Saturday, May 04, 2002
bright sunny day, but a tad windy. . .
after coming back from buying a new computer chair at a.i. friedman, the slight briskness made me feel like an americano.
making the perfect americano is subject of some consideration. most definitions of the americano frankly get it wrong. you'll commonly read that to make an americano you should pull a double shot of espresso (about 1-1/2 or 1-3/4 oz.) and dilute it with an equal amount of water. or less frequently you'll hear that it's a double with 6 oz. of water added.
so what's an americano? most snobby types like myself will insist that it's a double shot mixed with 4 to 4.5 oz. water, according to your personal taste. but you have to mix it a certain way. . .
first, take your 8oz cup and heat it with hot water from the wand on your espresso machine. the cup has to be hot! after a minute or two, your cup will be properly pre-heated. while the cup heats, pour your espresso. pop on top of the machine to keep it warm. discard the water in the cup and from your espresso machine, draw off your 4 oz. water. then add the espresso; the crema should float nicely on top, still capable of supporting sugar. i do add sugar and some milk to my americanos. . .
but of course, you don't have to. . .i don't heat the milk with steam, but you can. . .even coffee snobs like myself leave some room for personal variation. . .
i've come to feel that an americano is an excellent use for those shots that aren't quite perfect, not really drinkable on their own. but they're also enjoyable in and of themselves. short of a kona made in vac pot, they may be the perfect big cup of coffee.
Friday, May 03, 2002
one less thing to rant about. . .
yes it's true; you won't suffer any longer, dear readers. the chocolate industry and the ivory coast have signed an agreement to work together to end the practice of child slave labor in the chocolate industry. the agreement actually covers the 5 main chocolate producers in west africa.
you can read the full text of the actual memorandum of cooperation here. as long as this agreement is actually put into effect and enforced, you're free! i won't mention it here ever again!
this is great news for me, because i was suffering a severe moral dilemma. my personal chocolate guru, jacques torres, creates delicious and complex bittersweet chocolate bars made from ivory coast chocolate. i was on the verge of switching chocolate permanently. but hallelujah! saved at the brink. . .
eat your valrhona, your callebaut, your jacques torres in peace.
Thursday, May 02, 2002
i love this uk website:
All across the UK and Ireland, espresso bars and coffee shops are throwing their doors open. Many of them are decent, upstanding establishments with a fine selection of real, fresh coffee. But amongst these law-abiding citizens of the coffee trade there lurks a dark, sinister force. We've come across cold Cappuccino, evil Espresso and lifeless Latte. . . .
What can you uk-based coffee fans do to help? File a report on a real life coffee crime! why o why doesn't some coffee entrepreneur create a u.s. version of this site!?! (and why o why don't computer keyboards have my favorite punctuation mark, the interrobang?)
perhaps the most courageous and useful coffee page i've come across this week: when to send it back.
finally, long-time readers may note a change back to the old page design. this is due to the wonderful help from all of you. a few glitches were noted, but the real bug was a wacky situation whereby netscape 6.x would sometimes lose its scrollbars. so i'm retooling the re-design and we're back to here . . . for now! thanks for your patience and support.
Wednesday, May 01, 2002
but was the coffee any better than the usual starbucks swill?
i'm referring of course to today's starbucks thieves. after robbing a starbucks near seattle early this morning, they found the cash register a little empty. so they served coffee to customers for half and hour to boost the haul! this is the kind of news item i just love.
but on a more serious note, if there's one thing i adore more than coffee, it's recipes. and this excellent book by rick rodgers not only surveys the storied coffeehouse culture of vienna, budapest, and prague, but also offers recipes for traditional coffeehouse treats like the chocolate-apricot sachertorte. a must!
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
the cup of excellence is coming soon!
this tasting exhibition and its attendant prize mean gold to struggling coffee farmers. after the recent inter-american development bank and usaid report on how central america's coffee sector can get through the current price slump by reaching consumers directly and selling over the net, it seems the specialty coffee industry is taking this to heart now.
(btw -- interested in the previous cup winner, las nubes coffee? buy it here, here or, in europe, here.)
i was encouraged to read of plans to hold these tastings more regularly. and i'm also encouraged to read that kenya's farmers are attempting to begin an operation selling direct to wholesalers over the net. such an internet auction has proved successful already in brazil.
as for my own coffee adventures, i'm still hanging on with my new mazzer mini grinder. my old lux grinder could grind adequately for espresso, but i wan't getting the crema i really should have or the guiness effect either. the mazzer has many fine "notches" for grinding, so i get a better more even grind. but this means my ground coffee is more "sensitive." a setting that would have been fine on my lux for the same coffee at 2 days old and 5 days old, is not as good on the mazzer. i need to adjust the grind a bit for that 5 day old coffee!
the result is improved crema and a strong guinness effect, as the crema bubbles throught the settling espresso to rise to the top. but it means i fuss a bit more with the coffee making.
times like this i have to remember what jim at 1st-line told me recently. "focus more on the taste," he said. "you're supposed to drink it, after all."
i plan to list the 9-month-old lux on ebay shortly. but if you're in the market for a starting espresso grinder, email me below. . .i'm looking for about $100? something around there. . .
Monday, April 29, 2002
thanks for all your nice comments. . . .
i'll work out the various little kinks bit by bit and then apply the template to the remaining pages. please keep writing with the little things you see!
again, i urge those of you using older browsers -- and who see this page as very plain text on a flat background -- to please upgrade to the modern browser of your choice. . .
and while i was busy with this site re-do over the weekend, i meant to mention this nice article that surveys the washington, dc yoga scene. it also offers a decent explanation of the main styles of yoga for beginners.
and of course i wanted to mention the "tough guy" of the hour: spiderman tobey maguire, who won the part of spidey against big odds. what does he credit for helping him keep on track during the arduous struggle for the role? you guessed it. . .
he's an avid yoga student. . .
and we should also note bonnie rait, out with her best album in years. the biggest influence in her life now -- uh-huh, yoga.