Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cold Brew Coffee on Cool Tools

Now, here is something genuinely coffee related, if a bit unseasonal now that its cooling down and snow is a real possibility.

It details using a French Press for cold brew coffee for iced coffee rather than brewing it hot and then icing it down. Not only do you keep from watering it down, you'll have less acid in the cup.

Prepare your French Press and use lukewarm or cold water. Put it in the fridge for 12 to 15 hours, and let it extract. Press it when its done.

It makes complete since in its simplicity. I found this in the Cool Tools feature on BoingBoing today, a blog I owe much too. This how I have learned a lot about coffee by hand.

I will be giving it a shot in a couple days, I think, perhaps with the flavored coffee I picked up last weekend. If this works to my liking, I might need a French Press just for cold brew coffee.

War of the Worlds! 75 Years Later

According to an article on NPR today, it really didn't cause the panic 75 years ago that we believe it did. That the hype was brought about to sell newspapers and discredit the radio industry (see big media's suppression of new technology.) It gave a panicky, vocal minority more of a voice than it probably had any need for.

This is probably a bit of why we have a "Tea Party" movement today.

I recommend reading the article because the numbers are fascinating. Also I'd have been PISSED if I lived in Boston that night.

And just in cause you haven't heard it, I recommend taking an hour to listen to the original broadcast.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nyarlathotep by Lovecraft

Here we are, I will try to do a couple more readings before Halloween. But this is the one I have been wanting to do for a little while now. Sounds like it came out okay.

Feel free to share it out!


Here's a beautiful way to get your day going.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Steampunk Coffee Maker

These are unbelievably cool. Though I really don't want one. Its is called a Belgian Balance Brewer, and this brass model on Amazon is probably the closest thing you can commercially purchase to have a Steampunk coffee brewer without adding extraneous valves and dials.

Really, it is a beautiful piece that I came across by scrolling through the coffee communities. I do not necessarily want it, because the vacuum brewers wig me out, and this is a weight based vacuum brewer that is described as the first automatic coffee maker.

You can read more about these little bad boys on Coffee Geek.


Or really, a real pain in the ass annoyance.

I was planning on discussing a new acquisition today I picked up in Goodwill. I found an older looking coffee pot that seemed like it came from a some drip coffee machine. It had a nice Erlenmeyer flask shape with a wide bottom and a funnel top. I picked it up, and I had plans to clean it up and convert it into a hand drip coffee machine with a strainer tweaked to hold a Hario Filter.

It also had a handle on it, which I would have liked for everyday use over the Chemex. I thought, if I could get this to work, it would be nice to have a back up for the Chemex that would have a handmade or retrofit vibe to it.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

When I was getting it, and a few other things out of the car, I promptly dropped it in the parking lot in front of our apartment. I cut my finger, and disgustedly tossed it into the dumpster.

I did not even get a chance to get a picture on the off chance I find another one.

However, I did venture to Gordman's to check the place out and see what their coffee selection is like. I tracked down the Michael's Coffee brand I mentioned previously and picked up their Wicked Doodle. I made the first pot in the French Press in order to retain as much of the flavored oils as possible.

It is still a smooth, not particularly bitter coffee that hits the tongue fine. I mostly taste the hazelnut rather than anything else. However, I do smell the flavorings. The beans are a mix between light brown and dark, and it makes a rather dark pot of coffee in the press. They are also covered in the fine powders from the flavorings before hitting the grinder.

I am not really blown away by this coffee, but I only picked up an 8oz bag for $3.99. It will serve its purpose for a bit of variety.

The Humble Bundle

Despite the fact I have a small, mostly accidental readership, I like to post up links to organizations and things I feel are worth people's time. In this case, I'm talking about the Humble Bundle. they are a group that work with game publishers and ebook publishers to get some nice, indie work out there, and do some good for a couple charities I like.

Right now, they have a bundle for games for Windows, Linux and Android. One of these games is Organ Trail, a zombie remix of Oregon Trail. There are some other interesting games as part of this Bundle, but in previous ones, I picked up Cave Story + and Crayon Physics.

Your contribution to the Bundle also helps out Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundations, two causes I definitely support.

There's a couple days left on this Bundle, so check it out.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Whisky Tasting

Over on a blog I follow, Drink Spirits they review a new whisky from a Talisker, a whisky I had not even heard of until I spent a couple weeks listening to every episode of Cabin Pressure. I do enjoy whiskies, and I've never had the budget to truly enjoy the good stuff. It is a shame, but not something I wanted to write about.

What I really find interesting is how they describe the whisky and how it tastes across the whole palette from start to finish. Every time I read one of these reviews, I feel like I've had the chance to try it myself, and I am desperate to track it down.

Of course, there is the bit about having the budget for a serious whisky habit.

I will have to stick to coffee.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Poetry Night Two! - The Twa Corbies

This week, I decided to do a traditional favorite, "The Twa Corbies." I had to tweak the text a little to keep it from coming out too sing song-y, since it is traditional song as a ballad.

I lifted the text from here.

A long while back, I heard a rewritten version of this on Podcastle, one of the podcasts from Escape Artists. The story was also called "The Twa Corbies" by Marie Brennan and read by Elie Hirshman. By the way, Escape Pod needs money, and I'm broke, so give them money! They do some great stuff for Genre Fiction and exposing new voices in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jonathan Wilson - Dear Friend

Somewhere, in the back of my head, possibly in my soul there is a song, or a general musical sound I hear. I have spent a good chunk of my life trying to find out what it is. I always feel like different musicians get closest, like Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree.

I think, in Jonathan Wilson, I've gotten the closest I will get it.

His new album sounds like it is in rhythm with whatever is deep inside me.

It's hokey, but I really do not know how else to describe it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Poetry Night!

A little reading for the evening. I'll do more, I promise.

Money in Politics

My intent with starting this blog was to keep off my soapbox. But since we're changing focus, I'm kicking out the soap box.

It's my virtual coffeehouse, and what's a coffeehouse without a little time on the soapbox?

We are in the midst of the Great Government Shutdown on 2013, and like the one of the mid 1990's, I have little doubt our politicians will come to their senses with a deal no one really likes. I am a Democrat, raised in the old, Democratic traditions of Will Rodgers and Harry Truman (without the racism, and more Socialism.)

However, I am getting annoyed as shit with constant stream of emails coming from different branches of Democratic Party asking for donations.

I get it. Then again, I do not see how small donations to the party will solve the current impasse. From a superficial level, it just seems like the party is trying to take advantage of a bad situation now, for next year's election.

It is a purely passive form of activism in a time when we need, as a nation, to put pressure on our politicians. We shut our government down during an economic recovery. Instead of coming to a deal, even a shitty deal, we're passing little fixes to prevent hemorrhaging, rather than attacking some of the real problems in our country. We're being held hostage.

Here's the thing, we're being held hostage by people with money. In turn, we're being begged to give money to the party, so we can continue this fight.

Money is not speech. Having something to say, and saying it, is speech. That's what should be free. If you want to give a lot of money to some politicians, why not pay some taxes and help your country, your nation?

Of course, keeping people as slaves to the elite is a very American tradition as well. I just thought that after World War 2, we moved passed it for the good of everyone.

I am American. I want everyone to do well. I don't mind paying taxes to help everyone through rough patches.

Why has this sentiment been lost over the libertarian value of just helping yourself?

Ethical Bean Coffee - Mellow

I thought I would dive into this review right away. I picked this up
 in TJ Maxx yesterday on a whim. I won't lie and say I was not swayed by the packaging and labeling. Mellow and Ethical, I could not help and grab it.

In short, this is a great coffee seemingly made by people who are really into their coffee. The ethical bit doesn't seem to be a line of BS either. Everything is fair traded, with ways of going back and tracing the coffee you bought a bit. I like that in a coffee company. It is like buying from Sweet Marias without having to do the roasting yourself.

Another nice bit with their packaging is that the bag has a small opening that has a zipper seal. This way, it keeps the coffee as fresh as possible, longer. I will get to why this little bit of trivia matters to me in a bit.

This blend truly is a mellow blend. Either through the French Press or the Chemex, I don't get overwhelmed by boldness. However, the resulting coffee is not acidic, nor is bitter. Drinking this coffee is like settling into a warm robe in the morning. There's caffeine, and it is an eye opener. However, this coffee is not a smack in the face. It's
many other pleasurably methods of waking up to reality.

It is bright and has a hint of sweetness to it. I don't taste some of the notes in the description, and that may purely be from my extraction methods.

Here's the rub. They're a Canadian company, and they do ship to the United States. However, it is not available in stores here. I liked this coffee well enough that I'd easily buy it again, and again, but the shipping for it is insane just for one bag.

You can find the coffee on their website. Check it out.

Record/Play and the Ghost on the Tape.

I found this on io9 today. One of the little things I enjoy are Science Fiction short films. They create a little world, or play with a specific idea the way a flash fiction story does. Generally, the best short films linger in the back of the mind, letting the audience fill in details for themselves.

As a for a general vibe, this reminds me a bit of something you might expanded into a full story on a show like Black Mirror.

This story is a bit more fantastical, but I am always intrigued by how recordings link us to a specific time and place. Physical media like vinyl or audio cassettes seem to ground us into that experience even more.

There is something about the craft and care that is put into a mix tape, the effort into getting it right, and rewinding to start over when you don't that feels a little lost in the era of perpetual digital media.

Not that I am willing to give up the convenience of digital. But it is nice to think that an imprint of a loved one before they died could be used to reach back into the aether and rescue them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Change in Focus with Southern Pecan Coffee

Unfortunately, it looks like I will need to change some of my coffee focus for this blog for a while. I have given home roasting a good, solid go, and there is nothing more satisfying than my own roast.

However, because of issues with ventilation, and allergies, I cannot keep it up like I was. It was simply too physically painful. It is fine, and something I will have to accept. Because of this little adventure, I have learned a lot about coffee. I have learned a lot of about identifying traits in a coffee from the smell and the look of the beans.

Most importantly, I have learned a lot about what I like.

Because of this, I am going to start shifting my focus to trying different coffees and reviewing them. There is a wider array than just what is on the shelf in WalMart. I will principally be focusing on drip and press methods rather than focusing on espresso. However, if I can do it, I'll talk about coffees prepared using espresso extractions.

Which is amusing and slightly ironic that I am starting out officially with this new mission with a coffee I have only tasted from several lungo espressos made in a Jura.

To preface, you should not put flavored beans in a machine with an integrated burr grinder. Let me repeat, do not put flavored whole beans through the grinder built into an automatic coffee center. The oils in the coffee can do some bad things to the grinder and potentially clog it.

However, someone had brought this in, and we had to try it, so we were able to abuse the pre-ground options in one of these machines.

Normally, I do not go in for flavored whole bean coffees. I like coffee, and I like the taste of coffee. However, when I was younger, I thought flavored coffees were the way to go. In the fifteen or so years since, I really have not messed with them as my tastes have changed.

Enter Michael's Gourmet Coffee Southern Pecan. Since it is a flavored coffee, and we put it through a pump espresso machine, the flavor oils were forced into the crema. That caused the flavoring to linger in the nose, but never quite make it to the tongue. If you like pecans, or butter pecan ice cream, I think you really would like this coffee. All around the tasters, it seems like there is a fifty-fifty split. The coffee itself is light and mild, just how I like it in espresso. There is no bitterness or burned quality. The beans are more of a light, ruddy brown.

I like it, but I like butter pecan ice cream.

I am curious about the coffees and the roaster this stuff comes from. Pricing doesn't seem too bad based off their website. This coffee runs $7.49 for a standard three quarters of a pound bag. The person who bought the bag, picked it up on clearance at Gordman's in Avon, IN for a lot less than that.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

European Wildlife and Natural Settings

I have a fascination with wildlife documentaries over the past couple years, particularly the ones produced and narrated by David Attenborough. One of my favorites was one where they chronicled the seasons in the Arctic and Antarctic regions of our planet.

However, every now and then I will come across a nature documentary covering some part of Europe and I will always be a bit surprised.

Europe and Britain are probably the most well explored, well covered parts of our planet. Even more so than our own continent where there are still regions where the maps are fuzzy (without government intervention). It is easy to think of Europe as being completely and utterly settled with a perpetual mark of human settlement and impact. Anywhere that isn't, must be because of it being war torn in some way.

As I watch these documentaries showing animals, being animals, while humans are not involved, I am struck by the diversity that is there. The animals of Europe, while different than what we're accustomed to seeing in nature documentaries are fascinating. They seem common and everyday, just like described, but there is a unnaturalness because people just do not film Europe as a natural setting.

I recently watched a documentary on the Danube, and I was shocked that it was a river much like the Nile or the Amazon. Another documentary was about the formation of the continents, and had a bit of ho the Alps are merely a part of the long string of mountains that stretch across the southern portion of Eurasia.

I suspect, it is because the natural documentarians tend to Western or European, and they looking to film exotic locales like the Galapagos. It leads to the exotic around us being lost. Average people know more about the animals of Australia or Africa than we do in our own backyards.

We could argue the same for the United States, while we are so willing to clear cut our forests for new tract housing, and save the Amazon in next breath. And thus, like the Amazon, we lose something. We lose something remarkable.

I grew up in South Florida, and there was much there that I simply took for granted. One day trips out to the Everglades, I would always be captivated, like we were being taken to a completely different part of the world. We were taught in school about the importance of its conservation. Yet, somehow, it never connected just how critical is was to our survival. How it helped protect us from hurricanes and flooding. This would be the same when we would be taken on snorkeling trips, or to see the coral reefs.

This diversity, this life was right there, but we were determined to bulldoze it before we knew anything about it.