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…

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Co-evolution and the Coffee Roaster

I’ve been roasting at home for around 2 years, probably longer.  I didn’t realize that I was in a loop when I was doing it.

What I mean is that like any “process”, your results will be fine tuned by the equipment that you use to make the “product”.

How’s that for a lot of hooey?

Ok, it’s complex but the idea is that what you use to do something is as important as is how you do it.

I’ve skated 21,000 miles on inline skates.  Easily 10,000 of them were done on a very low end pair of skates.  One of my friends on the team said, you’ve got great form but those things are holding you back – pointing at my skate boots.  The next time I had a little extra money I treated myself to a new set of skates complete with shiny racing frame and five wheels instead of the four that are usually on a pair of skates.   My speed increased by about 10 percent.  I had tuned myself to skate with the old skates with the wobbly wheels and the breaks that would stop you on a dime.

Eventually I adjusted to the new race skates and tried the old wobblies back and realized I had moved on.

With the coffee, I have a popcorn popper that I trained myself how to get the perfect results that I wanted.   Perfect for me that is.  You may think it’s too light or too dark, and I know how to get just those results too.  Since I’m roasting for myself, I’m going for the results I like.  Medium to light roast, lots of flavor, low acid and low bitterness.   Plug in the popcorn popper, the fabled “Poppery II”, fill with 1/2 cup of green beans and wait 6 minutes before checking.   It’s right almost 99% of the time.  Sometimes I let it go another 15 or 30 seconds depending on how I felt about the last batch.

Today’s results effect tomorrow’s actions.   It’s a “Feedback Loop”.

When Emilio came over earlier this week he had a brand spanking no name air popper.  Casually looking at it after he said “is this the right kind?” and “can it be used?” I said “Sure…” and we set to work.

Two problems showed their ugly heads. 

First the hopper was smaller.   I had poured the beans in there using a measured 1/2 cup and thought no big deal, they don’t expand much.

No they really do expand and by the end of the roast some of the beans were flopping over the end of the bin.

Second, there wasn’t as much air coming through the machinery.  The fan was “weaker”.  What that meant is that the beans that were in there were not spinning around.  They needed to be shook around until they had evaporated some of the water. 

Roasting is a process of caramelization and deyhdration so the beans got lighter.   If you doubt me, next time you roast a chicken, weigh it once you’re done and you’ll see that it is lighter.

Yes, it was a usable popper, but we had to adjust the process.  

First step was to cut back the amount of time.  There was the same amount of heat, but it was not moving past the beans so it resulted in a faster roast.

Second, cut back the amount of beans.   That allowed the air to flow freely.  He needed to only use 1/2 of what I was using in my popper, 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of beans.

Third watch the time closely.  Mine takes 6 to 7 minutes to roast beans.   The first batch we did I bailed on at second crack which was at only 5 minutes.  

Second crack is what Starbucks APPARENTLY roasts to get the their distinctive flavor.   It’s too strong FOR ME, and that taste is what gave them the nick name of “Burnt Beans”.  I roast just before that at what has been called a City or a City Plus roast.  

Next batch was much better, the third was where I typically roasted to.  2 ounces at 3 minutes 30 seconds.

Bottom line is introduce change to the means of production, introduce change to the process to get back to the same results. 

It’s just like anything else in life, be open to change, you’ll have a better time with your results – or your coffee.

Firefox Tabs Review

To anyone who is technical, this stuff is old news.   To the non technical folks who I speak with on a daily basis, maybe I can explain why I did it.  Does it matter?  Probably not.

Back a couple years back, I had been using IE and I decided I didn’t like it.   Around the same time I was using Linux and I think both are connected.  Firefox had just it the scene, and the browser was one of the choices on the Linux install I used, CentOS, along with Konqueror which just never really felt robust enough.  When compared with IE, Firefox running on a slower Linux machine felt faster, more stable, and there were these neat extensions that allowed me to do all sorts of things like see the weather forecast and control cookies.   I even started playing around with the extension programs for traffic Webcam so that I could look at things through the country at a click.   It was pretty neat, and gave me an opportunity to play with code and see a quick result.

Then I got the chance to move to South Florida and needed to look for work and the Tabs View option in Firefox became the “Killer App”.   So much so that the rest of the industry followed and IE in its lumbering size now has the option to open in tabs.   What this does in Firefox (I never bother with IE since it bogs the entire PC down) is to create virtual windows within “this” browser and load the page in background.   Simple right?  I’m sure there’s a lot of programming effort that happened to make this so useful, but I took this to heart.  When I do a Job Search, I have a folder within my Firefox Bookmarks that has over 115 pages that I want to open, all at once.   The old way to do that was to do a shift click to get the page to open in another browser, and work through the list.   Manually to open a page in a tab in background, Control Click on the link and it loads and is there when you need it.   Try that with 115 pages all at once! 

The wrinkle is that Dice, Monster, and Careerbuilder all allow you to save a search.   Drag the link into the folder in Bookmarks and that page will open next time you start an Open In Tabs.   You can do this on the first page, but when you’re looking at something that has hundreds of links and only 25 per page, you are more interested in having the second and third and subsequent pages in tabs while you’re looking at page one.   So drag those pages into the folder and now you have them all open.   You are only limited by the number of pages you drag into the folder and your PC’s memory.  At the end of an Open In Tabs with 115 pages (literally) Firefox reports as using over 500 Megs of memory and it releases it back to the operating system better now than it used to, although not perfectly since nothing really seems to return all the memory within Windows when written on a “modern language” such as C++.

Simple instructions for Firefox:
  1. Organize Bookmarks by Control + Shift + B 
  2. Create and name a folder where you want it by Right Clicking on the Bookmarks Menu or use an existing one and give it a name if new.
  3. Switch back to the main window in Firefox and surf the pages you need one at a time to set this up.
  4. When the page loads as you want it, drag the icon in the address bar to the left of the “http://” into the Organize Bookmark window and into the folder you created and drop it there.    You can also do this by grabbing that icon, dragging it into the Bookmarks pulldown which will automagically open and you can drag it into the appropriate place.  I do it that way but it is fiddly and I tend to have to do it a couple times before it “sticks”.
  5. Now your Bookmarks Folder has a new link and at the bottom of that Folder when it opens up you will see the Open All In Tabs link.   If you have multiple links, you will get multiple tabs.
  6. Navigate through the tabs by doing a Control + Page Down to move to the next tab on the right, Control + Page Up to move to the next tab on the left.   You may close the tab by either clicking on the little red X box or Control + F4
  7. If you just want to create a blank tab, Control + t will do it for you.
If this helps, great! If it is unclear ask me, since I did this before the second mug of coffee.