Peter Binkowski • Designer

Making Fussy Coffee

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coffee-1

I first got into coffee because a friend of a friend was a barista. He was visiting Chicago from Tulsa, and he ground up some coffee and brewed it in a Chemex for a small gathering of friends. I was blown away. I had never tasted coffee like that. It didn’t taste like ash! For the next two days I picked his brain to find out everything I could about making great coffee.

It's the geek in me that enjoys making the coffee the most. Measurements, pouring ingredients together, I feel like a mad scientist sometimes, especially when using a syphon. Coffee it self is great, but I can never handle it in the morning, or on an empty stomach. So it's the process that I'm in love with. Grinding up fresh coffee, and having that smell punch you in the face. There aren't many things better than that.

The second half of that is the community coffee creates. The fellowship of getting to know someone over a cup. Sharing in the experience together. Coffee brings people together. Whether they are planning a (french)revolution, meeting with clients, or catching up with old friends.

There are a lot of people on the internet that enjoy making fussy coffee. I’m definitely one of them. However, getting into coffee doesn’t have to a pursuit in snobby-ness and complexity. I’ve found a fairly simple setup, that’s inexpensive, and produces better coffee than 80% of the coffee shops out there.

Gear

More often than not, I’m brewing coffee in my Aeropress. It is a bit of a chore, but, I hand grind my coffee, using this Hario grinder. This is the Baratza Encore, which I would recommend if you don't want to be grinding for a minute and a half at a time. A kitchen scale is always present. It’s the easiest way to ensure a perfect cup every time.  And of course, you need a kettle, I prefer this Hario gooseneck one, however just about any kettle will do.

When I’m not using my Aeropress (which I really need to replace) I use a French Press. The split between the French Press and the Aeropress, depending on beans, and what I’m in the mood for, is probably 50/50. There’s really only one way of making a cup of French Press and it lends it self to fruitier, lighter roasts. 

I have used other brew methods. Specifically the Chemex is delicious, but mine broke a while ago and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it. I really want to try a Clever brewer. It's what the Wirecutter recommended for the cheapest coffee brewer. V60's are single cup pour-overs, and make a great clean cup. I also need to try the Kalita Wave. And if you want to take it to the extreme, Syphon brewing is certainly an interesting and unique experience. It combines a full immersion brew (like a french press) with a filter (like a chemex), giving you the body and clarity of those two methods. Though you should probably watch this first.

And lastly. If you need to make a whole pot of coffee at once, and don't want it to taste like garbage, do your self a favor and get this Bonativa coffee maker. It's easily the best value automatic coffee maker you can get.

Beans

Now. I always get whole beans and grind them right before brewing. Usually storing it in an airtight jar, or just the bag it comes in.

Intelligentsia was founded in Chicago and is considered the premier roaster here, and one of the best in the nation. I like them, but for what ever reason I enjoy Metropolis more. Their beans were the first I bought when I first started getting into coffee, so it’s probably part nostalgia. I do also like their actual coffee shop better than Intelligentsia’s.

I try to buy coffee from roasters all over though. These are roasters that I have, or want to order from …

♥ - favourite
⦾ - cold brew

Currently I have Banko Gotiti, an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from Counter Culture, and I'm pretty sure it's my favourite varietal I've ever had.

IMG_5744

Recipes

I start with the de facto 1:16 coffee to water ratio. I’ve found it always a great starting point for any cup. 

I like to change things up with my Aeropress recipes, going from inverted to regular, super concentrated, to no additional water needed. My most used recipe is 14g of coffee to about 230g water, inverted. I bloom the coffee with 40g of water, stir for about 20 seconds, and add the rest. Let it steep for a minute, and then press. I’ve found one iced Aeropress recipe that I really enjoy. Though I prefer cold brewed coffee to hot coffee over ice (I have no idea what Marco Arment is thinking). I throw 5–6 cubes of ice in a glass, and then grind 25–30g of beans to around 150g of water in an inverted Aeropress. Flip and press onto the ice. Maybe add one more cube if there aren’t any left floating around. 

I also use the Aeropress World Championship Recipes. Specifically Charlene’s method.

French press is almost always the basic 1:16 ratio. I grind up 18.5g of coffee to 300g water, though I do play around with the ratio depending on the beans, and always time the French Press to 4 minutes. I have found that I can taste the difference if it is a minute or two over steeped. 

And of course, cold brewing. My usual order at coffee shops from April to October is a cold brew coffee, and I haven't found a cup that beats Intelligentsia's. However, when I'm feeling adventurous, I'll cold brew my own coffee. I use this Hario coffee pot that I got on my birthday. Fill it up with 40g of very coarsely ground coffee, 800ml of room-temperature water, and stick it in the fridge overnight. As a counter argument to my only cold-brew iced coffee mentality, this is a great article on why you should brew coffee hot over ice. Though I do prefer cold-brew, Peter makes some excellent points.

Addendum

Lastly. I do drink my coffee black. Sometimes (usually for an iced Aeropress) I’ll add a heaping spoon of condensed milk. However, when it comes to coffee I think you should really go with what you like. I tend to think if people get the chance to drink an exceptionally brewed cup of black coffee that they’ll be converts. But, some simply like their triple pump, extra-whip, caramel fraps, and that’s a-ok.

You do you.

Twenty-Three

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Twenty three things I've learned in twenty three years.

  1. You are more than the sum of your background
  2. Always choose people over places
  3. If you can, road trip through Europe
  4. Always choose an Apple computer
  5. Never believe you're finished learning
  6. Free pizza is good pizza
  7. "Please" and "Thank You" make a difference
  8. Say nothing if you can't say something nice.
  9. Stop comparing yourself to others, there will always be someone who is better than you at something
  10. And someone who is worse than you at something
  11. Strive to be the person you needed when you were younger
  12. Hating things is boring, talk about the things you love
  13. The only difference between you and a professional, is that a professional calls them self one
  14. Happiness > money
  15. Sometimes money can enable happiness (or peace of mind)
  16. Learn the difference between their, there, and they're
  17. As well as your and you're
  18. Confidence is everything
  19. Genuine kindness is undervalued
  20. Pet cats as often as you can
  21. Ask for help. Suffering in silence is pointless pain
  22. Talk to strangers on the internet
  23. I hate using the phrase "how are you" as a greeting

SASS Workflows

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A lot has been written about SASS workflows. But I've never found something that works for my situations, which I thought a lot more people would relate to.

As a freelancer, I frequently just set up a sub folder on my FTP server to develop on. The biggest advantage of this is that I can collaborate with my clients in real-time. They see what I see. And, since the development team is just me, I don't use testing servers, development environments, all that. I used to start off my projects locally and use MAMP, but when I want to update the client on my progress, what to do? The most straight forward thing is toss the site to a live server.

SASS has been difficult to implement into my workflow. Working locally with it is a dream, but editing CSS files that are on a server just gets way to complicated way to fast. I've read a bunch of articles and looked through a lot of documentations, but I just recently found a way to do this simply and easily.

I just found this post by William Rainbird. Basically you can mount any FTP server to your computer, using Transmit, and then use sass installed on your computer to watch the files on the server and automatically update the CSS. This is my key to using SASS full time.

Now one of these days I might start using Compass, and Bourbon, and everything else I'm supposed to use as a front-end dev.

Introversion and the Internet

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I’ve noticed something in my social life that started a few years ago. 

As my friends and I "grow up" we actually have had less time for each other. We have jobs, school, relationships, and massively different schedules. Thus it's been hard to have regular friend time.

And this is a obvious part of growing up. You sort of just understand that this drifting apart will happen. Though I think it might affect me differently than a lot of my friends.


Compared to my friends I’m incredibly introverted. It doesn't come naturally to me to have wide network of friends that I keep in regular contact, and the "how are you doing" chats that come with it. As an aside, I've always been baffled by people feeling the need to ask me "how are you"? It's not as if I'm going to talk to them about the personal details of my day right then.

I’ve also realize that the friends that I do have, none are my best friend. I can't tell them everything that's going on in my life or what's going on in my head, either because they wouldn't understand, or their personal views are do different than my own. And thus online, I find people who are more in tune with me.

On the internet it’s easy to make friends. I talk to a lot of people through social media/email/skype and consider us at least acquaintances. The thing is though, while I have plenty of internet friends, I don't have deep relationships with any of them. First because of we’re not physically together, and second because their are so many.


The internet propagates a very extroverted mode of friendship. That is a wide network of people that you keep in contact with to varying degrees of depth. (this isn’t to say extroverts don’t do deep relationships, simply that they have a much wider network of friendships).

Having friendships like that is difficult for me. By default my personality is to not talk to people. I don’t enjoy water-cooler friendships, how we seem to make small-talk a priority and that's the extent of friendship.

Though, to be clear, I have definitely loved every connection I’ve made on the internet, and I treasure each person that I’ve gotten to know, so don’t get me wrong.


To bring a point to this rambling mess, it seems to me that online friendships and communities encourage a much more extroverted lifestyle in the connections you make and the friendships you form. Reflecting on that, I can start to see the discontent in my personal life. Maybe it's because all I really have are water-cooler friendships, and I’m miss having a friend that’ll come over at 11pm and just talk about life.

Hello, Again

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This is my first article. Hopefully just the first of many. I talk about this a little bit in /about but I've had many a blog, in fact I've written variations on this very post on most of them, however I want a place that can be an archive of my writing.

I've used half a dozen different CMS's, I've written in plain text, rich text, html, and markdown. I've gone through 3 or 4 different writing apps. I'm always fiddling. And I need a place that in addition to fiddling, I can also collect and express my thoughts. So hopefully this will become that place.

I want to be able to have a frictionless space on the internet that is full mine. So that's what this place is.

Frank Chimero, when he recently released a new version of his website, talked about how he wanted his website to feel homely. I really like that idea. I want this place to have that lived-in feeling.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you enjoy your stay.