best known for supporting slavery, discrimination, racial bias, etc? The simple fact that there are currently monuments in places of public honor in our country that represent and celebrate people who supported and fought to preserve racial discrimination makes it incredibly unconvincing that the culture they represent could possibly be gone and no longer has power in our society.