July 1, 2010

Coffee - A Light Inside My Head

A great post by Matt Goldich over at Write On, the new Writer's Guild of America East blog, titled Coffee,

I never really drank coffee until December of 2007. Sure, I would occasionally have an iced vanilla something in the afternoon if other people were making a Starbucks run, but more often than not it was a soda or an iced tea with lunch. But over that Christmas my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I traveled to Mexico for a few days. At the place we were staying, they didn’t ask you if you wanted coffee for breakfast, they just poured you some. And, being a good guest, I drank it.

Suddenly, mornings were a lot more fun. A light went on inside my head. So this was what everyone was raving about! Upon arriving back in the States I started hitting up Starbucks for coffee in the morning. When my girlfriend and I moved in together the following summer, we started making coffee at home.

Go read.

April 3, 2009

Searching for the Perfect Latte – at home.

Just got laid off? Can’t find a job? Have less money in this nationwide downturn? Join thousands of others as we try and find ways to cut down expenditure and stretch out our ever decreasing incomes.

One of the first of life’s little luxuries to go for our house hold, would be the trips to our local coffee houses. When I had a job I used to pick up a Starbucks latte on the way to work most mornings, then weekends would find me at the local Peets. Sometimes twice in one day!

Now faced with the prospect of making my own drinks I realize there is was more to it than I thought. I have a cheap old Melita espresso machine so I’m all set to make the perfect latte – or so I thought!

Things to take into consideration are; flavor, body, foam.

I experimented to find that perfect Peet’s flavor, and even after two months, I still do not have it. I decided it was all to do with the coffee and I dabbled with Major Dickison’s (normally my favorite) ground as fine as I could get it, with half decaf. It did not hit the spot. I discovered that Peet’s sells an espresso roast which tastes better than the Major D. This is good, but still doesn’t compare to the flavor of one of their coffee house lattes.

A big element of a perfect latte is the milk product. I use soymilk and experimented my way through several brands. Trader Joe's non-sweetened is too – well – not sweet. So I tried vanilla soy which turned out to be – well – too vaniller-y. Yuk! This was sweeter than Starbuck’s! So I tried mixing it – some vanilla some Trader Joe’s. No. This was not it at all. I even went to Peet’s and asked them their secret. They told me they had special "steamer soy for coffee house use only". Well that was no help at all. I have since settled on Pearl un-sweetened which I get from Whole Foods. This particular brand tastes pretty good and makes the best, silkiest thick foam ever – yum.

I still have not found the way to make the latte of my taste bud’s dreams, but I have a way of making one that I like. If I go to Peet’s coffee house and buy one, it is now a delightful treat that I appreciate all the more. Sorry to Peet’s that I can’t spend more in your stores, but I do appreciate your products.

November 3, 2008

If You Vote, Starbucks Buys You Coffee

If you care enough to vote, we care enough to give you a free cup of coffee.

Come into any participating Starbucks on Nov. 4th, tell us you voted, and we'll proudly give you a tall cup of brewed coffee on us.

Its our way of saying, thanks for doing your part.

Limit one per person. Good while supplies last. Void where prohibited by law.

October 30, 2008

A Halloween Coffee Story

From an email I received:

A man was walking home alone late one foggy night, when behind him he hears:




Continue reading "A Halloween Coffee Story" »

October 25, 2008

Want Coffee, But Don't Want To Add CO2 To The Air?

At the Blog: Coffee, Certified CarbonFree! This post contains a press release:

Coffee Roaster Becomes Nation's First to Offer 100% CarbonFree® Certified Coffee
Grounds for Change, a family-owned coffee roaster, is the first in the nation to comprehensively offset its coffee’s carbon emissions.
Click through for the rest.

This has been on my mind lately when I shop so this is good news. For example, I live in California and try to buy only local olive oil. There is great olive oil made in California, and it seems like shipping a heavy liquid across the ocean has to burn a lot of carbon. But it is hard to find local products like this except in specialty stores.

December 23, 2007

I'm Getting A Little Bit Better

I'm getting a little bit better at making my first morning coffee. This morning I didn't put the beans straight into the press pot without grinding them. And I didn't put ground coffee into the grinder! And I didn't pour the water into the grinder - or into the bag of beans.

All of these I have done. But I am getting better.

THIS morning I measured and poured the beans into the grinder. Or I should say ONto the grinder. I didn't take the top off first.

All of which are better than this, another occasional morning ritual:

November 8, 2007

Red Cups

This morning started out pretty grey. Grumbling my way to work I decided to stop at the local 'Buckys' to grab a latte. I walked in the door and like magic, voila, my day was immediately improved. During the night the little Bucky Xmas Gnomes had been busy with all the Xmas marketing. Adorable stuffed toy penguins were there in little red coats; teddy bears with little scarves; blue shiny snowflakes around the colorful displays; shiny xmas mugs; advent calendars: You name it, it was there - and it was cute. I am a sucker for cute.

I managed to get by the adorable 'stuff-I-want-but-do-not-need', and there in front of me in big stacks by size, were red cups. I even exclaimed out loud as I saw them. "The red cups are back. Oh good! That's so great" and the baristas mentioned that yes they were nice and bright looking, probably thinking "good lord who is this dork". But nice and bright is not it. The fact is that every year at this time, the cups at Starbucks go from white with the green logo on, to some kind of red design, and every year it makes me happy. It nothing to do with coffee. The coffee was still the slightly too sweet but warm and fuzzy-feeling-making, with a faint taste of coffee, but the environment was delightful.

And the cups are RED!

September 1, 2007

R. I. P. Alfred Peet

"I came to the richest country in the world, so why are they drinking the lousiest coffee?"

Alfred Peet, founder of Peet's Coffee & Tea, died Wednesday at 87.

Peet's: Alfred H. Peet, 1920-2007 (with comments and pictures),

When Alfred Peet opened his shop in Berkeley in April, 1966 he started a coffee revolution. Nobody had ever seen top-quality coffee like this roasted in this unique style in America.
Washington Post, Alfred Peet; Put Buzz In Gourmet Coffee,
Alfred Peet, 87, a Dutch tea trader who started the gourmet coffee craze in the United States with his rich, darkly roasted, high-altitude beans and taught the trade to the founders of Starbucks and sold them their first year's supply, died Aug. 29 at his home in Ashland, Ore.

His company, Peet's Coffee & Tea, from which he retired in 1983, announced his death. The cause was not reported.

... Coffee aficionados swear by Peet's, asserting that it is superior to mass-merchandised products. In 1971, when the three founders of Starbucks decided to open a gourmet coffee store in Seattle's Pike Place Market, they sought Mr. Peet. He insisted that they go to his store to learn about coffee before he would sell them a single bean...

... Peet's is bean-sized compared to Starbucks, but it has played a significant role in the development of the U.S. coffee culture.

San Francisco Chronicle: Coffee pioneer Alfred Peet dies,
With his emphasis on specialty coffees and unique brewing techniques, Peet, the son of a Dutch roaster, put specialty coffee on the map - and in the process influenced the founders of Starbucks.

"Up until the time he started, in 1966, basic American coffee was swill," said Jim Reynolds, roastmaster emeritus at Peet's. "His father had been a small coffee roaster in Holland before World War II, he was aware of good quality coffee, but nobody in the States was buying it," Reynolds said. "He realized Berkeley was a place where good food and good quality coffee would work."

... "I like to think that he taught America how to drink dark-roasted coffee," said Narsai David, the food and wine editor of KCBS in San Francisco, who, when he opened his Narsai's Restaurant on Colusa Circle in 1972, was Peet's first commercial account.

... In 1971, the first Starbucks store opened in Seattle's Pike Place Market, with coffee roasted by Peet's. The company's co-founders, Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker, learned about roasting from Peet.

Peet sold his business in 1979 but stayed on as a coffee buyer until 1983. In 1984, Starbucks co-owner Baldwin and Reynolds, the roastmaster, with a group of investors bought Peet's four Bay Area locations. In 1987, Baldwin and Peet's owners sold the Starbucks chain to focus on Peet's, and Baldwin and Howard Schultz, Starbucks' new owner, entered into a no-compete agreement in the Bay Area. In 2001, Peet's became a public company.

Alfred Peet was born in Alkmaar, Holland, on March 10, 1920. He helped his father by cleaning his coffee-roasting machinery and doing other odd jobs. When Germany invaded the Netherlands, he was pressed into working for the Third Reich in Frankfurt. When the war ended, Peet joined Lipton, the tea company, and for a time worked in the tea business in the then-Dutch colony of Indonesia.

He immigrated to San Francisco in 1955 and took a job with coffee importer E.A. Johnson & Co. He favored high-altitude coffee from Costa Rica, Guatemala and East Africa that his father used to buy, and although there was no market for it in the area, he decided to create one.

Seattle Times, Coffee master Alfred Peet, 87, inspired Starbucks,

Continue reading "R. I. P. Alfred Peet" »

March 20, 2007

Calculate your caffeine intake

Ever wonder how much caffeine you're taking in each day? Energy Fiend provides a handy calculator to figure that out, complete with a checklist of lots of drinks and their caffeine content. My own consumption varies a lot depending on whether or not I'm working as a barista, but an average estimate puts me at 326 mg. That's two 8 oz. coffees, an espresso, and a Coke per day, putting me somewhat on the high end. On days when I'm getting up for work at 5:15 and taste testing the spro and coffee all day, I'm sure the number is higher.

The site also has a calculator to tell you how much chocolate or other candy you'd have to eat to risk death, given your body weight. 2900.63 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups would do the trick for me. Fortunately I can only eat 2900 before I get too full to consume that extra .63 of a cup, so I think I'm safe.

Caffeine's not as unhealthy as people tend to assume it is. In fact, it appears to have a whole lot of benefits. A certain libertarian coffee lover summarized them here.

[Via LifeHacker.]

February 24, 2007

Fiber From Drinking Coffee?

Well here is some interesting news! Need More Fiber? Try Coffee, Coffee May Be Higher In Soluble Fiber Than Wine Or Orange Juice, Researchers Say,

They say coffee has more soluble dietary fiber (the type of fiber that dissolves in water and helps prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the
intestines) than wine or orange juice.

... Instant coffee contained the most — about 1.8 grams of soluble dietary fiber per cup. Espresso had 1.5 grams of soluble dietary fiber per cup, and filtered coffee contained 1.1 grams, the study shows.

... Looking for other sources of dietary fiber? Beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are leading sources.

Those foods also contain insoluble fiber, which doesn't dissolve in water, rather than the soluble dietary fiber found in coffee.

Insoluble fiber (roughage) may help keep bowel movements regular and reduce the risk of colon problems. It also makes you feel full.

November 9, 2006

Coffee Impedes Ballot Counting

In today's post-election coffee news, in Lawrence Kansas, Coffee stains to blame for late results,

Advance voters might want to watch where they put their coffee cups next election.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said too many advance ballots had coffee stains and other stuff on them. The ballots jammed a counting machine Tuesday night, delaying final results until nearly midnight.

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.

Continue reading "LA Times Makes Coffee" »

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.

Continue reading "Can't WE Just Get Along?" »

September 5, 2006

Science of Coffee

Cosmic Variance has a very interesting post on the Science of Coffee,

One part I particularly enjoy is the chart titled Cumulative Chemical Composition of Espresso with Increasing Extraction Time, which simultaneously tracks the concentrations of multiple compounds as a function of extraction time, side by side with a key that explains their role:
Compound : Aroma
2,4-decadienal : RANCID
ethylgujacol : SMOKE
2-ethyl-3,5-dimethylpyrazine : CHOCOLATE
2-ethyl-3,6-dimethylpyrazine : CHOCOLATE
Go see the rest.

July 21, 2006

Painting With Coffee

A friend sent an e-mail to this site (because they had a bunny, not the coffee, but hey, it works):

Art entirely painted in coffee. Just Coffee Art by Angel & Andy,
Curious people who view the work are amazed that the artwork is painted entirely in coffee - no additives, just 100% pure coffee.
How did it get started?
Andrew Saur and Angel Sarkela-Saur have been painting with coffee for several years now. It all started one summer when they planned their first art show in a coffee house in Duluth, Minnesota. They wanted to come up with something unique and creative. Since their show was going to take place in a coffee house, they thought it would be appropriate to use coffee as their medium.
It was recommended that I view the animations.

April 14, 2006

New magazine for drink lovers

I was in Charlotte last weekend for the Specialty Coffee Association of America 2006 conference and one of the cool things I picked up there is the premiere issue of the new magazine Imbibe. The bimonthly is devoted exclusively to drinks as their own culinary realm, not limiting itself to any one beverage. This first issue includes articles about third wave coffee, the drinks of Oaxaca, introductions to the seven Trappist ale producers, a look at organic wine, and quite a few recipes, profiles of people in the beverage business, and bar recommendations. The layout is stylish and dominated by content, not ads.

One interesting bit I learned from the issue is that in Utah, consumers' wine choices are selected by pretty much just one guy. Direct shipping is illegal and wine sales are limited to state-run liquor stores, only one of which specializes in wine. Thus the wine sold in the state must pass the approval of the "wine czar:"

Utah has a wine czar. Yep, a state employee named Brett Clifford officially works as the "wine coordinator," but his eminence better fits the "czar" moniker. Since 1979, when the state opened its first wine specialty store, Clifford has tasted nearly every wine that has been sold in Utah; it's his job to choose which bottles end up on store shelves and restaurant wine lists. "I believe that Utah has perhaps the only extensive wine tasting and buying program of just about any retailer in the United States," Clifford says. "Most everyone else buys on reputation, publication, and sales record, and pricing incentives. We are very proud to serve the Utah consumer."

Today, he and other state-employed tasters sample about 500 wines a month. On Thursday afternoons, you'll find Clifford and two members of his sampling team evaluating various bottles in an official room used for wine tasting only. All arriving samples are immediately logged into the computer and tracked until the bottles are empty. The samples are stored under lock in a temperature-controlled room next to the tasting room, and both rooms are under constant video surveillance. After all, not even the wine czar imbibes without oversite of the state."

That's a hell of a nice job. Though poking fun at the position a bit, Imbibe is ultimately sanguine about the czar's power, noting that he keeps a lot of bad wines off the shelves. Not mentioned is how many good wines are kept out of consumers' hands by Clifford and the state's illiberal wine laws. For a magazine devoted to celebrating drinks in all their variety, I would have expected a little more criticism.

Actually, a hint of credulity could be the one flaw in an otherwise consistently good magazine. The article on organic wine, for example, includes a sidebar on biodynamic wines. While noting the "inherently spiritual" nature of biodynamic practices, the sidebar treats them as positive step beyond organic farming without mentioning the well-deserved skepticism many hold for their benefits. While I can understand why the editors would want the first issue to be especially genial, I hope they will develop a slightly more critical edge over time.

Those complaints aside, it's a great beginning for this magazine. And for just $15.95 for a charter subscription, I'm definitely willing to take the risk on subsequent issues being just as good. Sign up for a year or two's worth here.

[Update 4/17/06: I didn't notice it until Slashfood pointed it out, but the Imbibe website has a very neat Flash preview of the magazine. It's like virtually flipping through the issue to the lead pages of all the major stories; useful and just fun to play with.]

[Cross-posted on Eternal Recurrence.]

March 19, 2006

Just Enough Coffee Plus a Shot of Espresso

The other day I linked to a video clip that shows what happens when you have had EXACTLY enough coffee.

Well, the Chris Bliss Diss Video shows what happens when you have exactly enough coffee AND a shot of espresso.

March 11, 2006

The Singing Barista

I'm in the Starbucks at the corner of Shattuck and Ceder, in Berkeley, California, using the wireless. It's here that you'll find Andrew the Singing Barista. A Frank Sinatra tune was playing and he was singing along, sounding JUST like Frank! He's very good. I suggest you go in, ask for Andrew, order something expensive, ask him for a song and leave a NICE tip!

Maybe they could set up a small podium - it could become the new Starbucks thing, Singing Baristas. Andrew could be the leader of the new Big Thing!

February 1, 2006


From Anne -

I gave up caffeine about a year ago, after I had anxiety problems and ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. The state of the world has most to do with it, but I've found that caffeine was a significant component. I miss good black tea the most.

Because of my tea addiction, which had a ritual component to it (my husband's family is English), I've spent a lot of time and money trying to find truly good decaffeinated black tea. I have failed. Admittedly, the tea I used to drink was sort of the espresso of tea: an Irish blend called Lyons Gold. It made a very assertive, malty, brisk cup of tea. Non tea-drinkers who came to our house and were offered a cuppa would be served Lyons steeped perhaps 3 minutes (we always went for 5), with milk and no sugar unless they requested it. We made quite a few converts. "Oh, so THIS is what tea is supposed to be like!" Restaurants who bring you a metal pot of hot water and a separate tea bag are committing a crime against good tea-brewing practices. But that's another story.

Continue reading "Caffeine-no-more" »

January 27, 2006

Making the Coffee

OK, I mis-spoke. (Or should that maybe be 'mis-blogged'? 'Mis-posted'? Lied?) I DO let myself get more than about 300 yards from a Peet's. For example, I LIVE more than 300 yeards from a Peet's. (It was a hard choice. Although the just-opened Peet's in Redwood City is very close.)

So what I do is I take Peet's beans home WITH me and make it there! I use a French press. I get the beans ground "to number 12." Today I am having a 2/3 Decaf Special Blend and 1/3 Lost Toraja.

Yes, when I am pushing the plunger it stops part way down. Thank you for asking. No, I don't push harder. (Been there, done that, had to clean it up.) What I do is spin the top of the plunger, which seems to clear things up and then the plunger is able to go down some more. (I do wonder if I just waited the same amount of time, if that would also clear things up. But just waiting for coffee is soooo hard...)

And yes, I have a one-cup plastic travel press pot that I take with me on trips.

Coming soon: Does the coffee made at the store taste better? Smelling the Coffee is not afraid to ask the big questions. And we will not be intimidated. (Try bribes.)

January 24, 2006

Starbucks Coffee Stirrer Sculpture

An e-mail I received from James Jacobs:

I was sitting at a Starbucks several years ago stirring my coffee and wondering where my life as a Constructivist sculptor was heading when it dawned on me that those 7 inch Starbucks coffee stirrers, if a guy had enough of them, would be an ideal material for my work.

Modeling Materials

Continue reading "Starbucks Coffee Stirrer Sculpture" »


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