Famous for its complex and flavorful coffees, Blue Bottle Coffee in New York delights its devoted patrons with exquisite pour-overs, delicious espressi, and specialized brewing methods. Yet as coffee production becomes more sophisticated with specialized extraction techniques and Japanese coffee gadgets, the new artisan coffees can seem out of reach. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee explains this new world from farm to cup, exploring the bounty of beans available and the intricate steps that go into sourcing raw coffee from around the globe.

 Blue Bottle founder James Freeman coaches you through brewing the perfect cup of coffee, using methods as diverse as French press, nel drip, siphon, and more to produce the best flavor. For coffee lovers who want to roll up their sleeves and go deeper, Freeman explains step by step how to roast beans at home using standard kitchen tools–just like he did when starting out.

Rounding out the book are more than thirty inventive recipes that incorporate coffee or just taste particularly good with coffee, such as Saffron Vanilla Snickerdoodles, Stout Coffee Cake with Pecan-Caraway Streusel, Affogato with Smoky Almond Ice Cream, Coffee Panna Cotta, and more.

With more than one hundred stunning photographs showing coffee’s journey from just-harvested cherry to perfect drink, this distinctive and deep guide to the new breed of amazing coffees from one of the top artisan coffee makers will change the way you think about – and drink – coffee. (description from publisher)

Joe: the Coffee Book is a beautiful, hip guide to the world of coffee brought to you by New York City’s popular connoisseur coffee chain, Joe. Written from the point of view of owners (and siblings) Jonathan and Gabrielle Rubinstein, the reader is welcomed into the tight-knit international specialty coffee community of committed growers, buyers, roasters, entrepreneurs, baristas, and drinkers. Their mission: to source, purchase, roast, serve, and drink the world’s finest coffees.

By explaining how exemplary coffee is produced—and revealing the actual brewing techniques used to create great coffee at home—this book provides all you need to explore and enjoy the vast world of coffee. Illustrated with fresh and quirky photos, Joe will have you sipping your favorite brew with even greater pleasure and appreciation. (description from publisher)

If you’re not French-pressing, you’re shortchanging yourself.

A recent convert, and not for lack of trying from others, I’ve rationalized that it is more than win-win.  Four wins.  That’s right, a quaternary level of winning.  Insert hackneyed, two months’ stale Charlie Sheen reference here if you’re that person, followed by a sound life-examination.

1)It’s green. No filters showing up in the landfill. And after you’re done with it, swish the grounds around in some water and dump them onto a potted plant or garden bed of your choice. Apparently, plants love the stuff and worms will turn rock hard clay into aerated loam because you discarded your morning joe bilge there.

2)You use less coffee.  I reckon up to a third less.  There are a lot of oils and nuanced flavors that come through that you weren’t getting before. So your coffee dollar goes further. Frugal readers know that is one greenback that isn’t going near as far as it used to in the global marketplace.

3)You get more caffeine. There are scientific types that take this stuff very seriously…to a lab coat level.  They’ve determined optimum extraction occurs somewhere between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Your Mr. Coffee percolator is at best about forty degrees shy of that mark.  If you slug it out of a wide-brimmed soup cup like I do, cool down time is not an issue.

4)You get a whole bunch of counter space back. Think of all the cool stuff you could put there instead!

Yeah, so you’ve got to learn how to boil a small amount of water and you can’t set a wake-up timer on it.  Buck up. You get to feel like a chemistry major without floating a D grade-point average.  Also, you’ll have to start looking at the microwave to see if you’re running late. It’s worth it.

Remember Kabul Beauty School, the memoir by Deborah Rodriguez?  Well, the author is back, this time with a fictional account which seems likely to have been based, at least in part, upon her own life experience as co-owner of a coffee house in Kabul.  At least that’s my bet, as the dialogue and place description both have an authentic feel to it.

I enjoyed A Cup of Friendship on several levels.  First of all, it’s just a good story.  It’s got solid characterization with some humor and some romance to help balance out the more tragic episodes.  It’s also a reflection about relationships and lasting friendships with women of different faiths and cultures.   Finally, I think it helps those of us living in the West to better understand Afghan culture.  We may not agree with the way women are treated there, but knowing some of the “why” behind it certainly helps.

As one might expect, being an American woman running a business in Kabul these days is not the easiest job in the world.   However, the main character, Sunny, runs her coffee shop amidst bombs going off nearby, and still manages to create a welcoming haven for many ex-patriots.  She also finds a way to do some good in her little corner of the world.  This is a “feel good” book!

What could be more festive than flaming candles in a girl’s hair or drinking cup after cup of strong coffee accompanied by pastries? This time of year makes you think about the customs of cold weather countries.

Lucia Day often begins with the daughter of the house bringing breakfast and coffee to her parents (adorned with a wreath of candles). How to Make a Swedish Christmas and Christmas in Scandinavia have recipes and instructions for making  ornaments like woven heart baskets and straw horses.

Swedish Christmas Crafts by Helene Lundberg has great, and simple, ideas for decorations, such as putting small white candles in a row of bright red apples to use as a centerpiece or using coarse salt for a snow substitute. Or how’s this for a frugal gift idea? Use a tin can after stripping off the label for a container of nuts or candy. Tie a piece of pretty cloth over the top.

Coffee is a central part of a fabulous Icelandic custom called the Four Coffees. Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Scandinavian Baking Book includes instructions for a succession of cookies, cakes and breads that are eaten. With each pastry, one cup of coffee is consumed. With the fourth cup, you can eat anything at the coffee table.

Embrace the cold and snow season – revel in spicy cookies, lots of candles, and plenty of coffee.

2207162644_bf88558cb2Those two cups nobody wanted from this morning have lost their aroma and flavor as a straight beverage. They’re not good for anything except tomorrow’s 6AM supercharge, with the characteristic post-slurp wince.

This neat tip from the May 2009 Consumer Reports’ Shop Smart magazine: “Coffee is a great flavoring, says chef Steve Petusevsky, of Roundy’s Supermarkets.”

-Freeze leftovers in ice-cube trays and add to iced coffee. This trick keeps your iced coffee from getting watery as the cubes melt.

-Substitute coffee for the water in brownie or chocolate cake mixes. It imbues a richer flavor.

-Replace part of the liquid in stews or barbecue sauce with strong coffee. Again, the coffee adds to the flavor, and you can save your wine for drinking!

-Substitute coffee for water in your favorite baked-beans recipe or add a litle when heating canned baked beans.

-Use coffee as a meat marinade. it imparts a subtle flavor, its acidity helps break down tougher cuts of beef or pork, and it adds a nice earthy flavor to poultry.

frugallibrarianThey might as well have mystical powers as much as some folks charge for them. With a little skill, it is possible to get up to five times as much coffee for what you’d pay a certain mega-chain for a vacuum-packed pound. Problem is, you’ve got to get online, buy them green and roast them yourself. This can be, for a knucklehead that shall remain nameless, an extremely smoky and odorous endeavor.

There are lots of people who have modded-up their own roasting rigs, but one of the easiest, most accurate and cost-effective methods is around 6 minutes in the old hot-air popcorn popper you’re currently doubling as a dust-collector.

Reasons to attempt:

-According to some sources, coffee is best within five days of roasting. Shelf brands have been there far longer.
-You can experiment to find your ideal mouthfeel. Go online and pick an African, Asian, or Central American nation of your choice (there are dozens)….each has their own varieties that thrive in their unique in climate, soil, moisture, etc.
-You get the satisfaction of knowing when it turned out halfway well that it occurred of your own caring hand. Might make for an impressive treat or homemade gift?
-You can “enhance” what you’ve done by adding flavoring elements. I’ve found a teaspoon of cinnamon in the drip basket masks mistakes.

Word to the wise…never do it inside, especially not with half a wok full.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to step away to enjoy a cupful of fresh-brewed cinders.

p10100331In honor of Cams Coffee House’s grand opening at the Fairmount Street Library, here are some novels to enjoy while you partake of their wares:

Grounds for Murder by Sandra Balzo is the first in her coffee-themed mystery series, starring Maggie Thorsen, a Milwaukee coffee shop owner. Her books provide a fun way to get insider knowledge of the coffee shop culture. There is always a healthy competition among the city’s coffee shops and baristas.

The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella. “A well made cup of coffee is the proper beginning to an idle day,” says Robert Wallis, a marginal poet with great belief in his artistic, as well as coffee, expertise.Through a chance encounter, he gets a job in the coffee trade and travels the world, encountering romance and evolving into a more interesting and complicated human being. Because his task is describing the nuances of coffee, this is the perfect book to enjoy while sipping a dark, bold brew.

Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle is the eighth in her Coffeehouse Mystery series. Clare Cosi is the manager of the Village Blend, in Greenwich Village. Romantic interest is provided by encounters with Detective Mike Quinn, as Clare repeatedly encounters foul play. Again, caffeine fiends will enjoy the coffee industry details, and the New York setting.

To complete the experience, slip in the lovely and soothing soundtrack to Sleepless in Seattle, while you sip your Cams latte, (made with SBC, Seattle’s Best Coffee).