Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Confession is (allegedly) good for the soul.

I'm an addict.

There, I've said it. That actually wasn't too hard. Now, before you think less of me, I'll admit that I'm addicted to two habit-forming substances: caffeine and endorphins. Chocolate is way up there too, but it pales in comparison to the others. Today, I'm only going to write about coffee.

I've said before that I drink far too much coffee at times. Most days it's only one or two cups. But every now and then, the espresso machine tempts me to over-indulge. What worries me is that coffee could be considered a gateway drug. Next thing you know, I'll be grinding the beans up into powder and snorting the stuff, or even mainlining espresso.

Looking around the kitchen, the addiction is painfully obvious. There's the above-mentioned espresso machine. There's a ten-cup drip coffee maker that holds temperature nicely, a critical item to good flavor. There are two French presses, a glass Bodum and a stainless steel Nissan. And there's the ubiquitous Melitta No.2 that fits perfectly on top of my stainless steel water bottle. (SEE STEVEN SCHARFF'S BICYCLE COFFEE SYSTEMS PAGE) Finally,a battered old percolator resides in one of the cupboards. It's seldom used, but I keep it because it reminds me of mornings when I was a kid. Mom made her coffee on the stove with a percolator. The aroma went through the entire house. I keep it for the nostalgia.

I have three grinders, two of the chopper types that use a blade to cut up the beans, and one ancient burr grinder that must be 25 years old. The burr grinder and one of the choppers will reduce beans to a near powder that works best in the espresso machine. Any of them can produce the coarse grind that works in a French press, but it takes a little attention to the timing with a chopper in order to get it right.

What got me thinking about all this was an article in this month's Tulsa Wheelmen newsletter. It may not be on the website yet, but there was a piece on winter cycling that recommended avoiding coffee due to its diuretic effect. While it's true that coffee is a very mild diuretic, I read somewhere that the hydration it provides more than offsets it. That may be on Steven Scharff's page too.

Still, I hate having a full bladder when I'm wearing winter kit. It takes a while to remove all those layers of clothing, and I sort of feel like a little kid all bundled up in a snowsuit. Anyone with children knows this! Mom gets them all dressed up to go outside to play in the snow, only to hear, "Mom, I gotta go!" There's something about all that spandex and lycra that prompts the bladder to send signals to the brain. Call it the 'spandex effect'. Adding layers intensifies it.

This discussion wouldn't be complete without talking about coffee itself. Coffee makers are basically useless without something to put in them - though a drip coffee maker is good for making iced tea too. There are probably more types of coffee in the kitchen than there are coffee makers.

My standard is French roast from any of several brands, including Starbucks, but I get coffee from other makers too. I know the whole idea of Starbucks offends some connoisseurs, but I really don't care. I like the taste. I like Italian roast also, but it's harder to find in local groceries.

Good coffee doesn't have to be expensive, though. I've had store-brand beans that were very good when ground and used immediately. They develop some bitterness if they're not used within a day or two. Eight O'clock is one such brand.

The very best stuff I've had is Kona from a restaurant supplier. I have no idea what it costs, but it was very, very smooth. A close second goes to a co-worker who roasts his own beans in a backyard oven. His coffee is very good too. He's got me thinking about trying it.

The kids gave me a bunch of flavored coffees at Christmas. Normally I'm not very enthusiastic about them, but I've never seen some of these before. There's a Jack Daniels flavor, for instance, that I'm going to try soon. Who knows? Maybe the flavors of coffee and whiskey play together well.

Not everyone adds cream or sugar to coffee. I like a bit of sweetness, and I've been seduced by the Irish custom of using brown sugar. And sometimes when I feel like having a treat, I'll use cream, REAL cream, not that stuff that comes out of a factory somewhere in New Jersey. I clearly don't need the calories and fat, though, so this is only an occasional indulgence.

A flask of hot coffee is a wonderful addition to a commuter bike on a cold winter morning. I heartily recommend it. Just be aware of that 'spandex effect' before pushing off!


Blogger The Donut Guy said...

Good stuff.

I feel the same way about iced tea.

5:23 AM  
Blogger hereNT said...

Maybe the flavors of coffee and whiskey play together well.

Maybe? I don't think there's any maybe about it. You, sir, have just inspired me to have a second Irish Coffee (Jameson, cream, and espresso) this morning!

6:35 AM  
Blogger mags said...

Avoiding coffee? Oh my God! That is blasphemy! :) I don't allow myself many "treats", but a life without coffee would be no life at all. My day revolves around 2 training sessions with 2 fantastic cups of coffee in the middle... :)


2:26 PM  

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