Archives for category: coffee

brewsefulI know how necessary water temperature, coffee to water ratio, grind size and time of extraction is to making a good cup of coffee. I mean, this IS chemistry and you DO have to approach it as such if you’re trying to elevate your coffee from a gross-ish caffeine delivery system to something that is actually enjoyable to drink.

One thing I have never really done is time the extraction, though, I admit it. It seems… fussy. Having to mess with grinder settings constantly to get it just right (4:00 is generally the go-to starting point for Chemex), and the fact that I drink different coffees constantly, just seems too OCD even for me.

I was perusing Uncrate the other day and saw a free app called Brewseful and decided to give it a shot. It’s a simple app that allows you to enter and save brewing profiles for various coffees and methods. You can set the volume of coffee you want, the ratio of beans to water, the grind size and it gives you your “recipe” (i.e. I always do 28g of coffee to 450 grams of water). Oh, and keep in mind, one milliliter of water weighs one gram, so don’t fiddle with your scale to convert it to milliliters.

On the timer side of things, you can set the overall extraction time (4:00 is the rule of thumb for Chemex) and also set alarms along the way. For example, it’s recommended to bloom the coffee for 30-45 seconds when using a Chemex, so you can set a “End Bloom” alarm at 30 seconds, maybe another alarm to “End Pour” at around 2:30 or whatever. You can set as many of these as you want.

As the app starts timing, a bright green bar starts “filling” up the app screen. When you hit an alarm you set it’ll chime nicely at you as it progresses through the countdown. It’s really simple, really clean looking, and I was very surprised to see that my untimed “just go for it” approach to the Chemex was EXACTLY 4:00 on the extraction time! I’m either very lucky or my internal timer just rocks! LOL

In any case, the design and use are great, it works wonderfully for its intended purposes and it allows you a way to track and tweak your methods for various coffees and extraction processes. For an app, it’s great and for a FREE app, it’s even better!

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Naked portafilter photo by Oddly Correct.

I’ve been raving about Oddly Correct coffee for quite some time and for a damn good reason. It’s awesome. That’s about all you really need to read, but here’s some more if you need extra convincing.

I bought a pound of their Stranger in the Alps (I’ll let you do the work of figuring out what the name is all about, but it has to do with hilarious editing of a scene from The Big Lebowski) a few weeks ago and was running low on beans, so with only a few minutes left before they closed I popped into the shop and grabbed a bag of what I thought sounded good (not that I’ve found they roast anything bad). My Chemex and Clever Coffee Dripper were both feeling neglected while Signore Gaggia was getting all the fun, so I didn’t really care what I had grabbed as long as it was for pourover instead of espresso.

When I realized I had grabbed the one variety of espresso they had on hand I was momentarily upset with my “mistake” during the rush, but I recovered. I finished up the last of my Stranger in the Alps yesterday and dug into my selection, Entre Volcanes single farm espresso and all I can say this morning is “WOW!”

I did a little research about the Entre Volcanes farm and found a surprising amount of information here. The farm is located in Guatemala at what the site says is “a significantly higher altitude for the region, and thus the coffee coming from here produces an extremely complex cup.” The farm was founded in the 1950’s and so it would be safe to assume they know how to grow beans the right way.

The farm also grows poinsettias, macadamia trees, orchids and bromelias. I would like to say I could taste a hint of macadamia with a long orchid finish in the coffee, but that would just be a lie! LOL

I had a feeling I was in for a treat when I opened the hand-printed and labeled bag (a trademark of those crafty fellows at Oddly Correct) and saw the small, hard-looking beans I have grown accustomed to equating with great cups from their magical roaster. A lot of Oddly Correct’s beans seem to be about 1/2 of the size of a “regular” roasted bean and not as darkly roasted-looking. In my mind, the smaller and more pebble-like the bean from these guys, the better. Who knows?

I filled my Kyocera hand grinder (I always go by volume of the beans to the top of the grinder hopper, rather than weighing them out). It felt noticeably heavier in my hand but took the 200-ish cranks of the handle to grind them all, which is normal regardless of the bean I use, and the volume of espresso in the Gaggia portafilter looked right.

I got the volume of espresso I wanted in the time I wanted (about 15-17 seconds) and the aroma coming off the cup was a little grapefruity/citrusy, but the tasting notes on the bag prepped me for that. I feel like now, 15 minutes after I had the drink, that there is a lingering astringency/grapefruit flavor on my palate from the coffee, but that could be purely psychological.

Like the other espressos I’ve had from Oddly Correct, the Entre Volcanes was bright and punchy. If you could describe a sip as a physical thing, somewhere in the middle of it was a fleeting earthy character that my mind immediately associated with cinnamon. It was quick, like “5%” of the overall sip, and it didn’t TASTE like cinnamon, but there was some quality of it that I couldn’t shake as being “cinnamon-like.” I suspect I’ll be running the Gaggia a few more times today, so maybe I’ll have some more comments to note on that!

I got a little cherry toward the end, which seems to be a theme with Oddly Correct beans, and a citrusy, tart finish.

Entre Volcanes is truly handled well by the brilliant OC roasters and they have done this bean justice. The cup was really full-bodied, the crema was gorgeous looking and the flavors were pure, bright, acid and lacked any sootiness or ashiness that comes from most espresso roasts.

Damn!

It has been FOREVER since I did a real beer post. Thanks for your patience and putting up with the sporadic posting. Before I get to the beer, here’s the deal: we’re putting our health before EVERYTHING now and so our eating plan allows one cheat day per week. I’m averaging 1-2 beers on cheat day and I’ve been cleaning out old stuff that has been around too long. Not very exciting for reviews! LOL

I did get tempted into Gomer’s midtown location a couple weeks ago and after ogling all the bottles my eyes settled on a canned beer I hadn’t seen before. YES, I am still enamored with the idea of canned craft beers, ESPECIALLY if what’s inside might pour like motor oil!

I picked up this six pack of Santa Fe Brewing Co’s Imperial Java Stout for under $9 and it seemed like a good value. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was an “imperial,” I thought it was just a regular coffee stout.

I’m a sucker for packaging and while extremely simple, the Santa Fe can appealed to me because on one side there is a beer mug that says “after noon” and on the other side is a coffee cup that says, “before noon.” Clever.

Coffee beers are best drunk fresh because the coffee character is quick to go. I didn’t know this until I heard it on Craft Beer Radio recently, so I was excited to try a coffee stout that seemed to be a relatively new addition to Gomer’s lineup (i.e. hadn’t been hanging around long) and was also canned, giving it the best chance of retaining as much freshness as possible without drinking it right at the brewery.

According to Santa Fe’s website (worth looking at, they have a nice lineup of interesting-sounding beers) the Imperial Java Stout has an ABV of 8% uses two hop varieties and four types of malt. The website says they use organic beans fro New Guinea and East Timor that are locally roasted in Santa Fe.

Of all the coffee beers I’ve tasted I would say this one is the most coffee forward. There is no mistaking this as a coffee stout. I’m writing this from memory since it’s morning and I don’t really want to drink a stout from a coffee cup as fun as that seems, but I recall a LOT of coffee character (think cold-brewed coffee) with a good, classic stout backbone.

The beer has a good amount of sweetness to it, not quite like Left Hand Milk Stout but not dry, either. The sweetness is balanced in the finish by an earthy hop character and I would say the beer has good overall balance. I enjoyed one can while eating a couple of Justin’s Dark Chocolate peanut butter cups last week and that dried the flavor of the beer out a lot while bringing out more of the hops and a the dark roasty, almost astringent character.

I’ve been quite pleasantly surprised by this beer since I knew nothing about it going into it. It’s a good stout in and of itself, but as a coffee lover I think this is a great example of what a coffee-heavy beer can taste like when done properly. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another six pack of this again!

Oddly Correct is a little midtown Kansas City coffee shop that is making a big name for itself. I’ll have a more complete review of their shop and some coffee coming soon, but I wanted to get this short review of their Hop! Toddy drink out ASAP. Hop! Toddy is a cold-brewed coffee with hops added to it, bottled in 12 oz bottles and served up fresh and ready to drink on a regular basis at the shop.

I’m not super familiar with Toddy brewed coffee other than that it is a cold-brewing method that is supposed to cut down on some of the “bitter acids and oils” that traditional forms of extraction may pick up. I’ve never had Toddy brewed coffee, so I can’t comment on that. The fellas at Oddly Correct said that they think the Toddy method can produce a rather flat cup, so they decided to try adding something to it to brighten it up and that “something” was hops.

For V1.0 they are using citra hops, a relatively new “breed” of hops that are prized for their citrusy notes (get it, citra… citrus!?) as well as their other “soft fruit” flavors, notably pineapple and even peach/apricot. If you’re a beer drinker you may’ve had a beer primarily made with citra hops. The most available around here is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA. I had Torpedo right after it hit the shelf a year or two ago and the pineapple and peach was quite apparent.

The girl in front of me in line said, “I don’t really like hoppy beers, so I’m not sure I’ll like this” and they assured that Hop! Toddy isn’t “hoppy.” They were right.

My bottle was bottled on 7/3/12 and I bought it on 7/4/12. I sort of forgot about it (every time I thought about it I didn’t really want a coffee, like at night) until 7/16/12. I’m not sure if that’s enough time for it to lose some hop character or not, but the hops were certainly subtle in the Hop! Toddy.

The concoction poured out of the bottle like a dead flat porter, very dark brown to black with lots of red highlights in the corners of the glass. It had a chocolatey, sweet aroma, sort of like if you could separate just the chocolatey aroma of a good stout. I wonder if the coffee was Ethiopian Yirgacheffe because there was an Earl Grey character with a hint of lemon, which is a flavor I get from good Yirgacheffes.

The hops were definitely in the background. I suspect that they added some brightness, and I think I was getting them in the finish and aftertaste, but if no one TOLD you there were hops in this you wouldn’t say, “AHA! Hops!” I think they may have done for the coffee what a spritz of acid (like a lime or lemon) will do for a dish… brighten up the flavors and make them “pop” a little where they would otherwise be flat on their own. After hearing the guys’ opinions on Toddy brewed coffee, this is exactly what it sounded like.

This was GREAT on its own (the sure sign of a good cup of coffee is when it tastes good COLD, too). It would probably make a fantastic iced coffee drink of some sort, with a little cream or something, but I think you should drink it undiluted… as-is. I really liked it!

Yesterday’s attempt at cafecito (Cuban coffee… essentially very sweet espresso or strong coffee) using old hazelnut beans and the stovetop Moka pot didn’t go that great. The hazelnut really threw the whole thing off.

I bought some fresh espresso beans (roasted on May 10), from Broadway Café in Westport (Kansas City) and the results were a lot better. I think I need to use even more sugar to make my paste (if I was a REAL scientist I would be measuring all this out, but come on!). Tomorrow I’ll warm up the Gaggia espresso machine and see what the cafecito sugar-paste technique and espresso taste like together…

While I was in Mexico last month I went to Qubano’s on Isla Mujeres to pick up lunch for my wife (who stayed on the beach, “saving our place”) and while I waited I ordered a Cuban coffee (cafecito). I was blown away. I am usually an espresso or dark roast, no sugar or milk, kind of guy. The coffee was dark, rich and, of course, SWEET.

I’m on a quest to perfect the cafecito now! I have made two and neither one of them is correct yet. This morning’s was made with some old hazelnut flavored beans I had lying around. It’s decent, but the hazelnut is throwing the whole thing off. This afternoon I’ll make a run to Broadway Café in Westport for some good espresso beans.

I had some old Broadway beans sitting around last week and tried a cafecito with those, but I used Mexican sugar (the brown stuff with big crystals) and that doesn’t dissolve well. The white sugar I used this morning seems to be the key, as much as I’d like to use the Mexican stuff for more flavor.

The general idea of a cafecito is to use one spoonful of sugar per serving, as a rule (a serving being more than an espresso shot but a lot less than a standard cup of coffee). You put the sugar in a bowl, add a tiny bit of coffee, and stir the heck out of it until you have a brown-sugar colored paste. Add this to your cup and pour the coffee over and you have a cafecito. It’s supposed to look like an espresso with crema on top.

Most people use a stovetop Moka pot for this, which is what I’ve been using. Once I have fresh beans I’m going to try it again with the Moka pot, then with my Gaggia espresso machine. I’m guessing the espresso machine will be the way to go… caffeine poured over sugar? Don’t mind if I do! LOL

Beautiful extraction

I’ve lusted after a Chemex coffee brewer ever since I became aware of them several years ago. I was a chemistry major in college, so it’s probably no big surprise that the “two Ehrlenmeyer flasks united as one” shape of the Chemex speaks to me. LOL

I picked up the 8-cup Chemex and a box of unbleached filters at World Market in Westport. At home I brew coffee one of two ways: espresso machine or French press, but the press is a PITA for me to clean, it seemed like, so I decided to bite the bullet on the lower maintenance Chemex (although it’s a lot more work to do the actual extraction than a French press).

I haven’t gone full coffeenerd on the Chemex just yet. I am eyeballing the amount of coffee (instead of using a digital scale), I am using a tea kettle and an OXO measuring cup to pour in the water (instead of a $50 Hario Buono pourover kettle), I am eyeballing the amount of water (instead of weighing it, too) and I’m guessing on the grind fineness (instead of timing everything to dial it in).

A work of geek art

All that being said, I can still brew up a dang good cup of coffee with the Chemex!

This gives me room to expand, I suppose! The Chemex method is not for low maintenance coffee folks. You have to boil water (oh, I also don’t have a thermometer to know my water temperature, which is important), rinse the filter, “bloom” the grounds, pour, watch, pour some more, etc. It’s high maintenance, but fun (to me).

I watched a few helpful videos (go to Vimeo and search “chemex”) after the first few times I used the Chemex and learned some important things. First, you should use boiling water to rinse the filter some. I didn’t think this was necessary until I did it once and I got some brownish looking water off the filter. Yuck!

Second, gently tamping the Chemex on the counter top (use a towel under it) a few times to settle the grounds into the filter cone seems pretty important, too.

Blooming the beans is important, although I don’t know why. Blooming means pouring a small amount of water onto the dry grounds to soak them a little. Some things happen for about 30 seconds, then you’re ready to start pouring in water.

Pour the water in the center, not along the side, so you get a nice extraction from the point of the cone, rather than running down the side.

Most importantly, have fun! If this seems like “the system” that is going to stick for me, I’m going to add a digital scale and maybe that fancy pourover kettle (or something similar if I can find it)!