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With Galley Guys Greg Nicoll, John Armstrong and Andy Adams

There is a moment, a special moment that boaters know, when the stillness is so perfect, and the sight of a breaking mist so fine it radiates as it fights the early morning sun to see which will rule the day. Ritual says that the first one up carefully fires up the kettle and waits ever so long for the whistle to blow – the come near signal. The whistle generates grunts and moans from mates hiding in bunks and berths as they search for just a few more minutes of sleep. Almost instantly, blankets and sheets and sleeping bags are pulled over heads to hide from the light, but the day has broken. All aboard know that it is really impossible to be quiet on a boat, but you try your best. Finally the coffee is ready and you gently climb the companionway to savour morning at its best.

Once on deck, you find a safe place to stow your mug and begin the painful task of bending those creaky bones, stretching tired muscles and squeezing the dampness out of your stiff joints. As soon as these formalities are done, you choose a comfy spot in the cockpit that offers an amazing view of the world. Slowly you ease yourself onto the dew-covered seat and with a steaming mug of Java in your hand, it is now possible to survey the wonders of your kingdom. Everything seems possible.

Is this not the best cup of coffee ever?

"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be."*

The sounds carry from everywhere: ducks quacking in the distance, seagulls squawking over breakfast, the slap of someone’s flopping rigging that could have been better tied and soon, tiny ripples that start lapping against the hull. Not too long afterward, you are joined by a fellow crewmember following the same program and you acknowledge your space with a simple nod of the head. As more heads pop up with mugs in hand, the tranquility experienced by the first up fades, but the solemn beauty continues as talk of the sunrise and the day's activities begin.

With such a memorable start to the day, the pleasures of the morning can greatly improve even the most mundane cuppa Joe...but why risk it?

The Galley Guys love a good cup of coffee and wanted to share this pleasure with our friends so we sought to find out the secrets for brewing a great pot of coffee, either when at the dock or anchored in some hidden secret anchorage. More often than not, the results from our very unscientific survey revealed that the secret was many of our friends just love their French Press coffee makers.

You mean those glass jars with the plunger? Well, yes and no would be the right answer. The main reason for the French Press – or as it is most commonly referred to, a Bodum*, is that almost every liveaboard boat has a stovetop that can boil water.

Hot water, coffee, your Bodum and of course, love is all you need!**

What about the glass container under seafaring conditions? Glad you asked. Bodum also makes several French Press models in stainless steel. These hardy vessels for coffee are more than capable of surviving a rough crossing and many of the other rigours that sometimes come into play on boats. The Galley Guys favourite model is the Presso, a double-walled, stainless steel beauty capable of brewing 8 cups of fabulous coffee. The base of the Presso is flared out to offer a stable platform – very suitable for the galley.

Many of the Galley Guy adventures over the years have been concerned with the quality of the grape, but this time it is about the quality of the bean, Old Bean.

'Old Bean' is such as great expression, used more often in the day of our fathers so we took a moment to research it. An 'old bean' is a term of endearment used by men when addressing an old friend, emphasizing that you are pleased to see him. It is absolutely neutral, and if anything, a bit fuzzy warm.

Morning coffee, come to think of it, is very much like an old friend; I wonder if there is an 'old bean' connection here?

The secret to using a Bodum is coarse ground coffee. Fine grounds clog the filtering system and can cause less than optimal results. This is where the labour of love comes into play as most stores with pre-packaged coffee restrict your choices to regular or fine ground.

For a little more love, at specialty coffee shops and gourmet food stores, hearty wayfarers like the Galley Guys purchase our favourite blends and use the store’s grinder. Be warned though, the fresh coffee flavour and aroma start fading right away, so plan accordingly.

But hang on, old bean...what about buying new beans and roasting them yourself?

If the finest flavours are quickly diminished, it makes sense that the best coffee will be the freshest; so, green beans must be the way to go.

Thanks to the Internet, you can now find green coffee beans from all over the world: Central and South American coffees are often smoother and milder. Jamaican Blue Mountain beans are more expensive due to harvesting and transportation costs but are as delicious as Hawaiian Kona coffee beans. Some of the best selling green beans are the Ethiopian and Peruvian varieties.

Roasting at home is not that difficult using anything from an improvised device like an air popcorn maker to a $1,000 home roaster; by roasting beans yourself, you control the flavour of your coffee and appreciate how different roasts result in different cup flavours.

If you take the home-roasting step, you will discover that the first stage is Yellowing. Once in the roaster, for the first few minutes the beans remain greenish, then turn to a lighter yellow and give off a “grassy” smell. The beans start to steam as their internal water content dissipates.

Continuing, the steam becomes fragrant. Soon you will hear the "first crack," an audible cracking sound as the real roasting starts to occur. Here, sugars begin to caramelize, bound-up water escapes, the structure of the bean breaks down and oils migrate from their little pockets outward.

After that first crack, the roast can be considered complete, according to your taste. This is what is called a 'City' roast.

If you continue to roast, caramelization continues, oils migrate and the bean expands in size as the roast becomes dark. As the roast progresses, you reach a 'City +' roast. Continue and you are on the verge of a second crack that indicates a 'Full City' roast.

Once the second crack can be heard – often more volatile than the first – the roast character starts to eclipse the origin character of the beans at this point. A few pops into the second crack results in a 'Full City +' roast; a roast all the way through second crack is a Vienna roast. As the roast becomes very dark, the smoke is more pungent as sugars burn completely, and the bean structure breaks down more and more. This is a French roast.

Pass this point, the sugars burn completely and the roast will only make a thin-bodied cup of "charcoal water"; you will be very disappointed. Choose wisely; get your own roaster and leave your electric buzzer coffee grinder at home. Take your freshly roasted beans to the boat and get a hand crank “burr” grinder that crushes the beans. Besides the great natural flavour, the boater’s advantage from using a hand grinder and a Bodum is that no electricity is required except what it takes to bring fresh, cool water to a fast rolling boil. Add the appropriate number of scoops of freshly ground coffee to your Bodum (one rounded tablespoon for every four ounces of water). Pour the boiling water over the coffee grounds. Place the top on your Bodum and wait four minutes. (Or sing a short sea shanty under your breath so as not to wake your shipmates.) Then gently press down the plunger and pour the finest coffee that has ever come aboard!

Other than possibly the smell of frying bacon, the aroma of fresh coffee in the galley makes a morning wake-up call on board just lovely!

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time – it's easy.

"Hey! We’re starving here, old bean!"

Sorry! What about turning to our favourite book of cruising recipes to find something appropriate for breakfast?


RUM FRENCH TOAST
As your mug of best-ever coffee steams, lay out the following ingredients:
4 eggs
1 cup milk, half and half or cream
3 tablespoons of dark rum
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
6 thick slices home-style white or whole wheat bread
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Garnish:
Berries, pineapple, bananas, or other fresh fruit, cut into cubes.

Stir together the eggs, milk (or cream), rum, sugar, nutmeg and salt in a shallow bowl. Dip both sides of each bread slice in the batter and place on a piece of waxed paper.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet large enough to hold 3 slices at a time. Fry the bread over medium heat, turning once until it is lightly browned. Keep the cooked slices warm while you fry the remaining bread. To serve, cut each slice of bread in half and arrange the pieces on plates. Garnish the plates with fruit and serve with warm maple syrup and butter. Makes 6 servings.

Our thanks to the sugar mill Caribbean cookbook featuring recipes for one of the British Virgin Islands most romantic getaways.


*BODUM is a tableware and kitchenware company founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1944 by Peter Bodum. Besides being known for the aesthetic quality of their products, Bodum is recognized as a leading maker of French presses. It has registered "FrenchPress" as a trademark in many territories.

**Lyrics from All You Need is Love, The Beatles

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - What could be better than an early morning coffee aboard the brand new ChrisCraft Corsair 36! Galley Guy John Armstrong was in Sarasota for a first test ride. He was joined by Chris Craft executives and friends (from the left) Kirsten Pederson, Marketing Manager, Jeff Ellis, Vice President of Sales, and Lizabeth Simeri, ChrisCraft Aficionado.
Photo 2 - Packaged in small quantities, these green beans were available from the Green Beanery in Toronto but gourmet coffee shops are springing up all across Canada. With a little experimentation you can find the perfect blend for you.
Photo 3 - Sick of the daily grind? The best way is to grind your own and not with an electric buzzer but with a handcrank coffee grinder that crushes the beans for maximum flavour.
Photo 4 - Galley Guy Greg Nicoll is brandishing his stainless steel Bodum Presso coffee maker and his Hunter mug.