Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Coffee, YUM!

One month ago, I made a post about Coffee Making Technology. One of the things I spoke about was the mediocre, at best, quality of the coffee I was using. Well, I was pretty much out of the Kona roasted on some nondeterminate date in 2010, so yesterday I walked over to the Blue Bottle coffee kiosk nearby to buy some beans. ( For those that don’t know, Blue Bottle is a ‘microroaster’ of coffee. They roast their coffee across the bay in Oakland, and have several shops around San Francisco, including a funny little kiosk in a converted garage on an alley like street in my neighborhood. )

The coffee I bought, their Three Africans blend, was roasted on Friday (March 4, 2011) – so it’s about as fresh as you can expect coffee to be. I used it this morning to make coffee and I noticed that it bloomed phenomenally when I put the initial small but of water in it. I almost wish I had filmed it, so I could show the lovely swelling and bubbling of the grounds. The coffee it produced was very good, as well. I can help but think there is a lot I could do to improve my technique, and there are two accessories which I could get to improve it too. One is expensive (a good grinder) and one is probably cheap at the restaurant supply store (a long neck kettle). I think I’ll get the latter first, as controlling the pour seems to be important to the process, and my research says that for drip process like chemex, blade grind is usually ‘good enough’.

I’ll finish this post now since I finished my coffee, and it’s time to make some breakfast.

posted by neil at 10:37 am
under coffee  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coffee Making Technology

For years now, I made coffee at home with a Moka pot – the little Italian ‘stove top espresso’ maker that’s been in use in Italy since the 1930s. This makes pretty decent coffee usually, but I have been known to burn it on occasion from not paying attention, and the volume of coffee produced isn’t very much.

Enter the Chemex:

(Please pardon the moving boxes etc, Mackenzie moved into my flat last weekend and we hadn’t had time to unpack her kitchen stuff when I took these pictures)

This is another old coffee technology, made from bits of laboratory glass fused together into a single, quite striking, functional piece. Making coffee is fairly simple, but there are multiple steps. This process is basically like single-cup drip from places like Philz or Blue Bottle, etc.

  1. Start boiling water.
  2. Grind your beans (unless they are preground). This is the trickiest step, I think – I’m still trying to get the right grind. I guess working with a blade grinder is not ideal, but I can’t justify a burr grinder – maybe that can be another post someday.
  3. Put a paper filter (chemex makes special ones that are ‘optimal’ for the device – I’m not sure I 100% buy into this yet, but I got some of them so, I’m using them) into your Chemex.
  4. After the kettle boils, turn off the stove. Pour a small bit of water to wet the filter (and to warm the carafe if it’s cold!) into the carafe. Pour this water out into the sink.
  5. Put your ground coffee into the filter.
  6. Put a small amount of hot water into the grounds, just enough to make them wet. Wait 30 seconds or so – this will ‘bloom’ the coffee and help the brewing process.
  7. Slowly pour the appropriate amount of the hot (no longer boiling) water over the grounds, it will filter through the grinds and the cone filter at the proper rate to ensure ‘perfect extraction’ of coffee flavors.
  8. Yes, it is a bit fidly, and it’s not a way to make a quick cup of coffee before work, but the coffee that it does produce is fantastically tasty – smooth and well-balanced. I’ll note that I am using some Kona beans that are probably no longer super fresh, and as I said before, my grinding is not really optimal, and it’s still something I’m playing with. All this being said, it is definitely the best coffee I’ve ever made at home. Plus, the Chemex pot itself just looks damn cool!

    I plan to play with some different beans this month, and my technique in general – I’ll try to post some future observations and updates as I learn more, but I welcome comments and suggestions!

posted by neil at 10:52 pm
under coffee  

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