Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cell Phone That Makes Coffee

Okay this is completely fake, but impractical, and a cell phone probably wouldn’t make very good coffee, but let's be honest you know Mac thought about it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hawiian Kauai-Reserve attempt #1coffee review

So I tried the last of my Kauai-Reserve coffee I roasted on Friday, you can read about the roast attempt here. The first pot I brewed didn’t turn out well I was using the coffee brewer at work, and me and this particular Bunn auto-drip do not always get along. Today went much better using my stovetop espresso maker.

I was surprised how this roast tasted. It was clean yet rich with chocolate and caramel tones. This batch of coffee had the taste of a darker roasted coffee even though it was roasted just a shade past cinnamon. It was a truly enjoyable cup of coffee, but as I predicted it had a touch of bitterness in the finish, because of the extended roast time.

I am anxious to give this origin another shot. I am going to roast on the stovetop next time. I think having greater control over temperature throughout the roast of this coffee will allow me to remedy the problems with bitterness. The fact that this cup was not only drinkable but actually enjoyable after the raost fiasco, has sold me on Hawiian coffee and the price tag it comes with.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is It Normal to Watch Latte Art Videos on Youtube for an Hour

So I spent the last hour on Youtube watching latte art videos because I am such a cool person. I have to admit that even when I had my coffee shop and was pulling espresso shots twelve hours a day I was never that good at latte art, something that always upset me. I see latte art as a true measure of a barista’s skills. Don’t get me wrong I was able to pull a great shot of espresso and steam milk; it was just that my art was more abstract in nature.

I was really impressed with some of the videos that are circulating right now. I have always been a bit obsessed with latte art and considered myself a bit of a purist. I believe that the barista should only get to manipulate the milk when it is being poured. No, going back and defining lines with chocolate sauce or things of that nature.

After watching a few videos today I may have changed my mind a bit. I am still not a big fan of using chocolate sauce, but I think I may be coming around on some slight manipulation of the foam.

This barista’s latte art bear really impressed me. The barista does manipulate the foam some after pour the milk but the bulk of the latte art is complete and it is only some small detail he adds. The most impressive part is that he completed all the shading during the pour.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Great Instrunctional Video on Steaming Milk

Found a great step by step video on steaming milk. I was thinking about it after listening to the conversation in the wine/coffee bar I wrote about on Thursday and thought I would post something that was actually informative on the subject. I thought about writing a long winded article on the step by step instructions, but learning to steam milk is really a visual process (or maybe I’m just being lazy).

Okay I won’t be completely lazy and offer some general advice for learning to steam milk for cappuccinos and lattes (you steam the milk for cappuccinos and lattes the same, the difference is in how you pour it.)

The first step when learning to steam milk is to go out and by a couple of gallons of milk. Your going to waste a lot of milk in the beginning. I would suggest starting with skim milk to build your confidence and move up to whole milk when you are comfortable with the milk steaming process, plus skim is usually cheaper. When you steam milk a chemical process takes place that the fat in milk plays an integral part in. This is why whole milk is an infinitely richer when steamed but also harder to steam properly.

Okay so you have your milk. At this point I am going to let the video do most of the explaining since I think it covers all the steps pretty well. I will add a couple notes first, though. The demonstrator does not use a thermometer. It is possible after steaming lots of milk to determine when to stop by the sound the milk makes, but in the beginning stick to using a thermometer to avoid burning your milk. The other note and this is personal preference is that I felt the demonstrator emphasized the tapping a little too much. It is helpful to knock the pitcher against the counter a couple of times, but doing this too much or too hard can have an adverse effect on your steamed milk.

This video is geared a little more towards training a professional barista, but I think it is just as informative for the home barista

Hawiian Kuai-Reserve Roast Attempt #1

I just finished roasting 100 grams of Hawaiian Kauai-Reserve from Burman Coffee Trader’s. I roasted in two separate batches since my Sonofresco is still out of service.
I should probably take this opportunity to update everyone on the Sonofresco refurbishing project. Everything was going swimmingly until I ran into a few seized hex bolts. They have been stripping all my Allen wrenches. Hopefully I can get to the hardware store soon and resolve the problem. So in the mean time I was relegated to my popcorn popper.
Okay back to the Kauai-Reserve. I was unable to get the beans to reach second crack and called it off at about thirteen minutes. This roaster usually brings coffee beans to a French roast in less than ten minutes. The Hawaiian Kauai-Reserve coffee beans were just past a cinnamon when I stopped the roast. They must be an incredibly dense bean. I think these green beans would have done better on the stove top in my whirly pop. Oh, well I will let them set and see how the taste. I suspect they will be better since I let them roast so long without progression.
Kind of bummed about it since I was looking forward to trying this origin, I will try again tomorrow on the stove top. Sorry no pictures either, down to my camera phone right now and could not get pictures to upload.
To Read the review of this coffee roast click here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coffee Rant

So I am sitting in a wine/coffee bar right now. It is very nice, but maybe a little too trendy and hip and ultimately cold for its own good. I like wine/coffee bars, partly because of the crowd they draw. I am sitting next to two men and a woman. One of the men is trying so hard to impress his companions with his knowledge of coffee and everything else. He was explaining the difference between steaming milk and what he referred to as foaming the milk. He told his friends that steaming was a process that used steam and foaming used air. I think what he meant was frothing not foaming milk. Steaming and frothing are indeed two separate processes used to create foam in milk. He then proceeded to talk about all other kinds of nonsense from the origin of the Americano to the best way to hang cabinets.
Of course however humorous I find his stories, I have to concede to fact. Coffee culture is rife with misinformation and conflicting definitions. The second is as I sit here alone in a wine bar on a Thursday night drinking some weird rotation of coffee and beer, can I really talk that much smack?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to pick a coffee roaster

Thought I would write a quick article on picking a coffee roaster, not a actual roaster but a company that roasts coffee. I truly believe that finding a coffee roaster you can develop a relationship with can enrich your coffee drinking experience. Finding a knowledgeable and passionate coffee roaster with an operation small enough that they have time to take out and talk and educated their customers is so important. Coffee roasters are wealth of coffee knowledge, and generally cool people.
So what should you look for when picking a coffee roaster?
There are a few elements I think are important when picking a coffee roaster. They should be local, fair trade, and passionate.
A local coffee roaster has many benefits for the consumer. The first is they will be able to get your coffee to you much quicker which means the coffee will be fresher. Many small coffee roasters will take orders on Monday, roast on Wednesday, and deliver on Friday. This means your coffee was roasted to order and is as fresh as possible. This means tastier coffee. The second way a local roaster benefits you is by contributing to your local economy, which is the economy that affects you the most.
You should look for roasters that offer fair trade coffee. It may not be realistic to find a roaster that offers exclusively fair trade or organic coffee, but they should at least be making an honest effort and appear to be responsible coffee purchasers. By doing this you are contributing to the economy of others and making it more fair and sustainable.
Passionate and knowledgeable, this one is a little tricky since it would be hard to find a coffee roaster that didn’t claim to be passionate about coffee. I would recommend finding a roaster that is small enough you can talk with those involved in the roasting process. You will be able to tell if they truly care about the coffee they are producing or if they are just punching the clock. Ask questions about the coffee they roast. Do they know what the climate conditions where affecting the crops they purchased from? Are they knowledgeable about the regions and farms their coffee is grown on? Even if you can’t meet with them in person send an email or call them on the phone. A good coffee roaster is always happy to talk about coffee.
I want to point out to that I think it is important to try coffee from different roasters. Of course this all take a back seat to taste. That is the point of coffee after all. If you find a coffee roaster over the internet that you can’t get enough of, then who I am I to tell you to switch.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dulce Moldova: The Unofficial Coffee Drink of Moldova

Dulce Moldova
Originally uploaded by Sir_Dydimus
I just returned from an incredible trip to Moldova, a country situated between Romania and the Ukraine. Moldova is traditionally known for its wine, which was very good, but this is not a wine blog.
The coffee culture of Moldova is interesting. On the one hand there are no shortages of coffeehouses. On the other there is an abundance of instant coffee. Over the years I have come to realize that many of the rituals and. To me it is the coffee equivalent of licking the bottom of an ashtray, but I digress. nuisances coffee enthusiast undertake have only a marginal effect on the taste of coffee and can forgive the average coffee drinker for not caring about them. Instant coffee is not one of those things. It truly makes me retch
Other than the instant coffee, Moldovans actually treat coffee with a great amount of respect. They love coffee and drink it often, but you will not find quick service coffee shop were people rush in and out. The coffee houses are places to meet, relax and enjoy coffee with friends. Of course it does it hurt that they all serve alcoholic beverages as well.

All the coffee houses I visited had a wait staff and menus at the table (I would like to note that as a former coffee shop owner, I have great respect for any coffee shop owner that has table service at their establishment since makes running a profitable shop very difficult.) On the other hand I actually saw Nescafe instant coffee on the coffee shop menu.
The Region was at one time occupied by the Ottomans so Turkish coffee is quite popular and done well. Espresso based drinks were a little more hit and miss, but overall very good. My one complaint would be that latte based drinks seemed to be made with skim milk as the default. Personally, I don’t feel a cappuccino can be made properly without whole milk.
One coffee house served a drink called the Dulce Moldova, or sweet Moldova. The waitress insisted I try it. It was made with drip coffee, hazelnut syrup, and some kind of brandy I think. It was topped with whip cream and some crushed nuts. It sounded alright on paper, but the flavors did not come together, and it gave me heart burn before I had swallowed any. On the other hand my girlfriend’s drink was coffee condensed milk and I can’t remember the third ingredient (sorry I’m a bad blogger.) It had strong citrus tones and was more deserving of the name Dulce Moldova
On my way back to the States, I flew through Moscow, I did drink coffee there but it was only in the airport and I would not want someone judging the coffee in the United States based one shot of espresso they had at the airport so I am not going to do that to another country. I’ll leave it at that.
Sadly I had the opportunity to go to Turkey but had to cut my trip short to return to work. My girlfriend has been sending me reports of all the incredible coffee I’m missing out, maybe next year.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Does Coffee Prevent Skin Cancer?

I recently came across an article published on wireprnews.com reporting on a study showing caffeine may help prevent skin cancer. Researcher discovered that caffeine destroys damaged cells by blocking a specific protein that leads to the destruction of these cells. Researchers said the study showed caffeine reduced the amount of damaged cells by 50%.

Being a former health care professional, I do not want to give the idea drinking coffee will prevent you from getting skin cancer. Yes, you still have to put on SPF: ridiculous strength, when you are going out into the sun for prolonged periods, and take all other recommended precautions. I just thought it was nice to know, our beloved bean is giving us a little bit of extra protection.

The link provided below will direct you to the full article:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't Forget the Mug

This is a brief article on the importance of preheating your mug. This incredibly simple step is almost never done. Even good coffee shops miss this one frequently. Pay attention next time you go to your local coffee shop. See if they preheat their porcelain cups before they pour drinks in them or if they preheat their cups before they pull shot of espresso into them. Chances are they do not.
There are two reasons this step should not be overlooked. Coffee served in a preheated mug stays warmer longer. This is a particularly helpful tip for making your travel mug last longer. The coffee I brewed at my coffee shop stayed hot longer if I brewed them in a pre-warmed decanter.
More important though is the effect pre-warmed containers have on espresso. Espresso is more sensitive then brewed coffee. It is served in a smaller volume and more concentrated. Whenever there is a variance in temperature, it will cause the espresso to become bitter. This becomes particularly evident if you have ever tried to make iced coffee, but that is another article.
All it takes is a little rinse of your mug and coffee pot with some hot water before you pour or brew and your coffee with markedly less bitter and stay hot longer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sonofresco Coffee Roaster Refurbishing Project

I purchased a used Coffee Kinectics roaster about a year ago. It was pretty beat down when I got it. It was sitting in the back of a restaurant salvage warehouse. I got a great deal on it but it needs quite a bit of refurbishing.

Of course Kinetics is now Sonofresco. It is a nice little air roaster that roasts 1 lb. batches. The advantage of this over the hot top or other similar home roasters is its overall output capabilities are commercial. The downside is price and it needs to be run outside or ventilated. The good news for me is after all my expenses for this roaster won’t have set me back much more than a hot top and I will be able to run a small commercial coffee roasting operation.

Over the last year I have been perfecting my roasting skills with more Spartan home roasting devices. I am finally ready to begin my rehab project of the Sonofresco coffee roaster. As you can see in this picture it needs quite a bit of work.


Besides general cleaning I have identified the three main components that need to be replaced. The heat sensor, the roast chamber, and the fuel source needs to be converted from natural gas to propane, since I am not equipped for natural gas.

You can see the roast chamber was in a pretty sorry state.

I ordered a propane intake to replace this natural gas valve.

So that is the current state of my coffee roaster. I spoke with a rep for Sonofresco today and a new heat sensor, roast chamber, and propane conversion kit are on their way. I will post updates to my coffee roaster refurbishing project.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to Store Your Coffee

Whether you roast your coffee or buy it at the store chances are you have more than one serving on hand at a time. This means you are going to have to store your coffee. Which also, means you have to know how to store your coffee. Bad news, there is a lot of bad information on coffee storage. The good news, coffee storage is a simple process and the trick is there really is no trick.
So how should you store your coffee? You want to store your coffee in a cool dry place and out of direct sun light. You want to use an airtight container preferably one with a one-way exhaust valve.
Coffee lets off carbon dioxide after roasting until the moment it cupped. Drinks like espresso actually give off carbon dioxide during and after being brewed. That is what the crème on top of the espresso is, but I digress. You can purchase coffee storage containers that have these built in or you can built one yourself with a Tupperware type container, an Exacto knife, a straw, a balloon, and a hot glue gun. I’ll provide the basic directions on how to make a cheap coffee storage container, but you’ll have to find and arts and crafts blog for tips on decorating it.
Okay so you have your storage container purchased or improvised. You have placed your coffee beans in a safe cool dry environment. How long will they stay fresh? The important thing to remember is that coffee is an art not a science (although there is actually a lot of science surrounding it). I have heard experts say you can store whole bean coffee any from a month to six. I do not recommend buying more than a week’s worth of coffee at one time. This is mainly because the coffee you buy at the store has already been sitting on the shelf for a weak and it might have been sitting in storage at the roaster for a month before that. If you roast your own coffee, I would not recommend roasting more than a week’s worth either but you can wait to start the clock until the beans flavor has matured. This is anywhere from 12 hours to 2 days depending on the blend and roast profile. If you are storing ground coffee, don’t, but if you must I would not keep it more than 15 minutes in open air or maybe a day if stored properly. Ground coffee has more surface area exposed which makes it a much better medium for brewing, but also means it goes stale much faster.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Water: You're Coffee's Canvas

Think of water like a canvas for your coffee. The canvas underneath is not the focal point of a painting, but a painter takes great care to use a quality canvas before he begins his painting, because what is underneath the painting will have a marked affect on how it looks. Okay I’ll it leave at that before this article takes a turn for the ridiculous, and I think I’ve made my point that water is an important component to a good cup of coffee. So let us look at how to improve our water at home.
I used an inline filtration system with six filter tubes at my coffee shop. This is a critical reason why you can never seem to get your drip coffee as good as your local coffee shop, even though you may be using the same coffee beans as them. You can purchase these for your home, and if you are handy could probably install it yourself. If you do, you will need to the change the filters at least every 90 days. If you are not as handy, there are several other options requiring zero handyman skills available.
The easiest of these options is to purchase purified water. You can purchase it by the gallon at your grocery store or even have it delivered. This is an easy option but is not kind on your pocket book.
You can purchase secondary filtration systems for relatively cheap and they require little to no installation. Some attach to the end of your faucet and require minor installation. I prefer the pitcher type filters. These are as easy as filling up a pitcher to use and since you keep these pitchers in the refrigerator; your water will be at a lower temperature than out of the tap, which will give your final product a cleaner taste. Of course, with either one of these filtration methods you will have to regularly change the filter for them to be effective. The manufacture of the filter system you purchase should provide guidance on this.
Even though water may not be the star of the play that is your cup of coffee, remember the supporting actors need direction as well. You would so not paint on a dirty canvas why brew with unfiltered water.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee can be defined by two main characteristics. The first is the grind. Turkish coffee’s grind is finer than any other type of coffee. The grind has a baby powder consistency. The second is the way Turkish coffee is brewed. Turkish coffee does not utilize a filter in its brewing process. It is also brought to a boil not once but twice and sometimes a third time. These two factors create several unique quirks about Turkish coffee. The first is how you grind the beans. The second is how you pour Turkish coffee and the third is how you drink it. The good news is none of these techniques are particularly complicated, and in fact they are all pretty simple.
We will start with the grind. Turkish coffee is one of the few coffees I condone buying pre-ground. This is because getting the right consistency can be tricky but is critical to the final product. However, purist will find that grinding Turkish coffee is not rocket science. The most important thing to realize is that the grocery store coffee grinder will not get you even close. I know it has a Turkish coffee setting , but that setting will not even produce a good espresso grind. If you want to brew your own Turkish coffee, you will need to purchase a Turkish coffee mill. These mills often double as decorative pieces. If you do decide to grind your own Turkish coffee, you will not regret your decision.

Before you brew Turkish coffee, you will need to purchase a few items. Do not worry they are all relatively inexpensive. Unless of course you opt for the more decorative pieces which are available in great variety. The first thing you will need is an ibrik, this is the pot you will use to brew Turkish coffee. It is sometimes called a cezve. You will also need a set of demitasse cups. These are the small cups that Turkish coffee is traditionally served in and because of the coffee's consistency play an important role in its enjoyable consumption.

To brew Turkish coffee:

1. Add cold water to the ibrik, measure with a demitasse cup.

2. Add one spoonful of Turkish coffee per cup.

3. Stir the coffee

4. Add the coffee to medium high heat source and watch the coffee throughout the whole process. This is critical.

5. You will notice a film form on top of the coffee when it begins to roll over remove from the heat source.

6. Let the coffee sit for about 30 seconds.

8. Place back on heat source until it begins to roll again. You can drink your Turkish coffee at this point.

9. If you prefer sweeter coffee. Remove from heat source add sugar and reheat one more time before serving.

10. Let the Turkish coffee sit for about 30 seconds before pouring. This allows the sediment to settle on the bottom of the ibrik.

To pour the Turkish coffee set up the demitasse cups. Fill each cup a third of the way up. Then make another pass filling each cup to the top. When you drink Turkish coffee also leave the bottom fourth of the coffee remaining in the cup, since this will be largely sediment.

Here is a great video showing the process: