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October 28, 2006

Halloween Dogs

I found a Halloween Dog Photo Contest.

Here's my favorite:

darth vader dog costume

Darth Vader

October 25, 2006

LA Times Makes Coffee

Advice for the ... beginner.

The new coffee connoisseur - Los Angeles Times,

Think you know how to make a great cup of coffee? Think again. It's all about the best beans, a careful roast and optimal brewing.

MY first stop was my local coffee roaster, where they have a pretty good selection of beans roasted on the premises.

The beans are at once the most complex part of the equation and the easiest to solve. At first glance, the choice seems bewildering. Walk into any moderately stocked coffee bean purveyor these days and you'll find more than a dozen choices spanning two or three continents and a range of roasts.

... When constructed by a good roaster, these blends can be among the best coffees you'll ever taste. But choosing one can be confusing, since each shop is free to name its blends whatever it feels like. One place's "Caffé Roma" can be made from the same beans as another's "Morning Sonata." On the other hand, it's a pretty sure bet that no two "Breakfast Blends" will be exactly alike.

There are different degrees of roasting as well. The darker the roast, the more earthy and chocolate flavors will be in the coffee — up to a point. Particularly when you're talking about the very dark roasts that are popular these days, the overpowering flavor is charcoal. Whether these roasts are popular because people prefer milky drinks such as cappuccino, or whether people prefer milky drinks because the roasts are so dark is hard to say. One thing's for sure — extremely dark roasts are not intended to be drunk straight.

[. . .] ONCE you've bought the beans, you're going to need to grind them. Don't let the store do it, unless you live right next door and don't mind running over whenever you want a cup. Coffee beans lose their flavor very quickly once they are ground. Within even just a couple of hours, you'll notice a difference in taste, to say nothing of the several days it will take you to go through a whole bag of pre-ground coffee.
And, finally, how to brew:
The French press uses a coarser filter and so requires a coarser grind to avoid sludge in the bottom of your cup. The way my grinder is set up, espresso is a "3" (moving to "2" after the beans have been out a couple of days). Filter coffee is a "6" and French roast an "8."

For either system, it takes a little less than three tablespoons of whole beans to make a little more than two tablespoons of ground, which is enough for 8 ounces of hot water.

The water should be very hot, but not boiling — coffee brews best between 190 and 200 degrees. If you bring the water to boil, then remove it from the heat while you grind the beans, the temperature should be about right. This is one place where automatic coffee makers often fall down — they either fail to get the water hot enough or scorch it on the hot warmer.

For the drip system, simply put the filter in the holder on top of the carafe, add the ground coffee and pour the hot water over the top. The coffee is done when it has finished trickling through.

For the French press, put the coffee in the bottom of the carafe, then pour the boiling water over the top. Let it steep 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes. (I find you get fuller flavor at the higher end of that range.) Then press down on the plunger to strain the grounds to the bottom.

OK, stop rolling your eyes now. And someone tell the writer about Peet's.

October 24, 2006

Can't WE Just Get Along?

Coffee Farm Brings Hutus, Tutsis Together,

This is a tale of Rwandan-style reconciliation. It may seem almost incomprehensible to outsiders, yet in some cases it works here.

It's driven largely by economics: Coffee is Rwanda's biggest export. To get the beans grown, harvested and processed, both killers and victims from the genocide are striking an uneasy peace born of economic codependence. "They need each other to make that container of coffee," says Timothy Schilling, a coffee consultant, referring to steel shipping containers that are packed with beans and shipped overseas.

[. . .] Call it trickle-down reconciliation. After the genocide — in which some 800,000 people were killed in just 90 days — Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government proclaimed, "We are all Rwandans," and created a climate of extreme political correctness. It's now taboo even to utter the words "Hutu" and "Tutsi."

The aim is to quash any public mention of ethnicity — and therefore any recurrence of violence — while focusing on economic growth that will benefit both Hutus and Tutsis. It's the Rwandan equivalent of President Reagan's economic approach: Create a rising economic tide to lift all Rwandan boats — and float them away from the jagged rocks of ethnic conflict.

"The more people have a house and a car, the less reason they have to throw a stone at someone," explains Shyaka Kanuma, editor of Focus, a private newspaper in the capital, Kigali.

Over the years, Jeannette began to separate killers' past deeds from their current contributions. "This doesn't change the emotions," she explains, "but it does help me interact" with them. Through the cooperative, she says: "We've been building a relationship that changed our lives. We ended up reconciling in a way we didn't know."

[. . .] In the end, the proximity of victims and killers in this crowded country — along with the strong hand of government preventing further mass violence — has forced a grudging, practical reconciliation. On certain hillsides, coffee has become an enabler for this fragile unity.

Go read the whole thing.

October 20, 2006

The T-Shirt Store Is Open!

Just in time for Christmas and the Holiday Season!


Click here.

Decaf / Not Decaf?

Decaf coffee may still pack a mini-caffeine punch,

Decaf coffee is often not totally caffeine-free, a new study shows. In fact, while these beverages have far less caffeine than a cup of regular coffee, they still may have enough of the stimulant to cause physical dependence on them.
Further down in the report,

Goldberger and his colleagues tested the caffeine content of decaf from 10 different coffee establishments. Only one -- Folger's Instant -- contained no caffeine. The rest contained anywhere from 8.6 milligrams (mg) to 13.9 mg for a 16-ounce cup, the team reports in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

The researchers also tested six samples of decaf espresso and six of decaf coffee from Starbucks, and found a wide variation in their caffeine content. Decaf espresso shots contained from 3 mg to 15.8 mg of caffeine, while decaf coffee ranged from 12 mg to 13.4 mg.

A previous study by Goldberger and his colleagues found caffeinated specialty coffees contained an average of 188 mg per cup.

A decaf after about 3pm will keep me awake until 1AM sometimes...

October 19, 2006

The Smelling the Coffee T-Shirt Store Is Open

Just in time for Christmas and the Holiday Season!


Click here.

Starbucks -- Alternatives To Sugar and Pastries, Please!

I'd like to echo this post from Starbucks Gossip the other day: Starbucks Gossip: When will Starbucks get serious about diabetes and obesity? (And take a look at the huge comments thread there.)

Yes, there are customers who want the sugar drinks and pastries - and that's great, but there are also customers who want ALTERNATIVES!

Whole grain pastries and sugar-gree alternatives, please.

By the way, I used to always get soy lattes, until I learned how many calories are in those. Now I get an Americano and add a bit of half-and-half.

October 14, 2006

Lesson in humility

Q: What happens when two barista friends and I think we have what it takes to roast some coffee beans?

A: My former roommate's kitchen becomes a coffee inferno.


October 5, 2006

Starbucks To Rent All Remaining Retail Space On Earth!

Starbucks raises expansion goal to 40,000 stores,

Starbucks Corp. on Thursday raised its long-term expansion goal to 40,000 stores from 30,000 and said it was nowhere close to exhausting opportunities in North America, even as possibilities appear internationally.

The company, known for its ubiquity in parts of the United States, expects to have 20,000 outlets in the United States and 20,000 internationally, James Donald, chief executive, said in a meeting with analysts in Seattle.

October 3, 2006

Yarrrr, a demitasse!

One if my tasks at the new store is picking out ceramic for the place (they're currently paper only). I have some pretty specific demands for espresso cups: white or off white interior, tulip shape to suspend the crema, and, of course, a handle. These pirate shot glasses offer none of these things, but damned if I'm not tempted to serve them up anyway.


Buy 'em here.

[Via BoingBoing.]

October 1, 2006

What to do in Seattle?

Taking a break between jobs, I'll be traveling to Seattle this week for a coffee tour (Wednesday - Monday). I've been once before, but then I knew nothing about the coffee world and spent most of my time working at a public policy seminar. Now I know the obvious places to go -- Vivace, Victrola, and the newly Cloverfied Zoka -- but where else should I visit? And what about non-coffee stuff?

Sidetrips to Portland and possibly Vancouver are also likely. Stumptown, the Horse Brass Pub, and Caffe Artigiano would be on my list to of places to see, but what else should be there?

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

Got a new job

I'm switching coffee shops and taking a new job. Baked and Wired, a coffee shop and bakery in DC's Georgetown neighborhood, has hired me to lead their revamped coffee program. Details on my personal blog. And if you're in the neighborhood, drop in for an espresso sometime.


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