Night Owl Coffee Roasters

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Egg Nog Pie: the Best, or the Absolute Best?

Wintertime and the holiday season always makes me think about pie.  A cup of coffee and a slice of fresh-baked pie can be a perfect dessert and a perfect breakfast.  Night Owl Roasters is always happy to provide the coffee; this year, we're also sharing our favorite recipe for pie. 

Courtesy of our beloved Nana, handed down through the centuries on hand-copied papyrus scrolls, we proudly present the recipe for Egg Nog Pie.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon gelatin soaked in 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • baked pie shell
  • nutmeg to sprinkle

Scald milk in top of double boiler.  Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a separate bowl, and slowly stir into milk. Cook til thickened, stirring constantly, roughly 20 minutes or until it is 170 degrees F, with no lumps.  Temper the egg yolks and slowly add to the milk. Stir and cook 3 more minutes.  Remove from heat and add 1 T butter, 1 t vanilla, and soaked gelatin.  Stir well. Allow to cool.  Fold in the whipped cream. Pour mixture into baked pie shell. Sprinkle lots of nutmeg on top (mmm). Refrigerate overnight.

Meanwhile, pour some coffee and relax in front of a toasty fire!  

Coffee in a Vacuum

Today we’re going to check out a somewhat obscure brewing method: the vacuum pot!  This type of brewing was popular in the early part of the twentieth century, before paper filters were invented.  It makes a very clean, bright cup of coffee with pronounced body and little to no sediment.

Kahva Coffee Maker

Kahva Coffee Maker

Hario Technica Syphon

Hario Technica Syphon

The design is elegant, the concept brilliant in its simplicity.  The basic setup consists of two stacked glass pots. Water is brought to a boil in the lower pot, while ground coffee is placed in the top vessel.  Increasing vapor pressure forces the water from the bottom pot into the upper pot to begin the brewing process.  The lower pot is kept hot during the extraction to keep the pressure high enough to support the water in the top pot.  When the brew is ready, it’s taken off the heat and allowed to cool.  As the hot steam condenses back into liquid water, gravity and the pressure difference between the two pots pulls the water down through the grounds and the filter into the lower vessel.  Your brew is ready to pour!

Heat sources can be an interesting challenge for this type of brewing. Options for heating may be an alcohol spirit lamp, gas burner, camp stove, micro butane burner, or fondue stove. I prefer a single burner camp stove capable of fine flame adjustment. It also takes a little more finesse in terms of monitoring the brewing process so I consider this more of a "weekend" brew than a 6:00am Monday morning activity.

Mastering the art of vacuum pot brewing can be tricky, but the reward is a distinctive, flavorful cup. It’s a method well suited to showcase the delicate flavors of some coffees, like the fruity Ethiopians or flowery Central Americans.  It may present a lighter body if you’re used to the weighty feel of coffee from a French Press, or it might be just the brew you’ve been looking for. 

Cool Summer Coffees

It’s the middle of summer and in most places that means trying to stay cool.  Hot coffee may not be quite what you’re looking for right now, so we’ve gathered a few recipes that can turn your daily cup of coffee into a refreshing drink to beat the heat.

Coffee Ice Cubes

We heard you like iced coffee in your iced coffee...

We heard you like iced coffee in your iced coffee...

Simplicity itself.  Just pour some cold brewed coffee or cooled-down hot brew into ice trays, freeze, and voilà! A great compliment to your cup of iced coffee.  Use interesting ice trays for fun shapes.

Southeast Asian-Style Iced Coffee

1 ½ cups good coffee, like our French Blend or Colombia Huila. Sometimes steeped like tea in a bag to desired strength, but you can simply brew your normal way with more coffee added, or to whatever strength you like. Stronger is generally better here, to match up with the sweet milk.

¼ cup Sweetened condensed milk

Ice to fill glass

Pour coffee over ice, then add condensed milk to taste.

Blended Iced Coffee

Basic recipe (coffee mug size portion)

¼ cup (2 oz) Espresso or strong coffee (try our Ainsworth Espresso )

¼ cup (2 oz) Milk

¼ cup (2 oz) Ice

Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth (at least 30 sec).  This recipe makes about a coffee mug full.  You may want to adjust the portions to taste.

  • The coffee should either be pre-cooled, or mixed with a little milk and ice until cool before putting in the blender. 
  • Swap out the milk for skim or half & half to lower or raise the fat content (higher fat makes it smoother and creamier…mmmm).
  • Soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk can be substituted for the regular milk.  This can affect the resulting final flavor, so you may want to experiment a bit.
  • Ice cream can also be substituted for the milk, in any flavor that sounds yummy.
  • Optional: whipped cream topper

Chocolate Blended Iced Coffee (pint glass size portion)

Chocolate blended iced coffee using Bali Blue Moon

Chocolate blended iced coffee using Bali Blue Moon

¼ cup+ (2-3oz) Espresso or coffee

¾ cup (6 oz)  Half & half or milk of your choice.

1 Tbsp powdered cocoa (feel free to add a little more).   Higher quality cocoa is better. Can substitute chocolate syrup.

8-9 ice cubes (about 1 ¼ cup)

 Optionaladd any of the following:

  • 2-3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • handful of chocolate chips
  • mint leaves
  • caramel sauce
  • cinnamon
  • shot of Kahlua
  • anything else that sounds good!

Combine in blender and blend until smooth.  This recipe makes about a pint glass full.  You may need to add the ice slowly and blend between each handful to keep the blender from getting overwhelmed.

Peanut Butter Blended Iced Coffee

Same as above, just add about 2 Tbsp well-mixed peanut butter instead of (or in addition to) the chocolate.  Try  it with chunky or smooth.

Let us know if you try any of these drinks, or if you have any more recipes to add!

Do That Cold Brew: How-to

Sometimes instruction manuals are more confusing than they should be.  As our contribution to improving general knowledge, here is a step-by-step method for using the Toddy Coffee Maker to make your own cold brewed coffee:

On the rocks...

On the rocks...

Ingredients:

12 oz fresh roasted coffee beans

7 cups of water

  • Dampen the Toddy filter and stuff it into the base of the white plastic brewing container.  Insert plug into bottom of container.
  • Using a coarse grind setting, grind up about half the bag of coffee (6 oz, but does not have to be exact)
  • Pour 1 cup of water and then 6 oz of ground coffee into the white bucket.
  • Slowly pour 3 more cups of water over the grounds in a circular motion to make sure they all get wet.
  • Grind up and add the last 6 oz of coffee to the white bucket.
  • Wait 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add 3 more cups of water. Don’t stir the grounds (this can clog the filter), but you can gently press the top of the pile with the back of a spoon or something else to make sure all the grounds are wet.
  • Put the white container in the fridge for 12-18 hours.  No lid is needed, but feel free to cover it with plastic wrap or a plate if you like.
  • When the brew is ready, hold the white bucket over the glass decanter and pull out the stopper.  Then just settle the ‘prongs’ over the opening of the decanter and wait until it all drips out.  This can take a while.  You can let it drip into another container for a bit if you want to have a cup before it’s all done coming out.

Cleanup:

... or with a dash of cream

... or with a dash of cream

  • Wash out glass decanter as you would any pitcher.  
  • Poke the filter out of the bottom of the white bucket with a blunt object, like a chopstick or the end of a pen. Sharp pokers can perforate the filter, drastically reducing its efficacy.
  • Rinse the filter out, then store it, damp, in a plastic bag or other airtight container in the fridge.
  • Wash out the plastic bucket.  Sometimes I just rinse and scrub it without soap; depends on how much oily residue there is in there.

This yields about 6 cups of cold brew coffee concentrate, ready to dilute to taste.  The initial starting point is 1 part coffee to 2-3 parts water or milk, but it’s really up to you.  Sometimes I go 1:1, other times I thin it out a bit. Note that you can add hot water to the concentrate for a hot cup of coffee, too.  The white bucket can hold up to 16 oz of coffee and 9 cups of water total. This is the ratio you’d use if you wanted to grind up a full pound of coffee.  The concentrate will stay fresh in the fridge for two weeks.  Try it with blended or shaved ice for a frappuccino effect!

First Look at Guatemala Through Blake's Camera

A more in-depth discussion of what our intrepid Night Owl did in Central America is coming shortly.  In the meantime, here's a little peek at some of the sights and scenes from life in the land of coffee.

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captains-General). Dates to 1558

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captains-General). Dates to 1558

Volcán de Agua, from Antigua.

Volcán de Agua, from Antigua.

Just a little active volcano, is all. Volcán de Fuego, Antigua.

Just a little active volcano, is all. Volcán de Fuego, Antigua.

Sunset

Sunset

Tostaduria Antigua

Tostaduria Antigua

Across the rooftops, Antigua

Across the rooftops, Antigua

ABC DEL Cafe - Nice selection of Guatemalan coffees prepared in Aeropress, Hario V60 or Chemex.

ABC DEL Cafe - Nice selection of Guatemalan coffees prepared in Aeropress, Hario V60 or Chemex.

Regalto de Dios

Regalto de Dios

Finca Hacienda Carmona. Do you have a place that you think about when you need to clear your mind and renew your energy? This is my new place.

Finca Hacienda Carmona. Do you have a place that you think about when you need to clear your mind and renew your energy? This is my new place.

Finca Hacienda Carmona. A stroll here is 10 times more restorative than any European mud bath could ever be.

Finca Hacienda Carmona. A stroll here is 10 times more restorative than any European mud bath could ever be.

At Hacienda Carmona, las vacas say "Muu"

At Hacienda Carmona, las vacas say "Muu"

Coffee plant in bloom

Coffee plant in bloom

Freshly picked coffee cherries from Bella Carmona. These were harvested March 5th, to be exact. Cherries picked the first week of March (like these) will be processed and dried over the next several weeks and exported. Our 2014 crop will arrive in late April or the beginning of May.  The beans from this bag could be among them!

Freshly picked coffee cherries from Bella Carmona. These were harvested March 5th, to be exact. Cherries picked the first week of March (like these) will be processed and dried over the next several weeks and exported. Our 2014 crop will arrive in late April or the beginning of May.  The beans from this bag could be among them!

Field Notes: Forging Local Ties in Guatemala

Roastmaster Blake headed down to Central America this week. This is the tail end of the annual harvest, so it's the best time to see what nuances the fresh beans will bring us in the months to come.  He's been sampling this year's coffee harvest and learning more about unique processing methods underway such as greenhouse solar drying underway at Finca Bella Vista. Getting to know the local community of coffee growers in this area is important to us. We will be establishing direct trade relationships with some of the growers to help support local businesses firsthand.

One of the fincas,  or farm estates, Blake will be visiting is Finca Carmona, and Finca Bella Vista, growers of the coffee for our rich and flavorful Guatemala Bella Carmona.  Along the way, he's watching how the ripe coffee cherries turn into dried green coffee beans, ready for roasting.

We'll have a full update on the trip when he gets back.

Coffee beans drying in the sun on giant patios at Finca Carmona. The beans are periodically raked into rows to facilitate a uniform drying process. Photo taken March 8th, 2014.

Coffee beans drying in the sun on giant patios at Finca Carmona. The beans are periodically raked into rows to facilitate a uniform drying process. Photo taken March 8th, 2014.

Velvet, Grass and Chocolate: An Intro to Coffee Flavor Terms

Have you tried any new types of coffee lately? Perhaps you want to branch out a bit in your coffee selections, but are finding the breadth of choices a little tough to decipher. As with any beverage with a wide range of tasting characteristics, coffee has developed its own descriptive vocabulary of terms. The four main traits to note in a coffee variety are body, acidity, aroma, and flavor.

Body: This refers to “mouthfeel;” how thin or how heavy the coffee feels when you drink it. Think about the difference between plain water, lowfat milk, and whole milk. That's body. Regional coffees produce their own distinct mouthfeel, but brewing methods can really make a difference in the body of the actual drink. Using a French press, for example, will bring out a heavier body than drip-style brewing.  Thick, heavy, watery, thin, velvety, and full are common words used for body.

Acidity: When not referring to the actual pH, this describes the tartness of a coffee. Terms like bright, crisp, clear, dry, fruity, wine-like, flat, sour or dull may be used to convey acidity. This characteristic is akin to dryness in a wine, and some of the same terms may be applied to both beverages.

Aroma: The smell of the coffee when freshly brewed and hot. Many of the most delicate notes of a coffee are sensed with the nose. Some are expressed as you begin to take a sip, while others are registered in the nasal passages as the coffee is swallowed, forming the aftertaste. Floral, citrus, caramel, perfumy, tobacco, herbal and grassy are a few of the words used to evoke aroma. Because taste and smell are closely linked, some descriptors may be referring to both senses.

Flavor: The taste of the coffee apart from its acidity, aroma and body. Chocolate, earthy, berry, nutty, peppery, sweet, smoky, musty, rancid and burnt are a few of the common flavor terms.

These are all ways to help describe the subjective experience of drinking a cup of coffee. Whether a given term is positive or negative depends on what you like. One person's earthy delight may be another's musty, dirty laundry.

Here are some ideas to begin with:

Fruitiness: Try a cup of Ethiopia Yergacheffe. You won't believe the blueberry tones. This can also be muted a bit by adding a pinch of cardamom to the grounds or to the brewed coffee.

Chocolate and earthy: Bali Blue Moon. Indonesian coffees often have a touch of earthy flavor to them; this particular bean evokes everything good about the concept.

Crisp and nutty: Colombia Huila. A great medium roast with loads of character and velvety body.

There are so many interesting varieties out there to taste. Hopefully this short list can get you started on the road to discovering new coffees. Challenge yourself (and your taste buds) today!

How Much Caffeine is in My Coffee?

Ahh, caffeine. While in our last blog we celebrated the ability to enjoy the taste and experience of a great cup of coffee without the caffeine, today it's all about the stimulants.

Many different variables go into the final amount of caffeine in a given cup of coffee. Caffeine content can change for a variety of reasons including bean variety and brew method. How does that happen?

Bean size: Pretty straightforward. Larger beans mean more of everything, including measurable caffeine per bean. This can even vary among beans harvested from the same plant. Weighing instead of measuring by volume during the brewing step helps avoid the effect that differences in bean size or density can have on the final extraction.

Species of bean: Robusta beans have up to twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. Robusta can even be added to instant coffee mixes or high-volume commercial blends to be marketed as higher-caffeine. This is why truck stop coffee often packs such a punch. Sometimes Specialty coffee roasters will use a modest proportion of Robusta in espresso blends in order to improve crema characteristics. While many roasters get good results with this approach, we have found that a careful blend of Arabica coffees produces exceptional crema while avoiding the oddly medicinal and rubbery character some Robusta varieties can impart.

Darkness of roast: This question seems to come up frequently. Which roast has more caffeine, light or dark? The answer is neither... and both. The reasoning is a little tricky but here's a brief rundown: Caffeine is stable throughout all stages of roasting, be it light, medium or dark. That means when a pound of green coffee is roasted, it will contain the same measurable amount of caffeine when it is done roasting regardless of the roast level. What is lost are volatile compounds, especially water. So that one pound of green coffee might weigh 0.85 pounds as a light roast, 0.82 as medium and 0.80 as a dark roast.

At the same time, the darker the roast, the more the beans will physically expand and thus occupy more volume. The result is if you measure your dark roasted coffee by weight, the resulting brewed coffee will have a slightly higher caffeine content than a cup brewed from a lighter roasted bean. If however you measure the same coffee by volume, the result is reversed. The light roasted beans expanded less during the roasting process, so more beans will fit into a given measured volume. This gives the light roast more caffeine. At Night Owl Roasters, we measure by weight to keep each cup consistent.

Grind size, brewing method, water temperature, and duration of brew: These are all sort of interrelated, so they get lumped together. Finer grinds have more surface area and greater extraction potential for caffeine. A lungo espresso shot will generally have more caffeine than a ristretto because you have passed more water through the grounds for a longer time. While the French press uses a very coarse grind, the longer the coffee is steeped before plunging the more caffeinated it will be. We advise adjusting your extraction time to optimize your extraction based on flavor, rather than trying to control the caffeine levels.

Caffeine is over 40 times more soluble in 200 degree water than in room temperature water. Cold brew would in theory have less caffeine than an equivalent hot brew method because caffeine is far less soluble at lower temperatures. But cold brew has extremely long extraction times – on the order of 18-24 hours. The extraction time of cold brew is therefore over 350 times as long as standard drip coffee. Our experience is cold brew coffee has little or no reduction in caffeine level.

Serving size: A shot of espresso has less caffeine per serving, 80 mg compared to a 12 oz cup of drip coffee, which can have upwards of 220mg. Per ounce, however, it has significantly more. This is why we drink small shots of espresso, and 12 to 16 or more ounces of brewed coffee.

As you can see, a lot of things go into how much caffeine actually ends up in your cup.  If all this hurts your brain as much as it does ours, here is some advice: Drink the coffee you enjoy most, in whatever quantity that satisfies. Know the caffeine is there and be happy. People don’t pick their favorite wine because it has an alcohol level of 13.0 percent versus 12.7 percent (right?). It is selected based on its quality and flavor.  Treat your cup of coffee the same way.

Remember, if you have any coffee-related questions, ask them in the comments or by email to media(at)nightowlroasters.com. We'll try to answer them in the next blog!

 


 
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