Friday, August 30, 2013

Last Week's Blend

Last weekend's roast was another experiment. Overall, I was pleased. I took four different coffees, roasted them to their maximum optimal range, and worked through it over a week.

I did a few pots in the Chemex with it, and it was good. It was nothing spectacular, but good. I think it might not have been a great coffee for the French Press, even though it was the one I was using the most. I  am out of Chemex filters, and need to pick up another batch.

In the Chemex, I had a strong cocoa overtone flow through the coffee. It light and smooth. Through the Press though, it just felt too heavy. I suspect I might have gone a bit overboard with it, or the last remnants of the Vader coffee, because I have been battling a bit of an upset stomach after really digging into my day's coffee.

(It might also be time to get rid of the Britta and get a new one.)

I used some from the new batch from Sweet Maria's, and some from the old batch I need to use up.

I plan to use up the rest to try to copy my perfect blend from a few weeks ago. Then, do something with the new ones. I have a Central American coffee that I am really curious about, and another batch of the infamous Sumatran I would like to try again.

In the meantime, here is "In the Meantime" by Spacehog. It is one of those songs that just keep me in a good mood. Somehow it is what life is about... maybe. I have never been much on listening to lyrics.

It is just a good song to get stuck in your head when you are faced with life's petty bullshit. And one to have stuck when you are glad you are only dealing with its petty bullshit.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Coffee in the Atlantic.

Here's a little article from the Atlantic that really gets into a lot of what I have been looking at and trying to explain in coffee making. It particularly handles extraction and percentages well. It seems they came to this the same way I did, by drinking a lot of swill until it just wasn't good enough anymore.

"How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee" by Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Computer Gear and Other Late Night Mutterings.

So I've got a wide screen Acer laptop running Xubuntu that has a full sized keyboard. Before that I was almost exclusively using a netbook for everything. Occasionally, I would hook up an extra monitor to it for fun, but it rarely helped.

I feel like I got more done with my tiny netbook than I do this machine. It is huge, wide. The white page just looks all the more daunting on it.

I am sure there are many other factors contributing to writer's block, not the least of which is from a part of my day job that involves responding to emails. I haven't totaled all of that up, but that is a good thousand or so words a day right there. Generally, the same words and phrases over and over, but still....

It can cause hand strain.

However, back to this beast of a machine. It is daunting to stare at a big, white screen and conjure up words. With the netbook, it was more like jaunting things down in a notebook rather than actual formal writing. I just wondering if those few years also contributed to worsening vision problems.

Luckily, upon coming back from Gen Con and listening to a few of the writers there, and the recent honors for Ray Bradbury and Elmore Leonard, I have come away with a few new ideas.

Well, they might be new for me, or variations on themes I have been looking at for a while.

I am only writing in Blogger because this is just mutterings, rather than committing to some words in Google Docs.

In the meantime, watch the AMV of VAST's "I'm Dying" using clips from Cowboy Bebop. It is a song that I can't get out of my head lately. Gregorian Chants always take me back to a special period in my upbringing called The 90's.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Brazilian Blends.

I have been wanting to write about this for about a week now, but I just have not been able to settle into it.

The intent was to make a darker roast with a coffee that is supposed to be perfect for espresso. I was going to mix it with a few other things, but that did not happen. Instead, I roasted the Brazilian Fazenda at multiple roast points, trying to bring out the whole flavor profile in the coffee.

It was meant to be best for the Aeropress. Instead, it worked out perfectly in the Chemex, resulting in a dark amber colored coffee that was full of nuttiness and chocolate and hints of fruit. Sadly, it was too much to be properly enjoyed in the French Press.

I was drinking it all through the Con while I have been finishing off the Darth Vader Roast. Sadly, I finished it yesterday, but it was a week old. The previous blend was better, and this was a worthwhile experience. I still was not able to get the coffee to truly dark roast. However, with the notes I have during the process, I will find that right point.

I have a new load from Sweet Marias, and a bit left over from the other coffees.

Tomorrow, we roast!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

GenCon Coffee Adventures Part 2

When I was researching Wifi options at the convention center, I saw rumors in the forums of a coffee shop across the street. Unfortunately, the forums said the place had closed over the years. In my few trips into downtown Indianapolis, I rarely had a reason to go by Lucas Oil Stadium or the Convention Center. At least, if I had, I never bothered to look around at the neighborhood. It was a part of town I would shoot through while I looked around for a decent parking garage.

Since this time, we were able and encouraged to walk around to find reasonably priced food, I spied a coffee shop right where it should be. Luckily, up and down the block, there were some of the best food trucks in town. I cannot say I ate anything terrible this weekend. Tacos, Italian beef sandwiches, cupcakes, brownies, pizza, and so many other wonderful things were enjoyed and consumed.

Now, once the itch finally hit, I avoided the two Starbucks that were in the neighborhood, and went to this coffee shop. I was glad I did.

Bee Coffee Roasters is the real deal. They seemed to be missing two options for coffee: French Press and Regular Machine Drip. I cannot say I missed the sitting vats of drip coffee. However, I was surprised about the missing French Presses.

However, they have traditional espresso, milk drinks, Aeropresses, and  Chemexes ready to go. They also have smoothies that Delle enjoyed, and wonderfully crafted teas. At their main location in another part of Indy, they roast their own coffees. On their board, they have recommendations for each method of preparation.

Since I was excited to see someone else use a Chemex, especially someone who uses one all day, I had to have one. The largest size is a 16 oz coffee. I respect that, I like it. As the cup sizes grow, I feel like I am racing through a bucket of hot liquid, and not savoring perfection.

At Bee Roasters, every coffee is made to order, and you will have to wait for the preparation. This attention to detail, even when it is as manic as a Convention, is wonderful. The coffee blend they used in the Chemex was great.

Later on in the day, I went back for an espresso shot for comparison. I would like to say that was entirely for this blog entry, but it was also the monkey on my back demanding its tribute. Surprising, the slow craft, locally roasted espresso double shot was cheaper than the one inside of the Convention hall. I understand the reason for the markup for a captive audience inside, but for the price they need to step up the coffee.

Bee Roasters espresso had a wonderful crema. It also had a slight tang and flavor. I really did not get a chance to really savor the flavor profiles since I was also geeking out on other things. I was enamored and still am regarding their coffees. Next time I am downtown, I will be stopping in.

I recommend checking out their Facebook page, since that seems to pass for a website right now. Their pictures are great, and I remember seeing all those costumes. I appreciate how they got into the spirit, and were both supreme baristas and geeks.

Another cool thing I saw there, every cappuccino and latte they make gets latte art. I think that each variation they made, when they use syrup has its own design. I wish I had gotten pictures, and I wish I had gotten to ask them some questions. Unfortunately, there was just no time for it given the lines.

GenCon Coffee Adventures Part 1

We are finished with Gen Con here in Indianapolis, and I am trying to unpack all of our experiences to distill into a few blogs. Even though, I was expecting this weekend to be mostly about geek stuff and writing, I did come across some killer coffee related experiences.

Since this is a coffee blog, I will start there.

Since we were at the Indianapolis Convention Center for the duration, and because I was tired, I ventured to their concessions. Arguably, they have decent concessions for the typical concessions stands for the masses. I assume that this is the same concessions you would get at a Colts game. Since they had little "coffee shops" in the building, I figured I would give it a shot. Or really, three dollars for a double shot of espresso.

They have reasonably sized commercial espresso machines. I did not catch the make and model, but I assume it is something designed for big events. The first time I went by, I was told by the woman behind the counter that no espresso because the person who made them was gone. As annoying as that was, I did begin to hope a bit. A commercial espresso machine can be intimidating to someone who has not used one before. Also, people are picky as hell, especially in such a setting.

I left, but eventually I wandered back when my need for a fix peaked again, and I was tired of waiting while Dellessa (my significant other, and main coffee beta victim) was waiting to have a book signed by Mercedes Lackey. The employee that acts as a barista was back by then. Three dollars and some change was exchanged for a double shot.

First off, the coffee that was in the cup had exceptional crema. It was thick,, but not particularly flavorful. I kept sipping, working on the coffee. It was a dark, Italian style espresso roast of a variety that I am always surprised people love. From seeing a few bags around, I believe it was a Lavazza Italian Roast. The more I mull it over, it makes sense. It was bitter, packed full of a Robusta-ness that could not be avoided. It was all an excellent presentation that just fell flat when it counted.

Increasingly, I cannot figure out how people can like these coffees and hold them up as a standard. Do lesser grade coffees just taste that bad? Or has my palate changed that much?

Of my previous three coffee blend, it was best as espresso. I took a fair amount of it to be used in the Jura, it was stellar. In fact, it was even better as a latte or cappuccino. The flavors all balanced perfectly that way. More important, it had flavor, bit a bitterness that lingers on the tongue, burned into my memory. It was not really burnt, but just bitter. Even the smell from the first sniff carried this overwhelming impression. It is the same impression I had with the Kimbo coffee I drank from the DeLonghi coffee center training from a few weeks ago.

Does this mean I don't like traditional espressos? Or is there something odd with the common coffee drinking world? Even Starbucks espressos seem more tolerable than these.

For comparison, I got down the old can of Bustello I had up in the cabinet. Before, I would make it up in the Moka Pot. In a certain time and place, it did the trick. Even though the can is old, I made up a shot in the Aeropress. It was smoother than I remembered, but that would be the filter. Dellessa said it was the nastiest thing she had ever tried. Aside from the lack of crema, it was still better than the Lavazza and the Kimbo.

As I work towards darker and darker roasts, these are things to consider in what I like.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

More Than a Feeling

This is how to start your day. I have always thought this is one of the best songs and albums ever made. It tells a story and is a jumping off point for a million stories.

It is a beer in the morning, bottle smashed into the wall. More glass added the growing pile from several days of depression.

After all, screw it. She's gone.

It is the song played on endless loop in your head. You play it one more time from your phone to forget, but you remember. Every chord change is her smile, the twinkle in her blue eyes, the soft texture of her hair as it runs through your fingers.... That last lingering kiss.

Shaking your head, you dispel the ghost. You'll be damned if she fucks up your favorite song, the first song you remember hearing after you first made love.

You shake free and light a cigarette. She was on your ass about quitting from the moment you met. You suck hard on the butt, staring out the window. The neighbors mow the lawn, water the grass. The mailman hikes past on the sidewalk across the street.

Holding the butt, you study it. Smoke drifts off the end. You take another drag. You'll quit tomorrow.

You'll win her back tomorrow when you see her at the bar with her new man. He'll screw up. She'll throw a drink and slap him. Your eyes drift close and you kiss again when she runs into your arms....

"Marianne," you whisper her name one more time. Somewhere behind you, a buzzer goes off next to an old mattress you scavenged. All the furniture was hers.

You kick the alarm, yanking the plug from the wall. There's a spark as it comes loose. You try not to imagine her fucking him in that bed, the one whose outline is still visible on the wood floor. Resisting the urge for a second helping of breakfast beer. You scramble into a polo with a logo on it. You pull on some khakis that were in a heap from the night before.

Time to earn that bread. Besides, you're out of cigarettes.

Hours later, you're back at the bar. You lost the polo in the back seat of the car.

There's this girl, you don't know. She smiles. Somehow, you meet her eyes and smile back. You walk over and get her name. She asks for your number and texts you.

"XOXO." You read on the screen. She peers up at you. You peer down at her. You don't even notice whatshername and the big break up over by the bar.

You're too busy smiling at Amanda.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vader's Dark Side Roast

Photo from Think Geek
As part of the bundle with the Aeropress, I got this. It reviewed pretty well on Think Geek's website, and as a Star Wars fan since I was a wee one, I couldn't resist.

However, as snooty as I have become when it comes to my coffee, I really was not sure what to expect with this one. I knew it was going to be a dark roast, and possibly ideal for an espresso taste test.

Since it was established, and not really experimental like my own roasts, it was a good testing coffee for the Aeropress, the Chemex, and the French Press.

The Dark Side Roast is comprised of three roasts. Naturally, the packaging does not really say where, aside from Africa and Indonesia, but it promises to be reasonably well sourced. Similar to Nespresso, it is not Fair Traded, but they seem to cut out the middlemen and source the coffees directly from the farms. I suspect it is also to keep the same flavor profile.

In retrospect, they also claim that Droids do the farming.

I ground some up to use the Aeropress for the first time. I spread out the instructions, made sure I understood the plunger aspect to it, and heated the water to about 170 Degrees F. Both the Aeropress and the Chemex require specific temperatures. So do French Presses, but this is just getting through my thick head, honestly. I stirred it around, and took the plunge. Even though you need a fair amount of coffee, you can make an espresso shot very quickly. Unfortunately, because of the paper filter, and the fact I need a hell of a lot more pressure than my arms can provide, there is no crema. The filter removes those oils, and consequently, the flavors in those oils. In a pump based espresso machine, it floats to the top in a foamy layer, similar to frothed milk.

I was not too impressed with this coffee with the Aeropress. There was something that was missing from it. There was a lot of flavor, and it did not taste burnt in anyway. I did taste a hint of something metallic, like iron.

A little later, after finishing the last of my own El Salvadoran/Burundian blend, I put it the Dark Side into the Chemex. I heated the water to 200 Degrees F. The Chemex filter pulled out quite a bit. It made my own roast from a week ago taste almost entirely like almonds. The Dark Side roast was still very metallic. It probably was even more so. It was still very clean on the tongue. Probably cleaner than any drip coffee I have ever had.

Both methods for extraction created super smooth coffee. The Aeropress was still a bit of a thick coffee like espresso, but there was no sediment.

This afternoon, I tried the Dark Side Roast in the French Press. The metallic taste was gone. It was a nice, fine coffee with a bold taste. I think I missed the sediment.

Overall, I would certainly recommend checking this coffee out if you like dark roasts.

In a day or so, I will have some comments on my most recent blend. I just need to let it degas and full develop. In both the Aeropress and the Chemex is kicks ass. However, I think I will most like it in the French Press,

Even with these two upgrades, I think I prefer the French Press.

Now, just because... Enjoy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shit People Say at Record Stores

This was pretty true even when I worked for a major chain that didn't sell records regularly. It is probably true in one form or another in all retail. Sometimes, I find it maddening.

I read on a comment thread on G+ today that people don't want cheap prices, they want fair prices. People really would like it to be as cheap as possible, unless the intent is to show off their wealth. They usually consider cheap to be fair, since so many people just do not know how much things are really worth.

Or even, how much anything is truly worth.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Geekery - The Black Adder

With all the recent media involving the Cousins War and the Tudors, I needed a little afternoon with everyone's favorite alternate history: The Black Adder.

It took me many years to get around to this show, but when I did, it stuck.

Since Gen Con is coming next week, and the Renaissance Faire is in a few weeks, it makes me want to cosplay as King Richard IV from the first series as played by Brian Blessed. I have the time to grow my hair out until next year.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tech Upgrades.

We have a couple new toys around here at the roasters.

I was really luck and won a Chemex 8 cup from my employer. Also, I finally broken down and purchased an Aeropress.

The Chemex has been around for years, and is one of the prettiest coffee makers on the market. It is a pour over drip coffee maker, designed for a nice, slow kind of coffee. Similar to a French Press, you need to heat your water before hand. However, it is a drop maker rather than pressed. Supposedly, the filters absorb more of the oils, and you get a different kind of cup. As soon as I get up tomorrow, I will be bench marking this thing with my special blend from last Friday.

It is pretty nice that both of these items fell into my hands today. This afternoon, for my coffee, I finally felt like I mastered the French Press. I have begun using a thermometer to gauge the temperature before it comes to a boil. Properly heated, then allowed to sit for 3:45, rather than a full four minutes, hit the mark. I had two, truly sublime pots of coffee by the time it was done.

We are going to be going to Gen Con here in Indy next weekend, and we searched a bit for a lanyard for my badge. I could not find anything I liked, so it was off to Think Geek to look for something appropriate. The lanyard was pretty cheap, but shipping was pricey, so I needed to justify it. That lead me to their Darth Vader's Dark Side Roast Coffee and the Aeropress.

We will be testing both out as well soon.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I have tried doing a couple of blends before. One, at least to me, seemed like a spectacular failure. It was a blend of El Salvador Majahual and a Brazilian coffee we will be writing about later on. I tried it during my first batch. It came out sunny, in that it was a bright and highly acidic blend. It was a burst of tropical fruits like pineapple and papaya. Neither coffee were roasted too far past the first crack.

Some of my testers thought it made the best for chilled, sweetened espresso drinks. Once it was put through the Jura, it really stood out. In time, I might try it again since I have both coffees from the most recent Sweet Maria's batch. The betas loved it enough that I might try it again.

When I roasted up the El Salvadoran coffee by itself, and roasted it darker as it was recommended, it came out beautifully. It was a great learning experience in how one coffee can be different between levels of roast. The El Salvadoran coffee, when roasted properly has a bit of a creaminess to it.

Since I had a good deal of the Burundi, and knew that when roasted to 3:45 minutes, it had a nutty taste to it, and a lingering almond quality, I was curious what it would do to blend it with the El Salvadoran. I roasted the El Salvadoran to its supposed peak at about 4:45 minutes. Then I mixed the two coffees together in the canister. I let it degas for about 24 hours. It was a 2 to 1 ratio of El Salvadoran to Burundi coffee.

I made two French Press pots. My prime beta tester, my girlfriend, was not all that impressed, but she did agree that imparted both taste qualities to the coffee. Overall, I felt it had a nice finish, not too bold, and no weird aftertaste. It was nice and smooth.  However, it did not Wow me.

Though, I think that will be hard to do with all of the experimenting I have been doing lately. It is a shame I am out of the Javanese coffee. I think it might have added a nice compliment to both. We will see how it matures over the next couple days, along with an espresso test.