Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to Make the Perfect Easy Cup of Coffee

There are a lot of people out there who have reported knowing how to make the perfect cup of coffee, how to perfectly brew your espresso, how to avoid the Starbucks line. In my opinion, most of these people have over-complicated the matter with machinery and manifestos. Today we'll show you how to make a perfect cup to turn your morning from all right to great. And we'll do it for cheap. No buying crazy beans, contraptions or special filters.

Pick Your Beans
Last time you went to the supermarket, I'm willing to bet there were about 50 different bags of coffee to choose from. And so many promises, too. Dark Chocolate, French Vanilla, Italian imports, a few made-up Starbucks terms. And freeze-dried instant? Put that stuff down! You're better than that. You know how coffee smells so wonderful and you think it should taste that way too, only to find it's bland and watery and bitter? Yeah we're going to banish that disappointment. With the right bean, there's no worry. Look for:
  • Whole bean (not pre-ground or instant)
  • Breakfast blend if you like a lighter flavor or a little extra caffeine
  • Espresso or French Roast if you like stronger flavor or less caffeine
  • Fair-Trade/Organic if you can afford it (Costco has a great fair trade espresso for cheap)
Get Your Gear
I'm willing to bet that someone you know has a poor, neglected coffee grinder lying around. Grab it up. If not, you can find them for about $10-$15 brand new. Same goes for a French Press, at about the same price. Lastly you will need either a kettle or a pot to boil water in. Whatever you prefer.


Keep It Clean
We like to say that a lot around here, but in this context it is truly vital. That bitterness and weird oily residue you see in your office coffee cup? That's because someone's not cleaning the electric coffee pot very well. Coffee beans are oily, and in time build up gunk and burn bitterness into every pot made. Don't just rinse off your stuff or throw it in the dishwasher. Scrub it out with a sponge and rinse it with vinegar from time to time. Especially if you got your gear second-hand. Your taste buds will thank you.

Brewing Your Cup
  1. Measure out enough water to fill your french press to the line plus a cup or two more, and put on the stove to boil.
  2. Put in just enough whole beans into your grinder for the pot. The amount varies depending on pot size and individual taste, but start with about 1/3 cup. I do about 2 small handfuls.
  3. You're looking for a "coarse" or "medium" grind for a french press. Fine grind is when the beans are the texture of soft sand, and is usually what you'll find pre-ground at the store. If you get that, you've gone too far. Medium grind looks like small gravel.
  4. Put your ground beans into your press.
  5. Once the water boils, take it off the heat for a few moments. Give it 10 seconds or so for the boiling to stop, then slowly pour the hot water in.
  6. Let the coffee steep for 5 minutes.
  7. Put the top on your french press and slowly press down on the plunger to move all the grounds to the bottom of the pot.
  8. Pour and enjoy!
I like to add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to my coffee, but you can, of course, dress it however you like.

That's it! The simple, no-frills way to brew an amazing cup of coffee. Enjoy your joe, and until next time... Keep it Clean!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Keeping Fruit Flies and Gnats out of Your Home

It's happened to all of us. You bring home a bunch of overripe bananas or overlooked a weird tomato at the grocery store and a few days later you're finding tiny flies everywhere. You may notice one flying past you as you watch an evening TV show, and then start finding them dead in your bathroom sink. Where are they even coming from?!

Unfortunately, you can't completely avoid them coming into your house altogether. But there are some surprisingly easy steps you can take to get rid of them safely and naturally, with items you probably already have in your home.

Clean Your Home
Make sure you've gotten rid of anything that could have brought the bugs in or could still be attracting them. Throw out old food, put your produce in the fridge, wipe down the counters, mop the floors. Make sure there aren't any food spills on the floor or an old piece of fruit that rolled to the back of your fridge. Take out the garbage when you're done. Any homemade food that would normally be left out (yogurt, pickles, vinegar) should be well sealed, covered or moved to the fridge.

Clean Your House Plants
Fruit flies and gnats are difficult to distinguish from each other because they're so small. Though you might have gnats on your fruit, you'll find that they prefer to nest in the soil of your houseplants. You might not even notice the bugs when you water your plants. Go up to a plant, lift the leaves and give them a shake from the bottom. If bugs come out, you know where they're living.

There are a few options for killing gnats and preventing them from living here. One issue is that you may be overwatering your plants. This is especially common in the winter months. Give the plants a week or two to dry out. Gnats like to nest in moist places. If waiting that long is too much for your breed of plant, you can try spreading a layer of sand or coffee grounds on the top layer of soil to repel the gnats.

The easiest way to get rid of gnats on plants is by getting a spray bottle with about a cup of water and adding a tablespoon of dish soap and a teaspoon of vinegar. Stir to mix, then spray the mixture on the soil of the plants. Repeat once or twice a week for a few weeks as needed. You will continue to see flies around your home for a few days while they search for a new place to nest, but when they can't find one they will eventually die off. Continue to spray your plants after the bugs are dead to make sure any leftover eggs or larvae in the plants are gone.

Make a Trap
Traps are pretty simple and easy to make. Just set out a shallow dish of beer with a teaspoon of dish soap mixed in. The smell of the alcohol will attract the flies, and the soap will make them sink to the bottom of the dish. Leave the trap in places where you commonly find the flies-- in the bathroom, by the kitchen sink, etc.

The traps also work well if you shine a light above them. The light attracts the flies when it's dark, just like moths. A desk lamp or a night light both work well. Just set one up next to the trap before you go to bed.

That's it! With a little time and persistence, your home will be a no-fly zone in no time. Until next time, keep it clean!