Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Full of Magic Brew

In a recent conversation I was asked about how people prepare coffee in my region. After quite a long answer, I decided to write a few lines on the blog about this. I am specifying "a few lines" because there were written thousands of pages on the subject, and there are so many ways and techniques to prepare coffee that a simple blog post will not be able to comprise all of them. The title of this post was proposed by my conversation partner from NYC.
I've started to drink coffee many years ago, and I was aware about the coffee drinking habit since I was a child. My grandparents (may them rest in peace!) slowly drank their coffee, and they seems to really enjoy drinking it. It was some sort of pleasure for them. And they were talking about "big men" issues (at least I thought so at my little age).

At that young age, my grandfather used to take me to buy coffee beans from a coffee shop downtown, placed at the corner of Dimitrie Cantemir and Traian streets. We were going there by car; he owned a Dacia 1100 (Renault 8). I remember that over the entrance, the shop had some sort of minaret tower decorated atop with the crescent moon and the star (as Turkish symbols). Nowadays there's only an orange cover and a banner holding a shop name. And the building facade looks awful.
The former coffee shop was located at the ground floor of this building, with the entrance on the corner.
On the counter were two similar metallic towers decorations, and behind them were the coffee grinders. Every time my grandfather used to buy only 100 grams of coffee beans at the price of 11 lei (Romanian currency). He explained to me that if he would buy more, the coffee would lose its aroma, not necessarily the taste, but its aroma, its flavor! After weighing the coffee beans, the seller grind it, and packed it in a light brown paper bag.
Back home with the small coffee bag! He took a kettle sized according to the number of cups of coffee to prepare. For every cup, he pour a cup of water (approx. 100 ml) in the kettle. Then he filled a teaspoon with ground coffee and pour it in the water (one teaspoonful for each cup of water). He put then the kettle on the stove and turned on the gas on the lowest position of the flame. The fire slowly heated the water so it could absorb the entire strength and aroma from those tiny coffee particles. When the water boiled for the first time, and the level of the boiling liquid started to raise into the kettle, he removed it from the fire, leave it for a couple of seconds to calm down. In each cup of coffee, he put a teaspoonful of the cream (caimac in Romanian) formed on top of the magic liquid. Then he put it back over the burning flames. After the second raise of the brewed coffee, he turned off the gas. A few drops of cold water were poured over the hot liquid inside the kettle in order to clear the brewed coffee of the particles remained in suspension. The coffee is now ready to be poured in the coffee cups. After this final operation, sugar is added to taste. A cigarette seemed to be a must among the adults while they are enjoying the steaming coffee.
As a parenthesis, I would like to insert some info about the coffee grinders.

Sometimes the coffee beans were grind at home using, of course, a coffee grinder. There are manual grinders and electrical grinders. In my collection I have one French and two Turkish genuine coffee grinders. I couldn't help myself to buy a couple of years ago, a brand new one with almost the very same design of the French one.
The French coffee grinder was made by Goldenberg & Cie, a tool manufacturing company. This company was started by Gustave Goldenberg, who built his first factory at Dorlisheim back in 1835, then another one in Zornhof près (near) Saverne in 1837, both in Alsace, France. After a few changes during the years, the company was purchased in 1986 by the British arm of Stanley.
Considering the information provided by a Fine Woodworking forum member, Charles R. Smith MD (crsmith), in one of his comprehensive history of Goldenberg et Cie, I believe that this coffee grinder was manufactured prior to 1870.
The Turkish ones have a similar design and decorations. In addition, one of them has inscribed the year 1924.
Many years after, I saw an interview with the Turkish owner of Ada Kaleh cafe in my town. A few detail have drawn my attention, and I want to share them here in order to complete the above description.

The Kettle must be made of copper. And the shape of its bottom must be conically shaped.
The stove is the closest replacement for a tray with hot sand. The kettle should be placed in hot sand in order to obtained the best brew! The flame should burn at its lowest intensity. It will be a long process, but you will get the best taste! A tray of sand would bring the process closer to the original, even when using a stove!
Don't put the coffee in water after the water is boiled! Put it right after the water was poured in the kettle! You don't want a tea infusion using coffee instead of tea: you want coffee!
Don't let the water boil more than two times!
If the coffee is too strong, next time you can either reduce the amount of coffee, or increase the quantity of water!

All the above information were confirmed by a very small tab on the back of a 100 grams coffee pack, containing a brief translation of the best way to prepare Turkish coffee.

Since I am drinking coffee, this is the way I am preparing it at home!
For now this is just the text. As soon as I'll be in the proper mood to take some appropriate photos of this process, I'll insert them within the text! (Edit: some of them are already added! Stay close for more!)

Prepare your coffee with this method, and let me know if you like it!
Don't worry it won't take as much as it took me to describe it here!

To enjoy it even more, turn on your favorite music! You might want to listen to it using an assorted pair of custom "coffee speakers"!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

DIY Coffee Speakers 2.0

A while ago a pair of 3.6 Watts PC speakers 2.0 used to occupy the already crowded shelves on my shed. So they either had to be removed or get new "clothes". The model is very similar to "Inland Pro Sound 1000" (mines don't have the headphones' jack), and I didn't take any photos of them, so if you want to know how they used to look like, click here or the name mentioned above.

1. Considering the good sound that they provided, I decided to gave them a chance. So I removed their grey plastic cases, and sent them to the bin. After this operation, for quite a while (I am working every now and then to my projects) the speakers along to the power supply and the amplifier were carefully stored in a shoe box.

2. Then, one morning, I decided to make the next move! This is the beginning of a DIY (Do It Yourself) project. I needed new boxes for the speakers, and another box for the power supply (a 220/9 V~ transformer - you're right, I live in Europe!). Among my storage boxes, some cans have drawn my attention. They are:

Coffee Sommelier's
--- ♦ ---
Suprême Réserve
Davidoff Café
Grande Cuvée
- Edition -
San Marcos
Coffee Sommelier's
--- ♦ ---
Suprême Réserve
Davidoff Café
Grande Cuvée
- Edition -

The Davidoff Coffee - just click for more coffee! :-)

3. In each of these cans only a single speaker may be accommodate, so I must find another proper container for the supply and the amplifier. I remembered a metal box for coffee which was no longer in use. What better solution to be found for a coffee drinker like myself?! Here's the coffee box:

Unfortunately I don't have a picture without the front drilled hole, due to the fact that I only started to make photos after I've started the project!

4. There must be holes for the speakers in the cans, so I cut one for each speaker. I decided to place them toward the bottom of the cans in order to gain stability (lower gravity point).


5. The inside of the speakers cans was soundproofed using packing cardboard!

6. The coffee box suffered more interventions. There were drilled holes for the power supply bolts and jack, power on LED (in the picture above), power on/off button, volume knob, input and outputs jacks. There's also a hole for the bolt that will tighten the amplifier circuit board (other way it will float inside the box). All these are shown in the picture below. Don't ask which is which, because you'll figure it out as the description of the project will go on.

7. Prior to mount the speakers inside the can, I had to fill the gap between the edges of the speakers and the ones of the cuttings in the can. I used self-adhesive general purpose foam. I also removed the original wires (shown in this picture).

8. The hardest part, due to the decision taken at point number 4., was to be able to keep in place the nut on the inside of the can until I'll manage to screw the first step of the bolt's thread. That's because the tight space left for my hand behind and under the speaker. And also because there's an angle due to can's curvature... And there were 4 bolts and nuts at the bottom! But I've found a solution: I've taped the nuts on the speakers (visible in the picture above)! And it worked! Not quite easy, yet far easier than the simple way! :-)

9. The new wires were soldered to the speakers' terminals.

10. I've inserted and tighten the power supply (the transformer) on the bottom of the coffee box along with its plug.

11. The 3.6 watts amplifier was also inserted and tighten in the coffee box.

12. The RCA jacks were put in place, then their respective wires were soldered. For the input I used a former cable that came with a female connector jack installed. In this stage I also mounted the power on LED.

13. The power on/off button and volume knob were painted black (brown would be better, but the permanent marker I have is black...). I've finally bought the RCA jacks, that were missing from my spare components, and I've soldered to the speakers' wires.

14. Plug the power cord, connect a device able to provide audio for the amplifier, power on, and listen to the music!

15. There's a single step to fulfill: a grill for the speakers openings. I don't want to ruin this project by accidentally break the exposed membrane of the speakers. A colleague provided a stainless steel mesh. He also gave me a metal scissor. After cutting the mesh and bending it in accordance with the curvature of the cans, I had to fix them, but I didn't want to unscrew the bolts that were fixing the speakers! You figure out why! :-) So I've soldered small wires on the can in positions corresponding to each corner of the mesh. Then I've inserted the mesh, twisted the wires, soldered them and remove the excess. I used the permanent marker to draw a coffee bean on each mesh. It is an attempt to draw coffee beans, but after taking the pictures, I've modified a bit their shapes, and now are more like coffee beans! :-)