Posted on

Brewing Magic in a Hotel Room Part I. No, you can’t make anything good with this stuff.

The intrepid coffee dweeb has a recurring challenge. On the road it can be tough to find something drinkable. And the most brutal time is the 6AM alarm when the only joe in sight is that dreadful packet of year-old pre-ground robusta next to the tiny auto drip machine. shiver…

Earlier this year I found myself far inland in something of a coffee desert. I neglected to check a bag and I didn’t think to stash the Aeropress in my carryon. My travelling companion and I got to the hotel and I saw the brewer and the coffee and my heart just sank. What am I gonna do?

The first morning I just brewed the stuff normally, hoping I could maybe get enough caffeine into me to make it to some place with a better cup. No soap: One sip and it went down the sink. Then I had a thought:  Some folks say cold-brewed crap coffee tastes ok. I can take this coffee pod and soak it for a day and see how it turns out. So.

Bad Coffee in a Desperation Move.
Bad Coffee in a Desperation Move.

I took another coffee pod and put it in a cup. I put about an inch and a half of water in there and prodded the pod a couple times. Then I put it in a drawer so the sanitation intruders wouldn’t toss it during the day.

Next morning it was go time. I didn’t have high hopes as this was definitely a turd polishing kind of game. I removed the pod and squoze it to get as much coffee concentrate as possible into the cup.

Then I used the in-room brewer to heat up and dilute the concentrate. I sent the hot water right into the coldbrew.

Here goes something.
Here goes something.

It looked dark and strong, which was encouraging. It smelled not great.

I don't want to die. Not right now, anyway. Eventually, sure.
I don’t want to die. Not right now, anyway. Eventually, sure. That’s normal.

I tasted it.

NO.

No no no. Gross.

Was it better than the hot-brewed coffee of yesterday? Sort of. We could say it was less horrid. Some of the higher-end rancid flavors weren’t there, but they were not replaced by anything more delicious, and there was no underlying mellow goodness that was laid bare by their absence.

So, put the Aeropress on your packing checklist folks. Next post will detail Aeropress Success in a hotel room.

Thanks for reading- see you around!

Posted on

New Coffee is On the Shelf! Flores Bajawa Ngura

Flores Bajawa Ngura

What’s in a name? This coffee’s name makes me think of three different continents for goshsakes.

Grown under the shade of Bamboo trees, this coffee is processed by a co-op near the city of Bajawa on the Indonesian island of Flores.


View Larger Map

There it is!

We medium roast this coffee, bringing out a deep flavor reminiscent of caramel and molasses.

Buy it at our coffee shop, the Farmers Markets or online at zekescoffee.net!

Heck yes!

 

 

Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part VII: Not Your Grandmother’s Toddy

Toddy coffee is not the most popular of brewing methods. Its adherents, although relatively few, are enthusiastic and dedicated. Toddy coffee is much lower in acid than coffee brewed with hot water- it’s perfect for people with sensitive stomachs or robots who corrode easily. Toddy is also a very well respected method for preparing iced coffee.

Toddy coffee is a radical departure from the beaten path of drip-brewed, boiled and heated joe. It tastes different too.

Toddy coffee is cold-brewed for a long time- typical brew time is 18 to 24 hours.

For the standard Toddy brewer you use about 12oz of coffee and about 7 cups of water. Use coarsely ground coffee and combine it in your toddy gradually- start with about a cup of water, add half the coffee, then slowly pour 3 cups of water in there.

Pretend you’re doing pourover coffee and try to saturate the grounds thoroughly. Add the rest of your coffee and then the rest of your water. You can push the coffee down a bit with the back of a spoon or a glossy paperback book cover to make sure it’s all getting wet. Don’t stir the stuff, you may dislodge or clog up your filter, which would be bad. Since it’s going to be sitting around for a while, it’s not a bad idea to cover the top of your toddy.

Ok, now it’s time to wait.

OK! It’s tomorrow! pull the plug on the bottom of the toddy and let it drip. The draining process is also slow so don’t think you’re just going to have a cup of coffee right now. Let it go a few hours- it’s not going to get cold.

The jar you get with this brewer comes with an airtight lid. You store your coffee concentrate in the fridge and it’ll be usable for well over a week.

Now you dump the grounds and rinse the filter. It’ll come out squeaky clean!

The product you’ll end up with is thick and really really strong. You’ll try it straight once and run out of the room screaming. Once you knock it down with some hot water, though, it’s a very rewarding cup, with an exciting head of persistent foam!

Ok guys, get to drinkin. I’ll see you around shortly- thanks for reading!

Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part VI: The Chemex- For the Semi-Evil Scientist

Awright everybody, it’s been a minute but it’s time you knew: The Chemex coffee brewer is a classic way to make drip coffee.

It looks like an Erlenmeyer Flask out of a chemistry lab, with a dash of cowboy around the neck. There’s something awesome about a coffee brewer made of glass, wood and leather. Fortunately it also makes exceptional coffee. Featured in this post is the ineffable Jared Sweeney, enthusiastic Chemex enthusiast. He was so very kind and brought his Chemex to the roastery and demonstrated its use and care for the Zeke’s Crew.

The major functional difference between the Chemex and other drip coffee makers is the filter. Chemex provides a variety of proprietary filters that employ some fun origami techniques to make the magic happen. Filters can be circles, squares or the ever-mysterious half-moon. For the unadventurous or those missing lots of fingers, the filters are also available pre-folded.

These filters are thick and multi-layered. The resulting brew is smooth and without a hint of bitterness. There will be no sediment or oil slick on the top of your coffee, either. That’s a plus for those who want a very clean taste in the cup, and a detriment for those who like an oily, sludgy cup ala French Pressed coffee.

The brew cycle is nearly indistinguishable from other drip coffee methods: Add and wet filter, add coffee grounds, add a small amount of hot water to get the grounds to bloom:

Stir the grounds to ensure even wetting of the stuff, and then pour the rest of your brew water SLOWLY through the bed of grounds. Unlike traditional cone filters, the Chemex sends all the brewed coffee through a single point at the business end of the filter.

NOTE: the finer your coffee is ground the longer this is going to take. While Chemex is not the quickest of brew methods, the results are absolutely worth waiting for.

For our test batch we used more coffee than was necessary, ground a bit finer than necessary. Other brew methods may have yielded an overextracted, bitter disaster. The Chemex gave us smooth and clean coffee, concentrated as it may have been. We kind of just stood around looking at each other saying, “Wow.” Well done, Mr. Sweeney.

The Chemex Brewer may be for you if:

  • You are a quasi-evil or merely mad scientist, or are considering the evil sciences
  • You enjoy drip-style coffee and want to go somewhere new
  • You like exceptionally clean-tasting coffee
  • You like to take your time making coffee and savor the process

Keep looking if:

  • You like oil or silt in your coffee
  • You like to press a button to initiate brewing coffee
  • You don’t have six or seven minutes to devote to making a cup or two.

That’s all for now; see you around. Thanks for reading!

 

Posted on

Zeke’s Coffee Lab is On the Road!

New for 2013, Zeke’s Coffee Lab is hitting the road, tasting freshly hand-poured coffee with the random folks at the grocery stores where Zeke’s products are to be found.

We are using a 4-cup Melitta pourover setup to put optimally yummy Zeke’s directly into your hand.

Right now we’ve scheduled events at all the Mom’s Organic Markets, Fader’s of Towson and the Nut Farm at Greenspring Station.

We’ve got successful tastings under our belts at the Takoma Park and Silver Spring CoOps. It’s a lot of fun, so come and see us.

If you have a suggestion for a tasting spot, let us know in the comments.

Zeke’s Coffee Lab Tasting Tour 2013:

Sat Jan 19 10:00am – 12:00pm Mom’s Organic Market, Waldorf  MD.
2:00pm – 4:00pm Mom’s Organic Market, Herndon VA

Sat Jan 26 9:00am – 11:00am Mom’s Organic Market Fairfax, VA
12:00pm – 2:00pm Mom’s Organic Market Alexandria, VA

Sat Feb 2 10:00am – 12:00pm Fader’s of Towson- Cigars at this event too!
2:00pm – 4:00pm Mom’s Organic Market, Timonium MD

Sat Feb 9 12:00pm – 3:00pm The Nut Farm @ Greenspring Station

Sat Feb 16 10:00am – 12:00pm Mom’s Organic Market Rockville MD
1:00pm – 3:00pm Mom’s Organic Market, College Park MD

Sat Feb 23 10:00am – 12:00pm Mom’s Organic Market Bowie MD
1:00pm – 3:00pm Mom’s Organic Market Jessup/Columbia MD

Sat Mar 2 11:00am – 3:00pm Mom’s Organic Market, Frederick MD

 

Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part V. The Aeropress- Coffee for the Jet Age

It’s not often a new brewing technology shows up. Not often at all. Espresso showed up around the year 1900. Drip coffee debuted around the same time. Percolator coffee dates to the late 18th century. The French Press appeared in 1929. Wikipedia says all your brew gear is hundred-year-old technology. Whaddya gonna do about it?

The Aerobie Aeropress is pretty new. Born in 2005, from the mind of the inventor of the Aerobie Flying Ring, Johann Flying Ring. I mean Alan Adler. Little known fact: when thrown with proper technique your Aeropress can fly up to thirty-five feet, and may roll for an additional ten to fifteen feet. Crazy, huh? For other outrageous claims, just read the quotes from the nifty hexagonal packaging.

The Aeropress shares attributes with many popular brew methods: it’s got the total fluid immersion of the French Press, the paper filter of drip coffee and the quick preparation time of espresso. Flavor extraction is excellent and the finished product bears comparison to a stiff Americano or some sort of red-eye-type concoction. That is to say, it brews a very strong cup of coffee. It’s not uncommon to knock the finished brew down with some hot water to put it back in regular-coffee territory.

Use of the Aeropress is very simple. This recipe is courtesy of Maddox, Aeropress Wizard-in-residence at Zeke’s Retail Store at 4607 Harford Rd in lovely Northeast Baltimore. Common practice among the Aeropress faithful is using the thing upside-down during the brewing process. If looking at upside-down numbers freaks you out, ignore these instructions and use the ones in the package.

Add about .05lb (.8oz or 22g) of ground coffee (grind should be similar to if not a tad finer than a paper cone setting.)

Add hot water, saturating the grounds as you go.

Stir the grounds with the supplied magic wand:

Now is when you attach the filter assembly. Wet the paper filter for maximum awesomeness.

Then activate the plunger and coffee will end up in your cup.

When you hear a little HISSSSS you’re done.

Taste the coffee. It’s strong, isn’t it? If the coffee knocks you over, don’t be afraid to top up your cup with hot water. Now drink it. Very good! I’ve found Aeropressed coffee to be smooth and very flavorful. After about two cups the entire world starts vibrating, so please be careful.

Cleanup is very simple. Pop the filter assembly off the press and push the piston through the outer tube until the filter and coffee drop right out of the press and on to the floor. For even easier cleanup, do it over a trash can.

The Aeropress has garnered a lot of attention since it’s arrival in 05. A whole subculture of coffee enthusiasts has rallied around the device. There are aftermarket mods, alternative brewing methods and even  national and world championship competitions featuring the most dedicated Aeropress Acolytes.

So should you get an Aeropress? I’d say have at it if:

  • you’ve got a nice coffee grinder and grind fresh for each brew
  • you like your coffee strong
  • you are into thorough flavor extraction ala French Pressed coffee
  • you are some kind of Evil Scientist.
The Aeropress is not suited to drinking cup after cup after cup of coffee as that may become quite labor intensive. Also all of your veins may explode, which could be unpleasant. They should have mentioned that on the packaging. That said, those of you who consider yourselves kinda geeky about coffee should become acquainted with the Aeropress.
Thank for reading folks. Anybody use an Aeropress regularly? Post up your favorite recipe in the comments, I’d love to give it a whirl.
Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part IV: Using a French Press For Fun and Profit. Mostly Fun, though.

Noobs and snobs alike know that the French Press is a popular and very highly regarded way to brew coffee. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about why that is.

One reason the French Press is popular is its ease of use. Seriously, a five-year-old could work one of these. Please supervise your five-year-old if they’re pouring boiling water on stuff. Anyhow, here’s how to do it:

Measure coarsely-ground coffee into the press.

Pour boiling water over the grounds and stir.

Press the filter down, pushing the grounds to the bottom and retaining them there.

Pour a cup of coffee and drink it.

Coffee lover, coffee expert and expert lover Ryan Schmidt says he likes the French Press for the “Richness of the cup” “the… mmmm” and “the intimate personal experience of the preparation.”  The French Press is the antithesis of the K-cup, and that has only added to its charm as more and more people are preparing their daily glug without ever even seeing a bean or coffee particle.

The major reason French Pressed coffee tastes so rich is the entire potsworth of brewing fluid is in contact with the entire mass of ground coffee for the entire duration of the brew. With other brewing methods (drip coffee, espresso etc…)  the brew water passes through the coffee grounds and is in contact with the coffee for only a very short time. Additionally, you seem to get more of the bean in the cup- there’s oil and silt that makes it in there, you tend to feel more connected to the coffee when you drink it this way.

Now I’ll run down the pros and cons of the French press for the TL;DR crowd:

Pros:

  • Great flavor extraction
  • Fuller body from suspended coffee particulate
  • Unparalleled ceremony and gravitas
  • Oil and Silt in the Cup (If that’s what you’re into)
Cons:
  • Time consuming
  • Cleanup can be a pain
  • Oil and Silt in the Cup (If it makes you dry heave)
If you want the great flavor extraction of a french press but want to avoid the oils, silt and cleanup, check out my article on the pourover brewing method.
What do you like about the French Press? Do you remember the first time you used one? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.
Thanks for reading- see you next time!

 

Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part III- You Really Should Be Grinding At Home.

Many of you know this Coffee Ninja Secret already. If so, read on for validation and revel in your superiority.

Look. If you’re not grinding at home we need to talk. It’s for your own good. You should be grinding your coffee fresh for each pot. Or cup. However you brew. Here’s why:

Roasted coffee is full of volatile flavor compounds. That’s why it smells so good while you grind it. Since ‘volatile flavor compounds’ sounds just a smidge pretentious I’m going to switch to the term “adorable flavor kittens” instead. To put it bluntly, these adorable flavor kittens perish by the basketful as soon as they go through the grinder. Just like real kittens. The only way to rescue these kittens is to brew your coffee immediately after grinding and drink ’em down. You’re a hero!

With that grisly topic behind us, let’s talk about grinders!

Many folks’ first grinder is called a blade grinder. It has one chamber, with a spinning blade that lives inside. You add your beans, warn the entire household, then pulse them with the blade til they’re ground sufficiently. The sound of this type of grinder could make a ceramic figurine jump out of its skin.

These machines are a very good intro to grinding at home. They cost about $30. Many folks use them for years with good results. Lets go through the ups and downs:

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find
  • Small footprint
  • Simple to Operate

Cons:

  • Inconsistent Grind
  • Hi-speed blades generate a lot of heat
  • Tend to be Messy
  • Small bean capacity
  • Noisy as all-get-out
  • Why is the cord on these things always so short?

Next up is the Burr Grinder. This is the preferred coffee grinding method for a few reasons, which I’ll explain right up front. First and foremost,  you can control the coarseness or fineness of the grind, and it will be far more consistent than what you get with a blade grinder. This is a crucial aspect of optimal coffee wizardry. Each brewing method has its own ideal grind. With a blade grinder you control the grind by guessing how long to hold the grind button down. The burr grinder has a setting you adjust and then leave alone. That is the major advantage to burr grinding, although there are others which I’ll explain after I show you some photos:

A good burr grinder for the home will cost you $80-$125 or so.

If you’re really serious (like we are here at Zeke’s) you can get a burr grinder that costs and weighs as much as a used Geo Metro:

 

Burr Grinder Pros:

  • Consistent Grind
  • Hopper holds a few days’ worth of beans
  • Quietish
  • Less Messy than a blade grinder

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Needs more counter space

So is a nice burr grinder worth your $120? Let us break it down. If it lasts you 5 years (it should) and you brew six times a week you’re looking at 1560 grinds. That’s just over $.07 per pot. Your coffee will taste better- possibly a LOT better. And $.07 a day can save literally billions of delicious flavor kittens from an untimely death. Their lives are in your hands.

Let me know what you think. This is a topic that bears some discussion. Thanks for reading!

Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part II: The Pourover Revelation

Last week we did some looking at the ubiquitous home Auto-Drip coffeemaker and learned how to check it for proper brewing temperature.

This week we’re going to take drip coffee in a slightly different direction. With minimal tools we’ll have a great benchmark you can use to judge the coffee that comes out of your machine. The first key is your old-fashioned teakettle.

That is some hot water there.

Enter the Melitta Pourover Brewer. It’s a very simple, very cheap way to brew fantastic coffee.

If you haven’t got one, a single-serving pourover cone costs about $3 (Available at our Harford Road Cafe location and the farmers’ markets.) You’ll need paper cone filters too- you may have some already if your auto-drip machine uses them.

Doubles as a helmet for your cat.

Brewing this way couldn’t be simpler. Put your kettle on to boil. An electric hotpot will work too- your goal is boiling water. Place the pourover cone and filter atop your favorite coffee mug. Add two tablespoons of ground coffee and wait for the whistle.

Now it’s on! Pour the boiling water slowly into the cone, stirring as you go with a plastic spoon. Stirring helps you get even distribution of water through the grounds and will improve the consistency of your flavor extraction. (In plain English: tastes better.)

Now drink it! Use your mind to compare this cup with your regular chug out of the auto-drip machine. Is the flavor richer and better defined? Are you looking at your coffee mug kind of half-aghast, mildly shocked at how good it tastes?

Good. Gooooood. That’s the difference really hot water makes.

Next time I’ll post a bit about grinding your coffee at home. In following posts we’ll look at some other popular (and not as popular) brewing methods.

Thanks for reading! Leave your questions and comments below in the comments. See you soon.

 

Posted on

Brewing Magic at Home Part 1: Evaluating Your Auto-Drip Setup

Hey Everybody. Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking you through some steps to get the best possible coffee experience at home.

This week we’re going to look at the heart of most folks’ brew setup, the Auto Drip Coffeemaker. It’s a machine so ubiquitous even folks who don’t brew that way and folks who don’t even drink coffee often have one lying around.

Even at the Haircut Store!

Auto-drip is quite convenient and it’s possible to get great coffee out of many of these brewers. After all, it is the most common method coffee shops and restaurants use to brew their coffee.

“OK coffee guy,” you may ask, “Why does the coffee at my local cafe taste so much better than what comes out of my machine?”

The short answer is: It’s hotter. Try this next time you brew at home. Or go do it now, it’ll work even without any coffee in the filter basket. Run a brew cycle and take the temperature of your brewing water as it comes out of the filter basket. Use an instant-read thermometer like this:

I hope you all have a few of these rattling around your kitchen.

You can also use a meat thermometer like this if you don’t have an instant read thermometer:

Meat is Optional.

Just kinda get the stem of the thermometer into the flow of things:

It looks like I'm taking Darth Vader's temperature.

If you don’t have a thermometer, think about the very first sip of your first cup out of a fresh pot. Is it scalding hot or can you gulp it down immediately? If you’re not in danger of moderate-to-severe burns from your coffee, it isn’t nearly hot enough.

Your brewing water should ideally be between 195° and 205° Fahrenheit (90-96°C.) Some homestyle auto-drip machines top out at a wimpy 140°F. Gross. That’s the difference between Mister Coffee and the industrial-strength gear your favorite Coffee Joint uses.

(Not the actual time)

So what do you do about it? I’ll get to that next time. For now, let me know in the comments how your machine stacks up. The key to brewing better coffee at home is probably already in your kitchen.

If you have any other questions for the Zeke’s Coffee Lab, leave ’em in the comments here or contact us through the website.

Thanks and see ya soon!