On a recent trip to New York, Cory introduced me to cold brewed coffee for the first time. I don't consider myself a coffee connoisseur as such but I do gravitate towards the better offerings that can be had through local roasters. I've also upgraded my coffee kit to include a middle of the road espresso maker and a better than average though cost conscious burr grinder. In retrospect I am surprised I hadn't tried cold brewed coffee sooner. Less surprising is how much I enjoyed it once I finally did. I was raving about it so much that on my return my wife offered to get me a Toddy so I could make my own.
The main appeal to me besides the subjectively superior flavor is the drastic reduction in the acidity of cold brewed coffee, by some claims as much as two-thirds. I've been limiting my coffee intake to strictly before noon for years due to the effects afternoon coffee had on my stomach. Even selecting and brewing lower acid varieties didn't do much to help a situation often made all the worse by my lurching evening commute on Washington, DC's metro system. Cold brew offers me all that I enjoy about coffee without that one limiting factor.
For the uninitiated, cold brewing generally refers to a set of methods for soaking coarse ground coffee at room temperature for an extended amount of time then filtering the result to produce a very concentrated brew. The concentrate can be diluted with water or with dairy and is consumed both hot and cold. I especially like it cold, over ice, with nothing at all in it. In the US, the most common method for cold brewing is to use a Toddy, a bit of kit invented and exclusively sold by Todd Simpson.
When the Toddy my wife ordered me arrived, I was surprised at its simplicity. It reminded me of those single serving drip makers that accept a paper cone filter and sit on top of a mug but scaled up considerably. In this case, the mug is replaced by a glass carafe that holds about a pint and a half. The part that sits on it is reminiscent of a small plastic bucket with legs. The bucket part has a depression at the bottom that fits a scrubbing pad-like filter and has a small hole which you stopper with an included rubber plug.
To brew up a batch you carefully alternate pouring measures of coarse ground coffee and water into the plastic bucket. The goal is to wet all the grounds without stirring. The included, all too brief instructions repeatedly warn that stirring will result in a clogged filter. The whole affair is left to sit at room temperature overnight. The bucketful of soaking grounds are then placed on the carafe and the plug is removed to allow the concentrated results to slowly drain out. Keeping the filter from clogging at all is next to impossible but the instructions include some good advice to improve your results.
I will admit I did not read the instructions closely enough at first. The first two batches I made were far weaker than they should have been. Even these weak batches were tasty, they simply didn't stretch as far. I made my first correct batch just a few days ago. The instructions recommend twelve ounces of coffee to seven cups of water. I may go to a full pound of coffee simply to have my local shop do the grinding rather than enduring the mess I made grinding and measuring myself. One pound of coffee simply ups the water to nine cups which the Toddy will just barely hold.
I need to experiment a little further but I suspect the trick really is to fuss with the grounds as *little* as possible. For the most part they float and as they soak overnight they sink into the water on their own. If you can keep them sinking slowly, it should allow more of the concentrate to flow through the filter before the mass of grounds hits it. With my first proper batch I fidgeted with the grounds, trying to sink the mass of grounds more into the water. As a result, the liquid portion only half filled the carafe. I am sure if I leave the next batch alone I'll get more concentrate out of it. For all that I made less concentrate it was plenty strong. The instructions recommend diluting three-to-one but I've been making servings closer to four-to-one that still have an excellent flavor.
We'll see how long the full strength but smaller volume batch lasts. The two weaker ones didn't last long at all, only two or three days. Part of that was no doubt the novelty coupled with the desire to finish the batch to try further tweaks as much as it was how little they stretched since they required far less dilution. Having a batch in the fridge at all times is incredibly convenient, whether I want an afternoon iced coffee or as an alternative to the Americano I usually make myself in the morning.
In short, I am totally happy with the Toddy despite the learning curve. The instructions are packed with useful information including using the Toddy to cold brew tea and several recipes for drinks using the concentrate. I just wish they had been a bit clearer on the measurements and process though clearly it is nothing a little trial and error didn't solve. The flavor is excellent, exactly what I expected and very comparable to what I've had in shops. Aside from the effort of grinding and measuring, cold brew is very simple to make with this rig. The twelve hour steep demands patience but getting another vessel means I could rack up more than one batch back-to-back just like I do when brewing beer. I can easily see weekly cold brewing becoming part of our household routine.
Here's a snazzy MAKE: special project:
I saw an expensive designer "labyrinth" carpet like this in a catalog years ago, and wondered at the time if I could recreate the effect on the cheap by taking electric hair clippers to a piece of ordinary deep pile carpet. Long story short: It works!Hedge Maze Area Rug (via Craft)
Play This Thing reviews The Curfew, a game about civil liberties and teenagers that my wife, Alice Taylor commissioned for UK broadcaster Channel 4. The game, produced by Littleloud and written by Kieron Gillen, just won Best Educational Game at the Games for Change awards (it's a free-to-play Flash game, so you can judge for yourself -- or bring it into your classroom, or talk about it with your kids or friends).
Back in the early CD-ROM era, when the ability to do filmed video in a game was novel and the graphic adventure was still a commercially viable genre, there were a slew of mostly horrible games that tried to merge the adventure genre with filmed video. When I say "mostly horrible," imagine interminable, badly acted cut scenes with zero actual interaction, held apart by inventory puzzles in fairly crude graphics, or played out on photographs with a handful of lifeless interactions. Until playing The Curfew, I had come to the conclusion that merging video with the adventure game was an obviously bad idea, proven so by experience.The Curfew (Play This Thing)
I have to say, however, that the combination works here, and works quite well. Part of the problem, back in the day, was the need to change what area of the disc was being read when a choice was made, so that there was always a perceptible lag whenever you made any choice that branched the video. Here, the clips are preloaded by the Flash framework, and the transitions are seamless. Also, the use of photography for the graphic adventure interactions themselves, coupled with small looped animations of characters drawn from video, makes the game feel alive even when you are not in the video itself. And finally, the developers have had the good taste and sense not to make the non-interactive sequences too lengthy or sententious.
Come along and listen to two award-winning SF writers at the top of their games, Connie Willis and Ted Chiang, as they give a live online talk/lecture on the idea and literature of time travel. Connie Willis has a staggering ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards to her name; as an author of multiple time travel novels and stories herself, including Blackout/All Clear, which won the 2011 Nebula Award, she is especially well suited to address this fascinating subject. Ted Chiang is one of the world's leading SF short story writers, with stories like the Hugo-winning "Exhalation" and the Nebula and Hugo-winning time travel story "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" to his credit, and thus he is a key voice in any discussion of the subject of time travel.Time Travel Lecture (Thanks, Tony!)
Joining them is award-winning genre scholar Amy H. Sturgis, Ph.D., who will share her top picks for "Must Read" time travel fiction. Her most recent critical essay related to time travel will appear in the summer 2011 collection Fringe Science: Parallel Universes, White Tulips, and Mad Scientists. You'll leave this event with fresh insights into the SF theme of time travel and a terrific reading list, as well!
* Science Fiction Novel: Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis (Spectra)Announcing the 2011 Locus Award Winners
* Fantasy Novel: Kraken, China Miéville (Macmillan UK; Del Rey)
* First Novel: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit UK; Orbit US)
* Young Adult Book: Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
* Novella: The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
* Novelette: "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains", Neil Gaiman
* Short Story: "The Thing About Cassandra", Neil Gaiman (Songs of Love and Death)
* Magazine: Asimov's
* Publisher: Tor
* Anthology: Warriors, George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, eds. (Tor)
* Collection: Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories, Fritz Leiber (Night Shade)
* Editor: Ellen Datlow
* Artist: Shaun Tan
* Non-fiction: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve, William H. Patterson, Jr., (Tor)
* Art Book: Spectrum 17, Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood)
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