Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My AeroPress Experience

I was totally fooled. Its almost funny how sure I was that I was getting a vacuum (syphon) pot for my birthday. It turns out I received an AeroPress instead. This is not bad news, not at all, just different news. So, as you might have guessed, I tried it out several times that night. The first few were rough, just like anything is the first time, but it's leveled out a bit now. Am I impressed? Adequately. Blown away? No. This contraption is very inexpensive and probably the easiest total use/clean-up I have ever experienced. So, should I expect the same results as my Chemex, French Press, or even espresso machine?
I took a myriad of pictures while playing with the AeroPress. Micalah took even more. I've selected a few to post on here: steps in its use and clean up.

                 Starting Equipment with grounds (above)

     Adding 190-200 degree water (rather than the prescribed 175, for more thorough extraction)

 Stirring grounds (upside down because if done how prescribed, watery coffee escapes through the filter)

                            Adding filter and cap

                            Pressing (gently)

                              Removing Cap

Rinsing off excess grounds (the rest were ejected into trash like an espresso puck)

Final product made roughly 8-10oz (cups used were the Bodum Assam)

Overall, a good experience, but I did have some very notable changes to the officially prescribed process. I used roughly 1/4 the amount of coffee grounds for one press, I used it in the "upside down" fashion, and I used much hotter water than prescribed. I'm still in the working-out stages, but finding those changes to be necessary was a big help.

Lord, thank you for the chance to play around and enjoy things. I pray learning opportunities like this would be available for my kids as well. Keep me head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best Of Series: Vacuum Pot (Syphon)

Everyone knows Intelligentsia knows their stuff. They are on top of the coffee world right now in more ways than one. I chose their Vacuum Pot (or "syphon") how-to video because of their clout mostly, but also because it is put together very concisely. Also, their use of black and white with limited use of intense color splashes kept my interest. I think the capacity for learning with the video is very high, even if you consider yourself familiar with this brew method.

I didn't get this one for my birthday, but you had better believe it's on my watch list. Too cool. Lord, thank you once again for awesomeness, but especially when embodied by coffee-related product demonstrations. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Monday, January 25, 2010

First Time's a Charm

I turned 21 yesterday. With a wife, two kids, and a mortgage, I already feel like I'm in my forties. I've been served alcohol a couple of different times, both unwanted, after joking around with a waitress. You see, I guess a ring on your finger and two kids along with you send a message that you are definitely 21. Well, until yesterday, I was not. I returned both previously mentioned beverages with my apologies (the wait staff totally missed my intensely dry sarcasm upon "ordering" alcohol for my 1 year old daughter, and assumed I was wanting it for myself- AND did not check my ID ever). Anyway, the point of my post does have something to do with coffee, at least mildly.

I have had absolutely no interest in alcohol before, especially beer. I had never swallowed any in my life until last night. My wife surprised me with a late-night party at the local micro-brewery called Flat Branch Pub & Brewery. She had a few friends there and we took advantage of the 1/2 price pizza and cheap drink menu after 10pm. A Russian friend of mine, who will remain nameless, has had a bit more experience with certain types of beverages than me, so naturally, he led the way last night. He and another fine gentleman bought me a sample order of six different brews.Honey Wheat, "Oil Change" Stout, Irish Red, Katy Trail, Brown Wheat, and Red Wheat were the specific names. Where this post becomes about coffee a bit is now. Until last night I had thought that beer was going to be a bland and uniform blanket of "blah," with no taste differences or experiences of note. I was wrong. Like coffee, I had no interest in alcohol before someone purchased it for me, allowing me to sample with no financial risk of my own. I actually began to pick out taste differences, texture qualities, and really got into it just as I have with coffee. Am I saying I'll be a regular- not even close. I actually drank the equivalent of 1 and 1/2 bottles last night over a 2 hour period, which is very minimal. I guess I'm happy I've finally realized there is a bit more to the alcohol scene than mindless drunkenness, which is a typical conclusion in a college town.

Lord, thank you for giving us a great time last night, with no need to over-indulge. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go. I love you Calah.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Barista Magazine Honors

A friend of mine in the industry, Joe Marocco, made it into our beloved Barista Magazine for the December/January issue. He works extremely hard perfecting his craft of roasting, but still reserves enough time and energy to become one of the best baristas in the U.S. I respect his work and desire to share his knowledge with others who are interested, people like me. I visited Kaldi's Roaster in St. Louis a few months ago and he gave me the tour, plus an entire day of lessons on roasting how-to. I've posted a few times on this in the past, so for you who want more info can look there. Check the link above to check out his face time in the iMag, page 54. Congrats Joe for the long-due shout out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Best Of Series: AeroPress

The next edition in the "Best Of Series" is one based on the AeroPress. This is a simple contraption that uses air pressure to push very hot water through a layer of ground coffee, the same principle as espresso, but resulting in a black coffee-like brew. Since the press is by hand, the extreme pressures espresso machines can achieve are a bit beyond this method. Nevertheless, this is a very interesting and cost effective method for brewing coffee. It has become so popular in some regions (Scandinavia for example) that there are special competitions based on its use. Anyway, here is the video and how-to:

Pretty good stuff. This will most likely be the next addition to my coffee maker lineup. That is after I get my birthday present: Vacuum Pot (I'll post on the vacuum pot tomorrow)! Lord, thank you for excellence in simplicity. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Best Of Series: French Press

This is the next installment of the "Best of" series and is based on the French Press. James Hoffmann gets the honor this time and his very own post on Espresso Vein. Please note his emphasis on the use of scales in this demo; not a widespread idea for home use, but should be gaining ground due to their effectiveness. Now, I'll just sit back with you and enjoy the demonstration:

Did you see his "Break?" Too beautiful! That is some great coffee there. It looked like the coffee lost a full inch in height after the break- that's due to the release of CO2 "breaking" through the cap of grounds. Then the "Clean" took me by surprise. It seems so simple and obvious since that procedure is a carry-over from cuppings, but I had never thought of that before I saw Tim Wendleboe do it on his version of the French Press video... I didn't use his because it was in Norwegian.

Lord, thank you for the ability to learn and appreciate knowledge. Please help us to continually search for more. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Best Of Series: Chemex

Rarely, if ever, do I make posts explicitly about one entity. To post on one singular item, it had better be outstanding, fascinating, or ground-breaking. This post is not really any of those, but it is entertaining. So, according to me (and that is all who matters apparently) this is post-worthy. So what is it already? This is a how-to video on pour-over brewing with the Chemex. I found it on the new website called Brew Methods, fairly straight forward; a link to that is found to the right in my "Interesting Links" section. This video is by no means the only video for using the Chemex well. In fact, it is not even the "best". It is, however, the most entertaining, therefore it gets prominence and its very own post on Espresso Vein. This is going to be the first of several posts based on my favorite videos of mainstream brew methods. Anyway, here are the goods:

Lord, thank you for creative coffee professionals like those from Verve. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Review of Ethiopia Aleta Wondo Natural

Originally submitted at Coffee Review

In aroma and cup soft, honey-like sweetness with round fruit tones and a hint of flowers. Bright acidity, medium body, silky mouthfeel, continued softly stated fruit and floral notes with an added hint of lemon. Finishes cleanly with a muted but rich pungency.

Definitely Worth the Dough

By Espresso Vein from Columbia, MO on 1/18/2010


4out of 5

Pros: Attractive Mouthfeel/Body, Balanced Acidity, CocaCola-like cleanliness

Cons: Poorer aroma than used to

Best Uses: Manual Pour-Over/Drip

Describe Yourself: Coffee Connoisseur, Coffee Professional

I grind a bit finer on a burr grinder and use a pour-over method called the Chemex for brewing. A great coffee to wake up with, very bright. The aroma was a bit slow. The roasting process did not seem to add much to it other than hits of honey, but overall still well above average. Incredibly affordable.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seriously Hilarious, But They're Serious.

Over Christmas break from school (and work) my family and I visited the grandparents. About once a week my wife and I had a chance to get out of the house on our own. These mini-dates usually include searching out a new local specialty coffee shop. Unfortunately, our families live in the world's worst specialty coffee environments, rural Missouri.

Our first encounter with "rural Missourah" specialty coffee was at a Goodwill store. Not exactly a coffee shop at all, but still. We were shopping for some baby shoes for our son (no need to spend the big bucks for shoes he will neither wear much nor remember). Anyway, while browsing, I found this gem:
Wow. Does that "espresso" look like some sweet black coffee or what? Mmm... delicious (please catch the intense sarcasm).

The second run-in with fantastic south-western Missouri specialty coffee came at an odds and ins store called "Doo-Dads," so you know it's good. We had enough sense to bring our own whole bean Guatemalan coffee from Northwest Coffee and Costa Rica Don Mayo from Kaldi's Coffee, my burr grinder, and Chemex brewer, so luckily we weren't actually looking for these "finds." Here is the pain: Again, SOO GOOD. How do you like that? This was so rural, even Starbucks is a foreign idea (hence "Star Buck"). We were ready to get home.

Lord, save me from this body of coffee sin. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Single Origin Espresso

I've had a few lattes using single origin espressos. Until the last one, they've all been little more than blase. The Costa Rican Helsar de Zarcero from Kaldi's is the exception: Fantastic. I ran out of whole beans for the house and couldn't get my shipment from Northwest in time, so I went down to Kaldi's and picked up some of that unbelievably satisfying Costa Rican. Brought it back immediately and brewed it in the Chemex (with new PRE-FOLDED filters!) and prepared my palate for delicious black brewed brilliance.

I sipped at first, it was hot. The hopes here high. I'll do us all a favor and won't drag this out. It wasn't the greatest. Good enough to finish, but not good enough to buy again. My wife really enjoyed it, but the qualities she picked up were totally lost on me. Supposedly women have an enhanced ability to smell and therefore taste. Maybe this has something to do with it? She detected a "honey-nut cereal" taste that was totally lost on me. My detections were minimal: coffee. No brightness, no citrus, no roast elements; it was blase. Roles reversed on me. This could have been a freak accident, but in the even that it wasn't, this is a crazy phenomenon. A single origin coffee (a top notch propagated and roasted batch at that) that tastes better as espresso? Crazy.

Lord, thanks for new experiences. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.