Zen and the Art Of Brewing the Perfect Mug Of Coffee

Coffee is a weird thing.  It’s just like making the perfect hamburger.

Why?  Because the perfect hamburger is the one you decide is best. 

Put another way, it’s the one you make yourself.  Preferably in the backyard on a good hot grill, cooked to medium rare, served with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Mushrooms, Catsup (or how ever the hell you spell that), and maybe Mustard.

On a good day, that is.  Mustard is always optional.  You may disagree, but hey that’s why I phrased it the way I did.

You see, you get a recipe.  It doesn’t matter what it is, could be coffee, a burger, some bread.  You can find recipes for all of them here on this blog or other places.

You will take that recipe and without realizing it, you will adapt it.
Make it the first time but realize it may be better if you add or subtract something.
Cook it on a different appliance.  Grill, skillet, oven.
Instead of Medium Rare, you are a philistine who prefers your meat Well Done.

Sorry, no thanks, I’ll call out for Pizza.

What I am describing is something called “Co-Evolution”.  It is where the process changes to fit the results, and the process changes every time you make it. 

Mission Creep is another way of looking at it.

This was brought about by a simple question:

“How do you make a cup of coffee”.

I don’t.  I make a French Press Mug full of coffee, and drink it right out of the French Press Mug.

That changes drastically how the coffee tastes.  I actually LIKE that oil that is in the coffee, it makes it much more complex. 

Filtered drip coffees will leave the oils behind on the filter to be thrown away and make the resulting coffee taste more flat – like listening to a symphony on an AM radio, just don’t do it.  Trust me on this.

But while I could turn this all into a comedy act, here is exactly how I do it.  I stepped back and measured everything, and I do mean EVERYthing.

First – the French Press is a measured 22 ounces to the brim.  Exactly, or as close to exactly as I could come.  If you don’t have a French Press, you can actually use a mixing cup or bowl and pour the coffee through a strainer or a fine metal mesh sieve to serve. Yes, there will be a little bit of grounds in the bottom.  Drink around them.  They make the taste better.  Wait for them to settle, you will be glad you did.

Second – I almost always use a 50/50 mix of a good decaf and regular coffee.  Decaf tastes weaker, regular coffee is more bold and complex.  On full caffeine coffee I become a rather large and intense being.  I was asked by those around me and several government agencies not to drink full caffeine coffee.  I complied.

Third – forget that Second bit.  Select a coffee that YOU like and skip the snobbery.  You will adjust it later anyway!

Fourth – Co-evolution is your friend.  The second time you do this, you’ll like it better.

Here goes! 


  • To an empty 22 ounce French Press, add 21 grams of finely ground coffee.  Each level measured tablespoon of Dunkin Donuts Decaf Pre-ground is 9 grams.
  • Add 5 grams powdered creamer.
  • Add 2 packets or 2 grams of Sweet N Low.


  • Boil water in a whistling tea kettle until it is at a full whistling boil
  • Add 515 grams or 17 ounces of boiling water to the French Press.
  • Steep the Coffee mixture for 5 minutes while stirring occasionally.
  • Add 4 ounces Ice Cubes to bring the Coffee down to drinking temperature.  This was 5 cubes in my freezer.
  • Total was 595 grams or 21 ounces of liquid after the ice melted.

Weights were all measured in grams, then converted back to ounces.  I actually set the French Press Mug on top of the scale and measured it as I added the ingredients.   Really simple process.

A proper electronic kitchen scale will help you in this and any other recipe and they run about 8 Bucks online or a couple dollars at a thrift store.  Bring some AA (or AAA) batteries when you go look so you can test. 

I Am Why Wilton Manors Smells Like Coffee

I ran out this particular day.

Up before 5 AM, I got back from the dog walk and started the Normal Routine.  Sure, it was a solid hour and a half before sunrise but that’s how I roll.

Making the dog’s breakfast, I then turned my attention to my own needs.


I have a mug that is a French Press brewer and you drink directly from that.  I can make coffee any strength I want in that mug, from what Grandma likes to the hipster quivering espresso, and it’s all from home roasted beans.

21 grams of “real” coffee beans.  Guatemalan Huehuetenango Finca Antigua I believe.  Roasted just before second crack to bring a bold and balanced flavor to the mug.

Sure, it’s a bit OCD, measuring out 21 grams, not 22, into the grinder and grinding it to espresso powdered fineness, but it tastes great with scarcely any extra effort.

There’s a problem.  After this first mug I will need more since I only had 7 grams left.   I could mix it with some rather excellent decaf beans that I had on hand, but I knew no matter what I would have to roast more.

Roasting coffee is a trivial process.  Getting the green beans is tricky, but the idea of pouring them into the right popcorn popper, plugging it in, and waiting for the right moment to let them come out and be poured into a cooling bowl is the trick.

Just before Second Crack.  Roughly 5 minutes and 30 seconds for the first batch, shorter for the second and further.

I went through my own morning routine while drinking that mug.  Complex flavor you will not get from a pre-roasted commercial bean.  It really does degrade after about a month no matter how you store it once roasted.  Green beans last about a year and a half and I buy those Huehuetanangos when I see them on sale – recently $3.65 a pound, a true 16 ounce pound.  Roasting will make them weigh less.

It was time for that second mug so I went into production.  It was after 7AM so I was free to make the noise I was going to make with the popper outside.  I roasted five 1/2 cup batches of these beans.  It took me about a half hour. 

Yep, I’ve got it down to a science.

Since I had my own breakfast while I roasted, I was done, and Rack, my faithful McNab SuperDog sidekick was vying for my attention.

“Ok, lets go have coffee!”.  It’s our normal habit to go out and have coffee by the pool.  We walk around the yard inspecting the irrigation system practically every morning. 

I made a round of the pots and realized that I was being talked about indirectly.

Over the hedge I hear “Hey, is that coffee ready?”.

He wasn’t talking to me, he was facing the other direction from what I could see.

I didn’t hear the response.

“That stuff smells great!”.

I had to suppress the urge to shout out a thank you over the hedge.

Going back inside to give the neighbors privacy, I took the trash out about a half hour later.  What I didn’t realize was that the entire neighborhood still smells of Coffee.  Well, really coffee and mango.

I walked out to the corner tree and gathered up three wind-fallen mangoes for tomorrow’s breakfast and realized that the scent of my coffee was on the breezes.

So if you were in town this particular morning, I apologize.  I only roasted up 5 batches.  It does carry on the wind and give things a smell that will linger.  Give it a bit, that scent will waft over into Fort Lauderdale soon.

Hacking the Morning’s Coffee at One Gram to the Ounce

Riding around town with a good friend I was told a story about office coffee.

The thing about office coffee is that to a self proclaimed Coffee Geek, it’s almost always not quite right.  Offices are falling into the whole automatic coffee brewing “solutions” these days.  Controlled amounts of water, controlled amounts of grounds, controlled brands, all into a controlled machine.

You’re locked in.

Now, that’s great if you like the stuff. 

I’m listening to my friend, nodding, making the per-requisite happy noises.  “Mmm Hmm”.

I hear “But some people are complaining it’s weak!”.

My response is out of the box as usual.  “The best hamburger is one you make at home, no matter how good that burger is out at the restaurant.”.


At home, you control the ingredients.  Black Angus Beef?  80% lean?  Onion powder or other spices?  Egg for binders?  “Meat, Heat, and Eat”?

That last one is my favorite.  Add spices or salt to my burgers, and you had better have served beer BEFORE the meal so it hits me on an empty stomach and I relax a bit. 

I hate a salty burger!

But the point is that if you take the time to make a burger yourself, you are controlling the meal and the experience.  You are taking the time out to figure out how you like the burger.  It may not even be a burger and be all “Meat Substitutes” made out of tofu and soy protein.  That’s great, because it will be what YOU like.

That particular office has some people who love the coffee there, and sizable minority who are muttering about how weak it is.

“Maybe they’re used to espresso at home?”

I explained that there is a gold standard for brewing American Coffee.  Assuming your water is pure, which is a given in the US even from the tap here in South Florida, and your coffee is something that you like, there is a set amount of grounds to start out with.

One gram of coffee grounds per ounce of boiling water into a brew.

You already decided “how” you will be making your coffee, and that choice effects flavor.  A French Press is my preferred method, and that means I will get more coffee oil in the cup.  That also means my cup will be more complex than someone who does a “drip into Filter” method. 

Turkish coffees are boiled in a little bucket that are placed on the heat and then poured off carefully but some grounds always get into the cup along with some of the spices and all of that precious coffee oil.

Espresso has the oil too, and it is brewed via pressure with much less water to coffee grounds.

The point with that is that there are different ways to make the coffee, but here in the US, you expect a certain strength at the start.

Then you change things around per taste.

I explained that these people are probably the ones who consider themselves Connoisseurs of coffee.  They may come from a background with a tradition of a certain taste of the brew.

They would be the person who I would expect to put care into the drink.  They’ve got their own way of doing things that work for them.

The whole Office Coffee experience is all about putting caffeine into a body so you can get more productivity out of them.  That’s why offices keep coffee there.  Your manager decided it’s a great way to keep you motivated at 2PM instead of your nodding off.

“Hey, go get him some coffee, he’s half asleep!”

But the coffee itself?  Check the net weight of the grounds, and how much water are used.  It should be 1 gram to the ounce.

That got into another conversation.  I explained that I have a scale that is accurate to the gram, and while it sounds overkill, certain baking recipes (as opposed to cooking things like roasts and such) are very fussy.  Bread dough is effected by the humidity in the air, and since Florida has high humidity just like anywhere on the Seaboard of any country, that humidity changes the way you bake.  Same thing about desert climates, or living up a mountainside.

You just don’t get a good rise of dough if your flour is too moist because there’s a Tropical Storm a-brewin’ outside and the A/C is down.

So good dough recipes are measured in percentages relating to the weight of the flour.  Flour is 100%, water is 80% or 60% depending on the purpose of the recipe. 

Then you do the math for the other ingredients.  Weigh out 300 grams of flour, then calculate the weight of the water, then salt, yeast … so forth.

I told my friend to bring a measuring cup and a scale to work and see what he could do. 

Instead he gave me a couple coffee “samples” and asked me to weigh them.  11 Grams of Grounds per “pod”.  He should start with 11 ounces of water.

Unless you’re making Espresso, and that’s an entirely different game.

It’s one of those things that you never thought about.  But when you do think about it, there are more layers to that particular onion than you considered.

Pass me a couple of the Kona packets since you want my input.  I love a good cup of Kona…

This Ends the Great Coffee-Out of 2014

I never believed in fasting.  That whole issue of taking off an arbitrary day from food for some arbitrary reason felt rather arbitrary.

I noticed, though, that I was having trouble sleeping.

No, that’s not good.

So Why Not Cut Back on Caffeine?   Easier said than done.

I looked through the refrigerator and finished up all the “regular” sodas, drank my fill of that Iced Tea that I made up, and considered cutting out chocolate.

Nope.  Not Gonna Do It.

Then I stopped making everything.  No Iced Tea.  No Coffee.  No Espresso.

The next morning I felt it.  The whole day I went through caffeine withdrawal.  Not a happy place, really, it felt like I had a cold for some reason.  I guess coffee has a nasal dilator in it, I just don’t know.  Miserable the entire day like someone just dampened everything. 

Take Two Aleve and call me in the morning.  Now “Buck Up” and Deal.

Deal I did.  I knew what was going on.  It was the Great Coffee-Out of 2014.

This was a lot for me.  I truly enjoy coffee.  I enjoy the ritual of making it.  The scents of the kitchen after you grind the fresh beans, pour the hot water into the grounds, stir it with sweetener and some cream.

Yes, I generally use those pink packets since they dissolve more fully.
Yes, I generally use creamer powder but I do keep real honest to goodness cream on hand.  That actually tastes too heavy to me but your mileage may vary.

I’m that guy who got tired of “bitter commercial coffee house mass market coffee” that tasted like battery acid or was over roasted, or whatever negative connotations you can possibly come up with in your first-world-problems mindset. 

... and I learned how to roast my own beans.  It really is easier than it sounds, gives an amazing “product” and can be markedly cheaper than even the worst rot-gut you can get in the supermarket.  I paid $2 a pound for beans once which worked out to about $2.66 a pound after roasting.

Home roasted beans that had a complexity I can only describe as hearing a CD the first time after only ever listening to an AM radio station that is about 50 miles away.

Hear that static crash?  Is it going to rain or is it just Starbucks with their crappy over-roasted “Burnt Beans”.

Don’t judge me, I didn’t make that term up!

So the morning I write this I broke down.  It was a week, I wasn’t trying to prove anything.  I wanted coffee.

I ground up 27 grams of beans, boiled the water, and poured it over the espresso grind coffee grounds for four solid minutes.  Stir in two packets of Sweet N Low and two teaspoons measured of creamer.  When time hit, I shocked it with four ice cubes to give me 20 ounces of savory, steamy, rich, complex coffee.

Great.  Take a Sip and…  OH HOLY CRAP!

What happened was my taste buds reset, and my body no longer craved the caffeine.  Now, addiction to a substance is partially or even mostly psychological.  I’m possibly having the coffee buzz because I *think* I should, but I am thinking of maybe having a run.  You know, a run from my house in Wilton Manors, two miles North of Downtown Fort Lauderdale … to Key West.

Heck that’s only 190 miles away!  YEAH!  Lets do it!  WOO!  GO TEAM!

Well maybe not quite that much.   I only had a few sips.  But WOW.

The flavor that was rich and complex before from the same batch I roasted now tastes intense.   I’d say the difference between a strong coffee and an espresso.

I’m feeling the coffee.  A little twitchy perhaps.   But you went through that too last time you had your first cup of coffee, you just don’t remember it.

True to form, my heart rate jumped to 100BPM where when I write, it’s usually around mid 70s.

Interesting stuff.  No matter what, I think I’ll have a productive day.  At least the morning.  No second cup.  This tankard thing is a French Press that I drink from since it’s also a double walled beer stein sized mug.

(sip)  Wonderful.  Come to Papa. 

We’re going to have a great morning.  How about you?

Next time I get a deal though, I’ll consider making my own blend of part decaf.  That’s how I usually drink it anyway, I just ran out of the decaf beans.

Yeah, that’s the story.  I ran out…

The Weird, Twitchy, Semi-OCD Way to Brew The Perfect Mug Of Coffee

You got your Care Package.  Your box of random stuff.  Thank you.  I wish I could have done more.  I really do appreciate your support and help over the years. 

Inside you’ll find some of my home roasted coffee.  You said you wanted a challenge and you wanted to experience all sorts of different brews and blends.   You wanted to see what the stuff looked like before it was roasted, and what it would look like at a very dark roast.

Remember this is all about what You Like.  Not what I like.  What I like is irrelevant.  When you find a roast you like, let me know and I’ll make that for you from now on out.  If you like it all, then I’ll just make a selection.  Some people know what good is and it’s all arbitrary.

I gave you that.  There are some green beans in a little jar.  That’s more of a “souvenir” or a coffee table trinket than something to drink.  I’ve drank green coffee beans before.  The result is a weird witches’ brew that tastes grassy and like the cream and sugar you put into it.

It’s also chock full of caffeine unlike anything you ever drank before.

Why?  The shorter the roast time, the less that you actually expose the beans to the heat, the more caffeine is “retained” in the beans.  That’s the “science content” of making a cup.

You have some “First Crack” – that’s the light tan stuff that the hipsters are drinking now.  Think Red Bull with a coffee taste.  I only gave you a little of this because it’s kind of harsh to me.

You have some Second Crack.  That looks “normal brown” with no oil on the outside of the beans.  This is what I shoot for on a regular roast.  It’s called “Full City” and it is where the stuff starts to taste good with a slight edge to it.

You have some Second Crack plus 30 seconds.  Just the barest beginning of a hint of oil on the outside of the beans.  If I roast this far, I’m happy but I don’t like it personally when the beans get roasted longer.

You also have some Second Crack plus 2 minutes.  Deep and oily, this is French Roast.  That’s what people tend to think they want for dark coffee.

The thing is that what people are drinking is the actual “Roast” of the coffee – that is where coffee taste comes from.   Caffeine drops the longer you roast.

They’re all unground so you can take your own time to drink this stuff.   The reason is that once you grind your beans, they begin to oxidize within two weeks.   Never grind more than 2 weeks worth of beans.   In fact, I only roast what I will drink within a week.

Roast today, Drink tomorrow.  There is a lot of Carbon Dioxide to “off-gas” from the beans when you roast, and it can take three days for some beans to off-gas.   Once the off gassing has finished, the best flavor can occur. 

I have heard of freshly roasted beans off gassing enough to burst a glass jar.   I haven’t seen it, but it is kind of a neat experiment!

That’s today.  It took 2 days to get there and it took me a day to pack, so these are 4 days old.  Enjoy them, I can always roast more.

Ok, that OCD thing?  Yeah you can go nuts.  People pay hundreds of dollars for a burr grinder, thousands for a roaster, and $50 a pound for Jamaica Blue Mountain is common.  Kopi Luwak is beastly expensive which is appropriate for a coffee that came out of a cat’s butt.

I’m not fond of Jamaica Blue, that’s just marketing and that the Japanese have cornered the market.   Let them enjoy.

My favorite is Guatemalan.  Hard to wreck those beans, they’re almost always sweet, almost always wonderful.  This is what you got.  The last of my Guatemalan coffee.  I’m now on a Nicaraguan that is about as good, but slightly different taste.

Now that brewing OCD?  Here we go…

Get a 20 ounce French Press.   Forget the K Cups – that is just Green Mountain Coffee trying to corner the market and their coffee is barely drinkable.   Green Mountain Coffee is one step above instant.

Weigh out between 25 grams and 30 grams of beans.  29 grams is an ounce.  I usually go either 27 or 28 grams.

Yes. Grams.  Get a gram scale.  You need it for baking anyway.   Scoops are random and inaccurate – this is between 3 and 5 scoops of unground beans.

Grind your beans around 30 seconds.   A burr grinder is nice but unnecessary.  Mine is a blade grinder and a bit coarse.  I grind to a near espresso powder.  The reason is that it is surface area that influences how much of the coffee oil gets into your brew.   You want coffee with oil.  Really, you do.  Mediocre coffee that has been on the shelf at the market for two weeks has coffee oil that has begun to spoil by oxidizing.  This is peak now.  Their coffee was roasted as much as months ago.   Blah.

Water.   Fill your whistling tea kettle.  Old school, yes, but effective.   Wait for the water to begin to make the kettle whistle.  This will give you water just shy of 212F.  Pour the water into a large glass container.  I use a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup made of nice thick glass.  You will want 20 ounces of water in that measuring cup.

Take the water’s temperature and wait for it to come down to 190F.   This should take about a minute, more likely less.  It may even pour into the measuring cup at 190F.  It takes a little time to walk across the kitchen anyway, right?

Why all this nonsense?  The hotter the water, the more bitter the coffee.   If you want a more bitter coffee, then don’t wait, pour immediately over the grounds.   If you don’t just take the time, pet the dog, look out the kitchen window at the back yard for a minute and check the “Instant Read Thermometer”.  Remember, 190F. 

Pour the water over grounds and stir.   It will “bloom”.  The grounds that still haven’t off gassed will float to the top.  You can break that up, it won’t have too much of an effect on the taste.  Just stir occasionally for up to about 5 minutes.  I’ve forgotten and let it sit for 15 minutes and while I can taste the difference, most would just shrug.

Add your cream or creamer, and your sugar or sweetener.   I use all that artificial crap which sounds ironic since I take so much effort and time with the brew.   Ok, I’m not perfect, but this is how I do it.

Like I said semi-OCD, not fully OCD.

All this crap that I said you need?  The Pyrex Measuring cup, instant read thermometer, grinder, and even the French Press can be found at a thrift store for under $20 total.  The roaster is a hot air popcorn popper.  I paid $4 plus tax.   Want to pay retail?  Probably can be done for less than $50 but you really don’t need to spend all that.  It’s basic.  Your grandparents might have gone through this “back in the day” before corporate coffee came around and they would have done it by eye.  Basically that is how I do it now – by eye.  You wanted to hear how I did it and now I’m chuckling that I did as much fiddling as I have to get it right.

But “Right” for coffee… yeah, it’s really about what you think is right.  Go ahead and fill the Mr. Coffee, if that is how you like it, enjoy!

Wrapping Time In Plastic

I’ll admit it.  This Helpful Hint is so simple that I am asking myself if it really is “Blogworthy”.

But!  If I save one innocent piece of electronics from the terror of drowning, it shall be worth it!

It comes from a bit of Kitchen OCD really.  If you cook at all, you’re bound to have a timer in the house.  If you clean at all, it may get wet.

If you are sloppy like me, you’ll drown your timer in water.  I’ve done it to the black timer a number of times.  It has forgiven me and comes back.  After all the thing was made in the early 1980s or before.

But it got to be a joke in the house for a while.   The timer was in a puddle of water next to the coffee maker in the kitchen, yet again.

Empty the batteries out, shake the water out as best you can, air dry it.  It may come back.  It may not come back.  My bad.

So I got very tired of drowning timers and having to say “Hey, we need a new timer” at the kitchen gadget store because it would start A Discussion. 

Another one?  Why do you keep killing them…

Blah blah blah, SIT! blah blah blah.

So I put them in a sandwich bag with a helpful zipper.   Didn’t work.  They’re too big and would strangely inflate over time.

If anyone could tell me, please, why a low voltage “appliance” was inflating a plastic bag, I’d love to hear a plausible explanation.


Anyone?  Beuhler?

Save Ferris.

This morning I was roasting coffee beans.  Guatemalan Swiss Water Process Decaf to be specific.  Makes a nice Espresso when you don’t want a jolt.  When I reached for the timer to press the start button I complained that I couldn’t feel anything through the plastic bag.

Yeah, it’s a guy thing.  Deal.

Got the timer going and found the cling film.  Plastic wrap.  No name stuff I bought in 1999 in a chef’s warehouse kind of place.  I still have about a year left of the wrap.  One giant roll for 15 plus years of use in many sandwiches, soup bowls, yogurt pot lids, and of course now, kitchen timers.

Pull out “enough” cling film to wrap the item securely.  Wrap it like a present.  Trim the excess plastic.  Hold it all in place with a bit of clear tape just like I did on the back.

“Viola” that will play beautiful music on your counter.   Or at least count beautifully for you.

The coffee roasted perfectly, the timer works fine, and it’s dry too.

Added benefit, there’s more “feeling” of the buttons.  These are ultra thin in comparison to the plastic bags.

Yes, she’ll love it.  Much more sensitivity.

Somehow I seem to have drifted off.   Just remember “Wrap your timer!” or “No Glove, No Lovely Cookies!”.

Reading Instructions 13 Years Too Late

I was having a thirsty morning.  I had already had a large mug of third-caff coffee.  Went down deep and smooth just like it always does in a big french press mug, and I wanted more.

Being the curious type, I wanted something a little different.

Oh!  How about the Espresso Maker?  I can make some Espresso!

I got the maker out, poured in the water to a line in the metal.  One scoop regular coffee, fill to the top of the filter with decaf, but don’t press down – simply smooth it.

Now to the filter.  The dishwasher didn’t really get all the grounds last time, so I pulled out the rubber O Ring.

I found out a few things.   The Espresso Maker was made in 2001 because they date-stamped the inside of the machine.  The other thing was that the rubber ring was shot.  It came out in a couple pieces, one big ring that left pieces behind because it was “oxidized”.

Luckily, when I bought the machine I had gotten a spare ring from a company that is long gone.  I also kept the instructions.

You know, the British have a wonderful expression for this sort of thing.  It went “Pear Shaped”.  Meaning not according to plan.  A “Royal Cock-Up”.

Yes, I read the instructions.  They were written in many languages, English being one of them.  I should say “Engrish” as they were written as someone would if it weren’t their strongest language.   Bless their hearts, these Italians tried.  Oh yes, they tried.  

Reading these things that I now thought of as “Stereo Instructions”, I learned that I was correct.  Never pack your grounds, it will make for a bitter mug of espresso.  Don’t use “too finely ground” coffee or else it will plug up.

It also told me that I had the thing put together wrong for 13 years.  So I put the metal filter in “upside down” – so that holding it so I could see it, the filter went in like a cup – high side of the cup pointing up toward me.  Concave side up.  Just like the instructions said. 

I scratched my head, then sealed the thing in place with the new ring.

It moved around… this wasn’t good, but Italians have made espresso for centuries.  They invented the bloody thing!

I remember my “Off The Boat” Italian Grandmother and how she had exactly this same machine, or an earlier version of it, that nobody at the house could figure out.  It languished in the back of the cupboard before it disappeared long after Grandmother Rosa went to the coffee shop in the skies.

Having used this machine for 13 years with the metal filter flipped “wrong” I sealed it up and put it on the burner.

Walked out to the front room to do some tasks, I heard a disconcerting sound from the kitchen.

My little espresso maker was venting steam out to the world. 

Ok, sure, it’s a cold day in Florida, it was in the 40s, and we could use the extra heat and humidity, but not from my espresso machine!  I gingerly rounded the corner and was greeted by a cloud of steam. 

“Stanley” would have been proud, I was emulating his steamer.

My stove was now colored tan from a cloud of espresso being pushed past that O Ring onto the burners.  There were little fireworks of grounds extinguishing themselves on the glowing red burner.

I stepped back.   Thoughts of “She’s gonna blow, Captain!” came to mind.  Scotty wouldn’t have designed something like this on the Enterprise, something was done wrong.

Reaching into the cabinet, I donned protective gear.  I didn’t want an explosion.   Gingerly grasping the now rapidly warming top of the maker, I put a gloved hand onto the bottom and began to turn the machine to tighten the grommet and seal more.

I had to put out a flaming hand at this point.  The oven mitt popped into flames as it hit the red of the burner.

An explosion was averted, though.  The steam was focused into two hot jets out of opposite sides of the machine.  Two jets of coffee scented gas escaped and continued to paint the burner as espresso flowed slowly out to the top.

It eventually slowed as the water boiled off.  9 shots of espresso is not a lot of water to boil away at pressure, and I ended up with a truncated mug of brown goodness.

So what did I learn?  Either I can’t read, or need a new pair of glasses.  I let the machine cool and vowed to flip the filter back the way it was before I started.

After all, 13 years of Espresso can’t be all bad!

No You Silly Parrot, You Don’t Want Espresso!

If you choose to take an animal into your life, it is going to change you forever.

It also is a lifetime bond, until one of you goes, that animal should remain with you.

If you can’t handle that truth, get a beanie baby. They cost about a buck at the thrift stores.

On the other hand, they can make things much more interesting.

Having finished what I set out to one Sunday Morning, I decided I would like a nice mug of espresso.  Padding into the Kitchen, I snapped on the lights above my head and went to work.  I filled the maker with some water, put in the grounds – full but not packed, and then set it on the back burner on the stove.

Soon the elements were glowing red, and I went to work.


I got the box that contained my green coffee beans and decided to roast some decaf.  If you get …


If you get unroasted decaffeinated coffee beans, they are a brown color instead of the green of the regular beans…


Pouring them into the popcorn popper, I slid it out to the serving area on the other side of the kitchen window and closed the window down.  Plugging in the popper, I touched the timer on the counter to watch the time.


What do you want you noisy old buzzard?


My noise detector had started to make it’s warning sounds.  You see if you have a parrot in the house, they tend to be quite involved with what you are doing.  A parrot may be “just a bird” or a pet to you, but to that parrot, you are its mate.   They do not form a friendship bond, they form a pair bond or a mate bond with you.  Intensely social, a parrot or other bird will want to be doing what you’re doing at pretty much any moment it is awake.


Yes, Oscar, I’m roasting coffee.   Want a bean?


I’ve had Oscar since 1986.  He’s not at all a cuddly bird.  Named after Oscar the Grouch, he can be quite arbitrary and grumpy.  But he’s mine.

Or rather, I am his.

I went about giving Oscar two decaf coffee beans, still warm from the first batch, and went back to roasting batch two.


I guess I had better turn the music down a bit, I’m well into the parrot…

*sigh* Ok, Oscar, what?

The espresso maker was now gurgling away, I had another two minutes between first and second crack on the third batch of beans.

I raised my hand to scritch him behind the neck and he growled and walked away.

Ok you silly old buzzard, have your bamboo stick.


The espresso was now done, the water had either been made to steam or deep dark espresso.  I poured it over the…


French Vanilla Creamer and began to stir it with the Coffee Spoons that my sister had shipped me down from New Jersey for the holidays.  This one had French Vanilla


Chocolate on them so that I was going to get a deep and rich kick of chocolate and coffee and vanilla.

Noticing that the last batch was now on Second Crack, I made note of the time, gave it another 30 seconds for that darker roast I have been shooting for these days, and unplugged my aging popper.  That was the end of the…


noise for the morning.  I poured the beans out onto a dinner plate to cool and went on stirring my espresso.

*sip*  Yes, Pat, that was a wonderful cup of…

Urp.  Braak.



Playing with Coffee Roasting Isn’t What It Seems – Pictures

Want a good dark cup of coffee because you’re feeling tired?  Need a jolt of Caffeine?  Don’t get the dark roast then, you will need more grounds than usual.

It’s backwards.  The darker roasts like an Espresso Roast or a French Roast have a much stronger flavor than the lighter “American style” roasts.  On the other hand, the American Style roasts have much more caffeine in them even if they are harsher and more bitter.

There is a reason for it.  Basic Science.

Ok, don’t switch off on me now, I won’t throw numbers at you. 

You see the longer your roast your beans, the hotter the beans get.  The hotter the beans get, the more likely the caffeine will break down.   The flavor you love in the coffee is really the flavor of the sugars breaking down, the coffee oil getting forced out, and the basic “roasting” of the bean.   Caffeine is bitter, so if you actually like that taste, you will have a harsher brew.

That’s it in a nut shell.

I did some experiments. 

The picture is “Green Coffee”.  It was 1/3 regular beans, 2/3 decaf beans.   Completely unroasted.  It’s what people call “White Coffee” when brewed.   Not an unpleasant taste, a bit grassy, but the result?  That “Third Caff” coffee was probably the strongest coffee I have ever had, and that includes the syrup that they call Cafe Cubano here. 

How strong was it?


It was like Mr Sandman stood behind me pounding my head with a giant rubber squeaky mallet and screaming in my ears “WAKE UP!!!!“.

Get the picture?   It was pure jet fuel.

So I decided to take it back a step.

I roasted this lighter brown brew that you see in the jar.   Next to it is my regular dark roast in a spoon.  The science content for a fellow roaster is simple.  I stopped roasting the lighter coffee at First Crack, the darker roast was at Second Crack.

Coffee being a solid bean will crack twice during roast.  The Second Crack is what you get in a better coffee house since it’s got a full and complex flavor, smooth as silk.   First Crack is what your parents drank – bitter but chock full of caffeine.   First Crack coffee has a much less complex flavor because the coffee oils have not been “forced out” of the beans yet.   A Second Crack coffee will have a sheen of oil on the outside promising full and “Balanced” flavor.   This is what I send to friends and I always get reports back how smooth and wonderful it tastes.

I’m used to drinking Third Caff coffee.   When I tried some of the First Crack coffee, it was a bitter experience, and I felt that Jolt of coffee right away.  Even in Third Caff, I felt the difference.  The thought I had was that since First Crack American Style coffee takes so much less time to roast, they had to do it in order to make more and lower costs at the expense of a better brew.   Naughty, Naughty Roasters.  Be ashamed.

So the rule is Darker is Tastier but weaker coffee.   If you really need to wake up, I suggest getting to bed an hour later and having the darker coffee since life is too short to drink “bad” coffee.

If you’ll excuse me, all this talking about Roast Times and Caffeine has me wanting some Espresso.   Just remember not to pack the grounds too tightly or you’ll get a sour brew.   The grounds need room to “breathe” but that’s a story for a different day.

Oh and it will be Decaf.   Yes, Decaf Espresso.  I see you over there, smirking.  Don’t judge me, you don’t want to see someone as tall as I am bouncing off walls, it isn’t as entertaining as you might think.

You do want to see that?   Not today my friend, not today.

A Taste of the Holidays in July

Saturday Mornings have always been time to stretch out and do things a little differently.

In College, after practice, I’d head home and start cooking the carbo-load I needed after time on the river.  It would be a large plate of French Toast on order before moving onto more pressing matters.

This day, I stood in front of the kitchen window wanting something just a little different but wasn’t sure what.  Plus the French Toast was a little too much different.  Surveying the Honey Drink, Iced Tea, and Coffee for later, I was looking around the kitchen and spotted the little bottles sitting by the range.  They were left over from a Holiday Care Package my sister had put together this year in December, and they gave me the idea I was looking for.   We ship each other boxes of offbeat gifts, mine are mostly baked, my sister using her creativity for finding some fascinating things that I enjoy deeply, later.

A collection of seasonings and syrups, flavored sugars and cocoas, they sat around waiting for me to realize what to do with them.   Cinnamon Sugar got used making Hotteoks.  The Cocoa was used in baking a cake.  I had moved away from a daily flavored coffee when I began roasting my own beans, the bitterness banished to the Starbucks from whence they came.  Flavoring coffee became a whim, simply not required, so it was a small luxury.

My sister specialized in finding gifts that I would not get for myself, but always found some profound thought in them when I put them to use.  I still have the shirts she got me when I lived in Pennsylvania on Top of the Hill.  Where she managed to find just the right size of “long” tailed flannel shirts for my tall frame always had me wondering – even I could not find them.

These syrups were left over.  I decided that the peppermint coffee syrup was going to be used next, but the vanilla would add a little smooth sweetness to this morning.  Stirring in the syrup, cooling down the brew with four ice cubes, we walked outside to survey the morning by the pool.  Mr Dog and I walked once around the yard, him sniffing lemon trees, and my sniffing vanilla and coffee and remembering my sister well.

Thanks, Pat.  You made Saturday Morning a little bit sweeter.