Get the Extinguisher Ready

From music to gadgets, we’re hearty supporters of the lo-fi movement — we love the simplicity and classic elements often employed in its design. We’re also fans of DIY projects and figuring out how to do seemingly complex activities easily at home, so when we ran across this article on home roasting, it tickled our lo-fi/DIY fancy and we just had to share.

Utilizing the sophisticated Heat Gun/Dog Bowl method, this step-by-step guide will lead you through roasting your beans at home without investing in a roasting machine. All you’ll need is a heat gun (available at any hardware store — basically, the tool version of a hair dryer that can cost between $15 – $100), a stainless steel bowl (the aforementioned dog bowl is quite popular, but the guide’s author prefers mixing bowls with a little more of an egg shape) and some green coffee beans.

Now, we haven’t tried out this method and did read some critical reviews of the technique, namely that it doesn’t provide uniform results and is kind of a headache to manage. Also, you’ll need to make sure you do this activity in a fire-resistant environment, as hot coffee beans could fly out of the bowl and ignite any flammable materials. So, clear the oily rags and the open jugs of paint thinner out of the garage before you start.

Let us know if you’re brave enough to take this project on — we’d love to hear about your results.

You’re So Cool

We can’t help but hear Patricia Arquette’s refrain in the second-to-last scene of True Romance when we look at the Jura Capresso Cool Control Automatic Milk Cooler. But instead of slipping it a note with hearts on it, we’ll just write about it here.

This handy little gadget is fairly lo-fi, costs pennies to run each day and will keep your milk cool and easily accessible on your counter top for all of your favorite latte or cappuccino drinks. It directly connects to the frothXpress adapter that is featured on many of the Jura superautomatic espresso machines (such as the Z7, C9 & S9, and Ena 3 and will cool your milk to 39F, the perfect temperature for fluffy, frothy foam!

If you’ve ever forgotten about your thermal milk container and suffered through cleaning up some nasty ol’ milk, gift yourself with never doing that dirty job again! The Cool Control will keep the cottage cheese out of your lattes and in your favorite…dish? We’re not actually sure how people use cottage cheese.

Using the Aeropress

Recently featured in an NPR story, the Aeropress has really taken off in the past couple of months. It’s considered the ‘next generation’ of French Presses and really does make a delicious cup of coffee.

Watch Gail use the Aeropress to make the beginning of a cup of coffee — you could add hot water to the brew for an Americano or warmed/frothed milk for a latte or cappuccino.

Recipe: Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

We found this recipe when poking around for a great coffee-inspired version of one of our favorite desserts, the fallen down chocolate cake. These were a great swap out, with their delicious mocha flavor and dense, creamy texture.

Start to finish: 1 hour (25 minutes active) Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup weak coffee

Directions

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 F. Coat four 6-ounce ramekins with cooking spray, then arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, the butter and chocolate. Microwave, stopping often to stir, until smooth, about 1 to 3 minutes. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
  4. In another small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, the remaining 3 tablespoons of cocoa and the brown sugar, breaking up any large clumps with your fingers.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining granulated sugar, the milk, vanilla, egg yolk and salt. Whisk in the cooled melted chocolate mixture, followed by the flour mixture, until just combined.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins (about 1/4 cup per ramekin) and smooth the tops. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the cocoa mixture over the batter in each ramekin. Pour 3 tablespoons of the coffee over the cocoa in each ramekin.
  7. Bake the cakes until puffed and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes before serving in the ramekins (the cakes will fall slightly).

New! Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade

Arguably the best little workhorse in the business, the Saeco Aroma is a robust machine that had really only one major flaw (in our opinion): Its pressurized basket. Lauded as a triumph for non-grinding, quick-n-dirty espresso lovers everywhere, the pressurized basket gives merely the illusion of crema by aerating the espresso as it’s extracted. People that don’t want to put the time and effort into learning how to fine tune their grind and tamp love this contraption because it does give a fairly good shot without much fuss.

But if you’re a geek like us and love yourself some rich, thick crema, you’re going to be thrilled with the latest release out of the Saeco camp — a non-pressurized portafilter handle that uses the same baskets that came with your original pressurized portafilter. You can pull a delicious shot with this new non-pressurized portafilter — one that may rival the Rancilio Silvia!

In addition to the Saeco Aroma, this portafilter is compatible with the following machines:

  • Starbucks Barista
  • Starbucks Via Venezia
  • Estro Profi
  • Saeco Magic Cappuccino
  • Saeco Gran Crema
  • Saeco Via Veneto

Watch Gail pull a shot with the new non-pressurized basket on the Saeco Aroma:

For the Birds

A couple of interesting articles that caught our eye recently are in regard to how coffee agriculture and birds interact.

The first, written about a biologist’s plea for people to purchase shade-grown coffee, talks about the effects that growing coffee in full sun (for increased production) have had on the migratory bird population in Vermont. The plantations they’re referencing are specifically in Central America, where historically coffee was grown under a tree canopy to help protect it from winds and pests. These older growth forests and complex ecosystems were inhabited by birds from North America as part of their migration pattern, but as the birds continue to fly south for the winter, their previous hospitable digs are being systematically cleared in favor of larger plantations. The use of heartier (more Robusta?) strains of coffee plants and pesticides are eliminating the need for the protection of a towering forest and increasing output, which farmers understandably love.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, the story is quite different: Recent research reveals that the shade-grown coffee may be adversely affecting the bird populations of Ethiopia. The study researchers suggest that moving farming to open farmland and leaving the forest canopies alone for awhile may actually increase the bird populations in this area. One major benefit of shade-grown coffee is that the birds assist in pest control, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides. It would be a shame to move coffee agriculture to an open prairie that would require chemical pest control, so we love the suggestion that tree planting should be part of this process. Instead of just plowing down the forest, plant coffee and trees elsewhere and, perhaps, significantly increase the habitable footprint available to more birds.

What these two articles demonstrate is the need for regionally-based agricultural and environmental impact studies that enable us to keep our world filled with all of the vibrant and lovely animals that keep it balanced. It’s a difficult prospect, however, given that coffee cultivation often takes place in some of the poorest countries in the world — and starving families understandably don’t really care about how their ability to feed themselves will reduce the number of woodthrush in Vermont.