February 27, 2024

Bahel - A Chimney Rock Ethiopian Restaurant Worth Its Weight in Berbere

 On a recent food group, two Ethiopian restaurants showed up, that I was unfamiliar with. Knowing this would be a great option for a vegetarian friend of mine (note: there ARE plenty of meat dishes), as many Ethiopian vegetarian options really shine.

What a surprise. Bahel is in the building once housed by another Ethiopian place. And back in the day, excepting Lucy and Blue Nile, most Ethiopian places were dark and usually empty during the day if one went for lunch for example (Ethiopians are a late night crowd I believe).

Walking into Bahel one is first greet by a display cabinet of traditional musical instruments and garb. To the right is a wonderful grocery store with spices and cookware ( I picked up a pound of green Ethiopian coffee beans to roast at home). Walking into the dining area, beautifully decorated walls and thick wood tables and chairs. Teff flour in the corner. Berbere chili spice refrigerated to preserve its shelf life (as it should be). Behind the cashier, trimmed goat meats ready for stewing. 

For the two of us, we ordered the $26 12 item vegan sampler. It would have been sufficient for 3-4 people imho, as, we both took a lot home to have for breakfast or snacking later. I held a quarter out in the photo so you could get an idea of just how big this sampler plate is.

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony presentation is available here. You should do it at least once. Coffee tends to be over roasted, thus, not a favorite of mine, being a coffee aficionado.

Highly recommended.

February 2, 2024

Specialty Coffee in Houston - Great Coffee Places in Houston - Many of Which Do Their Own Roasting

Click on the map in order to enlarge it:

1. Here is the actual link to the map so that you can explore it in greater detail:

2. Here is a link to an excellent blogpost by Carrie Colbert on her favorite coffee spots in Houston:

3. There was a terrific show on Houston Public Media with Eric, Gwendolyn and David on their favorite coffee shops. Here is a link to that show. 

February 1, 2024

Coffee - Brewing Coffee - Your How-To Guide

Along with cooking, baking and music, another of my passions is coffee. I have built up an impressive collection of ways to brew coffee in the home. And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

Recently, I loaned a Chemex, Sowden, and some other brewing devices and grinders to a friend who is just starting to take her coffee making to the next level. While putting together some favorite instructional videos for her, I decided it might be fun to create a blog with links to some of these.

Rule of Thumb. I weigh my coffee (medium grind, ground with a burr grinder...blade grinders are okay for spices but not for coffee...in the Chemex video below he is grinding with the Baratza, the same one that I used as my default grinder,  a Baratza Virtuoso Plus until I switched to a Fellow Ode 2) and start out with the SCAA recommendation of a ratio of 16:1, essentially 6 grams of coffee per 100 ml of water, or, 60 grams per liter, 30 grams per 500 ml (I use a very accurate digital scale, the Pearl 
by Acaia, that I treated myself to a few years ago). I boil my water in a Saki Baristan electric kettle that I bought from Amazon. Gooseneck type spout design. 

Water for coffee. Good water is critical to great tasting pour over coffee. You need the right concentration of magnesium, calcium and sodium to make a "slippery" water to extract all the flavor. I often make my own water using formulas from the web. There are lots of recipes there but you need epsom salts, baking soda, distilled water and calcium carbonate and a very good digital scale. But there are some other ways to have better water for your drip coffee. For pour over coffee, Kalita, V60, Chemex, etc. a good mineral profile results in more flavorful coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association has researched and published recommendations for recommended magnesium, calcium, sodium, to aid with extraction and the final flavor profile. There are ways to achieve this. At its simplest, a 50/50 of filtered Houston tap water and distilled water is good. Next up is to add to distilled water a premixed mineral pack such as Third Wave, available from Amazon and other sources. Alternatively, Barista Hustle website has recipes for creating concentrates that can then be added to distilled water. Several bottled waters are acceptable for coffee. But we are now talking plastic and cost. Smart Water is a good one. Crystal Geyser, from their California source, not their Arkansas source is a good one. It comes in 1 gallon sizes and is cost effective once one gets over the guilt of that plastic. But you know, I walk through an HEB and see dozens of people buying cases of bottled water due to some mistaken paranoia that Houston tap water isn't safe, so I just bit the bullet and do it, since I only use it 1 liter at a time for coffee brewing in the morning.

Here is how to test a digital scale that you may be considering. A dollar bill weighs 1 gram. If your scale accurately reads out 1 gram when you drop a dollar bill on it, it's a good one. 

If you want an easier method for making good coffee (but still want more control over your coffee making), consider the immersion method and a Clever coffeemaker. It has a valve that won't release the coffee until you set it on top of your cup or carafe. This allows you to steep your coffee for four minutes before extraction. Currently, I recommend the James Hoffmann YouTube video for the Clever.

Brewing with the Clever Dripper

More Instructional Information:

Improving Your Pour Over Coffee Technique
Pour Over Pour Instructions

One of the most popular pour over units is the Hario V60. Personally, my first choice is the Kalita, followed by Chemex. The Kalita has a flat bed.

James Hoffman's Technique for the Hario V60 (Recommended)

The Scott Rao Hario V-60 - The "Rao Spin" (Read This First)
Hario V-60 Instructions and the Rao Spin

(Chemex Video : Baratza setting 18.      24 grams of coffee.    400 ml water)

Seattle Coffee's Guide to Pour Over Methods

Seattle Coffee - Chemex

Stumptown Coffee - Chemex

Kalita versus Hario versus Chemex

My Kitchen in my Home:

My new, beloved, Acaia digital scale (awesome). Bluetooth. Programmable. iPhone app. 
My current electric kettle, though, is a Saki Baristan from Amazon. Recommended.

The Hario product line (V60), et. al. I go to 2nd hand stores a lot and recently found a V60 carafe and filter at the Goodwill on 20th for only $8! You never know where you will find something good!

(More coffee making photos for your viewing pleasure)