The theme for today is coffee. Enjoy!

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How To

How to make sun-brewed coffee

With the warmer spring weather, I tried something different when making my coffee one day: I decided to brew it using the sun’s heat. I was hoping for a different, milder taste and I was right!

The basic coffee-making equation doesn’t change: use your favorite coffee, use as much or as little of it as you prefer — but instead of putting it in the coffee machine, put it in a glass pitcher and add cold, filtered water. Then, cover the pitcher to stop insects or dust from getting into it and set it on the window sill or somewhere outside, in direct sunlight.

Monitor it periodically. Once it gets hot to the touch, the coffee’s done. You can leave it out a little longer if you want a stronger coffee, or leave it less if you don’t. I live in a temperate climate and in moderately warm spring weather (18-25° Celsius), my coffee was ready in 1½ – 2 hours. If you live in a warm climate, it should be ready even faster, maybe even in 30 minutes or so.

The taste of sun-brewed coffee is unique: it’s mild with no bitter aftertaste and there’s a distinct caramel flavor to it.

A few pieces of advice:

  • Use alkaline water, it will make it taste even better
  • Use a French Press, it’ll make it much easier to pour the coffee out of the pitcher once it’s ready
  • Use regular filter-ground coffee even though you’re using a French Press… it doesn’t make sense at first, but know that the water temperature in the sun will only be about 40-50° Celsius as compared to 90-100° Celsius with boiling water. This means you’ll need a finer grind in order to get more flavor out of the coffee. 

Enjoy!

Sun-brewed coffee

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A Guide To A Good Life

I’ll have a regular coffee, please

Coffee… some say when you drink it, it’s like flogging a tired horse. Sometimes you need to do that — you need to push yourself a bit further and get that day’s work done. And sometimes you just want to savor a well-made cup of coffee. It’s a bit like meditation. You focus on one thing while you let the world flow around you.

It’s getting harder to find good coffee on the go in Romania. I used to get an espresso now and then, especially when driving at night. That was till I got tired of espressos that were too bitter, too bland or tasted like motor oil. It used to be you’d rarely find an espresso back in 2008 and 2009. Now everyone, including the random roadside stand, has an espresso machine and most taste terrible. To date, the best espresso I’ve had was at a little hotel on the beach in Ladispoli, Italy, back in 2009, and that says something about the quality of the espressos if in more than three years nothing even came close.

The thing about the espresso is that if you want a good one, you have to have a good espresso machine. And that machine has to be serviced regularly and constantly calibrated. You have to put in quality coffee in the right amount. But most restaurants and hotels forget these other things. They think that if they’ve got an espresso machine, they’re good to go. No, no, no. Not unless you want to sell crappy espressos.

So I’m not drinking espressos anymore. I’ve switched back to regular coffee. To my dismay, I’ve found out that most places don’t have filter coffee anymore. In the short span of three years, they’ve all stocked up on espresso machines and forgotten about regular coffee. Stop at any place in Romania but a five-star hotel and ask for it. You know what they’ll say? “Sorry, we don’t have any. But we can serve espressos. Would you like one?” To which my answer is easily guessed.

Given my experiences, I was pleasantly surprised when I had breakfast at a Swiss hotel next to Hanul lui Manuc in Bucharest, where I had what was quite possibly the best cup of filter coffee ever. Just as I was thinking it, my dad, with whom we were dining, exclaimed: “Wow, this is very good coffee!” I sure wish I could remember the name of the place but you can’t miss it, it’s right next to Hanul lui Manuc, the great historic inn, which by the way, doesn’t serve filter coffee or turkish coffee, only espresso, as if the espresso existed in the 1800s.

To make sure, we went back there just last week to have breakfast and sure enough, the coffee was just as delicious: perfectly flavored, not bitter, not watery, the right aftertaste, went down easy and made you want more. I called the waiter over, complimented them on their coffee and asked how they made it. In case you’d like to follow the same recipe, here it is: ground Lavazza coffee, 6 grams per 50 ml of water. They run it through a regular coffee maker, albeit a big one. That’s it. It’s so simple. Why aren’t others doing it?

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Thoughts

15 things about caffeine

I’m partial to a well-made espresso. I don’t drink them often, certainly not daily, because I’m aware of the caffeine’s effects on my body. The infographic below tells you about those effects, which are certainly worth knowing.

  • Caffeine occurs naturally in 60 different plants, not just coffee.
  • Caffeine works by increasing your dopamine levels, which makes you happy, and blocking adenosine receptors, which stops you from getting drowsy. Sadly, I can’t depend on it to do that to me when I need it. I find that when I need to stay awake, I’ll have a hard time doing so no matter how much coffee I drink, and when I need to sleep, even if I’ve had coffee at two in the afternoon and it’s now midnight, I still can’t fall asleep.
  • Caffeine is shown to temporarily increase one’s ability to learn, by increasing comprehension, memory, reflexes and clarity of thought.
  • Caffeine also improves endurance in athletes, which is why the Olympic Committee banned it in competitions.
  • Caffeine causes physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms begin within 12-24 hours and can last from 2 to 9 days. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, depression and irritability.

15 Things Your Should Know about Caffeine

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A Guide To A Good Life

The Office Lounge is a restaurant and night club in Predeal, Romania. Its location is amazing. It sits on top of a mountain peak which overlooks an idyllic meadow and valley. Other mountain peaks frame the view all around.

The restaurant has indoor space, but it also has a beautiful terrace where you can truly enjoy the view.

The espresso is good. It could even be called great, but let’s not get carried away… It has a well-balanced taste: not too bitter, not too watery, not too chocolatey. It’s good. And when you sit on the terrace and look at that gorgeous view, it somehow tastes even better.

We also had some very tasty “clatite” — a Romanian dessert that’s similar to French crepes and to British (not American) pancakes, according to one of my readers.

The place is a nightclub — and we’re not much into nightclubs. We went there during the day, to enjoy the beautiful view. If you’re interested in going there for a morning coffee, don’t — they open around 11 am or noon, because they close in the early hours of the morning.

Here is a map.

Espresso at the Office Lounge

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