Off Topic: Coffee

All things coffee and espresso related … for those of us who are “weird coffee people” …


A quick PSA:

If you are passionate about things that interest you, or bring you pleasure, and have the kind of obsessive, detail-oriented, near-nervosa-level driven mentality that leads to owning/trying multiple headphones, DACs and amps …

… do NOT get involved in coffee.

While it is a much less expensive hobby than audio … it has more variables …

I say that, and I’m only 30 days in …

For nearly five decades … I liked my coffee deep, rich, strong and black. I was never able to tolerate the battery-acid and burnt-tires “flavor” of Starbuck’s “Pike Place Roast” (despite living a 5 minute walk from store 001 and Pike Place Market, for 4 years or so), I just liked darker roasts and the mouthfeel of a bit more of the coffee oils in my brew.

I still enjoy that.

And in an entirely non-purist fashion, I really enjoy Café du Monde’s “Coffee & Chicory” concoction (especially with fresh Beignets) … at a whole $7.64 for a 15 oz can).

But 30 days after buying an Ember 2, and reading a couple of articles on ideal coffee temperature, and then following a few links …

I’m hooked.

And it’s not even the caffeine …

So many precise, fiddly, variables and minutiae … the water’s mineral composition, grind size, brew temperature, bloom durations, timing, pulse-pours, swirls, stirs, ratios, filter materials (and rinsing), brewer/carafe/cup temperature … and that’s before we even get to the equipment/tools …

Loving it … but my word there are a LOT of very deep rabbit holes here!


I made this mistake too…

Worth it!


I’m a recovering coffee snob. Old City Coffee Company in the Reading Terminal Market (downtown Philly) produces a few very fine brews. Suggest you go online and pick up some “Balzac Blend”.

The Kauai Coffee company’s varietals are also sublime. Welcome to this rabbit hole. And I have previously posted a photo of my 1940 Faberware electric perk (not automatic) that I have on display in my office. Makes very good coffee.


I’m deliberately holding off from doing anything with espresso or latte-art (very pretty, by the way) … just playing with pour-over at the moment …

No doubt that day will come, and probably sooner than I anticipate …


I start drinking my coffee at 130F. This cooler temperature allows me to taste more of the notes.

I recently picked up this Torch brewer. Flat bottom brewers promote more uniform extraction and are more forgiving and easier to repeat. I like the Torch in particular where it has a faster flow rate compared to the Kalita Wave and other flat bottom brewers.

While less forgiving, I find conical brewers to have a higher ceiling in terms of being able to get as much flavor and nuance out of a bean. Hario v60 plastic, St Anthony C70 ceramic, Chemex glass all have a different profile.

There is no single way. Enjoy.


Back in the 80’s my wife and I started collecting Depression Glass - her Father was an avid auction goer, and collected earlier Carnival and other glass. Eventually, we were looking at some vintage kitchen ceramics, and I became a fan of the “Drip-O-Lator” for brewing coffee. This is an invention of the Enterprise Aluminum company, dating back to 1914, and always included a center section of aluminum that used fine holes to regulate water coming in and a coffee basket underneath, again with fine holes to regulate water going out.

The Drip-o-Lator makes excellent coffee, in many ways similar to Chemex, but with - in some models - far more elegance or perhaps a mid-century modern vibe.


These are images I found on the net, but I have a few Drip-o-Lators, two rather fancy ceramics similar to the first, and an orange/red version of the mid-century green one shown here. Somewhere, I also have the instruction paper - this is identical to the one I have, it was probably used for years.

The heavier ceramic pieces should be pre-warmed for best effect. The aluminum section is removed after use, and the heavy ceramic server helps keep coffee hot for a while. If you pour in fully boiling water, by the time it makes it through the filter holes, it is pretty close to the optimum 200-205 degree temperature for brewing. I use drip grind freshly ground in a burr-type grinder.

While I do use other (mostly drip) methods for convenience, just like using a turntable for vinyl, there is a satisfaction to using old things properly. And if there are guests, a nice hot ceramic coffee server always pleases.


Well, our own wives.

Funnily enough, through my Japanese wife, I also learned to appreciate a way of preparing coffee again, which was actually developed in Germany (Berlin) in the 1930s.

The “siphon” brewing technique has gone completely out of fashion here in Germany, while it has been cultivated to perfection in Japan.

So I started looking for a classic model a few years ago and found one.

This technique is extremely gentle on the aroma and the aroma variety and diversity of the different types of coffee and roasting techniques are particularly effective.

Incidentally, Kitchen Aid offers an electrified standard household variant that is not so bad,

but of course does not come close to the spirit or gas firing in terms of ambience.


Audiophile translated, that’s like listening to relaxed music in the evening, reproduced with a sophisticated tube amplifier and matching headphones…



That’s a very cool machine, @Lothar_Wolf. When I was looking for an office coffeepot, I went to our local insanely expensive Williams-Sonoma store to look over their selections, and was surprised to see some of the modern siphon variants: :phone:

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I see some reasonable machines that are clear descendants of yours for under $100 on line, and yes, I suspect they are from Japan.

The siphon is similar in many ways to the percolator that I mentioned above. I grew up with perked coffee, and done properly, it does not ruin coffee by boiling it. In your siphon machine, the coffee is made by infusion, and does not return to the bottom chamber. With a percolator, steam pressure lifts hot water through a tube where it is routed through a coffee holding chamber and returned to the bottom chamber. Done correctly, the temperature is kept low enough to keep from boiling the coffee in the lower chamber.

This extracts more of the flavor from the coffee, and one finds that medium and light roasts are at their best in this type of coffee maker. Here’s an unboxing shot of my Faberware Percolator:
This beauty makes 12 decent sized cups of coffee at a time.

The percolator works pretty much as a geyser does. And like your siphon. Note that perking coffee has inspired some music - so an on-topic reference. I think it’s time for me to make some coffee - In a Drip-O-lator.

:phone: I eventually settled on a Breville automatic grind and brew drip machine with an insulated carafe. She looks very business-like. However Ms. Breville is high maintenance.



Heat the water in the kettle. That’s a Cuisinart burr grinder and a vintage Sunbeam T-35 fully automatic toaster in the background.


Please don’t criticize my housekeeping because of a small clutter of spiders in the kitchen. I have to find out where they’ve been beading.


I really enjoy Café du Monde as well with milk or half and half. Shame my coworkers can barely tolerate the stuff, but their idea of coffee is essentially melted coffee-flavored ice cream.


Stay away from espresso, @Torq. It’s a very deep rabbit hole that starts at the bottom of the deep pit that is all other forms of coffee brewing. I made the mistake of dipping a toe in the water and now I’m trying to figure out how to rationalize a La Marzocco GS/3 for home. The good news, I suppose, is that even a really expensive espresso machine plus a pair of excellent grinders (gotta have a separate one for decaf) will cost less than, say, a dcs Bartok.

The biggest problem for me with espresso is how hard it is to actually pull a great shot. i think crossroads at midnight might be involved …


Oh poo. A Moka pot is traditional, cheap, and works just fine. Professor Benno Weis bought us one when Barbie and I got married, and it’s been a reliable friend.


To hijack an off-topic thread by going further off topic. Take a look at my photo of an alien meeting near Stonehenge. @pennstac’s mug would have felt right at home.

I was nervous but didn’t get probed.

Regarding deep rabbit holes that may make @torq’s brain explode…stay far, far away from 3D printers. They have thousands of parameters, thousands of filament choices, many colors, many textures, and many objects to produce. Then there’s design too. My printer output could cover @pennstac’s counter at least 2 feet deep and overwhelm the local Good Will donation center.


That is the plan … since I’m not much of an espresso drinker.

Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I partake in it infrequently enough - even when its available and I don’t have to faff with it (e.g., when out to dinner) that I think I’m safe …

… for now at least.

I’ve been somewhat restrained in my coffee equipment-buying too. While I have picked up a number of drippers (V60, Orea V3, Kalita, Stagg X/XF, Chemex, and a handful of others), which are, in the scheme of things, quite inexpensive, I’ve not done anything really silly elsewhere.

The first kettle was just a $40 Bodum gooseneck jobbie. Though that is now dedicated for my filter-rinse/pre-heat water. The first grinder was (is) a Baratza Encore (which now lives in the kitchen to feed the drip-machine). And the scale is a Timemore Black Mirror Basic Pro.

That was enough to prove that I’d use the stuff, that it was worth the effort and was making progress in my brewing.

I’ve since added two more grinders … one is manual (1Zpresso K-Ultra) and the other is for my “coffee station” (Fellow Ode 2 w/ SSP MP burrs), as well as a temperature controlled kettle (Stagg EKG Pro Studio).

And … that’s where things will stay until I’m confident that it’s the gear holding me back, not my own lack of knowledge, experience and ability. Which, I suspect, will be a years-long journey.

The two most obvious improvements have come from better beans/roasts (of course), and then from proper water content (I distill, and then remineralize … since I had the distiller already). Water temperature and pouring technique/“recipe” made the next biggest difference, combined with ratio. And then the grinder, followed by the filters.

I did indulge in a refractometer so I could be a bit more scientific/precise about the effects on extraction I was getting with different techniques/equipment, as well as for tracking my consistency … which has been useful so far.

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Burr grinders rule. Matters less if they are hand or electric powered, but those blade grinders suck dead bunnies through soda straws.


Blade grinders work well for Turkish coffee. Put the beans in the cup and grind until they reach a flour state. Grind some more to ensure there are no chunks at all. Put the coffee flour in the bottom of a cup with generous sugar – add hot water and let the flour settle out. It’s a dense espresso-like beverage.

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A problem with blade grinders is that they can generate heat, and that you may be doing an unintended toast of your coffee. Aside from the fact that they are highly inconsistent unless, as you point out, you are trying to grind very fine to almost powder.


Nice pieces. In the body vs clarity spectrum, a metal filter leans toward the former compared to paper filters. Preferences.

For the light to light medium roast beans that I usually favor, my default is 207F kettle temp. Going hotter tends to increase acidity and not agree with my stomach.

I agree that this is key.

Likewise. I find pour over to reveal more of the bean and communicate more of its origin’s/farm’s time and place. My goal is to drink coffee black, unadulterated. I do like the texture of espresso.

I also use separate kettles and water. Brewing water is precious! Calcium chloride has been effective for me with dialing in alkalinity and hardness. One of my biggest breakthroughs for coffee was understanding that water is a solvent, not an ingredient.

That’s an excellent pour over setup. I think you’re set and you can focus on beans, water, recipe, execution - before considering other grinders. You can also consider a stand and second scale to track coffee output.

True, although I haven’t come across a viable hand grinder with flat burrs not conical burrs.

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I looked at this sort of setup when I was considering scales. At this point, however, I’m not sure how I’d use the data in real-time*, which seems to be the only thing a two-scale setup would get me vs. just knowing the weight of the container I’m brewing into, and subtracting it out after I’m done.

If there’s a practical use for it, however, I could easily go for an Acaia Pearl S + Lunar on the Atlas stand. Though my tolerance for fussiness/flakiness with app-driven systems is very low, so unless it connected first time, every time, it’d be a very short lived solution!