Author Archives: 24fast

Eleven Steps to a Better Cup of Coffee

If you are like most coffee drinkers, you probably think you are already getting an awesome cup of coffee. However odds are that you can probably still improve the quality by following these eleven steps:

1. Use Quality Coffee Beans

Stay out of the grocery stores! OK that is a serious statement, but seriously do not buy coffee beans at the grocery store. No one knows when it was roasted and that is a critical, key point in coffee freshness. These beans are known for being stale, whether they are in the gravity bins (especially stale!) or bagged (usually stale!). No one really knows how long the beans have been in the bins or bags. Buy your coffee from an area independent coffee shop or artisan coffee roaster that can verify the roasting date. This is the only way to know you are buying freshly roasted coffee beans of gourmet quality. Their reputation is on the line so they strive for the best quality coffee freshly roasted.

2. Store Properly Remove your beans from the original bag and put in an airtight container like Tupperware or Glad Ware. The more opaque the container, the better to keep harmful light out. Extreme light like keeping coffee in a glass jar on the sink can cause deterioration of your beans, allowing your final cup of coffee to taste flat or stale.

Do not store in the freezer or refrigerator. Keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place like a cupboard or pantry. Refrigerators harbor many odors and coffee is very porous. It will act like a sponge to odors whether it’s ground or whole bean. Freezers can cause freezer burn, and the flavor oils to crack and lose flavor. These oils are where the flavor is. Storing in the freezer freezes the surface condensation each time the coffee is taken out of the freezer.

Excess moisture will cause your beans to stale faster and shorten the life span of your coffee so a cool, dry and dark place it recommended for storage.

3. Proper Grind and Grind Just Before Using

The grind of the coffee matters. Your coffee should be ground for the type of brewing method you are using. Coarse for French press and single serve, fine for espresso. The in between matter but for most auto-drip makers your grind should be just finer than coarse meaning that when you rub it between your fingers the grinds should feel similar to typical bread crumbs. Espresso grinds should feel like somewhere between sugar and powdered sugar. Also, by using a burr grinder your coffee will receive less friction than a typical blade grinder giving your grinds less chance to get scorched during grinding.

Coffee is very porous and will absorb odors and air (oxygen) very fast. Oxygen will make your coffee taste really bad! So, the longer your coffee is ground and not used the longer it has to stale and make a bad cup.

4. Measure Properly

Weigh your coffee before you grind it. To make a good, well-rounded cup of coffee you should use approximately.75oz (22g) of coffee beans to every 8oz of cold water. You can +/- to taste but this is a good starting point.

5. Purified Water at Precise Temperature

Fresh, clean tap water (purified is best) or quality spring water is recommended. Do not use mineral water, distilled water or tap water with any type of odor. It will make your coffee taste bad. The water should be between 195-205 degrees when ready to brew. At this temperature, the coffee will get proper extraction to optimize the flavor oils and caramelized sugars inside the coffee bean. This is hard to accomplish with most home brewers as the heating elements are not heat adjustable nor are they reliable to heat to the proper temperature at all. Good home coffee brewers will cost about $200 but are well worth it and last a lot longer. If you can, try the single cup pour over methods available or other brewing methods such as French press or siphon. The taste difference is remarkable. Google search each method for more information.

6. Brew Just Enough to Drink

Letting your brewed coffee sit waiting is not a good idea. And more so please do not let it sit on the hot plate! This is a good way to cook your coffee. Constant ‘keep warm’ mode like this will make it taste bitter. If you have to brew more than one cup and are not going to finish is right away, get an airpot of air tight hot container to keep it in. Still drink it within an hour or so but it will buy your more time.

7. Let it Cool

By letting your coffee cool to about 170 degrees (for black coffee) you will not only avoid burning your mouth, you will also get a more enjoyable coffee experience because you will taste the true essence of what coffee is all about: the brightness, the chocolaty notes, the citrus notes, the spices. It’s all there, get a little geeky! If you insist on pouring cream and sugar in your coffee, forget #7 and for #8 respectively!

8. Drink it Black

This is the coffee geek purist in me coming out! I used to drink my coffee with cream and sugar all the time until I got into the coffee business years ago. Society decided cream and sugar was the norm because of bad tasting coffee, not because coffee tastes bad. Coffee used to be bitter as a rule, but that was your father’s cup! Most likely the canned stuff from the grocery store. Ick! That is the old-school coffee made from Robusta beans, a low-grade coffee. Today the high quality coffee beans are called Arabica and you get them from coffee houses and artisan coffee roasters. When beans are blended and roasted properly black coffee is not bitter. It may take some getting used to but I assure you that you are missing a lot of great tasting coffee by adding cream and sugar!

9. Throw Out Any Leftover Brewed Coffee

This is part of #6 above, but deserves its own number. If you have brewed coffee left over past an hour in an airpot or air-tight container, throw it out. Brewed coffee has a life span as well and letting it cook itself in a container is not part of it.

10. Throw Out Any Leftover Coffee Beans

OK let me clarify! By this I mean the coffee that is left over after 21 days. Coffee beans have a life span of approximately 21 days from the day it is roasted. I prefer to drink mine within 10 days but that is just the coffee geek again. If you can span your coffee for use within 21 days of the day it’s roasted you will get a better tasting and far more superior cup. I know, you are asking “how do I know when my Seattle’s Best or Newman’s Own coffee beans were actually roasted?” Well, see #1 above for your answer.

11. Rinse and Repeat

That says it all! If you follow these steps I promise you will notice a more flavorful and tasty cup of brew!

Flowers For Food and Decoration

Flowers are our inspiration and our delight. They are aesthetically pleasing and satisfy our senses with their beauty of form, their colours and their perfumes. And sometimes they can serve us in a more earthy manner by contributing to our variety of foods and in our employ, used in our arts and culinary skills in adding colour and flavour to our drinks, soups, salads, and our cooked dishes, or in garnishing savoury dishes and in decorating cakes, biscuits, dessert and confectionary. Continue reading

Improve Your Physical Fitness Level

Most of us could use some improvements in the area of our physical fitness. We have become a society hooked on sedentary activities and unhealthy diets that include fast food. Physical fitness is essential for having a body that is well cared for. Your level of physical fitness can affect your chances of developing health problems as you get older.

It is never too late to start improving your level of physical fitness. It does take time and it does take dedication, but over time your new activities will seem second nature. Once you start to see the benefits of improving your physical fitness level, you will be even more motivated to keep doing it.

There is a common misconception that physical fitness means running until you are exhausted. That is not the case. Physical fitness involves taking on some type of physical activity that you enjoy. You can choose sports, exercise equipment, walking, running, aerobics, weight lifting, dancing, and many other types of physical activities. You should pay close attention to the foods you consume as your body will feel different.

If you think you are too ran down to exercise, try a brisk walk for 10 or 15 minutes. Also reduce the amount of caffeine and sugar in your diet. You will quickly notice an improvement in your energy levels and your mood. The more you exercise the more energy you will have. Physical fitness has great benefits for your mental health as well. Studies show people who exercise regularly have lower levels of stress and are less likely to suffer from depression.

If improving your level of physical fitness is important to you, see your doctor for a complete check up. Discuss your decision during that visit. You aren’t going to see improvements in your physical fitness level overnight, but by making small changes to your exercise routine and your eating habits, you will see improvements over time. You will start seeing improvements in your energy level, your mood, and even how well you sleep early on in your quest for better physical fitness.

Everyone has different levels of physical fitness. Don’t compete with your friend, someone at the gym, or your neighbor as this is only setting yourself up for failure. Instead, challenge yourself to do better. Challenge yourself to improve your physical fitness level from where you are today. If you start walking 15 minutes a day, add more time until you are up to 30 minutes. Then work on walking further in that 30 minute time period. Challenging yourself when it comes to physical fitness is a great way to motivate yourself as well as to gauge your progress.

Physical fitness is a very important part of taking care of your body and your overall health. A combination of physical activity, a balanced diet, and getting enough rest on a daily basis will help ensure your physical fitness level is sufficient to meet the ongoing physical and mental needs of your body.

Culinary Vacations Open Up the World of Culture

Unique vacations are on the rise. One of the specialty vacations that many are asking about are culinary tours. Culinary tours give the vacationer the ability to taste of the culture as they indulge in the best of the foods in each culture. Open up the world as you taste of the delicacies of various regions, towns, cities, nations and continents.

Travel abroad tasting food specialties and delicate wines while diving into the lifestyle and culture of a region, area or country. Discover the taste and differences of each unique area. Taste the wine of Vienna or the sweet treats of Brazil. The unique flavors of foods from various countries and regions fill the palate with flavor and provide memories that last a lifetime.

Taste of global cuisine. Immerse yourself in the culture of the land by tasting the unique flavors and spices of each area. Interact with culture and society by enjoying a culinary vacation. Most culinary tours involve a small group that journey together tasting and enjoying. Enjoy the laughter and joy of dinning as you travel through the most popular areas and even small hidden barely known best kept secrets. Culinary vacations are filled with the art of dining and the atmosphere of community. Culinary vacations are designed with a flexibility that caters to the participants.

Tours are uniquely catered to the individual from the budding culinary artist to the expert traveler. Select your style of eating. What are you looking forward to tasting and enjoying? Within each area lies the strength of various culinary arts. Learn the methods of creating the best international and national cuisines.

United States international cuisine is tasty and unique. Take a culinary tour to enjoy the breeze of the ocean and specialty seafood dishes along the East Coast. Enjoy Colorado and the flavor of foods such as prime cuts of fresh Elk and Buffalo steaks which viewing breathtaking mountain scenes. Enjoy New Jerseys fresh produce grilled to perfected and tossed with fresh cuts of meat. Enjoy an international tour to such places as Italy, Australia or France.

The flavors of Italy may include a Roman dinner party or traveling through the country side tasting of wines, handpicked olives, perfected meats, freshly pressed olive oil, and homemade breads and pastas. The flavors of Italy cannot be imagined, they must be experienced. An Italian culinary vacation will open you up to the very best of Italian cuisine. Italy has some of the finest food in the world and some of the very best culinary artisans. Enjoy foods that have been created with art and passion. This is a unique trip that you will never forget. Your own cooking will forever be marked by a culinary vacation to Italy.

Enjoy the knowledge gained as you travel and relax. The culinary art is caught more than it is taught. Catch the art of creating foods that will speak of the joy of living. Gourmands enjoy traveling and partaking of the culture through foods. The culinary art is tasted. The freshest of natures foods are cooked to perfection in a variety of unique ways and light up the face of the gourmand. Young and old gourmands enjoy culinary vacations. Culinary vacations are also often enjoyed by couples as they travel; enjoy each others company over meals and delights, talk for hours into the wee hours of the night, and laugh together as you enjoy the very best life has to offer in culinary arts and foods.

The Convenience of One-Cup Coffee Makers

The one-cup coffee maker has many benefits. Perhaps you are the only coffee drinker in your house, and you are tired of pouring good coffee down the drain because you made too much. Maybe you enjoy gourmet coffee, but do not have the time or inclination to grind beans for a full pot. Or perhaps you want a convenient, mess-free way to enjoy a fresh cup of Joe at your desk.

If any of these are true, then a single serving brewer may just be for you.

Most of these individual coffee brewers have a built in filter. You just drop in a sealed cup or pod of your favorite coffee, hit a button, and in less than a minute, you have a fresh, steaming mug of java.

You can use your favorite cup with most of these, and some come with a thermal travel mug. There are compact machines that will even let you choose between coffee and tea.

If you do opt to go with a smaller version of the coffeepot, make sure you drink your coffee within 20 minutes, or it could turn bitter.

The one-cup coffee maker is perfect for your office at work, or for your desktop at home. You can have everything you need for a freshly-brewed cup sitting right in your desk drawer, never needing to interrupt yourself to get a quick coffee fix. The best part is that they are not messy, and cleanup is a snap. Any removable parts can be rinsed or thrown into the dishwasher.

Here are some favorites based on customer reviews.

o Melitta Single Cup – This sleek, modern-looking machine has earned the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. A metered tank allows you to brew up to five cups before having to refill, and it comes in three color choices. Use your own mug and have a hot cup of coffee in less than 60 seconds, or a cup of tea in about 35 seconds.

o Keurig – One of the most popular brands of single-serve coffee maker today, the Keurig offers an adjustable brew size – up to 11.25 ounces. The programmable functions and removable water reservoir add to the ease of use, and its quiet brew and auto shut-off functions add to its appeal. Beginning at around $99, this is one of the more expensive single-cup brewers.

o Senseo – Another of the nation’s favorites, Senseo’s compact design allows you to use your favorite mug, and removable parts can go right in the dishwasher. Brew either four-ounce or eight-ounce cups with an auto-shut off feature. Priced at around $70, this one-cup roaster is a great bargain.

o Black & Decker – The little Brew-n-Go percolates fresh coffee right into a handy travel mug. The auto shut-off feature will give you peace of mind. This little bargain model is another customer favorite.

o Bialetti – This java maker lets you make the perfect cup of espresso at home. Just put your water and coffee into the specially designed pot and heat up over your stove. Starting at around $47, this little coffee pot gives you the choice of brewing two cups or four.

o Bunn – The fast brew option on the My Café not only gets your coffee ready in a hurry, but allows you to brew between four and twelve ounce increments.

If you choose to use your one-cup coffee brewer to make tea instead, there are two ways you can enjoy a steaming cup. One is to put the teabag into the filter, where the coffee pod would normally go. Fill with water, hit the start button, and let it brew. In just a few seconds, you will have a steaming cup of tea.

The other method is to run hot water through the machine and place your teabag inside your cup. Heated water fills the cup, allowing the tea bag to steep like it usually would.

Either way, you will have an enjoyable hot treat.

The only potential disadvantage to the one-cup coffee maker is the lack of variety in coffee choices. If you prefer to experiment with various flavors and roasts, you may find yourself wanting more choices with the one-cup option. With these little coffee brewers, you are required to use the appropriate cup or pod designed for your machine.

On the other hand, many of the coffee pods available on the market are of the gourmet variety, allowing you to taste some exotics blends and roasts without spending a fortune. The convenience of the packets makes them so easy to use. Simply toss into the trash when you are finished, with no loose, messy grounds to concern yourself with.

The one-cup coffee brewer may also be a perfect addition to your kitchen for those times when you are in a hurry, but really need that pick-me-up you get from a fresh cup of coffee. You only need to delay yourself for one minute, and then you will be ready to fly out the door, coffee in hand.

The units are small enough they hardly take up any room, making them easy to stow in a cabinet, desk, or cubby. Add one to your list of “must haves” for your office, or put it on your birthday list. When you discover the convenience of the one-cup coffee maker, you will be glad you did.

Irvine Personal Trainer Fitness and Motivation Tips

People who start getting into fitness usually wind up discussing genetics at one point or another. They might read up on the “fat gene,” and start thinking that the people who are lean, toned, and muscular are just, “genetically gifted,” while people are chronically overweight just aren’t. As an Irvine Personal trainer, I have even had some clients warn me that losing weight is going to be extra hard for them because they just don’t have the “genetics” for it. I hate this kind of thinking, because it is really limiting, and ignores the very real importance of determination, tenacity, and motivation when it comes to getting into shape. Continue reading

How to Shop for the Best Coffee Machine

Trying to find the perfect coffee machine is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Considering the variety of different coffee makers out there, the entire experience can be more than a little overwhelming. Take time to focus on the big picture, before making any decision. There are six basic methods of making coffee. Select which method you’re going to use, then find a machine that fits.

Single Cup Coffee Machines are liked by many for their speed, ease of use and flexibility. This style of coffee maker uses either a coffee pod or a coffee capsule. Coffee pods come complete with ground coffee inside its own filter. The pods are produced by a number of corporations and may be switched between different brands and models. Single cup coffee brewers that use capsules pose a disadvantage since they are not interchangeable. Both the capsules and machine need to be purchased from the same company.

Introduced in the early 1970s, the drip coffee maker quickly replaced the percolator as the most common way to brew coffee at home. They are economical to use and quite simple to operate. Place some ground coffee in the paper filter, pour water into the reservoir and turn on the machine. As water is heated to the correct temperature, it drips onto the grains in the filter and runs through to the glass carafe below. Be careful not to leave the coffee sitting on the hot plate for too long, as it can start to cook. One way around this problem is to use a thermally insulated carafe.

The combination coffee machine is basically a drip coffee machine combined with a grinder. It’s simple to use and easy to brew a fresh pot of coffee. Place some whole beans in the bean reservoir, pour the right amount of water into its reservoir in turn on the machine. The appropriate amount of beans gets ground and poured directly into the filter. From this point forward, it operates exactly as a drip coffee maker. You can set the machine up the night before, to make the freshest cup of coffee,for the next morning. These combination coffee makers are usually bigger than standard coffee machines. So make sure you take measurements, if you want to put it on your kitchen counter underneath the upper.

The French Press Coffee Maker (or coffee plunger) could very well be one of the best coffee machines. It’s actually quite simple and some models are very aesthetic. The French Press is simply a glass beaker with a plunger and mesh filter on it. Put some coarse coffee grounds in the jar, mix in some hot water and let it steep for about three to four minutes. Then simply push the plunger down to separate the grounds from the coffee. Some people feel the flavor and essential oils are better captured because the grounds stay in direct contact with the water, and a fine mesh is used instead of a paper filter. However, because of the direct contact the coffee will become bitter fast if left to stand.

A vacuum coffee maker is the machine with two chambers, where vapor pressure and vacuum work together to produce coffee. Admirers of this method of coffee making it feel that produces a much cleaner, crisper, richer and smoother coffee. With your you agree or not, one thing is true. This is a complicated and time consuming method of making coffee. These are not easy machines to keep clean, due to their convoluted shape. Perhaps that’s why it’s not a very popular way of making coffee.

Prior to the 1970s, the percolator could be found in practically every coffee drinking home in North America. Whether it was a stove top or an electric model, everyone had one. They are called percolators because of the percolating action that occurs continuously. Cold water is poured into the bottom of the percolator where it warms up and moves to the top through a pipe. The water disperses onto the coffee grounds and gravity pulls it back down to the bottom of the machine. Here it heats up again and the cycle repeats. Once the coffee reaches boiling point the perking action stops and the coffee is ready to drink. These days, percolators are mostly used for larger crowds. It’s very rare to find one sized for regular home use.

A Gourmet Coffee Club Membership – What Are the Benefits?

Membership in a gourmet coffee club offers many benefits so discerning coffee drinkers can always have their favorite coffees on hand to brew and enjoy such as:

  • Large selection of specialty coffees from around the world to make coffee drinking a daily sensory experience
  • Freshly roasted to order with a choice of whole bean or ground coffee
  • Reduced costs from on line ordering without having to commute to buy ageing coffee on the shelves
  • Flexibility to make changes, special requests, hold shipments, send gifts, etc.

Gourmet coffee club membership appeals to coffee lovers who want more than the “premium” coffee choices available in the supermarket aisle or at the coffee house or specialty store. Specialty gourmet coffee clubs are very accepted and represent a growing segment of the trade. Let’s review some basics about these clubs and why you should consider joining one.

Specialty coffee is the term given to the top fifteen to twenty per cent in quality of Arabica coffee grown and harvested from select regions worldwide. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with “gourmet” or “premium” coffee. However, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, “...specialty coffee refers to coffees made from exceptional beans grown only in ideal coffee-producing climates. They tend to feature distinctive flavors, which are shaped by the unique characteristics of the soil that produces them.”

Many specialty coffee growing countries have associations of growers, companies, and agencies who deal with enhancements for cultivating, exporting, and marketing coffee. Such associations also lead efforts for rural community development (infrastructure, medical, and education), and for working in harmony with the environment. The 560,000 independent coffee grower members of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC) is an excellent example.

Nearly all, if not all, specialty gourmet coffee is made from Arabica coffee beans grown at higher altitudes. Select specialty coffee beans are roasted to perfection. The specialty coffee roast master knows the correct degree to roast the different types of beans to bring out their unique characteristics. These freshly roasted coffee beans are immediately packed and shipped to the customer to brew and enjoy.

Gourmet coffee is always prepared with select specialty coffee beans roasted fresh when ordered. The whole beans then are ground to the correct fineness or coarseness for the brewing method used, and brewed with fresh cold water heated to the correct temperature. Gourmet flavored coffees require one additional process before packing can take place.

One of the benefits of a coffee club membership is that top quality specialty coffee beans are roasted fresh after you order them on line. They are packed and shipped the same day they are roasted. Coffee clubs that feature the process of using only hot air to roast the dried, raw (or “green”) coffee beans deliver great coffee each time. The reason is this roasting method, known as convection roasting™, yields uniformly roasted beans for each batch. Master roasters are part scientist and part artist who know the appropriate amount of time to attain the desired roast level to bring out the best characteristics for that varietal or blend. The result, the club member can get the perfect cup of coffee every time.

Gourmet coffee club membership also offers such benefits as:

  • Having the coffee sent automatically each month at the time of month the member chooses
  • Ease of use – no need to enter the order information each time unless making a change
  • Convenience of having your own gourmet coffee when you want it, no more trips to the coffee house or waiting in line for the morning “premium” coffee
  • Cost savings of brewing your own gourmet coffee for about twenty-five cents per cup
  • Information on the best way to grind the coffee for the method used to prepare it
  • The recommended way to store the opened bag of roasted coffee to keep it fresh to completion.

For instance, whole bean Espresso blends should be ground to the powder-like fineness of espresso grind for preparing with an espresso machine. Conventional brewing methods yield great tasting coffee with the medium-fine grind known as automatic drip grind, while coffee prepared with a coffee press (French press) should use the coarsest grind for best results. To keep the coffee beans fresh once the bag is opened, simply press out the air while folding the bag over as many times as needed and secure with a strip of tape (packing or freezer tape). Then, place the bag in an airtight container (a freezer bag will do, if no container is available) and store at normal room temperature until the next time to brew your gourmet coffee.

Each gourmet coffee club member can tell you about other benefits to be enjoyed from the club membership. Those mentioned here should give you the motivation to find a gourmet coffee club and start enjoying your favorite gourmet coffees, freshly roasted and immediately shipped, at your convenience.

It is best to brew coffee using freshly roasted beans. Ideally speaking, use up your beans within a few weeks from receipt and get ready for your next coffee club membership shipment. You could literally look at a wall calendar and plan to drink coffee from Brazil, Jamaica, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Hawaii, Mexico, Java, Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Kenya, and Celebes, for example, throughout the year. As a family, you could plan group activities to review basic geography, cultural traditions, music and travel information about each of the coffee producing countries. Who knows, you may really like one and decide to plan a fun vacation to that destination?

So, ready to enjoy a cup of Altura Superior specialty coffee from Mexico?

Gourmet Foods and the Use of Alba White Truffles

Whenever you think about culinary arts and skills, think gourmet foods and white truffles. Gourmet foods come with high quality and taste. These dishes are very common in the United Kingdom, despite being originally from Alba, Italy. They are as well among the most highly upheld and traditional foods of exotic cooking that have been passed down from one generation to another by the Roman culture. Continue reading