Sunday, November 10, 2013

Coffee Roasting Adventures

A few years ago my dad started roasting coffee in his air popper.  This was the old-style kind that had a spinner at the bottom, not a grate.  My parents quickly were spoiled and upgraded to a drum roaster.  A couple Christmases I was lucky enough to score coffee as part of my present!

This past summer I finally decided I was ready to start roasting coffee.  We're waiting on a really awesome espresso machine from ZPM Espresso, the Nocturn PID-Controlled Espresso Machine.  So excited!  Thinking we'll be getting it soon I decided to purchase our coffee roaster.  I'm not ready to roast big batches, so I looked for a 'starter' air roasting machine.  After researching at a couple sites and consulting with my dad I picked the Fresh Roast SR500.  I sent it to Utah while we were visiting my parents so my dad could show me the ropes.  My life is changed forever!  I thought I was a coffee snob before, now I am definitely a coffee snob!

On Sweet Maria's website you can look through their current list of green coffee and read the descriptions.  I thought it sounded crazy to describe coffees as having apple, pear, floral, or piney notes.  Chocolates, caramels, and nutty flavors didn't surprise me.  Unsure what I'd really like we ordered their sample pack and were surprised by the origins we enjoyed and how you really could taste the ranges of flavors they promised.  As I suspected, the fruity, floraly ones weren't always my favorite, but I realized I shouldn't be afraid to try them.  Here are some pictures of our fun and our thoughts what works for us with this machine:

This is our third order from Sweet Maria's.  Now that we have an idea of what we like we ordered larger quantities of a couple and then picked four new ones to try.  So far we really enjoyed coffees from Ethiopia, Burundi, and El Salvador (the two large ones are Ethiopia and El Salvador).  We made the Costa Rica from our most recent purchase and I think it's my new favorite, but Ethiopia is still up there!

Here is our set up.  You can see my husband is in the process of building us a thermometer probe to track the temperature of the beans.  Most of the roasting process is based on listening-explanation to come-but this gives us extra information about what stage of roasting the coffee has hit.  Being a programmer, he uses an app on his tablet to view the information more clearly :).  I love my geeky man!

This roaster can handle about 1/4lb of beans at a time.  This lasts us just a few days.  Our coffee intake has increased from one cup to two most days (it's like dessert when you combine it with almond milk and a little brown sugar!).

We have found the process that works best for us (as recommended by Sweet Maria's team) is to start the roasting on low heat/high fan for one minute with a good stir to help the beans get moving, turn to cool for 30 seconds, and then high heat/medium to low fan for the rest of the roast.  We fiddle with the fan during the roast a bit because some beans seem lighter and get moving faster than others and we need to turn it down.  You want good lift, but too much fan and they end up caught in the chaff collector at the top.  Good circulation keeps your beans from burning (which wouldn't taste good).

Once the beans get going you watch the color change and listen for the 'cracks.'  It starts to smell pretty wonderful right around first crack.  It's a lot like a popcorn popping rice sort of sound.  They start to expand and release the chaff.  It'll take a little bit for all of them to crack and then it'll be quiet again.  After a few minutes you'll hear a second crack.  This crack is much quieter and sounds a bit more like a snap.  The coffee is drinkable any time after first crack, but the longer it runs the more you get the chocolatey, caramely, nutty tones.  This is Full City/Full City +.  Here is a great link explaining the different levels of the roast, the temperatures, and an explanation of what is happening at each stage.  I love learning the science of it all!

There's a whole library of articles on roasting, making coffee, and more.  I could spend hours on their site if I didn't have a preschooler to keep up with :).

Here's our coffee cooling and waiting to be my delicious cup of heaven!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Applesauce Adventures

Tait has always loved helping in the kitchen.  Now he's coordinated enough that he makes a mess less often.  This makes it much more enjoyable to have him help and it's so fun to see the pride on his face as he pours things into the bowl or helps to stir.  Costco had several varieties of apples yesterday, so we grabbed a couple packs and headed home to make applesauce - one of Tait's many favorite foods.

On a side note, I think this is one of those things that feels overwhelming to do until you have done it the first time.  Another example is chicken stock.  I had no idea how to make it or how easy it really was despite my friends reminding me over and over that it was.  I was still skeptical.  Now I think it'll become much more of a staple around our house.  Making applesauce really isn't that hard either!  I followed The Pioneer Woman's recipe and it was super easy.  

First we chopped the apples and Tait put them carefully in the pot.  

Then we let it cook for a while.  When Tait tried to help stir cinnamon and brown sugar went flying.  Oops, isn't that grin just mischievous?

Next step was to scoop it into the food processor and then get it ready to put in jars.

Tait got to help scoop the applesauce into the jars.  I still can't believe he's big enough to be able to do so much! (Oh, and he did miss the jar once and spilled a bit on the counter, but a little mess is worth seeing his smile!)

After seeing how easy this all was, I think I'll be making more.  You'll notice we left the peels on.  I figured that the food processor would break them down enough and then we'd still get all the nutrients that are in the peel.  We sampled applesauce all evening and I was quite pleased that it tasted great and I barely noticed the peels.  I don't mind the extra texture and neither do the guys in my family.  

Hopefully I can inspire someone else to give it a try even if they have a busy lifestyle.  It isn't necessarily cheaper, but you can control how much sugar is added and you don't lose nutrients to processing.  You can also add cinnamon or other spices to your heart's liking <3!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sick Day Adventures

Tait ended up catching hand foot and mouth disease at the end of September.  He is so rarely sick, but for some reason we caught this a second time.  I was disappointed he would miss school, but I knew from a newsletter that they were reading The Five Little Monkeys.  I set out on Pinterest to find activities related to this story so he would not be behind and he'd get to enjoy the story when he went back to school the next week.  I love Pinterest.  I am almost never disappointed and found a plethora of ideas.  The hardest part was narrowing it down to activities that were best for a 3 year old preschooler.
I stumbled across a blog called 1plus1plus1equals1 where I found "Tot Books."  She had a printable pack of activities that related to the book and were just right for him to enjoy and also to give him a little challenge!

5 Little Monkeys Tot Pack (if you're interested in checking it out)

Tait was super excited to go get things off the printer and was excited about each activity.  By the way, I loved that each activity was either a book or had a little pouch to store the pieces in.  Here are some pictures of us having fun; I love how he can't stay still long enough for a photo (and please ignore mess that occurs over the weekend when I spend time with family instead of cleaning):
Sorting Monkeys by size

He did great when I asked which is the littlest and then which one is bigger.

Which one is the biggest?

Which one is smallest?

Reading and counting!

After having fun we made an obstacle course to practice some of his gross motor skills.  He had fun jumping off the couch, crawling through the 'cave,' and climbing his mountain of stuffed animals :).  I had fun watching him enjoy these activities and can't wait to do more!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Snowshoe Adventures

We got snowshoes from my parents for Christmas.  Weather was perfect on the following Saturday to go try them out.  We weren't sure how Tait would do his first time out, but we all had a blast.

Living in Juneau we have, I believe, the only glacier that is right in town.  With a lake in front of it that freezes in the winter the locals like to walk out on it and up to the face of the glacier.  It isn't safe to walk all the way up to the glacier because it can still calve.)  There are often icebergs frozen around the lake waiting to melt or waiting for winter to end so they can move on toward the ocean (and melt).  It isn't entirely safe to approach them either because, apparently, they can roll even frozen in the ice.

Anyway, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed out onto the frozen lake to find an iceberg.  Tait wasn't sure what he thought until we had ours on too.  He was extremely patient as he learned how to walk without stepping on the shoes.  He even fell oven on his back without any tears or complaining.  When he did step on a shoe he figured out how to move his foot to get it off.  Daddy helped by lifting it with his pole, so Tait tried to use his pole to lift his shoe.  Not as effective, but cute to watch!

As we approached the iceberg Mike asked if he wanted to go up to it.  "No," he said. Smart kid :).  But we did anyway.  I enjoyed taking some cool photos of the ice and Daddy and Tait explored.  We even got Tait to say "iceberg."  We all took to the snowshoes pretty quickly since a few people had warned us about walking with a somewhat wider stance.  We're excited to get out on more trails this winter and have fun!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Adventures Fixing the Car

Why is it that fixing the car is always an adventure?  We went in to get new tires before the winter season began and discovered that we needed new wheel-bearings behind three out of four of the tire hubs.  If you have to do three you might as well do four.  It is expensive to have done at a shop so Mike did them himself in addition to the back shocks that needed replaced.  Tait loved being daddy's little helper.  He thought that mechanic gloves were awesome and useful for transporting sockets to the car.  The sockets were then placed in the trailer hitch, I don't know.  Next he proceeded to use the wrench part of the socket to hammer on the wheel hub since he'd seen daddy hammering on them.

Of course changing the wheel-bearings turned out to be no easy feat.  We ended up buying several new tools and at least three new sockets because the front and back and shocks all had a different size nut.  We also had to figure out how/where to get the bearing pressed in and out of the middle of the hub (it is a cylinder that 'slides' into the center of the hub for those who don't know.  Anyway, it would have cost a couple hundred dollars (possibly each) to have just that part done at the shop.  Our great friend Roger works on airplanes at the airport and had access to a press.  He and Mike spent a couple hours on the press.  Those bearings get pretty stuck after being in there for years and they aren't really meant to move freely anyway.  One of them was so stuck that it basically exploded out of the hub when it let go.  I could hear the POP from Mike's car outside (where I sat with a crying toddler because what we imagined would take half an hour became much more and he was hungry and I had no snack...note to self: NEVER assume you won't need a snack!).

All in all I have new shocks and new wheel-bearings (and the fourth one was about to fail so it was a good thing we replaced it).  It took hours and hours because the parts just couldn't cooperate and Mike ended up working on some of our rainiest Saturdays this fall.  It truly was an ADVENTURE ;)!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Icy Adventures

One cold fall afternoon Tait and I took a walk after school.  One of the best things about the location of our house is that it is less than a block from a trailhead.  We bundled up and headed out.  Tait's gloves didn't stay on more than five minutes.  I don't blame him since they are mitten style but don't even have thumbs.  We had a really cold clear snap this fall, so each morning for about a week we had a layer of frost that built up on the previous day's frost.  By now we have some really pretty hoar frost.  Tait discovered that if you stomp on the frosty grasses they make crunching sounds.  Needless to say we didn't make it very far on our walk because we stopped often to explore.  Here's the best part of our walk...for me anyway...

We have drainage ditches behind our houses.  When it's cold and icy it's also very dry.  So there had been water in the ditch from a rainy summer but it had started to subside.  Apparently as it froze it was still dropping.  It caused ice that looked like a topographic map.  Of course I had to stop and take pictures (and make sure my toddler stayed up out of the ditch - I didn't want him falling down the ditch AND I didn't want him to break the beautiful ice).

After stopping to capture this really cool phenomenon we walked on.  We found more leaves to stomp on.  Tait loves to stomp...or as he says to 'omp.  I love impromptu adventures!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Egg Hunt Adventures

 My friend Kara (who is about eight months pregnant right now) wanted something to keep her busy and decided to put on an Easter egg hunt.  We all donated a dozen or so eggs and met at Auke Rec on Saturday.  Kara collected all the eggs and hid them before we all arrived.  A couple of the dads and toddlers had to shoo off ravens who were stealing eggs while we waited for everyone to arrive.  Tait and I took a walk on the beach in his new to him Xtratuf boots.  (BTW, they are so stinking cute in his size.)  They don't seem really easy to walk in, but he loves to kick them off.

Once everyone arrived we started the hunt.  Tait was young enough to grab eggs on the grass, but old enough he may want to try the big kid area.  I sent him after one on the grass and told him to put it in his basket.  He dropped it right in, so we headed to the little bit harder ones.  He caught right on and LOVED picking them up and leaving them in the basket.  He had to shake every single one.  The hollow chocolate ones weren't exciting, but that didn't stop him from keeping them.  Once we were done he was still looking around to find more.  It was apparently a fun game.  We'll have to try it around the house just for fun maybe.

The rest of our time was filled with roasting hot dogs, chatting with friends, and kicking the boots off so Daddy would put them back on.  Good job Kara on a successful egg hunt.

 The tongue hanging out in the above picture cracks me up.  Pretty sure he got that from me.  Tongue hanging out when you're doing something intense.  Or it is pre-language practicing with his tongue; totally normal at this age.  Anyway', he was pretty excited to 'find' each egg I pointed out.  One egg was hidden by a devils club plant. I was just sure he was going to reach for it.  He probably wouldn't have if I'd have just ignored it.  He didn't touch it but he thought about grabbing it.