Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On the Rocks -- my favorite field brew (AW#54)

Glacial Till is this month’s host of the Accretionary Wedge (#54) and the topic is:  On The Rocks: Geo-Brews and Geo-Cocktails.  GT explains that one doesn’t have to drink alcohol to participate, so I’m in.
From UWSO via FB; source unknown.
I drink an occasional beer during summer field work but it's not required.  And my taste would impress no one, though it was shared by one of the greatest violinists of all times, Jascha Heifetz.  Coffee, on the other hand, is essential.  Espresso is the brew of choice for field work and road trips.

  Images above and below from BroadusMontana.com.
My first encounter with espresso was during a field project eighteen years ago when I stopped in the town of Broadus (population ca 400), on the Powder River in southeast Montana.  It's the largest community for many miles and I suppose a regional hotspot for cultural advancement.  There was a large sign on the drive-in (restaurant) -- “ESPRESSO”.  I went in to get food and overheard a middle-aged gal in line ahead of me explain,
“It’s like a whole pot of coffee in one cup!”
So I ordered one.  I can’t say the beverage was memorable, but the concept was.
I found espresso in Broadus, Montana, which claims to be the “wavingest town in the west”...
do the poor citizens now have to wave at every car with out-of-county plates?
(You may need to refresh or click Will to get a wave.)

Over the years, I’ve perfected my camp espresso.  Here’s the recipe, optimized for first-thing-in-the-morning, makes one cup (somewhere in the world, people drink from cups small enough that this would make three).
camp stove (building a fire takes too long)
“3-cup” stove-top expresso maker (here a durable stainless-steel Bialetti)
espresso coffee, i.e. finely ground
canned evaporated milk, optional
~1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom, optional (cardamom??!)
Pack filter with coffee, add cardamom if desired (more about this below).  On cold mornings, first boil water to fill and heat cup; cover to keep warm.  Brew espresso.  Add evaporated milk to taste.

Now about that cardamom ...
Cardamon pods, a Wikimedia photo by Luc Viatour.
Cardamom is highly-revered in many parts of the world, and has reigned as Queen of Spices for over a thousand years.  It is the distinctive ingredient in gahwa, a beverage thought to have originated with the Bedouins.  Recipes on the Web range from equal parts coffee and cardamon to predominantly coffee.  I prefer the latter, which is fortunate given how expensive this spice is!  Many recipes include sugar.  Not for me ... sweet coffee has never made sense.  On the other hand, a sweet snack goes well, like dates or figs.
Enjoying a cup of gahwa in cowboy country.  We’re more progressive than you might think.
Photo source.


  1. Interzone makes a great cardamom-honey latte- though personally, I think it could use a bit more cardamom. Also, cardamom is a nice addition to hot buttered rum batter.

    1. mmmm ... The latter sounds yummy this time of year!

  2. I like to add cardamom to coffee on occassion, although haven't usually added it to the brew.