Onsite for a bit

Although I was able to avoid it since January when I started helping out our Professional Services team, the time has come for me to head to the trenches. Next week I'll be traveling to Charlotte, NC for a (hopefully) short, week-long stint at a customer site. Flavor of the week will be mostly meetings with other consultants, and figuring out what the arrangement will be between the customer and their wireless (GPRS) service provider.

Hmm... I this year's USBC was held there, so there probably are some decent espresso places in the area. Better do some intel gathering up front.

This morning I ground the Brazil at "3" for some single-origin espresso action, and it was just too fine for the Gaggia. The double shot ran for about 30-35 seconds, and it was bitter... BUT... I laid down what I think is my best Rosetta latte art evar! To bad I didn't have the camera handy.

I'd Call it a Success

As I kind of expected, there was a "lack of friction" or slippage problem with the larger bowl (which is not a non-tip model) as I stirred. Worked around that by placing a pot holder between the bowl and the surface underneath. I got more friction that way, and the thing can take heat pretty well.

Now that I was experimenting, I decided to try turning the spoon around, and use the "stick" end to stir the beans. I found it MUCH easier to stir more vigorously without worrying about spillage. In fact, between that, and the larger bowl, there was practically NO spillage at all!

Started at 750 deg. for the first 5 minutes to get things warmed up, and then cranked it up to 11... 1150 degrees, that is! I reached a pretty solid 1st crack at 14 min, and then eased back on the distance between the gun and the beans, without changing the temperature. I stopped the roast at 25 minutes exactly, when I heard the first crackle of second crack.

So although the roast was a bit long, I think I'll use 950 for the warm-up next time and see how that works. Other than that, it was a 50% larger than usual batch, I was able to stir with more confidence and even switch (gun/spoon) hands without worrying too much about spillover, and was done just in time to see the England World Cup match, so I'm happy! er... did I say I am happy??? :)

Stepping Up

Got better results today with crema persistence on my Brazil double shot. Volume of the shot didn't go down as much, and the taste is mellowing, which I like. Seem to be clear indications that there is plenty of degassing going on, and that it is doing good. Unfortunately, I only have enough roasted beans for one or two more doubles, and that will not allow me to go too far into the future.

So, today I'll be moving from my 32-oz bowl to a 64oz one I bought and have never used. I'll be jacking up the green bean volume to one and a half cup, hoping to try out the coffee maybe up to 10 days after roasting. We'll see how that goes.

Coffee Production Timetable

Found this gem in the Sweet Marias site, via the Green Coffee Buying Club. It shows the optimal harvest and shipping times for the biggest coffee-producing countries. Seems like July, August, and September are the worst months to be looking. Hmm... wonder if I should do some preventive stocking up. :)

My current stash:
Brazil Carmo de Minas Aprocam (just got 5 lb)
Kenya 622-lot Peaberry
Sumatra Classic Mandheling
Sulawesi Toraja Grade 1
Ethiopia MAO Yirgacheffe
Monkey Blend Espresso

I'm currently trying out the Brazil by itself as espresso, with intent to blend with Sumatra and probably Kenya or the Yirg. Roasted it to just before 2nd crack, and by today (about 84 hours later) got a nice Nutty aroma to the roasted beans. The espresso tasted OK, practically no bitterness, and a little bit of the nuts in the beginning. Crema dissipated rather significantly, though. I pulled a 2-oz volume, in 20 seconds, which shrunk down to about half of that after 25-30 sec. I'll try and grind a step finer tomorrow.

I'm thinking about visiting a coffee plantation here in Puerto Rico. Hacienda Buena Vista are tourist-friendly, but I know Yauco Selecto coffee, and they seem to be more active and embracing the Specialty Coffee movement. We have a lot of stuff going on during the weekends this next month, and there's also the World Cup, so I probably won't get to that in the near future. Maybe I'll just wait and try to go during harvest time.

The Big 6-0.

Headed out to La Parguera this weekend to attend my father in law's 60th birthday celebration. The party was on Saturday night, but it all started Friday with a surprise Mariachi band, which was awesome. We helped setup all the tables and chairs on Saturday (100 ppl were expected), then in the evening, a PR folk and bolero band (I think they were "Los Cantores") was there. Drinking, singing, celebrating, and all sorts of good stuff ensued.

Near the end of the party (~2:00 AM) almost everyone had left, and Jennifer, her brothers, cousins, and I sat down for incredible Taboo action. Sometime during the game, I noticed Jennifer's cousin Juan, and his bracelet, which looked like chromed bicycle chain and weighted around one metric ton. Then, for no apparent reason, I decided to wear it and start doing the rapper act, which then led to Jennifer re-purposing her cousin's necklace onto me. With all the bling-bling, I buttoned down my shirt, and started kickin-it Ali G style. Respect! There are rumors that of a picture of the whole thing in my Jen's mom's (film) camera. Guess she's up for a surprise when she has that thing developed. Ouch.

Big Brother Watching

Looks like Windows Live Local has updated their Satellite images. For the first time, I can see our house upclose! Google Earth or Maps don't seem to have these updates yet.

The picture is more than a year old (the softball field is not there) but still... nice to see our little spot in the world. Cool stuff!

Choice and Happiness

This morning, on my way to work, I listened to an NPR podcast reporting on a study on choice and satisfaction done at Columbia University. It got me thinking about what actually causes satisfaction when making decisions, and the researchers' descriptions of "Maximizers" versus "Satisficers".

To give an example, when we go looking for greeting cards, my wife and I take different approaches: she will go over as many cards as she can (even several times), and pick the one she likes the most. Although she may grab one or a couple of cards while looking, she is not satisfied until practically all options have been considered. Myself, I feel perfectly comfortable if the first card I pick up pretty much says what I want to communicate, or is different and/or funny, etc. I do not feel I've prevented myself from acquiring something better by not exhaustively checking all choices.

Not that I go through everything in life this way, but I believe I have the same attitude towards work; I feel I've been at the right place, at the right time, and had the luck of landing jobs that (albeit the occasional "bad times", long commute, etc.) I've found genuinely stimulating, and professionally rewarding. There is no denying that I could be better off... somehow... somewhere else, but that thought does not haunt me on a daily basis.

So, I am happy, right???

I now worry about how this satisfaction, and being happy with "what you have or have done" intersects with... dunno... easing on life's throttle, or losing the drive to push and excel. Clearly, there is no such thing as perfection in life, but this drive to seek it, and maximize happiness and prosperity, has to be one of the fundamental drivers of what we go through every day. But then, in the end, we always end up unhappy because, although objectively we're relatively much better off, things don't turn out exactly how we planned or expected.

I've heard that expectations many times lead to disappointment, but is there only frustration on the other side of the strongest of passions?

Jeez... and I'm not even drinking any coffee right now.

Brazil

Just received my 5 lb bag of Carmo de Minas Aprocam and will probably be doing post-blend (blending after roasting). I've read and am worried about over-roasting the Brazils. Since they tend to be grown in lower elevations, the bean density is lower than the higher-grown coffees. This, combined with a roast too far into 2nd crack, can lead to ashy/cigarry taste, which I sometimes get in the espresso. So, my tack is to roast this, unblended, just to the first snaps of 2nd crack to see how it does as single-origin, then roast the others (Sumatra, and Kenya or Yerg) to Vienna.

I'll be out of town and unable to roast this weekend (hmm... maybe Sunday afternoon when I get back?). Grrr... who knows, this whole thing may have to wait another week.

Allez Teppanyaki!

Went with Jennifer and some of her family to Cherry Blossom in Condado yesterday, to celebrate Nino's birthday. We hadn't been there in... wow... a couple of years methinks. It was then that we discovered sushi, and it was cool to return to "the good stuff" after experiencing other places. The Eel and Avocado rolls were incredibly soft and tasty. We caught the "early-bird" Teppanyaki special (half-off, woo-hoo!). The place is still pretty expensive, but coming back every now and then is well worth it.

Most of the Christmas cash I received (which wasn't a lot, really) has gone into acquiring most of the necessary equipment to begin HG/DB homeroasting. All I am missing now is the big colander for cooling. Yesterday I bought my first ever bag of green coffee beans, from a roaster who shall remain nameless. The reason is (and I was awestruck to find out) that it is illegal for them to sell green coffee to the general public. PR coffee laws require buyers and roasters to have a special license. I understand that would apply to commercial establishments, but man!!! So to work around that, my extraordinarily nice friend at that roaster sold it to me as (and I had to pay for) roasted coffee. $25 for 2 pounds of green. Yikes! As much as I love the fruit of our land, if I really get into homeroasting, I'll probably start ordering from CoffeBeanCorrral or Sweet Marias. Anywho... my roasting adventure may start as soon as this weekend.

A very welcome Christmas "gift" also came from my Cable company, who seems to have finally stepped up to compete and doubled our bandwidth. I noticed it on the 28th or 29th, and noticed it big-time. We're now paying $60/mo for 1024kb/512kb.