Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Earth by Cassini

This is just so unbelievable cool. It is mind blowing that this is real. This is not CGI. This is not an artist's rendering.

This is from something we built, put on a rocket, launched into space, and let fly to Saturn to turn back and take a picture of the whole way back.

It is like the shots taken in color from the probes on Mars.

We really do live in interesting times when we take the time to be curious about the Universe around us.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Burundi Kirimiro Teka

Today is the 48 or so hour mark on the coffee from Burundi. You can read about the coffee on Sweet Maria's site, and its origin.

I roasted it up to a slightly darker roast, to where the beans are a reddish brown. The nuttiness of the coffee really comes out strong at this roast. There isn't much fruitiness left to it, but I do taste the caramel when I French Press.

I still like the Javanese coffee more.

However, the Burundi does well in the Moka Pot. Its low on acid, and still maintains that nice nuttiness. It also has a nice brown color.

It seems, the darker the coffee, the less I will like it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

An New Week... A New Coffee.

Here we are, a new week, and a newly roasted coffee in the hopper.

I have had a splendid week working through the Javanese coffee. Over the course of the week, its been a nice, middle-ground coffee. It was not bitter, or too acidic. It hit all the correct notes. It also has been consistent throughout the week, and done well in the Moka Pot.

I also roasted up the remainder of the Sumatran as well and took it to work. Since I work in a place where an expensive coffee machines are readily available, and beta testers are all too willing,

I tossed it into a Jura Ena Micro 1. It was a nice bench test for the Sumatran. It was still acidic, but not in the same ways. If money was no object, I would buy this machine in a heartbeat.

I know it seems to go counter to the whole "coffee by hand" mantra, but I am really more interested in the sublime experience of tasting the coffee, enjoying it, and making my own. Sometimes, even an automatic coffee center does the trick. When it comes down it it, they are expertly designed machines, that is meant to the best coffee experience.

Instead, I am looking at different pump machines. Rather than the one touch variety, I'll be looking for something more traditional for espresso. This week, I got a chance to take a close look at DeLonghi's latest offerings. It was a special perk of the job.

They have a whole new line of machines, that while I don't like the general look of them, I do like how easily serviceable they are. You can open up and remove part of the internals for cleaning. However, as cool as these machines are, they are still out of my price range.

Therefore, I am looking at their manual espresso machines. I had been considering one their machines before the demonstration, but ideally, I'll get one a little pricier. Space in our tiny kitchen is still a question, however.

This week, once we have degassed the coffee, I will be having one from Burundi. No more coffee from Indonesia for a while. My remaining coffees are all coffees I have had before; so this time, I am looking to repeat some of the previous successes with these coffees. So far, the Burundi looks and smells pretty good, so we will see. In a couple days, I will have more to say.

Previously, the Burundi was my favorite, and I was a little sad when I ran out.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Day With Nespresso

Recently, for my employer, I and a few coworkers were sent to a training put on by Nespresso to learn about their coffees. For someone who home roasts, and advocates experimentation and making slow coffee; it would seem like I was sent to be tempted by the devil.

I have had Nespresso's coffees before...many, many times before, actually. Once you understand the purpose behind the coffee, I can get into it. It is not something I want for everyday, but it is something I do not mind partaking in from time to time.

I will not get into my job, my employer, or even many of the details behind Nespresso. I seriously doubt there was a damn thing I learned that was proprietary or not already available online. Their machines and their coffee are all designed to have the best, freshest, and easiest coffee experience a person could have. Their materials are often referenced by home roasting companies to explain a few things about coffee and blends. Their intent is perfection every time.

Now me, I do not need every time, if I did it myself. I enjoy the surprise of a sublime cup of coffee.

However, Nespresso is a bit of a guilty pleasure, because it is good every time. When you are working, a nice, proper shot is what I am after. Nespresso is also a good benchmark for my own endeavors. Even if I rely more on single farm origin than they do. Nespresso changes where their blends come from, generally, to maintain that taste profile year after year. Personally, I like the Cosi for general sipping.

At the training, I had the opportunity to try out some of the "flavored" coffees. Apparently, it is something new for them to offer something other than coffee in their coffee. They have a chocolate, vanilla and caramel coffees now. Rather than drawing these tastes from the coffees themselves, they are using the real flavors to enhance it. I am not sure what the caliber of cocoa or vanilla they are using, but I am pretty sure they are of a higher grade than what is in a Nestle Crunch or Wonka bar.

(One a side note, been a while since I have had one of Wonka Bar's with grahams in it. Now, I want one.)

We all wondered how they pulled off the "natural" caramel, but no one seemed to ask. I would have assumed it was proprietary and need to know.

I was able to try the chocolate and the vanilla. The flavors are heavily there when breathed in. You smell chocolate. You smell vanilla. What you do not smell is the sugars that usually come with these two, or the slight alcohol of extracts. They are rather pure in the scent. I could stand around and sniff a shot like vapors, if the coffee was not what I was after. At some point, you have to give into the anticipation and take a sip.

Unfortunately, these flavors really do not get picked up on the tongue. They taste like one of the milder Nespresso blends. I think it is because there is no sugar or syrup to back the flavors, that they are lost on the tongue.

It is interesting, possibly a bit clever. However, I wonder how general coffee drinkers will take it. Apparently. they are popular among the Club members, and they decided to offer them because of demand. If I had one of their machines, and was buying their coffee for home? Would I pick up a sleeve?  Maybe. Or maybe the average drinker is trained to think of chocolate flavored coffee to be more like hot chocolate with coffee in it.

A long way back, I used to work retail. During one of the Christmas seasons, Starbucks offered traditional sipping chocolate. It was an extra thick, creamy sort of mixture with the hint of bitterness of chocolate, without being too sweet, and no milk They served it in a special cup that was slightly bigger than their double shot cups. One day, I had the brilliant idea to ask for an added shot of espresso to it. Now, there was an eye opener.

The Nespresso chocolate coffee is nothing at all like that.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

48 Hours with the Sumatran

Today is the day!

Today is the day I set aside for the Sumatran coffee I roasted a couple days ago. I did four tablespoons worth, enough for one French Press and one Moka Pot. 

The flavors has settled, and the acidic has dropped exponentially. Using either method, the coffee has a nice filling feel in the mouth. The mocha flavors are there, but there is still a fruitiness underlying, particularly in the distilled espresso prep in the Moka Pot. There is still a bitterness I am not too thrilled with, but it does not mean I have to get the coffee again. However, I do have more to work with and try out. 

This might be one to try out on my unsuspecting beta testers.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Java & 24 Hours

One of the most important aspects of the scientific method is repetition. Where I think the Javanese coffee I roasted yesterday was good after an hour or so of degassing, it is perfect after about 24 hours. It still has a bittersweet finish, but rolls around in my mouth nicely. The grassiness has mostly gone away.

Once I made the switch, I have noticed a big difference in the way I react to the caffeination. I used to get the jolt with the crappier coffees. It was like turning on a switch. With home roasting, and using much fresher beans than anything in bag from the grocery store, it is more like slowly twisting a knob, or a slow sunrise.

Really, this is how this coffee feels going down.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Update.

Apparently, the coffee from Java I've been blogging about is really from Sumatra.

In fact, it is the Sumatra Mandheling-Aceh Triple-Pick on Sweet Maria's website. It is a funny coffee that is processed different than most coffees around the world, in that is processed wet. Its also got a lot of sugars in it, according to Sweet Maria's description on their website. I made up a small batch and roasted it longer. I am plan to let it sit for two days until Thursday, and we will see how it does.

I wonder how it would do in a Chemex with their special filters?

I switched back to the Javanese, and performed the same experiment, and let it degas for only a couple hours. It is the Java Sunda Candra Wulan. Personally, I find is nice after an hour or so of degassing. Its not overpowering, and has a good, overall finish when French Pressed.

I am also pricing a small espresso machine. I'm looking for a pump model that will not take up too much room, or clean out the wallet too much. The Moka's have their place, but I miss crema too much in my espressos.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

24 Hours Later .... and 48 more.

I have let the Javanese degas for the obligatory 24 hours. I made a up a pot in the French Press this morning, and it still had not seemed like it had settled. It foamed up quite a bit, and still had a grassiness to it.

I suspect it is because during the roasting it kicked off very little chaff, which is the very outer layer of the coffee bean. Typically, it comes off in waves of fluff, that can be tossed up like dandelions, or molted bug carapaces. However, this coffee seemed to hold onto it, and I suspect it might have to do with sugar content. The flavor profile is supposed to have a papaya flavor to it.

Before work, I tried it in the Moka Pot again, and it was still really acidic, still like eating a lemon and its pith. However, once we allowed it to cool, added some brown sugar and almond milk, it became a perfect summer ice latte.

Because I had to put this post aside for a day or so, I've got more to report.

It probably needs 48 hours to degas. I also think it needs a darker roast to really let it settle. This morning's French Press was better, but it still had a muddledness to the flavor, like cocoa powder. It was bittersweet, without dipping into being dark chocolatey. This French Press also did not steep as long, only three and a half minutes rather than my usual four.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Javanese Experiments

I received my latest shipment from Sweet Maria's today. I was going to finish off a Javanese coffee from the last shipment, but something from the new batch caught my eye.

There was nothing wrong with the other coffee. It tastes fine once roasted to a nice cocoa color. However, this one from Java just said, "Roast Me."

The dry, unroasted beans were darker than I usually expect. In time, with some better lighting, I'll have some pictures to demonstrate the difference. However, unroasted coffee usually has a Army green kind of look. Like it was the color they used as a model for painting tanks and dyeing uniforms during the Korean war.

This Javanese coffee is darker, nearly forest green. I took a few tablespoons, not the whole pound, anxious to try it out.

Before I go any further, I feel like I should describe the process a bit. I use a cheap, but highly effective hot air popper I got from Target. As I have learned from more than a few sources, it is the best way to get an even, consistent roast that can be easily timed, measured, and mostly importantly, experienced.

I pour two tablespoons in at a time, turn the bugger on, and wait. I also watch the countdown on the microwave timer as I go. Its a fast process, where dark roasts are achieved within five or so minutes. Burned and useless happens just after that.

This batch, I roasted to about the second crack, which was four and a half minutes or so. It turned my beans to a nice brownish red. It is supposed to have a nice, wide array of flavors from cocoa to fruitiness such as papaya.

Once the coffee has been roasted and cooled, you should leave it to degas where the coffee beans release CO2. For best results, and to experience the beans at their peak, they should wait for about 24 hours.

However, I could not wait. I made a French Press soon after. It was still fairly grassy tasting. Then, this evening, I ground some up for the Moka Pot.

I think I had the most acidic espresso I could make. I even cut it with sugar, and I just could not drink it.

However, it worked out as an interesting experiment. With it that close to the roasting, it was supposed to be acidic.

Part of learning is failure, and so is experimentation.

I have plenty more roasted and ready for tomorrow. We will see how it comes out.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Statement of Purpose

With every one of these little ventures I start, I always feel like I should begin it with a statement of purpose. A blog needs a reason for being, this one no less.

I have a wide variety of intests that range from music, to food, to writing, to science fiction and geekery. However, increasingly, over the past several months, I have taken on of my casual interests and let it blossom into a fullfledged hobby.

I have given up on the gas stations, fast food, and on some level, Starbucks, and gone into the realm of the home roaster. My intent with the blog is to chronicle that decent into coffee snobbery. Hopefully, we'll have some reviews on equipment, methods, coffees, and of course, my misadventures into home roasting.

I'm on my third sampler pack from Sweet Marias, and I feel like I'm getting the hand of the process enough that I can start journalling it somewhat.

Of course, since I am a man of other tastes, I will be sharing some of the other things I find interesting around the web, and in the world.

No matter how much coffee I drink, music and science fiction are always there.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013