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Saturday, April 01, 2006

the rwanda whatever

so yesterday peter g. of counterculture sent me some coffee, but apparently we're not sure just what!

anyway, i brewed some up today in the cafetiére, with a little trepidation.

lemme describe this coffee quickly: the beans show occasional tiny patches of oil, so i'm calling it a vienna-. i think this coffee is very fresh, despite the lack of a roast date, because it has that "just roasted, not settled" smell, which some people describe as slightly grassy or even kinda peanut-buttery.

i'd love a better descriptor for this, so please, dear readers, offer me one below. further, when the water hit the ground coffee, the slurry bubbled and hissed like a volcanic mud bath.

that much co2 tells me it ain't been outta the roaster more than 36 hours. needless to say, the bloom was massive and nearly overflowed.

devoted readers will recall i had a big chat with coffee chemistry guru carl staub recently. one of the gazillion topics he touched on was press brewing.

the scaa standard for press brewing, as set forth in the lingle brewing handbook, teaches press brewing at a coarse grind for 4-5 mins. and because i evangelize the scaa standards, that's what i say too.

staub, however, has a lot of data -- i don't think he's published this all, or at least i haven't seen it yet -- to suggest that grinding finer and plunging at 2-1/2 mins. might be better. how much finer?

if we accept the brewing handbook's definition of coarse or regular as "55% of it stays on size 20 & 28 mesh screens," then how much finer should we coffee lovers grind to hit staub's new sweet spot?

sadly staub didn't yet have a flat answer. "right now it's empirical," he said. sigh.

so dear readers, if you wanna try the staub press method, you'll just have to experiment with a grind at drip level or finer with any particular coffee until you hit upon what you like.

not much of an answer right now, i'm afraid. (oh, about those screens -- lots of coffee operations measure bean size and grind by shaking coffee through a series of stacked, graduated screens and seeing how much of what falls thru where. . .)

anyway, the dry grounds of this coffee are spicy and floral, and there's a definite milk chocolate aftertaste. but because the coffee is almost too fresh, i don't want to say too much about it right now.

the body! i'd call it medium, at the moment, but will reconsider this when i brew the coffee again tomorrow. . .

in unrelated news, broadband finally came to my house today. and because i have a fabulous mac os x machine, i just clicked one button to turn my firewall on.

that's all there is to it folks! here i am, in the 21st cent. at last.

and i must say that the dread time warner cable came on time, installed quickly, neatly and professionally. all i had to do was clear out my shoes so the cable could go thru the closet wall to the mac.

i was surprised at how painless the whole process was. good job, time warner!

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posted by fortune | 2:08 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

Friday, March 31, 2006

peter g's counterculture rwanda karaba

ooh ooh ooh — and what came in the mail today but peter g's counterculture rwanda karaba lakaka? long-time readers will recall that so far i've been fortunate to receive the stumptown rwanda, dougie's gmcr rwanda ("the benchmark"), and the seven lakes from the development organization.

peter's coffees are always rewarding and delicious -- even amazing. i cannot wait to try this one out.

speaking of trying coffees out, i finished up andrew b's ecco são benedito. i've tried it as a cappuccino -- which doesn't suit it -- and as a macchiato, which does. that was just a gorgeous coffee (you can learn more about it over at dogmilque now, which i guess is serving pretty much as the official ecco blog.)

i can't thank peter and andrew enough. but while we're on this subject. . .

lately i've been getting a lot of cook and food books to review. who knows why, since i'm not a foodie blog, and everyone knows what i think of most foodie blogs.

for example, recently i was sent a copy of a book about having a tiny kitchen. i don't have a tiny kitchen, actually, even tho' i live in nyc.

i actually have a huge apartment -- sorry to have to confess this -- from which i can see from the verazzano bridge past the brooklyn and manhattan bridges all the way to the chrysler building. my dining room holds a travertine marble table that seats 8 (yes, i have a separate dining room).

my kitchen has many very large cabinets, with 3 or 4 tall shelves each. since my ceilings are quite high, you have to get an extra-tall step ladder to reach the topmost shelves above the sink that go all the way up.

or i have to ask mr. right to stand on the counter and get stuff down, that's possible too. our building also used to have the most charming dumbwaiter(!), which has been converted into a large pantry.

i also have a broom closet, a liquor cabinet, and shelves for wine. i also have a large hanging rack for all my french copper cookware over my antique stove.


thus i must offer my apologies to author of said book, because i really can't review it. not that i could have anyway, since its strange design, with so much white type against psychedelic acid green, makes the tiny text hard to read.

after receiving so much printed material lately, i must politely suggest that those who would like to review things please keep some points in mind: i am always happy to consider objects related to this blog -- bread, coffee, chocolate, yoga -- and i will expand into general baking as well as of course, pizza.

in general, i am sympathetic to slow. i have little interest in microwaves except for melting chocolate.

please don't send me books on how to make, um, "dinner" in a crock-pot using campbell's soup or other packaged and processed food. please remember that i have been known to make my own mozzarella and that every morning i weigh my coffee to the gram for perfect brewing.

this said, i love receiving coffee (especially from members of the roasters guild the scaa, the scae, the aasca or any coffee farmer!), coffee machines (which i will return to you quickly if you cover the shipping back), coffee books, etc. etc.

on the yoga front, i will happily look at books, cds, dvds, props, and clothing. i am happy to consider chocolate from artisan chocolatiers.

to my mind artisan chocolate does not include potato chips covered in low-quality milk chocolate coverature, for example. those are frankly disgusting.

on bread and pizza, i am again very happy to consider books, baking equipment, dvds, even fed-ex'd loaves from reputable artisan bakers.

i hate to sound so imperious and nasty, but i'm just being overwhelmed with off-topic stuff. sorry.

also, since i finally had a moment last night, i went ahead and enabled the greasemonkey script to get technorati tags going at long last. i was sure blogger was going to get on the stick with this sooner, but c'est la vie.

please see below.

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posted by fortune | 8:29 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 9 comments

Thursday, March 30, 2006

apparently, what the planet's reading at any given time

another for all you time-slice fans:

posted by fortune | 8:04 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

coffee is sweet

you know, i had the opportunity to chat with coffee science guru and scaa pro member carl staub of agtron the other day. one of the many interesting things we discussed was a question that had long intrigued me.

as you all know, dear readers, coffee beans are in general 7-8% sucrose. that is, coffee is naturally sweet, which isn't surprising, since sucrose is widely found in plants.

so why do people normally experience bitterness in otherwise well-grown, well-processed, and properly roasted specialty coffee? shouldn't all coffee taste as sweet as an apple?

carl's discussion of this focused on the chemistry of the sucrose in the roast. as the green coffee beans heat up, the sucrose in the coffee splits apart, releasing water, etc.

this is the source of what is known to roasters as "first crack," and if you've ever roasted, you've heard it, a kind of pop-corn-like pop. not to get all technical (like i did last night on my poor coffee meetup group), in fact to massively over-simplify, the saccharides come up to the surface of the bean where they can get all nice and caramelized.

yummy. but if the temperature during roasting isn't exactly in the right range, these sugar products turn into molecules we poor humans can't taste, and so we lose the beautiful sweetness of the coffee. this is why coffee roasting remains an art despite scientific advances in coffee chemistry and roasting equipment.

because only the pro roaster/cupper can taste the sugar! i found this such an interesting conversation that i continued it with a long-time bccy pal and member of the roasters guild, barry jarrett of riley's coffee (hint, think the famous decatur street espresso blend).

here's what barry wrote to me, with old-school ascii art! fun!

thanks barry for permission to quote ya:

"taste perception is based on molecule shape. it is possible for some molecules to form configurations which have different characteristics even though they are the same molecular formula (the one i remember best are cis- and trans- configuations). let's see if i can do some ascii art:

  | |
  H H

that would be cis-
that would be trans-

sometimes these formations are only obvious when looking at a 3-D model of the molecule.

anyway, the point is that molecules of the same formula can behave differently, and sometimes it's just a matter of energy input in determining the shape of the molecule. if sucrose is fractured (i think the proper term is 'decomposed' but people get weird when using that term), then it no longer behaves like the sucrose we know and love too much.

so, my take on what you've related is that during roasting, the physical structure of sucrose depends upon the energy levels at the molecular level. if the literal 'sweet spot' is missed, then the available sucrose is rendered into a form which is structurally incompatible with the sweet taste receptors on the tongue, and the potential/inherent sweetness is lost."

see, coffee lovers, chemistry, which at first can seem quite arcane, is really very enlightening when it comes to questions about our favorite beverage!

and this is why we are seeking are those artisan roasters who know the secret -- gained only from experience -- of roasting coffee to keep those sugars in a shape we can taste. . .

but for those of you who just can't deal with this much science, please enjoy a charming article on belgian chocolate.

posted by fortune | 8:52 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 6 comments

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

the são benedito as a single-origin espresso

yuppers dear readers, i bit the bullet and pulled shots of andrew b's ecco são benedito, the prize-winning c.o.e. coffee from brazil i've been talking about the past few days.

i pulled these triples on my beloved italian princess, the silvia, and ground the coffee on that handsome italian prince, the mazzer mini.

i've always found andrew's coffees easy to work with -- his roast is not only delicious, but makes the coffee quite flexible. so, got your scaa flavor wheels handy?

this coffee's now 9 days old, but still pulls a lovely shot with great crema -- i had it both as a straight espresso and as an americano. as usual, i describe andrew's northern-italian-style roast as basically full city+.

as a triple, i found the são benedito to present a sharp taste, with a lightly syrupy body. i'd call that heavy.

the coffee keeps the main bouquet of floral-citrus, vanilla, almonds, but the caramel aftertaste turns to a powdery dutch cocoa that leaves a slightly dry feeling in the mouth.

i thought the espresso was better than the americano, honestly. i should have tried this also as a cappuccino, but how many triples can a skirt drink in a morning?

tomorrow we cross that glistening wave of microfoam. . .

posted by fortune | 8:00 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

nice note from andrew b. today

andrew b's ecco são benedito, the prize-winning super-premium brazil c.o.e. i've been privileged to hang out with lately, is just a wonderful coffee. i can't wait to try it as a single-origin espresso.

and andrew was kind enough to offer his take on the bean:

"yes, with you on picking out the vanilla, almond and caramel aftertaste. some of my fellow coe jurors noted its citrus presence. what jumped out [at andrew] was a stone fruit sweetness, really luscious ripened apricot notes."

apricots! now this i haven't found yet. maybe it will show up in the espresso!

andrew also mentioned that some of the c.o.e. brazilian farmers were visiting california next week -- lucky andrew! to spend time with these great artisan growers.

besides spending time with andrew's coffee, of course i've also been listening to the new st. etienne and durutti column albums. pleasant cupping music.

ok, some critics are calling the durutti column album a masterpiece, but i'm still thinking that over. . .

posted by fortune | 8:33 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, March 27, 2006

and the secret elixir is. . .

". . .biochemists and physiologists in the dog-eat-dog world of sports drink technology have struggled to find the perfect elixir -- the right balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, protein and fluid to keep athletes in peak form after various types of exercise.

so it was big news when exercise kinesiology professor joel stager and co-workers at indiana university in bloomington declared they had stumbled upon the perfect drink for elite cyclists recovering their energy after strenuous exercise.

that beverage was chocolate milk."

for several weeks i've been receiving a lot of email from people telling me how fantastic the new hershey's sugar-free chocolate 1% milk is. they were discussing what a great base it makes for hot chocolate or to use in making coffee drinks.

but apparently, according to this article, it's what we should all be drinking after yoga class.

anyway, i bought a carton last week. it's um, merely ok, i think. it's not really very chocolate-y, and has so much artificial thickener!

mr. right kindly chipped in to help by trying it on his daily oats. (shiver.)

so i have to say this stuff doesn't do it for me, but apparently a lot of people are putting a mug of it in the microwave with an ounce of good bittersweet chocolate and then after 2 mins. giving a good stir.

dear readers, you can try this yourself, but i just couldn't ruin a nice chunk of anything like that, personally. and i couldn't even dream of putting it in coffee. . .but some people are using it as the base for a kind of chocolate cafe au lait.

posted by fortune | 8:24 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, March 26, 2006

excuse the formatting, again

second day in a row i can't log in, so please, for the second day in a
row, do forgive the formatting of this mail-in post. thank you in
advance for your patience, dear readers.

today i began my morning with the delicious, never-fail dancing goat
blend from jessica at batdorf. i've been drinking this coffee for quite
some time now, and feel like i know it very well.

like all coffee blends, scott -- the roastmaster at batdorf -- has to
tweak it from time to time, due to supply issues, or taste issues of the
current coffees on hand, etc. etc. today i particularly thought i
noticed that the coffee seemed a little more blueberry-tasting than

yummy! that's a good thing! keep that up scott!

long-time readers know i love blue-tasting coffees. . .and citrus
coffees too.

speaking of citrus, let's talk about about the coffee i switched to this
afternoon -- andrew b's prize-winning cup of excellence brazil sao

scroll down to friday to see my first take on this wonderful bean. of
course, i had to brew it in the chemex.

and then i had to try it black, as well as with cream and sugar. and
then i had to try it as turkish, which i always drink black.

compared to the french press, i usually grind a littler finer for drip
(the chemex), and a little finer still for the vac pot. for this coffee,
i kept my chemex grind at the same grade i used for the press.

i made this coffee in the chemex at oren's proportion: 2 oz. ground
coffee by weight / 26 oz. water. and i thought it really benefited from

i prefer the sao benedito in the chemex to the press, i really do. at
day 5 with that grind, the coffee had a very beautiful and unusual
character, i thought.

call me crazy, but i really did find a lovely aroma, a floral-citrus
aroma that reminded me very much of a japanese fruit called yuzu.

check out wikipedia if you're not familiar with yuzu -- i know it only
from the floral scent. how so?

it's the perfume used to scent the brand of japanese hair products of
which i'm so fond! (japanese people apparently associate this
flower/fruit with cleanliness, purity, and good luck, which is why they
use it in many body products.)

when i first caught this in the coffee, i had to stop myself to make
sure i wasn't smelling my own hair. but no, i think this floral-citrus
thing is in the coffee; it's like a mandarin orange but flowery.

after coming back from yoga, after i made this week's pizza sauce, i
brewed some up turkish.
and surprisingly, it made a very nice turkish cup as well.

i say surprising, because i generally think wine-y coffees like harrars
or yemens make the best turkish. but this brazil was fabulous too.

of course turkish coffee is ground very fine -- and the citrus scent was
easily detectable as i was grinding it. while of course i wouldn't
recommend using such a spectacular coffee only for turkish, i was really
happy at what a great cup it made.

i just love this floral, citrus, roasted-almond coffee. i can see why it
cupped so highly at the competition!

the chemex gave it a lovely body too, almost as nice as the press did on
friday.i would definitely call this a medium-thick coffee, a very light
syrup, that clings to the back of the demitasse spoon for an instant
before it pools to fall in glistening, perfect drops.

a great coffee, highly recommended. tomorrow i'll make it in the vac
pot. . .

posted by fortune | 3:43 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments

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