Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Life’s too short to drink bad coffee

A nice, fresh, hot cup of flavorful coffee. For some people, it’s a prerequisite for a good day; they can’t get going without their morning cup of joe. I enjoy a good cup of coffee, but it’s got to be good, otherwise it just isn’t worth drinking.
In the year 2000, I started roasting my own coffee. Prior to that, I purchased whole beans and ground them myself – a definite improvement over coffee that comes in a can. Buying green coffee beans and roasting them yourself is the next step in the journey toward the ultimate cup of coffee. There are some excellent online resources for purchasing green coffee beans: Sweet Maria’s or Coffee Bean Corral are a couple I’ve ordered from. 
042One of the advantages of roasting your own coffee is the level of roast that you can achieve. It’s in your power to decide whether you want a full-city roast or a french roast or whatever. The different levels of roast bring out different flavors in the coffee. Another advantage is the many varieties of coffee beans available to you. I enjoy exploring the differences between South American, Indian, or African coffees (and the differences within regions). The flavor, 044though, is the most important advantage. Freshly roasted and freshly ground, the coffee tastes much better. Life is too short to drink bad coffee; you’ve got to make it good.

046I roast my coffee in an old hot air popcorn popper. I’ve actually been using the same one for the last eight or nine years. My mom gave it to me because she wasn’t using it. It still works great, although it looks like I’ve been using it for eight or nine years. I discovered early on that I get better roasting results when I place the popper inside a bucket during the roasting process. This helps to make sure the hot air is hot enough. If it isn’t quite hot enough, the beans will not fully roast (they have to reach about 400 degrees internal temperature). With the popper in a bucket, the air coming into the popper is preheated.

There is a fair bit of smoke associated with roasting coffee beans. I roast mine in the garage. The smell of the smoke is pleasant to me, but not everyone wants to smell it in the house for several hours after roasting.
After roasting, I place the beans in a wire strainer. This allows them to cool more quickly than putting them in something the air cannot pass through. They come out of the roaster quite hot. Generally, the flavor from the beans will improve if they’re allowed to age or mellow for several hours after roasting, but it’s not necessary to wait. They make great coffee immediately after roasting (I don’t always want to wait).


I roast a handful of beans at a time. That’s about as many as the popper can handle. It’s also sufficient for several cups of coffee. The fresher the roast, the better the coffee. Roasted coffee will begin to lose some of its flavor as it gets older, after a week or so, through the process of oxidation.aero_press_system_01

My newest coffee maker is an Aeropress. It makes some really great coffee. I purchased it after reading the reviews on Amazon. So far, it has lived up to all of my expectations. It makes a flavorful, full-bodied cup of coffee in a very little time, and clean up is simple and easy.

My process for making coffee with the Aeropress is:

1.  Grind roasted coffee beans (one tablespoon for one cup of coffee – fine grind)0032.  Heat water to approximately 180 degrees (in a teapot)
3.  Put grounds in Aeropress
0054.  Add hot water (to the 2 or 3 mark on the Aeropress)
0075.  Stir for about 10 seconds
0086.  Press the plunger down to force the coffee through the grounds (takes about 20 seconds)
0097.  Add fresh cream (a couple spoons full)
8.  Add more hot water to fill the cup
9.  Stir
10. Enjoy!

I don’t find a need to use more than one scoop of beans per cup of coffee. I like my coffee fairly strong, and this amount seems to achieve my desired ends. Some people make espresso w013ith the Aeropress, but I’ve not tried that yet. I’ve also used the same filter for several cups of coffee. I just rinse it outwards and let it dry so it’ll be ready for the next time. Works fine.

Some people don’t like coffee. I can understand that based upon some coffee I’ve tasted (and did not drink). But I find that when it tastes like it should (meaning, good), the flavor is enough to make me anticipate the next cup. I’m already looking forward to my next cup. . . . 

Digging potatoes

Yesterday and today while I’ve been working on the house, Dad’s been digging potatoes. We planted 50 pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes and at least that many of the Kennebec. We used potatoes left from last year’s harvest for the Kennebec. As he digs the potatoes, he’s putting them in the barn. Last year I laid out the potatoes as I dug them on a canvas drop cloth in an empty stall in the barn. The potatoes seemed to do very well there. It’s fairly cool, dark, and generally has a slight breeze filtering through. They kept well until fall when I put them in our cellar.

Out of the Yukon Gold potatoes, Dad dug 6-1/2 bushels of potatoes. There were quite a few nice-sized ones. They didn’t seem to produce a lot per hill, but what was there looks good. He dug two rows of the Kennebec potatoes this morning. These were on the less fertile side of the patch. Out of those two rows, he ended up with a little more that 1/2 bushel. So, that makes just over 7 bushels so far. There are another nine rows of the Kennebec, I believe.

I’ll see about some photos later.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Do we need this many green beans?

Last year Anne canned many, many quarts of green beans. We had oodles of them. The thing is, we really don’t care for them canned. We much prefer them frozen. Fresh is even better, but that’s seasonal. As it turns out, we had several dozen quarts we didn’t eat. They’ll keep, of course, but we’re getting bushels of fresh ones from the garden now. So, we gave all that we had left over to some friends to whom they are a great blessing. We’re freezing ones from this summer.

Right now, Ramiah and Malchiah are snapping green beans, and Anne just put a few quarts in the freezer. I picked a bushel and a half a week ago. They needed picked again the end of last week, but my back still hurt from the previous picking. My dad was kind enough to pick. He spent two or three hours picking on Friday, but stopped when he’d filled all three five-gallon buckets he had. There’s still another quarter of the beans to be picked, and they don’t want to stop producing.

Earlier, when Dad and I talked about what to grow in the garden this year, we figured we didn’t need too many green beans. Mom and Anne were considering preserving many since we had so much left over. Dad planted two 50 foot long double rows using beans I saved for seed from last years crop. What was he thinking? We’ve picked five or six bushels off of them so far, and they are threatening to produce another three or four bushels. How many do we need?

When planting a garden, it’s hard not to plant the seeds you have and set the plants you have in the space available. But, that’s not always a good idea. You can be overwhelmed by the produce. I find it hard to not pick it when it needs picked, even if we don’t need it. We give away what we can, but often, other people have an abundance just as we do and don’t want our extra.

We can be thankful, though, for the blessing of abundance. It’s great to have the problem of figuring out what to do with too much food rather than what to do with too little.

Random images on the homestead



I took these photos on Friday, July 24, 2009.

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