Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seven things you didn't know about coffee

Roasted coffee beans, the world's primary sour...Image via Wikipedia
So yesterday I posted an article on making the perfect cup of Joe.  Today, I wanted to follow up with some common Facts and Myths about coffee preparation.

In case you were wondering, my credentials on this topic include:
  • Fifteen years experience in the preparation and consumption of coffee
  • Membership in the Starbucks Rewards program
  • Live-in sister/Starbucks Barista
  • 10 years caffeine junkie
Seven things you may not know about coffee:
    1. Bold roast does not mean more caffeine. It describes the flavor of the roast.
    2. NEVER freeze coffee. Putting coffee in the freezer will allow the coffee to absorb the tastes of the freezer. Store in a cool, dry place instead.
    3. Grinding beans right before brewing will guarantee the best, boldest taste. Beans loose flavor as they are exposed to air.
    4. Different regions of coffee bean have different taste. Asian beans are spicier, Latin American beans are smoother.
    5. ALL COFFEE is organic because it is grown at an altitude that doesn't require pestisides.
    6. Good coffee is sifted numerous times. Bad coffee is the portion of beans sifted out. So put simply, Folders is the rejected Starbucks beans.
    7. Coffee is freshest within the first 30 minutes of brewing.
      So, there you have it.  Real tips from a real addict.

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      Tuesday, October 18, 2011

      Coffee Snob Diaries: How to make a killer cup of coffee

      It makes my mornings brighter.  It helps me get through a wild weekend when my brother comes to visit.  It's the only thing I can digest before 10am.  And, it's the perfect way to finish off a slice of pie.

      Coffee is possibly my best friend.  I love it.  I drink it by the gallon.  I know the password to Starbucks WiFi by heart.  I even have my own personalized Starbucks gift card which I frequently reload in order to get the free syrup with purchase.
      My custom Starbucks Card
      Which brings me to the purpose of this post.  If you do not like coffee, you either a) are impossible to please, b) universally grumpy, or c) don't know how to make a great cup of coffee.

      Have no fear!  I'm here to teach you how to make the perfect cup of drip coffee.

      Here's my tips for the perfect cup of Joe:

      Start with a good coffee beans.
      Coffee is a very personal thing.  Some people like bold roasts.  Some like flavored.  But I found the following to be good entertaining roasts that everyone seems to like.  The bad part?  Good coffee costs good money.  It's just a fact.  You can not make cheap cup of coffee taste good.  For best results, buy these roasts in whole bean form and store in a cool, dry place (NOT your freezer/fridge). Here are a few roasts I recommend:
      Grind you beans.
      For the best flavor, you should grind your beans just before brewing. As beans are exposed to air, they lose flavor.  For best results, invest in a good grinder that lets you select the desired coarseness.  Cheap grinders are messy, only have one setting, and don't grind with any consistency.  I used to have a Cuisinart Supreme Grind and Automatic Burr Mill I bought at Costco for $30, but it broke last month and I replaced it with a similar something else which is not similar at all and sucks.  So I recommend just getting a good one from the start.  This one is the best:

      Splurge on a good coffee maker.
      Have you ever purchased an $8 Walmart iron that leaked brown water all over your clothes and then burnt the fabric?  Well, and $8 coffee maker pretty much does the same thing.  There are two coffee makers I recommend:

      The Hamilton Beach Brew Station
      I have this coffee maker (it's my third one).  I recommend it because it has an insulated internal carafe that keeps coffee fresh and flavor consistent up to two hours.  Remember that air is coffee's enemy, giving it that bitter taste.  With this coffeemaker, each cup tastes as good as the first.

      Mr. Coffee Grind and Brew
      I've heard bad things about "Grind and Brew" coffee makers.  But I bought this one for my parents two years ago and it is wonderful!  Coincidentally, it's one of the cheapest on the market, only $56 at Walmart.  The best cup of coffee means freshly ground beans.  So why not grind and brew you coffee in one step, without the mess?  I wish Hamilton Beach would come out with a grind and brew version of their coffee pot!  That would be coffee heaven!

      Get a good filter.
      It is very "green" to get a reusable filter.  It is also very disgusting.  I understand why people use reusable filters, but who wants to deal with coffee sludge from the metal mesh filters?  This is probably the only time you will hear me argue against "green", but it's just not worth it. Instead, I recommend the natural, unbleached paper filters.  I don't know why, but they just taste the best.

      Try a French Press.
      If spending $60 on a coffee maker just doesn't justify itself, consider making "cowboy coffee" with a french press.  A good french press (I have the one from Starbucks), will set you back about $15 - 20.  French pressing brings out the natural aromas and stregnth of the coffee, because it will never burn and the flavor-preserving oils are not absorbed by the filter.  It's the tastiest way to brew good coffee.  Just remember to grind your bean on a coarse setting and invest in a good press to avoid the "sludge" effect.

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      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      New Recipe - Grilled Chicken Francese-Style

      Grilled Checken Fancese-Style with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
      I made this Grilled Chicken Francese-Style (inspired by the recipe in the Oct issue of Family Circle).  I chose it because it is 356 calories but looked way more scrumptious than that.

      You can check out the recipe here.  I suggest adding mushrooms to the sauce as I did.  I also don't like polenta, so I went with roasted sweet potatoes on a bed of greens instead.  Also very delicious.  You can find that recipe here!

      I'm beginning to think that sweet potatoes are getting an unfair reputation.  I've cooked them twice now and I heart them!  Or maybe I just heart the olive oil I put on them. 

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      Tuesday, October 11, 2011

      Painted Pumpkins Are Less Messy

      Because my son is only two, I can get away with not going ballistic for the holidays.  This means I don't have to jingle bells outside his window during Christmas, I don't have to have 20 kids over for his birthday yet, nor do I have to carve pumpkins.

      Call me a buzz kill if you must, but I actually hate carving pumpkins.  It's messy, gooey, and I have to clean up dried pumpkin off the floor for weeks.  Plus, the pumpkins always seem to rot pre-Halloween, and then I have a big orange stain on the cement outside my door.

      So, this year, we decided to "paint" pumpkins instead of carve them.  It was cleaner, more fun, and a lot less messy.  We got the idea from Country Living and Family Circle

      We started out our pumpkin painting day as we do with so many events: with wine, cheese, olives, and fruit on the back deck.

      I painted the front and back of my pumpkins so I could enjoy the view of them from both sides

      This was inspired by the creepy Raven poem (Edger Allen Poe, I think?)

      This is my son's pumpkin.  He's already an artist!

      My husband--a huge Oregon Duck's Fan--painted his pumpkin green.  Then he put glittery gems in the shape of an "O" on it.  It reminds me of Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.

      My sister painted a creepy brown recluse on one side, and painted the backside black then carved out another web.

      An easy idea for the non-artistic.  All you need is a white pumpkin and black paint.

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      Thursday, October 6, 2011

      Is That My House in the Oregonian?

      My mom saw an article about a home makeover in the Oregonian a few weeks ago. I think I'm seeing double. Does anyone else see it? Well, I must compliment them on their taste!

      The Oregonian House
      My House
      The Oregonian House
      My House

      The Oregonian House
      My House
      One last mention.  The owner of this home, Sarah Lorenz, is a Realtor and Blogger on a home decorating blog.  I'm subscribing to her blog now.
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      Tuesday, October 4, 2011

      Music to My Eyes - A story about a piano

      My piano is finally here!  Where has it been, you may ask?  Well, let me tell you a little story about a piano.

      In December 2005, my dad was painting a building that used to be an old YMCA and my husband offered to help work on this job since money for Christmas that year was a little tight. 

      While he was painting, my husband noticed an old leather-bound piano in the corner of the old auditorium, under a tarp.  He had nothing to give me for Christmas and remembered I had always said how beautiful I thought pianos were.  So, he approached the lady that owned the building and asked if he could barter some labor for the piano.  She said yes, and Josh came home with this 1950's Wurlitzer upright piano.
      My husband exchanged painting a hallway for a 1950's Wurlizer

      On the outside, the leather was peeling, the stain was damaged, the bench was broken.  But on the inside, the piano looked like it had never even been played.  All the parts were like new!

      Josh and I spent the next six months sanding and deconstructing this piano, then my dad--conveniently an excellent painter with fabulous tools--came over and sprayed it a glossy, beautiful ivory color. 
      After six years and lots of paint and sanding, the piano now resides in my entry, waiting for my son to be old enough to play it

      So I had this beautiful piano, in great condition, and you would think that was the end of the story, right?  Well, two weeks after finishing "the Piano Project", we actually sold our house and moved onto a houseboat.  The piano, which has a 500lb brass plate in it, was too heavy for the houseboat.  I believe the contractor's words were, "It might not break the floor, but it might sink the house."  So, we sent it to my mom's house where it lived for the next six years.

      A couple months ago, after my parent's moved and the snow cleared away from the pass, we decided it was time to bring the piano back to it's rightful owner.  So a trailer, some tie downs, a dolly, six men, and a long drive later, here it is, in my entry.

      I must disclose, I can not play the piano.  In fact, I can not even read music.  I took guitar lessons a few years ago, but almost failed the course because I can not decyfer the notes on the lines.  Luckily, God did not punish my son for my shortcomings, and I can already tell he's extremely musical like my husband.  So piano lessons are in his future and hopefully my house will someday be filled with beautiful piano music.

      So, until this piano can be music to my ears, it will have to remain music to my eyes!
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