vrijdag 19 december 2014

Coffee roasting at home "Part 3"

Theo Koeten, a friend of mine, wanted to test his new setup of camera / slider / wireless microphone and he asked me to chat about coffee roasting at home. So we imagined making a #3 episode of a series about home roasting. Lots of folks know much more about this than I but home roasters with a similar small fluid bed roaster may pick up some ideas from this short clip. I use the Fracino Roastilino roaster, a home built roast controller based on the Fuji PXG4, the free Artisan software, the HG One grinder and the Tonino roast color measuring device.

dinsdag 9 december 2014

Joy in Repetition

Some friends like to discover new places every vacation and make the most of every day but I love to return to the same place and do as little as possible there. Then I feel happiest and often I accomplish much more than I set out to do since I've not been distracted by novelties.

This 4th time in Bad Kohlgrub the Gästehaus Gerold is under construction but the Gerold family was so kind to let me have one of the rooms that no one is working on right now and at night I'm the only soul in the building which is quite pleasant. Over Xmas a few times I've been the only person in a hotel (after the big dinner, guests and stuff would all go home) and I enjoyed that very much as well.

The Heimgarten restaurant where I would always go to have a beer, tomato soup and the dish with potatoes around an island of spinach with a fried egg on top of it is closed this week. Or permanently.  It's dark and no sign says anything about it being temporarily asleep.

So I went for dinner in the other restaurant in the village, a friendly Italian place.
The waiter (understandably) seemed to find me a little odd the first night but the second night he recognized me and gave me the same table and tonight he welcomed me as if I were a good cousin who happens to be a recluse.

I got the same table, my glass of red wine was brought before I asked and while I was reading Nassim Taleb's book "Fooled by Randomness" on my iPhone I had (of course) the exact same things as before (tomato soup followed by veal medaillons), it tasted absolutely delicious and it all looked splendid, finished off by a grappa from the house with a piece of chocolate.

To me this confirms my strategy not to hop from one new restaurant to another and in the same restaurant to order the same dishes again and again.

A life of adventure, discovering the sparkle of newness in the same thing!

Others will feel differently, but for me there's Joy in Repetition.

zaterdag 6 december 2014

Fine espresso in 16 simple steps with basic equipment

Frequently, friends ask me to tell them how to make great coffee at home. They have tasted delicious coffee on vacation in Italy or in some special cafe closer to home and now their taste buds have awakened to the simple but exquisite joy of fine coffee.

If I show them how I do it at home they are a bit overwhelmed and quickly decide it's not for them which is a shame because in essence, it's very simple. Of course, if you get a Rocket E61 machine or a LONDINIUM I plus an excellent grinder, this makes getting the best shots very easy but it is also possible with just basic things.

A La Pavoni manual espresso machine for instance and some peripherals.

When I go on a short vacation this is for me a great opportunity to strip down to these essentials and that way, my traveling setup is also a convenient example of the way these friends could make themselves delicious espresso.

The stuff that I bring fits in just average trunks, the ones you can check in and take as hand luggage on a flight and they most certainly fit in any car's trunk. Clothes can also be taken along as long as they make themselves useful as a buffer between the pieces of coffee-making hardware.

The heavy metal does make the luggage weigh more but the money spent at the airport on extra weight is easily saved at the destination because I find that one does not really need to go anywhere anymore after setting up the equipment in a rented kitchenette:

I'm in Bad Kohlgrub now and I've been here a week every year for the past 4 years, always bringing my coffee stuff. Sometimes at breakfast I meet guests who are planning to go see Neuschwanstein castle, the famous Garmisch Partenkirchen ski slope, the Abbey of Andechs or the famous fiddle making museum in Mittenwald. I never went there because I have all I need in my room!

While making coffee and enjoying the taste and after taste I think of home and with fondness imagine all the fine things there. I read books, like (currently) "Shady Characters" by Keith Houston about the secret history of typographical symbols and punctuation marks, and "Fooled by Randomness" by Nassim Taleb about speculation and risk management. If I went to see places I would have no chance to do these finer things.

There's a mountain next door, Hörnle, that I could climb but I have done it years ago and I know that mountains are simple creatures. They can wait, they do not mind if you have been in town and haven't come to look them up. Mountains know what it means to "stay put" and most likely Hörnle understands my staying inside my rooms better than anyone.

What's more, in The Netherlands we have our own mountains. The "Hoge Veluwe" is a spectacular landscape with some of the highest mountains that one can still climb without danger and you're on the top before you get tired, to enjoy a magnificent view. I believe that on a clear day you can see as far as Paris and if that blinking tower were not there one could see a  faint glimmer of Rome to the left over its shoulder. If just the skies were clear enough.

So here is a brief video of fine espresso in just 16 simple steps!

zaterdag 29 november 2014

Watching "A Film About Coffee"

Watching the beautiful "Film About Coffee" 

Screen snapshot

Response of a coffee farmer tasting espresso for the first time in his life
Stunning landscapes and wonderful people on the coffee farms working so hard to produce brilliant coffee beans. Almost shocking contrast between the farmers who talk sparingly and truthfully and footage of barista championships where participants talk like robotic actors, a lot of self inflicted stress covered up by endlessly rehearsed plastic-text.

Some notes after watching:

1) Beautifully filmed and produced

2) In part a commercial for a few hip coffee firms

3) Very very impressive to see how much work the farmers do for very little money

4) Teaches the public nothing about what roasting is exactly, apart from the standard romantic clips of tumbling beans, same about grinding and extraction, so people are impressed but do not learn much. As such not inspiring the audience to brew great coffee at home. It tells them to get it at remote famous coffee places.

5) Fun contrast between the “real” people on the farms and the “stressed out hipsters” at the barista championships

I do not want to give the hipsters a hard time for their attitude because they are the ones who pioneered the specialty coffee so they must be forgiven for any mild histrionics. Baristas do not make a fortune so let's give them a break and let them enjoy the fame!

dinsdag 25 november 2014

Motorizing HG One: finished

(This is the final part of a short series of blogs. See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

Today I took the new DC power supply to Tije's workshop, where he connected the power cable to the old FIAT windshield wiper motor. We decided to keep the old wires in place and in sight, saving the vintage quality and looks even though just two wires are used: that black connects to the mass and the red connected to the power end of the motor. The other wires were for different speeds and for ensuring that the windshield wipers would stop in the 'neutral' position (lying down).

First we used two multimeters to monitor the Voltage and current during workshop test runs of the motorized grinder.

Before doing this, we checked how the internal fuse of the DC power supply handles the considerable  startup load of the heavy transformer. The fuse does not exactly blow now but it does light up for a flash and I will get a "slow" type of 1.5A fuse to replace it. For now we have a 2A fuse in there.

Then there was also some concern about the torque of the motor. What would it do on a 'cold start' with a handful of beans sitting between the burrs? If the motor is unable to initiate the grinding, it halts and either the fuse could be blown or the axis / coupler could give, causing the transmission to break and slip. If necessary we could decide the grinder needs to be started with on load and the beans always chucked in on turning burrs.

Luckily, the combination works very well as it is.

Turning with hardly any load, the DC power is a steady 23 V at just 2.7 A.

Pouring a handful beans on turning burrs, the power falls to 18.6 V at a soaring current of 6.42 A:

On a cold start with a handful of beans on the burrs, the combination starts up fine and draws momentarily 6.57 A at 19.27 V.

Next we closed the lid on the DC power supply and packed everything up to install the combination in my home lab for the final "proof of the pudding":

I want to thank Tije for all his excellent work and inventiveness. He makes these things look almost easy as he is both quick and careful with all details, creating a combination that to me looks very simple and elegant, low-budget and classy.

And the HG One grinds steady as ever! Maybe even more steady than before, because hand grinding on the flywheel involves varying muscle power, varying speeds and sometimes a short halt to re-start when a particularly hard bean type is being ground.

When I timed the grinding speed, 20g Panama Geisha (from Graciano Cruz) ground in 35 seconds.

Without load, the motor axis turns 80 rpm, with beans on the burrs it's more like 60 rpm.

The vortex in the top middle of the picture is just there for geeky distraction. To the left are two of my La Pavonis. Both have the Tije cooling ring to prevent overheating of the brew group when the machine is on for a long time and both have a NAKED portafilter by Kavékálmár. To the right is the Tonino roast color analyzer. And on the left front, the excellent Acaia scale.

PS about the measured voltage:

The one in the video above is measuring & displaying Volts DC, even though the wave coming out of the rectifier is of course not one flat line of Voltage but rather a series of humps, the low swings of the AC sine wave mirrored upwards.

So on a scope we could see what the value is that we really get, and an average could be calculated probably.

Or if I was really smart I'd use this calculator:

Referring to http://www.ncatt.org/_documents/AET_9_Rectifiers.pdf
I could multiply 23.5 V with .636 and get 14.9 V as Average Output Voltage.
An electronics engineer could comment if I'm right here.

zaterdag 22 november 2014

Motorizing HG One part 3: power source

(Previous part: http://kostverlorenvaart.blogspot.nl/2014/11/motorizing-hg-one-part-2.html)

Now it was time for me to do a little homework because the motor needs about 20V DC at around 8-9 Ampere.

I first looked at variable digital power supplies from the lab equipment stores but one that's capable of 10A is quite huge & heavy and Cees at Muco electronics in Amsterdam told me that the sensitive electronics inside these lab DC supplies can't cope with the peak startup-current of the short circuit motor I want to drive it with.

He advised me to build my own instead. A heavy toroidal transformer and a massive rectifier should do the job he said. "It won't give a fart for the startup current of your motor and just keep working" he told me.

So I got the material and a hard plastic box to build it in. At home I do not have the equipment for drilling things to size like Tije has so I used an awl, two metal reamers and little files to get the right holes.

The first tests gave me only fireworks so eventually I decided to look again at the diagram for the connections and sure enough, I had made short circuits of both secondary 22V 5A windings.

Very happy that the fuses took these blows for me! No need to replace the transformer.

The thing is ready to try on the motor now. The box weighs 2800 grams! It could crunch some coffee beans on its own if necessary.

DC power source plus tools

Just a handful of fuses blown