Travel Mugs for Gourmet Coffee

Coffee accessories: getting (or giving) the right travel mug

There are many coffee accessories that you can get, that will enhance your gourmet coffee experience.

Having an insulated carafe, or special expresso cup, or a good book about coffee through the world, and travel mugs can add an extra feeling of contentment and pleasure as you pourt that cup of coffee with fresh brew.

I suggest getting started with buying a good travel mug for yourself. This is also a great gift for the coffee lover on your gift list. There are other coffee accessory items, and I’ll talk more about those elsewhere on Coffee Daydreams.

Coffee Travel Mugs

Without a doubt, the best way to enjoy coffee is at home, in a comfortable chair. If you’re fortunate enough to have a friend or family member to talk with, all the better but just the coffee itself without anyone else around can be marvelous.

But if you’re like me, you may get to enjoy a cup of coffee at home in the morning, but then you’re off for the day in your car. Or you are going to leave your office for a trip to your next appointment. Or you enjoy drinking coffee at your desk but a mug is a no-no because you have to be sure never to spill your hot beverage on your computer, and the stacks of paper on your desk.

This is where having the right travel mug really helps. A spill resistant mug lets you enjoy your coffee more when you are in your car, or office…or even if you’re carrying a cup as you walk your morning route around the block.

You can choose from many different travel mugs, with a lot of options. There are even some that keep coffee warmer by plugging into your car or your USB port on your computer. They can be fun to try but for me I prefer to drink my coffee quickly enough that an insulated mug will work just fine.

A travel mug avoids disposable waste

Besides helping you to enjoy your coffee more when you’re away from the kitchen, a travel mug also gives you the pleasure of knowing that you are reducing disposable waste.

By bringing your travel mug with you when you get coffee at a coffee house or (in a pinch) the convenience store, you avoid the need to take and then throw away a new paper or plastic cup each time. That can save a lot of trash that protect our environment.  Of course, some travel mugs are more “green” than others so if this is an important side benefit for you be sure to consider the difference between plastic, steel and glass or ceramic travel mugs.

Single Cup Coffee Brewers

If you like the idea of fresh coffee, made easily and quickly on demand, you need to enter the new world of K-Cup Coffee, Pod Coffee and Disc Coffee.

These are different versions of “one-cup” coffee makers and they all use slightly different coffee containers to brew the coffee. So, you have to buy the containers of ground coffee that fit your particular brand of single-serve coffee maker. If you buy a machine designed for use with K Cups, you can’t use Pods, and vice versa.

We like the single cup coffee brewer. Advantages include that you get a fresh cup of coffee, brewed one at a time, and it is consistently good. There is no mess, no coffee grounds to spill…no bother.

There are a few disadvantages. You can only brew ground coffee that comes in the pre-sealed containers (“pods”). You don’t get to buy your favorite coffees from the store to try a new new blend of beans. So, when looking at the machines also look at the machine manufacturer’s available coffees. Their selection is what you get. You can also look around for some new products available to grind your own coffee and place into compatible containers that will work with the coffee makers.

A very popular combination seems to be using K-Cups with Keurig brewers  The machines and the ground coffees are available at Green Mountain Coffee.

You should consider carefully before you buy a particular single cup coffee brewer. To give you more information, we have written a full article talking only about single cup coffee brewers.

About the “best coffee makers”…

When everything is said, the best coffee brewer is the one that makes coffee you enjoy drinking yourself and serving to your family and friends. Everyone’s taste and preferences are different, so your decision should be based on what you like, not what the experts say.

Keurig B30 K-Cup Brewer

This mini brewer from Keurig is the ultimate in no mess, no fuss, single serve gourmet coffee makers. It is the least expensive K-Cup brewer, that you can plug in anywhere to brew a full cup of great coffee. Small enough for your home office, RV, boat, vacation home, or dorm room, this brewer is a great gift idea or treat for yourself.

Press Pots Make Great Coffee

Starbucks cofounder Jerry Baldwin extols the virtues of the French press, or press pots, over drip coffee machines, at this blog entry at Coffee Culture. Jerry Baldwin was a co-founder of Starbucks as the first roaster and coffee buyer. He sold his interest in the company in 1987, when Starbucks had eight stores.

The Press Pot Makes Coffee  “Worth the Effort”

The class press pot or french press is simple: a glass or metal cylinder, with a metal screen filter, and a lid. To make the coffee, first you preheat the cylinder with hot water (preferably from the kettle). Measure the ground coffee as two tablespoons for each six fluid ounces of water. Then you pour in hot water, just off boil. The brewing process leaves some will allow some sediment in your coffee cup, but it gives tremendously rich taste.

If you like perfectly clear coffee with no sediment, you may not like press pot coffee. Press pot coffee is steeps for 3-4 minutes at a high temperature just below boiling. As a result, you get a thicker brew and richer taste than from an auto-drip machine. Some people may avoid press pot coffee because of the sediment, but others feel that the rich taste more than makes up for any coffee grounds in you cup.

When Baldwin describes it, the press pot brewing process comes alive. After he adds the hot water ot the coffee, he says, “Fresh coffee will bloom with bubbles of gas. I pick up the pot and swirl it to get the grounds thoroughly saturated with water, but one could also stir. When the gas has dissipated or three minutes has elapsed, I pour in the rest of the water, swirl or stir, then insert the metal filter apparatus, and plunge. The screen separates the grounds, and I pour into a preheated mug after a brewing time of about three and a half minutes.”

Baldwin makes the point that the press pot is great to make several cups for early morning coffee, instead of the single cup available through espresso or single cup brewers. He also likes the metal filter instead of paper, but stresses that it must be kept clean for pure coffee flavor. Also, darker roasts work particularly well with the press pot, and pay attention to getting the grind right, because the longer brewing time lends itself to a courser grind (and will reduce the sediment in your cup).

Looking for the Right Press Pot

When you look for a press pot, look for higher quality. The most popular brand is Bodum. Expect thicker glass, and better engineered handle and knob. You may even want to consider unbreakable stainless steel models, although I wouldn’t recommend the plastic since there is always the concern about the plastic acquiring flavors and more difficult to clean thoroughly.

Price is another benefit of the press pot. You can get this classic Chambord Coffee Press from Bodum, with the right form and function, and an unbeatable value. It looks great at the dinner table as a treat for yourself or your guests. And, I recommend this for your office for a great cup of coffee, is you have access to boiling water.

Organic Fair Trade Coffee – worth knowing the details

Organic fair trade coffee refers to coffee that meets both parts of this tests: it is grown organically, by a farmer who receives a fair price for his or her efforts.

When coffee is organic, it is grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers. That is fairly straightforward and means the coffee you drink has not been treated by strong and harmful chemicals in the field. It also means that the coffee farmers have not had dealt with these dangerous  chemicals, and in so doing the fragile mountain environment and water supplies are more protected

Fair Trade Coffee and Social Conscience

Considering the question of fair trade coffee is a somewhat more complex.

Very simply, “fair trade” is ensuring that farmers are paid a fair price for their labor. There are two compelling reasons why fair trade is so important to embrace for sales of organic coffee.

First, coffee is the most traded commodity on the planet, other than oil. The price of coffee depends more upon the trading centers and Wall Street, than upon what the coffee farmers themselves charge and receive for their harvest. An increase is coffee prices reflects what Wall Street traders think the price should be, and the farmers themselves have very little control over the price they can charge, to cover their costs and make enough profit to improve their life.

For example, the price of coffee may stay the same or even increase. All the same time, the farmers may be paid less and less for their coffee beans, as it has been for the recent years.

Secondly, a small increase in what these farmers receive can tremendously improve their quality of life. Coffee grows only in the tropical climates, which cover mostly developing countries in parts of South America, Africa, Indonesia and a few other regions.  Moreover, small farmers grow about 60% of the world’s coffee, and many of them are not paid enough to cover their costs.

Keeping the price paid to small coffee farmers low is actually a disadvantage to us, the coffee consumer. At some point, this cycle of poverty and desperation will drag down the coffee production, or move it to large corporations. Either way, coffee prices would rise dramatically, as smaller farmers lose their livelihood.

Here is where Fair Trade helps

If you are like me, you pay attention to the Fair Trade certified labels on coffee. An importer can only use that label if it meets the strict international standards.

For example, the importer must pay a minimum price per pound of $1.26 and provide much needed credit to farmers. If the coffee is grown organically, then the minimum amount paid increases to $1.41. This is current as of March 2009.

The importer also is required to provide technical assistance, such as help transitioning farmers to sustainable farming practices.

Since the United States consumes nearly 20% of the world’s coffee, we have a large role to play in ensuring that small coffee farmers receive a fair return on their efforts. When you buy “organic fair trade coffee” you help improve someone’s life, and also the ecosystem and economy of far away communities.

At Coffee Daydreams, we support buying organic fair trade coffee. Not only are you assured that the coffee has never been grown using harsh chemicals, you are doing good with each cup of coffee you drink. That should give you an even better feeling as you enjoy the gourmet coffee beans that were grown and picked half way around the world by a coffee farmer who’s life is improved by every cup of coffee you drink.

Online Coffee Stores

Flavorbean Coffee offers certified Organic Free Trade coffee beans roasted without petroleum chemicals, and infused with natural flavors to keep your coffee all natural. You can savor the pure, unadulterated flavors of toasted Hazelnut, creamy French Vanilla, and many more — without the chemical solvents found in all other flavored coffees. Flavorbean is a robust, natural coffee experience!

Boca Java has a great selection of beans, blends and flavors. They roast to order in small batches. That means your coffee is as fresh as possible. Each bag has a certificate showing when the coffee was “born”.

CoffeeForLess.com offers a wide selection of coffees at a very good prices. They ship throughout the US and Canada.

Community Coffee is a traditional coffee house based in Louisiana

For a great gift idea, consider joining a coffee club

A number of online coffee stores offer discounts and other benefits if you place a regular monthly order.

Green Mountain Coffee offers a free gift when you sign up for their Cafe Express coffee club, and you get free shipping when you order 4 or more K-Cup boxes.

Another popular club is the Gevalia Kaffe Coffee Club from Gevalia.

For something that has traditional southern flavor straight from the old French country in Louisiana, you should look into the Coffee Club offered by Community Coffee. Members get periodic discounts, gifts and exclusive privileges, with no membership fees. There is a free gift upon joining.

Save on shipping costs

Watch your shipping costs when buying online. A good price on a pound of coffee is only worthwhile after you factor in the cost to ship it.

Some stores offer reduced or even free shipping based on quantities ordered. So watch for those offers. Buying more than one pound at a time might save you a lot on shipping. For example, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters offers free shipping when you order 4 or more boxes of K-Cups.

Making flavored coffee – should you use flavored beans? Or syrup?

Flavored coffee is made two ways.

First, you can buy flavored whole coffee beans.  With the flavor actually infused into the beans, you just pick the flavored beans, grind and brew as normal.

Flavored beans are available nearly everywhere, in nearly every flavor imaginable. There are the traditional flavored beans like hazelnut, vanilla, cinnamon and almond…plus the more exotic apple, banana, rasberry, chocolate cherry, and much more. If flavored beans are your thing, you have a lot of choices and you will only know if you like a particular flavor if you try it.

For organic coffee that is naturally flavored without petroleum based chemicals, try Flavorbean Coffee

Another site with an excellent selection of flavored coffee, you can try Green Mountain Coffee [link].

Another option: flavored syrups

Your other option for drinking flavored coffee is to add flavored syrup to your brewed coffee. That way you don’t have to worry about storing several types of flavored coffee beans or getting tired of trying to finish up a particular flavor so you can buy something else. Your can store several types of syrups and use them ocassionally. By comparison, it takes a lot of storage to keep on hand a large inventory of a variety of flavored beans..

With syrups, you can use your regular coffee beans, and then you can add from a choice of the flavors you have on hand…or not even flavor the coffee at all.

How to Make Good Coffee

Making good coffee is really pretty simple. Even a beginner can make coffee that tastes good, and I’ll tell you just how to do that, on this page.

Making “great” coffee that you will savor every drop is more complicated. Here are some important tips to know if you want to enjoy your coffee even more.

(If you want to enjoy the aroma and taste of great coffee, the quickest and easiest way, you can always use a single-serve coffee maker, like one of theKeurig one-cup brewers from Green Mountain Coffee. This type of one-cup brewer is perfect for anyone who doesn’t have the time or energy for the grinding and brewing process itself. You can use this link to get free shipping on Keurig brewers through December 2009.

For anyone who is just starting out and is a real beginner at making coffee, this site is a great place to start.

First, buy good coffee beans

The most important step to great coffee is to first, choose good beans and keep them fresh.

Buying “good” beans means buying quality beans from a reputable supplier. Everyone’s tastes and preferences differ, so the type of beans you buy will be different than someone else. After you have been drinking coffee for a while, you will decide your own tastes and preferences. You will start noticing the difference in how the coffee tastes when beans are not roasted properly or have not been stored correctly.

Only buy beans in airtight packaging

Buy your coffee beans in an airtight bag. Period. If you want really good coffee, don’t buy beans from self-serve bins. They are not airtight and so will never be as fresh as beans in an airtight bag. You should also look for bags which have a small, one-way valve to let out expanding gases while preserving freshness.

The problem is that exposure to air makes the coffee beans lose their true flavors. So, quality coffee suppliers put the beans in bags with one-way valves. The reason for the valve is because when beans come out of the roaster they continue to let off gases. Putting freshly roasted beans into a bag and sealing it would let the gases build up in the bag and it would tear or explode. The bags with one-way valves allow the gases to escape from  inside the bag, but don’t allow any air back into the bag. That way, the roaster can put beans into sealed bags as soon as possible after they have cooled down from being roasted.

Immediately place beans into an airtight container after opening them. Keep the beans away from air until just before you grind them

After you open your sealed bag of coffee beans, take a brief moment to savor the aroma. Then remember that you are letting the flavors dissipate into the air and immediately place your beans into an airtight container…quickly!

Then, only remove and grind the beans you will be using right away. Its tempting to grind enough beans to last for a few days. You might save some time but what you gain in convenience you will lose in flavor. The only way to consistently brew a great cup of coffee, is to keep the beans away from the air until you want to use them. It is tempting to grind enough coffee for a few days. But if you do, the ground coffee will lose some of its flavor.

Grind your beans for the correct coarseness based on the kind of coffee maker you are using

To properly grind your coffee beans, you should buy a coffee grinder that allows you to vary the coarseness of the coffee grinds. You will want to adjust the grind to suit the particular coffee brewer you are using.

Coarsely Ground: This coffee grind is fairly large, suitable for French Presses and percolators.

Medium Ground: An all-purpose grind, suitable for most drip type brewers.

Fine Ground: This is the grind you would want for espresso.

Use good tasting water

Good water is a must for memorable coffee taste. Coffee is 98% water, so bad water can ruin your coffee taste. Why learn how to make coffee, and then investing in good beans and a coffee maker, when you spoil the final taste with poor water?

Good quality tap work is fine. Filtering before brewing can improve some tap water. But bottled water may be necessary if you have truly terrible tasting water. If you’re not sure, try filtered or bottled water sometime to see if you can tell a difference.

Brew your coffee for the correct length of time

The best time for brewing coffee can differ. Unfortunately, you can’t always control this because drip brewers won’t let you adjust the brewing time. But if you are using a French Press, brew for somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes.

Watch the water temperature

Again, most machines set the water temperature for you, so you hope that they are right. If you use a French Press, you’ll boil the water yourself and then it cool for a minute or two. Don’t use boiling water. For the best tasting coffee, the water temperature should be just a little below boiling point.

There is plenty more to learn about making a tasty cup of coffee. But if you get these fundamentals right, you will notice the difference. Brewing a great cup of coffee means paying attention to the details, and having the right ingredients, equipment and knowledge.

How to find the best coffee makers, and how to decide among the variety of choices

Here is how to decide which coffee maker to buy, when you are trying to decide how much to spend and which features are important. Keep in mind this: the best coffee makers are not always the most sophisticated or expensive.

Keurig B30 K-Cup Brewer

This mini brewer from Keurig is the ultimate in no mess, no fuss, single serve gourmet coffee makers. It is the least expensive K-Cup brewer, that you can plug in anywhere to brew a full cup of great coffee. Small enough for your home office, RV, boat, vacation home, or dorm room, this brewer is a great gift idea or treat for yourself.

Read more about Keurig B30 Mini Brewers.

In fact, the simplest coffee makers can make wonderful coffee – like a French press or a $10 manual drip coffee cone.

Let’s look at some of the best coffee makers available, and some to avoid.

The French Press

A French press is basically a glass jar that contains a plunger with a mesh filter on it, and it has a lid. You add coffee grounds to the empty jar, pour in hot water, place the lid on and after three or four minutes press down the plunger.  The plunger pushes all of the grounds to the bottom and you can pour out a wonderful, tasty cup of coffee.

If you have never tried a French Press, you should. It is one of the best ways to make coffee

How does a coffee filter work?

Coffee filters affect the flavor of your coffee more than you might realize.

Most coffee drinkers in the United States prefer filtered coffee. But how many people do you know, who spend a lot of time choosing the best gourmet coffee, grind it to perfection, and then brew their coffee in whatever paper coffee filter was on sale at the grocery store?

I have a batch of disposable paper, Melitta filters in my cupboard and go through them one at a time. I wondered how the coffee filters work, and more about why we use them.

History of Paper Coffee Filters

I never knew that the Melitta name started from coffee filters. Melitta Bentz was a German housewife trying to make better coffee. She created the first paper coffee filter in July 8, 1908, seeking to make her coffee less bitter than coffee brewed by boiling loose grounds or by brewed with linen as was typical at that time. She also wanted a filter that could remove the grounds, resulting in a more enjoyable cup of coffee. She tried various papers and finally found that her son’s blotter paper used for school worked best.

How Paper Filters Work

Coffee filters of paper are made from thin crêped paper, which allows the coffee to flow freely between the filter and the filtration funnel. The filter uses coarse, long wood fibers, usually from fast growing trees. You can buy them bleached or unbleached.

Making a coffee filter requires the right strength, so that it does not tear when soaking wet. It must also resist heat and chemicals that would break down the fibers, causing it to lose strength or to flavor the coffee. The filter also must allow the brewed coffee through at a consistent rate, while removing particles of even a very small size.

Besides filtering out the coffee grounds, the paper coffee filter also filters oils and chemicals from the coffee to keep the brew from being so bitter. However, some people feel that the paper filter removes too much of the flavor, and so would prefer a perforated, permanent metal coffee filter.

Chemicals in Paper Coffee Filters

The bleach and other chemicals used to produce paper coffee filters are a concern for many. You can buy unbleached coffee filters, but since about two-thirds of consumers prefer the appearance of the white coffee filters, filter manufacturers have developed safer bleaching techniques that do not require bleach.

Paper Filters and Cholesterol Benefits

There have been studies showing that drinking unfiltered coffee increases cholesterol levels. Because paper filters do a better job of removing more of the coffee oils in the filtering process than metal filters, many people who would otherwise prefer a permanent metal filter return to the paper coffee filter for this reason alone.

Using A Permanent Coffee Filter such as Gold Tone

One alternative to paper coffee filters would be a permanent filter. They come in various styles, and are easy to clean in a dishwasher. I’d suggest going with the gold plated or gold toned filters, instead of plain nylon or stainless steel, for reasons of taste.

Help and advice on how to make great coffee, choose from the best coffee makers, and explore gourmet coffee beans

Can you think back to the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had? Actually, most people have several favorite coffees. That’s because the coffee you drink is the end result of many factors. You can make a special cup of coffee every time, and it is really pretty simple.

Keurig B30 K-Cup Brewer

This mini brewer from Keurig is the ultimate in no mess, no fuss, single serve gourmet coffee makers. It is the least expensive K-Cup brewer, that you can plug in anywhere to brew a full cup of great coffee. Small enough for your home office, RV, boat, vacation home, or dorm room, this brewer is a great gift idea or treat for yourself.

It all starts with the coffee beans, which are grown in dozens of areas around the world. Each of these coffees has unique aroma, taste and characters. You could try them all…but most people find coffees they like and then experiment occasionally for variety.

When you start from scratch you actually get to handle the beans that were picked from far away places. You get to start from scratch and are in control. This isn’t a processed beverage. In fact, you can even buy green beans and roast them yourself.

Next you grind the roasted beans. With many types of grinders to choose from, this is an important part of the process. You will find the ground texture you like best. A hand mill lets you actually feel the beans being ground as you turn the handle, giving you the most control.

Then you use the ground coffee to brew your own, fresh cup of coffee. Here there are a myriad of techniques and coffee makers. You can pour hot water through a five-dollar filter cone placed over your cup, or you can buy a high tech coffee maker for hundreds of dollars. It’s your choice. Your coffee can taste just as good with the five-dollar cone. So if you can’t afford the expensive coffee maker, that’s okay. The extra investment is to buy more convenience, not a better cup of coffee. For many people starting with a coffee maker under $100 is a good investment.

So satisfy your coffee daydreams by exploring this site to discover what you need to know about the simple pleasures of making and enjoying gourmet coffee. It’s important to know that you can start with the basics and get a great cup of coffee…and you can spend a lifetime of learning about coffee and its nearly infinite variations.