So, less than a month between updates – maybe I’m getting better at this after my downward slide. Before I get to the reason for the title though a few “Off-topic” updates. I’ve been miserable sick the past week. Summer colds are bad enough in temperate weather…but when it’s over 100 out and you’ve got sinus pressure, runny nose and an annoying cough – life is extra miserable. Thankfully after a weekend of cold meds and curling up on the couch with tissues I’m feeling much much better today.
The solar lights mentioned in my last post have gone from bad to worse…only the two I repaired are now working. The others are in my office letting their batteries drain. Though about half of those seem like it may be bad batteries and not just overcharging. I’ll give them a few more weeks of darkness before putting them back out.
The backyard grass continues to grow and I continue to watch it. Still not quite grown in well enough for me to post photos…but a HUGE improvement over the bare earth and gravel that was there when we moved in. I think one more bag of fertalizer and one more bag of seed for the remaining bare spots and it will be looking good enough for photos. And hopefully by October or so when the weather finally breaks it will be ready for backyard party season! I’m already getting the itch to start making more pizzas remembering how great the last two experimental “grilled pizzas” came out.
And while I’m bound and determined not to let this disintegrate into a “Coffee blog” that is the reason for the title and what has again inspired me to put my lazy fingers to the keys and bang out an update. The corpse in question is our local Linens N Things which is one of the stores they’re closing to try and save their hides in the tumbling economy. Since I am as always about 180 degrees out of sync with the rest of the world bad economy for everyone else means time for me to score some great deals, kind of like we did with our house!
Amy and I were quick to check out the clerance sale at LnT as soon as it started, but at the time the store was still pretty much stocked like normal and the deals weren’t all that great. Yeah 20% off the entire store was nice…but not outstanding. We picked up a few odds and ends and I got myself a Bialetti Moka Express stovetop “espresso” pot.
I’d heard good things about these little Italian devices and figured for <$20 it couldn't be any worse than the steam pressure espresso machine my dad had sent me. Sure enough it brewed up a drink just as tasty, but which I found somewhat more enjoyable to make. It was less fussy than the little electric steam machine, easier to clean, and well...more authenticaly Italian. Plus it works on any heat source, so I can even take it camping. It's not really espresso but then again neither was the steam machine. But it still made for a good strong brew.
Then a few weeks ago we went back once the discounts reached 30% off or more on the entire store. This time I couldn’t resist buying something a little more extravagent. It still won’t win much approval from real espresso purists but it does have a 15bar pump, a good heavy solid portafilter and group head, and actually brews something a lot closer to real espresso – a Krups XP4030. It was the nicest machine they had other than a Breville that was twice as much and didn’t really have anything more going for it – and with the store closing discount I got it for just barely over $100 which was the price I had set for “Might as well try it”.
Please excuse the 4oz glasses on top…they were the smallest glasses left at LnT and for $3 for the two of them at least a double shot doesn’t look super silly in them like it does in a normal coffee cup! I’ll have some proper demitasse cups sooner or later.
Overall I’m very happy with this little machine. Yes it does have a pressurized basket which creates fake crema and probably harms real crema production…but apparenly you can pop in the basket from a much more expensive machine and the pump and temperature controls on this little creature are up to the task of making real espresso at that point. But even with the pressurized basket I’m quite happy with it and it’s a good step up from the steam machine and moka pot. In fact I sold the steam machine to one of Amy’s co-workers a week after getting this.
Unlike the steam machine the steam wand on this one actually makes enough steam to really froth milk…I haven’t had much luck making proper microfoam yet, but I’ve only tried once or twice. I’m not really big on milk in my coffee. Amy will probably use the steam wand for milk chocolate more than I’ll use it for anything. It’s easy to clean and does what I ask of it just fine – which is my one cup a day of freshly roasted and ground coffee…now a 2oz double shot of espresso instead of a 12oz mug from the french press or moka pot.
And today I tried a new experiment with it. I ordered some ESE pods from Pod Merchant after an exhaustive search of every store in town failed to provide me with a local source. (Well, I didn’t try the big new starbucks…but it’s not like they’d have much selection anyway.) I didn’t expect much from the pods…but since they’re individually sealed I figured they’d be a nice “emergency” stash to have on hand for when I forget to roast up fresh beans. Since they arrived today I had to pop one of the Illy medium roast pods in immediately. I was actually quite impressed. I’ve had quite a hard time getting a “proper” shot with my own coffee – usually despite the pressurized basket I end up with closer to 3-4 oz. in 20 seconds rather than the 2oz I should get in 25-30 seconds. I’ve tried tamping harder and grinding finer…but I suspect my blade grinder is the limiting factor here. With the pod it took a full 28 seconds to pull 1oz, and had a decent bit of creama (though that’s probably mostly due to the pressurized basket again.) So the pods were not at all a dissapointment – but are not about to become my regular source of coffee joy. They do have me starting to dream about a nicer burr grinder even more though.
Back off the coffee topic I’ll update to say I haven’t had much time to get my chops back with the cornet…but the other day Amy did comment that my attempt to make it through the first section of one of my old solo pieces was “much improved” and almost sounding musical again 😉 Were our backroom not unbearably hot right now and me to cheap to turn on the A/C back there I’m sure I’d be progressing quicker. Perhaps once the weather cools down again the horn will make more apperances in the blog.
And speaking of A/C I discovered a bit of an issue with ours. The house has been surprisingly humid as was my office. I had a friend who is learning A/C repair take a look at it and while he was able to clean out the house unit and get it running more efficiently – he defered to his boss, our friend Mark, for the full diagnosis. My office unit I discovered on my own that the previous owner of the house had blocked off the condensate drain! Once I removed that plug and it was able to start draining it’s condensate the humidity in my office went down considerably. I still need to fix the angle of the A/C a bit better to help it drain the rest of the way but it’s a big improvement.
And Mark took one look at the drain on our house unit and determined that it has a similar issue. The drain is not draining properly and that’s contribuiting to the humidity in our house. He further suggested some changes to the thermostat settings as well as a change to the main air register which will further improve the efficiency…and come winter we will likely be running some new ducts and extending the main unit to the addition as well as improving airflow in the living room and kitchen. Of course I’ll try and blog about those when they happen as well!
We’ve also been working on painting the living room again…well finishing painting it as well as repainting it. The last of the salmon color from the previous owner has finally be eradicated from the living room and hallway. The bright red wall has been redone in a more neutral tan, and the green wall behind the TV has been painted to match the blue wall behind the TV. Once we finalize our color choices for the trim and get it repainted one last time I’ll post some photos. But given how long it took us to pick up the brushes and start painting last time it could be awhile yet before we’re done!
So yeah, guess I have had a lot to update about. I need to get better about lots of little updates instead of one big one every now and then like this. I’d say that I’m going to try and aim for at least a post a week…but I know myself and know that if I said that I’d never pull it off. So instead let’s just hope that I can start posting more often. And that maybe next time Amy posts a comment she’ll make sure I’m logged out first so it doesn’t look like I’m replying to myself 😀