Jym's Coffee Page

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I love coffee. I especially love it when it's got a dark, oily roast and is made into espresso. Put me in front of an espresso machine -- maybe even a cheap one -- and I'll make a fantastic mocha. I studied at the feet of the master (who is known as Cynthia, The Goddess Of Mocha).

Speed is key: let water run through it too long and you're diluting the flavor. In fact, I prefer it ristretto, made using half the water! (A note to all you coffee people and "barristas:" you are not doing us a favor by running extra water through to give us "more." Please the Gods of Water and conserve it. The Gods of Espresso will be pleased as well.)

Roasting is also key: many worthy beans are needlessly sacrificed to the Gods of Fire (perhaps due to some confusion with the fiery-haired Goddess of Mocha?).

Thanksgiving Coffee is not only a pioneer of the fair trade organic coffee movement, but also a most excellent coffee roaster. I especially like their End The Embargo dark roast. Their coffee is freshest in Northern California, but they ship nationwide. Local to the Bay Area, there's Blue Bottle Coffee, a fair trade organic coffee microroaster that makes fantastic coffee in small batches and will only sell it within 48 hours of roasting.

In the middle of the country, there's Just Coffee, especially their "Revolution Roast." (Gee, two of my favorite coffees are revolution-themed. Go figure.) Further east, there's Gorilla Coffee, which is Brooklyn-roasted, just like me! Also of note is a really strong roast of Nicaraguan coffee, provided by Equal Exchange, based in New England. My love of coffee started with drinking this at activists events in support of independence movements in Latin America.

I'm very displeased with the conditions under which most coffee is grown and harvested, so I make the effort to patronize ethical businesses which deal with organic, environmentally-sound coffee-growing cooperatives in developing nations. All of the above do this, so I don't have to suffer to get a good roast!


Starbucked? The small neighborhood coffeehouses are the best. There are plenty of them in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Cambridge (Massachusetts). I steer clear of the poseur hangouts, where people dressed in black subject you to their clove cigarette smoke until your lungs bleed.

My favorite one in San Francisco is Bean There, on the corner of Waller and Steiner. Okay brew, and they're bicycle-friendly. Another winner is Muddy's, at several locations around the city. Farley's, on Potrero Hill, sells some fantastic dark Sumatran roast beans, but they don't use it for the espresso they serve. In the East Bay, I like Royal Grounds and Uncommon Grounds. On the East Coast, all I can recommend is Gorilla Coffee. There aren't any places at all that brew a good dark, oily, organic roast as well as I do, though.

Well, How Do You Brew It?

I thought you'd never ask.

Francis Francis espresso machine at work.
Not ristretto.
I have two favorite blends going. The darker blend is Thanksgiving's "End The Embargo" blend of dark-roasted Arabica beans, to which I'll occasionally I'll also throw in a few of Thanksgiving's "Pony Express High Caffeine" dark-roasted Robusta beans, for a bit of contrast. The lighter blend, which I'll only attempt with a good enough espresso machine, starts with beans from Blue Bottle. I've had great success with their Espresso Temescal and have more recently flipped over their Retrofit Roast.

I always grind the beans immediately before brewing.

As mentioned above, I like it ristretto. Supposedly that's grinding enough beans for a 2oz cup of espresso, but making only 1oz with it. I don't trust most coffeehouses to make any drinks doppio ("double"), because they tend to dilute it. What I do could be called making it doppio ristretto, because I grind enough for a 4oz cup and make 2oz of espresso with it.

If possible, I make it right into the glass or porcelain cup that I'll be drinking out of. I don't want the flavorful oils, especially those in the crema, to stick to the sides of any sort of intervening container. Paper cups are horrendous, not only for ecological reasons, but because they absorb the most flavorful part! (Polystyrene cups are even worse, because they pollute your coffee and your planet with really foul chemicals.)

Voilà, the perfect cup of espresso!

Espresso in double-walled glass.
Not a mocha.
My drink of choice, though, is the mocha. I love getting that combination of caffeine and theobromine (a word that's derived from "food of the gods"). The usual way of making a mocha in the U.S. is to brew some espresso and pour some frothed chocolate milk onto it. The Goddess of Mocha, however, taught me to carefully prepare the chocolate milk and then pour the espresso into it.

Cynthia's mochas are made with Ghirardelli ground chocolate, and are sweet. Sometimes I make them that way, but more often I'll make a classic, European-style mocha, with dark, bitter chocolate. When I can get it, I use the darkest powder from Cacao et Choclat, in Paris. Mmmm ...

Cow's milk and I don't get along very well, so I use soymilk. Wildwood chocolate soymilk is very good, and made fresh right here in the Bay Area. Sometimes I add more bitter cocoa to it. Amongst the brands available nationwide, Westsoy's organic soymilk tastes and froths the best, and is available unsweetened, which is a great mix with bitter chocolate and coffee.

Helpful Hints

Before El Goog came along, AltaVista was the leading search engine. I used it for a "vanity search" on my own name, and apparently most of the matches had something to do with coffee. In those days, AltaVista liked to provide helpful hints, and the helpful hint for a search on my name looked something like this:

AltaVista Recommends:
· Drinks & Drinking > Coffee
· Beverages > Coffee

I haven't actually written a whole lot about coffee on the web, but some of my coffee-related advice ended up in an older version of the Coffee and Caffeine FAQ, which many people have made webbified copies of. Some of my tips for making espresso are in this FAQ without my name on them, while somebody else's tips on making cappuccino do have my name on them. Oh well ...

There's an entirely different Jym who does "Coffee Comics" for AllCoffee.net. That oughta confuse the search engines.

A True Story

Café Lug I was at work, frantically going about my business when suddenly I knew that I absolutely needed to have a mocha. Alas, it was late in the day, Uncommon Grounds was no longer open, and I would not be able to have a Cynthia mocha.

I walked over to only other place that sold espresso, a sandwich shop. I noticed a truck driver who had just pulled off the Interstate and parked a big rig in a preposterous location. The driver rushed to the sandwich shop ahead of me.

I went inside and got in line behind the truck driver, and there were five other people in line ahead of us. One after another, these five people each ordered a mocha.

The truck driver was clearly a fish out of water. He looked long and hard at the menu, while I stood there, jonesin' for my mocha. Finally he placed his order: one cup of coffee and one hot chocolate.

He got it. I got my mocha. And the next three customers who came into the store ordered mochas as well. The people at the sandwich shop really started to freak out. I think we were all just heeding the irresistable call of the twin Goddesses of Caffeine and Cocoa.

Related Links

  • Blue Bottle Coffee
  • Thanksgiving Coffee
  • Thanksgiving's End The EmbargoTM Coffee
  • Just Coffee
  • Gorilla Coffee
  • Equal Exchange
  • The latest Coffee and Caffeine FAQ.

  • "Diane, last night I dreamed I was eating a large, tasteless gumdrop, and awoke to discover I was chewing on one of my foam disposable earplugs. Perhaps I should consider moderating my nighttime coffee consumption."
        -- Agent Cooper