Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 17 November 2012

The true British brew

In which G.M. Norton shares his love of everyone’s favourite after-dinner accompaniment. 

One of the greatest pleasures for any chap or chapette is the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee permeating the air, wafting itself through the home and scintillating the senses. Even if you don’t even like the stuff, there’s something about the smell that is utterly divine.

Strong and rich

Coffee may not be considered to be as quintessentially British as drinking tea, usually served by any self-respecting host in china crockery, however, did you know that coffee made it to our tiny island first? 

In fact, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Britain was home to an abundance of coffeehouses, where people would go to sit, chatter and unsurprisingly, knock back the black stuff.

As my dear readers may have already gathered, I take enormous comfort in life’s little rituals and brewing a pot of ground coffee is one of them. Now I’ve grown accustomed to the pleasure of ‘real’ coffee, the instant variety just tastes like muggy, burnt water.

I buy fine ground coffee (Lavazza Crema e Gusto or Taylors of Harrogate being my coffee of choice), and brew it on the stovetop in a Stellar stainless steel espresso maker. The coffee pot is art deco in design which is a nice nod to a period I am passionate about and it can make up to ten shots of espresso at a time. 

If it's good enough for the Italians...

There’s lots of inferior aluminium coffee pots on the market but it’s a losing battle trying to keep up with the corrosion in the section that holds the water. If you’re ever looking to join the real coffee revolution, I would strongly urge you to splash out the extra pennies and get a stainless steel version. 

There’s nothing like a cup of real coffee to start the day in style. Mornings at Chateaux NoM can be a potentially stressful experience as my beloved and I dash to get two young children ready, plus ourselves. But stealing some time to put a pot of coffee on and sit down and enjoy it makes the morning mayhem a lot more manageable. 

As you will have gathered, I am quite the traditionalist. I enjoy good quality coffee made in the traditional Italian way.

The Stellar

Making the coffee is child’s play (well, it isn’t. If you’re a child reading this, please ask a grown-up as you may burn yourself). Stovetop coffee makers consist of three sections – a water reservoir, a coffee filter and a jug that miraculously holds the freshly brewed dark liquid at the end. 

After filling the bottom section with water, I place the middle section over it and fill with ground coffee, being careful to press it down flat to increase the intensity of the coffee as the water presses through it. All that’s left to do is to screw on the top section and place it on the hob.

After seven to eight minutes, the coffee pot starts to gurgle as the hot water is forced through the coffee filter into the jug above. Imitating a Pullman, steam then cheerfully pours out of the spout in a satisfying manner.  

When the gurgling and steaming ceases, I carefully lift the lid to be greeted by lovely hot delicious coffee filling the jug. A trick the Magic Circle would be proud of! 

In between marvelling at the gurgling and steam noises going on, I warm some milk in a pan, being careful not to burn it. Once the milk is nice and hot, I add two teaspoons of sugar and pour a quarter of it into a ceramic pitcher. After compressing the plunger for a good couple of minutes, it produces the most lovely, thick frothy milk. 

I pour the coffee into the cups and add the milk from the pan before topping it off with a few scoops of froth. Perfect. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. 

All that is required now is to find a comfy chair, sit in it and drink my rich, strong, homemade brew. I enjoy mixing my coffee consumption with another of life’s little pleasures – listening to vinyl records. What better record than Otis Redding’s Cigarettes and Coffee? If you’ve not heard it before (or you have but you want to give your ears a treat), here it is filmed by yours truly.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’


  1. We've just purchased one of these lovelies, makes excellent coffee! X

    1. What a spiffing choice! A pot is in the process of brewing at this very moment. I'd be very interested in knowing what coffee you use? There are so many different ones to try.

    2. Tesco ground espresso, pretty good stuff. I also like the Java blend too.

    3. Thank you! I will give them a go once I am in need of replenishing my coffee reserves. We will have to exchange some coffee recommendations in the future.

  2. As an ardent tea-drinker I'm not one for drinking coffee but this post makes me want to give coffee beans another go.

    I love the description of the steam 'cheerfully pouring' out of the spout - how lovely!

    Something I do love being made properly is hot chocolate, made with steaming milk, Cadbury cocoa powder (naturally) and a handful of marshmallows.

    1. I have extreme surname envy, Miss Mancunian Vintage - Le Caplain, superb.
      I partake in tea, hot chocolate and obviously coffee - you can't beat a hot beverage, especially in the colder months. Hot chocolate must be done properly. If you've not already got one, I'd recommend a milk frother, it really adds to the chocolately goodness.


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