Saturday, September 30, 2006

Alterra Organic Fair Trade Guatemalan Coffee

I was putting the final touches on the post I was writing when the Fair Trade website crashed my computer and wiped out the whole thing. Stupid Fair Trade. Screw it. Buy any old coffee and exploit people.

OK. I feel better now. Don't exploit people. Buy Fair Trade when you can. You can find out about it at the website of my local coffee shop, The Coffee and Tea Exchange, here.

The reason I was writing about Fair Trade was because one of my knitting students (and friend), who spends a lot of time in Wisconsin over the summer, brought me a most generous gift of coffee from Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee when she came back to class this month. It was an organic fair trade Guatemalan blend that she liked and thought I would, too.

And I did. It's a medium roast and I usually prefer dark roast, but it has a full-bodied flavor that is rich and strong, with no hint of bitterness. I've been enjoying it every morning this week.

What I didn't tell her when I saw that she had given me whole beans was that I haven't used my coffee grinder for grinding coffee in years. I know it's better to buy whole beans and grind them as you use them, but a couple of years ago I started using my coffee grinder for my new obsession, spices. And once you've ground spices in your coffee grinder, you don't want to be putting any coffee in there, believe me.

So I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. I toyed with the idea of buying another grinder for coffee, but the last thing I need in my apartment is another appliance, especially a duplicate. Although there is a part of me that likes the idea of being able to say "Oh that's my spice grinder. I have another one for coffee."

I finally decided to try to clean it. Bouncing around in the back of my head was the idea of grinding up some salt, or maybe I was confusing that with the fact that you're supposed to use kosher salt to clean out an old cast-iron skillet before you can reseason it. But the idea wouldn't go away so I dragged out the grinder, poured in some kosher salt, put on the lid, and let her rip.

After a few seconds I stopped and looked. The lid was covered with a thick white film. Uh-oh. That didn't look so good. When I took the lid off, a white cloud billowed out. Big Uh-oh. I carefully wiped the lid off with a paper towel, and got out most of the white residue. When the cloud cleared, I poured out the salt powder and cautiously peered inside.

Into a crystal clear, brand spanking new coffee grinder. It was spotless. Shiny. Not a hint of spice to be found.

Now we've both learned something new. You've learned that kosher salt will clean your coffee grinder, and I've learned to save my drafts before I go to other sites.

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