Tag Archives: Coffee

Coffee Update

One of the only 2 known photos by Aaron Barth that have ever been taken before he consumed morning coffee.

The only known photo Aaron Barth has ever been taken before consuming morning coffee.

It’s Friday evening, and the pre-industrial (organic) chicken — prepared modified Greek-style with oregano-lemon-melted-butter-paprika-salt-pepper with slight dashes of crushed rosemary and thyme — is about an hour into roasting in the oven. I have three books to my left, including Michael Mann’s The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (Cambridge, 2005); Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur (Yale, 2007); and Greg Smithers, Science, Sexuality, and Race in the United States and Australia, 1780s-1890s (Routledge, 2009). And I’m close to getting into those. But I’ve been meaning first to talk about coffee for almost a month now.

This last month of March, Molly gifted me a Sowden Softbrew coffee pot. It is outstanding. I first came across it in an Atlantic Monthly article linked here. Before Sowden (or BS, as we call it around the apartment), Molly and I had fixed our morning coffee with a ceramic funnel and paper filter. It worked well for two, but we discovered that when we had small gatherings at our place, we spent more time making individual coffees instead of hanging out and conversing with our guests. So it was fantastic to find the Sowden. In The Atlantic article, Corby Kummer notes that it has “the comforting sturdiness of an English teapot.”

A second photo was discovered.

A second photo was discovered.

Out here west of the Mississippi (or what we call the Great Plains and the American West), however, we notice different things. For example, I noticed that the Sowden produces a cup of coffee you’d expect from a fusion of the French press with the methods of making cowboy coffee. By this I mean the coffee grounds (after you grind them) are allowed to sit in a metal steeping cylinder laser-blasted through with a billion 21st-century microscopic holes. So the grounds just sit in this cylinder and steep, contained, so you don’t need a French coffee plunger. And you don’t need to be as careful pouring from the Sowden as you would pouring a cup of cowboy coffee: again, the grounds are contained. The coffee by the way is extra ordinary.

I’m going to go back to checking up on the Greek-style chicken, now, and I’ll get back to these books in the morning with a cup of coffee prepped in a Sowden that Molly gifted me. Huzzah.

Gadgets In Edgeley, North Dakota: Visiting Dawn and Theresa Paul

This morning, while reading about Caraher’s physical concerns as a field archaeologist, I took the third slug of coffee from the first home roasted coffee batch. To home roast the coffee, I used a corn/maize air popper, and learned how to do this just over a week ago when Molly and I visited Dawn and Theresa Paul who reside in Edgeley, south-central North Dakota. It works great, and there appears to be a huge body of DIY internet information on this (which, like numerous things, I only now am discovering). Here is what the roasting looked like this morning.

Roasted coffee from this morning. Green coffee beans just above that.

Roasted coffee from this morning. Green coffee beans just above that.

Anyhow, I thought I’d give you some quick backdrop on Dawn and Theresa and then share another project they finished in Edgeley. Dawn and Theresa used to live on St. Croix. When they first said this, I responded with, “You’re talking about the Virgin Islands and not Minnesota, correct?” (When someone says they are from Oslo, I always do the same thing and ask, “Norway and not Minnesota, right?”) Yes, they were talking about the Caribbean. They both lived on the island for quite a time, developing a house and setting themselves into a variety of projects. Eventually, though, they wanted to relocate to the northern Great Plains (I think this in part had to do with Theresa’s family connections to the area). They claim to be “retired,” but after visiting with Dawn for over an hour I balked at this assertion, or at least modified it. I said, “You’re retired, but busy as ever.” He agreed.

Below are photos of a rehabilitated and restored circus conversion van. Dawn and Theresa can give you the details way better than I can, but the short and skinny of it is this: they discovered this vehicle years back, the vehicle having been abandoned or nearly abandoned. It is a motor home that early 20th-century circus people would use while traveling the circus circuit. This particular van was owned by “The Great Arturo” of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus shows. The Great Arturo, I learned, was center ring.

Circus people would often winter down in Florida, and then return to the circus life when things warmed back up. Dawn and Theresa decided to do a complete restore on the vehicle, and you’ll occasionally see them traveling the minor and major roads on the northern Great Plains. Here are some photos:

The cockpit of the sweet circus ride.

The cockpit of the sweet circus ride.

Don entering the sweet ride.

Dawn entering the sweet ride.

The front 1/3 of the sweet circus ride.

The front 1/3 of the sweet circus ride.

An interior shot of the sweet circus ride. Note the stove range to the right; sink to the lower left; toilet further back; and bed at the way back.

An interior shot of the sweet circus ride. Note the stove range to the right; dresser just behind that; sink to the lower left; toilet further back; and bed at the way back.

Coffee Science in Fargo

I was trying to think of something epic to blog on for this 100th theedgeofthevillage.com post. Since winter has taken over autumn on the northern Great Plains, hot coffee seems just as good a topic for analysis as any. There are a couple places around the campus of North Dakota State University to purchase cups of coffee. As of late, I have wondered about coffee temperatures. This thought came from being served super-heated coffee in paper cups with those petro-plastic lids within NDSU’s memorial union — a place that fosters memory and unity, no doubt. In the last couple weeks, I have encased the paper cup in one of those cardboard sleeves, and have had to let the super-heated coffee cool enough to sip. Once cooled, I sip the coffee, but then wonder whether the heat melted the insides of the cup: was I just tasting burnt coffee? Or was I tasting coffee infused with melted glue? And was this more damaging to my innards than, say, drinking pints of chilled energy drinks that seem to have begun replacing otherwise traditional coffee drinking? I have no idea, but this in turn led to another idea: data collection on the heat temps of coffee around the Fargo-Moorhead area. So this is the first entry of coffee SCIENCE! in Fargo, North Dakota.

The coffee reviewed in this case is not from the coffee shop alluded to above. Instead, this coffee is from Jitter’s, a coffee house located to the southwest of the intersection of 12th Avenue North and Albrecht Boulevard in Fargo, North Dakota. Here is the raw data from my field notes. Equipment used: one of those thermometers you pick up for around five bucks at the grocery store.

Coffee science.

Objective data: On November 13, 2012, at 9:30AM, the temperature reading from the medium roast coffee just pumped from a thermos into a heated ceramic mug at Jitter’s read 151° F.  The room temperature read 70° F, and the outside winter temp was 19° F (this according to AccuWeather.com). A second reading was taken after a refill at 10:25AM, this at 139° F.

Subjective data: at 151° F, I was able to sip the coffee immediately (no need to let it cool). This immediacy was important since it is necessary to intersperse coffee sips with apple fritterer bites upon the ceremonious opening of the pastry bag. Before getting my coffee, I only had to stand in line for approximately 13 minutes while waiting for the two patrons ahead of me to order some kind of double soy latte decaf with a re-caffeinated infusion loaded with Italian syrup and topped with whipped cream (this will eventually contribute to the downfall of the West to North Korea, a running hypothesis of mine here).

Contribution to Coffee Memory: The rise of the prepared sugar bomb drinks could be felt easily in the year 2000 if a person was engaged in serious coffee drinking at the Dinkydome or throughout the coffee houses in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, Minnesota. It seemed a bit more gendered, though, at least in my mind, as I remember it. Young women tended to order white cafe mochas left and right. Today, full grown men are shamelessly purchasing these types of drinks — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Nonetheless, I’m fairly supportive of nudging our culture in the direction where there are separate but equal ordering lines in coffee houses: one for straight-up coffee drinkers, and the other for sugar-bomb drinkers. More to come on objective and subjective coffee data collection throughout Fargo, ND.

Two Lines in Every Coffee House

Memo: Two coffee lines in every coffee house. The first line is for straight-up, black coffee drinkers — no room for cream, just black coffee, that’s my crew. The second is for non-coffee drinkers — for the syrup-ladened, whip-topped, sugar-fixed drinkers, the baristas having to execute at least 12 wrist-twists and several Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu chops, impossible to execute in less than four minutes and 37 seconds for even the most skilled baristas in the history of humanity. Without two lines, the coffee drinkers and baristas are punished, since baristas know there are traditional coffee drinkers buried somewhere in that line. You can cut the tension with a knife.

Two lines would make America more efficient, and we would be that much more ahead of North Korea’s military industrial complex. Until this happens, totalitarianism gains a little on our Democratic-Republic, and coffee drinkers are forced to suffer the fourth position in line, un-caffeinated (muttering to themselves with forced smiles, “the horror… the horror…”), waiting at least 18 minutes for the non-coffee drinker orders to be filled. This is not the fault of the baristas. It’s just a matter of managers making appropriate adjustments, and creating two coffee lines. Send this memo up to the top coffee brass. That’s all. Carry on.