On day nineteen of last summer’s passage from Hawaii to San Francisco, Moli suffered a critical systems breakdown.
We had been climbing into winds of 25 knots for several days. Seas were steep and breaking. On that morning I rose at the usual hour and made my coffee in the usual way: cone with paper filter balanced atop a ceramic cup, the ceramic cup swinging on the gimballed stove.
In 20,000 miles of solo passages, this teetering miracle has never failed me.
Until this morning.
I filled the cone with hot water. Moli then dropped off a wave and immediately lurched into another. Suddenly hot coffee grounds, cup and filter launched themselves toward the opposite bulkhead with the following, disheartening result.
Next day, same.
I’m not so bright before the morning’s brew, but even to me, it was clear a better system was needed if I am to survive the Southern Ocean appropriately caffeinated.
Once home I began searching for alternative technologies that would satisfy the following requirements:
Besides the paper filter, there are three means to a cup of Joe: instant coffee crystals, the percolator, and the French Press.
I’ll admit that instant is the obvious answer to coffee on a passage-making boat as it avoids the brewing process altogether, and while I keep a generous supply aboard for quick fixes and emergencies, the flavor leaves much to be desired as a day-in-day-out solution.
Percolators are another obvious choice, especially the wide-bottomed, stove-top designs like the Coleman Enameled 9-cup percolator. But the process–the lengthy pumping of hot water over grounds–is a shameful waste of propane. Moreover, the flavor of “cooked” coffee is not a favorite.
(Added February 8th, a comment courtesy of Charlie Doane of WaveTrain: Your post does not discuss the bestest way to make coffee at sea, IMHO. The espresso mocha pot (or moka pot, as some call it).
Makes very strong flavorful coffee. Center of gravity is low. Coffee grounds are contained and absolutely secure throughout the entire procedure. Water is contained as well during boiling process and is only vulnerable to being flung across the cabin at the very end of the process, when it becomes coffee at the top of the pot.)
This leaves the French Press. For many, this is the ideal technology for the blue-water boat. Durable stainless steel and thermos versions are available in many sizes; the brewing system is simple and self-contained; it requires no fiddly-bits like paper filters; clean-up is but a brief rinse, and the press makes what many regard to be the most cultured of beverages.
Problem: the fine, stainless mesh filter is not fine enough. Even the best presses allow through a quantity of grounds, and I just don’t relish chewy coffee.
Now, current evidence to the contrary, let me hasten to point out that I am not finicky about coffee; I am particular. What’s the difference, you ask? A finicky cat will refuse canned tuna, but a cat with particular taste will eat the tuna with pleasure and then rummage your fridge for the foie gras while you’re at work.
Just so, I’ll drink with joy whatever I am given, but left to my own devices, I much prefer four tablespoons of fine, fresh, paper-filtered grounds to my 12 ounces of 190-degree water.
Enter the AeroPress and the It’s American Press, both contemporary updates to the French Press which look to have solved the chewy coffee problem and whose simplicity of design and durability show promise for the boat in a seaway.
In the next posts, I’ll look at each more closely.