Discussing N’awlins Style BBotE Again

One of the reasons I make these posts here is so that I can have them handy to go reference later when my faculties are failing me.  So, when someone asked me again if I could make a N’awlins-style chicory BBotE I said to myself, “Aha!  You’ve already answered this one.  Email the link, you’re home free and it’s martini time.”  Alas, when I went hunting I discovered that the post disappeared into the black hole of server migration.  So, here it is again with entirely new words and a couple months extra thinking.

As you may or may not be aware, the chicory referred to in N’awlins coffee is a roasted root of the endive family that has little or nothing to do with coffee beans and has no caffeine.  So, why would you ever use it?  Answer: it tastes somewhat like coffee with an interesting “rooty” flavor when roasted.  That’s nice, but why would use it instead of coffee?  Answer: because sometimes you don’t have any coffee.

In times of deprivation, usually war and/or winter in Europe, something had to be done to bulk out the coffee supplies until fresh shipments arrived from abroad.  The Napoleonic Wars and the decade following the Year Without A Summer were a grim time to be a coffee drinker; luckily chicory does relatively well with cold and weak sunlight.  Or as a merchant you could increase your inventory by “stepping on” your coffee with chicory, to use the heroin and cocaine parlance.

Of course, coffee had always been something of a luxury that the poor of the 17th, 18th & 19th century never really had.   Chicory had the advantage of being more readily soluble in water which meant you could get more the roasted “coffee” flavor with less raw material than coffee required.  Make fun of the third world if you like, but as home to the former colonial coffee plantations their inhabitants were enjoying a better and purer coffee than what got sent home to their imperial overlords.  Assuming of course they didn’t lose a limb or get flogged for trying coffee rather than shipping it (SEE ALSO: pre-revolution Haiti and very similar blood diamond practices). Taken from this point of view, coffee mixed with chicory very likely was the normal flavor of coffee for most of the western world as recently as World War One and saw a resurgence during the Great Depression.  Of course, New Orleans had always been making their morning brew this way as they stayed close to their chronically short-of-coffee French roots (yes, I should be summarily shot for that pun).

Anyway, when asked if I’d be willing to try a N’awlins the first time I gave it a bit of a think and decided to learn a bit more about chicory.  If anything, making BBotE has been an education in the pharmacopoeia of coffee, highlighting the presence of things other than caffeine in the coffee bean and suggesting that I might be doing a preferential extraction of the chemicals present.  The very first thing I ran across was that the a category of pharmaceutical effect I’d never heard of for several of the extracted oils: emmenagogue – promotes or stimulates menstration; in high doses can function as an abortifact.

In light of this discovery, N’awlins BBotE seems like a Terrible Bad No Good Idea for half of the human race, especially if the extraction of those chicory oils is anywhere near as efficient as the pull for caffeine seems to be.

Sometimes the best science is the bit you don’t do.

BBotE Experimentation – Caffe Vita’s Guatemala Mundo Nuvo

Following Test Subject Zitron’s ebullient article on the Huffington Post, I received a flurry of emails.  Some of them were not offers for male enhancement.  One was from the nice folks at Caffe Vita who asked if I was interested in experimenting with their wares and if I would be so kind as to share the results with the world.

As if you could stop me from doing so.  Much to Funranium Mom’s despair, and now my Lovely Assistant, it is nigh impossible to shut me up when there is something I am itching to share.  And oh my, is there a scratch…

I felt the best approach for comparison was to ask for a region I’d already tested extensively from a variety of farms, roasters, and roasts (Ethiopia) and for something that they were proud of, something that got them excited.  This is akin to how I test new bartenders; I will ask for a drink that I love and make extremely well myself (the exquisite Manhattan) and then I will ask them to “show me their moves” as Dance Dance Revolution says.  I judge by my standard and then I prepare to be wowed by their standard.  Caffe Vita did not disappoint, providing a statistically significant quantity of their Ethiopia Nigusie Lemma and Guatemala Mundo Nuvo (no link available).

A Bounty Of Caffe Vita Coffee

A Bounty Of Caffe Vita Coffee

The challenge is to catch everything that was observed in this coffee’s BBotE.  The overwhelming consensus is that, regardless of form (hot & dilute, straight & cold, or mixed with vodka), toffee/chocolate is the dominating flavor but far from the only one.

And while the consensus of was chocolatey delight for flavor, the smell that stuck me most dramatically was that of pipe tobacco.  As a child, I used to love stealing my great-grandfather tobacco pouch and smelling it.  During extraction, I was instantly transported back to the that pouch with the Southern Railway logo.  To others, the nose was generally found to be a bitey toffee aroma.  And I quote, “A pleasant piquancy you never get off a Christmas toffee”.  Yes, someone has spent too much time pretending to be a Victorian toff, so forgive him.

As a hot water dilution, I found a similar martini-like dry sensation to other Guatemalans I’ve tested but only on the front sides of the tongue, which played well with the rich butter pecan flavor.  On the exhale, it was strangely floral.  As a son of the Great State of Florida this could just be my flower programming, but I swear it was hibiscus.

Straight and cold BBotE, as stated before, varying degrees of chocolate were claimed by the tasters with a creaminess familiar from the coating fats of the Ethiopia & Colombia Finca Yara tests of yore.  It tasted decidedly sweet and salty milk chocolate to me with a nice earthy/buttery coating character.  One claim was made for shortbread, calling to the creamy buttery flavor, and we could see that.  A nutty/fruity note was also claimed, though those claims were all over the map of stone fruits.  I was inclined toward apricots, but that pecan was strong.  Such is the challenge with the experiential flavor reference library of the mind trying to put words to flavors.

By far the most interesting response was from Test Subject James’ jalapeno sullied palate.  And I quote, “Briny, canned tuna…but sweet with chocolate.  I like it!”  I think there may be a future for hard chocolate shell encapsulated sashimi.  Foster’s Freeze and Starkist should get together it seems…

When combined with vodka for the customary test of alcohol opening, the typical increase in sweetness was observed in the BBotE but with a muting of the pleasant piquant bite.  Otherwise, no significant change flavor just a lengthening the the duration of aftertaste.

Because I can’t leave well enough alone and thought the flavor complex enough that something interesting might happen, I mixed a modicum of the Mundo Nuvo BBotE into a glass of absinthe over ice.  It became “annis Oreos”.  Chocolate, creamy, pricking of of the previously stated piquancy, a subtle absinthe bite and coolness.  Very enjoyable.

Another batch is running now to check for reproducibility of flavor.

Next: Caffe Vita’s Ethiopia Nigusie Lemma

Oh, Canada.

A great hue and cry has been rising up from the northlands, primarily from Vancouver and Toronto, with honorable mention to Calgary and Halifax, asking the following:

“WHY DOES IT COST SO MUCH TO SHIP TO CANADA?  WE’RE RIGHT NEXT TO AMERICA!!!”

Some of you used very colorful metaphors, explicatives, imperatives, and biological impossibilities.  I understand people getting emotional about BBotE and Steins of Science, I really do, but I’m glad Funranium Mom has not been giving the task of mail reader.  She has a delicate constitution and can’t take such maple crazed imagery.  Strangely, a similar declaration of vexation has not come from Mexico and the Caribbean.  Go figure.

It is the same answer as why it is so expensive for everywhere else in the world: Customs and, in the case of BBotE, perishability.

As far as the United States Postal Service is concerned, London, Ontario is no different than London, England.  They only really start getting concerned when I ask them to ship something with tracking and insurance to the dark heart of Africa (quote: “3-5 days?  To Kinshasa?!?! You gotta be kidding me.”)  Slower shipping works for the steins, but BBotE must go global express to get to you in a timely manner.  And no, UPS and FedEx are decidedly not cheaper.

So, what is a Canuck in need to do?  Speaking from my experience taking several liters of delicious alcohol and BBotE to Australia and New Zealand, evidence suggests that Immigration & Quarantine officers are somewhat uninterested in bottles of hypercoffee, though they are very concerned by sausages.

Step 1 – Make a friend in an American border town.

Step 2 – Have said friend purchase delights on your behalf.

Step 3 – Come to America and pay said friend for their trouble.  I also suggest buying them a beer.

Step 4 – Return home where the beavers and bison frolic freely.

In so doing, you are reversing the Bronfman Montreal liquor trade from the Prohibition Era but with caffeine.  Really, it’s only fair.

I Don’t Even Like To Think About It

And I apologize for broaching the topic before the high holy days of the Halloween/Birthday-tide season have passed, but *INSERT WINTER HOLIDAY CELEBRATION OF CHOICE* here is approaching.  Talking to the people I was taking money from while playing poker on Tuesday, they made the black cold dread of the imminent holiday shopping creep up my spine.

For Black Blood of the Earth, the concern is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that I am not running at the full 6L/day production capacity right now.  I can accommodate some ridiculous coffee demands (although I might make some local roasters upset/happy by rapidly depleting their supplies) but eventually, like Scotty, I’ll be givin’ ‘er all I’ve got, Cap’n.  If it gets to that point, I will start snapping some purchasing limits down on the BBotE to make sure that I can meet the production in a timely manner.  If you know that you are going to want a large quantity of BBotE, let me know ASAP so I can plan the schedule (hyper-caffeinated holiday parties have to be at least as fun as hep’d up weddings).

For Steins of Science, I normally quote a three week production lead time with first-com first-serve as I build to meet demand, following a good Just-In-Time inventory model.  In slow times, I tend to get steins out within the week they are ordered and I have only overrun the three week estimate once.  Of course, anyone who has worked a Kanban production line can let you know exactly how fun it gets when the supply lines don’t run right.  I have some concerns about a December rush, so I definitely recommend doing steins sooner rather than later just in case.

There, now the cold black dread has been transferred from me to all of you.  I’m gonna go hide under my desk again now if you don’t mind.

Announcing Brad, BBotE Pimp of Greater Santa Barbara

Mr. Brad Hubbard, the humble soul responsible for the current fourth iteration of this website, has declared his undying devotion to the Black Blood, held the sword & rope in judgment among his brethren & sistren, and not been found wanting.  In so doing, he has been anointed Pimp of Greater Santa Barbara with all rights, duties, privileges, and cocktails incumbent thereon.  His measurements will be available in the 2012 Funranium Labs centerfold spread and he shall have his first case of 750ml bottles available for local distribution this Friday if the winds are true.

You may contact him to arrange your fix by emailing: bbote [at] bradhubbard [dot] net

Goleta, represent!

How To Refill & Congratulations Are In Order

For the second time, St. George Spirits has achieved MAXIMUM HONOR.  If you have ever gone for a tasting and wondered why the staff seems to vibrate through walls, this is why:

MAXIMUM HONOR, Bottle 2

MAXIMUM HONOR, achieved over the span of 5 months

If you too would like to achieve GREAT HONOR, refills are relatively easy to do.  You just have to do the following things:

  1. Rinse out your bottle.
  2. Put your name somewhere on the label in permanent marker.
  3. Put the bottle back in the shipper it was sent to you in and return it to my address on the box.  While I sent it out to you with fast shipping, there is no need for the empty bottle to come back with any speed.
  4. Send an email to let me know to expect it.  In return, I will send you a 10% off coupon code to purchase your refill of BBotE as I would like to promote the re-use of the bottles.
  5. Wait impatiently, staring at your mailbox and harassing you postal carrier, repeatedly asking, “Is it here yet?  How ’bout now?”

But I hear the head scratching from the folks who purchased their bottles from your local BBotE Pimps or Pimpstresses as you wonder how you can get refills too.  ‘Tis easy.  Do Steps 1 & 2, but return your bottle to your respective Pimp/Pimpstress as they will be sending an empty Case O’ Caffeination back to me.  When the case returns, your refilled bottle will be in there.

Even More Q&A

Okay, you all are mail-bombing me and it is fantastic.  I love me some “Ask Dr. Science” action while wielding a delicious cocktail.  Bringing it on thusly:

Question 1: So, of the different Steins of Science, which one is best?  These things are expensive and I want to get the best one.

Answer: This is like going to the slave market and asking a mother which of her children will provide good value for money. But, if I were going to judge strictly on beverage temperature stability I’d have to say that the 1000ml is your best performer.  The cryostat properties are primarily a function of the ratio of vessel volume to liquid surface area exposed to air.

Let’s get numerical and create a “Beer Coldness Number” for the steins, AKA the volume to exposed surface area ratio, where lower is better: 350ml = 10.996, 665ml = 5.787, 1000ml = 3.848, 1900ml = 5.952, and 4300ml = 3.735.

Of the five, the 4300ml monster actually has the least exposed surface area for the liquid volume…but I somewhat doubt you’ll be wandering into a bar with the 4300ml.  The 1000ml stein is a more reasonable size to confront the average bartender with and the 4300ml is only a marginal improvement in relative performance.

Which brings us to our next question…

Question 2: Will bartenders really serve me in these steins?

Answer: Mainly depends on how awesome your bartender is and if the place suffers from a bad case of computers.  I find that the 665ml tends to be the most readily accepted size in my bar wanderings.

More seriously, most bar order tracking software has only been programmed to cope with pints & halves.  Outside of German restaurants and the nation of Germany proper, the computer probably isn’t programmed to cope with 1000ml servings.  Getting served with the half (350ml) and the imperial pint sized stein (665ml) hasn’t been a problem outside of Australia so far.  Bars without newfangled order tracking systems tend to be more loose and free with what they’re willing to serve in, although they are welcome to be similarly loose and free with the price they charge you (I’m looking at you, England).

Now, the tricky part is does your stein fit under their taps?  Shockingly, this has been a problem with the 1000ml at some places. To the best of my knowledge, no one has tried to take a 4300ml into a bar…

Oh, protip, some places will try to do a favor and stick your stein in the dishwasher to clean it.  DON’T let them do this.  Just water rinse.

Further Q&A, with Herr Direktor Funranium

Hello everybody.  Since last we spoke more questions have rolled in and BBotE & Steins of Science have rolled out to new countries.  Without further ado, your paraphrased & consolidated questions and my answers:

Question 1: “I saw what *INSERT PERSONAGE OF FANBOY ADORATION HERE* said about your stuff.  Can you introduce me to them?”

No, I can’t.  Honestly, awesome people are, first and foremost, people.  The best thing to do in order to get to know people is to say hello to them.  This is how I got to talking to them.  Being a nutter doing crazy things with scientific apparatus and alcohol helped in my case, but it is just as likely to chase people away too (trust me).  So, if they’ve made a publicly available way to contact them, drop them a line.  The worst that can happen is that they ignore you as you fall into the shuffle of several other thousand people vigorously waving their hands for attention too.

Question 2: “I really love *INSERT VARIETAL OF COFFEE HERE*.  Have you tried it as a Black Blood of the Earth yet?”

Answer: Go digging back through the Coffee News archive and you can see the trials so far that I’ve committed to the permanent record.  Not all BBotEs have been resounding successes which is why the five that are available are the ones they are.  Beyond being delicious, the coffee has to yield a replicable BBotE, which is sometimes tricky with light and medium roasts.  I will generally try a given varietal or roast two or three times from a couple different sources before I truly fire it.  Sulawesi and most any french roast have proven to be Not Good with BBotE processing.

Question 3: “I’ve got a liquid nitrogen dewar here in the lab.  It looks like all you did was slap a handle on one and I can do that myself.  Did you know that there are cheap dewars available on eBay?”

Answer: Okay, here’s where you guys tempt me back to my day job safety professional role.  There is a reason I use new dewars to build the Steins of Science, namely you have no idea where a used dewar has been and what has been done in it and/or around it. But I hear you thinking, “This dewar is in my lab.  I bought it.  I know exactly what I’ve done with it and all it has ever held is liquid nitrogen.”  To which I can only say, “Are you sure?”

Benchtop dewars are normally used to dip a piece of glassware known as a cold tip into the liquid nitrogen to help with extraction processes while doing chemistry (yes, I know that is a vague and unspecific explanation).  The problem is that sometimes these cold tips break and then whatever chemistry you were doing is now in your dewar along with the liquid nitrogen.  Liquid nitrogen is inert; your now failed bit of chemistry that was in the cold tip may not be.  There is also the fact that dewars tend to get stored under fume hood, sinks, and other generally low places where things can get into them from work above.

Sure, you can do some very thorough chemical cleaning to make it safe again but, really, no thank you.  I’ll take a new dewar, thanks.

Also, just putting a handle on is not quite as easy as it sounds.  Doing it without causing shrapnel as you are holding the dewar is the challenge.

Question 4: “Where is the Scientific Drinking World Tour going to next?”

Answer: Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest.  There’s no planned travel on the docket until my birthday in early November and that’s not likely to go further than South Lake Tahoe, CA or Reno, NV.  Otherwise, I ‘ll be doing my usual puttering around the SF Bay Area with the occasional side trip to Monterey & Santa Cruz.  There is a slim chance that I will be going to Fairbanks, AK next June or possibly upstate NY.  I find planning more than 48hrs into the future seems to be difficult these days, so who knows.

Question 5: “What the deal with St. George Spirits showing up all the time?  Do you work there or something?”

Answer: No, I don’t work there but there are days that I wish I did.  To me, it is the happiest place on Earth.  Imagine, if you will, people that get to do all the fun I do but scaled up by four orders of magnitude…WITH ALCOHOL.  The folks there have a definite appreciation for improving life with More Awesome.

More importantly, the employees of the distillery and more than a few of their customers have extremely well refined palates.  They are my favorite guinea pigs.  I know that if a BBotE can pass their review, I’ve made something worthwhile.  In particular, without a few not-so-gentle swift kicks from Andie Ferman there wouldn’t be a Funranium Labs.  She rather insisted that I share with the world.

Alright.  The Final Countdown has tolled in the office, which means it is time to head to the bar.  Take care, Internet.