First experience with my Handground coffee grinder

handground_coffee_grinder_with_packaging

Last year I backed a Kickstarter project for a hand coffee grinder. I have written a few posts about them since as I have had the opportunity to provide feedback on the project and coffee making in general. The people behind Handground have done a great job to get the backers of the project involved and I am proud to have helped out in a small way. Just the other day my Handground grinder arrived in the mail. I pulled it out of the box and immediately looked at everything. It is a beautiful coffee grinder and looks great with all of my other coffee making implements.

This morning I took it for my first experience with grinding coffee by hand. In all of my coffee brewing adventures I have used my electric grinder, which has been great in cases where I am making bigger batches of coffee. And I still think I will use my electric grinder for bigger batches, but the hand grinder will be great for single cup pour overs. There is something about the mechanical process and using human power that is really interesting to me. Plus, it is super quiet compared to my electric grinder which is a big plus.

In the box there is a yellow piece of paper with some helpful info, like to not spin the grinder without coffee in it because the coffee oils help lubricate the burr. I am glad I read this first because as I was unboxing it I really wanted to grab the handle and spin it a few times to hear it go. But, I controlled my enthusiasm. When using my electric grinder I do like to let it go for a couple extra seconds once I hear all of the coffee go through and I even spin it a couple of times with the button to make sure all of the grounds got through. On my first grind I felt it when all of the coffee was done and spun it a couple of extra times for the same reason. I hope this isn’t harming anything because I just want to make sure all of my coffee grounds get through to keep my ratio as accurate as possible.

handground_coffee_grinder

Overall, I am really happy with the grinder. I did about 10 grams of coffee on the number 2 setting as it is suggested to break it in a little before use. This was easy to get going in the grinder. My biggest concern with a hand grinder would be getting it started and grinding away. But, the Handground easily gets going and keeps grinding the coffee. I’m not the strongest person, so a grinder that I can lean on to hold steady really helps. The bottom has a grippy pad that sticks to the kitchen counter well. The grinding motion worked really smoothly and only got caught up on bigger, tougher beans a couple of times. Even then I was able to push through and grind them down.

The grind consistency was awesome. I got an even grind across 20 grams of coffee for my pour over without any random sized chunks from what I could see. Based on that alone I am super happy with the grinder. This thing could have a hundred other features, but if the grind wasn’t as consistent I wouldn’t care. The grind looked beautiful. I ground my coffee on the number 4 setting and this worked really nicely. I should be able to dial in a nice grind for any coffee with Handground.

There are a couple of things that will take me some getting used to with the grinder. Firstly, the top screws and unscrews backwards, if you ask me. This was something that was an issue in manufacturing that requires the top to be unscrewed by being turned clockwise, to the right, and screwed on by turning counter clockwise, to the left. This was weird as most everything I have dealt with in my life is tightened by turning to the right and loosened by turning to the left(righty tighty, lefty loosey). I remember this being brought up in a backer survey and it was explained to us that due to how the grinder is assembled it has to be this way since the main post in the center can be loosened by the top being screwed the other direction. There was a much more convincing and technical reasoning in the survey , but that was the basics. Secondly, the opening at the top is a little small for pouring beans in. I was only doing 20 grams worth, but I could see trying to pour more beans being an issue causing some to fall away unless you have a small spout to pour them through. It’s nothing a small funnel couldn’t solve though.

In the end the Handground grinder is awesome and I’m glad to have been a part of the project. If you want to learn more about the grinder and see it in action you can check out their website here.

Big batch cold brew coffee

large_batch_cold_brew_coffee

That beautiful sight there is a half gallon jar with roughly three pints of cold brew coffee in it. It is the largest batch of cold brew I have ever made. A little while ago my jar I made cold brew in was broken. I took this as an opportunity to get a much bigger jar when I replaced it. Cassidy has recently gotten into making her own kombucha at home and wanted to purchase some jars for making it and storing it. We went to a hardware store down the street and picked up a set of six half gallon jars. This will make it so she can make larger batches of kombucha and I will be able to make cold brew again. And with the bigger jar I can make even more at a given time. It is very exciting.

In my first batch with the jar I did my usual recipe of 50 grams coffee with 800 grams of water. I knew this amount would fit in the jar easily and would give me an idea of much more room I have to work with. Eyeballing it I figured I had room to double my recipe. So, on this latest batch I did 100 grams of coffee with 1600 grams of water. I ground the coffee a little coarser than I normally do. I wanted to make sure the water got through to all of the coffee and this should help that. I still did 24 hours extraction time. I thought I might need to do longer, possibly 36, since it is so much coffee, but I stuck with 24. My thought was I would try doubling the recipe first and see the results before adjusting other aspects.

I set it up so that I would pull it out the next morning before going to work. The picture above is from right after I pulled it out of the fridge and removed the coffee sock at 7am that morning. I tasted it and really liked the results. It came out very tea like in flavor, like the cold version of chemex. I used an Ethiopian coffee from Victrola and the fruity notes really came out well. I think I might experiment with a longer extraction time to see if I can get it a little bolder tasting. This amount of coffee seems like it needs more time to pull out everything. 36 hours seems like the right next step, but will make it harder to schedule and plan out. If I make it in the morning before work one day I can pull it out the next day after work and I should be able to hit the 36 hour mark.

This is really fun for me to be able to make coffee that tastes good in big batches like this. It helps in my work towards my big goal of sourcing my own beans, roasting them, and then making my own cold brew. That would be super cool.

Learning a lesson on grind size the hard way

chemex_coffee_grounds

Yesterday morning I made some coffee as my usual and preferred Saturday morning activity. Cassidy was up and getting ready to head out on a run with some friends. I got my things together and began with getting my water heating up and grinding my beans. Lately, I’ve been working on dialing in my single cup pour over process during the week, so my grinder was set finer than I would like for brewing in my Chemex. Unfortunately, I totally spaced on this and got my coffee grinding. I didn’t realize it until the coffee was totally ground. I was pretty frustrated with myself for not paying enough attention to what I was doing.

So, I decided to try an experiment and still do my normal Chemex process with the coffee ground too fine. I took a guess at what it would do and how the coffee would taste. I thought this would be a good reminder of how altering one part of coffee brewing can have a huge impact on the final outcome. Looking at how fine the coffee was compared to what I normally would have it ground it wasn’t too difficult to see it would be overly extracted. My guess was that it would be bitter and vegetal tasting.

I went ahead with my usual Chemex process. It was crazy to see how the grind size elongated my brew time significantly. Normally I try to hit around 3:30 minutes and this went all the way to 5:30 minutes. Afterwards, my grounds looked like a big mud pile. I tasted it and sadly was right about the flavor. Overall it was over extracted and there was this grassy mask over all of the flavor notes I know this coffee has.

This was a good lesson on home coffee brewing and a good reminder that I kinda know what I’m doing. I am by no means a coffee professional, but I’ve put a lot of time and energy into coffee to understand the nuances of the brewing process.

If you’re looking for some good tips on pour over brewing I found this video from Seattle Coffee Gear on their YouTube channel with some good stuff.

Trying a new coffee and logging my cold brew batches

anchorhead_coffee_leviathan

We went out to the Fremont Solstice events this weekend. While we were out there I saw Anchorhead coffee had a booth. I have seen them out at city events before and had their stuff. I picked up a bottle of their cold brew and also got some of their beans. Their cold brew is smooth and delicious. I hadn’t had it in awhile and it was good to be reminded of how much I like it. This is a first time for me getting beans from them and I’m excited to see what their roasted coffee is like. They had a few choices at their booth and I ended up going with their Leviathan. Blackberry and marshmallow sounds like a great combination in coffee, so it should be very interesting. I really like the packaging too. Not only is it a very clean design it is also super informative in regards to the coffee. As someone who geeks out on varietals/cultivars and process methods it is rad to get so much information about the beans. Having all of that information really helps me when I dissect the flavors of what I’m drinking. Most of the coffees I drink are blends of some kind, but they aren’t usually blends of regions. From my experience most coffees will blend the beans of various farms in a region to get their flavors. I am really interested to see how a South American coffee blends with an African one. I am going to try this one out with my Chemex first, but I bet it will make a great cold brew.

Speaking of cold brew, I am starting to keep a log of each time I make a batch. I am really wanting to take this process to a new level by figuring out something that is really good and super tasty. This will take a lot of trial and error and I need to keep track of what I’ve done. So, I started taking notes each time I do a batch of cold brew. I even makes notes after tasting it for the first time too. Then I enter it into a sheet later to have a digital copy. This way I will have a spreadsheet of every cold brew attempt and in case you’re wondering, yes, the idea of a spreadsheet of cold brew coffee data sounds amazing to me. It will really help me to get my recipe down to something unique and reproducible. I have only done it twice now, but it already feels like I will have better results over time since I won’t be retrying stuff that I don’t like just to see how I feel about it. I am really excited about it.

Goodbye coffee maker – See you never again

For the last few months now I have been solely making coffee at home by hand and it has been amazing. Previously I was using a drip coffee maker during the week for the sake of ease in the morning and leaving my hand making of coffee to the weekends. This felt really weird as I much prefer coffee made by hand methods over a machine. Not only is drinking it a better experience, but also the process of making it by hand is really rewarding for me. Once I started to really think about it I realized that relying on a machine during the week was doing me more harm than good. I wasn’t drinking good coffee, at least well made coffee. I was still only buying quality coffee, but brewing it in a drip machine. Crazy, I know!

Cassidy brought it up that we should buy cheap coffee for during the week and higher quality stuff for when I make it by hand at home. Then we wouldn’t be wasting good coffee in the gross drip machine. This got me thinking about making coffee by hand all the time and how I just needed to get rid of the coffee maker. By only making coffee myself on the weekends I wasn’t continuing my learning of home coffee brewing. I had found myself forgetting methods and techniques that I once knew more closely.

This is when I decided to get rid of the coffee machine and make the vow to only make coffee by hand in our house. And I must say that it has been super awesome. This has helped my coffee making exponentially. It has allowed me to refine my process for each method. I make a subtle tweak to what I normally do and taste the results until I get a method down that gets me what I am looking for. Then I keep doing that until I have it down pat. I now really like my French press recipe and I have been circling in on how I want to do pour overs. I’m getting really close.

It has also done wonders for helping me wake up in the morning. It has become a great morning ritual which is simple yet complex enough for my freshly woken mind to wrap itself around. I can just focus on doing this task and I find myself waking quickly. But, in the end I am really happy with devoting time each day to making coffee and trying out new ways to make better coffee. I’m not afraid to try out adjusting grind size or brew time because I can always try again the next day. It has helped me to have coffee making as part of my every day life.

If you have a coffee maker and are serious about learning to make coffee on your own you owe it to yourself to get rid of it. I am very glad I did and don’t plan on buying a coffee machine ever again.

My coffee recipes

Coffee Recipes.

As I make coffee for myself I’m always wondering how I can tweak things to adjust the process and see what it does for me, flavor wise. I’m thinking about how grind size or coffee to water ratio or, more recently, water temperature can change my coffee. Hopefully for the better, but even if it doesn’t work out I’m happy because then I know what I don’t like and why I don’t like it. I keep a record of all of my recipes and their current form in a spreadsheet because, yes I am the guy who keeps coffee recipes in a spreadsheet. As I try out new things I adjust the recipes with my latest attempts.

So, I thought it would be fun to share these recipes. Feel free to try them out yourself or tweak them to your heart’s content. Note, these are written for me and my workflow for some of the phrasing may be a little particular or there may not be as much detail as needed. Feel free to reach out in the comments if you have any questions.

Helping Handground with content

After writing my posts about the 3D printed pour over stand for Handground they have asked me to help out with some of the content for some articles. I have answered some surveys for them regarding my coffee making/drinking experiences. They have recently posted an article on things that coffee shops can do to surprise and delight their customers. I told them about a great experience I had at my favorite coffee shop in Seattle, Victrola Coffee, and they used it!
It is kinda cool to see my name printed under a quote, it doesn’t happen to me very often or at all really. Unless you count blog posts, but that is really just me blathering into the internet, quoting myself.

Anyways, if you feel like checking out the article you can find it here:
http://www.handground.com/grind/48-ways-to-surprise-and-delight-your-customers-today

My story about Victrola can be found at “20. Teach customers to brew at home” under the Coffee Education section.

Handground Pour Over Coffee Stand – the final version

Recently I did a beta test for Handground of their 3D printed pour over stand. I have a post about it if you want to read how it went. It was a lot of fun to try it out and offer feedback on how the stand could be improved. The people at Handground were really receptive to the feedback I had and implemented each of the changes I thought would improve the stand. There were several other testers out there and we all had very similar feedback.

They went back to their designs and came up with a new version that has been made available to the rest of us who are invested in the Kickstarter. Overall I am really happy with the results. This time I got to pick the color and I chose to go with an awesome bright blue. The stand has more height to it so there is much more visibility to the flow of coffee coming into the cup and the bottom has been reworked so that the stand can sit flat on its own without my v60 or coffee mug in place.

There are still a couple of things I would fix on the stand though. I’ve noticed the front still dips forward when the v60 is full with coffee and water. Nothing spills out thankfully, but it does get close to the edge. In my first couple of pours with it I had to stop pouring and let the water drain some before continuing. This seems like a tough issue to solve since with the shape of the stand it gets all of its support from the rear and once there is coffee in it brewing the weight may be too much for the plastic.
Secondly, I chose to have the Handground logo cut out in the back of the stand because it looks super cool. As neat as it does look the edges of the logo are rough.

Both of these issues are due to the plastic material of the stand and the fact that it is 3D printed. These kind of issues are just part of the 3D printing world. At least, from my knowledge they are. As someone who is a big fan of 3D printing and understanding of its limitations I take these issues with the stand in stride and I am happy with it. This time around I paid for the stand to be made and I am happy with the price. When my wife saw the stand she pointed out the rough edges of the logo right away and asked me how much it cost. She said that if she had bought it she wouldn’t be happy at all. And I get what she’s saying.

The stand isn’t perfect, but it is still a big improvement from the first version and I really like it. If you are interested in home coffee making and you enjoy the fantastically interesting world of 3D printing I would suggest checking it out when you can. But, know that you are buying a 3D printed plastic item and that there are drawbacks to that manufacturing process.

I took some photos comparing the beta stand (the red one) and the final version (the blue one) that you can see below.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Cold Brew Coffee – Batch Two!

I have recently begun doing my own cold brew coffee. It has quickly become a weekend tradition in my mind. I make about a quart each time which works to give me coffee in the morning for most of the following week. I have tried drinking it with almond milk, but actually prefer to drink it straight. I don’t drink much of it as it has a much higher caffeine content, but a little bit of cold brew in the morning is a great pick me up.

For this batch I adjusted grind size, the coffee to water ratio (now doing 1:15 coffee to water instead of 1:16), and let it sit for 24 hours. All of these changes had a huge impact. Normally I don’t like to change multiple aspects of a coffee recipe, but I had a good feeling about the brew time and grind size changes not being too detrimental. The grind size change wasn’t drastic and the brew time is something I’ve seen others do for cold brew. It was really the coffee to water ratio that I was testing and I really like how it turned out. Adjusting ratios is something I am thinking about trying out in my other brewing methods as well.

I used the same Victrola coffee from Guatemala that I did in the first batch. With the first batch as a point of comparison I wanted to do the second with the same coffee and see how the recipe changes worked. Overall, the cold brew came out great. It had much more coffee flavor and wasn’t as watery as my first batch. This was something that I would actually share with others, but I would still probably note that I am new to cold brewing coffee.

As I am writing this my third batch of cold brew is almost ready to be tasted. This time I changed the coffee. I’m still using Victrola, but is one of theirs from Kenya. I think the sweeter notes typically found in African coffees will work really well in a cold brew. This time I adjusted grind size again to see how I can get the water to come into contact with as much of the coffee as possible. The results of that will have to be for a future post.

I felt really good about this second batch as it went into the fridge since it was immediately a much richer color after pouring than the first. I could see that the coffee was already permeating the water quite nicely. And as I pulled it out I saw a huge difference from the first. Cold brewing is fast becoming a point of fascination for me in the coffee world. As much as I enjoy a toasty mug of hot coffee there is something unique to cold brewed coffee. It might be that it isn’t as commonly drank by many, which is likely to be partially true, but I also think it is how the cold brewing process brings out wholly different flavors in a coffee and that is really fascinating to me.

I’m off to try batch number three. Let me know if you’ve got any cold brew tips or what your favorite cold brews are in the comments!

My First Cold Brew Coffee

I’ve been making coffee at home for a little over two years now and for the last year I have been getting more and more serious about my coffee making methods as well as my coffee knowledge. One of my favorite ways to drink coffee has been cold brewed coffee. It has a wholly different flavor from hot brewed coffee that showcases the flavor of the coffee in a very unique way.

A couple of my favorite cold brews are from Stumptown and Anchorhead. Both of them have a huge amount of flavor. The Stumptown Grand Cru this year was a cold brew that was super delicious.

As I’ve been working out my own coffee recipes, slowly working out the details of them to find a way that I can make delicious coffee at home I have always had the idea of making my own cold brew. Considering how much I enjoy drinking cold brew I have suspected that making cold brew coffee would become my jam and I would dive deeply into it.

Just recently I finally got going on making my own cold brew at home. I decided to try it out using a cold brew kit from the Coffee Sock Company. They make their own coffee filters from cotton and have these nice simple kits that are a sock filter inside a mason jar of various sizes. I went with the quart size as that should make a good amount of cold brew for me to drink. Depending on how this works out I am thinking about trying out using their cotton filters in my chemex or pour over processes.

Earlier today I got around to using the kit for the first time. On the Coffee Sock website they have lots of instructions and suggestions to get going. I took a look and put together my own recipe for a cold brew process. I am really excited for the results. I used my scale to weigh the beans before grinding and to weigh the water while I poured it as I usually do. It was really weird to be making coffee without boiling water or a timer going while I was pouring it. This is also the first time I made coffee and didn’t drink it immediately afterwards. I sealed it up and placed it in our fridge where it will sit until the morning.

Once I sealed it up I could see the extraction process had already begun turning the water amber. It looked beautiful.

cold brew coffee sitting on my kitchen counter
Just closed my first cold brew coffee using a Coffee Sock kit

Now for an exercise in patience for the next 6-10 hours.

[UPDATE]

I pulled the coffee out of my fridge this morning and it was delicious! Well, delicious for a first time trying something like this out. I used a really good coffee from Victrola. It is their Guatemala Huehuetenango. It is a very chocolaty, nutty blend that works really well for cold brew, I think. I started to think about the adjustments I could make for next time as I always do after brewing coffee. I think I want to experiment with a smaller grind size and brew time. For the next batch I am going to do a 24 hour brew time. This cold brew tastes just a little thin that I think more brewing time will solve. I most likely won’t adjust the grind this time. I don’t like to change more than one thing when adjusting a brew process. Then I know it real effect on the results. But, my hunch is that I will also need to use a little smaller grind size.

Here is a photo of the finished brew when I pulled it out of the fridge.

Finished cold brew coffee on my kitchen counter
My first cold brew after 18 hours of brew time

Handground Coffee Grinder – Beta testing the pour over stand

Last year I came across a Kickstarter campaign for a new kind of hand coffee grinder appropriately named Handground. I have an electric coffee grinder, a Baratza Encore, that I have used daily for over two years. It works very well and suits my needs. The idea of trying out hand grinding coffee had been in my head recently as I was curious how it may affect flavor and I liked the idea of making coffee making more hands on, pun absolutely intended.

When I discovered the campaign for Handground I was very intrigued. I watched the video, did a little more research on hand grinding coffee and became a backer of the project. One of my favorite things about backing stuff on Kickstarter is getting to see the behind the scenes process of the final product coming to life. At least, when the individuals running the campaign are forthcoming with updates. Quick aside, if you ever do a crowdfunding campaign you absolutely must keep your backer’s up to date on the process even when there are delays. I have backed projects that have delivered on time with very little updates and backed others with delays that are regularly updated. In the end I am more satisfied with the projects that keep their backer’s updated. It just feels like a respect thing to me. But, I am getting off track here. That is probably a good idea for another post another time.

The people running the Handground campaign have been awesome. There have been delays with getting the final product out to everyone, but I feel they have kept everyone well informed of the process and how each decision being made, even ones that are delaying the process, are being made with making the best product possible in mind. I have appreciated it very much.

One of the cool things that they have done is to send out surveys to get input from everyone along the way. I try to fill out all of them. One of which was about making a Handground pour over stand to use in the coffee making process. I currently don’t have one for making pour overs at home, but have been researching adding on into my setup. I am still perfecting my pour over recipe and I am looking for a stand to have a better visual of the coffee flow from the v60 to judge my grind size better. So, this was a great opportunity.

I received an email later on from someone at Handground, Daniel, asking me if I would like to beta test the pour over stand they had created. I jumped at the chance to do it and got it in the mail a few days later. I just tried out making my first cup with it and overall I am really satisfied with it. I have included some pictures below and you can see how the stand is a horseshoe kind of loop that sits on its side to place the v60 on top and the coffee cup in the middle. The v60 fits perfectly into the stand and feels very secure. I noticed that before placing anything in the stand it leans backwards a little bit, which feels a little unstable. Maybe if the bottom of it was a little flatter the stand would sit better. Once the v60 was placed inside though the weight of that helped it to stop from leaning back. Working with it from there was straightforward. It didn’t get in the way of my usual pour over process. My other criticism was that the opening where the cup sat could be a little wider. The cup I was using is a pretty standard size one and there wasn’t a top of space between the bottom of the v60 and the top of the cup. This is good to help keep coffee from splattering about, but I want to use a stand in my pour over making process to be able to watch the flow of coffee going into the cup. I was able to do this, but if I am nitpicking here I would like to have had just a slightly better view.

As I said, I am really happy with the stand and I’m sure the final version will be awesome. This is a great start and only needs a few tweaks, in my opinion, to be perfect.

Check out the pictures below and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.