After nineteen days abroad—traversing lumpy green landscapes in Ireland & dramatic, often surreal, combinations of land & sea in Norway—I have returned home to Ohio. Counter to all of the glamor & excitement of exploring new places, I have always found the act of coming home to be one of the most satisfying stages of travel. It is a return to normalcy, to daily rituals & loved ones, and to the life you lead in pursuit of happiness.
That pursuit is pretty well tied to coffee in our household, if you couldn't tell. And some of the less glamorous elements of life on the road involve instant coffee, airport coffee, stale coffee... you get the picture. More than the quality of the joe I drink at home, though, I missed the routine. I missed my everyday coffee date.
So we planned one. If you'd like to play along, here's what you'll need:
- Good, whole bean coffee. (Be sure to store coffee in a way that will preserve freshness. We like mason jars. Never ever refrigerate.)
- A 7 g/0.25 oz coffee scoop.
- A coffee grinder. (Bonus points for manual and/or adjustable for fine to coarse grinds.)
- A kettle & French press.
In truth, coffee is and should be a very simple process. No electricity or priority given to convenience. It's all about that heavenly, full-bodied cup of joe enjoyed in good company at the end of a beloved, if lengthy, process.
Usually, when I drag myself out of bed I will just have been dreaming of pre-ground coffee to wake up to. But the extra prep time in the morning is worth it for the freshness & flavor you get out of it, and I certainly didn't mind the process after missing it for the previous three weeks.
The French press method of brewing calls for an even, coarse grind. The best ratio of coffee to water is—in the end—whatever tastes best to you, but a good rule of thumb is to do about 1 tablespoon-sized scoop of coffee for every 1/2 cup of water. I usually eyeball it.
You'll want the water to be about 200 degrees F, or 20 seconds off the boil. If it is hotter than that, you can burn your coffee. We use a thermometer, but it's not necessary. After all, this is a post about our process, not an advocation for dropping a paycheck at a specialty kitchen shop. Set a timer for 4 minutes, give it a good stir with a wooden spoon, and slowly press the plunger down when the time is up. Simple, intentional, and effective.
The beauty of this homecoming French press is that it could be enjoyed even more slowly than it was prepared. I told some travel stories—like the time we found our address-less lodging in Norway's countryside via GPS coordinates displaying latitude and longitude, and when a particularly mischievous pigeon in Dublin decided to relieve itself on my head & shoulder. All of this over several cups of Kapsokisio, a very special coffee from Kenya that's roasted at Tim Wendelboe, a coffee shop in Oslo which I failed to track down but whose coffee I successfully found 500 km away in Bergen.
As it was, other less pressing "daily" topics quickly found their way into the conversation. A very normal, casual ritual at home lends itself to very normal, casual outcomes. And that is exactly what I crave most whenever I come home, be it from abroad, another state, or a couple towns over. Ordinary life can be quite extraordinary when you are taken out of it for awhile.
It is one of the great and beautiful paradoxes of travel: by immersing yourself in a new place & appreciating a way of life different from your own, you almost always come away with a heightened sense of gratitude for what you do have, day after day, cup of coffee upon cup of coffee.