Random Musings of a Coffee Roaster

Baba Ghanoush

Originally posted on Kitchen Addict:

The weather has been absolutely beautiful of late. To celebrate this, along with me being able to spend my afternoons blissfully cooking in my kitchen, I decided to cook dinner for myself and my boys. And considering I still had a whole bowl of tzatziki leftover from dipping my beets earlier this week, I decided to go in the direction of the Mediterranean.

I marinated and grilled some chicken thighs and lamb burgers, grilled pita bread, made a marinated tomato and cucumber salad, grilled bell peppers and the classic Mediterranean staple, baba ghanoush with Plowbreak Farm’s amazingly fresh, deep purple eggplants.

Every element of the meal was exceptional but the baba ghanoush was truly what brought everything together. We were shmearing it on the pita, on the burgers, dipping the peppers in it, it was awesome!

There is nothing quite like preparing a big meal, collaborating on it (I prepared everything…

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Press Cafe

After taking a stroll through the newly remodeled Ithaca Commons yesterday, I stopped in to Press Bay Alley to have a shot of Wood Burl Coffee – Handyman Espresso at Press Cafe. THe extraction was just about perfect. The shot was sweet and balanced with the acidity hitting just enough as to not overpower the low end and a full, heavy body. I’ve only been here a handful of times, but it’s always a good experience. The coffee never disappoints, the service is always nice, as is the presentation, and the space is well designed with big windows and clean lines.

Mug Mug Mug!!!

I’ve had a thing for coffee mugs ever since I started reading the old Garfield books when I was a kid. It faded for a while until I was a teenager reading Transworld Skateboarding Magazine that had comic for a while called Wrench Pilot written by Mel Bend. The mugs he drew made me decide that I needed to get one tattooed on me(still haven’t) and now I can’t pass up a good one when I come across it. That said, when I saw that Parliament Coffee Roasters made a limited run of these, I contacted Paul in a panic hoping that there were some left. Score! Solid handle, nicely weighted, high volume for those slow Winer mornings. I love this thing. They are still available as I write this for $7 at I just realized they have shirts now, so I have to wrap up and order one. BTW, their Burundi Collines Rugabano is delicious!


Morning Ritual, Acidity and the Illusion of Time

imageUtah Phillips used to say that listening to the news first thing in the morning was a bad idea, because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I’m guilty of that. Very guilty. After removing the taste of old boots from my mouth and putting water on for coffee, the news goes on. Granted the news is usually bad, I’d rather know than not know. More importantly, it serves as a distraction while I’m waiting for the kettle to come to a boil. Being old and un-hip, I still heat heat water in a stove top kettle then transfer it to a goose neck kettle as part of the Chemex ritual. Sure, I could buy a nice temperature controlled kettle, but that money is better spent on coffee at this point.

The coffee is ready(and the computer has already crashed once). I’ve brewed up a Colombia Finca San Luis.We’ve been fortunate enough to build a relation with the producer Omar and secure this coffee as well as the La Gloria from him for a number of years. These past few months I’ve been working really heard to crack the code while roasting this one. No matter how I tweaked the roast, there would always be a bit of green pepper or snap pea or even tomato in the cup. It seamed like I just could get the proper inner development, so I focused harder on the portion of development before first crack, first raising the charge temperature by 20F to build momentum, then making some drastic gas cuts, then lowering the charge temperature and going easier on the gas to lengthen the time before first crack in order to give the inner bean enough time and energy to develop, while keeping the DTR around 24%. This all helped to get to know the coffee pretty well. The last piece of the puzzle is the sample roast. Sample roasts don’t lie and I just wasn’t listening closely enough. It turns out that this coffee has a bit of pineapple and raw jalapeno as part of its natural flavor. It all made sense now. I then shifted my concentration to enhancing the natural sweetness in the cup to balance out the acidity that had been so confusing for so long. That said, my cup is now empty and it’s time to get back to the news during pre-work yoga.  I know what you’re thinking, but multitasking is how I function. Trust me, I would much rather do yoga while listening to Neurosis – Through Silver in Blood, then do news and coffee, but Mick Jagger was wrong, time is not on my side.

Morning Brew

 Like many people around the globe, my day starts with coffee. By age six, I had a preferred brand(Hills Bros.) and by 17 was drinking up to three pots a day. Now, as a coffee roaster, I view coffee very differently. I don’t drink nearly as much and the quality these days is beyond comparison. The drip maker has been donated and replaced with a Chemex.

This morning we’re enjoying a coffee from Congo that I’ve only done a 9lb test roast of, but so far, it’s pretty tasty.


45 grams coffee a bit coarser than a medium grind

770 grams water, roughly 203 degrees

Place filter in Chemex. Rinse filter with hot water and pour out excess. Put freshly ground coffee in filter. Place on scale and zero scale weight.

When water reaches desired temperature, pour in enough water to saturate grounds(roughly the same weight as ground coffee – 45g).

Let bloom for 30-45 seconds depending on freshness of coffee*. Then add another 200g water in an even circular motion, then agitate ground coffee and water with a spoon.

As the coffee bed gets very low, add another 200g water and repeat until you’ve added the entire 770g water.

Drain. Drink. Enjoy.

You should experiment with these numbers to find the extraction you most prefer, as this is what works best in our home with the water and equipment that we have.

*A coffee that’s been roasted more recently with need a few more seconds to release gases than a coffee that’s been sitting on the shelf a bit longer.

They Say It’s Spring, but….

According to the calendar, it’s officially Spring. It’s currently 5F and the ground is still snow covered thanks to early morning snow storms yesterday and the day before. Dawn and I have brought out the seeds we’ve saved as well as the seeds catalogs and started planning out what will be going in the ground this year. For now, we just have to be patient.

A New Beginning.

Now that we’ve moved, it’s time to start all over again. We bought a house in the same area of New York state that has less total acreage, but more open, usable acreage. Plus it came with two large barns that will hopefully be very useful. We didn’t move in early enough before Winter to get any real land prep done considering we don’t own any farm equipment. Some trees were taken down as well as some brush that was in the way. Our field of golden rod was also given the brush hog treatment. At least we were able to get about 200 garlic plants in and some berries: 2 blueberry and about 5 blackberry. Our old dwarf cherry tree was also dug up and transplanted. There’s so much work to do and a lot to learn.

Misozuke – fermented tofu “cheese”


  • We’ll need sugar, sake, yellow miso, and firm tofu.
  • Wrap a tofu block in 2-3 layers of paper towels & set a dish on top of the tofu block and let it dry out for 1-2 hours.
  • For each half block of tofu, prepare a marinade spread of 1/2 cup of miso, 1 tablespoon each of sake and sugar. Mix well.
  • Wrap tofu in cheesecloth and smear marinade on all sides. How much of the marinade should be used is up to you and your salt preference.
  • Line a storage container with 2-3 layers of paper towels, place tofu block on top, cover and refrigerate.
  • Change paper towels every month (SEE UPDATE BELOW) – the paper towels will become really wet, yet the tofu will not be any dryer because enzymes in the miso are breaking down the soy proteins and generating water. Chemistry!

Here’s a link to the actual website –

GMOs and you

Some days I can’t tell if I’m just paranoid or if other folks just aren’t concerned enough. Studies constantly pop up stating new facts and figures about the damaged caused by manipulating the DNA of plants and animals, but it seems that most people don’t seem to care. Even the idea of eating organic foods is lost on most except for the people who like to try to make themselves feel better about eating animals. I won’t lie and say that I eat even close to 100% organic and GMO free, but I’m working on it. I’ve known for many years about a lot of the horrible chemicals used in large scale farming, but, like a lot of people, get put off by the price or selection. And then there’s the issue of getting tomatoes in New York in Winter. They are trucked in from thousands of miles away, picked before their prime and are sometimes grown under horrible environmental and labor conditions. Labor in agriculture is something I’ll have to tackle another time. Anyway, a book that really opened my eyes about what I was eating was Twinkie, Deconstructed. Here’s the intro paragraph on the website: “Like most Americans, Steve Ettlinger eats processed foods. And, like most consumers, he often reads the ingredients label—without a clue as to what most of it means. So, when his young daughter asked, “Daddy, what’s polysorbate 60?” while eating ice cream bars at the beach on a hot summer day, he was at a loss—and determined to find out.

In this fascinating exploration into the curious world of packaged foods, Twinkie, Deconstructed takes us from phosphate mines in Idaho to corn fields in Iowa, from gypsum mines in Oklahoma to oil fields in China, to demystify some of America’s most common processed food ingredients—where they come from, how they are made, how they are used—and why. Beginning at the source (hint: they’re often more closely linked to rocks and petroleum than any of the four food groups), Ettlinger reveals how each Twinkie ingredient goes through the process of being crushed, baked, fermented, refined, and/or reacted into a totally unrecognizable goo or powder with a strange name—all for the sake of creating a simple snack cake.” I was amazed at the process behind the scenes of all these little ingredients that the FDA and USDA seem to think should be considered food. The chapter on vanillin (or artificial vanilla) was the first one I read and I couldn’t put the book down after that. Some other good sources of information are the films “The Future of Food” and “Food, Inc.” It seems that right now Monsanto is one of the largest threats to humanity because of what they are doing to the food supply and the fact that their dirty science has already infiltrated without most people knowing. I’m not saying that it’s going to kill us all, but should have the right to know what is going on with the food that is supposed to keep us alive. Since this science is still fairly new in the grand scheme of things, I really don’t see how they can feel so comfortable telling the public that everything is going to be okay. Like I said, more and more tests are proving otherwise. Besides that, there’s the whole problem with their terminator seed technology which are seeds that produce food that in turn does not produce more seeds so that farmers have to return to Monsanto in order to buy more seeds instead of saving seeds from the last harvest the way people have been doing it for thousands of years. If that’s not enough, GMO plants easily cross pollinate with non-GMO plants which ruin(and has caused lawsuits where Monsanto sued farmers for stealing patents AND WON!!!) them. And patenting seeds? Really?! This is really something that I shouldn’t have started at 5:30 in the morning before work, but I woke up with it on my mind. Now there’s no time for yoga. Bummer. Anyway, I’ll leave you with two more links:
Have a great day folks!

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