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Saturday, June 24, 2006

woo-hoo: cleaning salvation for the chemex

and what arrived today? josh dick's urnex set of fabulous coffee equipment cleaners!

long-time readers know i talk a lot about proper coffee brewing, which requires some equipment -- be it a US$10 porcelain melitta cone, a US$60 hand-blown chemex, a US$20 bodum glass french press, a US$600 royal balancing syphon vac pot in handmade crystal, a US$1100 espresso machine, a basic US$50 burr grinder or a US$450 mazzer mini.

each will give you a great cup of coffee in its own way when correctly used. but it won't continue to do so unless you care for it diligently.

by which i mean, clean -- and in the case of espresso machines -- descale it. i remain surprised by how many people drop major, major dollars on coffee equipment and then never clean or descale it, even tho' they know that lack of descaling is a main cause of espresso machine failure.

limescale buildup will actually destroy your espresso machine and require you to spend an ugly amount of money to have it fixed; coffee oil and debris buildup on non-espresso pots will make your coffee taste like pitch. yeeeech!

i meet so many people who tell me they hate coffee. when i ask why, they tell me childhood horror stories of bad home brewing: their parent's dirty mr. coffee spitting out too-weak coffee that then sat on the hot plate for hours. . .

no wonder they need in-depth therapy. this is serious beverage trauma.

if you want to perform a really gross coffee experiment, take a french press and brew 3 or 4 pots of dark-roast sumatra or any oily coffee you may have around that's past its prime. i mean, do it all in a row.

between each pot, just add a drop of dishwashing liquid and swirl it around with water, giving it a quick rinse. this is what most people, alas, consider cleaning your coffee pot.

after the 4th or even a 5th pot, drop in a little cafiza, fill the press with water, plunge the thing, and come back 10 minutes later. the water will be such a disgusting brown color you will freak out.

those are the rancid coffee oils most people are drinking. and they wonder why their coffee tastes bad?

this is where josh comes in. he's a long-time member of the scaa technical standards committee, because he's considered a global expert on coffee brewing.

for years i've used his cafiza to blackflush my espresso machines and also to clean the metal filter parts on my cafetiéres. while some people seem to have an irrational dislike of his cleancaf product, i've used it to descale my italian princess, silvia, since forever with great results -- it's very easy to use, works great, and takes 10 or 15 steamy minutes, max.

so i heart josh, no doubt. and that's why i was so happy to get his new product for cleaning grinders, grindz, as well as his clearly coffee.

clearly coffee's the answer for those who love their chemex pots but secretly gripe that they are hard to clean, since the chemex brush doesn't have a flexible handle, and most baby bottle brushes are too short for the bigger chemexes.

after you're done with your chemex coffee, just rinse out the pot quickly, put 3 squirts of clearly coffee in the chemex, fill it about halfway with the hot water remaining in your kettle, and give a quick swipe or two with the big chemex brush. wa-llah! as we like to say around here; rinse well and air dry.

and you bet i'm turning his grindz loose on my saeco 2002 burr grinder next weekend! thank you josh.

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posted by fortune | 11:54 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, June 23, 2006

intelligentsia geisha news update

just emailed 'round matt riddle of intelligentsia about the hacienda la esmeralda panama geisha ordering situation. "response has been great," matt wrote.

it's a hot coffee, no doubt; matt sent out 5,500 emails yesterday afternoon! it's so hot in fact that doug zell's extending the ordering to make it more widely available!

so if you missed your coupon code, didn't get your email, or spaced on it -- whatever -- no worries. as of midnite tonite chicago-land time, doug's throwing open the ordering process to all.

that means you can order the geisha through doug's normal shopping cart. so, dear readers, set yourself a reminder on your watch, alarm clock, outlook, pda, whatever.

and get ready to buy away. good luck! i think doug will do this rare, exclusive coffee justice, so buying his version of the bean should be rewarding. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:50 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Thursday, June 22, 2006

jonathan's india mysore

before life events turned today into all-intelligentsia-all-the- time, i had intended to write about my experience today making jonathan's joe india mysore in the chemex. but hey, stuff happens.

note that jonathan doesn't roast coffee himself (yet - hint!); it comes to him from barrington. alas, it doesn't have a roast date, so sadly i can't tell you how old it is.

lemme just say that i found the mysore to have a taste hovering between sweet and nippy (only barely bright); with a floral fragrance, a malty aroma, a caramel nose, and a very slight wood-spicy aftertaste. this washed coffee from south india offered a moderately heavy body, which i found somewhat unusual for a mysore.

generally this coffee is known for a light-ish body; so i think the better-than-expected-mouthfeel is coming from a combination of the roast and the chemex. i would describe the barrington roast level on this one to be city+, since no oil at all is visible anywhere on any bean.

but again, i don't have an agtron number on this. altho' this is proving a rather quick round-up on this bean, i'd say generally that jonathan's mysore is better than ken davids (scroll down) would describe the "average" product from this origin.

in fact, it was pretty well balanced, i might say it was sort of a cross between a costa rica and a brazil. hmm, in a good way.

if you see what i'm driving at. . .for lovers of light coffees who normally take a little milk, i'd hazard.

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posted by fortune | 8:16 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

prepare to check your email

per my previous posts on the rare geisha available from intelligentsia, prepare to check your email within 15 or 20 minutes. matt riddle is about to send out the coupon code that will let you pre-order this very exclusive, limited coffee.

i mean about as in "about right now." really. if you've been following the situation, you would have subscribed to the intelligentsia email list last friday.

and if you did so, you will be getting the coupon code in the newsletter matt's on the verge of sending out. follow all instructions carefully!

good luck pre-ordering your half pound of the hacienda la esmeralda panama geisha, the auction record-breaker and prize-winning coffee. for those of you asking yourself: is this coffee worth it? let me say: it was last year.

and the word is it's just as good this year! this coffee is expected to sell out online this afternoon. . .if you missed the email-signup, consider trying a phone order.

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posted by fortune | 12:37 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 2 comments | leave a voicemail

congrats to our pals at intelligentsia!

"geoff watts turned up recently at the ceremony capping nicaragua's 2006 cup of excellence coffee competition in the steamy 500-year-old convent of san francisco here. mr. watts, 32, is the green coffee buyer for intelligentsia coffee, a fast-growing privately owned retail and wholesale company in chicago.

coffee, mr. watts says, is his life, and he tries to attend most of the competitions in latin america each year to find the best beans and build lasting relationships with growers.

'relationship coffee' is one term mr. watts uses to describe how he does business - another is 'direct trade.'

'i find a coffee i love, build a direct relationship with the grower and then pay at least 25 percent above the fair trade price,' he said in an interview. he also lavishes time and resources on his growers, inviting groups of them to chicago to learn about the consumer side of the coffee business."

fantastic! long-time readers know i'm a big fan of intelligentsia coffee in general.

not only because doug zell rocks, not only because geoff watts and matt riddle are nice guys, but also because they are completely committed to doing beyond the right thing for coffee farmers. and, their coffee is some of the best in the united states.

the article also gives a nice mention to another long-time bccy pal, peter giuliano of counterculture. devoted readers already know what i think of his fabulous coffees, since i can't stop talking about them. . .as recently as yesterday. . .or just pop my test cloud to see for yourself. . .

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posted by fortune | 6:35 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

all hail sumatra

devoted readers will remember that i've spent much of this spring drinking fantastic new world coffees -- peter g.'s counterculture bolivians, kevin c's gimme el naranjal, scott's amazing batdorf los lirios, everybody's fantastic pico del tucan. and so many more. . .

in that light, it was a nice change to return to an old favorite, don schoenholt's gillies sumatra lintong kuda mas from yesterday. what a wonderful breakfast cup that makes in the cafetiére.

as i've often said, that coffee's like spending an afternoon with your best childhood friend.

and on the coffee front, i was surprised today to receive some coffee from jonathan of joe! thanks so much, j.

it's apparently in response to a side comment i sort of tossed out in that recent article in the post, that jonathan had some good dark roast. he wrote me that actually he was moving away from that roast level a tad, towards a lighter coffee.

in this vein, i'll be very interested in checking out the india mysore, the moka java, and the espresso he so sweetly send my way.

and finally, since i guess i've been talking so much about the csa lately, i got my hot little hands on jay weinstein's ethical gourmet. naturally, i judge a book by its coffee and chocolate.

my first impression -- just flipping thru it without reading it -- is that he blew it on the coffee. while he does mention long-time bccy pals and scaa members like karen c. of elan, he misses out totally on what i think has to be the greenest roaster in the u.s.a. right now, mark inman of taylormaid, with his miracle non-polluting roaster, his super-recyclable cans, and his habit of running even his most personal thoughts on biodiesel.

his list of roasters providing fair-trade and organic coffees is alas laughably small. i think every single member of the roasters guild and certainly all the roasters i link to on my left-hand navigation over there are good for organic and/or fair-trade.

on the chocolate front, however, weinstein did well with my favorite organic chocolate, the dagoba (for example, here). anyway, the recipes are global -- asian inspired, new american (weinstein seems to like bison!), a genre i'm calling al-ital (southern food with an italian twist, think southern fried catfish with broccoli rabe!), and even new-oz inspired.

so i'll add this to my cookbook pile. like marge simpson, i read recipes in bed. . .more on this book later when i've had a chance to give it a fair read. . .

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posted by fortune | 6:24 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

lavender & sage

having joined the csa, i'm getting used to the one odd ingredient it throws at you each week. last week, sunchokes -- which i spun into a recipe from marcella cucina -- and this week, lavender.

what leaps instantly into my mind when pondering lavender is ice cream and cookies. many recipes with blueberries and vanilla do ok if you toss in some lavender as an extra ingredient, like muffins and pound cake (even vinaigrettes).

these are so screamingly little-old-lady, i can't imagine my husband would touch them. but maybe i should be more clever in this hot summer weather and think cool zabaglione.

the only issue with this might be the usual marsala, which would overwhelm the lavender flavor. it's common to find zabaglione with lemon and/or cinnamon as well, since these are flavors that echo the esters occuring in marsala.

so! it would be necessary to replace the marsala with something less assertive and more lavender friendly. there's always that old standby, kirsch. . .

we don't have great apricots yet, or else i'd consider home-made jam.

while wandered home pondering this dilemma, i arrived to discover my husband had decided to make ricotta gnocchi with sage butter. a delicious classic!

and yes, they are so good that i am up right now snacking on the left-overs. but! this isn't a cheeseburger blog!

you long-time readers haven't tuned in to read what i'm eating. . .as soon as i'm done pillaging the gnocchi, i'll go back to bed, wake up, and brew some gillies coffee.

oh, and another thing: i will be checking out flock, but i worry its vaunted blogging features aren't as rich as firefox. and i would like to implement hcard here, but there doesn't yet seem to be a way for normal people to consume them easily, which means i don't yet see how they help you right now, dear readers!

finally, i do think there should be a sub-category of hreview specifically for coffee. i'll take this up with cqi and scaa very soon; but right now the specification is too limited for our beloved bean, imvho.

gimme a couple hours, ok?

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posted by fortune | 3:20 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

surprise from gillies coffee!

ooh ooh ooh! wandered home last night after pilates mat class, which i am taking once a week to help achieve a straighter line in handstand, only to discover a trio of wandering gillies coffees perched eagerly on my doorstep, one-way valves smiling.

they looked so cute-n-friendly in their little gold bags, so naturally i brought 'em in. and they were: my all time fave "classic profile" ethiopian, the gillies lemon-caramel candy yrg, the one ken davids famously deemed the best yrg ever; the famed sumatra lintong "kuda mas" triple-picked, japanese prep, grade 1; and a new lintong, the gayo mountain, grade 1, triple-picked, with a european prep.

this gayo mountain is roasted for espresso, it looks like to me: don schoenholt intends it to be used as a single-origin espresso. must check this out.

thanks don! i also had a great chat yesterday with scaa pro member and tech standards guy josh dick of urnex about his grindz product for cleaning coffee grinders; he's just back from a month-long sales trip in europe, where the demand for his products is apparently exhausting.

he's in 50 countries now, can you believe it? i'm looking forward to trying out grindz myself.

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posted by fortune | 8:14 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, June 19, 2006

kill me now

" 'no one is expected to take off anything in these sessions,' little woo says by way of introduction to her burlesque yoga, 'but people can find it a very liberating experience. even the bikini-impaired might strip down to their panties and bra.' "

sadly, this is not a prank pulled on the mainstream media by an ambitious blogger. this woman actually teaches "yoga" classes in a corset and heels.

when, i beg the cosmos, when will the yoga fad end? i will end up a totally humorless ashtangi yet, i swear, a total yoga purist. . .

i know the burlesque thing is a dying hipster novelty, so i understand this poor woman has to find a hook to pay her rent. but can't she just go teach low-impact burlesque-aerobics for middle-aged matrons?

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posted by fortune | 6:37 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, June 18, 2006

oren's greenwell farms kona

My BCCY Podcast In which I enthuse more about oren's greenwell farms estate kona in the french press. remember, you can subscribe to all my podcasts on itunes.

that i like this coffee so very much isn't a surprise to long-time readers, who know that not only am i generally really fond of all of oren's coffees, but i am also fond of estate kona. and this may come as a surprise to many, since often people who love intense ethiopians and yemens, as i do, tend to down kona as a boring, delicate, so-so, overpriced coffee.

and it's true that not all kona farms are as dedicated to their crop as they might be. but tom greenwell is!

and so it makes me super-happy to be able to support an american coffee farmer. not many people know that unlike other american agricultural products, coffee receives little aid from the government.

the devoted kona farmer (hiya suzanne!) tends to be out there on their own. . .and it's a struggle they endure because the good kona farmers are passionate about their beans!

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posted by fortune | 2:47 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

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