[For the Love of ‘Fee] The Endless Plight of the Perfect Perc: Stovetop vs Electric

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Our electric Hamilton Beach percolator started to eff up in January. Yup, that one; the one I wrote about last June. I thought we’d at least get a year out of the new one. Wow, they really don’t make ’em like they used to. Blast!

We had decided when we replaced the last percolator last summer that we’d need to have a replacement in the cupboard, but we never thought we’d need one so quickly. Then, after Christmas, for a week straight we dealt with cold half-brewed coffee. We can’t have that! What to do when the only two types of electric percolators for sale in Canada are Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart. I’ve had both, and haven’t been able to hold on to one for longer than 2 years.

I can’t say that I have been 100% satisfied with the electric perc as an appliance when they did work. Aside from the convenience of plugging it in and walking away, there are some design flaws with them that aren’t great. They are hard to keep clean. Coffee grounds go everywhere (and I am not sure how when I grind to the coarsest setting…). You can’t submerge them in water for a good soak. In some cases, there are water indicator windows that clog up with coffee that will never see a bottle brush. And some of ’em won’t even fit my lady hand in through the top for cleaning which has been the case with the Hamilton Beach. Simply for those design reasons, my percs have – on occasion – looked like they have been pumping out sludge coffee in a backroom steel mill since the 80s. Nope, plug-in percs will never get the Good Housekeeping seal from me.

Before this latest percolator passed, the hubs and I revisited the idea of a stove top one like we had when we were po’ church mice 20 years ago. Back then, we were donned this new-fangled thing called a stove top percolator…It was aluminum and had these parts that were unfamiliar. I was used to drip coffee makers! But, hey we figured it out. And, it made the best coffee; I had never tasted coffee so good! Looking back, I am sure a lot of the magic with stove top percs is you are in control of the heat and brewing time. Now that we were under the gun with getting a working perc, we pulled out our old Black and Decker drip maker (the backup of the backup ;)) while a search was on for a stove top perc on Amazon.

Amazingly, we found one in a company from Quebec – Fresco. It’s a stainless steel 12-cup perc. And since the hubs has Prime, it arrived in under two days. The experience has been great!

It looks great! No coffee grounds in the coffee! It’s easy to keep clean and it’s dishwasher safe! I have also used some cleaning vinegar to keep the insides in good order.

About the only thing I can say that would make this the PERFECT PERC is if the top knob were made of glass. Fresco thought it was a good idea to use a plastic knob on the top. The plastic cracked up within the first two weeks, and got all stained. WHY PLASTIC, FRESCO?

Others on Amazon are not satisfied with the plastic knob either. But, one guy on there had the right idea and shared he bought a glass knob that fits a wide range of percs. Amazon sells it for $15. Great idea! I found that knob for cheaper – $6 from Home Hardware down the street. Thank you very much! Works like a charm.

NOW I have the PERFECT PERC. It looks awesome and works awesome. Finally!

I concede it does take us 20 minutes to make coffee. Most people would not want any of that, but sometimes if you want great things, you got to work for it. Take that, Tims!

Waiting…waiting patiently for deliciousness


Keeping the coffee hot after brewing is an area that was a sticking point with me and what was preventing me from moving to a stove top perc in the first place: I didn’t want to keep the stove on all morning. But, I was lucky to acquire a big Stanley Thermos that holds a good amount of ‘fee and keeps it hot. So this situation has turned out to be a win-win!

Enjoy your cuppa! I certainly am!


[For the Love of ‘Fee] (PART 2) If a Percolator Dies in a Kitchen, Does Sarca Make a Sound?

…Not only does she make a sound, Sarca’s whole family makes a sound!

If you’ve been reading this blog and remember the last time my percolator died (Sept. 2014), you’ll understand the struggles I faced finding a replacement.

Its successor was a Hamilton Beach electronic percolator. My household used it lovingly until last Sunday when it stopped drawing power after it brewed a pot, and it never came back. I have to say it was on borrowed time, as it would periodically lose power mid brew, and then repeatedly try to percolate about 3 times before it was satisfied the coffee was hot enough. It’s been doing that behavior for a better part of a year.

Why not just replace it with any old coffee maker? Because, I’m stubborn, and enjoy a perked cup. And honestly, as I have previously opined on the subject, there aren’t much in the way of choices here in Ontario for electronic percolators. My research shows, not much has changed since 2014: people still love their Kuerigs, Starbucks and Timmy Ho-Hos. Few seem to brew at home any more, and percolating is obviously a dead technology, relegated to manual campfire percolators and catering coffee urns. I got the memo, people, loud and clear! No more perc!

But, I still buck that hive-mind mentality. I am forever on the lookout for a decent percolator, even when my perc is working. On Amazon and coffee fan sites, I read reviews like they are the Bible on Sunday. I’ve even taken to Value Village to see if I can find another gently used percolator; my first electronic perc being a Proctor-Silex from VV that introduced me to this way of electronic brewing in the first place.

Last winter, I found a DeLonghi percolator that didn’t look like it had ever been used. This model came with an adjustable setting, giving you the ability to perc a light or dark brew! SCORE! I kept it in storage for situations like this week when my Hamilton Beach would bite the big one. I took it out of the cupboard, and got it running. And welllll…..

I can see why the DeLonghi was barely used, and given away to Value Village…franky, it brews a TERRIBLE cup of coffee. I took this week to try to work out the bugs that come with having a new perc – finding the right grind, using the right amount of grounds, etc. But, unfortunately, after trying for five days to get a decent cuppa out of it, it didn’t work out. There was no aroma…there was no taste…the coffee was practically hot water, even after adjusting the settings to perc a dark brew! The hubs didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. And now my visiting in-laws didn’t like it! Time to fix this – FAST!

The solution is, of course, to buy another percolator. But which? Because of a lack of percolator popularity, there are STILL only TWO main electronic percs on the market that are readily available around here at stores accessible to me: Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach. You look online, and the top two 5-starred percs happen to be from Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach (and no surprise why…those are the only ones being made right now! Of course they are highly revered!)

From past experience, I concluded the Cuisinart percolator isn’t great; a little less than a year and it was giving us problems. At least we had more longevity with Hamilton Beach! The hubs encouraged me (out of practicality or caffeine withdrawal) to stop the search, and just buy the next option…the low-hanging fruit…the Hamilton Beach.

What? Buy another one?

Yup, I went to my local Walmart Friday night and bought another Hamilton Beach percolator. There isn’t much choice out there, and for what it’s worth, for all the whining I have done on how cheaply they manufacture these things, the Hamilton Beach percolator does make a good home perked coffee. Who knows, maybe I’ll get another 2.5 years out of this one too. Fingers crossed. I think in terms of coffee makers, this is number 7 in 20 years. Obsolescence is alive and well!

Enjoy your ‘fee today! I know finally I am!

[For the Love of ‘Fee] A Word on Instant Coffee (and a Hack)

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Let me put this out there – in my opinion, instant coffee isn’t that great. I have not been its biggest fan since… forever! To me it tastes bitter. It can do a small tapdance on my tummy. And, frankly, it is no substitute for real brewed coffee. Yet, I still drink it.

I work on a college campus, and believe me, there is no lack of places to buy coffee; there is a Tim Hortons, a Starbucks, a Williams Coffee Pub, the student-run café that sells Lavazza coffee, Roasters coffee, the Second Cup…dude, the campus ain’t that big, but holy Toledo, there are places to buy coffee. It might seem simple to just buy a fresh cup of brew and be done. Sure, I’ll buy coffee on occasion, but it can add up!

Budgets being what they are, I bought myself a 4-cup coffee maker a few years ago and would brew my own coffee for a time in my office. But going on almost a year ago now, the department I work for relocated into a new building. Where the office is situated, there is no kitchenette with a sink close by where I would be able to clean out the carafe and throw away the grinds properly. So instead, I boil some water in my little kettle to make some instant coffee. Although a sink with running water is out of the question, I am not in a complete food desert – I have a drawer in my office where I keep dry condiments: salt, pepper, sugar, as well as tea bags, Coffee Mate, and of course, instant coffee. I do have access to fresh water, by way of a filling station around the corner from my office. And even though I have Coffee Mate (because there is no milk close by) and sugar that I use in my instant coffee, these condiments don’t seem to help to lose the bitter taste.


My usual practice: Boil water using a kettle. Place a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals in a cup. Add boiling water to crystals and stir. Then add sugar and Coffee Mate. Seems pretty common, right?

Earlier this week, I decided I had endured instant coffee as I have known it for the last time. I took to the internet to see if I could hack those crystals into a more palatable beverage. Some solutions were idiotic: “why don’t you quit instant and brew a pot of coffee?” Another site suggested I buy a higher quality instant coffee; now that solution would make sense in theory. My problem is that no matter what kind of instant coffee I have tried, they all seem to have a similar taste. Besides the fact there is nothing fancier for sale around here than Nescafe, Folgers and generic brand (Equate, Compliments, No Name…). In any case, I have resigned myself to hacking whatever crystals I have available.

So, thanks to some Googling around, the solution I came up with is as follows:

  • Boil fresh water.
  • Add a teaspoon full of crystals to your cup.
  • Add sugar and coffee mate* to the crystals.
  • THEN, add fresh water* (a little less than a quarter cup) to the dry mix in your cup and stir.
  • Add boiling water to the cup and stir.

Voila. Coffee!

Two things I noticed with this method: no strong smell and no bitter taste.

Why mix the dry ingredients first, then add liquid? Common sense: powder mixes better when you add liquid to it, not the other way around. Science!

Why add fresh water to the dry mix first? No reason, other than it works! I have read that boiling water is excellent for tea (for the steeping), but that the water in the coffee maker doesn’t quite reach the boiling point when you brew a pot of coffee. Apparently, if you have the water too hot it can marr the taste of the crystals. Adding some cold water obviously tempers the hot water, and added bonus: you can actually drink the coffee right away once it’s prepared. Makes sense to me! I have been using this method the last three mornings, and have been enjoying instant coffee for the first time in recent memory.


Do you like instant coffee or hate it? Do you have any coffee hacks? Share in the comments!

*Cold milk would probably be a decent substitute for the Coffee Mate and fresh water. I just don’t have access to it on a regular basis.

The Flames Almost Rose to My Roman Nose

It seems like lately all I have been doing is putting out fires…mostly at work, mind you, but tonight it followed me home.

I was attempting to make pork chops in the toaster oven, and almost set my kitchen ablaze.

Now, before you go and gaffaw about my cooking abilities, I am going to arrogantly say that I have been told I am a decent cook (or so my husband says, and he was raised by the best cook I know – my mother-in-law…and he is brutally honest, so there you go). The cause of the blaze was due to using parchment paper instead of foil as a liner to the baking sheet, and a corner of it brushed against the hot element located on the roof of the oven, setting a tiny fire in my Proctor Silex just a couple of minutes after I had put the chops in. Thankfully, I was in the room preparing the baked potatoes when I caught a glimpse of an orange flame inside the toaster oven.

Surprisingly, I didn’t panic (which is not my M.O.). I calmly, but quickly grabbed the corner of the baking sheet with some tongs and dropped the whole thing in the sink. I moved the meat off the tray and placed it on a plate I had nearby as the flames extinguished. The pork chops were salvaged, by the way. I moved the whole operation to my main oven.

Them chops were delicious!


If one smoldering fire wasn’t enough for one evening, I found another fire burning a hole in my mailbox when I got home from work tonight…and no, it wasn’t a burning bag of crap. 😉 It was a big surprise, since my husband has been receiving parcels in the mail almost daily, and now I get one! Instantly, I could tell who it was from – the address written in black capitals, and an aroma of java wafting from the box. Aaron from KeepsMeAlive sent over a surprise parcel to me!…Totally unexpected…and totally came at a great time.


Inside was a card of Season’s Greetings from Aaron, along with a pound of Moonbean coffee (the man stopped in to his favourite coffee joint when he and Mike were in Toronto!). Not a stranger to Moonbean, Aaron has sent me their coffee before, each time a different type of brew. This time, the roast is called “Awakenings” and from its aroma, it smells like the kind of coffee that could kick my butt into high gear in the morning! No doubt, it will be highly praised by this coffee-lover!


Another surprise appeared with the coffee – a CD…Zappacosta’s “Quick!…Don’t Ask Questions…” I was surprised to see that! I have yet to listen to this album in its entirety, but no doubt it’s classic Zappacosta, with recognizable-to-me songs as “Letter Back” and “the Only One.” Considering I was asking for ANY Zappacosta on my grail list, this was quite a shock to receive, and it was in great condition, to boot!

One BIG THANK YOU to Aaron for sending this package along to me!! It was a big surprise to me that means so much! 🙂

[For the Love of ‘Fee] Eight O’Clock Coffee

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Lately, I have only been surviving on one cup of coffee a day. I blame my busy work schedule and the pressure to get moving in the morning, so I haven’t made time to sit and enjoy my usual cup. I guess that isn’t a bad thing per se, but I have to say that I am glad it’s the weekend so I can actually sit and enjoy more than one cup. And this morning, I sit with a cup of Eight O’Clock Coffee.

coffee and paper

If memory serves, Eight O’Clock Coffee is exclusive to Metro and A&P stores. My first taste of this brew was back when my sister and I lived together in London, Ontario, which is actually where I had my first cup of coffee. It was inexpensive on a student’s budget, aromatic and delicious, even when brewed using our 4-cup Mr. Coffee drip-o-matic.

There is something nostalgic and familiar about Eight O’Clock coffee…the light and friendly scent that reminds you of sitting at the kitchen table with fresh toast and peanut butter, a newspaper, and a fresh hot cup of coffee. As a household coffee standard, its taste surpasses Maxwell House and Folgers, in my opinion. Never bitter, smooth taste.

I love grinding these beans and smelling that aroma, especially after you spent the last week with another flavour that you got tired of*.  And I get three glorious cups of it! Yes, please.

cupface initech

If you are ever searching for a decent generic coffee that smells good, tastes good and is an excellent stand-by coffee, Eight O’Clock Coffee is your brew.

8.5 / 10

*Kicking Horse Pipeline, if you must know. Not a bad one, but Kicking Horse make better flavours. I have written about them previously here.

Trivia time: What company is represented on my mug in the cupface pic? Where have you seen this company before?

Update on a previous ‘fee story…

Remember this cup from my Moonbeam Devil’s Brew ‘fee review?

Caseys cupThis is a mug from Casey’s Bar and Grill, a restaurant that originated in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. Its Kingsway location still existed until this past summer when they shuttered the joint to become…another phony authentic Irish / Scottish / Whothehellknowsanymore pub chain Fionn MacCool’s? Bah! (What makes it worse, is that Sudz already has one of these in the South End.) RIP Casey’s

[For the Love of ‘Fee] To go: McDonald’s McCafe Coffee

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Raunchy Ronnie’s, McDohNo’s, Starchy Archies…however you like to call McDonald’s, it’s hard to beat the plastic food rap.

I was a frequent flyer at McDo’s growing up, but an awareness of healthy eating and a necessity to save my pennies over the years put a serious damper on that. Truth be told, I have not eaten at McDonald’s since 2003, around the time they came out with those breakfast sandwiches with the syrup-infused french toast (blech). I also recall their coffee as being an afterthought, and pretty watered down. Really, I would expect a place the caters more to children to care more about what goes into a Happy Meal than what goes into their coffee. If the food doesn’t agree, and the coffee tastes bad, I really have no reason to go to McDonlad’s, right?

The hubs and I were talking take-out coffee recently. He said these days his coworkers swear by McDonald’s coffee, preferring it over Tim Hortons coffee (which, to anyone not Canadian, is the number 1 take out coffee shop in Canada). The opposite is true were I work. Having a Tim Hortons, Timothy’s coffee (no relation to Tim Hortons), three other coffee take-outs and most recently a Starbucks right on our college campus, there is no lack of coffee joints, but the favourite seems to be Tim Hortons. I don’t have a dog in this fight in case you are wondering…I’ll take my coffee cheap and tasty, please. I don’t care where it comes from! But, I pass by several McDonald’s and never think about going in.

It was our recent trip to North Bay, and lack of caffeine that made us want to try something different. We made a stop at a McDonald’s in Sturgeon Falls to try this so-called great coffee. Gone are the days of Higgins and Burke coffee (what McD’s served way back in the day), replacing it with its own brand and brew called McCafe. The hubs and I ordered two large coffees with milk, and paid just over $3 for both.

Well, bad coffee at McDonald’s is a thing of the past, folks! The votes are in and I am now a convert! The coffee was aromatic the instant I flipped open the lid. Although the cup had a “Caution Hot” warning, the temperature of the coffee was not a usual “nuclear hot” so I was able to take a slow sip immediately.

The coffee tasted great, almost like I would have made at home; bold with a smooth aftertaste. I felt comforted by its aroma to the extent it made me sad to see the bottom of my cup. Seriously, I was surprised this came from McDonald’s!

MCafe cupface

So, if you are wondering what happens to be safe to consume at Mickey Dee’s these days, rest assured the coffee is pretty damn good.


[For the Love of ‘Fee] Moonbean Devil’s Brew :)

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂


This coffee came into my life a couple of weeks ago, thanks to my friend Aaron at Keeps Me Alive! (Read more on that here!) A recent jaunt to Toronto offered him the opportunity to stop by his favourite coffee destination, Moonbean Coffee Company and pick up one of his favourite roasts, Devil’s Brew. Of course, being a java lover myself, he was gracious enough to send me a lb of beans through Canada Post.  I imagine its smell intoxicated the mailman, and everyone I share a community mail box with as it was obvious coffee was packed in the box Aaron sent me –  a bold, but glorious aroma of coffee permeated. I must submit, Moonbean is quickly becoming a favourite coffee of mine, even though I have never stepped foot in the joint!


When I first looked at the bag of beans, I originally thought the name of the brew was “Devil’s Bone”* which, wound up to be just how Aaron scribbled the name on the bag. I confirmed the true name via email, and Aaron and I had a good “LOL” (insert dirty minded thoughts about bags, beans and bones here. Go on, guys…I’m waiting…;)).

After I had finished my bag of Kicking Horse Three Sisters coffee, I then started in on the Devil’s Brew, and just enjoyed it every morning, until we arrive at this morning when I discovered I only had enough grounds for one more pot of this glorious brew!

Oh oh! Better get on that ‘fee review before it’s ALL GONE!

How It Smells and Tastes

Devil’s Brew lives up to its name, particularly when the beans are ground. The aroma is robust, almost fiery! I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but I can smell hints of hickory, chilies and…garlic? as an after-scent. The whole house smells divine! The taste of this coffee is also something to behold: not as bold in taste as the grounds would have you believe, but it’s smooth with a slight kick that will get your bag of bones going in the morn’!

So. If you are ever in Toronto proper (which I avoid most of the time) near Kensington Market, check out Moonbean’s brews. They are the Devil’s Brew, and they are divine!


Thanks again to Aaron at Keeps Me Alive for enlightening me once again with the gift of coffee! 🙂

More from the Moonbean line: Heaven Roast

A word about the cup (’cause I’m sure you wanna know…)

Caseys cup

“Coffee, tea and R n’ B. We’re really cookin’ ! What exactly, we’ll leave that for you to figure out…”

Casey’s Bar and Grill is a restaurant chain that originated in Sudbury, Ontario, but has several locations around Ontario and Quebec. In 1996, they had a promotion where if you order dessert with your meal, you’d get a free coffee and a keepsake mug. The mug, as you can see, has poorly executed caricatures of four popular recording artists, excluding B.B. King (RIP). I somehow wound up with three of these mugs at one point, thanks to a thoughtful less ex-boyfriend who jokingly figured that my one mug I acquired at a birthday dinner wasn’t enough. (In an unrelated bitter story, the cheap bastard actually wrapped one of these up for me for Christmas! Cool story, bro.)

My husband hates this mug. I hang on to it because of B.B., the practicality of having something to drink out of and for shits and giggles, but it is quite unattractive drinking coffee out of a mug with Mick Jagger’s face looking like it was hit by a bus…