Anyone who knows me well knows I have to have my morning coffee. It had better be good, strong coffee, too. Gourmet coffee is a nice treat, but for everyday I can live with Chock Full O’ Nuts, or the Maxwell House or Folgers dark roast, as long as it’s made strong enough to suit me.
I was introduced to coffee at an early age, but I acquired a taste for the strong stuff at 14; we were living in Key West then because my dad was stationed there. The Cuban influence is strong in Key West, so café con leche was ubiquitous there long before the Starbucks gourmet coffee and latte trend arrived. For the uninitiated, café con leche is the Cuban answer to a latte.
My best friend Holly’s mom made it for us in the mornings when I would sleep over at her house. Holly and I would drink so much of it, we’d be bouncing off the walls for hours on a jittery caffeine buzz.
An Intriguing Method
Her method of making the coffee intrigued me. She had a cast aluminum pot that came apart so you could put water in the bottom chamber and coffee in a filter basket in the middle. Then she would screw on an upper chamber and put the whole thing on a hot burner. When the water boiled in the bottom chamber, it steamed up through the coffee in the middle and was funneled into the top chamber where it condensed back into liquid.
She used a finely ground dark roast and filled the entire coffee chamber to make the rich espresso that is the base of the cafe con leche. I’ve since learned you can use regular drip coffee and adjust the amount of it, and you will get a nice, rich gourmet-like regular brew.
Last summer our automatic drip coffee maker died. It was the second one in about three or four years. I am the type of person who, if my carafe breaks, I will pay to replace the carafe before I will pay to replace the whole coffeemaker, even if the cost is about the same. But it wasn’t the carafe. It just stopped getting hot, and we didn’t know how to fix it. The coffee maker ended up in the trash, more plastic and glass for a landfill.
Stovetop Espresso Pot Saves the Day
Fortunately, I never missed a single morning’s cup of coffee, because one of those stovetop espresso pots like the one Holly’s mom used was packed away in our storage unit. I never thought about it until the other coffee pot broke. Initially, our plan was to use it just for a few days until we could afford to buy another coffee pot. But then I started questioning, why should I buy another piece of Made in China crap that’s just going to break in two years and go to the landfill?
It was after we started using the stove top pot daily that I experimented with using regular coffee and the adjustments you can make to get it just right. Especially now that space is at a premium in our ultra-small apartment, this is the perfect coffee pot for us.
The great thing about these coffee pots is they endure FOREVER. The sturdy metal is engineered to last. They are a survivalist’s dream, because if you have neither stove nor electricity, you can still cook your coffee over a fire.
The only thing that wears out is the little rubber gasket that fits between the two chambers of the pot. When ours started to crumble, it caused extra steam to come sputtering out at the seam where the two pots come together. At first it was just a little, but it got worse and worse.
A Cheap Fix
My husband, Charlie, suggested maybe we’d have to get a new coffee pot after all. “No way,” I insisted. “This is an otherwise perfectly good piece of equipment and I’ll be damned if we’re going to throw it away because of a stupid gasket.”
I went online and began researching where to get a replacement gasket. There are quite a few sites where you can get them, but only if you have a brand name pot that is still in production. I spent hours and hours looking for mine before learning the manufacturer no longer exists and so no one is making a replacement gasket that fits.
Again, Charlie told me I was wasting my time. But in my searching, I stumbled across a gourmet coffee specialist in Savannah. To my surprise, they returned my call and gave me an awesome tip: Try and find a suitable gasket at a hardware store.
It wasn’t the ultimate answer, but it was leading me in the right direction. After trips to both auto parts and hardware stores where I was told they had no gaskets in that size, I went to Lowe’s. A sales associate took me to the Plumbing aisle, where they have sheets of gasket material available in various sizes.
It only cost me a dollar to buy a sheet large enough to make a custom gasket. All I had to do was a little tracing and cutting, and voila! A new gasket. Even if you have a Bialeta or one of the other popular brands, why order replacement gaskets for $6.99 + shipping and handling when you can make one this easily for just $1.00?
A New Challenge
I had prepared this draft last month. Everything was going swimmingly until the other day, when the plastic bakelite handle broke off as I was tightening the two halves of the pot together. For now, a pair of potholders makes it possible to hold the hot pot when I pour the coffee, but I sure would like to find a cheap fix for this new problem! Anyone know where I can find a replacement handle?
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