Agitation —Stir, Swirl, or Gently Shake?

No, we’re not talking about your laundry washing machine. This down-in-the-weeds topic affects how to best extract your coffee when using a hand brew method like a pour over or French press. The goal is even coffee extraction. And according to this article, “How does agitation affect filter coffee brewing,” apparently …

One extraction variable that can often be ignored is agitation.

A friend sent a link to a pour over Ultimate V60 technique video by a “real coffee nerd.” He said he found it counter to what we do and what he reads online and sees on YouTube. I actually didn’t find it all THAT different. And I told this friend who was watching coffee nerd videos to get a grinder! I thought he’d get better quality by freshly grinding his coffee than nerding out on his pour over technique.

The new things for me in the video that stuck out were: (1) swirling before and during the bloom and (2) I didn’t know that proof of a good extraction was an ending flat bed of coffee grounds. I hadn’t been sure if a good extraction was when the grounds were around the entire filter cone, or when they were all at the bottom of my dripper, in a flat bed.

I do know you need water and coffee meeting each other for a good extraction. I sometimes have seen people keep adding just enough water to cover their grounds (not nearly as much as the dripper can hold) and letting it pour through, and then adding a little more, repeat, etc. Too little water trying to get through all that coffee resting on the bottom. This kind of brewing tastes different than when you let the water and coffee fully get together and then let your brew drip through the filter.

So after swirling entered my awareness, these two Perfect Grind articles about agitation caught my attention:

Swirl Or Stir? Achieving Even Extraction With Filter Coffee Drippers

How does agitation affect filter coffee brewing?

Anyway, there are obviously more details conveyed in a video than when just reading. Though I watch movies for entertainment, I am not a big fan of videos. It’s just me and the way I operate. For some reason, I have little patience for posted videos (except if they’re under 2-3 minutes long). Maybe it’s the lack of quality control. Almost anyone who can make a video can post a video. But so many people learn real skills on YouTube. Not me. I also rarely use Siri, Alexa, or “Hey, Google.” I prefer still shot photos or things I can read. There are WAY too many videos available, so it takes a lot for me to watch them. I have to be highly motivated. And I might use the settings to watch it at the fastest speed to get the gist of it. Or try to drag the bar to the areas I think I might be interested in. I guess I’m often doing a similar thing with reading. I might not read it all, but scan to the parts I’m interested in.

I was sharing with a different friend my slight aversion to video , and apparently he’s the same way. He hardly ever looks at videos, even ones that friends send him. He’s also the oddball who I think is still not using Facebook. One of the holdouts.

Know thyself.

… Well, isn’t that interesting. We’ve probably all heard that “Know thyself” expression numerous times. I googled it, in case I mentally refer to it in an incorrect way. I discovered this article, “‘Know thyself’ is not just silly advice: it’s actively dangerous.” Of course that title piqued my interest. That article even uses coffee preferences (“I’m an espresso [or cappucino] drinker”) as analogies of who we think we are. Maybe the most intriguing part of this post is that link.

The Season’s Numbers Are Coming In

As feared, the numbers are downright grim. This is our fifth coffee season as Bea’s Knees Farm. Our cherry picked season-to-date is a paltry 21%(!) of what we had in last year’s season through August.

We still have fruit on the trees, but we know there won’t be much to finish the season. You will soon be seeing a big jump in price for our coffee. We will also adjust the shipping charges to reflect the USPS increases that have happened since we last adjusted in February 2020. We simply won’t have much coffee, and the next season won’t be ready until Fall 2023. We will sell out before then.

On the positive side, most trees are still alive, and they look reasonably healthy. I hope rust won’t take hold again and damage the trees. And I hope we won’t have a 2-month dry spell like we did last year. We are at the end of our rainy season, but this month has already had more rain than the four inches we had in August. Our dry season should not be bone dry, though it was in Oct. and Nov. last year. The dry season should just produce less rain than the rainy season. The official rain gauge year starts in October. Last year we had 70″ of rain (Oct. ’20 – Sept. ’21). We aren’t at the end of September yet, but so far we’re at 46″ for this year.

On another note, we were recently on the mainland visiting different sets of friends in different places. Big Joe in Seattle spoiled us. When we arrived there was already a freshly home baked bread made, plus leftovers from a few bread experiments. And while we were there, one day he baked three different sourdough breads: one with some spelt flour, a walnut loaf, and an olive rosemary loaf. Yummo! I think he wanted to experiment, and he needed guinea pigs who eat carbs and gluten. Can’t have all that delicious bread sitting around with insufficient eaters. Plus he could discuss techniques and tricks with Hubby (the bread baker in the family). Bea would have loved to be a guinea pig. She loves bread! We’ll have to create a GoFundMe site to Send Bea to Big Joe. Bea actually has history with Washington state and Seattle, which was before she settled in Southern California.

I shared this statement and link before in a previous post: Artisan bread complements specialty coffee in various ways. This article addresses How are artisan bread and specialty coffee linked?

Big Joe didn’t have a coffee burr grinder, so we gave him one to thank him for hosting us. I think it was the second or third grind, and he poured the beans ONTO the plastic lid (like he and we did on our grinder last year). It was his solution to put a sticker on the lid of our grinder, so we employed the same fix on his. We hope he’ll enjoy many cups of delicious, freshly ground coffee. And thank you to our other friends, including our new ones, who filled our mainland trip with socializing and fun adventures, and thanks to the sitters who kept the household and farm humming along in our absence.

The little citrus that makes your mouth pucker

Calamondin, also known as calamansi, Philippine lime, and Philippine lemon, is a hybrid between kumquat and another citrus (likely mandarin orange). We had a large, mature, not well-pruned tree here before, but it was right by the highway, on a down-sloping hill, and the trunk base was in a dipped area of jumbly lava rock. The fruit appeared fairly easy to pick, until you got closer to the trunk and you realized the fruit was even higher than you thought. The ground was so unstable, it was dangerous to put a ladder there. The tree was quite prolific, so we didn’t feel compelled to harvest most of it. We took the tree down a few years ago.

The fruit is about 1-2 inches in diameter. You eat it like a kumquat, thin peel and all. I find it much more sour than kumquats, lemons, and limes. To me, there isn’t that much to do with it other than use as an occasional citrus garnish or make jam. It makes a beautiful, complex-citrus flavored marmalade. I like the marmalade enough that we planted another tree in a better location.

We planted a dwarf tree in April last year, and this was how it looked in June, just a few months later. (May and June were extremely rainy last year, so there were a lot of weeds). The tree is supposed to grow up to 10-15 feet, but we hope to keep it lower.

Quite a few more fruit developed by the end of the year, and we weren’t vigilant about culling some. Enough grew on one branch, that the branch broke. We tied it to a support stake and let it just continue on. By that point we just let the fruit stay on it, since we knew we’d prune off that branch later.

We harvested the fruit several weeks ago. It probably wasn’t quite ready (there are quite a few greenish ones you can see in the photo), but the supported branch fully broke off. Fourteen cups, or four pounds four ounces, as a first harvest. Not bad. I would be happy with even that same amount every year, since I just want it to make marmalade. I get overwhelmed if we get too large a harvest. I always try to use or share what we do get. At least the fruit aren’t highly perishable.

The fruit had developed well enough that every single fruit was juicy. We compared an orange ripe-looking fruit and the greenest one we could find. Boy were they sour, especially the green one. After some discussion and consideration, we decided to use even the green ones, thinking the sugar would compensate.

The recipe I use (Bea’s) has you cook the fruit with baking soda prior to deseeding and cutting. Already the lovely calamondin juice smell brought back memories of previous marmalade making. I’ve read on the trusty internet that using baking soda helps reduce the cooking time required. The most time-consuming part of making marmalade is deseeding the fruit. Slicing across its hemisphere is preferable to cutting lengthwise, because it’s easier to remove the seeds. For the 14 cups of fruit, it took me 1.5 hours. My fingers were shriveled.

I miscalculated (pretty badly), despite notes I’ve taken from previous years, so I actually hadn’t sterilized enough jars. Fourteen cups of fresh fruit resulted in 12 cups of marmalade. Oh well. The clean, unsterilized jars will contain refrigerator jam. I like to store whatever I can in the freezer anyway to try and preserve the bright orange color as long as possible.

How does it taste? Well, this was the most bitter batch we’ve made. It’s a little disappointing, but it is what it is. It’s not as bitter as candied grapefruit peels, which I’ve made only once for a reason. My thoughts about why are: (1) the fruit was harvested a little early due to the broken branch, (2) we should have eliminated the green ones, (3) it was the tree’s first harvest (I think fruit usually improves with the tree’s age). The internet says marmalades can be bitter because the rind isn’t cooked well. There are three cooking steps: (1) bring fruit to boil with baking soda, (2) cook the slivered peels, (3) cook the fruit with the sugar. So maybe I should tweak the length of time for cooking step (2).

Tweaks and adjustments will have to wait until next year.

There is life in the rain

The official rain gauge I follow is at Kainaliu, about a mile away. From October 2020 through September 2021, where about half those months the volcano was not active, we had about 70 inches of rain. By the end of July 2021 the cumulative inches were at 57.5 inches. The rainy season last year did feel very rainy. People were complaining. But it was apparently like the old days, pre-1980’s before the volcano started its decades-long activity.

This rain year, starting October 2021, with the volcano active the whole time, at the end of July 2022 we were at 35.7 inches, about 12 inches less than the same point the year before. July 2021 brought 7 inches, contrasting with 2.5 for July 2022. Even though there isn’t as much rain as last year, we’re still getting the rainy season mildew inside the house.

What’s nice about our elevation (1400 ft) is the climate. We don’t need heat or air conditioning. We have reliable breezes that keep us comfortable. I frequently feel a mild discomfort returning home after being in the car with air conditioning. At first home feels warm and muggy. But it’s just the difference after getting accustomed to the low humidity, air conditioned car climate.

But without air conditioning in the home, managing moisture is a challenge, especially in the rainy season, when it is also warmer. Baskets and things in closets start to smell funky. Some materials mildew, while others are fine. The wall near the fridge starts to mildew, the undersides of shelves grow powdery mildew. We had guests that put a bag in their closet that they had carried frozen items in. When they removed it at the end of their trip, it was moldy inside.

So we use DampRid in almost every closet. It starts as dry crystals and as they absorb moisture in the air, it gradually becomes liquid brine. I don’t know how much it helps, but it’s something. During the rainy season we have to throw out more water and add more crystals than in the dry season, replacing the 11 oz container’s crystals maybe every 4-6 weeks (vs. 2-3 months). And there’s a storage area in our house where we run a dehumidifier all the time and have to regularly (weekly) throw out the water it collects.

Most of you readers are likely visitors to Hawai’i, as opposed to residents, and probably had no idea of these little details of living in the Kona Coffee Belt. If you stay near the beach where it’s hot, you probably enjoyed A/C, and the beach areas don’t get as much rain anyway.

Rain, clouds, and the ocean make for amazing Kona sunsets, though. I especially love the way the sky reflects onto the ocean. And it’s fun to sometimes see the curtain of rain on the ocean.

Every day is different. Even a shades-of-grey sunset can be pretty.

Surprisingly, sunrise can appear similar to sunset, beautiful as the sun comes up from behind us, peeking over Hualalai. The colors are very short-lasting, unlike sunset which can be enjoyed for quite a while after the sun has gone below the horizon.

What other fruit’s processed seeds do you eat?

Today’s post is a mish mash of miscellaneous topics. I save up articles and topics I find interesting, sometimes it’s from one of you. I look for opportunities to link them together. Every once in a while, they just don’t connect, yet I want to share and I’d like to push these off my list. In my mind, there’s usually some kind of connection to coffee, or they’re other things that live on, or can also grow in, a coffee farm.

Read on if you want to know a bit more about our one mango fruit, raw cacao, painting with coffee, coffee leaf extract possibly preventing COVID-19 infection, and … peecycling.

UH and Bea’s favorite fruit, or one of the favorite, is mango. I wrote about the Old Man and his mango and that we recently planted our newest mango variety, Rapoza. We almost lost track of that one picked fruit, but we tried it just in time before it was probably going to rot. It was small, but delicious. Smooth flesh, not stringy, nice orange color, a classic mango flavor, and a small seed. Pretty good for a potted mango tree. It’s a keeper. When we removed it from the pot in order to plant it, we were surprised that the roots weren’t all that deep or extensive. We had been more concerned that the roots would grow out the bottom, and the tree would be unhappy when we unpotted it. The tree is still faring well in the land, i.e., surviving pigs.

One ingredient I’ve liked to bake-experiment with is cacao nibs, the crumbled bits from the cacao bean. Each cacao pod has probably 30-50 cacao beans (seeds). Recall that coffee is made from the seeds of the fruit. The cacao beans/seeds are fermented, dried, and roasted. Once the thin outer shell is removed, the nibs are revealed.

We’re always on the lookout for other crops we can commercially grow. Cacao, like coffee, can be processed and stored. It’s not like perishable avocados, where you better have a market for them before they ripen. We still haven’t even planted a single cacao tree to learn from though. I see whole, pretty orange cacao pods for sale at the farmers market, and I often wonder what buyers are doing with the entire pod. In any case, this is an interesting article about raw cacao and how that term is a bit misleading. “What most people call raw cacao is not unprocessed, but is unroasted.”

My friend shared this newspaper article last month about an artist who paints with vodka-soaked coffee. If you happen to have the ability to read the San Jose Mercury News, read “Dublin artist paints with coffee and vodka.” Otherwise, I found this article on which unfortunately has a lot of ads woven in between, but the payoff is the artist’s coffee-vodka paint recipe at the end.

A research study was published in July in The International Journal of Biological Sciences about coffee leaf extract possibly helping to prevent Covid-19 infection. Someone else blogged about her summary of the published article. Further research is required to assess the validity of the study.

Today’s oddest topic … peecycling. Peeing in the yard/farm? It might not be socially acceptable, but that might change with this news. If you have access to The New York Times, “Meet the Peecyclers. Their Idea to Help Farmers Is No. 1.” Ha ha. Turns out “human urine has the very nutrients that crops need.” The article adds a lot of color to the topic, but it basically covers the work of the nonprofit, Rich Earth Institute.

Current coffee cherry. Picking will happen soon …