How to make espresso while traveling

A few weeks ago our friend in Maui sent this photo with no explanatory text. I said, “What’s that? Beer? Bike pump?” Answer: “You should know…” Then I had to look a little closer. I had been so focused on the pump, I hadn’t noticed the little black grinder. Since *I* should know, I figured that must be a coffee hand grinder. Then the pump must be some coffee device. I was thrown off by the Brewed on Maui glass that looked like the glasses from Maui Brewing Company. I was also led astray by all those Hoy Hoy roach traps.

Almost a week later, I received a link to this video, solving the mystery:

The barista is a friend of our friend, who traveled to Maui with all the paraphernalia to make his coffee. By the way, I asked, and he is not a coffee professional, just does this for the enjoyment of it all. To me, the most challenging part looks like pouring the hot water down that narrow tube. What are all the gadgets?

1Zpresso hand grinder
Timemore black mirror timer/scale
Alsainte distribution tool with tamper
Espresso Forge manual espresso press

I shared the video with our Italian friend, loyal coffee customer, who must have his daily quality espresso. He replied with:

His wife interpreted the response as, “All of this for an ‘americano’?”

Today I received these photos. The barista is back on the mainland and apparently now out of his Bea’s Knees coffee.

Brew it in a sock or in a chemistry lab? Or just drink Folgers?

Ah, the elaborate rituals we go through, and the stuff with which we improvise, all for a good cup of Joe. A customer/friend/Rune’s former-coworker, BLV, lives in the Lake Tahoe area. Her parents live seven minutes away. In BLV’s family, she and the siblings were born in one country, raised in another, neither of which was the parents’ two different countries of origin, and they’ve ended up in the U.S., the melting pot. Got that?!

A few weeks ago her mother was remembering when she was young, the slow pouring of hot water through a *sock* into the pot of coffee, in a pan of warm water on the stove.  BLV shared pictures of the coffee grinder her mother inherited from her aunt Madeleine. Her mom no longer uses the grinder; it’s just fond memories.  Nowadays Mom scoops ground Folgers.

What is it with Folgers?!! That’s what my grandparents drank on their/this Kona coffee farm. If you missed it a few months ago when I posted it, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interesting piece, “Folgers, a throwback brand in the age of nitro lattes, wants to be cool.

I searched to see what the latest is on the Folgers rebranding effort from 2022, but couldn’t find anything insightful. One thing I discovered, probably part of last year’s marketing hype, is that there’s a Folgers contest, where you can win “a damn good $10,000 golden scoop for your damn good coffee.” I guess if your coffee is cool, as in “hip” or whatever expression, you have to tout it as “damn good coffee.” You have until March 1 for the contest. Tell your parents, BLV.

Another friend told me about a book she’s reading, Lessons on Chemistry, which is what reminded me that I forgot to share BLV’s sock brew story and photos. Lessons on Chemistry is fiction about a female scientist in the 1950’s battling uphill in a world run by men. One of the scenes is of her making coffee in her kitchen/lab. Grinding coffee with mortar and pestle, using beakers, bunsen burners & pipettes. She served this coffee to a neighbor who watched with disbelief and enjoyed the most “heavenly “ coffee imaginable, still wondering why she didn’t use Folgers.

Since even my social worker friend has now tried ChatGPT, I asked it to draw the chemistry lab brewer, and, instead, immediately out came this helpful description to set up a coffee brewer. Once I remembered ChatGPT doesn’t draw, I did use Dall-E to generate a satisfactory feature image for this post. And I’m not letting myself get sucked in, playing with all the tech. Just like I never got enamored with Siri, Alexa, or Google. I did have the thought that ChatGPT could write my blog post, but if you write from your thoughts, real experiences and stories, I don’t think the chatbot will replace humans. Or? …


  • Beaker (preferably heat-resistant)
  • Bunsen burner
  • Tripod stand
  • Wire gauze
  • Heat-resistant mat
  • Pipettes
  • Coffee grounds
  • Water


  1. Place the Bunsen burner on the heat-resistant mat.
  2. Set up the tripod stand and place the wire gauze on top of it.
  3. Place the beaker on the wire gauze and fill it with water.
  4. Place the pipettes in the beaker, making sure that they are submerged in the water.
  5. Turn on the Bunsen burner and adjust the flame until it is blue and not too high.
  6. Wait for the water in the beaker to boil.
  7. Add the coffee grounds to the beaker using the pipettes.
  8. Let the coffee brew for a few minutes.
  9. Turn off the Bunsen burner and remove the beaker from the tripod stand using tongs or heat-resistant gloves.
  10. Allow the coffee to cool before serving.

Note: This setup is not a standard method for brewing coffee and can be dangerous if not done properly. It’s important to exercise caution and follow safety protocols when using a Bunsen burner and handling hot liquids.

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?