Today on a very special Diesel Sweeties webcomic installment, an important dialog for coffee-drinkers to practice with their faithless peers.
Image: "Indonesian farmer shows coffee beans already digested by Asian Palm Civet, but before cleaning and roasting" (HaztechGuy/Wikipedia)
I've just finished teaching week four of the amazing Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego; in addition to spending a week working closely with some very talented writers, I came up with a new and cheap way to make astounding cold-brew coffee.
I bought a $10 "nut-milk" bag and a plastic pitcher. Every night before bed, I ground up about 15 Aeropress scoops' (570 ml) worth of espresso roast coffee -- the $20 Krups grinder is fine for this, though I wouldn't use it with an actual espresso machine -- leaving the beans coarse. I filled the bag with the grind, put it in the bottom of the empty pitcher like a huge tea-bag, and topped up the pitcher with tap water (distilled water would have been better -- fewer dissolved solids means that it'll absorb more of the coffee solids, but that's not a huge difference). I wedged the top of the bag between the lid and the pitcher and stuck it in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, I took the bag out of the pitcher and gave it a good squeeze to get the liquor out of the mush inside. Add water to the pitcher to fill to the brim and voila, amazing cold-brew. You can dilute it 1:1 or even further.
Cleanup was easy: invert the bag over a trashcan or garbage disposal, rinse off the bag, and you're ready to go.
This produced very, very good coffee concentrate, with only a little grit settled into the bottom 3mm of the pitcher (easy to avoid). It may just be the cheapest and easiest cold-brewing method I've yet tried.
Cuppow is a a reusable lid that turns a glass canning jar into a travel mug. They have versions for regular and wide mouth glass jars. It's made in the USA from BPA-free, Phthalate-free plastic. What a great idea! Amazon has the regular mouth size for $8; you supply the jar. Cuppow Regular and Cuppow Wide Mouth
The handle on Superstaar's portafilter cracked, and he couldn't get a replacement: "Luckily, my son keeps a good collection of sticks. Sawed one off, drilled a hole, stuck in the portacafe, fixed the crack with tiewraps, et voila. Works better than the original, and is insanely stylish."
Behold, the magnificent coffeebot! Sounds like this was a timer-percolator with a thermos bottle or a hotplate, but man, what an illustration!
Well, the brewing takes a lot longer, but that's some admirably compact instructional video right there. They skip the filtering step, which can be messy. You can do it one cup at a time in an Aeropress, run it through a paper filter in a pour-over or a sieve, or try cheesecloth.
Empire State Development, the New York State agency devoted to promoting New York businesses, threatened the (extremely excellent) Everyman Espresso shop with a lawsuit because they used an "I [Coffee Cup] New York" logo (the logo appears on the knuckles of Sam Penix, who co-owns Everyman). After Everyman took the sign down, Empire State Development's lawyers demanded "an accounting of all gross revenues generated during the period when the I ♥ NY® Trademark was used" so that they could figure out how big a bill to send to a small New York business for using it.
“Basically, it’s extortion,” he said. “It’s also ironic because we are being threatened by the entity that has vowed to grow our New York business.”
The mission of Empire State Development, the department’s parent agency, is indeed “to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies.” Empire State Development is also home to the state tourism department, which started an effort last year to revive and reinvent its “I ♥ NY” campaign.
On Monday, Everyman slapped a “Censored” sign over the logo on the door of its second shop, on West Broadway in SoHo, which opened last summer. Everyman’s principals are complying with Ms. Neumann’s request, albeit under protest. “We just think there’s no likelihood of confusion,” Mr. Terrana said.
Brian Ashcraft updates us on the astounding foam-art of Osaka barista Kazuki Yamamoto. Yamamoto has now mastered 3D foam, and is blowing my mind. Ashcraft has a series of posts documenting the journey of Yamamoto to undisputed novelty foam king of the Pacific Rim.
Adam P sez, "I first found out about the Aeropress on Boing Boing and it has dramatically improved my quality of life as an expat here in China. When purchasing another one online for a colleague, I was well titillated by the shop's 28 point photo guide to the differences between a real and fake Aeropress."
Kent sez, "Here's a travel hack that came to me all at once in a flash at SxSW this year: how to make cold-brewed coffee out of the horrible filter pack and inadequate equipment you often find in hotels in the USA."
Kent's method is clever and upside-down-y, but I still like my method, which involves using your own coffee and a disposable plastic breast-milk bag.
Carefully unwrap (don't tear!) one or two of those premeasured filter-packs that came with your coffee service and stuff it gently into the cup. Ideally you want four parts water to one part coffee, but this is tough to estimate with filter packs.
Fill the remaining space in the cup all the way up with water. Tap water works; filtered or bottled is better. Try not to leave any air bubbles.
Don't worry if it seems it will result in a tiny amount of coffee; it will be concentrated, intensely flavored, and—assuming you're not stuck with decaf—highly caffeinated.
Beau Chevassus resolved to order the most expensive coffee drink in the world, so he went to Starbucks and ordered a 48-shot Frappuccino with every single revolting additive, had it blended and drank at least one slurp of it. Total cost was $47.30. I believe that Mr Chevassus could probably have spent more had he visited a Starbucks in Dubai or Moscow, and possibly have availed himself of even more revolting adulterations courtesy of the local variations available in different regions (caviar?).
The Quadriginoctuple Frap. Previous record: $23.60. I used a 52 oz bucke--I mean mug. (it really is a legit mug). The drink had 48 shots. Filmed in Washington State, home of Starbucks.
The winning recipes from the 2012 Aeropress championships give me the fear. Clearly I have not been paying enough attention to this.
17 grams of coffee (light roasted fresh crop washed Sidamo from Heart roasters)
fine filter grind on a Mahlkönig Tanzania
paper filter rinsed with hot water
water from Maridalsvannet (brought in glass bottles from my flat in Oslo, Norway)
inverted brewing method
preheat aeropress for 10 sec
96 Celcius pour temp (gives ca 90 C actual brew temp)
260 grams of water
50 sec steep time
20 sec press time – slow enough to get a clean brew but also some fines (yuck) and oils (yum)
stop pressing before air comes out
wait for the fines to sink and temp to cool, then pour but hold back the last part with the fines (taste sample for yourself!)
The cup: a clean brew with floral notes and taste of sweet lemons.
Aeropress remains my all time favorite cup of joe, and my go-to method when I'm on the road.
After I converted my parents from drinking filter coffee to making their morning brew with an Aeropress (something I do with missionary zeal wherever I go), the next step was to replace their antiquated electric kettle with something smarter. Living in the UK has accustomed me to the wonder of electric kettles (240V AC FTW!) but even in Canada, where my folks live, the weedy 110V mains can still produce a decent boil in reasonable time.
I shopped around a lot, and hit on the Breville BKE820XL Variable-Temperature 1.8-Liter Kettle, based both the online reviews and the feature-set, which allows you to set a specific temperature and tell the kettle to keep it there, much like the ubiquitous water-heaters you find in Asian hotels.
It's been more than a year, and the Breville is a winner. The lowest setting ("Green tea") heats water to perfect Aeropress temperature, and the thermostat makes the kettle perfect for making multiple cups (when I stay at my folks' place, my nickname is "coffee slave" and I often make three or four cups in a row). The additional temperatures are great for oatmeal, hot water bottles, black tea, etc.
I'm presently on a family holiday at a winter resort in Ontario with my folks and my brother and his family, and we brought the Breville, Aeropress, a small grinder, and some very nice beans (thank you, Sam James Coffee!) along, and as I marvelled anew at the kettle's usefulness and quiet design flourishes (in addition to being rather handsome, it has lots of grace-notes, like a pull-ring integrated into the AC plug to make it easy to unplug without stressing the cord), my mom said, "Why don't you blog it?"
So there you are. Happy, Mom?
After you drink some Scotch, there's usually a thin film of the liquor left clinging to the bottom and sides of the glass. If you leave it out overnight, it'll dry and be a pain to wash off in the morning. But the same dried booze leavings can also be the beginnings of some really lovely art.
Ernie Button takes photos of the waving, swirling patterns left behind on Scotch glasses. This one — part of a series called Vanishing Spirits — is a picture of glass that once held a nice measure of Balvenie.
The idea for this project occurred while putting a used Scotch glass into the dishwasher. I noted a film on the bottom of a glass and when I inspected closer, I noted these fine, lacey lines filling the bottom. What I found through some experimentation is that these patterns and images that can be seen are created with the small amount of Single-Malt Scotch left in a glass after most of it has been consumed. It only takes a very thin layer of Scotch to create; the alcohol dries and leaves the sediment in various patterns. It’s a little like snowflakes in that every time the Scotch dries, the glass yields different patterns and results. I have used different colored lights to add 'life' to the bottom of the glass, creating the illusion of landscape, terrestrial or extraterrestrial.
Interestingly, there was a recent article that was published in the Journal of Nature (I think) by Dr. Peter Yunker on the Suppression of the Coffee-Ring Effect by Shape-Dependent Capillary Interactions i.e. how are coffee rings made. I contacted him to see if he could see any obvious connection between the two liquids and the rings / patterns they create. He got back to me and unfortunately could not explain what was happening with the Scotch.
That paper Button mentioned was published in 2011. It explores the physics of particles suspended in liquid — not just coffee, but lots of things. Turns out, if you put a drop of liquid on a solid surface, it will tend to dry in a circular shape. As it dries, anything suspended in the liquid will migrate to the outside of the circle. If you put a drop of coffee on a table and leave it to dry, what you'll get is a round spot ringed by a narrow band of dark coffee gunk.
Why does the gunk form a ring, instead of evenly covering the whole circle? Yunker's research showed that it has to do with the shape of the particles that make up the gunk.
Read the rest
My hosts at last night's signing at Philadelphia's Indy Hall co-working space did a lot to make me welcome, but most of all, they supplied me with rocket-fuel. The fuel took the form of a bottle of La Colombe Pure Black Cold Brew, a deceptively smooth, dark, chocolately cold-brew coffee that comes in a 12oz beer bottle. Deceptively smooth because this stuff is, as noted, pure rocket-fuel. They gave me a bottle for the road that I cracked in my hotel room this morning before heading to DC, and it practically had me plastered to the ceiling, despite its mellow flavor, and in a very good way.
I drink a lot of cold-brew on the road (I use the radical hotel-room coffee independence method to make cold-brew in breast-milk bags that I put in the minibar fridge overnight) but La Colombe was a cut above even the excellent stuff I make myself.
Crowdfunding a 10-year-old's cup design for her grandad, who's got Parkinson's; and her dad, who is a klutz
Lily is a ten year old girl who's into pottery. Her grandpa has Parkinson's disease and is prone to spilling his coffee due to his tremors, and so she invented the "Kangaroo Cup," a stackable, reusable cup that is hard to knock over or spill from (she modified it for her dad's use, so that he wouldn't spill coffee in his keyboard anymore, too). It's got a inward-curving lip to make it less spill-prone when you carry it, and its legs make it super-stable (you also don't need a coaster for it).
Lily's dad is a product designer who's brought other products to market successfully, so he and his daughter are raising funds on IndieGoGo for bulk manufacture (in JingDeZhen, China) and sale.
We are launching this project to fund our first production run of 1000 pieces. The samples pictured here and in the video are 1st production samples made at the same facility that will do the production run. The facility we've selected for this first run is not a mass production, low cost factory, but a high quality porcelain producer that generally makes decorative vases and tea pots and such. They make the kind of ceramics that JingDeZhen is famous for: "white as jade, bright as a mirror, and harmonic as a bell." In addition, because they are high temperature fired, they are stronger and less porous that standard ceramics. This makes them more hygienic, easier to clean and harder to stain.
We chose JingDeZhen for our source because of the high quality and the ability of the artisans there to help us work through our initial production issues. If the project is successful, we will likely need to move to more conventional manufacturing sources to reduce cost, but today, JingDeZhen China provides a nice reward for our early supporters.
No Spill Kangaroo Cup (Thanks, Alex!)
Redditor DivineBaboon posted an unattributed photo of an espresso drink with a beautiful PSY (of Gangnam Style fame) portrait in the foam.
The Guardian's John Harris looks at the battle taking place in the Devon town of Totnes, a kind of counterculture/hippie haven on the "English Riviera," where residents are furious at the plan to open an outlet of the Costa Coffee chain. Harris paints a picture of Totnes as the kind of place that would be pretty nice to live in: they issue their own currency that only works with local businesses, have a record store that puts the best music shops in Manhattan to shame, and have dozens of nice coffee shops where skilled baristas ply their trade -- like Portland, OR crossed with an English seaside village.
For Harris (and the Totnes residents with whom he speaks), the fight to keep Costa out of town is a microcosm for the fight against global capitalism, and the triumph of profits and shareholder value over local community and mutual aid.
Totnes's local economy looks to be in reasonable health, which is surely down to the fact that it is about as far from being what we now call a "clone town" as could be imagined. The local record shop, Drift, is mind-bogglingly great: the kind of place that you'd think was amazing if you found it in New York. The quality and diversity of restaurants is amazing. Most pertinently, the town has 42 independently run outlets that serve coffee, and – so far – not a single branch of any of the big caffeine-selling multiples.
Now, though, Costa – whose most visible slogan remains "Saving the world from mediocre coffee" – is on its way, as part of programme of expansion that will look either worryingly aggressive or admirably ambitious, depending on your point of view. Certainly, it seems to be bucking the prevailing trend of our flatlining economy, opening scores of new outlets while independent coffee shops are truly feeling the pinch.
A fully owned subsidiary of the food and hospitality conglomerate Whitbread, it currently operates 1,400 British outlets, and recently announced plans for 350 more. Thanks also to a snowballing presence in petrol stations, pubs and motorway services, its logo is becoming inescapable, which is exactly the point: the chief executive, Andy Harrison, has talked about increasing the number of branches to 2,000, and thus making them ubiquitous. "People really don't want to walk very far for a coffee," he has said. "We can have them a couple of hundred yards apart on a really busy high street, then another at a retail park and another at the station."
This handbill -- which can be seen in the British Museum -- dates back to the 1650s, and was produced by the first coffee shop in London, in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill.
It is a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an Oven, and ground to Powder, and boiled up with Spring water, and about half a pint of it to be drunk, fasting an hour before and not Eating an hour after, and to be taken as hot as possibly can be endured; the which will never fetch the skin off the mouth, or raise any Blisters, by reason of that Heat.
The Turks drink at meals and other times, is usually Water, and their Dyet consists much of Fruit, the Crudities whereof are very much corrected by this Drink.
The quality of this Drink is cold and Dry; and though it be a Dryer, yet it neither heats, nor inflames more than hot Posset.
It forcloseth the Orifice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat with- [missing text] its very good to help digestion, and therefore of great use to be [missing text] bout 3 or 4 a Clock afternoon, as well as in the morning.
Shapeways contributor Isohedral came up with this awesome design for a two ounce stubby rocketship/espresso cup, which is available as a 3D print in ceramic:
[Video Link] My friend Andrea James sent me this video. She said, " I thought it was nicely shot, and I like the music!" I agree. The song is called "Ding Ding Dong," and it is by Waipod Phetsuphan (Thailad). It's on a compilation album called "The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam from Thailand 1964 -1975."
A large prospective study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that "coffee consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality."
In other words, data showed that there is a connection between drinking coffee and not necessarily dying. Sort of.
"Whether this was a causal or associational finding cannot be determined from our data," the summary concludes.
Boing Boing science editor Maggie Koerth-Baker is on the road today, so I can't enlist her science-fu in interpreting the details of this study. But I think what they're trying to tell us is that while drinking coffee does not necessarily cause you to live longer, it is associated with the opposite of dying sooner. I'm going to have a cup while you all argue it out in the comments.
Read the rest
Johanna writes, "Carlos Aguirre, a trainer at Academia Barista Pro, stunned audiences worldwide when he pushed not 1, not 2 but 3 aeropresses at the same time for his signature drink during National Salvadoran Barista Competition."
That's a lot of aeropressin'. The key scene starts at 20:41.
Alice spotted this coffee cart from the (above average) London coffee chain Apostrophe, which includes a superfluous apostrophe. It's either ironic or too clever by far.