Mediocre blend (Now with PNG!)

I did some more roasting yesterday. I did a batch each of Kenya Kiangundo (huge beans) and Panama Bouquette. Both should be great on their own. The Kenya is roasted full city+ or so (a little darker than I intended) and the Panama is full city. Someday I will get serious and buy a thermometer to guage the temperatures. And a stopwatch. Ok, maybe not. I kind of like the intuitive roasting, where the cues are subliminal, and you just know that the roast for this particular bean should be just a tad darker. But then again, that is how I feel about just about everything.

I also threw together a blend of coffees that I don’t really get excited about on their own. It consists of El Salvador Everest (a peaberry), Ethiopian Sidamo, and Papua New Guinea Agoga. In case you are wondering if the blend turned out exceptional, it didn’t, but it was alot more rounded than each would be on it’s own. To tell the truth, it was more of a way to use the PNG in a blend that would be palatable. I have nothing but trouble trying to get the PNG to taste good, so I though maybe it would work out in a blend that I did not expect a lot from. In that sense it was a smashing success. It truely was a mediocre blend, which we will drink without comment.

Sta. Rita

While roasting with Nathan the Sunday before last, I discovered that I still had some Salvador Santa Rita left. Most of you might not know to care, but this is definitely the dessert of coffee. As Nathan puts it “I name this coffee ‘sweetness’.” It is a wonderful base for any blend, and really blends well with the chocolate of Honduras. So finding it at the bottom of my box was a real joy. The peculiar thing is that I have enough coffee in that box that a whole 4 pounds could get lost. I wanted to have enough to last me through the winter, so I bought a big load in September, but then Christmas was coming around, so I bought 15 pounds more for gifting. It was a slight over calculation, in both cases, but the benefit is that I have a very well rounded stash. I am thinking that I will not need to reorder until well after the anniversary of my first roast in March.

Tonight I roasted in the Poppery:

2 Batches Honduras
1 Batch Mexico Portifino
1 Batch Salvador Santa Rita

All are at City+ (Medium Dark Roast)

Note to Nathan & Nathan:

I did not have to force the batch of Mexico into second crack by recirculating the hot air. It roasted beautifully, and trotted right into second crack on it’s own.


One of the joys of having elementary aged kids is the bugs they bring home from their classmates (or teachers, I guess). Ethan was out all last week with an awful cold. He is still trying to recover. I worked from home on Thursday to take care of him while B ran out to take care of some errands. That night I woke up at about 12:30 with a bad headache and congestion. I have been out of it since. Shoveling snow probably did not help, and that is the most likely cause of the backaches today. I was planning on roasting coffee this weekend…

On that topic, one of the things that B picked up while she was out was a Poppery! We have now spent about $25 total on roasting equipment. $19 for the dog bowl and heat gun, $3 each for the popcorn poppers. If this Poppery lives up to its reputation, it should produce good even roasts, and deposit all the chaff into a bowl. Nice!

[Edit:] It is a Poppery II, and it made good popcorn last night.

freezing roast

I just finished an hour roasting session in the 29? garage. I was expecting each batch to take 5-10 minutes longer, but I think that they were each only about 2-3 minutes longer. The beans are stored in the garage, so they were basically starting from frozen.

Here is what I roasted (the Guatemala was roasted yesterday):

This was roasted with my recently modified popcorn popper. I did 2 small batches (about 1/2 cup each), and it turned out quite nice at full city+. This one is tasty, although not as tasty as the Honduras we had with Nathan and Carol last weekend. This bit of coffee was from a trade with Nathan.

So far. my experience has been that the PNG roasts pretty uneven in the dog bowl, and tends to be a little too acidic for my morning taste buds. I do like it, although I am not sure how it is distinctive yet. I’ll pay more attention this time around. I went for a darker roast this time (around full city+) so maybe it will not be quite as acidic. This was some coffee from Brother Nathan on our last interstate trade agreement.

This Costa Rica is quite good, but also on the bright side. I think that both the PNG and the Costa would be better in blends than straight, although both are still good coffees. Again this is roasted dark (maybe full city+), and I will see how it came out this weekend.

Several weeks back we picked up a popper from Goodwill. It is not any of the favored poppers, and there were 3 of the exact same model there on the shelf. Does not seem to be popular for popcorn either, and I know why. It is a very simple popper, and does not even have a power switch; you plug it in, and away it blows. It runs hot and fast, but the air only blows straight up so the beans are not agitated or rotated at all if you put more than a half cup. If you put much less, the beans shoot out the top. I decided to add a chimney built from tin cans to keep the beans from shooting out so easily. It works. Beans will still hop out if I put too few in. I also drilled some directional holes in the base to provide some rotational air flow, but I am thinking it did not work. If I agitate it by shaking the popper while it runs, things turn out just fine, so I will do that for now. Each batch in the popper takes about 5 minutes, and it pops about 1/2 cup. That is a third the size of a dog bowl batch, so it takes a little less time to roast the same amount in the popper.

In case you were wondering about the name so that it can be avoided: Presto PopCornNow Plus

Java rig

Java rig

Well, I have been roasting coffee for some time now (since Brother Nathan and family came up in March), but not until recenlty did I decide to eliminate or reduce the number of cramped muscles that are produced each 20-30 minute sessions per batch. First I set up the blocks on a military issue typing table and used c-clamps to hold them in place. That held the bowl, so that I am not as likely to lose the entire batch into the grass or gravel. Next I took a magnetic guage holder and rigid armature (can be found at McMaster-Carr), and used some bolts to cradle the heat gun. The armature has adjustment knobs, so I can aim the gun exactly where I want it. All that is left to hack together a stirring mechanism so I can just stand back and listen for evidence of a good roast…

a month and a half later…

school is in full swing, and we are through the normal hell that is school I.T. during the first month or so. Our workload is getting down to a level that is only considered ‘behind’ and not ‘snowed in’. Now we can fit in some projects, and the one we are working on now is implementing wireless to certain points off-campus. No more detail than that at this point. It is very interesting to find that wireless is rather inexpensive, if you are willing to do things yourself, like make the antenna.

In the cooking arena, we have not been doing too much. During a visit from sister A and her fiance in mid-August, I made my chili, which I have not made for over a year I think. Although I knew that she had been vegan, I was not sure what the latest was. Reports said that she was a regular omnivore these days, and I thought beef would be OK. She ate (and enjoyed I think) my chunky beef chili, but it was the first time she had beef in a long, long time. Later she was not feeling well, and I was a little worried. Seems that it turned out to be amoeba, so that is a relief. Not that I am glad that it was amoeba (which is a very awful thing to get), but I am glad that my cooking did not cause any suffering. I am sure you understand.

Speaking of cooking… I ran across which sports a very nice format for recipes. I am a minimalist, and this appeals to my desire to do less to get the same results. Bethany also likes this, as she is an organizer supreme. This means that she can fit more recipes into her little black book, and can get rid of all those useless pronouns and adjectives that recipes usually contain.


Having made it enough times that I am pretty sure I know how to do it, I made hummus without a recipe. Normally when making something I will try to get all the stuff ready and then begin the making part. But when I made hummus last night, I just started. I began by toasting the sesame seeds because I thought it would taste better (which it did). Tahini is very expensive here so we just use sesame seeds and try to grind them first. Sesame seeds do not grind very well. They just sort of fly around in the food processor. If you add oil or water to keep them down, they then just stick all over the inside of the food processor. So use a mortar and pestle like I did not do. Adding in the chickpeas, olive oil and water was trouble-free, but we had run out of lemon/kalamansi juice, and the garlic was kind of old and shriveled. I used the garlic any way, but was not about to substitute vinegar for lemon. B found some lemon pepper seasoning that was given to us when a coworker left the country. I hesitated, tasted the hummus, smelled the seasoning, tasted the seasoning, and then dumped some in. There were black specks in the hummus now from the pepper, but it tasted more or less OK. Actually, the toasting of the sesame made it taste great, and in a pinch I would grab the lemon pepper without even thinking about it.

Like bread? How about good food? Il Forno is a blog of a baker. Tasty reading.

Seems that things have not settled down since my surgery at the end of Fubuary. Since then we have had spring break, B’s birthday, Easter, Visit from Dad, Spring Production of ‘Oliver!’, and some nasty colds. Routine is kicking in again, and I might actually get to do some cooking myself. Baking is out of the question as our house is already at 104 degrees at noon from our tropical summer. Let’s see, where to begin…

I did have an “emergency” appendicitis on Thursday the 26th of Febuary (also happens to be Dad’s birthday). I had been feeling uncomfortable since about 10am, but thought it was just hunger pains, although I did eat a good breakfast. After lunch it did not get any better, and in fact felt worse. I tried a few things; laying down, (ahem..) movements, water. Nothing helped, and laying down made it feel worse. At about 3 I noticed that the pain had localized to my lower right side. I don’t like going to the doctor, nor the hospital. At around 4:30 I decided that we should call off our small group, and at 5 I decided that I needed the help of a professional. Dropped the kids off with friends and drove to a hospital in town. It took about 45 minutes to get there. I felt quite week, pained, and pale. Once we registered (or whatever it is called when you check into an ER) they showed me to a cot/bed outside the ER-OR. It seems that there was someone in pretty bad shape in there, because the double doors were open and people kept stopping an gasping as they stood looking. I had a few doctors come and probe me, mainly in the sore abdomen. Appendicitis is diagnosed clinically here, so that means that several lowly doctors, or one high-up doctor needs to poke me to see where it hurts and have me rate it on a scale of 1-10. Reminded me of Princess Bride when Wesley was strapped to The Machine and the Count asks “And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest — how do you feel?” It hurt, but I laughed. “HA HA HA, I laugh at pain!” No, I did not really say that. But they may not have thought that it hurt as much as it did simply because I laughed when they pressed their fingers into my side (which hurt like heck), and then quickly let go (which hurt like heck squared). I laid there for 4 hours, and endured an exam that I wish to never endure again. The doctors told me they were 90% sure that it was appendicitis, but they wanted to observe me for 24 hours. We sked why they would not operate if they were 90% sure, and they relpied that they needed to be 100%. This led to the question of what else it could be, and they replied “Nothing”. Hmmm, 90% sure, but it could not be anything else. Maybe I did not make it clear that it really hurt. Next time I will cry and wail like the woman who was getting an IV down the hall. Close to 10pm the doctor came in and said that they would operate. Strange to feel relieved to here such a thing. I went in at 10:30. They gave me a spinal anesthesia, and then Demerol via IV. First I noticed that my legs lost feeling and control, then I felt sleepy and the guy told me to sleep. So I did. I woke up to the doctors standing around joking. Standing around me that is. They were finishing up and the head surgeon was out showing my recently removed organ to B. They wheeled me into recovery where I waited for my legs to come back to life. It was very strange to reach down and feel some hairy not-mine-feeling legs atatched to my torso. So weird that I decided to keep away from my lower body till I could feel things again. As my legs began to revive I would try to move them. I still could not feel them and I was not allowed to crane my neck so I would send “will signals” to my legs and then the bed would jerk. After a couple of hours in there my legs were awake enough so they took me to a room. It was nice to see B again. The next couple of days I was weaned back on to solid foods, and I eventually got out of bed and made it to the CR (Comfort Room). Folks visited us. We left about noon on Saturday after accumulating a bill of about Php 80,000 ($1600). Some things I recovered from pretty quickly, but there were some after effects that lasted well over a month. When someone pokes around in you intestines, you don’t just zip up and go on with life. I now have a little 2 inch scar. A likes to ask me to show her friends. E likes to touch it. It still has bumps under it from the internal stiches that should dissolve in another month or so. One of the worst (as in annoying) parts was that they shaved my belly. Not just a 2 inch radius around the incision, but my entire furry belly. It is still not quite grown back.

Wine, Bread and Cheese!Mmmm.  This is my kind of meal!  Our diet of whole foods generally means tastiness, and bread wine and cheese are up there on my list of good eating, even if I cannot actually have all of them.