Sunday, September 28, 2008

Iced coffee for archaeologists

Whoa, a sort-a archaeology post!

So, coffee is part of being an archaeologist. There are archaeologists who don't drink coffee. But they are weird. Coffee is something MOST archaeologists need. No, not "like" or even "desire," but NEED. In a kind of if-they-could-only-invent-an-IV-drip-that-could-put-the-coffee-directly-into-my-veins kind of way. Of the two digs that I'm on per year, one in Israel and one in Jordan, the one in Israel used to be the best-coffee dig. We had The Sacred Coffee Pot that brewed REAL coffee, because most of Israel believes that Nescafe instant coffee is the god-given drink of the chosen people. If so, God really hates the Jews. I wouldn't wish Nescafe on anyone. Well, maybe the Taliban. Those bastards are drinking delicious Arabic coffee in their hidey-holes and I'm stuck with Nes? Gah!

Anyway, this year the most horrible thing happened. The Sacred Coffee Pot, brought to Israel in the mid 80's, surviver of two intifadas, two confrontations with Iraq, two American presidents by the name of Bush, one fire (which it started), several blown fuses (which it caused) and god knows how many dig seasons... died. Now, normally at 4 in the morning, you aren't brewing coffee, you make Nes to get you going, but we had a carafe out on the site for coffee, proper coffee, with breakfast. And then there was pre-pottery washing coffee at 3:30. And I have to tell you, Nes, at 3:30 is horrible. You are awake to actually taste the horror that is the instant coffee.

So now the coffee on the Jordan dig is better. If you can get to the Bodum coffee press while there's still coffee in it. I used to get up earlier than the people in my cabin to get to the coffee, but when it became apparent that they were getting up WAY to early and I really didn't need to go very far (I worked in the house, meaning instant access to instant coffee all day), it seemed prudent to sleep in that extra half hour. So no French press for me. It was Nes and nothing but Nes, all the way.

The problem with coffee on an archaeological dig in the desert, however, is that it's damn hot (both coffee and environs) and really, you'd give just about anything for a nice cold lemonade. Provided that the lemonade had A LOT of caffein in it. What to do?

Well, this year was the first year we had REAL MILK for our coffee. Yeah, we really were living it up. I mean, the toilets still don't flush and you have to use the water from the shower to flush them (only when you have to) and you can't put toilet paper in them (use the little trash cans), but we had REAL MILK. This led to the creation of Iced Coffee.

God bless Dr. McP! This is why he has the degree, you know.

Archaeologists have a little bit of MacGyver in them. Everyone thinks that archaeologists run around with trowels and now-a-days GPS units (I've actually never seen one) and we dig holes and look at broken pottery. We do that. But we also have to work in substandard conditions with broken materials. Archaeology is a field where, if you are not at the top, you don't get the nice shinny toys. You have to make do with what you've got. And often what you've got is duct tape and styrofoam.

So how to make iced coffee in the desert.
You need: a working freezer that makes ice, water, fire (of some sort), Nescafe, milk, one pot to heat water in, one large mug to drink the coffee from, sugar if you like that sort of thing.

Iced Coffee for Archaeologists
Step 1:Make sure you have the above items. You cannot make iced coffee without ice. Really, you can try, but I doubt you'll succeed.
Step 2:Add the normal amount of Nescafe to your mug as you would for a normal large mug of hot coffee. Put some sugar in there. Normally I add my sugar to my hot coffee after I've melted the instant coffee with hot water, but in this case, it doesn't matter.
Step 3:Add just enough boiling water to melt coffee and sugar into a nice black, slightly thick, soup. Should only take up the bottom fourth of your mug. That had better be a big mug, by the way, because you'll wish you had more otherwise.
Step 4:Add ice, right up to the top of the mug. Since the ice is going to melt, make sure that you used potable water in making the ice cubes. If your water is icky bad and has to be boiled or iodined or whatever, make sure you do that before you make the ice cubes.
Step 5:Swirl it around a bit, maybe smash the ice with a knife, trowel, small hand axe, whatever, if you like your ice in smaller pieces. I'm lazy and I want the yummy coffee NOW so I skip this step.
Step 6:Add milk right up to the top. Some folks like to add a bit more hot water to help melt the ice cubes, but when it's over 100F (or worse, 50C), the ice is going to melt pretty damn fast anyway. I say, enjoy the icy coolness.
Step 7:Stir. You'd be amazed at how often I forget this step.
Step 8:Drink.

If you'd like to feel like a real archaeologist and try this at home, I suggest you try to stick to what we really have in the field. So ignore the microwave. Some digs have hot water heaters (like the one in Israel does), others have kettles. Try it out with the kettle. A great number of archaeologists can congregate around a boiling pot, it's like the water cooler in offices. For your coffee mug, do not even think that your normal coffee mug will suffice. It will not. Think thermos, flower vase, jug, some large vessel that can be filled with coffee.

If you are really nuts, you can even dig a bunch of holes in the back yard first - although if you are really that fired up about feeling like a real archaeologist, I'd suggest just going on a dig. Digging holes in the backyard is great... right up until you mow the lawn.

1 comment:

  1. See...I hate iced coffee. I hate coffee, unless we're talking mochas and espressos, that sort of thing. But regular coffee? Yick.

    However, since I'm poor and can't afford Starbucks daily in the winter, I have my "white trash" mochas. Which is nothing more than a big mug with two packets of hot chocolate filled 3/4 of the way with coffee and topped off with milk.


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