Coffee and Tea · Family History · Home · Recipes

The Smell of Burnt Coffee

First, our much-loved Hamilton Beach coffee pot went out. We’d purchased it because of its lower height, but it made the best coffee we’d had in years. We pitched the coffee pot, quickly measured and bought a Mr. Coffee this time, with all the features we wanted, yet it was compact enough to fit at the back of our countertop, under the upper cabinets. (The way small appliances have expanded beyond the size of traditional wood cabinet spaces is a particular annoyance of mine.) When we plugged in the new pot, it didn’t work, and we realized the breaker had flipped. So, we felt a little foolish and missed our favorite coffee pot, but we thought that was the end of the coffee problem.

Our coffee kept tasting burnt to me. Mr. H. didn’t notice it tasting any different, but then, he prefers it “bold, rich and dark,” so much that I usually add extra water to my cup. Mr. H was out of town a lot over the next month, when he was gone, I just had hot tea, alternating between green and black. Meanwhile, I was plotting how soon I could purchase and surprise him with a new coffee pot, because the new one made horrible overcooked coffee!

Anyway, last Wednesday, I came home from work, ready to try making Pao De Queijo, a gluten-free treat my Brazilian friend, Janie Cardoso taught me to make many years ago. I smelled burnt coffee again, but thought it was that new coffeepot again. When I tried to plug the mixer into its usual outlet, it wouldn’t go in. I was a bit short on time, so while thinking of the kids on one of my favorite shows, Master Chef Junior, I hauled that heavy mixer to another countertop, plugged it in, and mixed up my dough. Once the first cookie sheet of dough balls was in the oven, I cleaned my hands, and thought to check why the outlet didn’t work. I still smelled burnt coffee, which was strange.

The bottom outlet, where I had tried to plug the mixer, looked pretty ordinary. The nightlight in the upper outlet wouldn’t turn on, and was difficult to pull out. Once out, the problem was clear, the outlet was smoky and melted around the prong holes.

Mr. H. got home and went into action, disconnecting things and checking breakers. He got us safe, but to get things working, we needed a professional electrician. The first one he called was Lightning Bug, who sent two people shortly after we called. When I mentioned the burnt coffee smell, one said “Wow! Great description!” while the other said, “That’s exactly how it smells.”

They had us safe and functioning again in about six hours, with new wires in the damaged outlet, and new breakers in the box. As it turns out, the lead electrician had been in my sister’s fifth grade class, which was interesting, to say the least. The company has an apprentice program–we were pleased to see a young apprentice, who arrived later in the process. I like to see young people learning trades–we all need those who can do good work!

The next morning, our new coffeepot made great coffee, without any burnt overtones. I guess my nose had been affecting my tastebuds.

I’m including my version of Pao De Queijo, which makes a great appetizer, but it’s traditional to eat the small buns with strong coffee for breakfast.

Pao de Queijo

4 cups tapioca starch (Yoki Sweet Starch Maioc Almidon de Yucca Poluiho Doce from Brazillian grocery, or 1 1/12# tapioca starch from an Asian grocery such as H Mart)

1/2 cup oil

1 cup water

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plain yogurt (8 oz.)

1&1/2 cup parmesan cheese (minimum 1&1/2 cup total cheese)

1&1/2 cup mozzarella (some people add more cheese)

1. Bring the water and oil to a full rolling boil in a saucepan.
2. Mix 4 cups of tapioca starch with the boiling water and oil. I use the slowest speed on my mixer for this, but if you don’t have a “stir” speed, use a wooden spoon.
3. Beat salt and eggs together, then add to tapioca mixture. Mix well.
4. Add yogurt and cheeses. Mix well.
5. Oil or butter your hands before shaping dough into small balls. Traditional size is 1 & 1/2″ to 2″. I often do a smaller appetizer bite size of 1″.
6. Bake 30-45 minutes at 350 F, or 20 minutes for 1″ size.

These keep several days, airtight in the fridge, and freeze well also.

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