Wake up and smell the coffee

The magic brew that we kick-start our day with comes in many forms. Suvasini Sridharan lists all the different coffee makers you can buy to get that caffeine kick at home

January 24, 2014 06:09 pm | Updated May 13, 2016 12:08 pm IST - chennai

A stove-top percolator

A stove-top percolator

Growing up in Chennai, coffee was and is synonymous with filter coffee - instant coffee was sacrilegious and cappuccinos and iced coffees exotic treats. But, now with the Café Coffee Days, Baristas and quaint little coffee shops dotting the city, ‘meeting for coffee’ has become the standard phrase to cover everything from catching up with friends to going on a first date. Frappuccino, mocha latte, hazelnut cappuccino have all become part of our coffee vocabulary and we find everything from a French Press to a stovetop percolator in stores.

We all have our preferred way of drinking coffee and the order can get complicated. One of the best orders I have ever heard is from Dr. Niles Crane, ‘Double de-caf, non-fat latte, medium foam, dusted with just the faintest whisper of cinnamon’, in one of the funniest TV shows ever made, Frasier . But for those who like the taste of their coffee undiluted with milk and sugar, Italian espresso would be the brew of choice - the small, concentrated shot is the pure taste of coffee and can be had at any time of day.

There's a slew of coffee makers in stores and online, and at a range of prices. The Espresso and specialty coffee machines are a bit heavy on the pocket. Philips' manual and automatic espresso machines retail from Rs. 13,995 to Rs. 54,995-Rs. 74,995, respectively. DeLonghi is another popular brand with coffee machines retailing from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 80,990. The higher-end models even come with built-in grinders so that you can use coffee beans to make the freshest coffee.

The Kenwood ES021 comes in a lovely maroon colour and is priced at Rs. 14,000 upwards. All these machines come with steamers to create froth on top of the milk, which can be added to your espresso to create a cappuccino. Push a few buttons and in less than a minute you will be drinking a mug of perfect made-to-order coffee.

Drip filter machines are lower in price and you can make many cups of coffee at one go. You place ground coffee on the filter (this may be plastic or stainless steel) and fill water in the reservoir above. Turn it on and black coffee collects in the pot below. The Philips machine of this type is priced at Rs. 1,995 upwards, Black and Decker has one priced at Rs. 2,295 and the Usha coffee maker retails at Rs. 3,995. You even have drip filter coffee makers that come with steamers to make cappuccinos or lattes.

The Morphy Richards Europa Espresso / Cappuccino maker is priced at Rs. 4,495, while the Reconnect coffee maker by Reliance is priced at Rs. 2,290.

The stovetop coffee maker, otherwise known as a Moka pot, is easy on the pocket and gives you a strong decoction as well. The Moka pot consists of three chambers, a bottom chamber where water is poured, a filter in the middle where coffee powder is placed and a top chamber. You place the Moka pot on the stove and the steam from the bottom chamber pushes the filtered coffee to the top chamber to give you a brew similar to that of an espresso. Café Coffee Day and Currimbhoys sell stovetop coffee makers priced from Rs. 400 upwards.

Another coffee maker that’s inexpensive and easy to use is the French Press. The first time I had coffee from a French Press was at a quaint bed-and-breakfast in Pondicherry. The dark, rich and aromatic coffee was exceptional. The French Press consists of a tall glass cylinder with a spout, a plunger and a filter. One uses coarsely ground coffee powder, which is placed at the bottom of the cylinder and then hot water added. Allow the mixture to sit for a while and when the brew is right, push the plunger down slowly. This causes the filter to push the coffee grounds to the bottom leaving fresh coffee on top. The French Press is priced at Rs. 400 onwards and can be found in department stores across the country. For choices in colours you can check out the e-store at www.thecoffeecoach.in. For a stylish French Press, Debenhams has one with stainless steel detail for Rs. 2,995.

Last, but not the least, we have the Indian coffee filter. I learnt how to make filter coffee from the best coffee maker in the world, my grandfather. And when my first job took me to a new city, my flatmate and I became the best of friends over shared attempts at making filter coffee. We felt rather grown up as we drank the brew while reading the newspaper before heading to work. This has got to be my favourite type of coffee. Here, the coffee powder is packed in the top, sieved section of the stainless steel (or brass) filter and hot water poured through. The filtered decoction collects in the bottom compartment. Add milk and sugar to taste, pour it into a steel tumbler and swig it between the dabara and tumbler till you get a nice froth on top. Enjoy!

As important as the machine is the right coffee powder. Most Indian homes have their favourite coffee seeds that they swear by, with brands such as Cotha, Coorg, Narasu’s and Leo having a large fan following. Some households add chicory to their beans, to offset the bitter taste of coffee and give more body and taste to it. Chicory is also getting popular since it is cheaper and makes the coffee powder more economical. Coffee shops like Café Coffee Day and Barista Lavazza sell everything from coffee machines to coffee beans (or grounds), and there are also smaller companies that source coffee beans from specific estates, roast, package and sell them. One such company is Blue Tokai ( >www.bluetokaicoffee.com ). Another place for specially blended coffee powders is Marc’s Coffee in Auroville ( >www.marcscoffee.in ), which is a café in Auroville but they also roast and sell coffee sourced from local growers.

Whichever way you make it and however you like it, coffee is an integral part of the day for most of us. So sit back, put your feet up, take a few moments out of your busy day, and relax with a nice mug of perfect coffee.

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