Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coffee Snobbery Progression

One year for Christmas, I asked my parents for a coffee machine. I suspected that they might go find a deal on some kind of really fancy machine made by Bunn, Saeco, or even Kitchen Aid. Instead, they bought a $10.00 Wal-Mart Mr. Coffee. Functional, but Spartan at its best. Prior to that, Jen and I had been pressing all of our coffee, and the fanciest coffee that we got came from the grocery store. We would buy the beans and put them through the in-house grinder, pay for the bag, and go press our coffee. For some time, we used the little Mr. Coffee at home with this coffee (or Foldger's, depending on time/convenience/budget).

We decided that we wanted something a little more exotic in the world of coffee, so we bought ourselves the demo model of a Krups, single-cup espresso machine off the shelf at the hardware store. We had been warned not to get a steam-powered machine, and this one had an 8-bar pump, and a copper boiler. This machine did okay for us for some time, and we started grinding our own beans at home with a little Krups grinder. We still enjoyed pressed coffee from time to time, but we found that we didn't really use the Mr. Coffee drip machine anymore.

After getting frustrated with the slow brewing of our Krups, we purchased an Italian-made Briel ES-15 Lido, second-hand on ebay. This little baby had a 15-bar pump, stainless steel boiler, and made some really nice coffee! Unfortunately, it was a very well-used machine, and showed its wear from head to toe. Even when brand-new, the Lido was not a physically attractive machine. But, after the years of long, hard use that ours apparently had, we were just thankful that it still made decent espresso.

Soon thereafter, I learned about a website where I could order fresh-roasted coffee beans out of Florida from all over the world. We started drinking coffee of varieties that I hadn't heard of before. I didn't think that I liked Columbian Supremo until I actually had real Columbian Supremo.

We learned that burr-grinders do a far better job than blade-grinders for grinding coffee. So, we began searching for a burr grinder. We found that all of the cheaper models are put together very cheaply, and all of the better models are priced for kings. But, still we persisted, until we found a practically new Capresso brand conical-burr-grinder at a garage sale for ten bucks. We snagged this, and retired our old Krups blade-grinder. They were right. The burr grinder is far superior.

After using our Briel ES-15 Lido for a couple of years, the filter cup handle broke. It had been cracked since we received the machine, but had held together until it snapped off completely one day while I was making our morning triple-shots. So, we got on ebay again, and purchased a brand-spanking-new, red powder coated, Briel Domus Uno, with a 15-bar pump *correction-make that an 18-bar pump*, three separate thermostatic controls, and enough curb-appeal to make a Ferrari blush! I love this machine. I mean, the Lido made decent coffee, but this one is nice. It really was like stepping up from an Alpha Romeo to a Ferrari. Since we purchased the new machine, we found a replacement filter cup for the Lido and donated it to a friend.

Then, I decided to tackle roasting. I did a little internet research, and found out how to build a manual coffee roaster out of a stove-top popcorn-popper. The procedure seemed unconventional and esoteric, but the theory was sound, so I went for it. I combined a grill thermometer with a Back to Basics stainless steel popcorn popper to create my own coffee roaster. There are loads of varieties of green coffee beans available on the internet, including the company that I had been buying roasted coffee from already.

So, fast-forward to the present. I'm on my lunch break at work, sipping a delicious cup of coffee, blended with Coasta Rican hard bean decaf and Zambia Terranova Estate, that I roasted last night, and brewed in the old Mr. Coffee - which I donated to the office. I'm thinking that the next 5-lb bag of green beans will have to be Mexican Turquesa. That stuff is wonderful! Not to mention that the green beans are cheap and will keep far longer than roasted coffee!

Hi. My name is Michael. I'm a coffee snob.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WHY AM I SO BUSY?!?!?!???!?!?!??!?

I understand that the Christmas rush hits sales hard. However, I work for a company that manufactures high-pressure, breathing-air equipment primarily used by fire departments. Since about Thanksgiving, we have been BALLS TO THE WALL. This year has been a relatively slow year for the business, and there have been times that I have been creating special projects to streamline my position in the company, because we have not had enough business to stay busy. But, like I said, in the last few weeks, we have been busy, busy, busy.

I have worked in retail before, and for a while, I worked at a car dealership. During the Christmas season at both of those jobs, we got busy. Retail is busy in the shopping season, and that makes sense. At the dealership, service slows down, but car sales seemed to accelerate during Christmas shopping. Go figure, I wouldn't mind getting a car for Christmas! I don't know what it is about Black Friday that triggers the masses to get out there and spend all their money, but they do! Just like clockwork, everybody has the sudden urge to empty their bank accounts and wallets, and max out the credit cards. I think that's exactly why the retailers started up with the Black Friday sales.

Now my question is, why, oh why, does a manufacturer of high-pressure, breathing-air equipment, used by fire departments get busy for the holidays? Does the city council say, "Let's buy a compressor for the fire chief for Christmas?" I just don't see that happening. But evidently, it has to be something along those lines. Maybe it's a red-tape, use-it-or-lose-it, year-end, government-accounting deal. I suppose it's possible that townships have to close out their budgets before the calendar year in order to maintain their budget for the subsequent year at the same level, and the fire department is the target for some last-minute spending? I don't know.

What I do know is that I am really, really, really busy at work right now. I would really like to get caught up tomorrow, but I don't see that happening. Maybe we'll get another nasty ice storm and I won't have to worry about it until January. No, on second thought, that would suck even more. Well, lunch is just about over, and I need to get back at it if I'm going to work for less than 11-hours today! Got to run! Thanks for enduring my rants!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

10-year anniversary

December 5 marked the day that Jenni and I have been married for nine years. She blogged about it earlier. Many who will read this also read her blog, and already know. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I like to do things differently than other people. It seems like the decade mark is far more of a milestone than the nine-year mark, so I'm going to go at this with the "party like it's 1999" philosophy, or the "millenium at the year 2000" philosophy, assuming that the years A. D. started counting from "1" and not "0."

Therefore, as of the sixth of this month, I have started celebrating our ten-year anniversary, as we have entered into the first day of the tenth year of our union. I think that celebrating for an entire year sounds a whole lot more fun than celebrating for a day, anyway. The advantages for celebrating my marriage for the year are nearly countless, and I think that every married couple should do the same!

First off, I don't have to worry about forgetting a special date. When every day between 12/5/07 and 12/5/08 is my tenth anniversary, there's no way I can forget it! I think that every guy who has had a special lady has gotten himself in trouble at one time or another for not remembering some date, whether temporarily or long-term, and if it was a birthday, anniversary, a trip to the vet with the family dog (who may have been about to become a eunuch), or even his wedding day, because he was still too drunk or hung-over after some ill-planned, last-minute bacheloring (thank God, I steered clear of this particular blunder). And, what could possibly be more important to remember than the wedding anniversary (assuming that one gets a wedding anniversary, barring that last example I gave). So, if every day of the year is the anniversary, it will then supersede the birthday, Valentine's Day, Christmas, and all those other days that can be so hard to remember.

To that end, even if I did screw up in a way to make her angry at me, she will be predisposed to be more kind and patient with me since it will be our anniversary! If I accidentally break off the corner of the kitchen counter, or get motor oil on the rug, instead of screaming, or worse yet - silently fuming at me, she'll be far more likely to shrug it off because, after all, it is our anniversary. The way I look at it, on a day like December the fifth, nine years after "I do," to the day, the only thing that I could possibly do to piss her off would be to forget that it was our anniversary on that day. So, if every other day of the year was our anniversary, it would be like being married to the "another chance" machine! Don't get me wrong, it's not like Jenni goes around with a chip on her shoulder and a whip in her hand, or is looking for an excuse to be pissed at me. Quite the contrary, she is very understanding, level-headed, and quick to forgive my iniquities. However, on the rare occasion that I have really made her angry, it has not been fun in the least. Then again, if I did happen to do something so bad that it upset her during such a time of celebration, it could very well be a "party over, oops out of time" moment anyway.

Therefore, except for the rare example in which I might make her angry, or in the chance that I had to get her presents every day for the entire year, it sounds like a total win-win situation. Besides that, if I have to get her gifts, she has to get me some as well, and we just don't have the budget for that.

But, seriously now: All other jokes aside, people should love, cherish and appreciate their spouses. Too many people in our society view their chosen loved ones as the caught fish. If we would all keep pursuing our partners, with the knowledge that we don't belong to each other, and that we aren't ever "tamed," but remain wild creatures that must be cared for in order to keep, the divorce rate in the U. S., and the rest of the world for that matter, would diminish to an obscure level.

Take falconry, for example. For those who hunt with a raptor, or a bird of prey, they must convince the bird to stay with them, because it may choose to leave at any time. If people would view each other in this same light, knowing that the bird could make a decision to fly away, imagine how we would cherish each other's affections more. I know, as my wife does, that we choose to be together, and other than a very weakly binding, state-issued contract, and a couple of metal rings, there is nothing keeping either of us in the nest beyond our own choices.

I find it fascinating that the love of a parent for a child is so forgiving, accepting, and so unconditional, on a level that most will not extend to the spouse that they have chosen to spend their time with. Of course I love my son, because he's my son! But, by the same token, of course I love my wife, because I decided to make her my wife! Why do people love their children to a degree lacking condition that they cannot extend to their spouse, anyway? I believe that it's because they recognize the children as fallen and incomplete, in need of direction and love. Therefore I will submit that we attempt to love our spouses to the same degree, recognizing the spouse as fallen and incomplete, in need of direction and love.

Celebrate every day as if it is the first and the last. Cherish each moment, whether you are in the middle of a busy, stressful schedule or relaxing quietly. Set aside time for each other. Make a little room for failure, as we are each so very capable of it. Love God and let Him bless the marriage. If you come across a truly challenging problem, seek advise from a couple that's been happily married for half a century - apparently they know something. Tell your spouse what you like about him or her. Don't be too busy to help, hug, or love. Always make sure that your spouse is the center of your affections, and has a special place in your life that could never be taken by another. But, never forget that your spouse is a wild creature, and must be cared for properly so that they want to return the affection.

Be a lady or a gentleman. When the occasion calls for it, be a silly freak. Be the shoulder to cry on, and the trusted confidant. Don't jump to conclusions, but ask lots of questions. Give the benefit of the doubt. Never storm out angry. All of this goes for the ladies and the gents. This goes for my lady and me. This is why we have just started celebrating the tenth year of our marriage, and are more crazy about each other now than when we were dating.