Coffee Notes, by Jay Spencer Seiler

What’s the best Coffee? And What’s the best way to store it?
November 30, 2009, 8:18 pm
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If you ask me the real answer to both questions is, “it’s depends”. Cause it really is a matter of tast as to what is the best coffee. My wife thinks the best coffee is brewed at Dunkin Donuts. I tend to prefer a local roast that is fresher and bolder. So the bottom line on what is the best bean for you is which one really rings your bell. I am a big fan of the peaberry, there are a couple of roasts put out by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Maine Roasters This is a type of coffee with a smaller berry that has a great flavor. But really your opinions should be your own guide. They key I think is to have as fresh a roast as possible, and to grind your own beans. If you buy your beans already ground it is very likely that they have sat on the shelf for a while. To get the best flavor in your coffee you want to brew it when the oils of the bean are still fresh. That means local roast and grind em yourself just before you brew.
Now of course you got your coffee blend that is your personal fave and you just brewed a GREAT cuppa and now you throw your beans into the freezer for storage right? AkKK! NO! Most coffee snobs will now agree that storing your beans in the freezer is a BAD THING. You want to keep them cool and dry and in an airtight container. Most coffee shops. even Dunkin Donuts, have a container that will work for this. Though there is still some debate about this I have found from experience that storing it in the freezer is not an optimal way to store your beans. It seems to dry out the oils of the bean and result in a harsher tasting coffee. So get yourself a good container and store your favorite blend right on the cupboard. That’s what I do, right next to my grinder and ready for my first morning fresh cuppa joe. Now THAT’s good to the last drop!

How to use a French Press.
November 23, 2009, 9:06 pm
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I have a french press that I use to make coffee in the office. It brews a nice cup and many people find that it is preferable to other coffee brewing methods. I got this little instruction set from Albert T. on the Wake Up Vibes Coffee blog

French press is a one of the best ways to make coffee, it’s quick and relatively easy to use and makes beverage that has rich and full flavor that is often higher in quality than drip machine can produce. Also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or cafetiere, it is a device that most often has glass carafe, filter plate and a plunger attached to the lid. There are variations to this, but we’ll get to that later.

How to use the French press?

* For a French press use coarsely-ground coffee, it won’t be caught in the filter. If the beans are too finely ground, some of it may not be caught by the filter and will end up in your cup. Also, it can block the filter, so it’s hard to press the plunger down. It’s suggested to use burr grinder for grinding the beans, because it creates equal sized boulders. Blade grinders tend to create dust and boulders are varying in size, so the taste of coffee suffers.

* Lift off the plunger and add coffee grounds to the carafe. In average you can use about one rounded tablespoon per 6 oz. of water.

* Pour in the water. It should be little bit below the boiling temperature. Pour it slowly and evenly, so the water can mix with the grounds. Don’t overfill the press, the water level should be below the edge so it won’t overflow when you insert filter. You have to be careful with this, since the water is very hot.

* Stir with the wooden spoon or chopsticks. Don’t use metal spoon to avoid damaging or breaking the glass.

* Put the top on and don’t press down yet, leave the filter up.

* Let it steep for about 3-4 four minutes. Generally the steeping time is smaller for small presses and longer for bigger presses.

* Now, press the plunger down. Do it slowly and with equal pressure. If you press too fast the water might splash out and burn you.

* Pour the coffee into the cup.

French press coffee is meant for using right after it’s ready. Don’t let it sit out, because the coffee will cool down and the taste will also be affected.

As for the amount of coffee grounds and steeping time you can and should do some experimenting yourself, so you can find the best options to suite your taste.

How to choose a French press?

First of all – capacity. There are various sizes available starting with single serve and going up to 12 cups (maybe there are even bigger ones, but I haven’t come across them yet). So, if you are using it mainly for your personal use the small press will be enough, if you’re using it for making coffee for several people go for a bigger size and for gatherings/parties a 12-cup version is often a good choice.

Stronger glass version is recommended as it doesn’t break so easily. Also I suggest to get one where you can change the glass carafe, so if you happen break it, you can replace it and don’t have to buy whole new press. If you want to take your press along with you on travel pick the one with plastic body or get the travel mug version of a French press which is also available.

There are also French presses that are insulated or have double walled glass so they can keep the coffee warm for a couple hours. This is an option to go for if you need to keep coffee warm for longer time, since the coffee in regular French press cools down rather soon.

Jay here:
A word of warning and an interesting story to boot. If you are using the french press in the office as I do you are probably boiling your water right in the glass carafe using the microwave. This is all well and good BUT make sure that the water boils to the point where the surface tension of the water is broken. I once brought the water to an “almost” boil and when I reached in to grab the carafe it literally exploded in a blast of boiling water. It scalded my arm quite badly. This does happen, see here and here Better yet of course use a teapot or different container to boil your water. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Some examples of French presses:

Bodum Chambord Coffee Press

This is pretty classic French press in 3-cup size (4, 8 and 12 cup versions are also available). It has replaceable glass carafe and chrome-plated brass frame.

Bodum Columbia Thermal 48-Ounce Stainless-Steel Coffee Press

This is stainless steel French press with insulation that holds 12 cups of coffee and keeps it warm for up to two hours.

BonJour 8 Cup Rhone Ribbed French Press, Double Wall Glass

This French press has double walled glass, so it also keeps coffee hot longer and is more resistant to the shock and breakage.

Percolating Coffee. Yes We still do that.
November 16, 2009, 4:20 pm
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Percolating coffee is basically verboten for those who are coffee snobs, however it is still a very popular way of making coffee for those who like their coffe dark and strong. Plus percolators, both the stove-top and electric kinds, are cheap and easy to use and quickly brew up strong coffee for a caffeine fix. Below I have pasted in some quick instructions on using a percolator for a decent cup of joe.

First you grind the Coffee
If you use a regular ground coffee for an automatic drip coffee maker you will be straining grounds through your teeth. Not really pleasant. The fine grind results in the finer coffee bean bits going through the strainer basket. If you have a grinder at home, set it to a course grind and grind the coffee beans that way. If you don’t have a grinder, then grind the coffee at the store to a course grind that you need to properly make percolated coffee. Basically you want the same grind that you would for a french press.

Now you fill the Percolator
With the percolator taken apart, add water into the base of it up to the fill line. Usually this is just below the bottom of the coffee strainer basket. Put your ground (fresh?) coffee into the strainer basket. After doing some websearches for opinions, it turns out this should be in the ratio of 1 tbsp. ground coffee to each cup of water in the percolator. But tastes may vary. Play with it a little to find what you like. Replace the strainer basket and put the lid on.

Now we Brew the Coffee
If you are using an electric percolator, just plug it in to start the percolator. If you are using a stovetop percolator, set your stove on a medium-high heat and put the percolator on the burner. Every percolator has a little glass “bubble” on the lid that will show the coffee as it bubbles up through. Remember those Maxwell House commercials? That’s right. Now the jingle is going through your head. If this is before your time, search for it on youtube I bet you can find it. As the water inside comes to a boil, it will be pushed up over the coffee grounds and the coffee will strain down into the base of the percolator water-filled reservoir. The process repeats itself and through the little glass bubble you can see how dark and strong the coffee is getting. The process on the stove top should take about 5 minutes. An electric percolator can take a little longer, between 7 to 10 minutes. Once the coffee is ready, or strong enough for your tastes, remove the lid and take out the basket before you pour it. This prevents the used grounds from ending up in your coffee cup.

Sit back and enjoy.
Those of us who are older can remember that this was the way our parents made coffee. Before Joe Dimaggio made the Mr. Coffee drip machine a household item. Those people who are avid outdoors people still brew this way over the campfire or coleman stove. My father in law used to just throw his ground coffee into a sauce pot and boil it up. Now that is old school! It is possible to make a pretty good cup of coffee by percolating it, and it is also really easy to ruin it too. So watch the percolating process carefully and you may find you like it this way better than drip!

A Proof for Evolution
November 7, 2009, 11:45 pm
Filed under: etc.

I found this very interesting and, I thought, well done proof for evolution. While we are at I seriously beleive that believing in evolution doesn’t preclude the existence of God.

The Short Proof of Evolution
Ian Johnston
Malaspina University-College
Nanaimo, BC

[This document is in the public domain and may be used, in whole or in part, without charge and without permission, by anyone, provided the source is acknowledged. Last revised in March 2005]

We live, we are constantly told, in a scientific age. We look to science to help us achieve the good life, to solve our problems (especially our medical aches and pains), and to tell us about the world. A great deal of our education system, particularly the post-secondary curriculum, is organized as science or social science. And yet, curiously enough, there is one major scientific truth which vast numbers of people refuse to accept (by some news accounts a majority of people in North America)–the fact of evolution. Yet it is as plain as plain can be that the scientific truth of evolution is so overwhelmingly established, that it is virtually impossible to refute within the bounds of reason. No major scientific truth, in fact, is easier to present, explain, and defend.

Before demonstrating this claim, let me make it clear what I mean by evolution, since there often is some confusion about the term. By evolution I mean, very simply, the development of animal and plant species out of other species not at all like them, for example, the process by which, say, a species of fish gets transformed (or evolves) through various stages into a cow, a kangaroo, or an eagle. This definition, it should be noted, makes no claims about how the process might occur, and thus it certainly does not equate the concept of evolution with Darwinian Natural Selection, as so many people seem to do. It simply defines the term by its effects (not by how those effects are produced, which could well be the subject of another argument).

The first step in demonstrating the truth of evolution is to make the claim that all living creatures must have a living parent. This point has been overwhelmingly established in the past century and a half, ever since the French scientist Louis Pasteur demonstrated how fermentation took place and thus laid to rest centuries of stories about beetles arising spontaneously out of dung or gut worms being miraculously produced from non-living material. There is absolutely no evidence for this ancient belief. Living creatures must come from other living creatures. It does no damage to this point to claim that life must have had some origin way back in time, perhaps in a chemical reaction of inorganic materials (in some primordial soup) or in some invasion from outer space. That may well be true. But what is clear is that any such origin for living things or living material must result in a very simple organism. There is no evidence whatsoever (except in science fiction like Frankenstein) that inorganic chemical processes can produce complex, multi-cellular living creatures (the recent experiments cloning sheep, of course, are based on living tissue from other sheep).

The second important point in the case for evolution is that some living creatures are very different from some others. This, I take it, is self-evident. Let me cite a common example: many animals have what we call an internal skeletal structure featuring a backbone and skull. We call these animals vertebrates. Most animals do not have these features (we call them invertebrates). The distinction between vertebrates and invertebrates is something no one who cares to look at samples of both can reasonably deny, and, so far as I am aware, no one hostile to evolution has ever denied a fact so apparent to anyone who observes the world for a few moments.

The final point in the case for evolution is this: simple animals and plants existed on earth long before more complex ones (invertebrate animals, for example, were around for a very long time before there were any vertebrates). Here again, the evidence from fossils is overwhelming. In the deepest rock layers, there are no signs of life. The first fossil remains are of very simple living things. As the strata get more recent, the variety and complexity of life increase (although not at a uniform rate). And no human fossils have ever been found except in the most superficial layers of the earth (e.g., battlefields, graveyards, flood deposits, and so on). In all the countless geological excavations and inspections (for example, of the Grand Canyon), no one has ever come up with a genuine fossil remnant which goes against this general principle (and it would only take one genuine find to overturn this principle).

Well, if we put these three points together, the rational case for evolution is air tight. If all living creatures must have a living parent, if living creatures are different, and if simpler forms were around before the more complex forms, then the more complex forms must have come from the simpler forms (e.g., vertebrates from invertebrates). There is simply no other way of dealing reasonably with the evidence we have. Of course, one might deny (as some do) that the layers of the earth represent a succession of very lengthy epochs and claim, for example, that the Grand Canyon was created in a matter of days, but this surely violates scientific observation and all known scientific processes as much as does the claim that, say, vertebrates just, well, appeared one day out of a spontaneous combination of chemicals.

To make the claim for the scientific truth of evolution in this way is to assert nothing about how it might occur. Darwin provides one answer (through natural selection), but others have been suggested, too (including some which see a divine agency at work in the transforming process). The above argument is intended, however, to demonstrate that the general principle of evolution is, given the scientific evidence, logically unassailable and that, thus, the concept is a law of nature as truly established as is, say, gravitation. That scientific certainty makes the widespread rejection of evolution in our modern age something of a puzzle (but that’s a subject for another essay). In a modern liberal democracy, of course, one is perfectly free to reject that conclusion, but one is not legitimately able to claim that such a rejection is a reasonable scientific stance.

The history of Coffee
November 3, 2009, 9:31 pm
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Since the title of my blog is coffee notes, I thought it apropos to provide a history of Coffee,that wonderful beverage, one of the elixirs of life. This history is from ABOUT.COM.

For us Westerners coffee is three hundred years old, but in the East it was widespread as a beverage, in every level of society, since earlier times. The first definite dates go back to 800 b.C.; but already Homer, and many Arabian legends, tell the story of a mysterious black and bitter beverage with powers of stimulation. In the year 1000 about, Avicenna was administering coffee as a medecine. And there is a strange story, dating from 1400, of a Yemeni shepherd who, having observed some goats cropping reddish berries from a bush, and subsequently becoming restless and excited, reported the incident to a monk. The latter boiled the berries, and then distilled a bitter beverage, rich in strength, and capable of dispersing sleep and weariness.

However the discovery occurred, the fact remains that the coffee plant was born in Africa in an Ethiopian region (Kaffa). From there it spread to Yemen, Arabia and Egypt, where it developed enormously, and entered popular daily life.

By the late 1500’s the first traders were selling coffee in Europe, thus introducing the new beverage into Western life and custom. Most of the coffee exported to European markets came from the ports of Alexandria and Smyrna. But the increasing needs of a growing market, improved botanical knowledge of the coffee plant, and high taxes imposed at the ports of shipment, led dealers and scientists to try transplanting coffee in other countries. The Dutch in their overseas colonies (Batavia and Java), the French in 1723 in Martinique, and later on in the Antilles, and then the English, Spanish and Portuguese, started to invade the tropical belts of Asia and America.

In 1727 coffee growing was started in North Brazil, but the poor climatic conditions gradually shifted the crops, first to Rio de Janeiro and finally (1800-1850) to the States of San Paolo and Minas, where coffee found its ideal environment. Coffee growing began to develop here, until it became the most important economic resource of Brazil.

It was precisely in the period 1740-1805 that coffee growing reached its top spread, in Center and South America.

Although coffee was born in Africa, plantations and home consumption are comparatively recent introductions. Actually it was Europeans who introduced it again, into their colonies, where, thanks to favourable land and climatic conditions, it was able to thrive.

Hello world!
November 3, 2009, 6:37 pm
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First post here! Let’s see what we can do  with a blog.  This one is about a myriad of anything.  The title is coffeenotes and as that may imply we can talk about anything, just like we would over coffee.  Politics, religion, sales and marketing, new stuff on the interwebs and just whatever comes into my wee little mind.  This is just a beginning………..