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.

Coffee on the tree high up and in your cup

It will soon be time for another round of coffee picking. The pickers pull the flexible, tall verticals to reach the cherry that’s out of reach. They should spring back up, but every year some of the verticals remain bent over. Sometimes they’re bent from the weight of all the fruit even before picking, but they aren’t heavily bearing this year. The trees with the tallest verticals are the ones that are next in line to be stumped in February. So we won’t have to look at the branches like this for too much longer.

In this official artwork from the 2016 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Kona artist Carol Tredway depicts the old-style way of picking. A dead coffee branch with a hook at its end would be used to pull down tall branches in order to pick the coffee. The vertical in the drawing is several feet taller than the picker, but she hooks and pulls the top down down. Note the Kona nightingale looking on.

With the pruning style we now use, it’s not like the old days when there were more verticals, and taller verticals, often requiring a ladder for picking. I’ve seen photos of the trees from the olden days and was impressed with the yield per tree, but of course I can’t find any of that when I’m hunting around on the internet.

In the process, though, I did find an interesting article, one of a former blog series (2012-2016), Maile’s Meanderings, under the Kona Historical Society. It doesn’t show the old growing style (really tall trees with lots of branches) because the trees are newly planted according to the article, “Konawaena High School Road.” In it she also talks about “the only school schedule in the Territory dictated by an agricultural crop. With no classes from mid-August to early November, schoolchildren were available to help their parents pick coffee.” Which ties in nicely to her ending quote, “When coffee’s perking, people are working, kids aren’t shirking, and trouble’s not lurking!”

The article’s image, with a tidy tree farm and buildings that stand out and not a lot of huge, unmaintained greenery, reminds me that UH has requested that I blog about “The Beauty of Kona.” I have to talk to him more about what he means, and I think he might want to write it, really. He has his youthful memories and has seen and lived Kona’s transformation. The change might be more pronounced to him since he lived on the mainland for decades before he retired here. When he returned, it was no longer the Kona of his youth.

He often bemoans the old days when you could clearly see from our road (Mamalahoa Hwy) all the way to the ocean. Now we have so many huge weed, invasive trees like the autograph tree, schefflera, African tulip, etc. obstructing that sightline he remembers. I remember seeing faded black and white photos of my mom, her siblings, cousins, friends, etc. out and about. The terrain was much different, yes. There seemed to be a lot more aged lava rock with some plants versus the verdant, varied, sometimes lush (in south Kona, with more rain) plant scape we now see. There has been a plethora of plants brought here, legally and illegally, knowingly and not, and spread by birds, animals, and man.

On another note, a friend shared this video, “The Ultimate V60 Technique” for making a pour over, because this coffee nerd apparently reminded him of us. I learned a few tips I want to try. Our friend said he was trying a few of the techniques, but then it came out that he doesn’t freshly grind his coffee. In my opinion, he’d get more payoff for his efforts by freshly grinding rather than perfecting his pour over technique. He says he buys a pound of coffee and has them grind it. If you don’t have a good burr grinder, using a professional’s grinder IS one of those times when pre-ground might be better than grinding your own right before brewing (e.g., if you use a blade chopper grinder). It’s also important how and how long you store ground coffee.

I told him to try an experiment of holding back some whole beans and compare that same coffee (a) freshly ground with (b) the pre-ground that’s nearing its lifetime at his drinking rate. I recommended he get an inexpensive hand burr grinder, which is fine for a cup or two of coffee, not for a family of six who all drink coffee at the same time. Or you can borrow someone’s burr grinder to run your experiment. Is it worth it to *you*? If you taste and appreciate the difference, you might want to invest in an electric burr grinder. And if you have purchased a hand grinder, it can become your travel grinder. I had just recently read a rerun article from Perfect Daily Grind about exactly this topic so I’ll share with you all: “Is Pre-Ground Coffee Ever Better Than Freshly Ground?

Health and the nutraceutical properties of coffee

Nutraceutical is another term new to me. Add it to my growing vocabulary, along with prosumer, anosmia, autotomy, hyphenated, micro lot, and co-crops. Curious what nutraceuticals are? Read here. It has to do with using food as medicine.

But here’s another article to counter that, stating that coffee’s health benefits aren’t that straightforward.

Changing tack, have you ever heard of, or had, a flat white? I had never heard of it until I went to New Zealand in 2012. There, I had one, and then it was always flat whites while in NZ from that point on. I never had a bad one, and they seemed to be consistent no matter where I drank them. I like the coffee strength, the milk texture, the ratio of the two, and the amount of liquid to drink. I’ve tried them in many cafes in the US when I occasionally see them offered. But I was downright disappointed with many, and I have never been impressed, and they haven’t been consistent. I don’t care enough to drill down to the nitty gritties. I’m not a barista; I’m really just a casual customer. I just order it, drink it, and have my opinion about it. But I’ve been suspecting it might be the milk. New Zealand milk vs. US milk.

About consistency, maybe it’s an American thing? Take a scone. Here they can be cakey, bready, huge, mini, fluffy, dense, etc. I feel like they’re a more consistent product in the UK. A cappuccino in Italy seems to be more consistent than what you get in the US. Here there’s variation in the volume of liquid, the container it’s served in, the coffee strength, ratio, etc. Just my personal observation.

This article addresses what a flat white is and from where it debatably came.

In a more unusual direction, I came across this recipe for a lavender latte, with additional instructions for how to make an iced one. There was a pro tip that since “you’re adding so much flavor with the lavender simple syrup, this is not the time to pull out your expensive specialty light roast beans.” I had never heard of a lavender latte, and coincidentally a cafe near here posted a photo of theirs on Instagram, using their homemade lavender syrup. I haven’t tasted or created one. Maybe something for you?

A light dusting of Kona snow

The area, and especially South Kona, is now starting to display Kona snow, pretty much not seen since mid-December. February was pretty dry, so with the decent rainfall almost two weeks ago, coffee trees are blossoming again. It’s a nice sight to see. We’ve only received a little over an inch cumulative, so our blossoming is light. I saw some heavy blossoming in South Kona.

This week, I’m not writing much, mostly just sharing some articles about a few international coffee recipes/creations.

What is flash brew coffee? also known as Japanese iced coffee. Which term sounds more exciting and trendy? It’s not hard. I wanted to brew it and share my experience, but I didn’t get around to it yet. I almost always prefer my coffee hot.

I was just reviewing the article again, and was enticed to click through to the article about Indonesia’s iced coffee revolution. The word “revolution” piqued my curiosity. I skimmed it, but it wasn’t that revolutionary or exciting to me, mostly about online delivery, apps, etc. But this little part was interesting, “Some kiosks mix the coffee with avocado …” I’ve had avocado shakes before, but never an avocado coffee. I did quickly find this simple recipe.

We have no shortage of avocados. We have a sad volunteer avocado tree whose sorry, mostly leafless, occasionally hacked-at-vs-pruned, state is even more apparent now that our neighbor ‘ulu co-op removed all their big trees. We picked some of the round avocados and carried them up, accidentally dropping the hard balls multiple times (now apparent as dark black bruises). They aren’t bad, but they aren’t great, so that tree is going to come down. We still have our neighbor’s avocados that hang over our property that taste better, and we have two young avocado trees that will hopefully bear fruit in the next year or so.

I’ve written about Scandinavian egg coffee about a year ago. Here are more egg coffee recipes from various regions of the world.

Another article, also from homegrounds, is for Mexican coffee recipes. I’m a fan of spiced drinks, so the cinnamon stick, star anise, citrus peel, cloves, caught my interest. (I like recipes that have chocolate in them, too. I do love hot chocolate made with Ibarra chocolate para mesa hexagonal tablets.) If I remember correctly, Bea craved cinnamon when she was pregnant with me. Maybe that’s why I’ve loved cinnamon my whole life.

The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.

Daniel Gilbert

Break time is pau. Get back to the grind.

Have you ever spent New Year’s or 4th of July in Hawai’i? The firework activity leading up to, during, and after these events is notable. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, just looking out from our lānai we could see (illegal) aerial fireworks in the sky all over, near and far. Where the terrain blocked our sky view, we could see light bursts like lightning in the distance. And then there are the big boom fireworks, which seem to have no purpose other than terrifying and annoying animals and people.

Permitted fireworks are allowed from 9pm New Year’s Eve to 1am New Year’s Day. Enforcement is difficult and pretty much isn’t done. You probably have the same problem where you are if you have a firework problem, and firework antics seem to have picked up during the pandemic. Of course, someone nearby fired off a few big boomers at 2:45am just this past Sunday morning, a week after New Year’s.

Holiday time shenanigans over? Are we starting the new year fo’ real now?

After a dry period, we received a little bit of rain for a short while last night. Better than nothing. At about 0.3 inches, it was more than we received all November. This won’t result in any flowering. The previous boom of coffee flowers have been gone a while now. And the little nubs left behind, the carpels, are busy growing into fruit. This is an interesting article about coffee flowering.

Rain is on my mind since we will be stumping a block of trees in the next month, as part of our annual block stumping process. We don’t want to do it when the trees are stressed (dry), and we really want rain afterwards.

This winter’s mornings seem to be a bit warmer than last year’s. This is purely subjective and based on memory. Last year I remember more mornings after Thanksgiving that were in the upper 50’s (56-59). This year there have been very few, and many dawns it’s about 62-64.

Today I’ll leave you with a few links to coffee grinders. Equipment comparisons and “best of” lists often come out before the holidays, timed with our national momentum to shop. A term fairly new for me is prosumer, an amateur who purchases equipment with quality or features suitable for professional use.

First, a link about cleaning and maintaining your grinder. It’s important to care for your equipment. It’s much easier to clean your grinder every week (or few weeks), rather than deal with years of caked on, oily crud.

When we had a large autograph tree removed by a professional tree service, I was very impressed with how well he maintained his equipment. In this case, I’m thinking of the chipper they had. [I looked carefully because we were once thinking of forming a hui (owner coop) with a friend and a few others for a big wood chipper.] I thought his chipper was new, but it was several years old, and he said he just cleaned it after each use. That’s the kind of pro you want to hire.

OK, the grinder links:

By the way, I get absolutely no financial benefit by sharing any links or info. This might not be the best info out there, and some of the sites I link to are more commercial than others (I apologize for that). I just provide the links for your info and convenience.