Ooooookay, the milestone where I have a deep sigh and decide to comment on someone else’s product is 50 messages. When I’ve gotten that many emails, texts, IMs, DMs, tweets, phone calls, etc., I have to breakdown and actually make words in reply.
TL;DR version: No, they aren’t ripping me off. No one making cold brew coffee is ripping me off, they’re just doing their own thing. When someone does something I think is as good as BBotE and finds a way to do it cheaper, I’ll let you know because I’ll be buying it too.
In case you’ve missed out on the content hungry media flurry, there’s a cafe in Adelaide, South Australia called Vicious Coffee that has a product on its menu called Asskicker Coffee. People from Australia have been telling me about this for a while, but the social media thirstlords blew it up at the end of August. You can read the original news story from the Australian Sunday Mail Advertiser under the link, but I want you to pay close attention to this statement:
The Asskicker is a complex concoction made of quad espresso (four shots), four 48-hour brewed cold drip ice cubes, 120ml of 10-day brewed cold drip and is finished with four more 48-hour brewed cold drip ice cubes.
My most important take away from all the various articles I’ve been sent about this is “many journalists aren’t good at math”. Please read that previous quote again and think about how much coffee that is.
Think about it some more.
Okay, let’s do some conversions. The traditional espresso shot is 30ml, so four of those is 120ml. It’s hard for me to guess at ice cube volume since ice cube trays are so variable, but let’s say for the sake of simplicity that they’re 30ml apiece also, that’s another 240ml. Add the 120ml for the 10-day brewed cold drip and you’re looking at a total 480ml (~16 fluid ounces of cold brew coffee and espresso). Now, for those of you that have purchased BBotE, you’ve seen my recommendation to keep BBotE consumption under 100ml per day. I’m not going to make any assumptions on flavor or caffeine content here, but if comparable to BBotE as claimed in the many, many articles I’ve been sent you’re exceeding my recommended dose by almost a factor of five. I disobey my own recommendations now and then, but I tend to put a six hour gap between cups and even then it’s usually 75ml in the morning and 75ml in the afternoon. You are asking for trouble consuming 480ml worth of concentrated coffee all in one go, much as I don’t recommend having a mug full of uncut BBotE.
In fact, from the same article, I want to reiterate that their product isn’t meant to be consumed all in one go. This is meant to be consumed over a time span of hours so that it lasts you for entire shifts. The original inspiration for this was an ER nurse that had a surprise double shift.
The Asskicker is available in three sizes: small is $10 (recommend one to two hour consumption for six to nine hours “up time”; medium is $13 (recommend two to three hours consumption for nine-12 hours “up time”; and large is $16 (recommend three to four hours consumption for 12 to 18 hours “up time”).
My take: This is a coffee shop owner that has done right by his customers and quit trying to tear them down for doing it. Someone had a shitty day in front of them and Steve Bennington made them something special to help make it better. That was so much fun it became part of the regular menu. Hell, I bet all of you have been into a bar or a restaurant that has something on their menu that got there they exact same way, and it’ll be there until the closing day of the establishment.
When I make my next trip to Australia, whenever that may be, I hope Vicious Coffee is still serving it so I can try some. When I tourist, I tourist HARD. 😉
Scheduling information first: the short ordering window that closes on September 19th, before I get on a plane to Boston, is now open for most items. After the 19th, another ordering window will open so you can continue to place orders, but nothing for that one will ship until after I return on October 5th. So, if you need ultracoffee, now is your time to jump in line.
Moving on to more fun things: national parks & regulator humor
In honor of the National Park System 100th Anniversary, and because I really needed some time camping, my Lovely Assistant and I headed to Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks last week. I give these parks my wholehearted endorsement for hermitage purposes. With the exception of open wifi at the two lodges, there is no signal to the outside world. Much like Burney Falls State Park, you’re free. They can’t get at you unless you make an effort to reconnect. This also meant that my steady stream of terrible tweets was also nipped in the bud. Less pretty pictures in your life (bad) but less high quality poop jokes as well (also bad), so I had to save them up. Let’s start with the General Grant Tree, for which this corner of Kings Canyon was original named as it’s own separate national park.
Giant sequoias (sequoiadendron giganteum) are big. Very large. Some folks might say gargantuan. I wouldn’t because I grew up surrounded by coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) and 200′ tall second growth trees just seem normal to me. What giant sequoias are is “girthy”. The old growth monarch trees top out in height around 250′ and then start getting wiiiiiiide. When you walk around them and get winded from the effort, because you just came from sea level to 7000′ of elevation, because it was just that long a walk to get all the around the tree you say “Damn. That’s a big tree.” And then you want to go back to the camp to sit down and have a beer to really appreciate all that majesty.
We stayed in the Grant Grove Village cabins because my Lovely Assistant grew up in Alaska. She had this very important Alaskan wisdom to share with me when I first tried to convince her to go camping 8 years ago which I will paraphrase here:
“Alaskans go hunting and we may build shelter while out in the bush.
Alaskans go fishing and we may build a bivouac near the smoker.
Alaskans go prospecting & logging and we may make a lean-to out on the claim.
Californians come to Alaska to go camping [emphasis for disgust] and are eaten by bears.”
To be fair, she’s got a point but I convinced her of the value of letting me play in the woods because that helps me not go axe happy after being exposed to intense MBA bullshit field over a protracted period. (I believe the unspoken part of the famous John Muir quote is “The mountains are calling and I must go, or I may start shanking people.”) So we came to the understanding that “camping” could happen together if a cabin was involved. Didn’t have to be fancy, but it need to at least give the bear some pause before it tore the door off. Also, I am required to make all food/cooking happen while camping. Which brings us to our next picture, the ideal camping breakfast: a nice stout or porter and Poptarts. You may not agree that this is the best breakfast, but I have learned there’s nothing quite like a nice strong, dark beer as pain reliever for the previous day’s hiking and to get you ready for what’s yet to come. Poptarts, on the other hand, are breakfast that needs no cooking which is important in situations where cookfires may be forbidden (something you used to not find out until you showed up in the park).
The other reason you might want a nice sit down at altitude is because of the air quality up there. I’m not speaking ill of these parks, as they freely admit it with resignation, but Kings Canyon & Sequoia have the worst air quality of all the parks in California. At a vista overlook, there is a side by side picture from that location into the canyon of good & bad air quality days asking how it looks to you today. The prevailing winds off the Pacific blowing eastward run into big goddamn wall of granite called the Sierra Nevada, and Kings Canyon is a low point for things to try to funnel through. This brings us to regulators.
When I first started work in Silicon Valley, one of my many “other duties as necessary” tasks was wrangling our airborne discharge permits with the California Air Resources Board’s local representative, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, AKA BAAQMD (normally, pronounced Back Mad, not to be confused with Strong Mad). My local regulator shared that every AQMD or APCD (Air Pollution Control District) had its own special duties to take care of that reflected the particular local challenges of their district. For example, BAAQMD had the unenviable task of trying to wrangle several large research universities, three national laboratories, and the constantly changing high tech industries. Accordingly, the joke view of BAAQMD was that their purpose was to impede research and development and hold back the progress of humanity itself. Whereas the joke for the San Joaquin Unified APCD’s purpose was to put corks in cow asses and sue the Greater Los Angeles AQMDs into doing their job.
You see, that prevailing wind is blowing everything from Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Fresno, etc. into the park. All the smoke from their wildfires, not that the Sierras lack their own, ends up trapped in the Kings Canyon. That smell of campfire may not be from the your neighbors making smores, it may be the forests ablaze outside Hearst Castle.
Now that I’ve taken the time to tell you what’s wrong with, let me tell you what is best: everything you love about Yosemite with maybe, at most, 1% of the crowds. You want giant trees? Got ’em. Staggeringly beautiful glacier carved granite U-valleys? A+. Waterfalls, canyons trails, giant boulders, and stories about John Muir being a dick? Check, check, check, check, and ohhhh man check.
But now, I must go have all the fun with playing with radiation, making BBotE & steins, and generally getting ready for a trip to Boston with a cross-country train ride home afterward. ADVENTURE!
Let’s begin with the improvement you can’t see or, rather, won’t see anymore. At some point a “helpful upgrade” was done by BigCommerce who provide the architecture and servers for the store side of Funranium Labs. In the course of this upgrade, they managed to break the 3rd party SSL chain and depending on the browser you received a warning letting you know that my store was as suspect as a Moldovan merchant bank and to be avoided at all costs. It took far too long to figure out exactly how they broke it and then longer to determine how to fix it correctly with them. Needless to say, I have received a fresh customer service lesson which I will file away for how to treat others better. If I’ve done everything right, you won’t be getting nasty red flags anymore…at least until the next “upgrade“.
In the near future, I have some travel coming up which is going to make production schedules a little screwy. This weekend, I’m headed up to Portland to celebrate a friend’s birthday, which means for those of you who want go juice for Burning Man BBotE the schedule’s a little tight. Meanwhile, while Burning Man is going on, I will be fleeing to the Sierras to collect two national parks I haven’t been to yet, Kings Canyon & Sequoia. It is very important to give me camping hermitage time or I start getting stabby. And finally, there will be a longer service interruption as I go to Boston on Sept 20th to celebrate the wedding of Test Subjects Vision Science. I will then be fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was 20 or so when my grandma did it and coming home via cross-country Amtrak trip, with a couple stops along the way. The coffee engines will fire up again after that trip on Oct 5th. All that said, I’m not going to turn off ordering, but I’m going to ask your patience as listings may zero out on you and production windows may go longer or shorter than normal as I try to crank as much out as possible.
Now, on to new BBotE offerings and me rambling about history, war, and agronomy.
As previously mentioned, Guatemala Nueva Vinas is being retired until next year when, hopefully, the next crop comes in and is up to snuff. In the meantime, I have identified a Guatemala Antigua that I’ve enjoyed which has an impressive citrus brightness and dark chocolate flavor that, weirdly, reminds me of Pepperidge Farms lemon Milano cookies. My normal tasting crowd ran about a 50/50 split of “Coffee and lemons do not go together” and “Holy shit, this is like that weird Panama you make that tastes like blueberries. Are you gonna make more?” There was a universal opinion that the addition of pretty much any alcohol to it was a winner. Do not take this as a challenge to make BBotE & cynar cocktails.
Lastly, Test Subject Nimby, proprietor of Blackstar Group, recently went on vacation to Puerto Rico and asked if there was anything I’d like him to bring back. I instead sent him on a mission to see if he could find a worthwhile coffee for me to play with. You see, I keep cursing the name of United Fruit because in the course of setting up the banana republics around the world, even in places where they did the least political damage, their market distorting effects destroyed the coffee plantations that had been there for generations, all in the name of bananas & pineapples. After my trip to Hawaii, where I sampled as much coffee as I could stand, I started wondering about the coffee production in the Spanish-American War acquisitions. In Guam, the coffee crops are almost gone, long ago replaced by bananas, importing most of the coffee the consume from Sumatra. In the Philippines, their coffee production never really recovered from an awful blight at the end of the 19th century that, again made bananas look appealing. Production has resumed there, but the Philippines are net importers of coffee by a fair margin and most of their domestic crops are robusta.
Which brings us to Puerto Rico. Coffee production in Puerto Rico never really stopped. It was never as large scale production like Haiti, which supplied a quarter of the world’s supply at one time. Once the filthy Yanqui showed up, the production decreased as work moved to sugar cane instead. Because cane and coffee use very different terrain, the crop transition didn’t destroy the coffee plantations like happened for bananas, so much as them being abandoned or only being used for low key, local production. Once sugar beets displaced sugar cane as the primary source for everyone’s favorite diabetes fuel, they started firing up the the old coffee plantations again.
That said, most of Puerto Rico’s production remains for local consumption. Puerto Rico has struck me with proud, just this side arrogant, pride of place for their their food. Each valley has the best coffee, everyone’s grandma has the best coquito recipe; it’s one of the things I miss about living around lots of Puerto Ricans. The Yaucono that Test Subject Nimby sent me is a dark roast which generally gives me pause. Dark roasts tend to leave very little of the original coffee’s character which is why there’s so few of them as BBotE, I want to actually taste something other than the roast. However, I got a treat every bit as good as my surprise with the Peru Salkanty here, the taste was like the smell of opening a cedar chest and a cup of hot cocoa. Considering Caribbean fun times, I decided to try a rum addition rather than vodka and a 6:2:1 hot water to Yaucono to dark rum mix is a goddamn treat.
Both of these go on the Limited Run line up and I’m happy for it.