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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

roasted coffee, roasted coffee beans, coffee, beans, espresso

I make these. I make ALL of these.

I know. I’m terrible. I had a successful giveaway on the blog and then quit writing. I. Am. Awful. But really, guys, I can explain!

It’s been extra busy around my house. Halo 4 was recently released and it takes HUGE amounts of time to convince my friends to let me come over and play it. Mr ‘Hoda finally relented, so one night we went out and got steak and played Halo. It was totally killer.

In my other spare time, I sat in my garage, often times with some liquid encouragement. Alone. Inhaling smoke. But it wasn’t just any old smoke. It was caffeinated smoke. Cooking smoke.

It was ROASTING smoke.

I got it in my head that I could roast coffee and make a living. Back in April, a very kind client of mine taught me how to make yogurt and how to roast coffee. I got my hands on an old Home Innovations fluid bed roaster that works pretty much just like a popcorn popper. Roasting coffee in that was satisfying, making coffee with bright flavor and nice happy smells, but at 3 ounces per 15 minute roast, a pound of coffee took over an hour. Something had to give.

I made a half-joking (but hopelessly serious) plea on Facebook, asking for money to buy a new roaster. I was going to need $820 just for a new, higher-capacity roaster, plus several hundred more for a bulk bag of green coffee beans. Business fees, license fees, bag fees, supply fees… I would need a few thousand dollars to make this work.

Enter two angels: Mr Book and Mr White. Mr White sent me enough to cover my LLC registration fees. Someone had walked into his life previously and done the same, so I hope I can pass this on some day soon. Mr Book asked what I needed and ultimately funded all the hardware I would need. Holy crap, this was going to HAPPEN.

I got the idea to run this as a way to support my Boy Scouts and other youth leadership initiatives in the Twin Cities. The YMCA has WONDERFUL leadership camps that kids in the inner city can’t afford, but with a scholarship from me they can. My low-income scouting district can get some much needed funds from this as well. Once I thought of this, Good Turn Coffee was born.

At this point, I started to get a little spooked. I tried to talk myself out of doing this. Here are some reasons I felt that I shouldn’t be a professional coffee roaster:

I’m not skinny.

I don’t have tattoos.

I don’t know how to make a website.

I listen to music that most people have probably heard of.

My coffee maker is a Mr Coffee.

I never worked as a barista.

Once I killed a guy with my boot.

I don’t wear glasses.

I don’t live or work in a cool neighborhood.

I don’t have an iPad.

I have a heart condition which probably means I should take it easy on the caffeine.

I’m up against some serious pressure here. I might screw everything up, bankrupt myself, and destroy my life and my marriage.

On the other hand, here are some reasons why I SHOULD roast coffee:

I’m using some of the profits to support inner-city kids want to learn how to be leaders.

I know how to roast coffee in a cast iron skillet over a fire.

I can make espresso using 4 different types of electronic and non-electronic processes.

I can make an iced non-fat sugar-free triple caramel macchiato that will reduce a Starbucks barista to tears.

I can kill a guy with my boot.

I can roast coffee blindfolded and know exactly how the roast came out.

I can taste the difference between Folgers, Maxwell House, and my coffee.

I can make Swedish egg coffee better than your grandparents AND your church basement ladies.

As you can see, I have some SERIOUS qualifications. I also have drive, a love for underprivileged, awkward kids who want to make something of themselves, and a desire to have a job where I can make a difference. Looks like I’m getting a chance to make it all happen and make it BIG.

To buy my coffee, you can paypal me your order! Send it to paypal@goodturncoffee.com. It’s $16 for a full pound of delicious coffee, or $10 for a half pound. Shipping is $6 more dollars. Website is coming soon!