Nerding out your Roasting

Thinking back to the old Kitchen Computer idea of yore, one of the important aspects of it is being able to monitor, in depth, the temperature of, well, everything in the chain of the food. So, obviously the food itself should be monitored, the cooking environment, the cooling environment, and the resting environment. This will not only let us know whether the food is done, but how quickly, what path it takes, whether it should be safe to eat or not, and if cooling it down made everything in the fridge go bad. I've explored the topic of temperature control in the past, but I had never found quite the right sensors to use. I've been playing around with the other aspects of the computer interface, such as the microprocessor and the communications, but the temperature sensors were never quite right for me. Fortunately, I am not the only geek in the world, and someone else has done much of the legwork (and, really, all of the work) for tracking these temperatures. Enter the Turkey Tracker, which was live-casting temperature updates for a turkey, the smoker, and the outside environment. There was even a video stream, photos, and everything. This is a project by, according to the list of authors on the blog, Robin Parker, Michael Weinberg, and Chris Chen. The Turkey Tracker Blog has plenty of words describing what's went into the process. What Went Into the Turkey Tracker describes some of the hardware and software, including the ideal, high-temperature thermometers that I'll need to use for my setup (though I may have to have separate probes for low-temperature sensing). There's even a FAQ, that gives answers on cooking and temperature sensing techniques. To see what it all looks like, you can check out this Flickr set about Project Wirebird.* Obviously, I'll be learning much from this example, so that I can build a strong and powerful kitchen computer. There is talk of open-sourcing the code as well as having multiple turkey-trackers next year, so perhaps I'll get in on the fun then. via Make. *- The image I used for the preview of this article was taken from that Flickr Set, and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike License. So, as with my stuff, feel free to use that image or its source, but be sure to give attribution. Also, if you use that image, be sure to license whatever you use it in similarly.

Char-Broil Oil-less Turkey "Fryer"

I have not been able to turn on the Web for the past week without seeing something about the new The Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer from Char-Broil. What I hear is "it won't catch your house on fire like a turkey fryer will" and "infrared heat." I will start by saying that in no way am I suggesting that this device will not make a delicious turkey. I don't own one and am not going to pay for one, so unless someone wants to pony up a Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer, I will not make that determination. I'm sure there'll be plenty of reviews in a few days from all over the place. However, I will tell you that this device, despite its form factor, is not going to fry your turkey. What it's going to do is broil your turkey. You know how I know? No oil. It's one of the secrets of frying, you see: you need oil. So what's happening is that the Big Easy uses some propane to feed some enclosed burners. These burners get warm, and radiant heat (a.k.a. infrared heat) cooks the turkey. The nice thing is that this happens around the whole turkey at the same time, thus providing a reasonably easy setup. Of course, a turkey is a bulky, fiddly hunk of meat and bone, and it just doesn't cook evenly, which is why pain is taken to keep the white meat from drying out while the dark meat becomes safe to eat. If you have an oven that has a rotisserie attachment, then stick your turkey on that and turn the broiler on. That's the same basic setup as this "fryer". But don't go thinking that you're going to get the same sort of flavor that you would from a fryer. You may or may not even get as good of a turkey as you would from the oven, and I might even suggest just going out to the grill and using a rotisserie there, especially if you have coal. Coal rotisseried turkey would probably be a good way to impress the relatives. You know how, in a convection oven, you don't cook the food at as high of a temperature? That's because radiant heat is a relatively inefficient way to cook something. It'll get there in the end, and is great for the right kinds of foods, but it is not efficient as these things go. Oil, being a lot thicker than air, conducts heat very, very efficiently. This is why you might stick your arm into a 500°F oven for a couple of seconds to pull out a roast, but you would never stick your arm into a 350°F pot of oil. Not even for a couple of seconds. Oil is very efficient. So when Char-Broil calls their round, only use at Thanksgiving broiler a "fryer", I scoff. Again: could be a wonderful device, but it transfers heat in a completely different way from what a fryer uses, and knowing how heat transfers is an important part of cooking. I don't appreciate the spreading of misinformation. Still, if you don't mind having a good chunk of your garage cluttered for 365.242199* days of the year with a device that is not going to fry your turkey, then feel free. Personally, I'll stick with the oven. Unless, as I said, someone wants to give me one. Then I will give it a fair shot. I might not keep it, but I'd certainly cook something with it. *- Give or take

Upgrading the Stand Mixer

There are two new items for the World's Most Popular Stand Mixer In The World*. I'm writing of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer, not some other mixer. The first is the BeaterBlade. Available from Amazon, this handly little device is just like the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, except that it has some silicone bits around the edges which scrape the sides of the mixer for you. Simple, effective, and a no-thought upgrade. If you know someone with an appropriate model stand mixer, you have your holiday or birthday present for the year. The second, for the bread enthusiasts, is the Spiral Dough Hook. This one is an official KitchenAid attachment that will work for the Professional 5 Plus and the Professional 600 models (sorry, Artisan folk). As seen in the embedded video, the new dough hook actually kneads the dough along the bottom of the bowl, thus picking up the various bits of flour at the bottom. Also, it prevents the dough from slapping the side of the bowl like a one-armed midwife at a birthing competition**, so it keeps the mixer from trying to walk across the counter to its eventual doom. *–I have no data to back that up. I completely made up the title. It's a pretty popular mixer, though, you'll agree. **–It sounded okay in my head.

L'Equip R.P.M. Blender with Tachometer

tachrpmbldne.jpg

L'Equip R.P.M. Blender with Tachometer: "While it doesn't justify the purchase of a new model just to get it, this 'R.P.M. Blender' from L'Equip has a tachometer on the side. It does seem sort of obvious now that someone's made one, doesn't it? I'd like to see this added to all blenders as standard issue.

The R.P.M. is powered by a 900 watt motor that can spin up to 20,000 revolutions per minute. It's available for $134 plus shipping.

Catalog Page [Tabletools.com via CribCandy via OhGizmo]"

There is no possible reason someone would need this, but man, does it look cool. I wonder how well it blends. What would be even better is a way to retrofit an existing blender with a tachometer (or, as the parent article suggests, that all blenders include this). Something that would look swank and would still work well as a blender. Still, I'm sure some enterprising molecular biologist will know something that has to be blended at exactly 17,312 RPM. Okay, I suppose that is a possible reason someone would need it. Likely? No. Possible? Sure.

(Via Boing Boing Gadgets.)

Table saw for vegetables

Vegetable Table SawSuch a bad idea, but how can one resist the allure of the kitchen-based power tools? It's only an exhibition piece, and not something we could buy, but still. If anyone decides they want to build one of these, you should feel proud of your upcoming sense of achievement. However, try to build in the "cast removal technology" that hopefully prevents you from efficiently slicing off limbs and/or digits. So, to recap: Thoroughly impractical, terribly dangerous, and would take up far too much room in the kitchen. Therefore it's a must-have item. I can't imagine why they don't sell them.

Lunch Box Stove

12 Volt StoveFor those of us who watched the fourth episode of Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt, there were plenty of items of note. There was the unfortunate accident, the nice police officer who managed to get his own TV show, and the revelation that Alton Brown pretty much makes coffee the same way I do (and, unlike most of my cooking, my coffee making technique was mine before I ran across Good Eats, so it was a nice case of parallel development). However, probably the most notable part of the show was the introduction of a new gadget, the Portable 12V Stove in the shape of a lunch box. I've been accused, at least once, of being awfully influenced by Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels. Still, as with the coffee, I'd learned about myself, that I can go from just learning of something's existence to owning it in the space of about 45 seconds, happened well before The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul was written. Though perhaps not before the Dr. Who episode which it eerily resembles was written. In any case, I do not own the 12V Portable Stove shaped like a lunchbox, but that's mainly because I'm saving up for a honeymoon, and it would be frowned upon if I bought something that I have absolutely no use for when that money could go towards espresso in Rome, right? This portable stove can heat to 300 degrees, which means I wouldn't be baking any bread in it, but it sounds great for a stew, or the meatloaf that Alton Brown made, or some manner of cobbler, perhaps. You know, when I go on a road trip to...somewhere. Okay, I really have no use for it. Tailgating, perhaps. Not that I go to sporting events. Really small chili cookoffs. Ummmm...bah. It's $30, and sold out 'til mid-November (Possibly because of Feasting on Asphalt, but still, a great little gift for someone who would not have any reason to get it for him- or herself.

LEGO Chocolate Printer

LEGO Chocolate ExtruderInstructables has a great entry on a homemade 3D Chocolate Printer, made from LEGOs (with some custom work). Its very rough at the moment, and the maximum geometry is limited by the fact that there isn't yet a way to work in support structures, but it's a great start. There are some movies on the site of the device working, as well as step-by-step pictures of its construction (in the Instructables way).

Tongs

There are times when you might not want to pick things up with your hands. In the kitchen, you'll use your hands for many many tasks, but sometimes they're not appropriate. Aside from items which are too liquid, the most obvious class of things to avoid using your hands on are things which are burning hot. After all, many of you will cook meat, and your hands are made of meat, so it stands to reason that you will not want to touch things that are at meat-cooking-temperature with your hands of meat. Depending on the item you're touching, you might want to use a towel, a dry towel, to insulate your cookable hands. You could also consider a pot holder or similar. However for some, shall we say "juicy" or at least wet items, you should consider using tongs. They're inexpensive, and they are useful in hundreds of day-to-day situations in the normal home cook's life. It's a rare day that goes by when I don't dirty some tongs, so consider keeping a couplefew pairs around, and save your hands some unintended cooking.

Tinkering with the Vacuum

At my day job, we have a Bodum Santos electric vacuum coffee maker. It's a lovely device, and given the choice between an automatic drip pot and this, I would always choose this. It's more automatic than a press, but more work than an automatic drip. The only thing that would stop me from recommending it wholeheartedly is that, out of the box, it does not make that great of a pot of coffee. Still better than drip, but not in the same league as a press. The problem is that the brewing time on the pot is too short. It's completely automatic, so you put the coffee in one chamber, the water in another, assemble, and hit a button. A little while later, and you have a pot of coffee. (for those who haven't read Coffee Time 2, here's a quick overview: coffee goes in the top chamber, water in the bottom, connected by a filtered tube. Heat the water until pressure from expanded vapor pushes the water into the top chamber where it mingles with the coffee, let it cool, and the water drops through the filter to reveal proper coffee). It knows when to stop brewing because it can sense how much water is in the bottom chamber, and as soon as it runs out, it cuts the heat on the element. It needs more time. The ability to modify the time between running out of water and cutting the heat would let me use far less coffee and get better results, but that's not something they let you do, unless it's in a double-secret control mode (which seems unlikely). There is something you can do, though. If you don't fully seat the top chamber, it raises the tube just a bit, and that allows a small pool of water to stay in the bottom chamber longer than it would have had the tube been as far down as it could have been. This lets it brew longer, thus making better coffee. I'm considering gluing some spacers onto the top of the bottom chamber once I have an ideal spacing down, but it would have been such a nice addition to allow a "plus 1 minute" option to the brewing cycle. Of course, all of this would be unnecessary with a manual unit, but that would remove some of the nice features like unattended operation and being able to set a timer for use overnight. More importantly, though, I have no way of using a manual unit at work, what with needing either a stovetop or an open flame. So, if you're using the Bodum Santos and want some stronger coffee, try not pushing the top chamber down all the way. Don't rest it loosely, otherwise you'll make a mess, but leave around a 1/8 inch gap.

Disposable teflon

I was at a cooking supply store today, and I noticed this package of 6 sheets of teflon coated paper for about $22.50. They were washable, but cut-able, and seemed odd. They were being marked as some kind of reusable parchment paper or somesuch, but they were nowhere near as durable as a Silpat. I'm guessing the ideal application is if you have, for example, a small bakery, and you make this particularly sticky cake. So you can cut the teflon sheets to fit your cake pan, and wash it when it gets dirty. However, I just don't see this working for almost anybody. Parchment paper isn't all that expensive, and Silpats or, if you know how to handle them, the silicone baking dishes would probably work better. Maybe there's some sort of specialty application they're great for (I see similar products for aiding in ironing transfer sheets, for example), but I can't say I'd advise using them in the kitchen.

Measuring Salinity

Here's a great little project for creating a device that will measure the amount of salinity in any given liquid. This is in no way necessary for the home cook, but it should be very interesting for doing kitchen chemistry experiments, and it might be useful for creating new recipes. There's also a link for a free java program called Molecular Workbench that will let you model certain chemical reactions. I am keen to play around with that, and see what can be done with it.

Cast Iron Knowledge

The Irreplaceable Cast-Iron Skillet is a great collection of information on and techniques for using and caring for cast iron skillets. I have a cast iron skillet, and I do like it, though I don't use it as much as I think I should. I think my main reluctance is that you don't wash it in the same way as you wash most everything else, so it doesn't fit into my workflow as easily. Still, perusal of this page has inspired me, and perhaps I will make some tasty German Pancakes in it.

Immersion Blending

I had my first immersion blender years before I needed it. In the right hands, an immersion blender can bring a new dimension to a soup, smooth out a sauce, and generally keep you from having to go through the painstaking and sometimes dangerous task of transferring a hot, sticky liquid to a regular blender and back. In the wrong hands, an immersion blender is a way to make milkshakes without having to dirty the blender. Well, that's not true. In the wrong hands, an immersion blender is a terribly inefficient and messy way to get yourself to the top of the FBI's most wanted list. Using it for milkshakes and smoothies is kind of handy, if only the briefest touch of its full abilities. Once I started getting into cooking, I broke out the 20-year-old immersion blender that I got from my dad after a house cleaning/purge. It works, sure, but what I didn't realize at the time was that it works poorly. It tears through vegetables like a chain-saw through human flesh: sure, popular culture tells you this should work well, but when you actually try it, you start to think that maybe it was really designed to do something else. Hmmm, this entry is pretty gruesome. I blame chapter two of Near a Thousand Tables: A history of food. Those who have read it probably know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't, well, you can pick it up for yourself. I wouldn't want to get in trouble with the Vegans. Anyways. While visiting Melanie's parents over the Christmas vacation, I was convinced to make some Roasted Vegetable Soup, as Melanie loves it so. I asked her parents if they had an immersion blender, fearful of the limb-burning prospect of the stand blender, and I was relieved that they had one. I immersed the blender, prepared for five minutes of dedicated grinding, pushing the blender against the fully-cooked broccoli and hearing it struggle like the drill of a dentist who is working on what will eventually become his next yacht and summer home once the bill is paid. After all, that's what I did with my old blender. Instead, a quick fifteen seconds later I had virtually eliminated all recognizable vegetable matter. After remarking aloud that I intended to discard the old blender and buy this model immediately upon my return home, Melanie and her mom disappeared in a cloud of mystery and returned with what I eventually discovered was my new Christmas present of a Braun 200-watt Immersion Blender. Hooray! [amtap amazon:asin=B00004S9GX] It has removable attachments, so the bits that get dirty can be washed in the dishwasher. It even has a handy food prep attachment, for when you need to seriously chew through a small amount of vegetables and you don't feel like dirtying a knife or the food processor. Apparently, there's a 400 watt version, but I can't see why a home cook would need such a thing. Maybe one day I'll find out, but I think the 200-watt is the way to go.

The Anti-Griddle

Anti-GriddleThere aren't very many new ways of cooking that have been introduced in the past several hundred years. After the oven, things stagnated until the microwave and eventually the Easy Bake Oven and its related ilk, such as GE's Advantium. So it's nice when something kinda different comes along. In this case, it's the anti-griddle. Technically not useful for cooking, since there probably aren't too many changes to protein structures and the like associated with it, but it does allow for a new type of food preparation. The anti-griddle is a -30°F surface that sits in your kitchen like a griddle. You place something liquid on it, and it will become solid, or solid with a liquid core. The important thing is that this happens very, very quickly, unlike your basic freezer. This lets you do some interesting things with shaping frozen foodstuffs, though it's probably a bit overkill for working pastry dough. It would be interesting to see what happens with things like meats and fruits, where the slow freezing process causes relatively large ice crystals to form and damage cells. If this could do your initial freeze very, very quickly, then this would be a great addition to, if not everyone's home, at least mine. My guess is that, since it appears to work via conduction, it will not be useful for as many applications as one might hope. This technology is brought to us by the same people that make the swank thermal circulators, so they get the thumbs-up from me. But for goodness' sake, don't stick your tongue to it! via Boing Boing.

Coffee Time Part 2 - Brewing Methods

Now that you know where coffee comes from, it's time to focus on the more practical aspect of coffee: the making. There are a lot of ways to brew coffee, from the pedestrian to the futuristic to the complicated to the, well, weird. All coffee making methods share the desire to combine grounds with hot water in one form or another, and most of the methods separate the grounds from the water at some point in the process before it reaches your cup. In a nutshell, that's brewing. After brewing is preparation and/or drinking, but that's a story for another time.

Automatic Drip

The most popular method of brewing in the US is the automatic drip. You start with some grounds in a filtered bowl, pour hot water through, then let the water fall into a pot waiting below, while the grounds stay with the filtered bowl. Very consistent, for any given coffee pot, and likely to make a serviceable pot of coffee with minimal effort. There are a few problems with the automatic drip method, depending on how you like your coffee. But to understand why, you'll need to learn a little bit more about the coffee itself. Most of the flavor of coffee comes from the essential oils that are captured by the water. These essential oils are what the roasting process is all about; the darker the roast, the more oil there is, with additional changes in flavor from the heat treatment. In an ideal brew, you strip off all of the essential oils and leave everything else, because the rest of the flavor in the coffee bean is very bitter and nasty, which does not make for a tasty brew. Any given volume of water will be inclined to pull out a certain amount of flavor and then stop, or at least slow down, the acquisition of additional flavors. There's only so much space between the water molecules for yummy treats. However, consider the layout of your general automatic drip: Bowl of grounds, water up top, small hole at the bottom. All of the water falls into that bowl from a single point or set of points. After a while, the points of contact between the water and the grounds are going to lose essential oils, and then the water will start picking up the bitter compounds from the coffee before grabbing the essential oils from below. Some coffee pots try to fix this by pouring in enough water that the grounds are floating in a pool while the relatively small spout at the bottom slowly releases the coffee enriched water into the pot. That's a good step, unless you like your coffee strong (as I do). If you try to add more coffee to the filtered bowl (especially what I consider to be the "proper amount", it may overload your filter basket and you'll make a big mess. So, if you want pretty strong, not-terribly-bitter coffee from an automatic drip, it's going to take a lot of comparison shopping, and a lot of trial, error, and returns. Another difficulty, though more easily fixed, is that putting the water through paper doesn't taste all that good. A metal filter will let more of the oils through, though I'll admit, this is one of those subtle changes. There are many more ways to optimize your coffee experience that will have a greater impact. Finally, the convenience of the automatic drip is also its downfall. The timer option encourages you to either use pre-ground coffee, or to grind your coffee the night before. The more surface area on the coffee, the more oils will be exposed to air, which will break them down into flavorless compounds. Don't hurt your coffee this way, grind as close to brewing time as possible. The other convenience factor is the heated pot, which will break down the oils and make them bitter. But, considering all these disadvantages, how else can you brew coffee?

French Press

French PressThe easiest, least expensive way to move away from the tyranny of the Automatic Drip Coffee Pot is to buy a French Press. A simple contraption, it involves a container that holds both the grounds and the water together, as well as a filter on the end of a stick. You put the grounds in the bottom, add near-boiling water, wait four minutes, press the filter down, and enjoy your coffee. You can easily control both the amount of coffee and the length of brewing time to fit your own personal style. There are a couple of downsides, though. The first is that it has no water heating mechanism, so you'll have to provide the hot water yourself. I use an electric coffee kettle, which is a nice, multipurpose device that heats water extremely quickly with minimal effort. You can also use a regular kettle, some manner of pot on a stove, a bottled water dispenser with hot water tap, or an under-sink hot water heater, depending on your preference. The second is that it has no timer, so you can't just wake up to pre-made coffee. On the other hand, it's really not that hard to make, and you'll want to grind the beans (with a rough grind) as close to the time you brew anyways. The third is that there are very few insulated presses, and the insulation isn't all that great anyways, so your coffee will get cold quickly if you don't drink it immediately. However, a vacuum flask will take care of that problem. The fourth is that the clean up is a bit of a pain. You have to dump out the grounds then wash the apparatus. An automatic drip is a bit easier with the paper filter, but if you use a metal filter, well, it's the same amount of work. The final disadvantage is the obverse of the flexibility: you have to pay more attention to what you're doing. If you want minimal thinking while you're making coffee, and don't want to have to keep an eye on the time and so on, then you might not like the French Press. Which leads us to...

Vacuum Pot

This is my latest coffee related acquisition, and it's keen. Although the tech is decades old, it looks very futuristic. The basic concept is similar to those "love meters", which are little glass contraptions with colored water and two reservoirs connected by a glass tube. If you put your hand on the airy section of the lower reservoir, the heat from your hand will increase the pressure on the air, forcing the liquid up through the tube to the top reservoir, in apparent defiance of gravity. Same thing with the Vacuum Pot. The lower pot looks much like any automatic drip's pot looks like, but generally slanted at some funny angles. Then you have a top section with a filtered tube that drops almost to the bottom of the first pot. You put water in the bottom section, coffee grounds up top, and apply heat to it. Water heats up to just below a simmer, which is a great temperature for brewing coffee. The vapor is released from the water slowly, which collects in the air above the water. This increases the pressure on the water, and, when it hits the appropriate temperature, the water flies up the tube, mixing with the coffee grounds. Some of the air even follows it up, ensuring that the water and coffee are thoroughly mixed while treating you with a cool bubble show. Then you remove the heat, and the air will cool, pressure drops, and with it, the water falls back through the filtered tube, sans coffee grounds, into the reservoir below. If you have an electric model, it takes no supervision at all after the elements are assembled. There are even models with timers on them, so you could leave it overnight (though I would recommend you never do that, what with the air and essential oils and destruction of all that lovely flavor and such). You could also get a stovetop model, as the original ones are, but that would obviously be more work while brewing a pot of coffee, since you have to take it off the heat at the proper time and all. It does give you more control, of course, if you can't find an electric model that brews for as long as you might like. On the downside, they're a little expensive, in the $100 range, but you'll pay that for a good automatic drip, so it's not so bad. Cleanup is also a bit of a pain compared with a paper filter, and the electric models can't be cleaned in a dishwasher, unlike most of the automatic drip pots and french presses.

Percolator

Ah, the savior of the catering industry and the bane of coffee lovers everywhere. The percolator is a huuuuuge pot of water and coffee mixed together with heat applied and a filtered spout at the bottom. Mix together, apply heat, and eventually, pour out on a per-cup basis. Whether for 4 minutes or 4 days, the coffee and grounds stay together, warmed continuously throughout. So, continuous application of heat, and contact between the grounds and the water well past the stage necessary to extract oils, combined with the likelihood that cheap, prepackaged and pre-ground coffee of the cheapest nature will be used to minimize cost, and you have...? That's right: coffee as bitter as an English major being forced to take calculus. While being taught by her ex-husband. When the graduate assistants are the men she caught him with the night he left her. Maybe even a little more bitter than that. On the other hand, if you have to make coffee for 200 people you hate, there's no more convenient way to do it.

Egg Coffee

What? No, really. What? Well, back in the old days, say turn of the last century, people didn't fuss with those fancy filters or French contraptions. No, what they did is they mixed the coffee grounds with a beaten, raw egg, poured boiling water over it. The egg would hold the grounds, while still allowing the water to get at them. The egg would end up cooking enough to be easily separated from the coffee laden water, and people drank it. Oftentimes, the egg shell was kept with the egg as well. I won't lie to you: I haven't tried this yet. I keep meaning to, but it slips my mind when I'm at home, and at work, well, there just isn't an egg to spare. As soon as I try it, I'll report on the findings. I will say that people who've had this claim there's no finer way to make coffee. On the other hand, people who've willingly tried this could be crazy, so there may be some selection issues with the sample.

Espresso

Enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the United States, fueled by a little Seattle coffee house you've probably never heard of, espresso is extremely concentrated coffee made by pushing steam through finely ground coffee and pumped into a cup. You have to use steam, because water is too dense to fit through the coffee as it is ground so fine. Most people in the US drink espresso in the form of a latte or one of its brethren, because the espresso is so poorly made you have to drown in it milk to enjoy it. I have had precisely one cup of decent, coffee-house/restaurant espresso in my life, but I try it at any coffee house or sufficiently fancy European descended restaurant. If I don't like the espresso, I will snobbily consider the coffee house to be below my consideration. Of course, once you find out how I prefer my coffee prepared, you'll likely not care about my snobbishness. Still, a good espresso is a thoroughly tasteful and enjoyable, and a bad espresso is a tiny cup of concentrated bitterness. Seek out good espresso, and enjoy it if you can. There are several ways to make espresso, ranging from the traditional and inexpensive to the "would you prefer that espresso machine or perhaps a sports car" price range. The least expensive is a device that is shaped like a small, metal vacuum pot, except without the tube going down. Reservoir in the bottom with water, coffee grounds in the middle with a fine filter on each side, and a pot on top to hold the coffee. Heat the water until it boils, the steam goes through the coffee, into the top reservoir where it cools and, being liquid again, can't go down through the grounds again. Pour and enjoy. The most popular home version is like that in function, but is self-contained, much larger, and brews directly into a cup. Still, the pressure of the steam is what propels it through the coffee grounds. The more expensive models will actually pump the steam through mechanically, adding additional air pressure, allowing a finer ground. Many of these electric models will have a steam wand that allows you to froth milk, for the cappuccino and latte lovers. Unfortunately, that's about as much detail as I can go into, as I don't really have a schmancy espresso maker, so I can't give you good tips. When I get one, or if I find a good guest writer, you can learn all about the dangers and pitfalls of espresso making, and how to avoid them. Oh, and there's powdered espresso, I'm sure that's really tasty to drink. Heh.

Turkish Coffee

This is a very different style of making coffee, and likely the oldest type. First, you grind your coffee very fine, until it's powdery. Fill your ibrik, or Turkish Coffee Pot, with sugar water, and put the coffee powder over it without stirring. Heat this on your stovetop or sufficiently hot, desert sand until foam comes up to to top. Remove from heat, and stir. Repeat this procedure two more times. Pour into a coffee cup, and, um, enjoy.Turkish Coffee Ibrik Okay, I'll admit that I've never had coffee prepared this way, so it could be fantastic. However, I suspect it's going to be bitter and, very possibly, nasty. Bear in mind that you will have coffee grounds mixed in with your coffee, as this method was invented well before people decided that filtering their coffee was a good idea.

Vietnamese Coffee

Okay, I have a soft spot in my heart for Vietnamese style coffee, on account of it using Sweetened Condensed Milk. Much like Thai Iced Tea and an empty spoon, everything is tastier with some sweetened condensed milk. To make Vietnamese style coffee, you take a coffee cup with some sweetened condensed milk in it, and you place on top of it the metal coffee pot. This pot has a tight filter that only allows a little water out at a time. You put the grounds and the hot water into the pot, close it up, and wait for all the water to drip out 4 or 5 minutes later. Stir and enjoy. [series-info:left]