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Freshly roasted beans cooling in my roaster

Freshly roasted beans cooling in my roaster

What a year. The business I started is chugging along slowly but consistently. I’ve slowly reduced the amount of jobs I’m working from four to two. I set my goals and followed them, but I didn’t get the results I hoped for. I’ll update all of you on this soon.

Two full years ago, a guy out west named Jack read my blog. He was intrigued that I was roasting coffee and whipping up sass way up here in the frozen north, so he reached out and told me he liked my moxie and what I was doing. He also told me he liked food. He and I were a match made in Heaven. He asked if I would somehow get a video of myself roasting coffee, and of course I said yes! Then I realized that I’m an idiot with video. Sure, I’ve made a sex tape or two in my day, but a polished, fully clothed, edited video? I had no idea what to do.

Enter Mr Joe. A man I knew from middle school and high school knew what to do. He owns a successful media company that could do exactly what I needed. I hated that I couldn’t afford to pay him what he was worth, but he graciously accepted an offensively small amount of money to shoot this video. He shot it, he polished it up, and he sent it off. Done.

Now this didn’t happen without a hitch here and there. When Jack contacted me, it was January. Due to the amount of smoke generated when coffee is roasted, we would need a LOT of light to get a good video. Bright studio lights would make a nice haze in all that smoke. To vent the smoke, we would have needed to open the garage door. When it’s 20° below zero outside, that’s just not an option.

Spring came late that year. We had record snowfall in Minnesota as late as May 1st, and it was cold ALL. OF. THE. TIME. It wasn’t until mid-may until we could shoot, but thanks to Joe’s kindness and patience, we pulled it off. And God in Heaven was it terrifying.

I can feed off of an audience. I LIKE speaking in front of groups. But a camera? A camera doesn’t react. A camera doesn’t give you a helpful YOU SUCK when you don’t nail a punchline. The camera just stares. Thank God Joe was kind enough to feed me a courtesy chuckle or two as I talked.

I’ve posted the video below. I really hope you like it. I have since cut my hair and shaved my beard, grown both out again, and cut each again. Many people are mystified by the process of roasting coffee, and I hope that this is a nice, introduction. I hope you learn something, and I hope you keep reading.

 

 

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

My well loved, well traveled moka pot.

Anybody can make coffee with a coffeepot. It’s the reason Folgers is still around. Put in your filter, scoop, and press a button. It seems strange, but this is the absolute limit of how much some people can handle.

The moka pot is for those people. Maybe following a lot of directions just isn’t your thing, but you really like espresso. Alternately, maybe you’re cheap or you want espresso in a campsite. Well, then a moka pot is for you. They sell for $15-$20 at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, and $2-$3 at your local thrift store.

Technically, a moka pot does NOT make espresso. Espresso is extracted with 9 bars of pressure, and a moka pot tops out around 1.5 bars. What it DOES make is shots of intense, strong coffee that’s perfect for a campsite or a rainy afternoon.

I bought this moka pot when I graduated from high school. I bought it with my graduation money and it was the first time I branched out from a drip brewer, and I never went back.

To make coffee with a moka pot, you’ll need the following:

A moka pot

Fine ground coffee

Cold water

A stove

 

1. Grind your coffee

You need fine ground, dark roasted coffee for this. Why? A couple reasons. The fine grind provides the right amount of surface area for maximum contact with the water, and is packable to aid in building enough pressure to properly extract. If your coffee is too coarse, it won’t pack and you won’t get enough pressure to get anything decent.

You need dark roast (preferably French or Vienna) because at those roasts, acid is as diminished as it can get. Since we’re using boiling water and steam to make this coffee, we need low acid coffee to keep it from tasting like vinegar.

 

2. Fill your reservoir

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

ALWAYS use cold water

Believe it or not, your water quality really impacts your end result. ALWAYS use cold water in your coffee maker no matter WHAT you’re making. See that white stuff? That’s scale buildup from using well water and hot water.

Fill your reservoir to just below the little brass safety valve. Don’t fill over it because then boiling water will squirt out if the pressure gets too high, and then you’re gonna have a bad time.

3. Fill your basket

 

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

Your basket should look like this

Now, fill your basket as full as it can get. Mine holds about 5 tablespoons of ground coffee.

4. Tamp tamp tamp

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

Tamp like this.

There is some debate over whether or not you should tamp your coffee in a moka pot basket. I do. I get a more uniform taste from it. You can tamp with anything round and flat. I use the end of my coffee scoop. You can just set it in the base and tamp away.

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

Your coffee should look like this once it’s tamped.

5. Assemble and brew.

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

Toward the end, the coffee tends to spurt out rather violently. Either cover the spout with a spoon or close the lid.

Now comes the fun part. Screw the top onto the reservoir and set on the stove. Set your burner to high and wait. You can either shut the lid and wait, but I like to keep it open. I put a spoon over the inside spout to keep it from spattering, and then I know when it’s done boiling and I don’t warp the reservoir.

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

I like watching it come out.

6. Pour

double shot doubleshot double-shot moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe

A double shot of moka coffee

Enjoy straight, iced, or with a touch of cream. You can also be extra manly and add a double shot to a mug of French press to make a killer depth charge.

 

Last fall, I made a poor attempt at making Swedish Egg Coffee. I had no idea what I was doing, and I ended up making something that looked like dead birds in an oil spill. I did a lot of research and figured out the error of my ways. In short,

I. Was. Wrong.

There. That’s the last time you’ll ever hear me say that.

Anyway, here is the RIGHT way to make Swedish Egg Coffee, and you’ll thank me for it. Trust me.

Swedish egg coffee is one of my favorite brewing methods. It makes an extra-mellow, non-bitter cup of coffee and can be scaled up to brew huge amounts of coffee for huge amounts of people. It’s a fantastic way to tantalize kids and adults at Scout camp, which I did last fall, and it’s a great way to make coffee for people who don’t like bitter coffee. It’s a strong flavor for those who like strong coffee, but not so strong that you need milk to tone it down.

According to legend, Swedish Egg Coffee was an immigrant recipe developed “on the boat” from Sweden to America back in the late 1800’s. Coffee filters didn’t exist like they do today, so your option for coffee was percolator coffee, which is bitter and acidic and generally pretty awful. Definitely not appropriate fare for us culinarily timid Scandinavians. Enter egg coffee.

It’s wicked easy. In fact, it’s probably the easiest coffee I’ve ever made. You can make it on a stove, you can make it on a fire. You can make it in a teapot or in a cup or in a coffee can. I’ve used a percolator pot, but today I used The Patient Wife’s nice nonstick Rachael Ray Saucepan.

To make egg coffee, you’ll need the following:

1 tablespoon Coarse Ground Coffee for each cup of coffee you’d like to make

1 cup of water for each cup of coffee you’d like to make

1 cup of icy cold water

1 egg

1 cup

1 wooden stir thingy

1 strainer

Paper towel for when you spill

A friggin coffee mug

 

1. Boil your water

You won’t get anything if you don’t boil your water. Put the pot on the stove and boil the water.

 

2. Assemble your ingredients

swedish egg coffee egg coffee egg eggs cage free the iron buzz free range organic

While your water is boiling, assemble your ingredients. Our eggs come from Sunshine Harvest Farm in Webster, Minnesota. They didn’t pay me to say that, they just kick butt and they have organic, free-range eggs. Buy your eggs from them.

 

3. Break your egg

DSC_0718Break your egg into your cup. Crumble up the shell and put that in there too. Trust me. There’s a lot of controversy over whether or not you should put your shells in, but us Norwegians make it with the shell and all. Those lousy Swedes may waste, but my people are FAR too practical for such nonsense. Also, the calcium carbonate in the shell neutralizes the acid extracted from the coffee.

3. Mix your coffee and egg and 2 tbs of cold water

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Mix all the coffee and the egg together. You’ll know when it’s mixed. It’ll be like sandy mud.

4. Dump it all into the pot

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Dump it in and stir. You have to be vigilant here. Your water should be at a rolling boil, but if you dump your mix in there and aren’t careful it’ll boil over in a heartbeat.

Let it boil/simmer for a solid 5 minutes.

5. Add the cold water

DSC_0721

After the five minutes are up, remove the pot from heat and add your cold water. This part is crucial because the cold water makes the clumps of coffee sink to the bottom. If your water isn’t cold enough, it flat out won’t work and your clumps won’t sink.

 

6. Serve

DSC_0722
To make sure you did it right, use a ladle and a strainer. My water wasn’t cold enough, so I had some clumps. The longer my coffee cooled, the more the clumps sank.

Also, be careful, because while spilled coffee is mildly irritating to clean up, spilled egg chunks hitting your red hot burner SUCK to clean up. Mop up your spills or my wife is going to kill me.

7. Drink

DSC_0724

One of the reasons that egg coffee tastes so good is that since we don’t use a paper filter, all of the essential oils in the coffee beans make it into the drink. You can even see them in the picture.

More oils = better coffee.

Not only does the egg solidify around most of the grounds, but as I said before, the shell contains calcium carbonate which neutralizes the acid in the coffee. Additionally, several enzymes in the egg neutralize most of the bitterness so you get a REALLY mellow cup of coffee. Most people who drink cream in their coffee don’t need to with egg coffee.

It’s an old immigrant trick and a lot of the Minnesota Lutheran churches still make it. As far as smooth, mellow coffee goes, it’s about as good as it gets.

If you make some, let me know how it turns out!

One of my favorite gadgets to use for making coffee, both in my kitchen and in the woods, is the Aeropress. It’s stupid easy, and I can use either coarse ground or fine ground coffee. It takes about 3 minutes to make a full cup of rather strong coffee, and the device itself is nearly indestructible. Want to see why’s it’s so awesome? Read on.

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground

The Aeropress, disassembled on my kitchen counter.

The Aeropress contains 3 pieces and assembles like a syringe. Weighing less than a quarter of a pound, it’s really quite light and unobtrusive in my kitchen.

1. Assemble your Aeropress

aeropress espresso coffe ground coffee coffee coarse ground fine ground coarse grind fine grind

The Aeropress, assembled.

Seriously, I’m sorry to have to explain this, but the assembly follows basic anatomy. You figure that symbolism out. Put it together and put it UPSIDE DOWN on your table.

2. It puts the coffee into the Aeropress.

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground

Scooping your coffee into your Aeropress

Sorry about the flash on my camera, I was using my point-and-shoot and the flash gets a little out of control sometimes. Anyway. I use two heaping tablespoons full of coarse ground coffee, which yields around 4 ounces of coffee. If you’re using fine (espresso) ground coffee, use a single tablespoon and half the water. Any more and your filter will clog.

3. Pour your water into the Aeropress

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground

Your coffee, wet. Not done yet though!

As I’ve said before, your water should be between 195-205 degrees. I use my coffee brewer to heat up the water, but you can just as easily use your microwave. Once your water is hot enough, pour your water into something that has a spout and fill your Aeropress to the top, ensuring you cover ALL the grounds with water. Let this sit between 10 seconds and 5 minutes. The longer you let it sit, the stronger your coffee will be.

5. Stir

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground crema bloom coffee-bloom fine-ground

Your coffee will bloom and look just like this.

Once you’ve waited between ten seconds and two minutes, stir your coffee. I use a knife, but you can use a stick or whatever. Spoons generally don’t work, as they make the press overflow and that sucks.

6. Cap

 

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground

The cap.

That little piece you saw on the right on the first picture up there? That was the cap, with a paper Aeropress filter in it. The paper filters included with your press are advertised as washable and reusable, but if you’re against paper filters (as a proper coffee snob should be) then you can pick up a proper reusable filter here through a cool little kickstarter campaign. They include about 100 filters with the press, so I’m using them until they’re gone.

7. Invert.

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground

Your Aeropress, inverted

All you have to do now is flip your press over onto a coffee mug. Mine is from the J&S Bean Factory in St Paul, one of my favorite little coffee houses. To avoid a mess, invert your empty mug, place it on top of the filter, and THEN flip the whole thing over.

8. Push Down.

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground

Pushing down.

Now all you have to do is push down. The hot water is forced through the coffee and the filter and into your cup. Repeat for more coffee.

aeropress coffee espresso home brew roasting coars ground fine ground fine-ground depth charge depthcharge

And there we have it. A foamy, delicious cup of coffee.

 

* Disclaimer * I was not paid or compensated to post this. I just love my Aeropress and I hate bad coffee.

french press coffee camping outdoors

I don’t sleep well when I’m camping. I never have, and I probably never will. When I go to camp, I don’t go so I can spend the whole time in bed. Oh no sir. When I camp, I like to be all full of piss and vinegar, and coffee sure makes an awful lot of piss.

To be honest, I had resigned myself to drinking terrible coffee at camp. Instant or percolated, it was always just terrible. Bitter, gritty, and acidic. I just accepted it and drank it anyway. Then, the day I married The Patient Wife, someone gave us a French press. After a scan of the instructions, I made my first cup of French press coffee at camp.

I took a sip.

Holy crap. It was GOOD.

The problem I was running into at camp was that I was relying on boiling water to make my coffee. There’s never electricity in a campsite, and even if there were, I wouldn’t drag my espresso machine into the woods. Boiling water has a nasty tendency to over-extract the coffee, which explains why I was so used to it tasting like bitter vinegar. Milk would help cut the acidity, but in the summer, storing milk just isn’t an option.

Enter the French Press.

1. Grind your beans to a coarse grind. This is crucial, because if your grind is too fine, you’ll get more and more grit at the bottom of your cup, and you’ll get it floating in your coffee. It’s nice and manly to spit out a wad of coffee grounds, but let’s be honest. Grit blows. I follow the rule of 2 tablespoons of beans per 8 oz of water.

french press coffee camping outdoors ground scouts scouting

See those chunks of coffee beans? That means I need a new grinder. I’ll be getting a burr grinder.

2. Heat your water. Either boil it and let it cool for a couple minutes or use a thermometer to get it between 195-205 degrees. If it’s at a rolling boil your coffee is going to be bitter and suck mad hard. Give yourself a couple minutes and let it cool. While it’s cooling, cover the bottom of the French Press with your coarse ground coffee. My French press will hold 5.5 cups of water, so we’ll do 11 tablespoons of coffee in the bottom.

french press coffee camping outdoors ground scouts scouting water boiling tent MSR stove camp stove pota

It puts the water on the stove or else it gets the hose again.

3. Pour the ALL of the NON-BOILING water over the coffee.

french press coffee camping outdoors ground scouts scouting water boiling tent MSR stove camp stove pota

If I have to tell you to be careful while you’re pouring hot water then you probably shouldn’t be playing with a stove. Moron.

4. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, for a full five minutes. After the five minutes, stir and really mix up the coffee with a non-metal spoon. Stir some more, maybe another minute. If you use a metal spoon, ninja kittens with tear our your eyes and feed them to goldfish as treats. Also, you’ll scratch and break your French press. If you’ve done the stirring right you should have a layer of foam (referred to as “the bloom”) on top. This is good. This means that we’re on the last step.

french press coffee camping outdoors ground scouts scouting water boiling tent MSR stove camp stove pota

See the foam on top? There’s our bloom.

5. Now comes the fun part. Put the top of the lid onto the jar portion of the lid. Push gently but firmly DOWN. When the screen hits the bottom, just pour and serve.

If you’re an ultra-light backpacker, it’s probably not the best route to take, but for someone who doesn’t mind a few extra ounces in their pack, it’s a GREAT way to make delicious, mellow coffee without the nasty vinegary taste of traditional camp coffee.

We’ve all been there. Someone offers us a cup of coffee and It’s. Just. Wrong. It’s vinegary. It’s gritty. It’s nasty and bitter. It’s (worst of all) way too weak. Bad coffee can reduce a grown man to tears. It can ruin marriages. It can even ruin your shot at salvation. God HATES bad coffee.

Bad coffee is bad news.

“But El Chris!” You’ll cry, “I’m no coffee nut, I just like drinking the stuff! What can I DOOO?” Fear not, dear readers, for El Chris will show you how to grind your coffee RIGHT.

The grind is a VERY important part of brewing good coffee. It makes as much of a difference as the beans you use. Today you’ll learn how to grind for a percolator, French press, drip coffee pot, and espresso maker. You’ll also learn what to look for on pre-packaged coffee. More on that later.

Grinders

This is my grinder. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Without it, I am nothing. NOTHING.

Aside from being a delicious type of sandwich, a grinder is crucial. There are two types of grinders: a burr grinder and a blade grinder. Blade grinders use two blades shaped like a propeller to chop up the beans. Blade grinders are cheaper, simpler, and infinitely more popular, but they lack consistency in the grind. When I grind coarse coffee in my blade grinder, I’ll find some whole beans leftover that weren’t touched by the blades. A Burr grinder is a preferred grinder, but they veer toward the pricier end. I’m currently saving for one. I will be demonstrating with a blade grinder today. I love my grinder because it has markings on it to grind for each of these methods. If you REALLY like mine, you can get one here for about 15 dollars. I’ve had it for about ten years and it’s still going strong.

Percolator and French Press

percolator coffee coarse grind grinder percolation boil stove cooking

This is a percolator, idiot.

french press france coffee percolator espresso kitchen stove cooking

This is a French press, or a Freedom Press if you’re a turd. You aren’t a turd, ARE you?

 

Both of these use coarse ground coffee, but that’s often overlooked, resulting in super bad coffee.

Percolation is the oldest modern method of brewing coffee. It’s still used to make lots of coffee quickly, but it’s often done with drip-grind coffee (which is any coffee that you buy pre-ground, like Starbucks, Folgers, Archer Farms, etc…) which is too fine. Fine coffee = lots of surface area. Boiling water + tons of surface area = super bitter, awful coffee.

The same issue happens with a French press. A French press, like a percolator, doesn’t use a paper filter. If your coffee is too fine, it will slip through the mesh filter and give you gritty sludge at the bottom of your cup. A mouthful of that will destroy everything you love and probably your morning.

Properly ground coarse coffee should feel like kosher salt.

summit beer summit epa summit extra pale ale coarse ground coras corase grind coffee good turn coffee

Coarse ground coffee, perfect for a French press or a percolator.

 Drip Brewers

My awesome drip brewer. One time it killed a guy.

These are your Mr Coffees, your “Free coffee maker if you sign up for Gevalia!” and likely your office and home coffee maker. If you ever buy a bag or can of coffee in the grocery store, it’s a drip grind. Electric drip brewers revolutionized home brewing because the temperature could be more precisely controlled and suddenly coffee tasted good. Boiling water is so hot that it over-extracts the coffee and makes really acidic, REALLY bitter coffee. Drip brewers don’t do that.

Drip brew coffee should be ground finer than percolator or French press. It should feel like sand.

Proper drip grind

Espresso makers

espresso machine espresso maker expresso machine expresso maker expresso coffee espresso coffee mr coffee cofe cofee coffe mister coffee mister coffe mister cofee

The espresso machine that makes me so awesome.

Camping espresso maker. Most scoutmasters have one of these hooked to an IV bag.

This one is tricky. Espresso is both a roast and a grind and that throws a LOT of people off. You can put ANY coffee bean, espresso ROAST or otherwise, through your espresso maker.

Especially with espresso, it’s always best to buy the whole beans and grind them yourself. If you buy a bag of espresso at the store and it’s ground, odds are it’s ground for a drip brewer and NOT for an espresso maker. Starbucks and Caribou Coffee are AWFUL at this. This is too coarse for an espresso maker and will result in weak, watery espresso and an excruciatingly painful death. Even if it isn’t labeled as drip grind, you can tell it is if you read the instructions. If it says to use 1 tablespoon of coffee for 6-8 ounces of water, then it’s drip grind. You can actually grind any roast of coffee into espresso, but we’ll get to that another time. Well ground espresso should look like fine sugar. If it’s more like flour or powdered sugar, your espresso maker will clog and you’ll probably get cancer, so watch for that.

fine espresso coffee fine ground fine grind grain belt beer cap coffee espresso coffe cofee expresso espress espreso expreso

Properly ground fine coffee.

This week, I’ll teach you how to make coffee using each of these methods, plus a few other non-traditional methods not covered here. Never again will you make a crappy cup of coffee. Remember folks, God HATES bad coffee.

My machine may not be top of the line, but mercy me does it make a fine shot of espresso.

This morning’s drink of choice:

4 Ounces espresso
5 Ounces Almond milk

That is four ounces of the finest espresso I can make. After a waking up and finding out that I got to go back to sleep, my day got WAY better and I had only been awake for about 6 minutes. Then I got to wake up and have espresso. It was solid, and it was awesome. I sat on the couch, did some last-minute paperwork, sipped some delicious dark go-juice, and started my day. Leave your favorite coffee drink in the comments, I’ll pick one and teach you guys how to make it.

Some Venezuelan beans I roasted last weekend.

As a young child, my mother sought ENDLESS ways to entertain me. I was like a charming, hyperactive, intensely de-focused hummingbird who positively THREW himself into each day, sometimes quite literally. Out of desperation one day, she gave me a pair of Matchbox cars that would change color when placed in hot water. This opened up WORLDS of possibilities. I could now play with my bathtub toys when I wasn’t taking a bath! Days before, I didn’t even know that was LEGAL. Hot water now became synonymous with FUN, and to this day, 24 years later, I smell steamy tap water and shoot back to those little cars, wrinkly fingers, and dry towels.


As I grew, hot water became better and better. I bathed in it. I showered in it. My mom bought a hot tub and I had girls over and I flirted in it. Every time I interacted with hot water, I came away feeling good. But nothing prepared me for what it did to a small brown powder.

As an adult, hot water plays a significant role in my mood and energy level. Hot water makes the stuff I love so much: Coffee. I roast coffee. Roasting coffee is an iron of mine (the metaphor will be explained tomorrow) and the smell is HEAVENLY. If I could blog a smell, I would send you the smell of the first batch of coffee beans that I ever roasted. They smelled rich and complex, completely unlike Folgers and the gas station swill I had sold at a convenience store. If I crushed those beans just right, I would get a coarse powder that would turn into a beautiful, creamy coffee when run through a French press. This. This is where my buzz comes from. Making, roasting, and teaching about coffee. That’s my buzz. Working with kids who look at you and say “Wow, building a fire IS pretty cool!” is my buzz. Making my wife a cup of coffee that tastes EXACTLY like it does from Starbucks is my buzz.
Tomorrow, you guys get iron. Come back after that, and I’ll show you another buzz.