Caffeinated Climate

In the hot pursuit of alternative energy sources, researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, stumbled upon coffee grounds as a possible new basis for biodiesel.

After leaving a cup of coffee on the counter top overnight, lead researcher Mano Misra noticed the oil slick that had separated and floated to the top of the coffee. He decided to examine the process necessary for turning used coffee grounds — currently just a standard waste product that many non-composters just throw away — into a viable source of biodiesel.

They collected 50 lbs. of used grounds, determined that the mass contained between 10 – 15% oil by weight, went through the process of extracting the oil and then converted it into biodiesel using standard chemistry techniques. The result? Well?it worked, but they estimate that all the used coffee grounds in the world would make up less than 1% of the annual diesel consumption of the US.

So while it’s an interesting approach (that apparently smells fabulous!), it’s not totally conceivable right now that our used up coffee will save our planet. We did love one reader suggestion, however, which was to build a coffee maker that was powered by the previous brew’s coffee grounds — now that’s something we can buy into.

Cherry-Picked with Love – Part Two

A couple of weeks ago, we posted the first part of a series on Kona coffee farmers Jim & Sharon Skibby — writer Chris Smith has spent time learning about this small coffee plantation and offers up his experiences in learning how they care for and harvest their coffee trees.

Chris’ second installment was published last week, and it goes into more detail around the nurturing and harvesting practices that Jim & Sharon employ — as well as Jim’s tips on coffee flavors. It’s a very interesting read for those looking to learn more about small scale coffee agriculture.

Sidamo Slipping?

With the rains in India threatening their coffee harvest and the financial strife of Brazilian farmers unable to secure the necessary funds for nurturing and harvesting their crops, Ethiopia’s recent revelation that drought is adversely impacting their coffee crops in two significant regions gives us pause. Is it possible that such an essential staple of countless cultures around the globe is at risk of exhaustion?

Government assessors evaluated Ethiopia’s coffee harvest during this past November and found that coffee production in Sidamo and Gedeo may fall nearly 60% this year as a result of the extended drought in those regions. Combined with the falling commodity prices and the rising costs of food, the risk of a severe increase in starvation in a region already so brutalized by ongoing famine is a sobering thought.

Throughout its history, coffee has been a crop that has rolled with the proverbial punches: It has withstood civil wars and economic collapse, its ripening cherries at the heart of stimulating debates and late night international judgment calls. Yet it seems that the current agricultural methodology may not be able to support itself — and if we don’t make a concerted effort to address some of the systemic issues that are resulting in these symptomatic losses, we just might find ourselves in a significantly less stimulating world — literally.

After all, if coffee can’t make it in its own home town, where can it make it?

Recipe: Espresso Flan

Custards are a great holiday season dessert, and here’s a delicious recipe for Espresso Flan that will put a little pep in your step. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 11/3 cups white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 11/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped of seeds
  • 1 heaping teaspoon espresso coffee grounds
  • Caramel
  • 11/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

  1. Whisk eggs and yolks together, add sugar, salt and cream. Mix well. Add vanilla seed and pulp and continue
    whisking. Allow to rest 15 minutes so vanilla can infuse custard.
  2. In the meantime, heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan; add sugar and then water. Heat on high stirring constantly until sugar melts and caramel color develops. Be careful not to burn. Remove from heat and spoon 2 teaspoons each into 5, 6-inch diameter ramekins and allow to firm.
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. After custard has rested strain through a fine sieve to remove strands of egg white. Stir in espresso. Lightly brush sides of ramekins and the caramel with melted butter or coat with cooking spray.
  5. Fill ramekins about two-thirds full with custard and place in baking pan about the same height as the ramekins. Add tap water to the baking pan to the same level of the custard. Bake about 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool to desired serving temperature.
  6. To serve: Run a knife around edge, place serving plate over ramekin and flip over. Scrape out any residual caramel and drizzle over flan.

Love that Espresso Shine

Hair looking a little dull? Looking to gloss up your tresses without spending an arm and a leg on drugstore treatments or salon visits? There are tons of natural home haircare tips, and using espresso to add shine to your mane is one of our favorites.

Simply pull a couple shots of espresso, apply it to your hair and then leave it on for 20 minutes. Rinse it out and you’ll have increased your hair’s shine considerably. Espresso contains quite a bit of oil and these molecules can be transferred to your hair to boost its glow.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Coffee Like Wine

We spend a fair amount of time poking around the ‘net to find interesting information to share with you, gentle reader, and came upon the blog Coffee Like Wine that discusses artisan coffee and wine experiences had by its San Francisco-based writer.

Providing feedback on everything from different bay city cafes to cupping events to the flavors of single origin beans, this blog has a ton of great subjective information from an avid connoisseur. Check it out!