The Coffee Brined Rib, Why Not?

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It seems the world is on its head these days.  People are being paid to hurl insults at rallies and others are openly talking about a revolution.  One is rude and unethical and the other is treason.  Both may be illegal. Up is down and down is sideways.  Let’s shuffle off to realm of food.

I’ve been playing with a coffee brine for my ribs.  I’ve seen recipes that say to soak your ribs in coffee for several hours prior to smoking.  Nope too simple.   I have done this twice and I think I have a good feel for what works.

A brine is a salt water solution that imparts a great amount flavor to meat while keeping it moist.  I almost always brine my chicken breasts.  A brined, smoked and grilled pork chop is to die for.  But I haven’t brined my ribs often.  Brining pork, especially ribs takes time.   A short marinate or brine is just that, short on flavor.  I have brined my ribs for 36 and 72 hours.  I will stay with Alice Waters’ recommendation to brine chicken 24 hours and pork 3 days.  I’m pretty sure there is never a time NOT to take her recommendation.  There was a remarkable difference going the full 3 days.  Don’t skip on time.

I hear you; you don’t like coffee, blah, blah, blah.  Ok then.  Move on, this isn’t for you.  But if you stay, you’ll have some mighty fine eats.  I promise.

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I cut the racks of ribs in half, because my brine buckets won’t really handle the length of a full rack (that’s what she said).  I prefer to remove the silver skin from the ribs, you might not.  It’s a matter of personal taste.  I also rinse of the ribs prior to brining to remove excess blood and stuff. There is always stuff.

Coffee Brine
1 pot of hot coffee (Philz’ Jacob’s Wonderbar)
1 cup kosher salt
1.25 cup sugar
1 tsp Cumin
8 Allspice berries, crushed
10 Juniper berries, crushed
6 whole Cloves
10-20 whole, peeled cloves of garlic
1 bunch of thyme
3 Bay Leaves
1 TBS Honey (add after the coffee to help disolve it)
1 TBS ground pepper or 10 – 15 whole pepper corns.  I like the ground better for more heat
1 TBS Fermented Pepper sauce (recipe on my blog) you could use some tabasco or other hot sauce
Water to cover, Ice to chill

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I like Jacob’s Wonderbar for this as it has a very rich flavor and chocolate tones.  I set up all my ingredients in my brining tub, while the coffee is brewing.  I have a 12 cup pot and I make it strong.   Pour in the coffee and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.  I like to let everything steep for 30 or 40 minutes after the salt and sugar are dissolved.

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The brine should be cool.  At this point I add some ice and cool water to roughly double the volume of liquid.  I add in the ribs slowly as not to make a mess; this is no cannonball pool party.  At this point I add more water so the liquid covers the ribs by 1/8”.  I put a plate on top to keep them submerged.  The brine goes in the fridge for 3 days, so if like me, you are smoking on Sunday, I start the brine on Thursday so I get 3 days plus a bit, instead of less than 3 days.

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About 2 hours before the ribs go on the smoker, I take them out of the brine.  I remove any bits that are stuck to them (like the cloves) and rinse them off.   I let them drain in a colander for about an hour.  Then I rub them heavily with my rub on all sides and loosely cover them with saran as they come to room temp.

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Lee’s Coffee Rub
0.5 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
0.25 Cup Smoked or Hot Paprika
1 TBS Coarse (Salad Grind) Black Pepper
1.5 tsp Chili Powder (I like the New Mexico chili powder specialty sellers like Berkeley Bowl or Whole Spice or the Chili Powder from Rancho Gordo)
1 TBS Granulated Garlic
1 TBS Onion Powder
1/4 – ½ tsp Chipotle Powder)
1 TBS Kosher Salt
1 tsp Ground Oregano (I crush dried Mexican Oregano)
1 TBS unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I like Scharffenberger)
¼ cup whole coffee beans, ground semi-fine.

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Ground coffee. Not the full amount in the rub

Mix the brown sugar with the paprika, until fully incorporated.  I prefer a manual whisk to my stand mixer.  Then add the ingredients 1 at time, mixing fully at each step.  Most of the salt in this recipe comes from the brine.

I get the fire started and smoke as I normally do.  I try to keep the fire at 225, using mostly oak, with some apple and cherry mixed in.  I rotate the ribs every few hours for even cooking as I’m cooking on two levels, one slightly hotter because heat rises.  I don’t use a water pan.

I do spare ribs for approximately 5.5 hours and baby backs for 4.5.  I think that’s because my heat spikes a few times throughout the cook.  It’s a manual process filled with human imperfections.

I often spritz my ribs every other time (every 45-60 minutes) I stoke the fire after the first hour.  My spritz is approximately 4oz apple juice, 2oz apple cider vinegar and 1TBS liquid margarine (seriously). Mix it up and spray liberally during the cook.  This keeps the rub from burning and helps create a nice color.  Totally not necessary, but it does make the ribs a bit prettier and tastier.

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I generally serve my ribs dry, with a sauce on the side.  In this case, the saltiness of the brine in the smaller ribs plays well with the sweetness of the sauce.  I coat the ribs 3 times in the last hour or so, letting each layer caramelize for 15-20 minutes.

Lee’s Coffee BBQ Sauce
2 Cups Ketchup
0.25 Cup Molasses (I like the heavier Brer Rabbit, you might need more with other brands)
3 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Juice from 0.5 Fresh Lemon (or more if you like the tang)
1/4 tsp Tabasco® Brand Hot Sauce
3/8 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
1 TBS Honey
1/4 tsp Cayenne (Red Pepper)
4-6 Cloves Minced Fresh Garlic
1 TBS Coarse Black Pepper (the pepper adds heat over time as the sauce sits, you may want less)
0.5 Cup Strong Coffee (again, using Philz’ Jacob’s Wonderbar)

Add everything to a pot over low heat. Stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Let the ribs sit for 15 minutes or so prior to cutting.  Enjoy.

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Myriad Randomness – Drought Edition

As you may have heard, there is drought in California.  What does this mean to me, specifically?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s what I’ve changed.

  • I have a bucket in the shower. I catch the “warm up” to water the tomatoes.  That’s new.
  • I reuse my shower towel “many” times. It is 85+ most days and it dries quickly.  That cuts down on washing.  I did this in college and in my younger days.  No longer is my hamper full of towels.  (You know, that subtle status symbol of being economically stable.)
  • I only run my sprinklers 2 days a week. Usually after 9pm when the sun goes down.  My once envied super green lawn looks like every other sad, green lawn in the Nor Cal.  I haven’t decided to kill it yet.

What does this mean?  We are mandated to cut our usage by 25% from 2013.  May I was down about 50%.  No earth shattering changes.  Just lots of little ones.

I know I’ve been a bit outspoken politically lately.  Quite honestly I’m both thrilled and heartened by many (but sadly, not all) of the responses I have gotten.  Don’t go by the comments here, there aren’t many and I delete all the “I want to kill Ashley” or “I want Ashley to host my Bukakke party” comments.  Most are far worse.

But seriously, how can things continue to unravel in our world?  Pope Francis works hard to bring the Catholic Church into the 20th Century and Fox News calls him the most dangerous man in the world?  People I know on Facebook call him “EVIL”.    I guess the world still must be flat, the sun revolves around the earth and Torquemada was misunderstood.  Really?  You know what I think.  I just can’t understand how some conclusion could be reached, held so tightly and preached so violently.  We know the gene pool is flawed, just saying.

I still love my coffee.  Have you had Equator Coffee?  I’ve been buying their stuff on line (their roastery delivers for free for a $50 order and I have it in 2 days) and now they opened a shop next to the Warfield.  We know mid-Market is on the upswing, but this is huge.  Granted it’s a mile walk from the office, but I get exercise, the coffee is great and they have food too.  Check it out.  Only downside is that their bean selection is limited.  No fear here, I don’t mind the online thing.  The sweet spot is the 2 pound bags.  I’ve been drinking the Brazil 45 Espresso (it makes a mean, well rounded regular cup).  $13.25 for 0.75 lbs.  That’s $17.67/lb.  Or $30.05 for 2lbs.  $15.03/lb a savings of 15%.  Compare that the various coffees at Peets’. They are $14.95-$16.95.  So the same price or less and much more complex and delicious.  And honestly, smelling Major Dickasons at home today, it smelled burnt.  Fantastic coffee doesn’t always mean expensive.  But there are expensive options too.  Ping me if you need coffee advice.

Sandra Bland was in jail for 3 days.  She was arrested for an illegal lane change.  Later, she hung herself in her cell (allegedly).  She was college educated.  She was back in her college town for a job interview. And she was black.  I have about 400 questions.  If you don’t, stop reading this now.  You probably shouldn’t ever come back to this page. I’m sure incidents like this have happened far more often than “white” America realized in the past.  It is glaringly obvious now.  Our blinders are off.  They need to stay off.  I’m not going to pontificate on this today.  But I am outraged.  You should be too.  How can you not be?

I’m pondering a long piece on the death of middle management.  Clearly, I’m not in the top 2% and I see so many fixable issues that are allowed to fester.  That’s what 30+ years of working in corporate America will do for you.  Of course I worry about being to self-centered and whiny.  And that you won’t care.

And for those of you that don’t know, R+L=J.  It is known.  It always has been.   Three words: Tower of Joy.

I’ve read a few things lately that you should might enjoy.  I loved the latest James SA Corey Expanse entry Nemesis Games.  It is getting mixed reviews from my friends, but I’m firmly on board and can’t wait for the show on Syfy.  It looks fantastic.

Tex Thompson’s second book Medicine for the Dead builds on her debut, One Night in Sixes and shows vividly what a fantastic writer she is.  Seriously, in 10 years you’ll wonder how you missed this.  She’s going to be huge.   Trust me.

Did you like Flowers in the AtticJR Johansson’s Cut Me Free builds off a similar premise.  It is defiantly YA, but sometimes I act as if I’m 14, so it makes sense.  I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading more of her stuff.  Especially those that are painted in horror tones.

I’ve never given Leigh Bardugo column space here.  Her Grisha Trilogy is fantastic.  Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising are all great reads.  Her next novel, Six of Crows, is set in the same universe with new characters.  It is scheduled to come out later this year and I’m excited for it.

In the kitchen this year I’ve mastered hummus.  Who’d have thought?  But homemade is so much better than store bought, especially when you can spice it to your tastes.  More lemon? Yes.  More harissa? Yes.  More fresh onion, garlic and herbs? Yes.  Hummus it’s not just for hippies anymore.  No need to wear the tie dye today.  Tomorrow you can.

I’ve also kicked up the frequency on my bacon jam. Bourbon Maple Bacon Jam.  It goes well on crackers, bread, grilled cheese sandwiches AND on your burger.  I made a huge batch and my guests inhaled it.  Guess I’ll need to make more soon.

The view from my building

And I love working in SF.

Another Black Mark on my Permanent Record

I’m in a strange headspace these days.  There is so much going on around me, and so little going on with me.  I can usually tell things are off when I sleep through the alarm, which I’ve been doing lately.

Today, as my normal, I walked into Peet’s for my morning cup of coffee and saw to my, again totally normal, dismay the coffee of the day was the House Blend.  For those of you unfamiliar with Peet’s House Blend, let me describe it as Maxwell House meets Starbucks in dark parking lot exchanging insults.  Clearly, it is something I won’t drink.  So, as become my new norm, I ordered a press pot of one of the roasts I do like.  Today it was the Tanzania.

Sadly, however, the small press pot is 12 oz.  And by 12 oz, I mean it is about 6-8 when poured.  It is sad in its little cup, made sadder by the last oz being filled with grit.  We know the press pot, like an old cabernet, has lots of sediments we shouldn’t drink.  The first 80% was delicious, I just wanted more.

I often want more.  These days my work day is filled with small secretarial chores.  “Lee, will you order this?” “Lee, can you type this request up?”  “Lee, I created a ticket on the thing 5 minute thing I didn’t want to do, that you did last week.  Will you add notes?”  Those were the highlights of my last week.

There is plenty going on around me, but clearly I’m not being asked to participate.  Yeah, I probably did myself no favors by calling out the village idiot after a few months of him talking to me like I was a dog.  “Here boy” “Fetch!” “What a good job!”  There is more to life than peeing on the pad each time and waiting for the treat.  I might have changed the wording a tad, but the inflection and intent are unmistakable.

As an example, the parent company where I work (8k+ staff) did a survey to see how IT services can be improved.  Generally, these go by with nothing said.  This year the CIO stopped in our office (that never happens!) to give one of my coworkers and me recognition on “excellent customer service.”  This included a “Certificate of Recognition.”  I was touched, but as you might know, I really don’t want public accolades.  What I wanted less was the village idiot to comment, “Way to go on the certificate Lee!”  It was said in the same tone you’d tell Rover he was good for going outside.  I think I’d rather work with Cesar Milan.

Of course let’s compound this with 2 key facts – everyone likes to avoid confrontation and the understanding of how to manage people, projects and deadlines is largely absent.  Often, getting down in the weeds and micromanaging the details, often with incorrect information, is the substitute for superior results and achievement.  It is frustrating having insight and ideas that are not wanted.  I don’t work on areas I have unique and deep understanding of because, “I get in the way.”  I got in the way because I understood the needs of the customers and build solid relationships with them and that was perceived as being “on the other team.”  Let’s ignore that mistakes are being made daily and that misinformation and fiction are being sold as truth.

So I sit here, with my sediment laden coffee, trying to look busy and realizing how much is going on around me that I’m not doing, because I need to be “asked” to participate.    I don’t want to butt-in; I don’t want to upset the apple cart.  I let some things flounder because it is not my place to speak up.

I remember years ago in my first job the CEO describing why I felt things were going wrong.  “People need to stay in their box.”  I laughed to myself and waited till he retired.  In general business needs innovation to drive growth.  Meanwhile I am sitting in my box till 5pm when undoubtedly I’ll be asked to write an email or purchase and item and have another 10 minutes of work to do.

And then it occurs to me, as it does most days, maybe it is me.  Maybe I just wasn’t made for these times.

 

As the Garbage Can Turns, a Drama in Several Scenes

Opening Scene:  

A middle-aged man in frayed purple robe stumbles toward his much-needed coffee.  He is tired from a long night, needing caffeine to push his energy level towards acceptable.  He has a horrid case of bed hair and  a  hard time looking above the floor.

Its near 6am and the sunlight is just starting to invade the dark house.  A noise catches his attention as he emerges from the long hall.  He detours from the coffee to see which truck is stopping to pick up from the cans he put out 6 hours before.  But he sees no truck.  Confused, he reroutes to the coffee.  Something is wrong, but he’s not sure what.

As he pours his coffee, a message from the sponsor, Peet’s Coffee, is displayed subtly.  He looks over his coffee.  It is dark, black and rich.  The camera studies it, making sure the audience knows it is from Peet’s.  It is not Folgers.  Taking the first sip, a smile can almost be seen taking shape on his face.  Almost.  On the second sip, there is a spark of intelligence in his eyes.  He walks back to the front window to look out at the street.  An white obelisk can be seen taking shape where the coffee pot had been.

Looking through the sheers that pretend to obscure the view of passer bys, the obvious hits his waking brain cells. “My Garbage Cans are not there.  THEY ARE GONE!”

End  Scene 1

Scene 2:

Our hero stands on his doorstep, in wonder.  A typical SUV, white, approaches.  The soccer mom driving it shields her kids from the fright on the stoop.  It appears that she is pushing down the gas pedal to avoid some unseen demon chasing her down the street. He takes another sip of his coffee.  To his right he sees his neighbors cans.  The neighbor always puts them on his property, not that it is a big deal.  Maybe they are his.  The sun is just starting to warm the day.  He walks across the dry grass to the cans he sees.  They aren’t cans; they are really large containers that he calls cans. When he was a child they were cans and difficult to take to the street.  These have wheels.  If they had been wheeled in the 70’s he would have never complained about taking the cans out and in.  Or in and out, but that topic is for another day he thinks.

He walks over to the neighbor’s containers.  He looks at them while he sips his coffee.  Coffee is like a cigarette in many ways.  A hard habit to break.  Something to keep his hand busy.  Back to the purpose at hand.   The address scrawled on the front is similar to his, but not his.  These are not the cans he is looking for.  Looking down the street he sees lots of cans, but there does not seem to be any duplicates in front of the houses he sees.  There is no sidewalk, so he wanders back across the lawn to the doorstep and walks back in.  Looking perplexed, he closes the door.

End Scene 2

Scene 3:

He stands  in the foyer.  Looking in the mirror he realizes he looks like shit.  Setting down his coffee, he tightens his robe, thankful he’s not on a Megan’s Law website.  Picking up his coffee he calls down the hall.

“The Garbage Cans are gone.”

“What?”

“Gone. Stolen. Adios.”

“Did you take them out last night?”

“You saw me  do it.”

“oh.”  Pause   “Are they in the driveway?”

“No. And not within 50 yards of the house.  Nothing in front of the church either.”

“You should call the police on the non-911 number.”

He shrugs.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  Time for more coffee he thinks and wanders back to the coffee pot.

End Scene 3

Scene 4:

He sits in front of a computer.  The city police department website is up.  The camera shows how ridiculous it is.  It has lists of reasons why and why not to call 911.  But there is not a “non-emergency” number to call.  Except for community service.  “Do garbage cans that wander away fall under community service,” he wonders.

A screen appears above his head to the right, like thought balloon in a comic strip or book.  Little Nemo and King Morpheus appear for 2 seconds and blink out.

Music plays, with a very short violent cut in:

I can walk down the street, there’s no one there
Though the pavements are one huge crowd. 
I can drive down the road; my eyes don’t see, 
Though my mind wants to cry out loud, 
Though my mind wants to cry out loud. 
Dance floor is like the sea, 
Ceiling is the sky. 
You’re the sun and as you shine on me,
I feel free, I feel free, I feel free.

On the screen a large burly brown refuse container dances down the street with a lithe blue recycling container .  They match the beat and the brown container twirls the blue one then stops and does a Michael Jackson Lean/point in time with the first “cries out loud.”   He continues.

The blue container stops locking and popping in time to opens to the sky and her spread her arms to the suns warmth with the last few lines.

The cans wander down the road, bopping to the rhythm, getting smaller and fading into the distance.

From off stage to the left comes a voice.  “This is ridiculous.  Cartoon garbage cans dancing throws off the noir vibe that is going on. Stupid.”

From the right comes another, more nervous voice. “It’s what the kids want these days. It’s his Wilfred moment. It’s Burroughs. Wait till we bring in the Steely Dan and the bugs in the scene 6.”

“He can dream about being Burroughs all he wants.  This is more Pat the Bunny than Naked Lunch.  Maybe we should shoot for Goodnight Moon.”

There is laughter from both directions

“We both know Noir was a pipedream anyway.”

“Yeah.”

Our hero  looks up quizzically as the makeshift thought balloon fades away and the voices go back to their hidey holes.

He looks at the website, realizing he’s reporting a theft.  Amazingly enough he found the right page.  Under items stolen, garbage cans are on option.  There are so many fields to fill in.  Clearly some bureaucrat realized that all this information was needed, but no one thought through the user experience.  Each can needed to be described and valued.  $5k seemed like a realistic number.  And the timeline of the event?  separately for each can?  He had no idea exactly when this horrid event happened.  No wonder there was no number to call. No one in the PD wanted to write down or input this information.

He sips his coffee and ponders a new fact.  Not only does this on-line report require his driver’s license, it requires it twice. On separate screens.  Really? it couldn’t auto populate since it already was input?  No wonder people have such low opinion of many government workers.  If industry turned out crap like this, they’d be ridiculed openly.  Wait.  Never mind.

Yelling down the hall semi sarcastically, “Police Report filed.”

“Thank you.”

Fade to blue, like the recycle bin.

End Scene 3

Scene 4

Black fades to gray.  A shape is in the left side of the screen.  It slowly resolves to our hero, though not completely.  If HD is 1080 this is 272 pixels.

Ethereally:   “You are the third caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

Fade in.  The shape has moved left.

“You are the <pause> second <pause> caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

Fade in.  The shape appears to be sitting. He might be drinking coffee.

“You are the <pause> first <pause> caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

A very long pause.

Fade in.  The shape appears to be a huge blog.

“Hi! This Cathy how may I help you?”

Fade to black

Slow fade in.  Our hero is putting the telephone back in its dock.

“Well that was easy.  They are delivering new cans tomorrow.”

“Wow.”

Fade to black.

End Scene 4

Scene 5

A silver car approaches our hero’s house.  It pulls into the driveway.  It stops.  The audience can hear the emergency brake being set.  The door opens and our hero emerges.  He’s dressed in casual, but very stylish business attire. It is clear it has been a long day by the wrinkles in his shirt.

He looks out and the camera pans right.    There centered in front of the house in the street is the blue recycling bin.

He stands there astonished.  Only one?  He would have understood two or none. But one?  Why?

In his mind’s eye, or in this case the ridiculous thought balloon screen,  he sees a giant green dumpster.  The dumpster taps on a large box.  His brown refuse bin emerges from the box wrapped in chains, his lid covered in black plastic.  The opening beneath the lid appears to have been shot through with nails.  As it steps out…

From the left, offstage: “And no fucking Tarantino either!”

Roll Credits:

Special thanks to:

Concord California Police Department
Concord Disposal
Nameless Neighbors
Cream
Film Students Everywhere

(Song Credit: I Feel Free by Cream. Written by BRUCE, JACK/BROWN, PETER CONSTANTINE/LANGMAID, BEN/WOOLFSON, NICK)

An Awkward Conversation

“I don’t know why I’ve always been so misunderstood.”

Looking up from my steaming coffee, I watched my new table mate sit down.  No invitation was offered or accepted; he just decided to bend my ear.  I was perplexed at his opening salvo.  All I could manage was, ”Oh?”

He nodded subtly.  “I’m really an optimist, trying to see the best in people and helping them when I can.  But people say the worst things about me.”  He shook his head slightly, sighing as he looked down at the table.  “ I’ve never forced anyone to really do anything,” he said quietly.

Sipping my coffee, I took a more studied look at him.  His hair was dark and brushed back.  If this was 1958, he probably would have worn a DA, but now in 2013 he wore it shorter and slightly spiky.   But there was definitely a nod to that duck’s ass.  It wasn’t so long as to be a mullet, but it was just short of becoming one. There was a slight, well groomed point to his sideburns as if to punctuate some as of yet unvoiced hypothesis.

“You’d think all I ever did was take advantage of people and make their lives miserable.    Honestly, I just listen and try to help.”  He sipped his drink.  It smelled like a chai latte.  He  wiped his mouth and the sun sparkled off his sharkskin jacket.  It was more of burnt sienna than true red.  It was an odd choice for a winter afternoon.

“Do you like my Jacket?  It’s my favorite color, though for some reason people think of me as more of a bright red kind of guy.  I wish I liked blue more; I like black, but this isn’t Manhattan.”  I realized he had a black silk shirt under the jacket, diamond studded cuff links were just visible at his cuff.  There wasn’t anything subtle about his appearance.

“Honestly,” he continued, “I just want to help people realize their dreams.  I don’t judge their dreams or try to change them.”  His mouth twitched to a mournful smile.  “Is it my fault that people rarely think through what they want, what they believe they need?”  He shook his head.  “I don’t think so either.”

“You would have thought the old story The Monkey’s Paw was about me.  I have no idea where W.W. Jacobs got that idea.  And I never met Daniel Webster.”  I noticed as a turned his head, scars at his hairline on both sides of his head.  Not symmetrical, but close.  The device that made those scars was not as sharp as it could have been.

I took another sip of my coffee.  I looked at my cup; it was black with candy apple red letters, sparkling like gold leaf.  Diablo Coffee it said.  I had always assumed it was named for the mountain behind me.  I wondered.  To this point my contribution to the conversation had been a single syllable.  I wasn’t sure I had much to offer and was considering just letting him finish his monologue. Maybe he’d move on.

“ I’ve never tricked anyone into doing anything they didn’t want to do.  Robert Johnson? I didn’t do anything, other than give him a pep talk.  Why do people always lump me in with the deep blue sea?  We aren’t conjoined twins.  Do you think Mick Jagger really did me any favors suggesting that I needed sympathy? Not at all.”  For an instant I was sure his eyes shone red.  And then it was gone.

“Why are you telling me this,” I asked cautiously.

He pointed over to the corner where one of my coworkers sat.  “He says that you are a source of great career advice.  I think I’m ready for some.”  I was stunned.

Talk about pressure.

Coffee Talk (sans Linda Richman)

My beloved French Press is in semi-retirement.  Much like a child that has sent to timeout, it may reemerge to frolic on my counter once again, but not soon.  In a sense, it did its job too well, taking rough grounds of flavor rich exotic beans and turned them into delightful cups of caffeinated joy.  With any French Press, the drawback is the mouth feel.  Some grinds and sentiment inevitably join the party in the cup, often creating some gritty sips.  The fault may be as much mine as the method, but it is so much more fun to blame the equipment.

Over the last 6 months or so, the thermal French Press became my week end go to.  When we moved 2 years ago, our lovely new kitchen was outfitted with new appliances.  The previous coffee pot had long lost its ability to be removed during the drip process and other issues became apparent.  The new coffee pot grinds the beans right before it brews the coffee.  It makes it as fresh as possible and goes off when I tell it to.  There are two problems.  First, it is really loud; even at the other end of the house it can wake me up most days.

More important, however, is the fact that it makes weakish coffee.  The size of the grind is not adjustable and adding more coffee can create a mess.  So I try to put in the maximum amount of coffee and cut back on the water.  Well, I’ve taught the monkey to do so. The results are acceptable, but far from fantastic.

A new wrinkle in my coffee lifestyle is the rise of medium roast coffees.  Peet’s – which by now you know is my favorite coffee – roasts their beans dark.  Those beans create a rich, slightly acidic cup.  These beans make a passable cup.  But if the roast is any lighter, we may as well be drinking water or Pepsi.  I have found over the last few year several wonderful coffee roasters that make magic with their beans.  The problem is they are all medium roasts.  They aren’t great out of the traditional drip coffee pot.  If you are so inclined, check out Equator Coffees (good enough for The French Laundry) and Intelligensia out of Chicago.  These are fantastic, but their roasts require a different brewing method for maximum flavor.

But of course, I have my trusty thermal French Press, bought years ago from Starbucks.  It is metal, retains heat and travels well.  I have learned to ignore the branding.  Boiling hot water, fresh ground beans (of any roast), a stir and time create a great cup of coffee in the French Press.  It has become my go to on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  It is large enough to fill Lambchop’s Tinkerbell mug (which she INSISTS on for the weekend) and for me to get 2 smaller cups.  That has been the routine the last several months.  It has been decadently wonderful.

Recently I discovered Modern Coffee in Oakland.  They describe themselves as a coffee “taproom,” serving beans from different roasters.  Four Barrel and Verve are 2 of my favorites.  What I discovered there changed my life.  They use a tool called the Clever Dripper.  It meshes the steeping process of the French Press, with the filtration of a drip.  Yes, it does need a filter, but it produces phenomenal results.  The flavor is deep and complex like a French Press, but clean and sharp like a drip.  There is no grit in the sip; no mud in the bottom of the cup.

The only downside is that it makes one 12-16 ounce cup at a time.   I grind the beans to be finer than the French Press, but not as fine as a drip.  I asked at Modern, they use a 5.5 grind.  I believe a standard drip is a 5 and French Press is a 10.  I  had them grind my coffee at 8 on some Peet’s Ethiopian Supernatural (which is phenomenal coffee by the way) and use a heaping scoop to make a great cup of coffee.  I let it steep for about 4 minutes, stirring twice and covered to keep hot.  Then I let it drip freely into a hot mug.  That’s about 5 minutes per cup, ignoring the time to boil the water.  Luckily, on the weekends, there is no rush, even for the first cup of the day.

Next time you want me to use my French Press you might need to remind me it is in the upper cabinet, gathering dust.  My Clever Dripper has moved front and center and my taste buds are very happy.

 

Disclaimer:

I’ve seen a few posts on the internet talking about how the Clever Dripper is prone to cracking under extreme heat or the dishwasher.  Mine won’t go in the dishwasher.  It hasn’t cracked.  3 weeks in and I’m thrilled.