Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash
So you are off to far flung parts for an intrepid adventure? Visas are sorted out, bags are packed, vaccinations are complete. What else should be on your worry list? If you are anything like me, high on the list will be managing your coffee addiction.
Now you could go prepare by going cold turkey - cutting out the gorgeous, life-affirming taste of coffee, one of the few positive pleasure left and enduring the headaches and foul mood that persists for a few days. This is not appealing, not at all!
Another solution is to rely on whatever can be sourced locally... but for those of us who prize coffee highly, this can be a risky game.
Fortunately, with a small amount of forethought, a solution is at hand that will allow you to make an amazing cappucino with easily portable equipment.
For home use, freshly ground beans are irrefutably best, and are relatively easy to store and grind to order. When you are on the road, it is fine to use pre-ground beans of your choice. In London, a real favorite is Monmouth coffee. Monmouth has the enviable reputation of being exclusive and yet widely available.
The Aeropress is a beautiful little device, very lo-tech, that allows you to make expresso-style coffe without the expresso machine. It comes in two parts with a cap, and uses a little disposable paper filter.
The original method is to moisten the filter paper slightly then place it inside the cap and screw this onto the bottom part of the Aeropress. Then place this in a cup and add two full scoops of ground coffee (when at home you can use scales to weight the coffee - it should be approximately 40g). Next boil the water and allow to stand for a minute or so before filling the Aeropress up to the top line (around 120g of water) and giving it a quick stir. Carefully insert the plunger into the top and then wait a minute or so to let the coffee develop the full flavour. Press down on the plunger until you hear a distinctive hiss and the plunger comes to a gentle halt.
The coffee can be divided between two cups and enjoyed as an expresso, or an Americano, by adding water to meet your personal taste.
The original method is all very well, but the more discerning will feel a discomfiting loss of control that arises from the way that the coffee starts to leak through the paper even before you have touched the plunger. Happily there is a refinement - the reverse/upsidedown method.
Insert the plunger into the base of the Aeropress about half an inch (10mm) and place on a level surface with the plunger downwards. As before, add 2 scoops of coffee to the machine and then pour on the just-off-the-boil water, give a quick stir. Next place the filter paper into the moistened cap and carefully (as the whole contraption will be hot) screw onto the Aeropress. After a pause to allow for brewing, deftly upend the whole thing into a waiting cup (it is useful to check beforehand that the cup is big enough) and press down the plunger as before to release the delicious liquid into the cup. Divide the coffee between two cups as with the original method.
Getting velvety foaming milk without a steam machine? There are a couple of effective, portable options:
These are small, so very portable. The downside is that you still need to find/bring something to heat the milk in. Also the foam produced can be quite poor quality.
Stovetop milk foamers are the real deal - they look like a metal cafetiere but are looser so the plunger can be moved freely They are quick, provide a container to heat the milk in and most importantly, produce a really high quality foam that persists to the end of the cup.
To use, pour in your milk of choice; purists demand full fat cow's milk, but lower fat content also works as does soya. Don't fill more than half-full, to allow room for the foam. Put on a stovetop on a medium heat. DO NOT OVERHEAT! Milk that is boiled loses sweetness. You can also heat the milk in a microwave in a suitable non-metallic container before pouring into the foamer. With full-fat cow's milk, heat it until it starts to skin, no more. Insert the plunger and move up and down vigorously 10-20 times. You will feel the foam start to thicken as you do it. Once the milk has reached the perfect consistency, remove the plunger and firmly tap the jug several times on the bench, this removes any bigger bubbles that have appeared. Pour rapidly onto the coffee in the prepared cups.
Now you can sit back and just enjoy a wonderful coffee.