Hairo Slim Hand Grinder

Grinders

Hairo Slim on the left, Antique burr grinder on the right

I read several positive reviews of the Hairo Hand Grinder, and thought about ordering one, but decided against it because I thought my wife would think I was silly for buying another grinder. However, I went to Sage in south Tulsa and they had them in stock for less than I saw online, so I had  to, and I am glad that I did.  I knew my electric burr grinder was a cheap one, but the quality of the grind, and as a result the coffee, doesn’t even come close to this little $32 hand crank device.  I made a simple pour-over as soon as I got it and was very pleased with the result.  A friend came over for dinner that night and we used it for a moka pot.  He was sold on it right away(and the moka pot).  Now that was something, because this guy is a Keurig drip coffee drinker, and this made such an impression that he is willing to go to hand grinding whole beans and brewing on a stove-top with a moka pot.

Hairo makes a few different types of hand grinders, and the one that I bought is their most compact design.  It is very small and not well suited for grinding large amounts of coffee.  Since my wife does not drink coffee, I am usually brewing for one, so this works perfectly for most of my applications. One feature that I like is the lid on top.  Several other hand grinders are open and must sit flat and still while grinding.  I like that I can hold it and walk around while grinding without worrying about spilling. Adjusting the grind is very easy.  There is a knob under the burrs that you twist to get a fine or coarse grind and it clicks with each turn.  If you are switching between different types of brew methods, you can remember the number of clicks from one to the other and some of the guessing can be eliminated once you find the sweet spot for each method.

Hairo Slim

The Hairo Slim Grinder with crank and lid removed.

I suppose I should explain why the grind is so good.  It has everything to do with the ceramic burrs.  It is designed very well and gives you a consistent grind whether you are going fine or coarse, and I was also amazed at how fine of a grind this can produce.  It is definitely good enough for espresso. Being ceramic, you don’t have to worry about the burrs getting dull on you.  With electric grinders, you get what you pay for to an extent, but with this grinder you can get a grind as good as a $500+ machine would produce for under $40.  What you don’t get is speed and automation. You have to do the work, but then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Mug, Cup, or Demitasse

Latte

Latte from Shades of Brown in Tulsa, OK

When I walk into the kitchen with intentions of making a hot caffeinated beverage, The options are abundant.  Am I going to brew any of the previously posted coffees? Will I go the less labor intensive route and have some tea, which then leaves me with about a dozen different types of tea to choose from (I stay well stocked).  And after that, I must choose a mug or cup, out of which I shall enjoy my morning stimulant.  I love learning new ways of making coffee and tea, but I also get excited about using different types of mugs.

Maybe you have a favorite mug that you use as often as you drink coffee, or you may only have one kind of mug that matches the rest of your dishes, but if you are like me, you have an entire cabinet shelf overflowing with various drinking containers fit for all kinds of applications.  I have the classic white mugs that match our dishes, I have little espresso demitasses, huge painted mugs that my wife and I made at the Purple Glaze, a nice small white and steel set of cups that my wife picked up when she was in Spain, clear glass tea cups with matching espresso demitasses, two sets of tea cups with matching kettles, two small handmade looking cups that a friend bought for me while she was in Argentina, and a whole mess of tea cups and demitasses that match our fine china.

To be completely honest, there is no need for all of these mugs, but need enough for some of them.  Your regular tea cup and coffee mug works pretty much the same, but there are a couple categories that you can stick to to get the most out of your coffee, tea, latte, or espresso.

Mugs

A mug, by definition, is larger than tea cup, and is meant to hold hot chocolate, coffee and lattes. Basically any large amount of a hot drink. It will always have a handle, because it isn’t very comfortable to wrap your hand around a hot mug. This is what you are use to seeing on anyone’s office desk, or when you get a latte at a coffee shop.  The American motto is that bigger is better, so most people want big mugs full of coffee.  Because if a little is good, then a lot must be better right? Wrong! The best results will be from using the appropriate container for whatever you are drinking.  Mugs are great for drip coffee, french press, hot chocolate, and lattes.  When the quantity is reduced, you are best of sticking with a smaller container.

Tea Cups

Obviously, tea cups are for tea.  Individual tea bags are meant to brew a small amount of tea, so if you use a big mug and lots of water you will get some weak tea.  The other thing the smaller mug accomplishes is that it allows scolding hot drinks to cool to an acceptable temperature faster, and is more likely to be finished before it gets cold.  I hate getting a huge coffee that I can’t drink for 5 minutes, and then gets too cold to drink by the time I am three quarters of the way into it.

Demitasse

Demitasse of Espresso

My black demitasse with coffee from my moka pot

Demitasse comes from the french word for “half cup”.  I am used to hearing them referred to as espresso mugs or espresso cups.  There are many names in many languages, so it doesn’t really matter to me what you call it as long as everyone knows what you are talking about.

If I am drinking espresso, it must be from a demitasse.  There are few drinks where it is more important to use the correct cup than espresso, and of course, temperature is the key.  For the best result the mug should be warmed before use.  Any coffee shop that knows what it is doing will do this.  When espresso is pulled, you have a small amount of hot liquid.  If you pour this into a large room temperature mug, you will have cold espresso very soon.  I do not have a mug warmer at home, so I simply run hot water through my espresso machine into the cup I am going to use to heat it up before I pull my espresso.  Make sure you dump the hot water and wipe out the remaining liquid with a clean towel before you pull your shots.  One terrible crime that I have seen committed too often is to pull espresso into a paper cup.  Just don’t do it.  If you are drinking espresso straight, then you don’t need to take it with you.  Use a proper demitasse, and drink it immediately.  It is only two ounces you wuss.

Espresso Machine

The top of this La Marzocco machine is a mug warmer

Sorry, I  got a little emotional up there.  As you can see, espresso has a greater effect on me than the caffeine stimulus alone.  You have heard my advice and opinions, and I won’t call you any names if you drink coffee in a peculiar fashion.  That was the last time, I promise.

Nespresso Citiz

Nespresso CitizThe young Barista version of myself would have called it heresy, but I bought a Nespresso Citiz.  I was in Williams Sonoma with my wife browsing their ludicrously expensive and wonderful espresso machines, when an employee asked if I would like a demonstration of their Nespresso machine.  She had me at free espresso, but no way was I buying a machine that uses capsules.  I need to grind whole beans to consider myself a real coffee aficionado right?  Well, unfortunately the espresso was much better than my little Breville espresso machine, and the process from start to finish was so fast! That is where it sold me.  Grinding, tamping and pulling espresso is a somewhat labor intensive task, and not the easiest thing to clean up after.  This was quick clean and pretty good. Before you get mad and leave, it definitely does not come close to quality, locally roasted beans ground fresh with a good grinder, and pulled on a $15k machine by a seasoned barista.  How could it?  But since I don’t have any of those things at home (except for the beans) I settled for this, and I don’t regret it.

Sleek and Convenient

It has a nice look to it, and doesn’t take up much space.  It holds water in the back tank and has few parts to clean up.  I have been using it for 3 months now with no problems.  Before I bought this machine, I would have to settle for terrible office coffee on days that I woke up late.  Now the process takes all of two minutes and I have hot espresso!  My wife and I like to entertain, and after dinner there is usually at least a few requests for specialty coffee, and I am happy to provide, but when I have to crank out 4 or 5 latte’s in a row, I end up grinding and brewing while everyone else is talking and enjoying themselves.  I don’t like to miss out, and with this machine, I don’t miss much.  And I didn’t even tell you about the Aeroccino!

Frothing Made Easy!

Nespresso also makes this nifty device for frothing milk that I bought with my machine.  You pour in milk, press a button, and seconds later you have hot frothed milk. BAM! He he.. sorry, I got excited. So about this thing, frothing is one of the most time consuming parts of making a cappuccino or latte and something you can easily screw up, but this takes all that away.  It is definitely not the greatest frothed milk you ever had, but convenience is at 10 so I’ll take quality at 6 for household use.

Final Comments

By now you realize I am a big fan of this machine, but also understand that you can’t expect the world from it.  It is not going to replace my local coffee shop, but for my current lifestyle it’s fantastic.  I am always on the go and often in need of a quick shot of caffeine.  This meets those needs and doesn’t taste half as bad as Folger’s at the office.

Cold Brew Coffee

coldbrewI understand that most coffee lovers don’t like their coffee cold, so how does a thing like cold brew coffee catch on?  Well, it all comes down to chemistry.  The story behind the Toddy is that a chemical engineering graduate came up with the idea because cold brewed coffee is 67% less acidic, and smoother than many other brew methods.  Along with that, no risk of burning! So our hero Todd patented this ridiculously simple device, and probably never worked another day of his life. I wish I could do something like that.

Just because it is brewed cold doesn’t mean it has to be consumed cold.  Add boiling water, which dilutes it a smidgen, or just throw it into the microwave to heat it up.  Being one of the 25 million acid reflux sufferers in America, I understand the benefit of making things a little easier on the stomach, and this is a good way to do that without having to drink less than you want.  It is also very convenient as you can refrigerate it for several days.

You can order a Toddy cold brew system online, or from specialty coffee stores if you can find one. I am only aware of one such store in Tulsa, Mecca Coffee Co.  However, you can also buy a near identical product from Walgreen’s for half the price, which is what I did. And seriously, there is nothing to this process, so the contraptions work just the same.  The only difference is the size.   My little cold brew device is smaller, so you don’t get quite as much.  The other down side is that you are much more likely to find replacement parts for a Toddy than the “As Seen on TV” thing that I have, I know from experience.  My wife accidentally threw away the plug to mine, but luckily, the plug for the Toddy fits just the same, so I bought one from Mecca and was back to cold brewing in no time.  The other part you may need to replace is the cloth filter that fits into the bottom of the tank, and those do not come in the same size.

The Method

coldbrewfilledI suppose I should get to the details. Don’t worry, this will be short. How much coffee and water you can use depends on your device.  With the Toddy it is one pound of coarse ground coffee and 9 cups of filtered water.  With mine, I use something close to 12 ounces of coffee and 7 cups of water.  you can adjust the ratio if you like, but that will give you a pretty strong result, which is good for diluting in hot water to make an Americano type drink.

The instructions are explained quite well on the ToddyCafe web site.  As such, I will not go into detail on how to, but here is the skinny just to give you an idea of what it takes.

  • Put the cloth filter in the bottom of the canister, making sure to push it all the way to the bottom.
  • Insert the rubber plug in the hole from the bottom side.
  • Add one cup filtered water.
  • Dump half of your course ground coffee in
  • Pour four cups water slowly and in a circular motion as to wet all of the grounds.
  • Add the rest of the coffee.
  • Pour the rest of the water.
  • Cover it and let is sit for 12 hours, do not stir!
  • When it is done, place it over the carafe and unplug it. The coffee will slowly drain out.

The Enjoyment

Drink it, heat it, pour it over ice, in hot water, or in a blender. There are a multitude of uses for cold brew coffee. It is perfect for an iced coffee or any kind of blended coffee drink. During the summer I will just pour it over ice cubes and drink it like that. In the winter I typically heat it in the microwave, just make sure you don’t boil it, that will produce some bitter flavors.  Another great feature of cold brew coffee is that it keeps for 14 days!  There is no waste.  If you don’t finish it, save it for the next day.

Cold brew coffee comes out very strong. I have heard others say as strong as espresso, but I wouldn’t say that. The lack of acidity and bitterness makes it much easier to drink than espresso, but for espresso lovers, it really isn’t the same.  As much as I like cold brew coffee, it will never take the place of a good hot double shot.

There is my take on cold brew. Let me know what you think.

Coffee House on Cherry Street

cherrystreet

The aptly named Coffee House on Cherry Street is a wonderful eclectic coffee house that is community oriented. You may not find more friendly service, and I always get a kick when they say “cheers” as they bring me my coffee. They don’t do that all the time, but that makes it even more pleasant when they do.  This shop stays pretty busy and has convenient hours. One of the few places that spring to my mind when I want to go somewhere and hang out around 8pm on a Sunday.  It is an excellent place to meet up with friends for coffee and good times.

Drinks

The Coffee House brews and sells locally roasted coffee beans. They will make you an outstanding espresso or traditional macchiato, as well as all of the sweet and chocolaty drinks you would buy at Starbucks, but with better coffee, and my wife loves their chai latte. With fresh, quality coffee beans and high end la Marzocco equipment grinding and brewing your coffee, the result is stellar.  You can also get a french press at the Coffee House which is great to share with two or three people(depending on how much coffee you want).

My favorite is their macchiato, which is my favorite everywhere unless they make a bad macchiato, and the good folks on Cherry Street make a mean macchiato.  Everything from the shots to the coffee art is done right and tastes amazing.

Food

This coffee shop serves much more than your average coffee shop food items. You can have a good breakfast and lunch here, and I am not just talking about a bagel and a turkey sandwich.  They serve hot breakfast and lunch items.  They also have tasty cakes and pies to enjoy with your after dinner coffee.  I have even seen a flan on rare occasion.  I know it isn’t everyone’s thing, but goodness gracious I love a flan!

Ambiance

The Coffee House on Cherry Street has a very eclectic and trendy feel to it with antique furniture, local art, and a couple of cozy nooks to hide away in if you can get a seat before it is taken. On a book shelf you can find books as well as games to enjoy if you are looking for something to read while you finish your coffee, or something to do with your friends. I must give a warning, you may see nude art in the shop, so if you find that offensive, you may want to take your coffee to go.  Otherwise, the atmosphere is very relaxing.  Such that you would be comfortable talking, reading a book or the newspaper, or studying.  While in the shop you will see a good mix of people, plenty of students studying, and a large number of regulars who come just to be a part of the community that has developed in this shop.

Cherry Street Seating Area

The Coffee House on Cherry Street is a wonderful shop, and a great addition to Cherry Street and the unique coffee culture that we enjoy in Tulsa.  Let me know your thoughts on the Coffee House.