Injection Molded Coffee
A few of my readers have commented that chapter additions have been few and far between around here. Thanks for noticing! It is mainly due to nothing very noteworthy has been happening in my world of coffee. I have posted a review or two, have picked up a few inexpensive percolators at thrift stores for display purposes, and there were some Silvia additions in the right-hand column, but other than that is has pretty much been the same old.
That all came to mind when I was walking through Trader Joe's yesterday, I was passing their sample counter when I noticed that they had a coffee airpot labeled, "Double Dark," and I think it was a Mexican bean from the glance I gave the can. I thought, "It has been a while since I subjected myself to anyone else's coffee, and it has been even longer since I wrote a chapter, so why not?"
I was in a bit of a haze. It was late in the afternoon and we had been shopping for a few hours already including a stop at Costco, and a short "relief" walk with the dogs in the rain. We had also stopped for lunch, and frankly, a post-lunch nap in the sun would have been nice. I removed the top paper cup from the upside-down stack, I poured a bit of cream into the cup (mistakenly thinking it was the coffee dispenser) and then, once I figured out that coffee is not pure white and that the airpot was the location of the coffee, and once I figured out how to work the airpot (I told you, it had been a long day), I pumped a bit of coffee into the cup.
As is the habit of any serious coffee drinker, I placed my nose as close as a mustache allows and took a sniff. Not only is aroma a huge part of the taste of coffee, taking a sniff like that can help avoid a lot of unpleasant tasting experiences. The cream masked most of the aroma since it was a small sample of coffee, so I discarded that cup and took a second, dispensed just coffee into it, and I took a long, deep, olfactory sample of the aroma. I stopped about half way through and picked my head up in puzzlement. I have no formal training in cupping or sampling of coffee in any way, so I tried again with the same results. My wife was there by my side, so I said, "Smell this," and handed her the cup.
She did and said, "It smells burnt."
I said, "Try again." She looked up at me questioningly, and so I said, "It smells like plastic." She sniffed again, made a face, and agreed. "Could it be the cup?" she asked.
"No. It's not a paper of even a waxy smell. Definitely plastic." This coffee had the unmistakable aroma of hot, nearly burnt plastic like you get when a computer fan is failing and overheating. I dropped the cup into the trash receptacle placed there for my convenience and walked away without taking a single sip. There are just some taste memories I now try to avoid (you may remember my experience with Krispy Kreme coffee).
We were alone at the sample table through that experiment, but as our shopping was winding down, the TJ employee who mans the table was present and so I said to my wife, "She's back," as I subtly indicated the sample table. "I am going over there and have some fun."
"Uh, oh, here we go!" she replied.
I waited patiently for her attention and said, "Hello. How was that coffee made?"
She replied that it was made in a very large brewer (standing next to the dispensing airpot was a stainless steel percolator that looked like it held about three gallons- a guess.) . She stated that it was made earlier that morning, and that the coffee had been in the airpot for about an hour. I mentioned that the reason for my asking was that the coffee had the distinctive aroma of plastic in it.
She detailed the materials in the vessels- all stainless steel percolator and glass-lined vac pot, and then took a sample for herself and gave it a whiff, afterwards stating that she did not sense the aroma that I had experienced, adding that her sense of smell was probably not as sophisticated as mine (all things are relative I suppose). So I asked, "So, where is that smell from?"
During all this there was another customer standing there who had just dispensed a sample for herself. She smelled the coffee and I said, "You have creme in it, and that masks the smell quite a bit. I then asked the employee, "If it's not from the brewing and not from the airpot, where is the smell from?"
The customer standing next to me with the sample cup of coffee in her had asked, "Yes. Where IS it from?"
I walked back over to where my wife was completing our shopping, noticing that we were just about done- when the shopping cart is full, you're done. We had already made two stops previous, and being that we were in the Volvo 240 wagon and had two, adult German Shepherds in there already, there really wasn't much room for more than a cart-full of groceries remaining.
So, where did the smell come from? The best guess is that it came from the airpot since that was the only plastic present in the brewing and dispensing path. If that was not the source of the aroma, maybe some delightful child was visiting the roastery and dropped a handful of plastic army men into the Probat. Anyone for an injection molded cappuccino?