Homemade Latte Hearts

I’ve been playing around with pouring latte art on with my super basic home setup, tweaking several variables.

Bean: A couple lighter roasts from my Driftaway Coffee tasting kit, which I don’t like for pourover, then just some backup beans at home, currently Starbucks Breakfast Blend.

Grind: The “espresso” grind on Bodum Bistro isn’t fine enough for what I need now. There’s not enough pressure to even think about crema, and because I have a super cheapo steam driven espresso machine it doesn’t allow enough steam to build up to attempt microfoam. Thankfully, I have a Hario hand grinder that goes all the way to so-fine-you’ll-make-your-espresso-machine-explode. I know this because I was pretty sure the machine was going to explode last week. Crema is still hard to come by, but I’m managing some, which is better than none.

Steam: The steam wand on my 15 year old Krups Il Primo doesn’t move, so I have to tilt the entire thing to get the angle I need. After that, I have a choice of using the foam attachment or going without. I can’t quite get good foam without, partly because the wand is just a little short for my 20 oz pitcher, and maybe because it’s tiny and doesn’t drive enough volume for a good slurp. I’m managing to get almost-microfoam with the attachment if I plug the air hole on it.

Pitcher: The pointy pour pitcher is definitely the way to go. I’m considering downgrading to a smaller size, though, to compensate for the short steam wand.

So far, I’ve managed to pour two hearts. The first one was tiny and semi-accidental. Today’s was small but not tiny, and totally on purpose. Even better, I finished the pour with the foam just rising over the rim.

One of these days I’ll remember to have my phone handy so I can document it. It’s hard to remember when I haven’t had my coffee yet.

Latte Art Class

Inspired by a friend’s Facebook post a couple weeks ago, I popped online and signed up for a latte art class.

Class was this morning. It was an enlightening hour of all the things I’m not doing at home, and why my latte hearts come out looking like other anatomical parts.

Things I’m not doing at home:

Grinding just the right grind and pulling my shot with just the right amount of pressure directly into a cup for just the right crema.

Steaming the milk just the right way for microfoam, and nothing but microfoam. This requires just the right amount of steam powered swirl, plus just the right amount of air introduced, to just the right temperature. At home I introduce too much air and steam for too long. (I like my milk really hot.) This results in clumpy foam instead of smooth microfoam, which should have the appearance of wet paint.

Steaming the milk in a pitcher that lets me pour precisely. For some reason I own a pitcher with a fully round edge.

Some of these I’m not going to fix. I’m not filling my kitchen with a fancy $700 grinder and $2000 espresso machine.

I can, however, try swapping out my pitcher for $10. I can also play with brew methods for better crema.

Before I forget, here’s how to pour a latte art heart:
– cup angle starts at 45 degrees
– swirl the milk just before pouring in case the foam has separated too much
– initial pour is from a few inches up, straight down and into the coffee
– pour onto foam spots to push them down
– bring the milk closer to the surface to change the entry angle and float the foam
– gradually straighten out the cup angle and push the pour closer to center
– raise the pour again and push to the far edge of the cup to pull the heart from top to bottom

And here’s my attempt from today’s class. It has a uh, major developmental defect.

Aaron came to the class as well. He poured a balloon, followed by a fat phoenix, which he calls a turkey butt.

I’m thinking of starting an Instagram series of whimsical latte art creatures. Kind of like Imperfect Produce, for milky espresso drinks gone sideways.

Coffee Tasting

My local Philz held a coffee tasting yesterday. I signed up. Of course I signed up.

This is where I admit to consuming my daily coffee(s) with liberal amounts of dairy.* Blasphemous, I know.

Blasphemous, and exactly why I wanted to go to a coffee tasting. I wanted to learn to appreciate coffees on their own, and also compare different varieties and roasts side by side. We cupped, we slurped, we paired.

The verdict: I still wouldn’t drink a cup of black coffee on its own.

That said, I discovered that black coffee can pair amazingly well with food. The trick is to match the bean and the food.

Buttery, chocolatey, fruity pastries and buttery, chocolately, fruity coffees. (Not all at the same time.) Like flavors paired well together, and finally made all the pastries at coffee shops make sense. Not that I ever thought coffee shop pastries didn’t make sense. Pastries are always make sense.

My favorite pairing, and a surprise to some at the tasting, was dried mango with the Fair Trade Peru. Coffee and dried fruit? It works!

On the flip side, I mixed my various pairings to experience what doesn’t work. Lots of things don’t work. How, then, are we supposed to find these magical pairings without months of trial and error?

By going to a coffee tasting!

Thanks Philz! Y’all are the bestest.

* This is also where I clarify what kind of dairy is allowed: extra heavy whipping cream for coffee, whole milk for lattes. I’m at least not watering down my beans with fat free nonsense. Fat is flavor.


Went to Blue Bottle for a macchiato just now. It was twice as expensive, took five times as long, and tasted about half as good as pretty much any of the macchiatos I had in Italy.

This experience was not unlike my first pour-over of my favorite Tesora beans when I got home last week. I’ll readjust to San Francisco’s expensive not-as-good-as-in-Italy-but-still-some-of-the-best-in-North-America coffee soon.

Bulletproof Coffee

After reading about this Bulletproof Coffee thing over and over again for week and weeks… and weeks, I finally got off my butt to make it. Picked up some fresh Bella Donovan beans from Blue Bottle, fancy grass-fed German butter, and organic virgin coconut oil. (Why do they call it oil if it’s not at room temperature?)

I wanted something with some oomph, so I opted for a 2 minute inverted Aeropress brew. I also didn’t want cold coffee after the butter and blending, so I heated the water to 205°F.

As I brewed the coffee I looked at the fat in the blender cup. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be consuming that on its own, in one shot.


When the 2 minutes were up I pressed and blended. It came out looking like a latte.

I took a sip. Not bad. It had a hint of coconut to it. Creamy, not unlike my usual coffee with heavy whipping cream. My lips were pleased; every sip felt like a fresh coat of lip balm.

But the real test would be how it made me feel. Would it Supercharge My Body and Upgrade My Brain? I waited.

I had expected not to feel hungry for a bit, but I wanted food after about half an hour. What about those 228 fat calories I just consumed?!

One hour later, I was straight up ravenous. I ate to stave off a hunger headache.

That was a lot of work for not a lot of benefit. Tomorrow I’ll go back to my beloved heavy whipping cream.

Still curious? Don’t want to stockpile fancy fat? Come over and I’ll make you a cup.

MLK 2014

Game 1: Team Abby

My first game with the Black Stars this season! Also my first real tournament back.*

I was pretty excited going into the tournament, but like I told Hanh earlier in the day, my goal for this game was to not fall and land on my butt again. I’m pretty sure if I injure it again before it’s fully healed I’ll have to stop playing for a while.

We came out playing like doodie because that’s what we do, especially at the beginning of a tournament. We gave up our first goal because I jumped the gun on a breakout pattern and when the other team ended up with the puck in front of our net I wasn’t there to defend against her.

I made up for it in the 3rd period when I chased someone down, rubbed her out along the boards, and sent the puck back the other way. Linda ended up with it and scored. Yeah, Linda!

Final score: 2-3. Hopefully we’ll get another crack at this team for the championship on Monday.

For coming back from IR and rubbing someone out, I was given the Most Inspirational Player game puck. Here it is on the shelf with the 2010 MLK MIP patch, 2012 MLK MIP puck, a Crash Test Barbie, and the tail of a Tremors dinosaur (also from an MLK tournament).

* The NCWHL holiday tournament was for fun and doesn’t count. That’s not to say MLK is not fun, and no I don’t know what it counts for.

Game 2: Barnaby Bears

I forgot to mention that I played center in yesterday’s game. This is a change from playing D all last season. We had 13 skaters yesterday: 2 D pairs and 3 full forward lines.

Tonight, one of our right wings was out sick. We started the game with 3 left wings, 3 centers, and 2 right wings. After the first period, I switched to right wing and we ran 2 centers.

I haven’t played wing in well over a year, maybe two. I had a pretty tough time handling the first few breakout passes along the boards. >.< After a couple shifts, I adjusted and went on to score two goals. Maybe I should play wing more often?

I was pretty happy with the first goal because it’s a play I’ve been practicing on my own for a while now. It’s not fancy, just repeating something I think will work. And it did. I took the puck behind the net from left to right, turned right to come back up while looking for (or pretending to look for) a pass with the puck on my forehand. With all the D focused on coverage, I could skate up to better my angle. Then, when I had enough angle for a decent shot, a quick backhand.

My backhand didn’t go in, but the puck bobbled to the other side of the goalie. I got there first and pushed it over the line.

The second goal was off a rebound with the goalie already down. All I could see was net up high. Part of me automatically moved to shoot high while a little voice in my head said, “OMG don’t mess this up,” and a loud voice somewhere around me said, “HIGH!” Thankfully that automatic part didn’t mess it up. Relief! And hooray for practicing my shot over and over and over. And over.

Practice. I cannot praise it enough.

Final score: 6-3.

Game 3: Pandora

Played a much closer game against a more evenly matched team Sunday afternoon. In the end the difference came down to one of their players making a great run through 3 of us down the length of the ice and putting a second effort shot into the net.

I felt pretty crappy this game. Almost thought I was going to pass out between whistles. Felt fine when I was skating, though. Low blood pressure? Weird.

Maybe it was my pre-game DMD?

It tasted as bad as it looks: Like radioactive antifreeze. How was this ever a habit? Blech!

Or maybe it’s because I was feeling off to begin with. To make myself feel better I ate a Five Guys burger after the game. Imagine my surprise when it worked!

Final score: 0-1.

Semifinal: Pandora

Rematch! We did way better on shot count this time, outshooting the other team 2:1. Then in the 3rd period some of them started playing like assholes. It culminated in a hit that took out Frannie. Frannie, of all people! That’s like kicking a puppy. Who did it? Search my blog archives and take a guess.

Years ago, after a game, maybe even an MLK tournament game, Keisha the ref said to me, “You know, when you get knocked down you can pop right back up instead of spinning out on the ice.” From that day on, I’ve adopted that approach. Today, when I got knocked down, I popped back up and into the play without missing a beat. And I said a little thank you to Keisha, like I do every time.

Final score: 1-0.

Championship: Team Abby

Another rematch! This one didn’t go as well on the scoreboard, but it was a much more civil affair. No assholes, just competitive hockey. I scored our lone goal on a rush with Margie in the 1st period. After actually remembering to holler that I’d corral the loose puck, I picked it up, approached the net on the left, saw net up high on the right, and put the puck there. No thinking, just reacting. I’d like to have more of those moments. Thinking takes too long.

Also, since one of our left wings had to work today, I played the 1st period at center while we ran 2 left wings, then switched to left wing while we ran 2 centers. I was able to make the mental switch after about a shift. Better than on Saturday!

Final score: 1-3. Normally I’d say “2nd place is 1st loser” but our consolation mini beer steins are actually the same as the ones the 1st place team got. I’d take a picture for you but glass isn’t all that exciting.

I finished with 3 goals this weekend. Not bad for my first real tournament since returning to hockey!

Eat This, Or That. Whatevs.

It’s been almost 2 1/2 years since I stopped drinking soda. I gave up my beloved Diet Mountain Dew (henceforth referred to as DMD) because aspartame* has no upsides and countless potential downsides.

I’ve since filled the soda void with sparkling water and tea. Copious amounts of tea.

Of course, now I hear that tea is full of contaminants. So if DMD doesn’t kill me, tea will.

Speaking of supposedly healthier diet choices killing me, I’ve been choosing brown rice almost exclusively for several years now. Guess what? It’s got arsenic in it.

Next I’m gonna find out all the fruits and vegetables I make a point of eating are covered in chemicals and have had the nutritional value bred out of them in favor of size and looks.

Oh, crap.

* I don’t drink soda with real sugar in it because I prefer to spend my daily allotment of empty calories on ice cream.

Kefir On The Grow

We’re now 10 days into the incredible edible kitchen kefir experiment.

The milk kefir is chugging along. After a few mango and honey smoothies I decided to try drinking it straight. I thought it would taste weird but it’s no problem. It’s less sour and thick and super smooth as the kefir from the store. I wonder how they process theirs.

After a couple mediocre-tasting too-strong-for-my-zero-alcohol-tolerance feed-them-whatever-I-had-on-hand lazy brews, I switched the water kefir to coconut water. It makes a much more palatable, less alcoholic drink. The kefir seem to like it too, as they started multiplying madly after the switch.

I now have about 4x the grains I started with for both the milk and water kefir. I’m going to have to start eating them soon, giving them away, or throwing them out. Anybody want some?

I told mom about my little project. She loves health stuff, and has plenty of time for kitchen science experiments. Last year she was making osmanthus flavored rice wine. After some research online, she called and told me the Chinese name for milk kefir: teen sahn shuut leen (leen as in leen fah) which translates directly into “sky mountain snow lotus”, or “yeasty bacterial blob that looks like a beloved lotus flower covered in snow, from the tallest of the tall mountains”. Apparently, the higher the mountain, the better, and “sky mountain” is about as high as you can get in Chinese.

Reading about this and hearing my description of kefir also helped her connect a couple things in her head. She had always heard about the health benefits of “sour milk”, but was never able to figure out how milk gone bad could possibly be good for you. She realizes now they were probably talking about kefir.

Let’s hope my next kefir post isn’t about how they’ve quadrupled out of their containers and have begun to take over my kitchen.

Hippie Homebrew

My friend Ida has been brewing kefir at home. She offered some starter grains and I took her up on it.

Monday night: Go to Ida’s house for pickup and find that she’s not there. Play with her adorable kids. Go to Ida’s work. Receive a little lump of milk kefir and a small amount of water kefir in two Ziploc bags. Catch up with Ida over dinner. Yay!

Tuesday night: Put each kefir into a 16 ounce glass jar. Add milk to the milk kefir, water to the water kefir until both are approximately 12 ounces full. Feed the water kefir frozen orange juice concentrate instead of sugar against everyone’s advice. Leave them on the counter like I’m supposed to even though I really want to put the milk in the fridge.

Wednesday morning: Smells fermentey!

Wednesday night: Milk kefir starting to thicken.

Thursday morning: Thin bubbly film on top of the water kefir. Carbonation!

Thursday night: Strain milk kefir into 8 ounce mason jar and refrigerate. Dump grains into clean 16 ounce glass jar and add more milk. Strain water kefir into 12 ounce beer bottle and cap it. Dump grains into clean 16 ounce glass jar and add more water plus frozen orange juice concentrate.

Friday afternoon: Make a smoothie out of milk kefir with frozen mangos and local honey. Super tasty! Notice the next batch of milk kefir is already starting to thicken. Taste water kefir in progress, add some sugar, watch it fizz like crazy when the sugar hits.

Friday night: Open bottled water kefir. Fizzy like soda! Realize it’s slightly alcoholic. Rebottle unfinished 2nd half. Feel head thump. Watch face turn red. Document everything in this blog post.

The milk kefir is a success. I plan to keep doing it. Not sure about the water kefir, though. Like kombucha, it’s tasty and fizzy, which I like, but also slightly alcoholic, which I can’t handle. Supposedly water kefir is beneficial if you consume even a tablespoon a day, so in theory I wouldn’t need to drink much of it. But then production would greatly outpace consumption. I’m thrilled I can make my own all natural low sugar fizzy drink, though. Need to see what I can do to lower alcohol content.