Goal setting is not something I’ve been very good at historically. If I set goals at all I’m quick to forget them. So I wasn’t very hopeful for my list that I started early this year. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had actually met most of my goals for the year. So here’s a little sampling of how I met my goals this year.

1. We bought a house and we’ve been loving it for almost a year now.

2. Micah James was born April 1, 2014. He’s pretty much amazing and the best peek-a-boo player I’ve ever met.

3. I planted a garden. It was moderately successful. We got a lot of zucchini and some peppers, but exactly zero tomatoes. I think I planted too close to the house and didn’t water enough when it was dry. So at least I have a plan to hopefully get better results this summer.

4. If I’m really honest with myself I’ve only been a marginally better spiritual leader. Here’s to moving further up and further in.

5. We’ve seen a lot of growth at Three Crowns and we’re looking forward to another great year ahead.

6. This year I read only one book from start to finish, Scott Rao’s The Coffee Roaster’s Companion. If you do any coffee roasting I highly recommend it.

7. I’m still sitting on that album. Early this year my recording computer took a major dive and then my recording interface bit the dust. While I still have a version of the finished files I lost all of the individual components. I hope to release the finished files sometime this coming year.

8. No new band. And no more shows this past year. I did start playing more at church which has helped keep up my chops. This coming year I want to get back into recording and playing.

9. We were able to pay off our car this past year. While net we are in far more debt than we started the year with (buying a house will do that to you), we are making strides to being debt free.

10. I’ve learned plenty of new skills being a first time dad and a first time home owner. I’ve also refined a number of skills I already had. Here’s to learning new things and getting better at the skills we already have.

What were you able to accomplish this past year? What do you hope to accomplish in 2015?

Christmas CardChristmas is here. It’s become something of a tradition to write a year end letter summarizing the awesome things we’ve done as a family. Here’s our bullet list for 2014:

  • We bought a house.
  • Micah James was born on April 1. He’s awesome, cute, and loves peek-a-boo!
  • Three Crowns Coffee continues to grow and had their 1 year anniversary.
  • Leilani went down to part time at 212 Media Studios to spend more time loving on Micah and Daddy.
  • We paid off our car!
  • We love spending time with family, friends, and being involved in our church.

We hope that your Christmas is filled with joy. May you know the love of Christ more deeply in the new year.

barrelTen days ago I started an experiment with the barrel I got for my birthday. You can read about it here. Now I’d like to post about the results of my very unscientific experiment.

The Setup

I chose the Ethiopia Konga for my first venture in barrel aging coffee for a couple reasons.

1. It was one of the few coffees in my bunch of samples I’d actually roasted and tasted before, many times actually.

2. It’s flavor profile fit with the bourbon I had previously aged in my barrel. The Konga is a dry processed coffee, but not in the gigantic fruit bomb way that we often think of naturals. It’s major characteristic is its creamy body, though it does exhibit some red fruit characteristics as well.

The Result

So based on the changes that I saw in my bourbon over the course of a week, I aged the coffee for the same. The results were interesting. Given coffee’s porous nature it definitely soaked up some of the characteristics of the barrel and the bourbon that had been in there.

I was able to roast the coffee on Monday night and gave it about 18 hours to rest. It came out smelling like no coffee I’d ever tried before. When I tried the coffee (V60 Pour Over for those interested) it tasted like butterscotch, strong, almost fermented butterscotch. Honestly, it was a little harsh. So I let it rest a while longer and tried it again. The 2nd cup was much smoother and more mellow, but still retained the obvious butterscotch flavors, a success.

What I Learned

All these early experiments taught me a lot. For instance, 1 week in a small barrel will make a pretty big difference. But after some more reading no barrel aging I found out that it takes approximately 58 days to equal 1 year in a normal 53 gallon barrel. So I’ll be aging things a while longer in the future.

I was also reminded of the importance of degassing freshly roasted coffee. When I more frequently roasted at home I would often drink my coffee right off the roaster, but some coffee needs more time to rest. This was definitely the case because it turned what was almost harsh into something strange and wonderful.

Right now I’m prepping the barrel for more coffee aging with some Tanqueray Martinis. I can’t wait to taste the results of the cocktail and whatever coffee I decide to follow that with. It should be interesting.

For now we’ve got the Ethiopia Bourbon Barrel Konga in extremely limited quantities at Three Crowns Coffee. But it’s sure to be just the first in a long line of coffee aging experiments.

bourbon-barrelFor my birthday my wife got me a new 1 liter bourbon barrel. It’s pretty much amazing, just like my wife. I took a week to cure it per the instructions and another week to age some Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon that I got for Christmas. The results were amazing. Smooth, oaky, sweet, and beautiful. I read in some introductory guide to distilling that using a 5 gallon barrel will increase the speed at which the contents age. So, since my barrel is even smaller, I’ve decreased the time I let things age in the barrel.

However, my purpose was not primarily to age spirits, but to age some green coffee beans. I’m certainly not the first to think of this. Both Dark Matter and Ceremony Coffee Roasters offer some barrel aged coffees. But the idea intrigued me enough to want to try it on my own. So now that I’ve had a chance to age some spirits in preparation for the coffee, the question is which one? Here’s the flavor profile of the bourbon I used. Creamy, mellow, ripened red berry, rich, spicy, well-balanced, and moderately sweet.

Here are some of the coffees I have on hand:

Sumatra Harimau Tiger (5334) - Juicy, and sweet with intense fresh bell pepper, herbaceous, lemon and grapefruit flavors.

Tanzania Peaberry Songea (4786) - Sweet cedar.

Ethiopia Washed Yirgacheffe (5363) - Round with intense tangy florals, sweet lime and lemongrass flavors.

Ethiopia Konga Grade 1 (5362) - Chocolate, floral, lime and buttermilk tones.

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe 3 Konga (5569) - Floral, coffee cherry, apple, lemonade and wine flavors.

Rwanda Fully Washed Ngororero (5573) - Juicy, sweet and savory, with lemon acidity and a creamy mouthfeel.

Sulawesi Tana Toraja Peaberry (4560) - Smooth and citric with kafir lime leaf flavor.

Vote for your favorite in the comments.

new-year-resolutionsRarely do I feel compelled to devise a list of resolutions at the beginning of a new year. At best I compile, at least in my mind, a vague set of goals or things I’d like to see happen in the coming year. But this year, for the sake of accountability, I thought I would make that list a little more concrete. It’s not exactly a list of resolutions, but more a list of goals and things I anticipate or would like to do in 2014. It will be interesting to reflect upon these at the start of 2015.

1. Buy a House – We’re very close already. More on this when things are finalized.

2. Have a Baby – Our first one is on the way, due at the beginning of April. Can’t wait to meet him.

3. Plant a Garden – I don’t buy into all the health food hype, but I can assure you produce can’t be bought at the store like you can grow in your yard. But more than that I want to landscape in a way that all our plants are edible in one way or another. Time will tell if that is overly ambitious.

4. Be a Better Spiritual Leader – Vague I know, but here’s how I quantify that. Daily Bible reading, both personal and as  family. Getting involved in a small group. Start helping to lead worship at church.

5. Grow My Business – I’m excited about the growth we’ve already encountered at Three Crowns,  but there is room for so much more.

6. Read More Books – I tend to default to mindless entertainment. This year I want to read a book a month.

7. (Finally) Release that Album – I’ve been sitting on an acoustic album for some time now. This is the year I will release it. Maybe I’ll even record another.

8. Play More Shows – I can count on one hand the number of shows I played last year. Not that I’m looking to tour or anything, but I would like to play more shows, keep up my chops, and maybe start a band.

9. Pay Down Some Debt – Buying a home has brought into sharp focus our finances and realizing just how much income is going to debt makes me want to pay it all off right now. While that isn’t realistic, we are going to make great strides in this area.

10. Improve My Skill Set – I’d like to learn a couple new skills this year and improve on some that I already have.

30yrsLast week was my 31st birthday. In the midst of the busyness of the Christmas season and all the major life changes we are going through it caused me to pause and reflect. In some ways this is a reflection on the first year of my 30s and in others it’s a Christmas letter of sorts, since I know we won’t get around to actually sending one out.

Fire

It’s been 11 months almost to the day since the apartment fire. Still no word from the insurance (Progressive) except no. We’ve have more or less recovered, but are obviously still fighting the insurance company on this one. Funny how we’re still “finding” things that are missing. Thanks to all those who helped out in the aftermath and all those who I’ll probably never meet that donated stuff because people were in need.

Moving

In the last 12 months we’ve moved twice. Once across the parking lot and once to Warsaw, where we really want to be. We’ve started looking for houses in the area and hope to wrap that up soon. After moving six times in less than five years we are hoping this will be the last move for quite some time.

Baby

We’re at week 23. Just 17 more weeks (give or take) til we get to meet Micah James. We oscillate between pure joy and sheer terror.

Three Crowns

The coffee shop is up and running. It’s been a huge blessing and a lot of work. I couldn’t be more proud of the work we do. Shameless plug: For the next 12 business days we’ll be giving away drinks. Today started with 12 free pour overs. Who knows what tomorrow will be. Check our Facebook for updates.

Misc

Everything else seems incidental. I finished an acoustic album, but haven’t released it yet. We are attending a new church. L has a new job that she absolutely loves. Life is moving forward. God is good. (That last one is hardly incidental).

goodcoffeeI realize I’m an anomaly. There aren’t many people in the world who have invested as much time and energy in to a beverage as I have. So it’s not really surprising anymore when people who drink my coffee apologize. The reasons are different; some feel guilty for adding cream and sugar, others for the way the prepare it at home, still others for buying their coffee from the grocery store. Still it makes me feel strangely like a priest in an alternate universe where lay people come and confess their coffee sins to me. Well, stop it.

You don’t have to apologize for putting cream and/or sugar in your coffee, if you like it that way it’s OK. But you can improve the coffee you drink at home starting today (even if you add a little something to it). Here’s how.

Buy better coffee

I’ve long been convinced that 99% of people don’t like coffee because they’ve only experienced a poorly prepared stale incarnation of it. The first step to better coffee is to buy it fresh from a roaster that isn’t afraid to put the roast date on it. Coffee will be noticeably stale after four weeks and is best in the first two.  You wouldn’t buy milk past its expiration date, don’t do the same with your coffee.

Grind it yourself

The further coffee gets down the production line the quicker it goes bad. Roasted coffee has about four weeks. Ground coffee about 40 minutes. Yes, minutes. Even a cheap blade grinder will get you better results than buying pre-ground coffee. But for the best results invest in a high quality grinder. They will grind more evenly and extract more evenly.

Water

Coffee is 98% water. It’s easy to ruin good coffee with bad water and most municipalities don’t bother to make their water all that great. Use a mineral filter or bottled water, but stay away from distilled since there’s nothing for the coffee to cling to. If you’re brewing manually aim for 200-205 F. Too hot burns the coffee and too cold won’t extract enough.

The Golden Ratio

Precision is key to good coffee and gram scales are cheap. Once you start measuring your coffee use this ratio to start: 17.42:1. For the mathematically disinclined, that’s about 13 grams of coffee to 8 ounces (226.79 grams) of water. It’s only a starting point, and you may want your coffee stronger, but it will get you in the ball park.

Brewing

Learn your brew method. Most of them produce good coffee with a little bit of care. Avoid percolators and cheap electric drip pots that are less than 1000 watts and please stop dumping more grounds on top of the old ones. You’re not doing anyone a favor by being thrifty. It will only produce a weak and nasty cup.

Enjoy

Don’t reheat it or keep it on a burner, you’re slowly sucking the life out. Enjoy it exactly the way you like it, but try it black first. You may surprise yourself. Then you can stop apologizing for your coffee.

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