Going to Work

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

Toni Morrison
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Intelligentsia: Black Cat Espresso – 5th Try

This morning I tried the advice given in How To Avoid Making Sour Espresso. To simplify the process, I made 2 double shots and upped the amount of non-dairy milk to 3/4 cup. The first double shot was made with 2 scant scoops of beans ground a 1/2 step finer. This was too fine. The espresso machine initially clogged, than pumped out espresso intermittently. The resulting double shot wasn’t sour. The second double shot was 2 scant scoops of beans ground at my usual setting for espresso. I timed the double shot at 40 seconds. The article recommends 20-30 seconds. I am unclear if this is for 1 shot or two. It tasted bitter, thin, and over-extracted. The two double shots combined in the larger amount of milk was decent. Better, but not what I expected from such a highly touted coffee.

About all I can think of at this point is measuring the espresso cups to find where 1oz/30ml and 2oz/60ml come to and clarify the pull timing.

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Intelligentsia: Black Cat Espresso – 4th Try

I’m cheap and this coffee is not, $16.99 for 12oz. This morning I made 4 shots and put 3 of them in a latte with 4oz of non-dairy milk. Better and less hassle than making a double shot and a single shot, switching portafilter strainers in between. Having the shot of straight espresso left over, I sipped. Very different. I expect straight espresso to be a bit bitter. This was sour. Sour espresso indicates under-extraction. This article on the Sip Coffee blog goes into why espresso can be sour and how to fix. It also covers the opposite problem, over-extraction, with causes bitter espresso. I will try the various fixes in the next few days and tell you what I find.

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Intelligentsia: Black Cat Espresso – 3rd Try

Today I tried these beans as brewed coffee with a Clever Coffee Dripper. 2 1/2 scoops (2 Tbsp coffee scoop, not the scoop that came with the espresso machine) with 8oz of hot water, 5 minute brew time. Better. Roasts this light are not to my liking, too much raw bean taste. Medium dark Kenyan beans used to be my favorite for brewed coffee. Now all the Kenyan beans I can find are light roast.

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Intelligentisa: Black Cat Espresso – Second Try

I found these beans to be on the weak side when I made a double latte with it. On the next day, I tried again, same recipe but with 3 shots. My espresso machine can make a single or a double shot with a change of the inner pieces of the portafilter. This was a much better latte, though maybe a little too strong with a harsh undercurrent of raw molasses. My wife didn’t care for it. I drank it and felt it could be improved. I’ll try something different tomorrow.

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Intelligentsia: Black Cat Espresso – First Impression

This is my next pick on Coffee Chronicler‘s list of the Best Coffee Beans for Espresso. A pattern is starting to emerge. This is a medium roast, though that post calls it a dark roast. There is no oil on the beans, it is light in color, and grinding it in my hand grinder takes a bit of muscle. All of this is like my previous pick, Stumptown Hair Bender, from his list. It is also like my planned next pick, Illy Classico (based on what I can find in local stores) according to this review. I had been expecting something darker and a bit more bitter tasting like Starbucks Espresso Roast but better tasting. My wife is more of a traditionalist and probably will not have the Black Cat again. Based on the descriptions on the bag, she was looking forward to it.

Black Cat Espresso is earthy tasting, like many of the Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal teas that are not too bitter. It is lighter roast than the Hair Bender. More of the bean taste is present and less of the bite or boldness of darker roasts. It is also not as strong a taste, a double shot with a half cup of dairy free half and half (3 ounces of almond milk with an ounce of soy creamer) tastes weak. Making a double shot and a single shot is too much work first thing in the morning. I may try that some afternoon. Making a cup of brewed coffee (Clever Coffee Dripper, review coming) with more beans is another way to try to improve the taste. Or simply cut the amount of almond milk.

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Stumptown: Hair Bender – Review

These beans are not your usual espresso. They are a medium roast so you can taste the bean, not only the roast. The bag claims citrus and dark chocolate tastes. I don’t taste the citrus. Dark chocolate I can kind of see.

A wine bar I once frequented had a tasting class with samples that tasted and smelled like the commonly used descriptive words.

For example, Ethiopian Sidamo has a lemony taste to me and I don’t particularly care for it, too thin and acid. Maybe I need to take a tasting class to find out what “citrus” in the context of coffee tastes like. Not all Sidamo tastes like this to me. Or Sidamo isn’t what I think it is. Sidamo is a variety/cultivar, a region, and a people. I think of it as a variety grown in the region. The Sidamo people grow a lot of varieties.

The back of the bag describes it as complex. I would say complex like the herbaceous Chinese medicinal teas.

It is good in lattes and brewed coffee.

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Mad Priest: Dark Night of the Soul – Review

Mad Priest is a coffee roaster in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Publix market near me has an end cap with Tennessee’s Best. I found Dark Night of the Soul there. There was also a breakfast blend, Sloth Dispelling Breakfast Blend. Dark Night of the Soul is a dark roast. so I made a latte with it. It was lousy. I checked reviews on their Website. No mention of espresso drinks. Most reviewers drank it black. Black coffee is hard on my stomach if I drink it all the time. I tried making it as a brewed coffee (using a Clever Coffee Dripper, essentially French Press with a paper filter) and adding non-dairy milk and creamer (vegan half and half). Much better. Dark Night is a good everyday coffee. It $13.99 for a 12oz bag, a bit more than Starbucks’ brewed coffee roasts, typically $11.99 for a 12oz bag. Siren’s Blend is the only Starbucks brewed coffee roasts I enjoy. Dark Night is similar, but a bit darker.

Mad Priest does make a roast for espresso Matriarchal. I’ll have to order from the roaster or pickup some next time we are in Chattanooga.

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Beans for Espresso

The Coffee Chronicler has a blog post on Best Coffee Beans for Espresso. I will be working my way through in the next few months. All of these brands are in my local Publix supermarket. I will only bother with the ones I can get as whole beans. Starbucks Espresso Roast is my reference point.

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Lone Star Poetry 2021 anthology

Texas Poetry Assignment has published a number of my and my wife’s poems. Some of the poems published in 2021, including some of ours, have been published in an anthology by Kallisto Gaia Press. The profits will go to Feeding Texas, a non-profit. It is available from Kallisto Gaia Press here.

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“Consider This” – review

Chuck Palahnuik is the author of “Fight Club,” a book I have not read. After reading and re-reading “Consider This,” I may. This book is a collection of essays on writing. The points come with examples and a story or two. From the first chapter on Textures:

Think of a story as a stream of information. At best it’s an ever-changing series of rhythms. Now think of yourself, the writer, as a DJ mixing tracks.
The more music you have to sample from — the more likely you’ll keep your audience dancing.

This chapter resonated with me. He details several kinds of textures, several of which I use:

  • Tense: past, present, or future
  • Point of View: 1st person singular (I), 2nd person (you), 3rd person (he, she, it) or omnipotent/omniscient 3rd person
  • Attribution: tell who said (or did) a bit of dialogue frequently

The Three Types of Communication is not something I had ever seen called out before. Because I write poetry that is generally a page or less, there is not the length to use more than one, two at the most. The three types are:

  • Description: A man walks into a bar.
  • Instruction: Walk into a bar.
  • Exclamation (onomatopoeia): Sigh.

Using all three forms of communication creates a natural, conversational style. Description combined with occasional instruction, and punctuated with sound effects or exclamations: It’s how people talk.

Sound effects is an interesting idea. His example comes with an even more interesting comment:

… a guy was telling a story that went, “… so we’re going around this long curve—skreeeech! vroooom! — and we pass this police car…”

A listening girl leaned close to me and whispered, “Why do men always use sound effects in stories, but women never do?”

An excellent observation. Learn from it.

My thought after reading the first half was, “I’m going to have to buy this book and flip it open to a random page when stuck, or pick one point and write something that embodies it, or edit an existing piece to strengthen that aspect. Or I could copy each technique onto an index card, shuffle the deck, and flip cards until something clicks. Memorizing the whole book would work too.

The chapter on book tours made me wonder why I’d ever want to do that. Certainly not the way Palahniuk does them. I remember seeing Stephen Mitchell, a definite introvert, on book tour. Uncomfortable. Much like I would approach a book tour.

The subtitle of the book is, “Moments in my writing life after which everything was different.” Certainly I write differently now with more tools in my toolbox. Highly recommended.

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