Coffee

Great View of the Chicago Skyline

 

Chicago Skyline view from 49th floor of 175 North Harbor, daytime

Chicago Skyline view from 49th floor of 175 North Harbor by day.

 

 

View of from 175 North Harbor, 49th floor

View of from 175 North Harbor, 49th floor by day.

We had a great weekend in Chicago. This picture was taken from the condo we rented on the 49th floor of 175 North Harbor. We had a perfect view of Lakeshore Drive, Millenium Park, Cloud Gate, Grant Park, Shedd’s Aquarium, The Field Museum, The Art Museum much of Michigan Avenue and of course Lake Michigan. 

I finally made it to Intelligentsia on Randolph and had what has to be the single best cup of coffee I have ever had: Kenya, Ndaroini brewed with the Clover.  I can’t wait to try the Black Cat espresso.

RIP (Roasted In Parchment) Coffee

 

RIP coffee

RIP coffee

 

 

Here is a picture taken of my first batch roasting RIP (Roasted In Parchment) coffee. I won’t know for a bit how the coffee turned out. The biggest difference in roasting this kind of coffee is that the visual and auditory cues are muted and different than when roasting green coffee sans parchment. Notice the bean that has the bubbles resembling a marshmallow torched over an open flame.

More later.

In-Room Coffee: A New Twist

Just when I thought I had coffee on the road figured out, I have been thrown a new twist. My system assumes I will have access to hot water and a mug to brew into in the room. I bring coffee, a small plastic cone filter basket and coffee. Usually my hot water source involves using the little coffee maker in the room to make hot water for use in this pour-over system.

My room at the Wingate has an in-room coffee maker, but it is a pod system designed to brew one cup at a time. This makes it difficult to get hot water needed for my extremely simple pour-over brewing system. I have been able to make this “work”, but it is really throwing a crimp in my style. This system brews directly into a mug, so there is no carafe available from which to pour water without spillage.

The key lesson here is that you can assume nothing. Hot water is never guaranteed — even at a place you frequent. If you are like me, this means a call in advance to confirm these assumptions.

Hartzler’s Dairy: Too Good For Cereal Duty

I decided to splurge and buy a bottle of Hartzler’s skim milk for making latte’s with. Why Hartzler’s? I remember hearing the producer of the Curt Boster radio show, ‘Young Daniel’ rave about it a few years back. That show is now gone, but the thought has lingered in my mind. Since a majority of the fluid volume of a cafe latte is milk, not espresso, I figured why not tweak the milk variable?

I steamed my first pitcher of it shortly after getting back from the store to make some latte’s for Rebecca and I. The microfoam was far better than any milk I have used before. I snuck a taste sample of the milk prior to combining with espresso. I immediately could tell the difference. Miles apart from the stuff in the plastic jug or even that Horizon Organic crap in the cardboard box. This is hands down the best milk I have tasted — or at least as I remember.

I grew up close to neighbors who had dairy cattle and on occasion I would spend the night at their house. I recall having fresh non-pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk served at breakfast, which at the time was strange to my senses. I didn’t like it at the time, but I suppose it was actually better than Hartzler’s.

If you want to know why the milk is so good, you can read a bit about it at Hartzler Family Dairy. A key factor for me in addition to the production quality is that it is produced in Wooster, which is relatively close to Columbus.

There is a bit of sticker shock on this product. A half gallon of skim cost ~$4.50. However, $1.50 is a refundable deposit on the glass bottle which you get back upon returning to the store. I don’t drink a lot of milk at all. In fact, I usually only use milk in coffee or espresso based beverages, so to me this isn’t a huge barrier at all.

Freshly Scooped On

I saw an odd thing in Starbucks. While waiting in line, I noticed a nice display promoting the Pike Place blend. The little paper bags had seals on them with a hand-written date. I was curious if perhaps they had fixed their freshness problem and were promoting the roast date. No such luck. Closer inspection revealed the verbiage ‘Freshly Scooped On: 5/14′. At least 5/14 happened to be that day, but it is odd to think that they are paying people to scoop stale beans into individual bags at the store to give an illusion of freshness.

Allow me to invoke the great Charlie Brown, ‘Good Grief’. This idea would not have done well in the INeedCoffee Roundtable of Starbucks Ideas.

Interesting side note: the phrase ‘freshly scooped on’ via google returns a link to a cat litter product as the highest link at the moment. That’s certain to change now :)

Future of the Clover

I am an enormous fan of Clover brewed coffee. Today, Starbucks announced they will acquire Clover.

What does this mean for the future of this phenomenal brewing machine and what does this mean for Starbucks?

Will the Clover machine mean a renewed focus on bean quality, or will it be used to cover up the existing weaknesses?

Will Starbucks allow me to pay a ‘corking-fee’ to brew my homeroasted coffee in their clover machines?

Why couldn’t they have announced this on St. Patricks day? They were so close.

Airport Coffee

I was in Portland last week, but unfortunately there was no time to really explore. I had been advised that Stumptown Coffee was the best to try out, but I did not get the chance. On the flight out of town, I saw a local offering called ‘Coffee People‘. When I discovered that they offered two choices for espresso, I decided it was a good sign. The choices were ‘Black Tiger’ and ‘Weiner Melange’. I couldn’t order espresso with the word Weiner in it, so I opted for the Black Tiger and was pleasantly surprised.

Oddly enough, when I returned to look up their website, I found that their only locations were in the PDX airport and they still do mail order. Very interesting indeed.

Coffee Crime: Shockwave ‘Energy’ Coffee

In all fairness, I haven’t actually tried this, but after hearing an ad that I thought must be a mistake, I did some investigation. Speedway really is selling a coffee called ‘Shockwave Energy Coffee‘. I can’t tell you what it is exactly since they aren’t copping to it on their website, but I can’t figure out what it could be other than double strength brewed coffee or something.

It really isn’t unusual for gas stations to perpetrate crimes against coffee. Consider a typical gas station Cappuccino’ which is basically hot cocoa with some instant coffee sprinkled in. However, this goes beyond just a crime against coffee, but to the popular energy drink market as well. Have you ever seen an energy drink that was hot? Poured from a carafe?

I’d love to know what is in this stuff out of sheer curiosity, but I am not willing to try it to find out.

Bumper Tamping Stand

I have been enjoying for a few weeks now the Bumper Tamp Stand.

I received it as a Christmas gift and it is better than expected. It used to be the case that I would position my portafilter on the edge of a counter in order to tamp, but this takes that need away. I was surprised to find that my tamping actually is improved since the portafilter is more balanced. The other benefit is I will be ready for tamping with a naked portafilter when that day comes.