Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Ingredients for Making Great Coffee

(On a sailboat)

--Blogpost written by Bob

A sailboat doesn't have all the conveniences of a home on land but there is no reason not to have great coffee.  The five ingredients we think make great coffee on a sailboat are the following:

1. Fresh Coffee Beans

Starbuck's Decaf Sumatra Beans
The selection of coffee beans is a matter of personal taste.  I like Starbuck's Decaf Sumatra because it is very strong and earthy and doesn't contain caffeine.  Maggie likes Gevalia beans purchased in a grocery store because they are not as strong yet still flavorful.

Whatever beans you chose make sure they are fresh and have been kept in an air-tight container.  Exposure to air, moisture, heat, and light tend to make coffee beans become stale.

2. Manual Coffee Grinder

Grinding the beans just prior to brewing the coffee is one of the most important ingredients in making flavorful coffee.  

Porlex JP-30 Coffee Grinder

The most practical way we have found to grind coffee beans on a sailboat is with a high-quality hand grinder, like the Porlex JP-30 (available on Amazon).  The JP-30 coffee grinder is adjustable for the fineness of the grind--use a fine/medium grind (like the consistency of table salt) for cone-shaped filters .  For use with a French press, a courser grind is recommended.

It takes only minutes and very little effort to hand grind coffee beans.  We use about 1 tablespoon of ground coffee per cup--it takes about 1-1/2 tablespoons of coffee beans to make 1 tablespoon of ground coffee.

The Porlex JP-30 is constructed from stainless steel and has ceramic blades that do the
actual grinding.  With the handle removed, it stores neatly in a very small space.

3. High-quality Water for Brewing

The water in our tanks always has an unusual taste and smell, even though we treat the water and have a charcoal filter in the fresh water system.  This unusual taste and smell will affect the flavor of your coffee.  We have been using (gallon-size) bottled fresh water from a grocery store for drinking purposes and for making coffee--it really makes a difference!

Using high-quality water makes a big difference in the flavor of the coffee!

4. Coffee Filtering Device

The two methods of making coffee that (we believe) result in the most flavor is the French press and the drip method.  Both methods use filters to separate the grounds from the liquid coffee.  In the case of the French press, the filter is usually courser than a paper filter and a small amount of grounds usually find their way into your cup.  Some people prefer the stronger flavor from a French press.

We like to use the drip method with (un-bleached for environmental reasons) cone-shaped paper filters in a ceramic drip cone.  The ceramic drip cone (containing the paper filter) can be used on top of a mug (for a single cup of coffee) on on top of a carafe (for multiple cups of coffee).  Drip cones are also available in plastic for those who are concerned about breakage underway (but these stain over time).

We use this ceramic drip cone that we purchased at Starbucks--it is now available
at Amazon as well.  Originally, we bought #4 paper filters and, even though a little
too big, they actually work better than the #2 filters for which it is designed. 

5. Insulated Coffee Carafe

Even though I drink only one cup of coffee per day, there is some value in the additional brewing that takes place in a good coffee carafe that doesn't reheat the coffee. (Reheating coffee will simply burn it and give it a bitter taste.)

Maggie makes several cups of her coffee and keeps them in this 34-ounce
Thermos carafe--her coffee stays hot all morning.  We heat enough hot
water in the morning for the day's coffee needs.


We used our stainless steel coffee grinder and our ceramic drip cone throughout our recent month-long sailing trip and ever since with great results.  We purchased the 34-ounce Thermos coffee carafe (from Amazon) since our month-long sailing trip.  We are always interested in improving the flavor of our coffee--we'd like to hear about your tips on making great coffee on a sailboat!

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