The View from Halcyon Farm: Coffee Talk

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    Here at Halcyon Farm, we’ve become slightly addicted to our Skinny Vanilla Lattes with extra skim and two Equals®. It’s sad really.starbucks

    Since the closest Starbucks is about four miles from the farm, we have to make a special trip to get it, and it’s not a three-a-day habit. Yet.

    At home, there are some great ways to make coffee other than the standard electric coffee-makers. One of these is the new-again pour-over coffees that were in fashion in the 1970s with the Chemex coffee makers.


    As the name indicates, their origin was in a chemistry lab, and the glass used for the Chemex is made to laboratory standards. The signature wooden holder and leather and bead tie indicates that it’s a real Chemex, and also serves to insulate your hands against the heat of the coffee. A coffee filter is placed in the top half of the carafe, coffee is added and the boiling water is slowly poured over it, wetting the coffee grounds first.

    If you’ve traveled to Italy, you might be familiar with the Bialetti stove-top espresso maker, also known as a moka express. Nearly every Italian home has one of these in their kitchen.


    Some people have concerns about using one of these stove-top espresso makers for fear that they may explode, but it’s not a worry if you do it right, or only mostly right! This little pot was invented in 1933 in Italy, and is still popular today. You add water to the reservoir at the bottom, fill the filter with coffee, screw everything together tightly, place on the stove top and wait for the coffee to begin to perk. The water is forced up through the grounds and into the top. The coffee is strong – espresso strength, so it’s good to tone it down with some frothed hot milk.

    Our European friends have also brought us the French Press or cafetière or press pot.

    French Press

    The French Press is another classic way to enjoy coffee, but since the filter isn’t as fine as either the Bialetti or the Chemex, the resulting coffee can look a little muddy. For the French press, you need to boil the water in a teapot, add coffee to the bottom of the glass container, pour the water over it, and then add the plunger, wait a few minutes and then push it down.

    French Press2

    Many people are familiar with the one-cup French Presses you see at restaurants, and they’re a great thing to have at home, especially if you only want one cup of coffee.

    Those of us of a certain age might remember the old stove-top drip coffee makers. They’re pretty much the reverse of the Moka pot. It’s a three-part pot with a reservoir, filter and pot, except the water starts at the top.

    drip coffee

    The water is boiled, the coffee is added to the filter in the middle and then water drips over the coffee and ends up in the pot at the bottom. You can take the reservoir and filter off, put the lid on and then serve the coffee.

    Finally, there’s the stovetop percolator, which uses the heat to percolate the water up through the coffee and then back down in the pot. Completely simple.


    When the power goes out during a snowstorm, and your driveway is blocked by a huge tree, you’ll be glad that you have one of these coffee-makers, because your Keurig isn’t going to be any use at all.


    Meg Fielding

    Meg Fielding writes the local interior design and lifestyle blog Pigtown Design. She enjoys dual citizenship with the US and the UK.

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