Friday, August 10, 2018

COFFEEPOTS by E. AYERS

I've talked about coffee but not about how it was made. Seems that we tend to think the pot was simply a pan with ground beans in it. Well, yes and no. Many a cup of coffee has been made with a few whole beans tossed in hot water. But making a cup of coffee has been a simple job for a long time. It requires beans and hot water. Grinding the beans is best. Some of the first coffeepots were quite simple. Ground coffee was placed into a pot that looks a little like a teapot. Flat on the bottom, bulging in the middle and then a narrow spout that might be covered with a sieve-like piece of metal. The heavy grounds fell to the bottom and the floaters were caught by the sieve. 

In the 1700's it became commonplace to infuse coffee. The grounds were placed in a pouch of silk or cotton and tied closed. (Sounds like a teabag to me, except this one has ground coffee in it.) The pouch was placed in the pot and hot water was poured over it. The coffee was steeped to the right color and taste, according to the person making it. I doubt it was strong coffee, but it did keep the grounds out of the cup. This pouch method was also used as means of making coffee by allowing a funnel to hold the cloth and the beans. It is referred to as a French drip. Water was poured over it. Today many coffee shops use that method. Want a cup of coffee that isn't already brewed? They will do a "pour over".  

Then we got a little more robust about it. Toss those grounds into the pan, add water and boil it until it  until it smelled right. That's a mighty strong cup of coffee!

The coffee pendulum swung again. Coffeepots came with two chambers. Put a sock or sock-like thing in the top chamber, add the ground coffee to the sock and delicately brew by pouring hot water over the grounds. The coffee is no longer boiled. Socks weren't the only thing they used. And if an  old sock was used, it's going to impart its own flavor to the coffee.

Percolators became the next big invention. It was manual and eventually became electric. An electric percolator meant a perfect cup of coffee every time, and it was heavily advertised as such. What housewife doesn't want to make a perfect cup of coffee for her husband. (If she wanted a perfect cup that sorta happened by accident. If he had good cup of coffee that meant she had a good cup. Wasn't that great logic?) These pots are still in use today and some people think that our "modern" machines don't make the full-bodied coffee like that old percolator. Go rummage around Mom's or Grandmom's kitchen and it's probably still in the cabinet in the back corner. There was a forerunner of the percolators. It was called a vacuum coffeemaker. The grounds were in the top chamber and the bottom contained the water. Place the pot on the stove, heat it, and the water turns to steam. The steam enters the top chamber and drips down through the beans into the pot below. But percolators work almost the same, except they don't use steam, they use hot water. They have that metal tube and the hot water is forced up the tube where it ran over a basket filled with coffee grounds. The fun part of these coffeemakers was when they put that glass bump in the lid of the pot. The noise it made as the hot water hit that glass bump was a bubbling sound that could be heard in the other room. Maxwell House coffee used that sound in their commercials starting in the 1950's. Click here for the commercial.

A drip coffeepot that most of us use today has its footing in the early 1900's. That paper filter was made from a piece blotting paper. But during the last half of the 1800's, it was the percolator that the cowboys on cattle drives used, pioneers used, farmers used, as well as the city dwellers. It reigned supreme for over 100 years. Many of today's nature lovers keep a simple percolator to make a pot of coffee over the campfire.

There's half dozen other ways to make coffee and equipment to do it. But I've tried to stick with what was the most common and apt to be found in a household. Coffee is one of oldest beverages known.

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Just a little side note: My eyesight is improving. Except I can't see things like periods or commas, nor can I distinguish between certain letters. So please forgive my errors. I'm thrilled that my sight is still improving. In almost four months, I've gone from blind to seeing stuff. But the little stuff, such as the things on the laptop screen, is nearly impossible and that's what I'm using.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for this interesting history of coffee making, Elizabeth. My grandma made coffee in a huge enameled pot on her stove. I never drank it, but I recall me dad complaining about grounds in his cup when we visited my grandparents. My mom had a pretty copper colored electric percolator. It made the best coffee. These days I usually fix one cup at a time, heating water in the microwave and stirring in my favorite instant coffee and creamer. My husband won't touch coffee in any form. Only when we have company do I use our fancy new brew station.

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    1. I feel as though I barely scratched the surface of coffee and all the different pots. My first coffeepot was that percolator and it was received as a wedding present. Several years later, we were given a Mr. Coffee from my husband's family.

      As Americans, we've been coffee drinkers. It's been an important part of our life since the Boston Tea Party. It became American to drink coffee. And we're still doing it today. It's become an art and a science to produce a perfect cup of coffee.

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  2. Elizabeth, I am also having vision problems and can appreciate your efforts immensely. Thank you for soldiering on! I've dripped, percolated and stirred over the years. Now, I pod-it, one cup at a time. I've gone from French Roast to Hazelnut leaving my French-Press-daughter nearly in tears and running to Starbuck's on her visits!

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    1. The pod has become an easy way to produce a cup of coffee, and for so many people today, they almost can't imagine any other way to make coffee. But I still prefer brewed coffee.

      Starbucks had a single serve french press built into a travel mug this past Christmas. Something like that might be handy to have on hand for visits.

      If my small pot dies, I'll be looking for some sort of single brew. It's only me in the house. I don't want to make a huge pot. There are plenty of singles who find themselves in the same place. And of course there's the waiting, seems we've all come to expect everything to happen instantly.

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  3. I never learned to like coffee, but always found the history fascinating. Some folk still use the sock method to make large quantities of coffee. Imagine walking into a place and see a big pan with a sock boiling away on the stove.

    I am so happy that you are able to see more of the world again. That is such a reason to celebrate. Doris

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    1. Most large groups are still using percolators, the big 40 (or more) cup ones. I've never seen the sock in use.

      (My sister never drank coffee but she loved the aroma of coffee. She also hated peanut butter. I keep wondering if we were ever related.)
      :-)

      Many people don't drink coffee for religious reasons or because it contains the drug caffeine, and others just don't like the taste. There are plenty of things through history that we all find fascinating, yet would never do, try, or whatever. With coffee being a staple in our lives for centuries and its ease of preparation, it's quite understandable as to how it has endured.

      The concept of making a way to brew a better cup of coffee is a little like trying to create a better mouse trap or even a safety pin.

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  4. Interesting post, Elizabeth. Hubby & I enjoy our morning coffee and admit "defecting" to the easy way with a Keurig coffeemaker that seem to be frowned upon by some coffee connoisseurs. LoL

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    1. If what I have dies, I'll probably go get a Keurig, too. Because it's easy. It's nothing more than a form of instant coffee except instead of making coffee and extracting the water they are grinding up beans into micro-grounds. I often drink the Starbucks VIA instant. I guess I'm probably drinking a certain amount of the actual bean without the grit to it. Which brings us back to coffee is pretty easy to make. It takes beans (ground or not) and hot water (steamy or just hot).

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  5. My mom made coffee on the stove in a glass percolating coffee pot. I liked watching the water rise in the glass tube and into the basket of coffee and bubble over the coffee. Then again, I was easily entertained as a kid. lol

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    1. I feel so much better now. It's nice to know that I was not the only child who would watch stuff like that. I was fascinated by how it went up the tube and wondered if it would go up other things. I wanted to know how food got into cans that we had to open with a can opener. How did they do that? Maybe it's that curiosity that brings all of us and especially our readers together on this blog.

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