There's nothing like a good cup of coffee. Judging from today's culture I'm not the only one who feels this way. Honestly, I'd say that just about one out of five people out and about are either drinking coffee, on their way to get a cup or are just thinking about the next one. I certainly fall into one of those categories. A coffee culture has taken hold of the country and for me I think I know how it's taken hold.
I can think back to when I was very young and my great-grandmother lived the next floor down from us. Among being spoiled with all the sweets and loving gifts a grandmother will always try to sneak past your mother, mine also snuck a little coffee past her as well. I was always interested in grandmas enthusiasm for opening a new can of coffee. As soon as the lid would come off she would tell me to take a sniff and then she would explain what was good about it. How it smelled so good and that was just the way coffee should be before you brewed it. Then I was fascinated by the percolator. I remember how she would put the grounds in the top cup, fill the bottom with water and then set it on the stove. As soon as it boiled, I would watch the coffee bubble up through the glass handle on the lid, and when it no longer appeared it was done. My grandmother liked her coffee light and sweet. When I say light, I mean she put heavy cream in her coffee! Then she would make it sweet, but not too sweet like today's D&D six-count-sugar coffees, but just enough for the perfect bitter, sweet and creamy balance. When I first tried that coffee I was hooked! It was so much better than the Swiss Miss cocoa I was used to drinking. Grandma wouldn't let me have a full cup of coffee right from the start, she would just give me sips until I was old enough, maybe around 10 or 11 years old. (Back in the early 80's that was old enough I guess.) That was enough for me for coffee to set it's teeth in good and deep. As I got older, coffee with grandma became something very cherished and something I reflected on as good moments with her. Yeah coffee, just like other somewhat more meaningful relics in life, can have great meaning if attached to love and family. As the years went on and grandma got older, her techniques for making coffee changed from percolator to instant and dairy went from heavy cream to half and half. No matter how she made her coffee towards the end it was always perfect to me.
I tell this story to bring into light the associations that I have with coffee and how they are what really make it so much more enjoyable. I think most people are like that as well. Whether their associations are just being social or as important as setting the pace for their day. Their kinship with coffee is always much more than a mere drink. It's more like a relationship that is one-sided and not only reliable but dependable. Yes coffee drinkers are fanatics, to some extent to the coffee but also, I think, to the associations and feeling that it conjures up. Over and over it's an enjoyable experience.
Recently, I thought I was pretty smart having an idea on how I could roast my own coffee at home. Coffee is about 3 times cheaper if bought as whole green coffee beans. I realized that coffee roasters toss coffee around while it roasts like my air-pop popcorn maker does with popcorn. So I thought I'd give it a try. I checked my theory on the Internet and sure enough tons of people do it and, not to mention, everyone is selling popcorn machines on eBay as "Popcorn Popper/Coffee Roaster". So, feeling not as smart as before, I continued with the project. I shopped around at all the retail stores and then realized I often see air-pop popcorn machines at the Goodwill store for about $3-$4. I picked one up that was a Presto Poplite (1440 watts) and brought it home to start roasting. I found a local coffee company that sells green beans in 5 pound bags and picked up a blend. The cheaper, the better for starting projects like this. I followed the instructions of the popcorn machine and filled it with just a half a cup of beans. I plugged it in and watched what happened. The machine was a little sluggish blowing the beans around but a few shakes helped move things along. As it kept going the skins of the beans began to blow off so I put a bowl underneath to catch it.(see picture) The beans start popping and little divots fly off of the beans as they get closer to being done. (see picture on right on the paper towel) I simply shut the machine off when I thought it was dark enough for my taste. That was it! It was very easy. I'm sure there are a whole slew of techniques to roasting coffee that are much more accurate and with better tasting results but for the amount of investment I put into it what could I expect. I got a perfectly good coffee with my technique and I dare any standard coffee drinker to tell me it's not as good as any big company's. I like the fact that I could roast as much coffee as I need for the week. That is the best quality coffee you can get, one that is freshly roasted and ground just before being brewed. Maybe one day I can tinker around and make something a little more high-tech but for now I like the ingenuity of using something meant for one purpose, yet used for another. I would encourage anyone out there who is into being self-sufficient and wants to save a little money to give this a try. It's amazing how much money you could spend on coffee at Starbucks if you buy it every day. So do yourself a favor and get the only two things you need: an air-pop popcorn machine and some green coffee beans and get roasting... or do I mean popping.
Just for some additional information, shop on eBay for green coffee beans. I bought a 3 pound bag of green beans for $6.99 plus shipping. Shipping costs suck but it was still cheaper than buying it from my local coffee company.