Cold Brew Coffee

2014-02-07 09.35.44-2

I love cold brewed coffee. It’s smoother than regular coffee, and depending on the beans you use, chocolatey too. It’s a great change of pace from a regular cup, and great in the summer. I’ve been playing with my recipe for a while and I figured I’d pop it up here so other people can try it out. First, equipment:

  • Takeya Tea Maker; – It’s a small pitcher with a built-in basket for tea. I just use coffee instead. It makes cleanup and filtering a lot easier.
  • Good Coffee – This is a must. If you don’t have a local roaster, I’d check out Tonx. But, you probably have a local roaster. Find them. Become friends with them. Get good coffee beans from them.
  • A grinder that can do a coarse grind. I have a cheap one that works fine. Or, if you’re feeling spendy, you could jump up a couple brackets and get a nice burr grinder. I have a small manual Hario thing I use when I’m serious about the grind, but the blade grinder works for me for now.

If you have the 1 quart pitcher, you should grind enough beans for a 12-cup pot of coffee and put your grinder on the coarsest setting.

Once you have the coffee, put it in the basket, fill the pitcher with filtered water and then close it up and stick it in the fridge. I like mine super rich, so I usually let it steep for a couple days before I take it out. The professionals leave it in for up to a week, but two days is usually enough for me.

I also shake it up a couple times a day to stir things up and mix the grounds up a little. It’s probably just a placebo thing, but I think it makes better coffee to agitate it a bit.

After you’ve let it steep in the fridge, it’s time to filter it. The basket’s going to catch most of the grounds, but you’ll have some sludge in there that’s good to filter out. I pour mine through my drip coffee machine filter and that takes out 95% of the sludge. I have friends who use a french press for their cold brew, which works really well because you get to skip the filtering step, but I don’t yet have a large enough french press to make that work.

There you have it, my recipe for cold brew. What’s your recipe?

Learn to Code By Cheating

My kids love Cookie Clicker. And, only because they can’t stop talking about it, I checked it out. My 14 year-old told me he’s figured out how to cheat at the game so bad that he basically ends up with “infinity cookies”.

Wait, let’s step back. The game is weird and silly and involves clicking a big cookie to get more cookies. You can buy upgrades like cursors that click cookies for you, grandmas who bake cookies for you, all the way up to time machines that go back in time and bring you cookies that before they’ve been eaten – and you purchase all of these with cookies that you, wait for it, click.

Back to the cheating. The game is all done in Javascript and all done in the browser, so it’s really fun to mess around with things and cheat – and learn some Javascript fundamentals while you’re at it (and even some jQuery). There’s even a page on the Cookie Clicker Wiki dedicated to cheating. You’ll notice that all of those cheats are Javascript functions. Here’s one I wrote that is a little longer than the one on the wiki, but makes me happy because it’s all object-notated and is called cookie_monster:

var cookie_monster = {
  gimme:function() { 
    Game.ClickCookie(); 
    setTimeout("cookie_monster.gimme()", 1); 
  }
};
cookie_monster.gimme();

That’s all broken out so you can see what it’s doing. Here it is if you want to just cut and paste it into the Javascript Console in Chrome (the browser made for cheating):

var cookie_monster = {gimme:function() { Game.ClickCookie(); setTimeout("cookie_monster.gimme()", 1); }}; cookie_monster.gimme()

Basically, the cookie_monster.gimme() method clicks the cookie and then sets a timer to run itself again in 1 millisecond. That ends up being a lot of cookies per second. It also unlocks a bunch of achievements, which is cool (but still cheating).

And here it is as a bookmarklet: Cookie Monster. Just drag that to your bookmarks bar, and click on it while you’re in Cookie Clicker and the cheat will magically start running. I love Javascript.

I’ve been talking to both of my kids now about Javascript and how we can more efficiently cheat at the game, which I think is awesome. If I can get them to think of programming as a game, then I’ve already won.

Making an Iced Latte With an Aeropress

I used to have access to a lovely espresso machine, which which we made many iced lattes. Now that I work from home, reproducing the silky luxury of those iced lattes has been a little difficult. Until now. I use an Aeropress for almost all of my coffee needs and have finally figured out how to make a solid iced latte:

  • Put the Aeropress plunger on the 3 line of the aeropress. You don’t want too much coffee or you’ll never get it cold. Plus, you want it to be strong.
  • 1 scoop of finely ground coffee (if you can’t do fine ground, that’s OK) in the aeropress
  • Pour almost boiling water over the grounds, stir, then set your timer for 4 minutes.
  • Fill your cocktail shaker with four ice cubes, sugar and milk or half and half to taste (I’d guess no more than 1/3 cup of liquid).
  • When the timer goes off, press the coffee into the cocktail shaker, shake the hell out of it and pour.
  • Enjoy.

It’s simple and makes a really good iced latte. And remember, the better your beans, the better your cup (I get all my coffee from Cup to Cup).

Happy coffee-ing!

Hi There

The longer I see that almost-year-old post sitting there on the homepage, the more daunting it gets to think of something worthy of kicking it out of the top spot.

I’ve been blogging a lot (ok, not a lot) on the Rails Machine blog, but work, the Creative Coast and other stuff seems to take up all the time I would otherwise spend writing.

In fact, I have to write a column for the paper that’s due on Monday, so I guess I should go do that instead of writing this drivel.

My Most Played Songs

I can’t remember when I did it, but a few years ago I reset all the play counts in iTunes. That was years ago at this point, and since switching to Rdio for most of my music listening, I only use iTunes for things I can’t get on Rdio, live shows from nyctaper or podcasts. I was looking for something new to choose for This is My Jam, and decided I’d just pick the song I’ve played the most in iTunes. And then I decided I might as well share my “historical” top ten songs as shown by what I actually listened to. So, here they are, followed by the number of times I’ve listened to them according to iTunes. Excuse the profanity, that is really the name of the band (and they’re awesome):

  1. Lovely Allen by Holy Fuck – 153
  2. Pullin Punches by Arkells – 150
  3. Fresh Blood by Eels – 137
  4. Working Full-Time by The Constantines – 122
  5. Happy by The Wrens – 113
  6. Your Hand in Mine by Explosions in the Sky – 111
  7. Dance Like a Monkey by New York Dolls – 106 (this one’s skewed because I accidentally left it on repeat one day where I had a lot of meetings and I forgot to pause it – still, it’s a great song. The video is killer.)
  8. I Play My Kazoo by Grand Analog – 102
  9. Soon Enough by The Constantines – 101
  10. Violet Light by Raised by Swans – 101

I also went ahead and created a playlist in Rdio with Trnsmit with my top 100 songs (Rdio doesn’t have all of them, so it’ll be less than 100, but whatever).

It’s funny that the bands I consider my all-time favorites don’t show up until farther down the list (*Massive Attack* shows up at number 13 with Paradise Circus and Morphine doesn’t show up until number 26 with Come Along). The Constantines show up a ton in the top 50, but that’s mostly because my “Best of the Constantines” playlist was a constant companion for almost a year when I had to crank out code on a deadline.

Oh well, there you go, my top 10 songs played in iTunes. I wish I could do the same in Rdio. I have a feeling it would be dominated by Library Voices.

And yes, this post is instead of writing one about my time at SxSW this year or my new job at Rails Machine that I start in a few weeks. I might write those blog posts later.

Right Up My Crime-Infested Alley

Grantland has created a tournament to see who the best character was on The Wire. Since I’ve now watched the show all the way through three times now, here are my picks for the final four.

I’ve got a problem right off with Ziggy Sobotka going up against Omar in round one. I love Ziggy, but he’s got no chance against Omar.

  • West Baltimore: Omar Little – No doubt.
  • Hamsterdam: Jimmy McNulty – Clay Davis would win if it was for “most quotable”.
  • The Ports: Bunny Colvin – This one was really close between Bunny and Tommy Carcetti, but I think Bunny is the better character.
  • East Baltimore: Lester Freamon – I know people love Stringer, but Lester is deep, complex and a perfect foil to McNulty.

And your picks?

My Annual SxSW Prep: Listening to Tons of Music!

This is odd because I’ve never stayed for the Music portion of SxSW, but every year for the past five or six, I’ve downloaded the massive torrent of free songs from the artists playing SxSW and tried to listen and rate all of them. To give you some idea of the scale, the 2011 torrent had over 1000 songs in it, released in two parts. That’s a lot of music to listen to, and I usually forget to post my top-rated stuff here, but I think I’ve actually listened to everything for at least the last three years (even when I haven’t gone to SxSW).

I’ve figured out a workflow for getting through and rating everything using iTunes’ Smart Playlists that I figure might help you if you want to do the same thing:

  1. Download the torrent and then put all the songs in a single regular playlist.
  2. Create a new Smart Playlist for the songs you haven’t listened to and haven’t skipped. It took a little while to get this set up correctly, but it should be something like this (and then sorted by artist):
    • Playlist – is – Your SxSW Torrent playlist (mine’s called SxSW 2012)
    • Plays – is less than – 1
    • Skips – is less than – 1
    • Rating – is not – 1 star
    • Rating – is not – 2 stars
  3. Create another Smart Playlist for things you’ve listened to but haven’t rated:
    • Playlist – is – SxSW 2012
    • Rating – is – no stars
    • Plays – is greater than – 0 (this removes any that you skipped, which you can assume you want to leave 0 stars)
  4. I also created one like the unrated, but where the Rating is greater than 3 to find my favorites.

What’s great about the unlistened Smart Playlist is that if I give something a rating of 1 or 2 stars, it automatically skips it and goes on to the next song.

Hopefully this helps you better manage your SxSW torrent listening experience! I’ll try to remember to come back and share my favorites. I’m halfway through the B’s as I write this. Only 686 songs to go (and this is just the “Part 1″ torrent)!

Oh, and if you don’t want to bother with any of that, I made an Rdio playlist with the songs Rdio has out of the list (about 380 out of the 771 songs in Part 1).

Recent Realizations

  • Being CEO means making decisions all the time. You don’t always have time to think about them and not making a decision is actually making a decision.
  • The more decisions you can let other people make, the better. The trick is knowing which ones you can afford to delegate.
  • I still have a lot to learn about the business side of things, and not a lot of time to learn them.
  • I miss writing code full-time. I miss the order of write, test, debug, repeat. Management is unpredictable and messy.
  • Comfort Eagle is Cake‘s best album.
  • There’s a fine line between thinking about a problem and wasting time.
  • I wish there were more British-style quiz shows in the US. I’d watch the hell out of a US version of QI, 8 Out of 10 Cats or Mock the Week.
  • The code I’m most proud of from the past 12 months has got to be my OAuth2 server. I looked at it again today after not seeing it in a while, and it’s gorgeous. Most code I’ve written disgusts me if I go back to it 6 months later.
  • Savannah is the perfect town to wreak creative havok in. It’s the right size where one person can make some real change happen if they set themselves to it (or even if they half-ass it like I do), and a great creative community that’s easy to “infect” with good ideas who will either jump in and help or at least cheer you on.

Kevin’s Favorite Albums of 2011

Hi, my name is Kevin, and I’m a music addict. I used to have a 2-3 album a week buying habit. But that’s all changed, thanks to Rdio. I go through the new releases every Tuesday and try to listen to all the interesting new stuff I can find. The good stuff gets added to my collection and the best stuff gets added to my phone. I now usually only buy one album a month, and that’s only because it’s not available on Rdio or is just that good. You might be saying to yourself, “But Kevin, you work on a music product. Why are you using Rdio?” Why? Because they do two different things. Rdio is good if you know exactly what you want to listen to (same with the other on-demand services like Spotify or Rhapsody). If you don’t, or want to discover new stuff, then radio services like SonicSeeds are what you want to use. I see us as complimentary to the on-demand services, not really completing with them (other than for ear time).

The problem with Rdio is that it’s not easy to find the things you’ve added to your collection that were released in the past year, so this list isn’t complete yet. But, if you’re really eager to get the complete list, check back.

And here it is, selections from my favorite albums of 2011. It was a great year for music, and I had a hard time choosing. I think there are about 20 albums represented here, all of them worth picking up or adding to your collection! Enjoy!

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Kevin and Jennifer Lawver's blog about whatever we want to talk about.