Cold Brewing Coffee

June 2, 2011 at 8:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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This time I’m brewing coffee! Yes, I know, I’ve been a coffee lover for about a quarter century, but I’m trying something new this time, cold brewing. That’s toddy, for those of you not in the know.

As a guide to this new terrain I used several websites that Jenny sent me. You can find them on my delicious page, just search for “toddy” or “coffee.” I ended up using this method of making toddy in a french press. I used roughly the same ratio, but in a larger press, taking a gamble that I’d like the results.

I did. You betcha I did.

Disclaimer:
This is the first time I’ve ever made this. I’m not an expert, I’m merely synthesizing information from different websites and trying it out. It’s just that my first time yielded such good results, I had to share.

Equipment:
Large (48 oz/1500 ml) coffee press
Coffee grinder

Materials:
2 cups (475 ml) of coffee beans
Filtered water (cold or room temperature)

Procedure:
Grind the coffee on a coarse setting. Add to the press. Fill it with room temperature or cold water. Stir to make sure all the grounds are wet. Wait 2 minutes. Stir again. Let sit 12 hours overnight. Plunge press slowly. Pour into a container and refrigerate. Either strain through a paper coffee filter, or do not pour the last bit of sludge. It will (supposedly) keep up to two weeks.

Consume:
The result is essentially (pun intended) a coffee concentrate. For hot coffee, add one part concentrate to 3-5 parts boiling water. For iced coffee, add a similar amount of cold water and ice.

The result is coffee that is much less bitter, but, since you’re making a concentrate, you can make it as strong as you like. Folks who regularly add cream and/or sugar to their coffee will probably want to add less, if any.

Personally, I have been drinking my coffee black for over a decade. I used one part concentrate to about 4 parts boiling water. The result was a cup of coffee that was among the most smooth and flavorful as I have ever had, and I’ve had some really good coffee in my life. I plan on using the concentrate to make smoothies as well.

Next time, I am going to try doing it with about half as much coffee beans, and I’ll also try changing the brew time, perhaps to as much as 24 hours. I’ll post any relevant observations in the comments. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with cold-brewed coffee!

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The Golden Dragon

April 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I just started a Northern Brewer recipe called The Golden Dragon. It’s a Belgian dark strong ale. With an original gravity of 1.083 (20.2 Brix), this will be the strongest beer I have ever made. Like the Winter Warmer, I did a yeast starter for this one. Here’s the description of where this recipe came from.

“Legend tells us that the recipe for this Belgian beer was given by a Norse king to the city of Minneapolis after Vikings buried the Kensington Rune Stone up north, but it was stolen by railroad magnate and St. Paul resident James J. Hill and ensconced in a turret of his Summit Avenue mansion. It remained hidden there, undisturbed for years, until NB’s Heyward Gualandi retrieved it after a grueling traverse climb along the South wall. Or maybe Heyward made it all up. Whatever you end up believing after sipping down a chalice of this formidable Belgian dark strong ale, there can be no doubt that it’s potent and delicious. A beguiling complex of dried fruit, toast, butter caramel, spice, and ethanol wafts out of the glass and fills your mouth, leading up to a long rich finish. … It looks innocuous, it tastes smooth, but it can breathe fire … ”

It’s probably BS, but it’s a good story. I plan to bottle this one in traditional Belgian style 750 ml bottles with corks and everything. This is going to be a special occasions beer. I accidentally added the 5 minute hops at the 15 minute mark, so it will taste a little hoppier than intended, but hopefully not too much more bitter.

So, if you ever drink any craft beer from a Belgian style 750 ml bottle, I’d love to take the bottle off your hands when you’re done. Whether they have corks or caps, I’ll take ’em.

In other news, I tried the Bavarian Hefeweizen I brewed 5 weeks ago. It’s a week early, but I couldn’t resist. It tastes good, but it’ll benefit from sitting another week or two. Yeasty and yummy!

In non-beer news, I made some origami, I went for my first motorcycle ride of the season, and it’s end-of-the-semester crunch time at work. Motorcycle classes start in 3 weeks, and I can’t wait for my Arizona trip.

Bavarian Hefeweizen

March 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The next brew is Northern Brewer’s Bavarian Hefeweizen. This recipe was much simpler than the other extract kits that I’ve gotten from Norther Brewer. Wheat malt syrup, dry malt powder, and one bag of 60-minute hops. And the yeast, of course. I guess that’s the point of this beer; it’s all about the wheat and the yeast.

I brewed it yesterday with some friends. We ended up putting it in the carboy at 7:30PM, and it was already bubbling away this morning at 10AM. It smells distinctly different from other beers I’ve brewed at this stage. It smells lighter and cleaner somehow. Curious.

Here is a list of the beers that I’ve brewed so far.

St. Paul’s Porter, 08/2009. This one showed signs of an infection on bottling day, after the beer was in secondary fermentation for a few weeks. I did secondary fermentation in a plastic bucket instead of a glass carboy, since I didn’t have two carboys. There were a few strands of moldy looking stuff in the beer. Rather than toss it, I scooped out the strands with a sanitized slotted spoon, and bottled it, hoping for the best. It turned out ok, and I inspected every bottle of beer as I opened and poured it for signs of anything that shouldn’t be there, and found none. Every bottle was fine, and it tasted ok, but I couldn’t bring myself to offer it to anyone else. I eventually drank it all, but the experience as a whole was not completely satisfying.

Caribou Slobber Brown Ale, 03/2010. This time I cleaned and sanitized the plastic secondary fermenter scrupulously, and the beer came out a winner. Seriously good. Like, I’d pay money for this beer, good. Everyone who tasted it liked it. This success really fired me up for long term home brewing.

Belgian Dubbel, 07/2010. This time I took advantage of a sale NB was having on 5-gallon glass carboys. No more fermenting in plastic for me! This beer was another huge success. Belgian hard candies were added during the boil. It is a nice, complex beer that gets better with age. I have two bottles left in the basement that I’m saving for a special occasion, maybe for when my Dad visits next, hopefully this summer. Jenny doesn’t care for it, but I love it.

Caribou Slobber Brown Ale, 08/2010. I had lots of requests to make this one again, and it was just as good as the last time. I think I have to make this one a regular in the rotation.

Winter Warmer, 12/2010. This one had more fermentable sugars in the wort (unfermented beer), resulting in a higher alcohol content in the end. This recipe required a yeast starter for that reason; it lets the yeast multiply before brewing day so there’s enough of them to handle all those carbs. It turned out tasty, but the carbonation was weak. This was most likely due to the beer being stored at too cold a temperature, about 60 degrees F, right after bottling. After I realized this (I first tried it two weeks after bottling, and it was flat) I put the bottles in a temperature regulated container at 70 degrees F. One week later, it’s better, but still low carbonation. I’ll try it after another week or two and see how it turned out. I’m considering adding more sugar to the bottles and recapping them, but I’ll try being patient and waiting first. I hope the carbonation picks up, because I think it’s nice and tasty. One last note: I didn’t realize that one should swirl the yeast starter around a couple of times per day as it’s getting ready. I didn’t do this, but I’ll do it next time to see if it makes a difference.

The next beer is probably going to be Caribou Slobber again since it’s always (all two times) a winner.

I really like my hobby.

Winter Warmer

December 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve been brewing my own beer for roughly a year. I have a lot of my own equipment, and I’m borrowing some from a friend while I acquire the rest. I just started my fifth batch tonight, a darkish ale with above average alcohol content called Winter Warmer.

I get my supplies from Northern Brewer, a company based in Minnesota. If you have your own recipes, they have all the supplies you could want, or at least all I can imagine. They also have recipe kits of their own. You just browse their recipes, pick one, and they send all the ingredients with instructions.

Don’t worry, I’m not kidding myself into thinking I’m becoming the next Jim Cook; it’s a fun hobby, and it’s really good beer that’s significantly less expensive than buying microbrews.

Anyway, this recipe calls for something I’ve never done before, a yeast starter. See, normally you boil the ingredients for a while, cool it down, add yeast, and let it sit. Boiling breaks down the complex starches into simple starches the yeast can eat and turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide. But this recipe gives the yeast lots more starch, resulting in the higher alcohol content.

Apparently, the normal amount of yeast for a typical 5 gallon batch doesn’t cut it for this recipe. They can’t handle all that starch and get stressed out or something. I don’t know the details, but I know that in general, if the yeast are happy (they have the right food, the right temperature, no other bacteria to compete with, etc.) the beer probably won’t suck. I also know that NB recommend a yeast starter, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet.

Long story short, I just gave my yeast an all you can eat buffet and put on some Barry White. So instead of about a dozen billion yeast cells, I’ll be adding a couple hundred billion on brewing day so they can handle the job. This batch should be ready in February or so. I’m anticipating it’ll be worth the wait. It has been for each batch so far.

I like my new hobby.

One last try to typeset math in a blog post.

December 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Here we go.

[; e^i\pi + 1 = 0 ;]

Thanks, Euler.

Please comment if you can see this math nicely typeset, but not the stuff in the previous post.

Busy TeXing the world.

December 6, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This is just a test, really, of my new Firefox add-on called TeX the World.

[; \int_{\partial M} \omega = \int_M d\omega ;]

You’re supposed to see some integrals above, if this add-on works the way it’s supposed to. I’ve tried it on Facebook, but the only people who can see the math, as opposed to the code that’s supposed to generate the math, are those who have the add-on.

If it works the way it should, the above math will appear as an image within the document, and anyone, even folks without the add-on, should be able to see it.

Here goes.

What the hail?

July 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Posted in house | 5 Comments
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So I’m trying to replace our bathroom exhaust fan that went kaput last week. I get up in the attic, lay down 2x4s across the joists and plywood planks on those to make a path to crawl on to get to the fan. I find out it’s in a particularly small, narrow, enclosed part of the attic. I bring up more 2x4s and another plank. I sweep away all the blown insulation in the way and get the planks where they need to go.

I started out holding my mini-flashlight in my mouth (there’s no light or outlet up there), but since there’s tons of blown insulation being thrown about up there, I decide to take a professional’s advice and wear goggles and face mask. This prevents me from holding the mini-flashlight in my mouth, so moving the 2x4s and planks around while trying to hold on to the light was extra fun. But I can still breathe. I guess that’s worth a little inconvenience.

So, I finally get the path set, and I find the guts to crawl into this very enclosed space. I plan carefully how I’m going to turn around and get out before diving in.

And I find it! I have the fan in sight, and it’s closer than I feared — yes! It’s still damn cramped in there, but I can breathe, and the fan is within reach. I’m not claustrophobic, but this is really tight, and hot. I start clearing away the blown insulation so I can see what tools I need, and the gentle rain gets harder. There’s a hard rain on the roof inches above my head. I tell myself that’s good — it’s cooling the air off, and it’ll be less hot up here.

Then it starts hailing. Hard.

It’s as if the hail and the roof of my house are joined in this bombastic full-volume chorus screaming “GET OUT!”

So I did. Without injury.

Tomorrow’s another day, right?

Immigration

June 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Posted in law | 5 Comments
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Ok, I realize I’m running a risk here even bringing up the subject, but I’m curious and I just have to know.

This is directed at people who believe this country’s immigration system is broken, and that, more than anything, is responsible to the preponderance of illegal immigrants. I understand that we as a country are in a bad situation here. So many people in this country are illegal, don’t pay taxes, don’t have insurance, use public services, etc. I also understand that some heavy-handed ways that local governments (most notably that of Arizona) are dealing with it can justifiably be considered inhumane, racist, etc.

I don’t want to talk about that. Well, I do, but not in a negative sense. The statements in the above paragraph (paraphrased from what I’ve heard over the past few months) are negative statements. “The system is broken.” “The current immigration laws are archaic.” “Arizona’s policies are unjust.” These are all negative statements. They say what shouldn’t be done, or what needs to be changed.

That’s fine, but I haven’t heard anybody say what we should do instead. The system is broken? Fine, how do we fix it? What is a *sustainable* immigration policy this country should adopt? For all the protests, news broadcasts, interviews, etc. that I’ve seen (I haven’t done an exhaustive search) that’s one thing I haven’t seen. It seems to me that if you (general you) want change to happen, you have to have a reasonable alternative to the status quo. Such an immigration policy needs to include a border strategy, what to do with the illegal immigrants who are already here, etc.

I googled “sustainable immigration policy” and the first few hits were unhelpful. The first link had some reasonable thoughts on the subject, but no concrete suggestions on how to realize them.

Too many articles, blogs, FB posts, etc. are crying about the plight of illegal immigrants who “through no fault of their own” live in America, do not fit into mainstream society, live in constant fear of being deported, and so on. Fine, how do we change the system, or fix the ineffectual enforcement of the current system, that allowed these poor people to be in this situation to begin with? And how do we do it in a way that is in the best interests of the United States?

Yes, I realize I, with this post, have also done nothing to help the situation. But I think I’m asking constructive questions in the right direction.

A different kind of teaching for me

May 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Posted in education, life, local, motorcycles | 3 Comments
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I’ve begun the process of becoming a RiderCoach for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The first step is to take the Basic Rider Course (BRC) and pass it with flying colors. I’m registered for the class at SUNY Canton that goes from June 11 – 13. Check.

Then the good folks at Adirondack and Beyond Motorcycle Rider Training (ADKMC) who run the classes at SUNY Canton decide that they’d love to sponsor me for the RiderCoach Preparation course (RCP). Then the folks at the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program (NYSMSP) enroll me in a local RCP, and I continue studying and volunteer to help out with (or just watch) some BRCs.

The RCP lasts about three 3-day weekends, or they may schedule it differently. Quite a commitment. There’s a knowledge test and a skills test. After passing that, I can teach the BRC for ADKMC!

The site coordinator there says teaching three courses a year (out of 18 offered) is a minimum. Less than that and you start to get rusty. I imagine they have RiderCoaches scheduled for all of the courses this season. Perhaps when I pass the RCP I’ll offer to cover any of the current RiderCoaches if they want to back out of a course they’ve already committed to and do something else that weekend.

I’m really jazzed about this. It’s something that involves a different area of my brain than my regular job, and it’ll be nice doing something non-college related during the summer. Not as good as being a tour guide in the Grand Canyon, but I’m liking the idea of it.

A model for ebooks

March 12, 2010 at 11:41 am | Posted in books, technology | 1 Comment
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I’ve been thinking (thanks, Virgil) about a financial model for ebooks. Maybe ebooks can be rented.

I agree that ebooks will not completely replace physical books. For me, if a book is so good, so important to me that I want to *own* it, I want a physical copy. If I just want to read a book once, I’m fine with it being an ebook.

That got me thinking. I can basically rank books into three categories. There are books I want to read to try out, but not invest much if anything to do so. There are books I know I will want to come back to, quote from, and read again. Then there are books that I love, that really speak to me, that have changed me, and that I will come back to again and again and want to share with people.

For the last kind, I want a physical copy. I want to be able to take it with me anywhere and read regardless of whether a battery is charged or whether I have internet access. The second kind would be fine as an ebook, but I’d want to have some assurance of access. I think I’d want to store it locally, not on someone else’s server in a cloud somewhere. I’d also want to be able to make annotations.

But what about the first one? Maybe I could pay to have access to an ebook for a dollar (or five, or whatever) per week or so, then the access “goes away.” I don’t know how the logistics would work, someone else can figure that out. But I know I’d be much more willing to pay money to try brand new books or books by new (to me) authors if the initial investment were much lower. Otherwise I’d just wait until the physical copy were in the library or the electronic copy were available via the Guttenberg project. And by then I’d have forgotten about it. Even if I didn’t forget about it, if I did it that way I wouldn’t be financially supporting the author when the author most needs it, when they’re alive and trying to make a living by writing.

I can see it now, I’ve got a weekend free, or spring break, or some other stretch of time available. I want to read something outside my known sphere. I pick up my kindle/ipad and browse through recommendations based on my preferences, or based on a similar thing I liked — Pandora-style. Then I pay some relatively low price to try something new. If I really like it, I’ll buy “permanent access.” If not, I won’t have wasted much, and the author gets a little bit of compensation. If I love it, I get a physical copy.

Another way this can work (I think this is done for some books) is you get the first few chapters for free, then pay for the rest. That could work in conjunction with this business model, or as a separate model. I’m not sure.

People have probably already thought of these things. I’m just thinking out loud.

Update: Thanks to Mike O’Connell for pointing me to this fantastic interview with Toni Weisskopf of Baen books about ebooks and associated business models.

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