Category Archives: Coffee

Hawaii | Coffee, Pre-Cup

I have five coffee makers to brew coffee in five different ways. There’s the drip maker, espresso machine, the ubiquitous Keurig, French press and this odd contraption that allows me to make a 24-hour cold brew. Do I need them all? Umm, nope. But when has need mattered to a coffee aficionado?

You’d think with all the coffee gadgetry I’d know every last detail about how coffee is grown and processed before its brewed and hits the cup. Not so much true until last week when I went to visit a friend in Hawaii. It’s merely a coincidence that my first trip to Kona comes right as he bought a coffee farm. Really.

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The first step to learning about coffee, pre-cup, is to locate a coffee farm. Alright, that was easy. Now there’s the matter of knowing when to pick the coffee fruit, or what I learned are called cherries. They should be solid red. Also, you should check that there isn’t a tiny black hole at the bottom, this is evidence a coffee beetle has made a home there.  Now that you have the fruit you need to extract the beans. You can squeeze the bottom half of the cherry a little and the beans will pop right out of the top. Hand extraction is nice if you’re going to collect a few ounces of beans, otherwise you’ll need a sheller; a handy contraption that extracts the beans and discard the casings automatically.

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The soaking. When the beans are extracted they are covered in pulp. Out of curiosity I tasted the pulp, it was sweet and pasty. Soaking the beans overnight will help to remove the pulp. Also, any beetle-damaged beans will float to the surface for easy removal.

After the soaking, the beans are dried in the sun for about a day. I thought we could start roasting after the beans were dry but there was an outer coating, a husk, that needed to be removed first. These come off easily and you can do handfuls at a time. Congrats, now you have ‘green’ or unroasted coffee!

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Now comes the roasting. First go out and purchase a commercial coffee roaster and lease some space to house it, since its likely to be massive like the old school one I used.  Late model commercial roasters are all programmed but this one was not.  As an aside you can just roast green coffee at home on your cooker in a frying pan. Heat it up to high then dry fry the beans until they turn brown. Brown, not black; if they turn black or get oily, they are burnt – those you can sell to Starbucks.  Roasting is trickier than it seems;  I watched the beans closely and on my first round they went from brown to a black, oily mess in about 1 second. I also smoked out the restaurant where I was roasting them – good thing everything in Hawaii is open air.

That’s all, you’re ready to grind and brew! Now that I know more about how coffee is grown and processed, I feel it’s logical to drink more in appreciation.


NYC Honorable Mention

This trip to NYC was quite enjoyable thanks to my friends, Mr & Mrs Software, a couple I worked with and The Critical Thinker, a former neighbor and wise-beyond-years 20-something. They are truly enjoyable and being younger they are not opposed to simply wandering and discovering. Having a plan is one thing, it certainly can add direction to situations calling for cat-herding but wandering leads to discovering, which is good.

IMG_1481Case in point, as we wandered back from Central Park, making our way down to Nolita, we stumbled across this UES coffee house, Joe. I scream when I get within several blocks of a Starbucks, too commercialized, too luxuriously bland, so my coffee radar only focuses on small independents and family-owned venues like Joe.

We liked. Cramped and chaotic like many NYC venues however still inviting. My cortado was authentic enough and the barista can craft some wicked foam designs, consistently and quickly.

Outposts are scattered throughout the island.

Coffee: 29 Sept 2013

Joe | 1045 Lex | NYC 10021

Doshi House

I asked the owner of Doshi House why he decided to open a coffee house in the former war-zone known as Houston’s Third Ward. His answer was “Because nothing like it was here”. Really, this is a good answer, if not the best answer. Its simple supply-demand economics in a city that is inundated with eateries and options for coffee. Doshi Guy is young, probably 20’s but he seems to have the head for business and the open-minded personality necessary to keep his small, comfortable establishment moving forward with the surprising changes occurring in Houston’s  emerging Third Ward and EaDo neighbourhoods.

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Unpretentious, comfortable, quirky. While some long-time Houston residents may still feel uneasy traveling down Elgin St. on the east side of I-59, I did not at all sense any danger. Scruffy area in transition, certainly – daytime gang shootings – no.


The food selection is a small part of the menu; a few paninis and soups during the day, a few other items for dinner. All of the food is vegetarian. Sister is a no-grain-eating vegan so I learned long ago that vegetarian food can be delicious; preparation is key.

Prepare they can. I had the Urban Pepper Panini at the suggestion of Baritsa Girl and it was quite good. The flavor anchors are grilled mushrooms, the two different peppers – pepperocini and banana pepper — and the protein, which is made from soy, wheat and shitake mushrooms; it tasted beef-like.

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The bulk of the menu is coffees, teas and smoothies – perfect accessories for the University of Houston students on both campuses in close proximity who might want to park and study on a sofa. I was really curious about the Mughal Spice, which is an espresso based drink with steamed milk and saffron. Yes, you read that correctly. I have to say, of all the coffees I’ve tried in Houston, this one is the hands-down favourite. The drink is both strong and creamy but with an other-worldly kick of saffron.

While sipping my Mughal and watching the colorful community pass by on Dowling St, I read over the postcard menu, completely convinced there will be a return visit. On the postcard I noticed that most everything is locally sourced. I also noticed that the outside sign touting a cultivation of community is not so much lip service since they expend some considerable effort and expense to advertise all of the artistic talent and events in the community. Doshi Guy was very enthusiastic about the Project Row House effort around the corner, I’ll be soaking that up with my next Mughal Spice, which could quite possibly be tonight.

Lunch: 29 June 2013

Doshi House | 3419 Dowling | Houston, TX 77004

Double Trouble

IMG_1085Th-upMaybe its my Middle Eastern, East Coast or West Coast roots but I love coffee and anyone who can make it dark and rich.

Double Trouble can; their espresso is strong with crema and the frothed milk on the cap is firm,  creamy and comes with a half shot of espresso, in case its not strong enough. What makes Double Trouble unique is that they have bartenders as well as baristas, since it is also quite the destination bar at night. Local beers are the headliners, but their small space is not indicative of their selection.

I laughed when I first heard their bar/coffeehouse concept, thinking to myself there must be a high incidence of wide-awake drunk syndrome in a small radius around the venue. But actually, it makes sense, since it appeals to drinkers and non alike, both of which just want to be out and enjoying the part of their lives not related to work or school.IMG_1086

Anchored in the edgy part of Midtown south of Houston Community College is fits right in with the other non-conformist, tortured artist venues. Scruffy and minimalist, it is comfortable with its mismatched chairs and tables spanning many an design genre and it lacks any form of pretense. While the night crowd tends to be younger, dressed in black and sporting full body tattoos , the afternoon crowd is a more sedate mixed bag.

Service is very friendly and conversational, but only if they sense you are in the mood. If you want to be left alone, you will.

Coffee: 18 May 2013

Double Trouble | 3622 Main | Houston TX 77006