Tag Archives: coffee

A Good Cuppa

This is the first cup of coffee where I do not feel the need to add sweetener. I’ve been using Sucralose or Aspartame for years but I’ve also been drinking Keurig-brewed coffees. For too long, I’ve been fine with that. The coffee had superficial flavorings (scents, really) that made them somewhat interesting and I never really thought much about it. However, lately, something shifted inside me and I decided that so-so coffee was no longer good enough.

I first tried coffee for real after college when I was working at my first job in the computer center at Dartmouth College. It was your standard Bunn affair, standard office coffee made from old grounds in a giant filter in industrial quantities. It was ok and I made it better by adding a packet of Swiss Miss to it. I wanted better (and there were no coffee houses in the area yet) and I couldn’t afford a coffee machine, so I got a plastic drip thingy for my mug. Over the years, I’ve experimented with various coffee machines (I still miss the Capresso combination drip coffee maker and espresso machine that we got as a wedding present) with varying results. When my mother-in-law moved in with us, we got the Keurig so she could make herself coffee (she was too old and frail to do anything more complicated than that) and we made do. If I wanted something stronger or better tasting, I would head out to Starbucks (yes, I actually like Starbucks coffee) or Brewed Awakenings, where you can get personal French Press coffee at your table. My wife doesn’t put sweetener in her coffee and is always on me to break the habit. But every time I try it, I just can’t do it and give up before too long.

Out with the old…

Yesterday, I bought a Chemex and some of their square, brown paper filters and began experimenting. The first cup was good. Certainly better tasting than anything the Keurig ever made, but I knew it could be better. So today, I did some googling and found http://Ineedcoffee.com and followed the instructions I found there for using a scale and weighing things more precisely. With a 17:1 water-to-coffee ratio, I ended up with this amazing cup of coffee. And I tried some without sweetener and it tasted good. It was interesting and had some flavor notes I had never detected before. I didn’t feel the need to put sweetener in. Just some half and half and that was it (I did try a sip black but I think cream brings out some flavors and takes the edge off the coffee).

Ignore the sriracha in the background…

Maybe using a Chemex, scale, thermometer, and kettle to make my coffee makes me a hipster. But I got into it long after it was cool so I doubt it. All I know is that I needed my coffee to be better. And now it is.

French Press

French Press, Mug, and CreamI have a new obsession: French Press Coffee at Brewed Awakenings. Brewed is a chain in Rhode Island that has fantastic food, pleasant interiors, and, honest to Gods, the best damn coffee I have ever had. Their regular stuff is pretty good but on a whim I ordered the French Press one morning. I figured they’d make it fresh for me and I’d take it and go. But, it turns out, you are given a french press pot, and all the other supplies you need and after a few moments, you pour yourself an amazing cup of coffee. Along with my favorite breakfast sandwich, I now go there after I drop my son off at school and spend about an hour working into my day. It’s the perfect time to have breakfast, sip my coffee, and review my schedule and to do list. When I get to my home office, I am ready to start my day and the coffee is an amazing sustainer. More than any other coffee I have ever had, I feel like it just keeps me going.

I’m doing a lot of reading and research on modern parental attitudes towards their kids and social media. I’m writing about this on my other blog, Navigating the Waters (and am overdue to post something but I want to finish at least one of these books first). One thing that I am finding over and over is the fact that so much of parental attitudes towards their kids (both from Free Range Kids and from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens) is due to the echo chamber of the media.

Noam Chomsky famously put forth the idea that news is often biased by what sells. One example (from an article by him I read in grad school and cannot for the life of me find online to cite here) is how in the 80’s, the New York Times reporting on the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua was overwhelmingly anti-Sandinista, something that did not reflect the reality on the ground. He contends that the reason the paper did not print more than a tiny handful of pro-Sandinista op-eds is because the common belief was that they were horrible people and that saying otherwise would hurt newspaper sales. Essentially, news is a business and they have to print what people accept. If they don’t, people won’t buy the paper.

Regarding teens, the dominant meme in the media is that they are in constant danger and social media is a horrible thing that is making their lives hell, making them dumber, hurting their future, and all kinds of things like that. I will speak about this in greater detail in a forthcoming article in Navigating the Waters. But I find it a fascinating subject. And I see the media trying to combat it but they are doing it in a ham-fisted way with the false equivelency. Now they will present one side of the story and in an effort to be fair, they will present something or someone on the other side, regardless of how ridiculous it might be. This is why, despite the vast majority of scientists accepting global climate change, we always have to hear from the one who does not agree as if this dissenting view is equal to the other. Same with giving equal time to intelligent design/creationists despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for any of that and there is overwhelming evidence on the other side. This is why any time someone comes out and says that social media is actually a good thing in the lives of many teens, we have to hear from so-called parenting experts who have done no research and only have their unfounded opinions to share tell us how wrong the researchers are.

This brings me back to my morning french press. Brewed has a policy of always having Fox News on at least one of their tvs. Much has been written and researched about their complete lack of objectivity and the many subtle things they do to influence opinions. And they are hardly the only ones who do it, they’re just the most blatant.

I just find a nice seat where I don’t have to watch it (spoiler: It’s Obama’s fault, whatever it is) and I’m happy. Every so often, MSNBC is on for some inexplicable reason and I watch other regulars get worked up about it. “Can you turn off that propoganda and put Fox back on?” I am amused.

But I think about media that caters to specific groups. People get what they want to hear. Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. I try to get my news from multiple sources to get a more complete picture. This includes the New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, and so forth. But I have a liberal arts degree from Dartmouth College and if any one thing was drummed into my head it was to always find as many sources as possible.

Despite all that, I love my morning french press. Much as Colin Firth’s saddest time of the day is driving Aurelia home in Love, Actually, mine is realizing I am near the bottom of my morning coffee. But the swirl of dark brown at the bottom of my cup promises one last blast of flavor before the end. Reminds me of camp coffee when we’d camp with my son’s troop. There were always grounds in the coffee. I loved it. I called it the crunchy surprise at the center.

I really like coffee, did I mention that?