illy offering gifts with their subscription coffee bean deliveries

I received a fun bit of postal mail this weekend. A postal from illy (love their “live happ-illy”).

illy subscription

For the past year, I have been receiving a bag of beans every few weeks from the folks at Tonx. I have mentioned before there are many options for subscription bean delivery but it is always hard to know what you will get. Tonx offers an unknown, as they send the latest they find. For those not wanting to live on the edge, illy might be a solution to having great beans or capsules and pods delivered right to your door where you will know in advance what will be arriving.

The  card in the mailer offered three different cup/mug options to enjoy at no charge as a complimentary addition to subscription. Then, different coffee delivery types divided into Medium, Dark and Decaf roasts. Finally, how often the delivery should be every: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 weeks.

With coffee shops on every other corner and many major grocery stores offering ‘fresh’ bean selections, why would anyone have beans delivered to their house? I for one, always buzz right by the coffee shop every morning, only stopping the day I ran out of beans. If this is a problem you have too, illy offers the same subscriptions via their Web site as they sent on the post card: illyusa.com/discover913

illy subscription page


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You can still have a cup of coffee when there is no coffee maker available!

Coffee drinkers can be faced with challenges to get a cup of coffee at times. Generally, there is an espresso shot provider on every other city block corner. Being in the woods, camping, can present some challenges though. When the need arrises, the only real mountain to climb is the hot water part of the coffee. The rest is just an opportunity to be creative. For me, spending the night at a friend’s house that doesn’t drink coffee is more of a reality. Sure, it’s hard to believe that I hang out with anyone that doesn’t know their way around an espresso machine, but I never think to ask when forming friendships.

I used to carry a little hand-pump pressure coffee maker, but found I most often didn’t need it. Now, just a bag of the latest fun beans are packed in the luggage. The biggest hurdle is hot water. So, when at someone’s house, the rest is no problem… well, not as impossible like when there is no hot water. This all came top-of-mind today when Tonx mentioned they had a fun infographic about this exact challenge… how to make coffee when there is no coffee maker available!

Remember Tonx? The subscription coffee bean company that brings our household beans from all over the world. Thus, we have hand picked flavors from around the world, helping to expand our enjoyment of beans from places we may not have otherwise thought of visiting.

The infographic is part of the Tonx Coffee Hacks contest. I have not seen the other entries, but this one really hits home. There are a lot of options once you look around to get beans into grounds as well many ways to filter the goodness from the grinds into you cup. The infographic will be a handy reminder of some options when realizing your ‘friends’ doesn’t share all of your likes.

(more…)


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Starbucks Espresso Christmas Blend – Did we enjoy it or should we pass this year?

Throughout our travels we find we drink a lot of coffee from many different places. Every place has a preferred bean or drink or mix of drinks that the locals feel is better than the rest. It may just be because the locals love the owners which can have a lasting effect on a cup of coffee’s taste. Others have beans they mix to their own special family recipe, though we always wonder how many generations has been importing beans from a particular mountain’s growing fields. No matter the reason for the provider’s labeling of their signature drink, it is important to remember a few key fact because we may be coming back this way in the future. There is nothing worse than settling down for a relaxing cappuccino to remember the second sip in why you didn’t enjoy the drink last time.

Being a self labeled ‘geek’ family, we turned to our mobile devices and set up a little database to track what was good and what was not. Using a simple app, Bento, we are able to make quick notations about the location and what we liked and didn’t like. The next time through, a quick search reminds us if we should grab the special or make an excuse for the daily grind. Using this solution does mean we are dealing with basic pull downs and boxes for entry, with very little effort we were able to sync across all of the family mobile devices so the knowledge is shared.

When talking about the Starbucks ‘Espresso’ Christmas Blend in this mornings espresso, we thought about the need for something a bit more ‘nice to look at’ and graphical that anyone could just load and use. A quick search and we found Coffee Cellar. An app for the iPone and iPad that lets you quickly name a drink, assign an icon to remember the drink by later and then rate via sliders what your tasting results where. Currently there isn’t any way to note a location so the app is really best to use with beans you bought and are using at home. Maybe it will work with something like the FourSquare app in the future. We do like how fast it is to rate a drink then find it later though.

Back to Starbucks Espresso Christmas Blend – this is different from their normal holiday red bag Christmas Blend, most noticeable by it’s purple bag. The beans? A strong smell from the grinder let us know this wasn’t a coffee bean, and it is truly a espresso mix. The taste is not bitter, though there is a burnt taste that lingers after drinking in the back of our mouths. Not a bad experience at all, but much different from the year round Starbucks Espresso coffee option. Very enjoyable as a seasonal treat, though marked in our log as not an every day drink. We like to keep the unique spoils of particular blends for an occasion rather otherwise we might be setting our standards too high for the small stand on the corner and their great grandmother’s secret bean mix.


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Storage of Roasted Coffee Beans to Maximize Flavor

The thing that makes espresso unique amongst all coffee brewing methods is its use of CO2 in the extraction process. Under the conditions of temperature and pressure encountered in pulling a shot, the CO2 from the coffee dissolves in the water forming carbonic acid which lowers the pH (acidity) of the water. This in turn affects the relative solubility of the hundreds of components that reside in the coffee grounds and it changes the profile of the compounds that are extracted. As the extract starts to pour from the basket and it returns to ambient pressure, the dissolved CO2 boils off and creates that honey-like crema which lets us know that we are in the sweet spot. Not too different from popping the cork on a fine bottle of champagne!

Bob Barraza wrote much more on the subject… very enlightening on the subject of getting the biggest bang out of your beans… and pocketbook.

Coffee beans on brown background.

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Blend beans for the perfect Espresso

From my youngest days, I remember going to a roasting spot with my folks. We would have to make a special trip to a little building just on the other side of town. It was on a main road, yet you could easily miss the whole building. It was small brown wood sided building. Up the few steps and through the front door, you were greeted with an aroma that was smooth yet bold. The first thing you saw inside was a counter that went from the front of the store to the back. Under the counter was many small square glass faced cube containers of beans. Every bean was brown, but not all the same shade of brown.

What made this the place for the insiders to visit was that you weren’t buying coffee of a particular type, grower, or from a place in the world. They mixed beans from multiple locations to come up with unique flavors. Every time my parents went in, the Roaster would come out with a new brew he had come up with.

These experiences gave me a different view on what made a great espresso. The actual cost of buying small quantities of beans and mixing is relatively small so it’s a bit of fun anyone can enjoy. Till I get time to post up my logs, visit this article on Coffee Blending to get started – we’ll catch up later on your successes mixes.

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