plonq: (Emo Luna Mood)
Dear Mount Hagen Coffee,

I purchased a small jar of your freeze-dried, instant, decaffeinated organic coffee because my experience with the three previous brands of instant coffees I had tried were disappointing, and also I have no self-respect. I can say with some assurance as I gleefully tossed the empty jar into the recycling bin this evening that the coffee therein was not disappointing. I daresay it vile to the point of being insulting. These horrid little crystals bore as much resemblance to coffee as the ashes of a dearly departed. Did anybody taste the product before it was labelled as coffee? I would suggest that a the consumer would be better served if this product was renamed to, "freeze-dried tragedy. Serve hot."

I would not serve this drink to my enemies, though I would venture to suggest that I might make a few by serving good folk this abomination.

If I could find a silver lining in this brew of putrescence, it is that it spurred me into dropping all pretence of coffee in the evenings, and made me seek out an alternative to decaf entirely. The problem is not that I dislike coffee, in fact I love it too much, and I drink it in all of its full-caffeine forms during the day. I would just like to enjoy the brew in the evenings without disrupting my sleep. I've had some mixed success with whole bean and ground decaf coffee, but I was hoping to get away from the fuss and mess of brewing coffee by lowering my standards a bit - a lot, actually - and and trying my luck with instant coffee.

Anyway, I blame you and the sheer repulsiveness of your product into rendering me susceptible to my next ill-advised purchase: Bambu instant organic coffee substitute.

The product caught my eye while I was shopping for other products, and I happened by the section of the store that offers products like Almond Milk, Flavoured Soy Drink, and other items that tend to serve as a ward people who do not hate themselves. I was intrigued by the label which showed a couple spikes of wheat, several whole acorns and half a fig flying gleefully into a swirling mug of foamy, brown liquid. I held the product in my hand in a state of detached, morbid fascination before I quickly tossed it into my basket lest somebody see me and misidentify me as a pod person. I mean, surely nobody would make a product like this as anything other than a trap to ensnare aliens trying to pass themselves off as humans.

"Hello, fellow humans. Would you care to join me in a cup of beverage made from nuts, grains, and a pulpy fruit normally used for making newtons?"

I had low expectations for this beverage, so nothing would delight me more than to tell you that it was delicious. But it wasn't. It was a disappointment. From the very first cup of hot, steaming, what the hell was I thinking, I knew that I had made a big mistake. I made another cup the next night, and tried adding enough sugar to mask the flavour. No amount of sugar helped. The second cup was naught but sweet regret.

I left both products sitting on the kitchen shelf, untouched for almost a week after that. I finally concluded that I was never going to drink either of them again, and though I am loathe to waste a product, I went out to the kitchen with the intent of pouring both into the sink and recycling their jars. It was when I had both jars in my hands that I performed an act that I can only attribute to temporary insanity, or suppressed self-loathing. I decided that they deserved a proper send-off, and I was curious if their awfulness was additive or multiplicative, so I scooped half a proper portion of each into my mug and prepared it as I would a regular instant coffee.

What I had not anticipated was that their union was neither of those, rather it was subtractive. The resulting blend was not simply not bad, it was actually pretty good. It would be like putting a pug and a shih tzu into a grinder and... well, actually we could stop right there and we'd still have a winning condition. But in this case, it would be like putting two yappy, snorty dogs into a grinder and having a border collie come out the end.

I finished the last of the Mount Hagen coffee this evening, and I have since purchased a brand that was more passable. I am hoping that it will play as nicely with this coffee substitute as its predecessor. I suspect it will. I remember years ago it was common for coffee companies to add chicory to their instant coffees, and it is the main ingredient in Bambu.


Return to Pinawa

Path of The Rock

Happy Birthday CanadaHappy Birthday Canada
plonq: (Crashing Mood)
It has been a little while since I updated here, so I am trying to remember where I left off.

I think I mentioned the email I got that wanted me to show up for 3 1/2 months of intensive training on very short notice. The news on that is currently a holding pattern. The foot that I injured last year had been troubling me, and after pestering my doctor about it for months, he finally sent me off for x-rays. When I booked a follow-up appointment with him (to renew my prescriptions in case I got sent out of town, and to find out the results of the X-ray), he admitted that he is not an expert on feet, but that there was no obvious breaks or bone spurs. On the other hand, there were clear signs of swelling. He instructed his front end staff to refer me to a specialist.

The hemmed and hawed over it before finally recommending that I go to the Pan Am Clinic. It's a walk-in, first-come-first served clinic, though they prioritize by severity. They took down my details and gave me a number. Forty-five minutes later I saw a triage specialist who took down more detailed information, including the name of my family doctor. Then they told me to return in about four hours.

I had another two hour wait before I finally got in to see an actual doctor, though when I saw the condition of people who they were taking ahead of me, I did not begrudge the wait. He poked and prodded my foot and ankle, asked me a few questions, then called up the x-ray. When I described what had happened last year, he said that the x-ray confirmed it, and he then exactly described the symptoms that I would be having now because of it.

In a nutshell, when I pushed off with my left foot to straighten a draw-bar, the strain caused one of the small bones in my foot to dislodge and cross over one of the other bones. When I was flexing the foot a couple of days later, the pop I felt was the bone snapping back into place. In the process, it tore the tendon. I probably should have gone to see a foot specialist at the time, but it happened over the long weekend, and by the Tuesday, it was feeling much better and seemed to be on the mend.

The problem now is that when the tendon has suffered scarring, and it healed too short. As a result, I experience pain from walking, and shooting pains when walking on uneven terrain, navigating stairs/ladders, or otherwise pushing off from that foot. You don't want unexpected, shooting pains in your foot and ankle when you are working around large, industrial equipment.

Now that I have the formal diagnosis, I need to set up an appointment for physiotherapy where they will use ultrasound and lasers to essentially damage the tendon again and stretch it out properly as it heals. Does not sound pleasant. I also need to get some paperwork filled out for work to indicate that I am under a doctor's care until further notice, and will not be available for training in a safety-sensitive position.


Over the winter I started buying instant decaf coffee to drink in the evenings. I used to buy ground decaf, but it always took me so long to go through a bag of it that it was invariably stale before I got to the end. With the instant decaf, the coffee is bad from the get go, so I can drink it at my leisure.

I have been trying a variety of brands in a quest to find the least awful of them. A couple of them were actually surprisingly drinkable, but the most recent one I bought was a German import that is vile. I had this misguided idea that Europeans know good coffee, so if it was from Germany, it must be good. I conveniently forgot that there are probably still old Soviet factories operating in some of the more remote parts of eastern Germany, and that this horrid product probably came from one of those. It tastes like coffee that was infused with despair and then had all the joy distilled out of it.

When I was out shopping last week, I found a coffee substitute in the organic food section of the store. It was a brand that I had never heard of, made from ingredients that sounded only vaguely familiar. I was both intrigued and repelled at the same time, so naturally I bought it. I made a cup of it the day that I brought it home and it's ... a thing. I tried it again the next day, making it slightly stronger, and adding sugar. It was a ... slightly stronger, moderately sweet .... thing. I can't really come up with adequate words to describe it. It's not what I would call good, but it's not really that bad either. I cannot claim that I enjoyed drinking it, but neither did I dread each sip.

I had a bit of a rough day today (had to spend a few hours dealing with work-related support issues), so this evening I decided to round out the awful with some decaf. I had the German crystals in my hand and briefly considered throwing them in the garbage, but on a whim I brewed up a cup with 60% of the German decaf, and 40% of the coffee substitute.

Oddly enough, the result was actually pretty good. I don't know what weird alchemy happened in my coffee cup, but apparently two wrongs can make a right if mixed properly.
plonq: (Grawky Mood)
Some years back, a friend mentioned that they do not let coffee go to waste in his house. When he and his wife make a pot, whatever they don't drink goes into a pitcher in the fridge to be consumed later as iced coffee.

I've had coffee a few times that has sat long enough to go cold, and I cannot say that I have ever been a fan. I like it only slightly more than I do coffee that has gone cold, and then been reheated in the microwave oven. I daresay I would go to the irrational extreme of foregoing coffee entirely rather than drinking something that has been reheated in the microwave.

I am, by my own admission, a coffee snob though. You can take the boy out of Vancouver, but you can't entirely take Vancouver out of the boy.

On the other hand, I've had iced coffees that I really liked. I had tried making it in the past by brewing it and then pouring it directly over ice, but I could never get it to come out quite the way I wanted.

Last year I tried my hand at cold-brewing coffee. I filled a French press with cold water and enough ground coffee to make 8-10 cups. After a couple of days I pressed the plunger and poured if off into a pitcher, trying my best to leave the sludge behind in the press. The result was much better than what I had ever got from hot-brewing it onto ice, but still not quite what I was after.

I did some more reading on the subject last week when I took the fancy to try brewing it again, and I learned that I had made a couple of minor blunders on my last attempt. Cold-brewed actually means cold-brewed. By brewing it on the counter, I had left it long enough for bacteria and impurities to grow in it, which likely affected the flavour. Also, if I had filtered it after brewing, it would have been a much cleaner drink.

Last week I tried making it again, but with some changes. First, I used filtered water rather than tap water - though that is probably a needless step since our tap water here is quite good. Secondly, I brewed it in the refrigerator rather than on the counter. Finally, I wrapped the grounds in coffee filters, tied shut with cheese cloth. I let it steep for ~14 hours and then removed the grounds. The result was night and day from my earlier attempts. The coffee was full-flavoured and mildly sweet. I don't think that it was actually sweet, rather it lacked completely in the expected bitter.

One of the guides I read on the process explained that cold-brewing produces coffee with a markedly different character and flavour from hot-brewing because the cold water does not release any of the oils, nor modify the flavour of the coffee through cooking it. All in all, I am quite pleased with the results of this method, and I am eager to find out how my current batch turns out. As an added bonus, since caffeine is water-soluble, letting it steep in the fridge for that long does a thorough job of leeching it from the grounds. This cold-brewed stuff is very high-test.

The farmers' market is very colourful this time of year.
Autumn at the market
plonq: (Predatory Mood)
Today is a lovely January morning - if it was January, and I was waking up to this in Victoria. Yesterday's rain turned to snow late in the day and we awoke to fresh accumulations this morning. Snow is not unheard of this late in the season - heck, it snowed on us up at Riding Mountain park on Canada Day a few years ago. It's just ... fuck.

I am getting rotated onto Primary support this week, starting tonight. I chatted briefly with the guy who is coming off his stint on primary (though we are going to meet for longer this morning so that he can fill me in on more detail) but so far he says it is much better than it was. For the most part it just involves getting up at 4:45 to babysit a couple of systems, and then handle emails and phone calls from clueless idiots.

The last time I was on primary support we had all kinds of system meltdowns, and people screaming at me for things I was not qualified to handle. It was fun in a way that is absolutely not fun at all. It was the kind of experience that I will look back on later, laugh nervously and change the subject.

Speaking of work, somebody left a bunch of these in the cafeteria on Tuesday.

I am not normally a fan of flavoured coffees, but I am a sucker for free stuff. I grabbed one of them and made it later in the afternoon. It was ok - as flavoured coffees go. I appreciate them a lot more when the coffee is meant to be flavoured, and I am not just inheriting some left over flavour oils from whoever made a coffee before me.

Many years back, when I was still working in our yard office, I used to take my coffee maker and grinder in to work on the night shift so that we could have good coffee. This worked well for weeks, until I wandered into the break room just in time to catch some yutz running a batch of Almond Shitbark - or whatever his flavoured coffee was called - through the grinder. I was so pissed at him I came darned near close to breaking all of his fingers. I didn't break any of them, but breaking fingers is like eating potato chips; hard to stop once you get started.

I took apart the grinder and cleaned all of the parts that I could, but the oils from his coffee coated everything, and it was weeks before we finally couldn't taste hints of shitbark in our coffee. He couldn't understand why everyone on night shift was pissed at him, even when I explained it. "Have you never wondered why coffee shops always have a separate grinder for their flavoured coffees?"

It was an honest mistake, and it showed just how little of those raunchy flavoured oils it takes to ruin a pot of otherwise good brew.

This was the same guy who would use a single scoop of coffee to make a pot that usually needed three scoops. He would make it stronger if it was flavoured, but if it was regular coffee then he would complain if it was any darker than burnt umber when you held it up to the light. His typical modus operandi was to pour half a cup, complain about how strong it was, and then top up the rest of the way with hot water. It occurred me much later that he probably didn't like coffee, and he preferred the flavours because they masked the taste. I wish I could project my brain back to my past self, so that I could stand there sipping my coffee while he complained about how strong it was, and added enough water to make it, well, water. "Tell us the truth, D. You don't really like coffee, do you?"
plonq: (Saddled With Questions)
I already grumped about this a little on Twitter, but after my brutal day yesterday I am still brimming with too much complain to contain.

People in my office insist on using flavoured coffees in our Keurig machines, and it is tainting the next couple of unflavoured coffees that go through. It's bad enough that I have let myself get suckered into buying these overpriced little plastic buckets of mediocrity, but it is insult to injury when I fill my cup and find that what wan hint of good coffee managed to struggle its way through the system is nigh overwhelmed by the French Vanilla residue left by a previous user.

The evil part of me wants to track down some novelty ghost pepper blend to run through the machines. At best, it would result in an edict coming down from management prohibiting flavoured coffees in the machines.

Hm. I have refillable Keurig cups at home, and super hot peppers are easy to come by. The scheming intensifies ...

On another note, if you happen to be saddled with one of these machines in your office, this is actually a halfway decent blend IMO. I am not normally a big fan of the lighter roads, but this one borders on being good. If you can't make out the finer text on this shot, it is a product of Green Mountain.
Coffee ... almost
plonq: (Saddled With Questions)
20130115 by Plonq
20130115, a photo by Plonq on Flickr.

While I generally want to steer clear of applying kitschy filters to my pictures for my YIP set, I rather liked the effect of this one that I applied on a whim. even though it warmed the colours, by blowing out the detail in the buildings in the background, it brought the focus more to the dessert in the foreground, and if possible, made it look even colder outside.

Via Flickr:
One could almost call this comfort food. It was good, but erring on the side of inoffensive, and tasted like it was toeing the line on almost being healthy. In short, it was the perfect dessert for a cold, blustery day like this.

Kudos to Flickr for still having LJ as one of their social media sites that you can automatically post an image to, but it would be nice if it allowed a few of the options (like even carrying over your Flickr tags to LJ).
plonq: (Otter Mood)
As much as I can be a bit of a beer snob at times, I am even more of a coffee snob.

While I was in Alaska, I was intrigued by a locally grown roasted coffee called Raven's Brew. I had heard through various of sources that it is pretty good coffee, so I watched for it in a couple of the ports that we hit. What I learned from my experience was that a surprising number of Alaskans make really bad coffee. I can usually drink almost anything, but in both Skagway and Ketchikan I ended up throwing out half-finished cups. I was pretty coffee-starved on the trip, so you know that it's pretty awful cup when I am dumping it halfway through.

On the other hand, I was willing to give Raven's Brew the benefit of the doubt and assume that the problem was in the preparation and not the bean, so I grabbed a couple bags of whole beans while we were in Ketchikan. I'd have liked to try several of them, but I settled on Resurrection Blend and Wicked Wolf because they had some of the best flavour text on the bags.

This morning I finally cracked open the bag of Resurrection Blend and made myself a cup. This is good coffee when it's made right. I'm almost wishing now that I'd bought a couple more pounds of it when I had the chance.
plonq: (Creative mood)
I stopped digging for the earlier version of this little vignette and recreated it from scratch. It bears thematic similarities to the original, but I took it in a slightly different direction. It's a bit unpolished because I wrote it at work, and things are a little busy at the moment so I've had to squeeze this in while I wait for things to compile and run.

Without further ado, here is my little story about a coffee crisis.


To the casual observer, it almost appeared that the snow leopard was hard at work; he had a spreadsheet open on both of his visible screens and he was sitting forward in his chair, ears half-cocked in deep thought with his muzzle resting on his left palm while he tapped the tip of his wet nose with an index finger. The spreadsheet to his right was filled with tables and charts, and the one to his left had an indexed list. He stared at the chart-filled spreadsheet for a moment and moving nothing but his right hand, he clicked on a cell in one of the tables and changed the number. All of the graphs shifted slightly.

If one had moved in close enough to read the text on the spreadsheets, they would undoubtedly have changed their opinion of how busy the cat really was, but Plonq counted on the innate habit of his co-workers to give a wide berth to monitors that appeared to be displaying boring work. The main chart displayed a rolling thirty-one day window on its horizontal axis, and its vertical axis was labelled, "Number of Times I Have Modified This Chart". The occasional dips on that axis indicated days on which the feline was too busy with real work to update his pet project. The other charts showed month-to-date and year-to-date averages, along with median and mean deviations with predictive trend lines. Plonq shook his head slightly and sighed. If he didn't hear back from the primary stakeholder on his CLM report soon, then tomorrow looked like it could be a record day for updates.

The other worksheets in his spreadsheet were identified by such names on their tabs as "NHL Playoff Predictions", "Lottery Pool Results" and other trivial, non work-related topics. He turned his attention to the spreadsheet on the left screen and re-read the entries.

- Plonq has done no measurable work today. Possible reasons:

1) Lack of motivation
2) Lack of coffee
2a) Investigate casual relation between items 1 and 2
3) Require approval and sign-off before proceeding on 4 projects. See also #1
4) Itch in a place I'd rather not scratch in public.
5) This list. Also see #2
6) Update charts.
7) Lack of coffee

A common theme in the list drew the small cat's eyes to his coffee mug. The mug was not only empty, but gleamed in a manner that could only be achieved by having a muzzle jammed into it and a raspy tongue run repeatedly over its interior. The mug had long since passed empty into a deficit of a deficit of coffee. He lifted his head from his hand, moved the cursor down a couple of rows and began to type.

- Solutions:

1) Coffee

He paused, and then quickly pulled his hands back from the keyboard again. One thing at a time; there was no point in getting ahead of himself. Plonq picked up his mug and inspected it critically to see if he had missed any molecules of residual coffee, but if even a single coffee particle remained in the cup it eluded him. He slammed the mug back into its customary coffee ring on his mouse pad, skipped down a couple of rows and began typing again.

Problem: Plonq's mug is empty.
Desired solution: Plonq purrs because he has fresh coffee.
Speed bumps:
- Plonq only has $3.14, which may be enough for coffee but not enough for a tuna-crème fritter, or a glazed coddie to go with it.
- There might not be coffee made in the north break room.
Mitigating factors:
- Plonq is fat and does not need a doughnut.
- Plonq is capable of making more coffee if the break room is out of coffee.
Aggravating factors:
- Coffee politics.
- Plonq is lazy.

He sat back again and recounted his paw full of change, then revised the figure to $3.18 when he noticed he had miscounted a nickel as a penny. Intellectually, Plonq knew that he really did not need a doughnut. His stomach and saliva glands expressed their disagreement, and he had to swallow a couple of times to avoid drowning on his own bodily fluids. The cat had been behaving himself lately; didn't he deserve to reward himself for such good behaviour?

Plonq shuddered at the seductive line of thought because he knew how it would end. Today it would be a single trout cruller, and then tomorrow he would buy himself a few coconut mackerels as a reward for his restraint today. Before long there would be naught left of him but a quivering blob of furry lard, giggling maniacally in the middle of a ring of candied eel wrappers. He quickly pocketed his change and decided to take his chances on the break room.

With a mug full of nothing but resolve clutched firmly in his hand, the little feline locked his workstation, swivelled his chair toward the break room and leapt purposefully to his feet. "Get in, get coffee, get out," he chuffed under his breath like a mantra. There was the outside danger that there was no coffee made, and if anybody saw him heading into the room with a coffee mug in his hand then it would raise unfortunate expectations that he planned to make more. It was a risk that he would have to take if he wanted to escape the siren call of doughnuts. Mmmm, doughnuts. His mouth began to water again, though his saliva tasted suspiciously of spite this time.

When he rounded the corner into the coffee room, his worst fears were not realized; sort of. Both carafes contained coffee if one was very charitable with their definition of the same. The carafe on the left had a puddle of bubbling coffee tar, and the other had a solid one-centimetre thick coffee disc on the bottom. Plonq noted sardonically that somebody had shut off the element under the solid coffee. For a very brief moment Plonq considered scraping some of the sludge into his cup, but his survival instincts quickly suppressed the thought before he could act on it.

In normal circumstances - that is, circumstances that were exclusive of the situation in this office – the natural reaction would have been something other than the triggering of one's natural fight or flight reflex. A mewl of despair escaped from the back of the feline's throat as he came to the realization that he was going to have to make fresh coffee. One might be excused for wondering at his distress, since to most normal folk the process of making coffee entailed little more than filling a basket with grounds and pouring water into the top of the machine. While that might have been true from a purely mechanical aspect, it ignored the politics of the beverage.

One of Plonq's ex-managers had once wryly observed, "If you put any dozen of the coffee drinkers in this office in a room and ask them the right way to make a pot of coffee, they will emerge with thirteen opinions because at least one them will change his mind out of spite." Plonq admitted that he had his own pretty strong opinions about how to make good coffee. First you started with a paw full of green beans – well, that wasn't really an option here, was it? There was a sign taped to the wall over the coffee machine with instructions on how to make a perfect pot of coffee.

The sheet included little pictograms showing five level scoops of coffee being added to the basket, and a full carafe of water being poured into the machine. Conspicuously missing from the pictograms was a disgruntled vixen squatting over the pot and adding her mystery ingredient. She had been voluntarily making the coffee for over a month before she was caught. Naturally she got escorted off the company property by the police and was charged with tampering. Once everybody had gotten over their disgust and betrayal though, they grudgingly lamented that it was still the best coffee that had ever come out of the break room.

That had been a couple of years ago, but people were still suspicious of any coffee that seemed "too good". Plonq had brought in fresh ground beans from home on more than one occasion, but most of it ended up sitting until it was too stale to drink because people thought it smelled too delicious to be safe. He stopped bringing fresh beans entirely when he overheard a muttered comment one day about "Plonq's special brew." The little snow leopard sighed and reached for the can of Manxwell House coffee. "Good to the last dribble," proclaimed the star-blazoned endorsement on the side of the can. In finer print it crowed that it was made from "... the husks and sweepings from the FINEST ROASTERIES of New Jersey!"

"Yum," he muttered darkly under his breath. He cracked the lid and used it to hastily fan away the dust and fumes that escaped from the can as he exposed its contents to clean air. He set it aside and pulled the basket out of its holder. To his amazement, somebody had emptied it and put in a fresh filter. Plonq speculated that a coworker must have been going through the motions of making fresh coffee before the sorry state of the carafes drove them to abandon the project. Ah well, at least it saved him a couple of steps. He plunged the coffee scoop deep into the can of ground awfulness and then paused.

The instruction sheet on the wall showed a picture of five rounded scoops lined up next to an empty basket, but somebody had drawn a black X through the fifth scoop and written, "Only use 4 or it's too strong," underneath. An arrow in a different colour pointed to that and said, "That just makes it thin and bitter like you. Use 5 and shut up." Someone else had crossed out the 5 and replaced it with a 6. "That overflows the basket, asshole," admonished another hasty scrawl, followed by, "bite me." The exchange would slowly grow over a few days until it either started becoming too personal, or somebody drew a penis. In either case, the office manager would invariably replace the instruction sheet with a fresh one when it reached that point.

Plonq wondered if she threw out the old sheets, or kept them in a drawer. In his opinion they were a worthy bit of office lore that either belonged in a shared scrap book, or even in a "Post Secrets" type of travelling exhibit. He even had a good name for the show: The Coffee Wall of Vitriol.

He sighed and acknowledged to himself that he was stalling. It really did not matter how many scoops of coffee he added, nor how much water. He could add a pinch of salt, some dried egg shells, a dusting of cardamom – really, it did not matter what he did to the coffee. Everybody would hate it and curse his name with each sip.

Of course there was always the cop-out drawer.

He left the scoop standing in the tin and carefully pulled open the drawer with his pinkie claw. There they were, lined front to back and three deep; exactly nine coffee filters with pre-measured scoops of coffee in them.

At some point a misguided perfectionist had decided to take matters into his or her own paws and had measured out what he or she considered to be the perfect number of scoops. Nobody knew how old the pre-measured filters were because nobody would admit to using them. Were they being replaced daily? Were the older ones being rotated to the front? He shuddered and pushed the drawer shut again, gently lest he disturb the evil coffee and anger it. As far as Plonq was concerned, the coffee drawer was one of those mysteries best left unanswered – sort of like how his favourite sports team could finish top in the standings year after year and bow out in the first round of the play-offs. It was a Wookie on planet Endor; it transcended rational explanation.

"Five and one-quarter scoops," he said emphatically. There, he'd made a decision and now he would just have to deal with the consequences. Before he could second-guess himself, the cat quickly measured scoops of the vile powder into the basket and slammed it home into its holder. He snatched the carafe with the baked-on coffee and topped it up with tepid tap water. He had considered rinsing out the pot with the bubbling sludge on the bottom, but his reasoning was that if he could not make good coffee, then at least he could make character coffee.

When a badger rounded the corner into the break room a couple of minutes later, drawn by the smell of fresh coffee brewing, he caught the snow leopard red-handed with his mug under the basket, with the sludgy pot dangling lazily in his other hand. "What the heck do you think you're doing?" demanded the badger angrily. "That's a clear violation of break room etiquette!" The snow leopard's eyes darted down to his coffee mug, then to the coffee pot in his other hand and back up to the badger. It was clear to the badger that he had caught the other in an inappropriate act, and he decided to press his advantage before the feline could concoct any self-serving, halfway plausible denials. "Well, speak up! What do you have to say for yourself?"

The little snow leopard was clearly panicked now. He quickly pulled his nearly-full cup out from under the basket, spilling coffee on his shit shirt in the process. In what seemed almost an afterthought he slammed the coffee carafe into place. "I…" he stammered.

"You what?" demanded the badger. He sensed his dominance in the situation and stepped forward menacingly. "I'm all ears."

"I... ack!"

"I learned an important lesson today," said Plonq later that evening as he applied a stain stick to his shirt.

"What, that you shouldn't try to game the coffee system because you might get caught?" said Giblet without glancing up from his smart phone.

"What? No!" said the feline indignantly. He waved the stain pencil for emphasis. "I made the coffee. If wanted some of the good stuff it was completely within my rights to take some off the top!"

"Well then, pray tell me what important lesson you learned today," said the otter distractedly. "By the way, my sister is a bitch. I don't know why I keep her friended on Muzzlebook. I just wanted to get that out there."

"I learned," said the snow leopard thoughtfully, "that a well-timed, projectile hairball supersedes almost any awkward situation."
plonq: (Fark Off)
After I parted ways with [ profile] atara this morning, I cut through the walkway to the mall so that I could pick up another coffee on my way to work. The mall was empty save a few transient interlopers such as myself, and our footsteps echoed loudly, almost drowning out the hauntingly ethereal strains of Stevie Nicks' Landslide echoing over the mall's PA. I found the atmosphere very calming, and paused to drink it in for a few moments before moving on. My life needs more pauses like that.

I stopped at the bottom of the centre concourse while I decided which of the coffee choices appealed to me. Starbucks was the closest, and their line was not excessively long, but their service tends to be slow. The Gourmet Cup had no line, but while I will often avail myself of their speciality drinks, I am not a fan of their coffee; they serve it out of plastic vacuum urns that lend a slightly sour, stale-coffee taste to every cup. Finally there was Tim Hortons, which had the longest line, but also the fastest service.

I finally chose the third option because I had eaten a fairly small breakfast and packed a fairly light lunch, and the thought of a serving of their delicious maple oatmeal along with my coffee was very compelling.

Last week I had an issue with the girl at Starbucks who couldn't figure out the change when I gave her $20.01 for a bill of $19.91. Today it was just a little surreal.

Her: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, could I please have an extra large coffee, one cream and one su...
Her: [Interrupting] Coffee, one cream! [Punches in coffee with one cream.]
Me: ... and one sugar. Also I'd like a maple oatmeal please.
Her: [punches in the sugar] Was there anything else?
Me: Yes, a maple oatmeal please.
Her: OK, what kind of oatmeal sir. Berry?
Me: Maple
Her: Berry?
Me: Maple!

Apparently she interpreted maple to mean and kindly load up the bag with salt and pepper while you're at it because when I got to work, this is what I found piled on top of the oatmeal.

Pepper with your oatmeal?


Feb. 4th, 2010 07:09 am
plonq: (Cutting through the pooh)
My coffee pot broke yesterday, but that didn't stop me from my usual routine this morning of filling the tea kettle and turning on the grinder. While the grinder was noisily doing its thing, I turned to grab the coffee pot and was momentarily puzzled when I saw naught but a clean spot on the counter where it was supposed to be. I remembered a second later that it - rather, pieces of it - were sitting in the garbage by the back door. I quickly stopped the grinder so that I wouldn't end up with a full basket of coarse-ground coffee that I couldn't use and pondered my options.

I could throw some grounds into a soup pot and make some nice, crunchy "camp fire" coffee. I had the individual-cup drip basket that is older than fair number of people on my friends list. Unfortunately I don't have the right filters for it, and the ones I have area almost as old as the coffee basket itself. I have an individual French press kicking around here somewhere. I think. I also have that little Black & Decker coffee maker that didn't catch fire the last time I used it. Finally there was the vaguely-dangerous cappuccino maker; it hasn't blown up yet, but other than dusting it off to steam some milk early last year, it has been living safely in the back of the cupboard.

Mmmm... dangerous coffee...

I will have to play around with the amount of water and ground coffee to get this right, but it produced a decent cup of coffee for me this morning.
plonq: (Geeky Mood)
I was on duty again this weekend. Saturday went by pretty quickly, but Sunday ate up >3 hours of my time due to system problems -- some of with which I will have to deal in the morning. In spite of that, we managed to get a fair bit done this weekend, both at home and away (including a friend's 50th birthday. Just saying that makes me feel old.)

I also volunteered to do early coverage this week (and next week) at work. Normally I'm not even in the rotation for the early coverage, but we lost one person in our department, so they suddenly found themselves short of coverage. My boss has promised that they'll compensate me in some way for covering for them (I'm thinking probably just a couple of lieu days in exchange for the time worked).

In spite of the fact that I am on early duty next week, I think I am going to cash out a week of vacation time. I'll just cover off the work at home and take the rest of the day off. Working while on vacation doesn't feel right, but I've done it enough in the past couple of years to be used to it (and I have all this vacation time to burn).

I roasted a couple more batches of coffee this weekend. On Saturday I timed it and dumped it out of the roaster when the kitchen timer went off. It looked a bit light to me, and when I drank it this morning it had a very delicate flavour. It wasn't bad, but it was definitely a bit lighter than I'd have preferred. Today I ignored the time and just played it by eye and ear. I let it get well into the second crack and then removed it from the roaster. It looks just about right, but it took far longer than I had expected. If I am going to roast this stuff outside I am going to have to find a place that is more sheltered from the wind - it's screwing with my roasting times.

plonq: (Glompy Mood)
I ran a second batch through the hot air popper this evening. The first batch cooked for 25 minutes, and it was a bit lighter than I'd have liked, so I let this one run for 35 minutes. My inexpert eye puts this at about a full city roast, with the first slight sheen of oil showing on the outside of the beans.

Here is a comparison shot of un-roasted versus roasted beans.
Coffee Beans

I don't think it should be taking this long for the beans to get that dark. I suspect that the old popper I am using does not put out as much heat as it once did.


Jul. 20th, 2008 10:32 pm
plonq: (Happy Mood 3)
Many years back, I got a bug in my ear about roasting my own coffee. The idea first came to me when I discovered that one of the coffee vendors in Vancouver sold raw beans. I made a few queries at the time (this was before I had access to the Internet) and the process sounded like more fuss and smell than it was worth. Even when I moved out here back in '94, the idea still percolated around in the back of my brain, but now I had the challenge of procuring raw beans.

And it still sounded very tricky and fiddly.

I started researching it again more recently, and I stumbled onto a suggestion of using a hot air popcorn maker as a roasting oven. This idea appealed to me on many levels. First, it sounds much less troublesome and smelly than roasting the beans in the oven. Secondly, it can be done outside. Finally I have a hot air popper that has been sitting in the cupboard, gathering dust for the past fourteen years. I considered ordering some raw beans over the net as there are a fair number of on-line sources for them now, but I decided to hold off until we got to Vancouver so that I could save on shipping.

(Picture interlude: here is some random mountain in Banff. I missed a glorious photo opportunity further back on the road. Between when I saw it, and when I finally found a place to pull over, the lighting had changed and the moment was gone (and I had lost the beautiful foreground that really would have made the shot spectacular anyway.)

Today I dug out the hot air popper, wiped off many years worth of dust, and poured a pot's worth of raw beans into it. I didn't know how long to roast them -- the suggestions ranged anywhere from five to twenty-five minutes. I decided that I would just watch the process and stop it when they looked like they were done. After about twenty minutes, the beans did not seem to be getting much darker, and I wondered if I had reached the temperature limit of the old popper I was using. I shut off the "roaster" and poured out the roasted beans into a metal sieve. They smelled lovely, and had the colour of a city roast. Lately I have taken to drinking coffee with a lighter roast (so that I can taste the flavour of the bean, rather than the roast) so I decided to call it done.

I tossed them until they were cool enough to handle comfortably, ran them through the grinder and made myself a pot of coffee in the French press. The beans were still warm and venting CO2 from roasting, so the coffee foamed up quite vigorously when I added the water. Four minutes later I plunged the plunger and poured myself a cup with a splash of cream (but naturally I tasted it before adding cream).

If one could attribute a flavour to the feel of an orgasm, it would be this coffee.

I have drunk a lot of coffee in my time. I have drunk some very good coffees in my time. The blogs, and instructional pages and research did not prepare me for this coffee. This was the best coffee I have ever tasted; it was rapture in a cup! Has this ruined me for other coffees? Probably not. If it was a bit faster and easier, I would never buy pre-roasted coffee again. As it stands, I am going to regard it as a special treat for lazy days when I have a bit of time on my hands.


Jul. 1st, 2008 10:04 am
plonq: (Angelic Mood)
Foolishly I purchased neither coffee nor cream this past weekend because we were leaving town at the end of this week. It never occurred to me that I might want coffee sometime during that stretch.

Okay, in fairness to myself, I did contemplate the prospects of coffee over the upcoming week before choosing not to buy any, but my thinking was that I would buy it as needed on my way to work. It was a brilliant plan in everything but execution because it failed to take into account the fact that there is a holiday partway into the week. Today is Canada Day, ergo I am not going in to work, and thus I am desperately short on coffee.

This is what that makes me:

Sad Panda

On that note, I think that Tim Hortons is probably open. Now is not the time to wallow in self-pity - there is a large cup of mediocre coffee out there with my name on it!
plonq: (Average Mood)
[Poll #810203]


Mar. 29th, 2006 07:32 am
plonq: (Default)
In a pleasant turn of events there was no line when I stopped to grab some coffee this morning.  Ever since they started their "Roll up The Rim" contest people have been flocking down there under the mistaken belief that buying one of the special cups will win them a plasma TV.  If they cared to check the odds, they'd find that they have almost as good a chance to squeeze one of their own ass as they do to win one on a rolled rim.  This morning, however, I found the store refreshingly empty and I got instant walk-up service at the counter.

In the time that it took me to order my coffee and pay for it, a few more people showed up.  To be more specific, by the time I'd paid for my coffee and was turning to leave, a line of people had formed which stretched from the counter, through the full length of the store and out into the mall.  Where did all these friggin' people come from?  This place was empty thirty seconds ago!  Apparently real-world transporter devices don't make the same noise as the ones in Star Trek.

Email dead.

Nov. 7th, 2005 09:13 am
plonq: (Darker Mood)
"Outlook is trying to retrieve data from the Microsoft Exchange Server [server name here]" [rinse,lather,repeat]

It's turning into one of those days.  Oh well.  Let's just have another coffee and turn that frown upside-down.  Mmmm.  Coffee.
plonq: (Usual silly mood)
I think that I am finally starting to get the hang of this new coffee maker.  I haven't used it very much because it requires babysitting (unlike the whole "fire and forget" nature of a drip maker), and because the coffee that I have been getting from it - while good - has not been good enough to warrant the extra effort.  In the few times that I have used it, I've toyed with the process until today I think I finally hit the magic formula.

To start, I have found that it works better if I grind about 20% more coffee than I would for the drip maker.  Previously I would let it continue to boil for about a minute after the water had risen to the upper globe, but today I let it boil for about four minutes, venting steam through the coffee mixture.  The resulting coffee is rich, flavourful and remarkably smooth.  This is the best cup of coffee I have had in a couple of years - maybe even since I moved out here from the coast.  I can taste why people have sung the praises of this type of coffee maker.

Now that I have got it right, I'm going to start toying with perfection.  Tomorrow I'm going to toss a bit of cinnamon stick in with the coffee grounds.  Not a lot, but enough to give it a subtle flavour.
plonq: (Huzzah!)
I've been wanting one of these things for years.  I missed an opportunity to buy one fairly cheap at Starbucks when they were clearing out old stock about a dozen years back, and since then I've never seen them listed locally for under $80.

This coffee pot sucks - literally!

Today when we were at Value Village, I spotted one sitting in amongst the assorted (previously owned) kitchen products.  They were asking $9.95 for it, and as far as I could tell, it was in near-mint condition.  Mine actually comes with a couple of parts not shown in this picture (a plastic stand for the table, and a tall stand to store the top portion of the pot).

The static pictures don't do it justice.  These things are almost too cool for words when you watch them in action.  They make the best coffee, and are much fun while they're making it.


Aug. 9th, 2005 08:20 am
plonq: (Mysterious Mood)
When I moved out here from the coast, one of the most painful things I had to give up was good coffee.  I couldn't find good coffee in this town.  I was hard-pressed to even find mediocre coffee.  To give you an idea of how bad it was, even Starbucks hadn't opened a branch here - and I'd have settled for their middling brew over what was being offered here at the time.

Fortunately the situation has changed a bit since then, and now I can find a fair number of places offering mediocre coffee.

In the beginning there was the cafeteria downstairs.  They offer a hot, brown beverage that may or may not be coffee, but it contains trace amounts of caffeine, and it's comparatively cheap.  They have since started slapping labels on it like "Columbian", and "Esperanto Blend" to try and trick you into thinking that it will taste less vile - or taste like anything at all.  As an added benefit, by pouring the same coffee into labelled urns they get to charge more for it.

The next closest place for coffee is Salisbury House across the street.  We don't go there.

About five years ago Tim Horton's moved from their location in the Exchange District to an outlet in the mall across the way.  Tim's coffee isn't especially good, but it's always fresh and it does the job in the morning.  I can sum it up in four words: extra large single single.

If I wander a bit further afield, there is a Gourmet Cup about a third of the way along the length of the mall next to our office.  I used to get their coffee all the time before it occurred to me one day that I really don't like it that much.  A bit further along from them in the mall is a Starbucks kiosk that opened a couple of years back.

A couple of blocks further there is a Second Cup.  They have relatively decent coffee, and a few speciality drinks that I also like, but they're a bit far to go for coffee. 

Imagine my delight last week when a new sign went up across the street from our office for The Fyxx.  They're not open yet, but they've already got a new regular customer once the coffee starts flowing.  I'll feel a little bad for abandoning the gals at Tim Hortons (I'm a regular), but you gotta Go with the Joe.  The Fyxx has pretty good coffee.  Not exceptional, but pretty darned good by this city's standards.  I am content.

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