I am in theory as frightened of the idea of pain as the most timid little girl, but in reality I don't seem to be very much in touch with it. Pain, I mean. I often only realize I've damaged myself when I discover blood somewhere. And sometimes when I discover blood I have no idea where it's coming from, and have to search. And I'm frequently mystified by the most common of symptoms. (Something weird is happening...I seem to be sneezing a lot, and my nose is running! What could it be?)
Anyway, it's possible I am sick. I don't really know. I felt unaccountably weary when I began my walk with the dog last night, and I ended up the walk feeling the same way, even though a little exercise often revives me and a walk often leaves me feeling refreshed. I went to bed hours earlier than usual last night, then slept nearly around the clock (twelve hours, for you youngsters who never use round clocks). I woke up once in the middle of the night, to find myself drenched with sweat.
Accordingly, today I thought I might write a little update about my usual energizing solution (and my only drug)...coffee.
Sometimes the old engine just won't rev
But I've had nothing but problems. To begin with, I know I've written about coffee before, but for some reason I couldn't find it. It's possible the explanation might be mental fog, rather than Search Engine imprecision.
Or maybe I need an indexer. My late friend Phil Davis's wife Martha did that for a living: she indexed books. Google is a TOP index about like Searchlight is a hard drive index: both lack the human touch, which you need sometimes.
Secondly, I cannot type today. I have good and bad typing days; sometimes I fly right along; other times I make so many mistakes I nearly grind to a halt. Today it's the latter.
Finally, WE Energies ("WE" stands for Wisconsin Energies, which I guess means that "WE Energies," which is what they call themselves, means "Wisconsin Energies Energies"—editors needed everywhere—) did a modest impression of a third-world country and cut off the electricity for half a minute a while ago. This brought the Rube-Goldbergian electrical edifice that is TOP World Headquarters to its knees, as various surge protectors and AC regenerators amidst the horrendous tangle of wires and cables went into crisis mode and helpfully erased everything I had just written.
And I might have mentioned before that I seem to have an insurmountable mental blockage against writing something over again. I can't seem to will myself to do it, almost no matter the stakes (I lost a good friend over it once, even). I'm used to this. It's been consistent, all my life.
Funny that I'm the opposite way with printmaking. Whether darkroom or digital, I almost always prefer to start from scratch each time I reprint, rather than use whatever settings I arrived at the first time around; no matter how well I did it before, I always think I can do it better the next time. Not with writing.
Anyway, here's your truncated, interrupted, mentally fogged update on my coffee adventures:
I bought a Behmor 1600 in December of 2011 and have been roasting green coffee beans in my kitchen ever since. It took me a while to set up the equipment (a small Shop-Vac under the worktable is a must for cleanup) and iron out my protocols, but I got up to speed relatively quickly and have been cruising effortlessly ever since.
I am remarkably (for me) not obsessive about it at all. I don't pine for nicer roasters, I don't experiment with the various roasting "profiles," and I'm lackadiasical about the degree of roast. (A good visual is here. I aim for anything from about 9 to 13 on the chart at the link, and I usually do it as Joe Behm suggests: by time. I've found that 6.5 ounces on the "1/2 Pound" setting works best, and I give it about 1:50 past the onset of first crack—a little more for coffees that need to be a little darker, a little less for coffees that need to be a little lighter.)
I don't even much care for experimenting with various fine green coffees from around the world. That, however, is obligatory...coffee is an organic product, not an industrial one, and the supply is always changing. The very best decaf I found, for instance, is not available right now. Furthermore, batches and crops change from year to year. Just because you loved a particular coffee one year doesn't mean it will taste the same the next. So you have to keep experimenting. You don't have a choice. Might as well enjoy it.
The absolute best in my experience is Phil Rosenberg's Kona (him I found). I've just run out...maybe that's why I'm feeling sick!
It took me a fair amount of effort to arrive at the grind and the brewing method I use, but now I don't stress about it. I have a Breville BCG800XL which I use one-shot, not as a dosing grinder. (And note that the 800XL is essentially an expresso grinder and does not work well for French press. It works fine for drip.) For brewing I use the simple but marvelous large Clever Coffee Dripper, which is truly the best of all possible solutions for coffee brewing. I heat the (bottled) water in a Bonavita (see my review of it at Amazon). Incidentally I recommend the Clever Coffee Dripper and Bonavita pourover kettles whether you roast your own coffee or not.
Scott Rao's Everything But Espresso is the most helpful of many books I bought and many websites and videos I perused; dismayingly, it is out of print. (Sometimes it seems like every good book I know about is out of print. We need a better system.)
Once you come up the rather steep learning curve, roasting your own coffee is a cinch. It's fast, it's easy, and it really doesn't seem inconvenient at all. I'll sometimes wake up to find I'm out of roasted coffee, and I don't even mind roasting up a batch prior to brewing. It's no more effort than emptying the dishwasher, and about as challenging and stressful.
I also don't use sugar in my coffee any more, ever. A good cup of coffee is not bitter, at all, and simply doesn't need sugar.
I have not bought so much as a single ounce of roasted coffee in the last year and a half. Roasting my own is a habit now, and I'm perfectly happy to do it.
And it's worth it. I make a pretty good cup of coffee now. At least, good enough for me.
"Open Mike" is TOP's once-on-Sundays indulgence of its editor's dyspeptic blats about this and that.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Stan B.: "Ya must be illin'—ya didn't even mention Calidoscopio!!! P.S. Maybe just one of those being in your fifties things. 'Enjoy' it while it lasts—I don't relish the next decade...."
Mike replies: Wow. I actually do feel better now.
Chuck Holst: "You are right that Google is no index; it is at best a concordance engine, as is the search feature on the Kindle. The difference between a concordance and an index is that a concordance is a list of word locations whereas an index is a list of idea, topic, and name locations. A good index cannot be created mechanically; it must be created a person who understands the material. Furthermore, a good indexer creates multiple entry points, because different people use different words for the same thing. And this is one of my pet peeves about nonfiction ebooks that lack indexes or, just as bad, substitute photos of the original index pages for a good index with page links. A search feature is no substitute for a good index."
Luke: "Where, physically, do you roast coffee? Outdoors? I find the smell of roasting coffee extremely vile. How do you deal with the fumes?"
Mike replies: The Behmor 1600 has "smoke suppression technology" (basically a catalytic converter) and I don't roast dark, preferring medium roasts. But it's necessary to roast in an area that has an exhaust fan. I keep the fan on for about 15 minutes after roasting with the outside door cracked and the door between the kitchen and the rest of the house closed. No problem...at least for my nose.