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…

Windows 7 – You Have Five Years Left

Start the drum beating.

Microsoft reminded us that yesterday, January 13, 2015, that they stop all support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020.

Now for most people they will yawn and move on.  After all they will wear out the cheap $250 laptop they are using now and move onto another cheap $250 laptop by then, sliding it under the bed or into the closet and forgetting about it until cleaning day.

“Hey!  I need to do something about that old computer!”.

For large businesses who haven’t even migrated onto Windows 8, they will look at the notices and hopefully begin to plan.  It is five years in the future, and while you still can get Windows 7 today, the machines they buy today will still be in use in three years, and possibly five.

Most people just shrug and accept the operating system that comes with the computer anyway.  It’s easier and you don’t have to worry about it until it gets too many viruses and you start looking for an answer.  At $200 per “In Store” virus removal at a big box store’s “Squad”, it is probably cheaper to just “move on” and get new at the low end.

It’s not one of those doom and gloom things, after all.  You have five years.  The machine you are using to read this blather will most likely be “recycled” but it is something to consider.

If you are one of those poor folks who has soldiered on with Windows Vista, you have until April 11, 2017 – a mere two years and a bit.  Then the most hated operating system since Windows 8.0 will be completely unsupported, just like the dearly departed Windows XP.

To be fair, once you get all the Service Packs, Bug Fixes, and Additional Changes installed in Windows Vista, it works fairly well.  It’s just bloated, slow, and you’ll be better off on Windows 8.1 as well.

But for Windows 7, this means that you will still get patches, just no new features.  Virus updates, bug fixes, and any other patches will get sent along as usual, but nothing really new.

Oh, and about that old computer?  If it runs Windows 7, it probably can run Windows 8.  If it runs Windows 7, I am certain it can run some variation of Linux, and if you really are nervous about support, some of those server versions of Linux are supported for another 15 years while others get another 5 with easy upgrade paths.

After all, that is what this blog is written on – Linux on a hand me down computer.  But Linux isn’t for everyone, even if I did train a 69 year old lady and her 35 year old son how to use it. 

Great story for an interview, though!

What’s A Vi? Why Vi?

Admittedly this is for your geek cred.

If you run Windows, or Mac, and you’re happy in that environment, I really doubt you will ever need Vi.

On the other hand, I took a look at it again and found this particular piece of software to be very useful.

In short, “Vi” is a text editor that runs on Unix, Linux, FreeBSD.  It is available for the Mac and Windows.  Basically any computer that you use that you need an editor, you can find someone who took the time and care to bring the Vi Experience to you. 

I’m sure some demented soul brought Vi to Android, and maybe even your iPad. 

That’s the Pro.  The biggest Con I can think of is that it is not user friendly.  In fact I found it bloody maddening to use when I first started to learn it.  Once I got used to it, it was second nature within about a week.  Yes, week.  Or longer.  

Remember this was back in the 80s when a home computer was weird.

You see this was designed as a really basic text editor for back in the day software.  You know, command lines?  Unix before anyone ever really started using Linux. 

If you are using Windows, you have a rather powerful text editor already called Notepad.  I can’t think of anything off hand that Vi can do that Notepad can’t with text files. 

My favorite thing to do with Vi was to repeat the last command by hitting the period.  It would happily just keep doing that as long as you had your finger down on the period key.  Over and over.  Want a page of text?  Just keep repeating it.  Great for programmers.  Not so much for Mom or Pop.

Even that is built into windows, just copy and paste.  Then keep repeating the paste command.

  • Ctrl+c will copy the highlighted text into the clipboard.
  • Crtl+x will “cut” that highlighted text.
  • Ctrl+v will paste the copied/cut text into the document at the place your cursor is “anchored”.

So why go to the trouble learning Vi?

In my own case, I use Linux on a daily basis.  Linux even has a really wonderful graphical text editor called “gedit”.  It looks an awful lot like Notepad, so all the “regular” actions work like a champ there.  But there are times where you are on a Linux system without the graphical user interface like a Server.  Now you’re banging around on a server with no graphical user interface thinking “why didn’t they install one?” and need to edit a text file.  Remember the old “.ini” files?  Linux uses a lot of those things in the background, and yes, I’ve had to edit them using Vi.

If you really do want to bang your head against the wall repeatedly, you can use the Vi I downloaded from this website.

Why would you want to use Vi?

Education perhaps?  Challenge yourself to do something new to you.  Earn your geek cred.

A really concrete reason is that this particular program called WinVi has a really nice built in Hex Editor.  Hex editors are one of those things that if you need it, you need it NOW and you need it BAD.  Like a canteen in the desert, it’s that important, but how often have you been in the desert and needed a drink.

Plus it’s fun to see what someone has hidden in files sometimes.  You know, curiosity sake?  I went into a file that was connected with Internet Explorer 4 way back when that was new and I was still using Netscape and hacked it.  Every time IE 4 would start, I had it put up a message in the title bar that “Internet Explorer Stinks”.

Ok, something more rude than that, but you get the picture.  You just can’t have that kind of fun with Notepad.