Work Wife

I remember at a previous job, there was this woman who always went on about her “work husband”. She was of the opinion that every person needed someone at work that acted as a stand in for their spouse. Someone with whom they had an extra emotional attachment.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the new Nespresso machine is my work wife.

For only the price of a coffee…

I am just so tired of this argument.

These days, everything is Kickstarter or Indigogo, pledge drives or pleas for donations. “Oh, for only the price of a coffee, you could support this, or donate to that!”

Well first off, Mr. Rockefeller, I don’t know who you pal around with, but I don’t know anybody that drops $5 on coffee and doesn’t think twice about it. Maybe on a special occasion to splurge or something, but I guess if you have the kind of money where you spend $5 a day on coffee without blinking, maybe you should be donating some of it.

Coffee club at work cost $0.20 a cup. Twenty cents. So you’re not asking me to give up one cup of coffee, you’re asking me to give up 25 cups of coffee. Twenty five. You’re basically asking me to give up drinking coffee altogether.

That better be a hell of a magazine.

And that’s just your fundraiser. What about the 15 other people who want me to donate to them, “just the price of a coffee”? I can’t bankroll everybody, and I don’t want to. Donations are no way to run a business. Maybe there isn’t a market for some things. Maybe the market is already over-saturated. Maybe you’re just not that good at running a business. I don’t know.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t mind buying a product to support something that I want to support. I even donate on occasion. Just don’t make it seem so trivial. “Oh, just the price of a coffee! So simple!”

It’s not so simple. It’s money. If it were so simple, you wouldn’t be asking me for it.

The Moka Pot

Ohhhhh you guys. Oh man. I’ve got a long and sordid tale to tell you. It starts, as all good tales do, with coffee, and ends with a wondrous little invention called the moka pot.

I’ve been periodically documenting my decline into a raving coffee addict, and I believe I’ve just entered a new and exciting phase. Although I dearly love espresso, I have been perfectly happy with my regular old 4-cup, standard (drip) coffee pot (unless I can convince my sister-in-law to lug her espresso maker to our house whenever she visits). Sara, however, not so much. The thought of hot water traveling through all that BPA-laden plastic sends shivers down her spine. She has mostly tried to stick her her cold-brewed coffee, but making it is a hassle in the extreme, and often not really worth it. So occasionally she had to resort to regular drip coffee, BPA and all.

It occurred to me that there were many different ways to make coffee, each with their own pros and cons, but surely there had to be a method out there that didn’t have any plastic parts. After some research (yes, I will research anything, even coffee making) we finally settled on a French press. Simple, straight-forward, time honored, and very similar to making cold brewed coffee. Several members of my family are already French press converts.

Finally, one day at Target and we decided enough was enough, and it was time to bite the bullet. We took a look at their fine array of French presses, and there was not a single one that didn’t have plastic. Frustrated, we decided we would look online when we got home. However, down at the end of the row, was a little Bialetti moka pot, with the coffee part made entirely of aluminum.

I had come across the moka pot in my research, but seeing it there in the flesh at Target somehow piqued my interest. However, we didn’t buy it then and there (did I mention I’m a researcher?). Strangely enough, just a few days later Sara had an amazing cup of coffee at a friend’s house, who happened to own a moka pot. The rest, as they say, is history.

This thing is awesome. It’s an espresso maker, but without all the crazy parts or fancy techniques. It’s kind of like one of the old percolator pots, though the brewing mechanism is entirely different. You just put in the water, espresso, and set it on the stove. That’s it. Ours makes enough for Sara and I in just under 7 minutes.

The Internet tells me that it’s not *exactly* espresso. The mechanism is the same, but it produces coffee at a mere 1 bar of pressure, rather than the required 9 bar. I don’t doubt that someone can make better espresso, but for a simple, low-cost, hunk of aluminum, my mouth can’t taste the difference. This thing makes *amazing* coffee.

One hard thing to get used to with drinking espresso is that you’re drinking a lot smaller volume. Think quality, not quantity. It turns out that a lot of my coffee drinking was more just to have something to do. You must not drink the same volume of espresso as I used to drink of coffee (or else there will be a *lot* more blog posts around here!).

So, moka pot. Highly recommended. It will change your life.


Presented without comment:

halfsies 001

Confessions of a newly minted coffee addict

For most of my life, I never drank coffee. My dad drinks the stuff like it was water (or not, because he’d never drink that much water), but I always thought it was vaguely gross. Sure, I’d have a super-triple-caramel-mocchaccino-ice-cream-chocolate-chip-madness from the local coffee shop now and again, but that hardly counts, right?

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

Back in 2009 we got a Keurig coffee maker, and that began the long downward slide. I liked the Keurig, but eventually the economies of volume won out: our tiny model only made one cup at a time, and it just wasn’t cutting it anymore, not to mention those little k-cups were getting expensive. Combine that with Sara’s discovery and embracing of cold brewed coffee (she has forsaken regular coffee completely), the little Keurig was sent packing after a few short years in favor of a little 4 cup pot.

Fast forward another couple of months, and I started drinking coffee at work. Just a cup at 2 or so, right when the day kind of hits that afternoon lull. It wasn’t just the caffeine though, “going to get coffee” is the social equivalent of hanging out at the water cooler, where I both find out what’s going on in the world and also get some of my best design ideas. Of course, they don’t have decaff at work or any of the nice coffee I buy myself at home, so it took some getting used to. I got used to it.

De-caffeinated coffee is more expensive than regular, so I started buying some caffeinated stuff for home and mixing it in with my decaff in the morning. I also started going on the regular “ten o’clock coffee run” for a little conversation in the morning, despite the fact that I just finished my travel mug on the way in to work. Did I mention my work coffee mug is a little bigger than a regular cup? I’m still using cream and sugar, but if I didn’t have it, I could now see myself drinking a cup anyway, something that would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

Then, the other day I was at home and I just didn’t happen to make any coffee. That night I got a terrible caffeine-withdrawal headache, which caused me to re-examine my life. I’m an addict! How did I turn into a raving coffee lunatic? Didn’t I make an effort to remove caffeine from my life once before (wow, was that really 4 years ago)?

After the day of the headache, I vowed to cut back, maybe drink more tea instead (de-caffeinated tea of course). But I haven’t. Coffee is just too dang good! And short of bringing my own coffee to work (and who wants to be that guy?) I get what I get if I go down to the pot.

So when you see me smashing a store window to steal coffee money, just remember where I started from before I turned into a wretched coffee addict.

Caffeine Content

The amount of caffeine in various items came up the other day, so I looked it up and was sort of amazed at what I found. I am including a table below of common items with caffeine. I found the table here, which I admit is not the most scientific site, but I double checked the figures against at least 5 other sources (this one had the best table). None of them are exactly the same, but that makes sense. For example, every type of coffee is going to be slightly different. So these seem to be in the ballpark of everything else I found.

Interesting things that I’ve learned since I started looking into this stuff:

  1. Decaffeinated coffee has a non-trivial amount of caffeine (this chart lists it as lower than other sources).
  2. Teas don’t list caffeine as an ingredient because they’re naturally caffeinated…decaffeinating them is the unnatural thing. (Okay, that one I knew already)
  3. Caffeinated teas are far less caffeinated than coffee. They actually don’t have a lot more caffeine than decaf coffee.
  4. The type of tea has a huge impact on how much caffeine they contain (this one makes sense, but I was surprised at the difference)
  5. Chocolate (especially dark) has a LOT of caffeine, and is a much bigger deal than tea (You know you’re not eating 1 oz at a time!).
  6. A glass of chocolate milk has a not-insignificant amount of caffeine!! No wonder your kids are crazy.
Double espresso (2oz) 45-100 mg
Brewed coffee (8 oz) 60-120 mg
Instant coffee (8 oz) 70 mg
Decaf coffee (8 oz) 1-5 mg
Tea – black (8 oz) 45 mg
Tea – green (8 oz) 20 mg
Tea – white (8 oz) 15 mg
Coca Cola (12 oz can) 34 mg
Chocolate milk (8 oz) 4 mg
Dark chocolate (1 oz) 20 mg
Milk chocolate (1 oz) 6 mg
Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Fudge Frozen Yogurt (8 oz) 85 mg

Coffee Addict

When we went to Philly, we stayed at a hotel that had an awesome coffee maker. It was so cool that Sara made anybody who came to visit make a cup of coffee just to try it out. Neither of us were coffee drinkers, but we each had several cups while we were there, if for no other reason than to use the coffee maker. She was so excited about the coffee maker that I wrote down the brand and model number on a napkin when she was in the bathroom and decided to buy her one for Christmas. It turns out that the model was only available for hotels and the like, but the company did make a nearly identical model for regular consumer usage.  I give you the Keurig B30:

Now, there are several advantages to this machine.  First off, since we are not coffee drinkers, we don’t need to make an entire pot of coffee. We just need one cup here or there, as we want it.  Since this makes one cup at a time, it is perfect. Second, it uses these little coffee cup things that have a pre-measured portion in them already.  When your coffee is done, you just throw them away: no muss, no fuss. Third, it is so cool! Even if you’ve never used it before, you can’t mess it up. The first thing you see is a giant “Press Here” staring at you on the front. When you hit that the thing folds open revealing a place for the coffee portion. When you put the little cup in there and close it, another door opens in the back with a blue water drop on it. Logically you add your water there.  When you close that door, a light comes on next to a picture of a cup. When you set your cup in, the Brew button starts flashing in bright blue. After you hit the button it takes a couple of minutes for your cup to be completely heated and brewed, and then the machine shuts itself off. There is nothing to take care of since it uses all of the water every time and the k-cup will be thrown away next time you use it. It is a miracle of modern engineering and it does it all simply without some digital display or screen.

So I was fairly excited to give this gift to Sara for Christmas but, unfortunately, she decided she didn’t want it. “I did love it…at the hotel. But not for our house!” she said. This is why guys have trouble buying presents for girls. I thought this was a sure fire thing. And what kind of logic is that anyway? It reminds me of when I was begging for a TiVo (greatest invention ever by the way) and she argued that we shouldn’t get it because she “would like it too much.”  I knew that if she kept it she would like it, although it is kind of weird to have to convince someone to keep their present if they don’t want it. Still, I think if someone else bought her that she would have been happy with it. I think I am held to a higher standard.

Anyway, she had two main objections: 1) it is more expensive to buy the little prepackaged coffee cups than to buy just regular coffee and 2) those little cups are not recyclable, so you are creating unnecessary waste. Now, in anticipation of those concerns, I also bought a re-useable filter thing in which you can use regular coffee. It is much more of a hassle to use, but does take care of some of those concerns and makes a pretty good cup of coffee. The pre-measured cup themselves cost about $0.50 apiece, but we quickly learned that you can use each k-cup twice, halving the price. Also, we bought them on sale for even cheaper. So they really aren’t so expensive.  

But now the real downside is becoming evident: I am turning into a coffee addict! It is just right there and so available and sooo delicious, I’m drinking like 2 or 3 cups a day. I certainly thought that could never happen to me. Now, when I say coffee, of course I mean “coffee”.  We’re talking two teaspoons of sugar and like an inch of half and half. I’m sure coffee aficionados will be all over me for this. But how long until I turn into one of those people? The other day I was drinking one that Sara made and I had to ask her if anything was up because it tasted weak to me! Next thing you know, I’ll require coffee that has been regurgitated by weasels! I started to get a little worried about my caffeine intake, so we got some decaf, but I’m still a little nervous. Especially since I find myself thinking of coffee during the day and whenever I smell coffee now the first thing I think is, man that sounds good about now!

Well anyway, this was all just an elaborate setup to link to commentor, friend of 25 years, best man and sister dater Hrokay’s new blog “No Cream, No Sugar”.  Of course I hope he knows that linking form here is a big honor and it comes with great responsibilty for quality and quantity of posts.  Of course this disclaimer hasn’t worked for some people I could name