This post is a long time coming, and is specifically for all the coffee addicts out there. We know who we are. We need our coffee, and will settle for pretty much anything if given no other choice, but we know the difference between awful, mediocre, good and sublime. For the most part, we strive to find the cup of coffee that delivers the best flavor (and the most caffeine) for the greatest convenience. For the remainder of this post, I'm going to switch from "we" to "I", but stay with me, fellow addicts.
Here is how I used to drink coffee: I bought whole roasted beans from a grocery store and kept them at home in an air-tight glass jar. I ground them just before brewing, which I did using a cheap plastic cone which held a disposable coffee filter - I simply put the grounds in this, and poured hot water on top. Sometimes I did this whole thing in a coffee machine, but the coffee would be a little more bitter.
Such was my preferred method. Second best was buying coffee from a store. I found that store bought coffee's quality (again, this was in the US) went from excellent to worse in the following order: small coffee shops where they do it right > Wawa > Dunkin Donuts > Starbucks > gas station garbage and others of its ilk. Instant coffee was pretty much unheard of, except maybe on Pesach or if nothing else was available. I don't think I ever ordered espresso.
In Israel, everything is הפוך (pun totally intended). Drip coffee does not exist. Ok, it technically exists - you can order קפה פילטר ("filtered coffee"), but you should never do this because often they don't have it, and when they do, you'll get stale, gross coffee grounds and gross coffee. Israelis think all drip coffee tastes like this, by the way.
Instead, everyone here drinks one of the following:
- קפה הפוך. The only coffee machines they have in Israeli coffee shops are espresso machines, and 99% of the time, customers order הפוך, which is a little espresso and a lot of frothed milk (either a latte or a cappuccino, I forget).
- קפה שחור. AKA קפה טורקי, AKA "בוץ". This is finely ground coffee (between drip and espresso) - you put it in a cup, add hot water, let the grounds settle, and drink it. It's dirt cheap (pun #2!) and strongly associated with army life. It's strong, and it's my favorite (more on that later). I've never seen anyone order this at a coffee shop, other than myself.
- Instant coffee. I think of it as workplace coffee, but plenty of people drink it at home, too. Instant coffee is either freeze dried, spray dried, or old-fashioned-spray-dried-tastes-burnt (this is נס קפה, and the only people who don't hate it are those who grew up with it, or somethin)
- Coffee from pod machines. I don't know much about these, other than their expensive price tags, so I'm not going to discuss them.
I immediately ruled out קפה הפוך - not only is it generally too weak and too milky, but how am I supposed to rely on coffee shop coffee every morning? My stipend isn't THAT big.
Instant coffee is a good choice if you get the right kind. For me, that's Elite's line of freeze-dried coffee; the Brazilian flavor in particular. We have this at my office, and I drink one or two cups every day. I like the flavor, and though it's not the most powerful stuff in the world, more spoonfuls will obviously give it a stronger kick.
קפה שחור, though, is my favorite Israeli coffee. It's strong and fresh. Don't take this freshness for granted, by the way. All the ground coffee I've ever seen in the US goes stale pretty quickly. Yet here the קפה שחור, at least Elite's stays fresh. You get that whiff of roasted coffee beans every time you unroll the bag. It definitely has to do with the packaging - a triple ply layer of two kinds of polymers plus aluminum (I just might have done a school project on this very packaging...).
The pictures at the top of this post show how I've used קפה שחור to make American-style coffee. It's simple; I just use my coffee cone with a coffee filter - the basic pour-over method. I still do this sometimes, both to get that clean coffee taste, which, by the way, I often drink with no sugar or milk whatsoever. It's also nice to not be left with that cake of grounds at the bottom of the cup, which is annoying to clean and which I shouldn't pour down the sink, because it will clog the pipes.
You know what, though? I've gotten used to regular קפה שחור. I like its flavor and strength. Coffee lovers, we never know where our roasty toasty journeys will take us, but perhaps mine will involve countless cups of the simplest, the humblest of Israeli coffees.