Make Coffee You Love!

  • Caffeinated Climate

    In the hot pursuit of alternative energy sources, researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, stumbled upon coffee grounds as a possible new basis for biodiesel.

    After leaving a cup of coffee on the counter top overnight, lead researcher Mano Misra noticed the oil slick that had separated and floated to the top of the coffee. He decided to ex
    amine the process necessary for turning used coffee grounds -- currently just a standard waste product that many non-composters just throw away -- into a viable source of biodiesel.

    They collected 50 lbs. of used grounds, determined that the mass contained between 10 - 15% oil by weight, went through the process of extracting the oil and then converted it into biodiesel using standard chemistry techniques. The result? Well?it worked, but they estimate that all the used coffee grounds in the world would make up less than 1% of the annual diesel consumption of the US.

    So while it's an interesting approach (that apparently smells fabulous!), it's not totally conceivable right now that our used up coffee will save our planet. We did love one reader suggestion, however, which was to build a coffee maker that was powered by the previous brew's coffee grounds -- now that's something we can buy into.

  • Cherry-Picked with Love - Part Two

    A couple of weeks ago, we posted the first part of a series on Kona coffee farmers Jim & Sharon Skibby -- writer Chris Smith has spent time learning about this small coffee plantation and offers up his experiences in learning how they care for and harvest their coffee trees.

    Chris' second installment was published last week, and it goes into more detail around the nurturing and harvesting practices that Jim & Sharon employ -- as well as Jim's tips on coffee flavors. It's a very interesting read for those looking to learn more about small scale coffee agriculture.

  • Sidamo Slipping?

    With the rains in India threatening their coffee harvest and the financial strife of Brazilian farmers unable to secure the necessary funds for nurturing and harvesting their crops, Ethiopia's recent revelation that drought is adversely impacting their coffee crops in two significant regions gives us pause. Is it possible that such an essential staple of countless cultures around the globe is at risk of exhaustion?

    Government assessors evaluated Ethiopia's coffee harvest during this past November and found that coffee production in Sidamo and Gedeo may fall nearly 60% this year as a result of the extended drought in those regions. Combined with the falling commodity prices and the rising costs of food, the risk of a severe increase in starvation in a region already so brutalized by ongoing famine is a sobering thought.

    Throughout its history, coffee has been a crop that has rolled with the proverbial punches: It has withstood civil wars and economic collapse, its ripening cherries at the heart of stimulating debates and late night international judgment calls. Yet it seems that the current agricultural methodology may not be able to support itself -- and if we don't make a concerted effort to address some of the systemic issues that are resulting in these symptomatic losses, we just might find ourselves in a significantly less stimulating world -- literally.

    After all, if coffee can't make it in its own home town, where can it make it?

  • Recipe: Espresso Flan

    Custards are a great holiday season dessert, and here's a delicious recipe for Espresso Flan that will put a little pep in your step. Enjoy!


    • 6 large eggs
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 11/3 cups white sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 11/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
    • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped of seeds
    • 1 heaping teaspoon espresso coffee grounds
    • Caramel
    • 11/2 cups white sugar
    • 1/4 cup water


    1. Whisk eggs and yolks together, add sugar, salt and cream. Mix well. Add vanilla seed and pulp and continue
      whisking. Allow to rest 15 minutes so vanilla can infuse custard.
    2. In the meantime, heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan; add sugar and then water. Heat on high stirring constantly until sugar melts and caramel color develops. Be careful not to burn. Remove from heat and spoon 2 teaspoons each into 5, 6-inch diameter ramekins and allow to firm.
    3. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
    4. After custard has rested strain through a fine sieve to remove strands of egg white. Stir in espresso. Lightly brush sides of ramekins and the caramel with melted butter or coat with cooking spray.
    5. Fill ramekins about two-thirds full with custard and place in baking pan about the same height as the ramekins. Add tap water to the baking pan to the same level of the custard. Bake about 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool to desired serving temperature.
    6. To serve: Run a knife around edge, place serving plate over ramekin and flip over. Scrape out any residual caramel and drizzle over flan.
  • Love that Espresso Shine

    Hair looking a little dull? Looking to gloss up your tresses without spending an arm and a leg on drugstore treatments or salon visits? There are tons of natural home haircare tips, and using espresso to add shine to your mane is one of our favorites.

    Simply pull a couple shots of espresso, apply it to your hair and then leave it on for 20 minutes. Rinse it out and you'll have increased your hair's shine considerably. Espresso contains quite a bit of oil and these molecules can be transferred to your hair to boost its glow.

  • Hot Blog on Blog Action: Coffee Like Wine

    We spend a fair amount of time poking around the 'net to find interesting information to share with you, gentle reader, and came upon the blog Coffee Like Wine that discusses artisan coffee and wine experiences had by its San Francisco-based writer.

    Providing feedback on everything from different bay city cafes to cupping events to the flavors of single origin beans, this blog has a ton of great subjective information from an avid connoisseur. Check it out!

  • Colombian Coffee, Take 2

    For many of us, the image of Juan Valdez is synonymous with coffee beans: The seemingly humble, weather-wizened old man donning a sombrero and a coffee-filled satchel who arrives each morning in your kitchen to fill up your Mr. Coffee. But Colombia's posterchild has aged, slipping from his place as the 2nd largest producer in the world and suffering the ails of economic hiccups and hardships.

    Out-produced by Vietnam about 8 years ago, a steady decrease in new farmers and an aging agricultural tradition, the Colombian government has decided to refocus and spur growth in their largest agricultural export. Economic influences unfortunately took down a number of plantations, and many families with an agricultural history closed down their farms because of an inability to support themselves on the meager revenues their exploits produced. Some went into new careers, such as working in a bakery, while others opted to plant a much more sought-after crop: Coca, the basis for cocaine. Over the past couple of years, however, the Colombian government has begun to invest capital in a renovation of sorts, setting up younger farmers on plantations with younger coffee plants in the hope of revitalizing their participation in the international coffee community.

    They have a couple of challenges, however, that might keep them from ever playing ball at the 2nd tier again: They grow arabica, while Vietnam grows the much heartier robusta, and their sloped terrain makes it impossible for them to use machines in their harvest like the Brazilians. But with a reputation for rich bodied coffee and a growing international appreciation for the quality of handmade goods, Colombian coffee may well be on its way back to posterchild status.

  • New! Baratza PortaHolder

    Grab a few extra seconds in the morning with the Baratza PortaHolder attachment, made for Baratza Maestro, Maestro Plus or Virtuoso grinders.

    Insert the PortaHolder into the grounds bin slot and you'll be able to rest your portafilter there, set the grind time and step away while your espresso is freshly ground. We love this new modification to the Baratza grinders and think you will, too.

  • Caffeinated Green Thumbs

    Perk up your garden by adding coffee into the mix! Used coffee grounds are a great source of organic, slow-release nitrogen that can be incorporated into many everyday gardening tasks to improve results.

    We poked around to find some ways in which you could incorporate your used coffee grounds or coffee beans into everyday gardening practices and found these awesome ideas:

    • Before it rains or you water your garden, sprinkle used grounds around your plants to slowly release nitrogen into the soil
    • You can add used grounds in filters or tea bags to your compost pile to increase your nitrogen balance; they have a carbon-to-nitrogen ration of 20:1, similar to grass clippings
    • For a gentle fertilizer, dilute 1/2 pound can of wet grounds in a five gallon bucket of water, then let it sit outdoors to achieve ambient temperature
    • Mix together used grounds & eggshells and then encircle the base of the plant to form a natural pest barrier
    • Caffeine is an effective slug deterrent: Concentrations as low as .01% in the soil reduces slug feeding on leaves, but won't kill them; if you're in a genocidal mood, however, a 1% solution will take out 60% of slugs and a 2% solution will eradicate 95% of all types of slugs. Keep in mind, however, that the 2% solution did damage some tender foliage, so while the idea of ridding your garden permanently of these slimy little guys might be appealing, it could have adverse effects on your plants
    • If you have a vermiculture setup, your used coffee grounds will be lovingly consumed by your tribe of worms
    • Use over-roasted beans as a mulch for your garden pathways to create an eye-catching and lovely scented walkway
    • Used grounds are an excellent mulch for tomato plants -- the increase in nitrogen make your tomatoes happy and also help suppress late blight
  • Recipe: Espresso Marinated Flank Steak

    This recipe for Espresso Marinated Flank Steak with Plantain Chutney, developed by Juan Montalvo, looks scrumptious and we can't wait to try it!

    Flank Steak
    2 pounds flank steak
    1 cup espresso
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup honey
    1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
    6 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tbsp. black peppercorn, crushed

    Whisk espresso, vinegar, olive oil, honey, Worcestershire sauce, garlic
    and peppercorn in bowl. Place flank steak in a resealable plastic bag
    and pour marinade into bag. Remove all the air from bag and
    refrigerate for minimum 1 hour.

    Remove steak from marinade. Place steak on medium high heat grill
    and cook for 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer steak to cutting board and
    let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Slice thinly across the grain.

    Plantain Chutney
    3 ripe plantains (they should be yellow with black spots on the outside)
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
    2 tbsp. honey
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    1 tbsp. olive oil

    Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Peel plantain and place on
    baking dish. Bake in a preheated 375F oven until well browned. Once
    cooked, place plantain aside to cool. Cut plantain lengthwise and dice.

    Pour olive oil into a medium heat sauce pan. Add onions and cook
    until translucent. Add plantain, jalapeno, chicken stock, and honey,
    salt and pepper to taste, cook for 5-10 minutes to warm all ingredients
    together. Pour over the top of the sliced flank steak.

    Makes 6 Servings

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