Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Editorial: Reading the Obituaries, Part Two

To recapitulate the quote Bill Cosby posed; "Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries."

To understand his point, I read the WaPo (Washington Post for those not in the know) obituaries to hopefully understand Mr. Cosby.

What were my findings?

I was:




What you say? How could one be amused in reading the obituaries?! In some ways, the obituary descriptions include insightful, nuance to people's lives and how they lived. For example, I read a female, naval officer was survived by her cat "Blue Angel, who will miss her bright smile, quick wit, sharp intellect and encouragement." While not all descriptions include intended quasi- humorous passages, but it demonstrates that death is not merely a solemn process.

The cat is named Blue Angel, most likely a reference to the Blue Angels, an elite military unit who fly jets in the Navy. Clearly an allusion to her military career. Including her cat in the obituary demonstrates that animals, namely her cat, were an important part of her life who would miss said qualities. Reading these few sentences warmed my hears allowing a respite from the onslaught of portraits.

Depressed: Opening up the page, the pictures, captions, and volume of text overwhelmed my comprehension. Not that I am ignorant of people passing away every day, but the newspaper attaches pictures to the names. An existential, surreal feeling emanates when you realize the people smiling have died. My eyes scanned over the two pages, struggling to categorize and digest the information of those surviving the deceased and the complications around their passing.

Provoked: Two things elicited this reaction. 1. Some obituaries tended to be longer, describing their life in article form. The obituary recounted their family life, political actions...etc, moving me and the general reader to action and to continue on their struggles. 2. That funeral homes include their logos on personal obituaries. This most likely results in people who couldn't pay the fee in the newspaper, and the funeral home offers to pay for the space but stipulate that their logo is included. While making marketing and economic sense, it somehow, for me at least, lessens the impact and emotional nature of death. What do you think?

Coffee: Drinking coffee when reading the obituaries didn't necessarily make me severe, but rather forced me to linger over the obituaries. I had to finish my coffee before I moved on to a different section extending my time over the recently passed. Reading the obituaries everyday, with or without coffee, I would think have an accumulative effect slowly making the reader grave, cynical, existential, and/or self-aware. In addition, having black coffee adds to the overall drab color...not quite sure if this means anything, but a thought.

My advice to readers, don't drink coffee and read obituaries everyday. It's amusing, depressing, and provoking, creating an odd mix of feelings thats unnerves our false sense of safety in our modern world.

Coffee Videos

This is where I will be archiving the featured videos each week. If you want to see them after they have been taken down, look here for the link.

Charlie Chaplin and Coffee - The simple days of coffee. When one only worried about stomach noises and hitting yourself with a spoon.

Kopi Luwak - I wanted to highlight the ends in which some coffee lovers go to enjoy premium coffee. This is also a case where the growers may be creating demand, telling people that this is the best stuff on earth (besides Snapple that is). With that said, it seems Kopi Luwak coffee is a running joke among coffee lovers "on the in." You too can make snobby coffee jokes and alienate yourself from society!

Handpresso Wild - This video comes from Seattle Coffee Gear testing out those wonderful little hand espresso gadgets. I have always been intrigued by them. Here the results seem a bit lackluster, but if your camping or on the go, it may not matter. A+ for enthusiasm though!

Coffee Roasting - Check out his beard!

So Soothing..........

At Home with my Favorite Barista
- I have that coffee grinder! Instructional video on how to make good coffee.

Anger and Coffee: The cubicle worker's existential coffee struggle to find meaning in his life.

Mullets and Coffee

Over-rated coffee: A typical coffee discussion at the office about Kopi Luwak and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.  (NSFW - mild swearing at the end of the video)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Editorial: Reading the Obituaries

"Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries." -Bill Cosby

Continuing the conversation on whether coffee makes humans severe or not, I stumbled over this Bill Cosby quote. I read a paper roughly every other day. Sometimes it may be the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the NYT. I omit reading the obituaries because: A. I am not quite sure what I would get out of it. B. I simply do not know many people nearing the end of their lives.

Considering Cosby's quote, how is it a mistake drinking coffee and reading the obituaries?

A few possible answers (I realize this may not be answering the question I posed). First, one may become morose as they realize their mortal, terminal existence. Second, realize how important their existence on Earth is, spurring action here and now. Third, no effect. Perhaps one has put their faith in religious salvation, or has realized that life's end is just that; an end. Fourth, aren't obituaries a celebration of the person's life? Did Cosby fail to realize that obituaries trend towards praising life rather than death?

A simple layout of possible outcomes, certainly not exhaustive, but how does coffee factor into this process? Connecting obituary reading and drinking coffee invokes the bitter, oily, staining coffee image; not the foamy, sweet, nog-dusted latte a la Starbucks.

Tomorrow morning, I will read the obituaries as a lay experiment. Alas, my younger age may prevent me from understanding what he intends, but it is worth doing to understand oneself and how others frame one's life accomplishments.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Content: Featured Video

As one may have noticed, I have been updating the site for a week or so. Instead of doing an overhaul of the complete template, I decided to evolve it adding the "featured video section," and hopefully a few other interactive widgets over this weekend.

The featured video will be updated once or twice a week spotlighting different aspects of coffee culture. One week I may emphasize how to make espresso, the next week on coffee growing. By embedding the video on the sidebar, it enables Metro Espresso readers to see the video first rather than scrolling down through more recent posts. A drawback is that once I switch out the video, it is gone. To remedy this issue, I will create a running list of coffee links that will archive the video and my short commentary.

Additionally, I hope to add a "shout out" box similar to the comments section on each post. If Blogger can do this without too much effort, readers can ask questions, leave comments, and give readers an avenue to shape the blog as much as I do.

With this newer design, I hope to divide the blog into two sections. First, on the left side will be the normal coffee posts as before. Second, on the right will be the featured video, shout out box *hopefully*, Twitter feed, and who knows! The content on the right will be focused on social communication between I, the coffee lover and blogger, and you, the coffee lover.

That's all for know, enjoy the Charlie Chaplin video!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Design Update

Please excuse our dust while we update Metro Espresso's design. It should be finished in a day or two.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Coffee Crossword

Mr. Will Shortz, I believe you have some competition.

Tonight I constructed a coffee inspired puzzle. I invite all of you to download it, and solve my creation. (Click here for the larger picture of the puzzle) While most of them are doable, there are a few toughies including some puns. Best of luck and tell me what you think!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Moka Pot: A Few Questions

During this week, I made a concerted effort to only use my Moka pot (generically known as a percolator) because in the past, I have often brewed rancid and bitter tasting coffee from it. Rejecting systemic defeat due to my own deficiencies, I researched, read some guides, watched Coffee Nate's Moka pot video, and did some tinkering.

This is not a step-by-step guide, you can find plenty of them around. Instead I posted a few questions or problems that I wanted to pose/expose hindering good moka coffee.

1. Pertaining to aluminum moka pots, people say that the aluminum imparts unwanted tastes giving a "metalliky" taste to the coffee. They recommend having a coffee film from previous brewings to accumulate. Is this film visible, dark like such:
Or would it be better to leave a thinner film that removes the thick coffee coating leaving the oils in place but a cleaner look?

2. A corollary to the first, how long does the coating last before it turns rancid?

3. The rubber O-Ring, pictured below, does it trap any unwarranted tastes that affect the coffee? If so, is there any specific way to clean it?
4. Finally, the bottom half that holds the water. I have noticed some coffee staining from coffee that hasn't percolated. Does this impart any taste, and is there a way to remove this, if it is necessary?

Conclusion: One concrete finding that supports many of the guides around the internet, is that through multiple brews the acrid, bitter taste goes away because of the coffee film building up. Today, I drank a lovely, full bodied brew with little bitterness. Yet, brewing everyday in the moka pot is: A. Gets boring B. Quite selfish of the moka pot.

The answers to these questions point to keeping the moka pot ready for the first brew without priming it. Is that possible?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Editorial: Does Coffee Make Us Severe?

Jonathan Swift stated, "Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical."

Is that true? When reading this quote from the author of Gulliver's Travels, it caused me to wonder whether there was anything specific to coffee, the thing in and of itself, tha
t makes humans be the aforementioned adjectives. Or is it simply the culture that derived around coffee that makes it so.

First, to state the obvious, coffee is a hot drink often to wake oneself up or bring warmth into the body on a cold day in late autumn or winter. Without any sugar or cream, it is a black oily substance (when steeped with water) with a bold, perhaps bitter, taste. Certainly, the properties point to it being severe and grave, like Calvinism.

Second, how does it make us philosophical? Is it simply that one drinks coffee over time slowly sipping it? Espresso lasts a mere 30 seconds or so to drink. Perhaps it is an equation to how long the coffee lasts, the more likely it is make someone be reflective. This correlates to how much coffee you have in your cup. As I stated, espresso is not effective in making oneself reflective as it is consumed quickly. An equation may be how long (T) it takes to drink per ounce (OZ) of coffee equals reflectivity (REF). It looks like OZ/T=REF.

It is a silly equation because reflectivity does not have any units (among other reasons) unlike ounces or time either in seconds or minutes, though I do tend to be more reflective when having a cup from a French Press rather than an espresso.

An assumption in my logic is that the longer one drinks their coffee, the more reflective one is. Why is that so? I could drink a cup of coffee, and be thinking of nothing at all. I could be staring at my white apartment walls.

From the little I know of coffee properties, I believe it stimulates brain activity, spurring or encouraging activity in the brain (whatever that may mean), but there is nothing inherent in coffee to make the person search for True knowledge.

Another explanation could be that literally having a cup of coffee in one's hands, allows us the luxury for a few minutes or a half hour to reflect. We cannot be doing much else because of our hands being occupied by the cup. The cup of coffee gives us a short goal to complete, and we cannot continue on in our morning or evening until we finish the coffee.

Now, let me pose the question to my readers at Metro Espresso, does coffee make us more philosophical and grave? Please comment below! In order to uplift as well, here is a picture of a dog that appears to be smiling. Clearly he has not had his daily coffee.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Return! New Posting schedule, Costa Rican Brewer, and Intelligentsia Video.

Hello all, I have recently begun my second year in graduate school, and took a period to re-acclimatize myself to that what is graduate school. While I cannot be as active as I was in the Summer, I plan on posting once or twice a week on my travels through coffee land as per usual. This way I can still provide content to Metro Espresso readers, but will not feel overly taxed on posts accompanying my academic work schedule.

With that said, I saw this interesting photograph of a Costa Rican Chorreador. The white sack or sock is used as a filter holding the ground coffee. Hot water is poured into the sack, and drips through into the cup below. While I am sure not all Chorreadors look this nice, I do appreciate the nice wood finish. I can only imagine the clean up afterwards.

With that said, cue the immature innuendos.

Also, check out this fancy video featuring an Intelligentsia barista speaking about Espresso. Nice artistic look, but somehow pretentious to my taste.