Coffee is grown in over seventy countries, from Indonesia to Brazil. Yet the total production of coffee is relatively small because it is such a fussy plant. Even though we call it a coffee bean, this is a misnomer. The little pod that is roasted, ground and brewed is actually the seed of the fruit that grows on the coffee tree. The coffee tree grows to twenty feet as a rule, but can reach heights of 45 feet. Most of these seeds come in pairs. There is one, called the pea berry, that looks like a cranberry with a sweet pulp and covered with a silvery membrane. Coffee grows in a band of about 25 degrees to the north and to the south, near the equator that encirlces the world. The reason for the concentration in this area is because coffee requires temperatures between 60F (15C) and 70F (21C) and a rainfall of six inches per month or more. In addition, coffee needs a specialized soil that is loamy and well drained. High humidity, found in mountain areas is also ideal. Diffused light and light breezes are also part of ideal conditions. Since oxygen is scarce at these altitudes, the trees mature slowly. All of these conditions cause the output of coffee to be low.There is a coffee bean that can grow in lower altitudes, robusta, or coffea canephora, and it is also disease resistant. For these reasons, it is used for the majority of coffee. But coffee gourmets will insist on high altitude coffee arabica. A coffee tree will take five years to produce its first crop of coffee, and a single tree only yields about 2,00 beans, about two pounds of coffee. The beans have to be manually harvested by coffee pickers. This is a highly specialized skill, since pickers need to be able to differentiate between the good beans and the bad beans. They choose each bean individually. No wonder coffee is expensive. Coffee trees have broad dark leaves and produce a flower that blossoms over a six to eight week period. This long blossoming period, the longest being in the areas closest to the equator, such as Kenya or Colombia, means that beans are ripening at different rates and mature beans can be right next to immature ones. The coffee picker has to be careful. From first blossom to final harvest can take as long as nine months for coffee. This cycle will repeat over and over for the life of the tree, 20 to 25 years. Even under the best conditions of cultivation, a hectare will yield only between 6,600 lbs (3,000 kg) and 8,800 lbs (4,000 kg). Then the beans have to be brought down from these inhospitable growing areas to the processing areas and shipped out at a rate that makes coffee the second largest volume commodity. You will no longer wonder why that delicious cup of coffee that came out of your expresso machine costs so much when you consider the journey it took.
Everyone knows that home appliances are very important. After all, no one has time to be hand washing jeans and sheets these days, and having to toast bread over an open fire would certainly not be very convenient! Appliances are very important in our homes, but which ones are the most important? Out of all of the appliances available in stores today, which ones are the ones that would be labeled as must haves? This article will touch on the top ten appliances to have at home, and will also back up each one as to why it is in the top ten list.Number One Stove: Without a stove in your kitchen you would definitely need a fireplace, unless you planned on eating out at least once a day, if not several times per day. If you were to eat out that often, the money you would spend in a week or two would probably pay for any stove you would like to buy! A stove can boil water, bake a cake, cook chicken, beef or fish, and basically cook or bake anything you need. Most recipes in your cookbook need a stove to complete the recipe.Number Two Refrigerator: If you did not buy yourself a fridge you would need to live near a frozen lake or pond in the winter and build an underground cold storage facility for the summer months. Food needs to kept cold to stay fresh. That is a fact of life, and unless you want to cut out giant blocks of ice in the winter for your ice box, you will need a fridge.Number Three Washer: Washers are a great appliance to have. There is nothing like stuffing a load of dirty clothes into the modern washer and thirty minutes later having a load of clean clothes. One hundred years ago washing clothes took a whole day to do and that was if you had a small family!Number Four Dryer: Just like its nice to have a washer clean your clothes in thirty minutes, its also great to have a dryer to dry them in the same amount of time. In the winter especially!Number Five Dishwasher: This appliance is a lifesaver for a large family, but it is still a blessing to have for two or three people. Nobody likes to wash dishes, and to have an appliance that does all of the work for you is always great! Also, dishwashers dont just wash the dishes, they disinfect them as well.Number Six Toaster: Most people like toast, and it has become a staple in the morning. Toasters do the job effectively and fast enough for our fast-paced lives.Number Seven Coffee Maker: Even if you dont like the black stuff, you will eventually have people in your home who do like it, and are probably very addicted to it! Coffee is a great ice breaker and something nice to offer to guests.Number Eight Blender: Everyone is eating healthier these days and a blender really helps you to do this. A blender can whip up a homemade soup in minutes, or a frozen fruit drink in seconds.Number Nine Food Processor: These handy appliances come in all kinds of sizes these days and they are very helpful in the kitchen. Instead of spending an hour chopping up foods for dinner you can do it in minutes with a food processor. Also, if Mom has to go away for a couple of days, instead of buying unhealthy frozen dinners for her family, she can pre-chop all of the veggies needed for meals and just leave some simple instructions that hopefully Dad can follow!Number Ten Microwave: When you want to defrost something fast, or heat some leftovers, a microwave is a very important appliance. Also, without a microwave, you could never have any microwave popcorn.
People here in Chicago stepped outside this week to falling leaves, (rapidly) cooling temperatures, and that crisp scent in the air that could only mean one thing: Fall is really here. And with the brisk weather, falling leaves, and Halloween decorations comes another fall staple: apple cider.Yes, cider! That sometimes clear, sometimes murky, dry-or-sweet-or tart libation that Americans drank by the gallon before beer came along and screwed everything up. Yet despite its seasonal charm, and despite a recent surge in popularity (no doubt thanks to my tireless efforts), for some people this drink is still hard to find. Thats why Ive put together this helpful guide. Whether youre like me and lament the downfall of hard cider as Americas beverage of choice or youre thirsty for something different and our Beverages section holds no temptation, youll find the information you need in here.At its core (no pun intended), cider-making is all about patience. Beers paltry one month aging time pales in comparison to the (at least) three month commitment required to ferment a batch of cider. In terms of physical effort, as well, it takes far less to prepare beers wort than it does ciders juice (must). However, any home brewer familiar with the experience of sipping homemade cider and watching leaves fall can tell you its well worth the trouble!Get your juice.As cider is nothing more than aged apple juice, youd think its as easy as buying a bottle of Indian Summer at the store and drilling in an airlock, but youd be direly wrong. The preservatives in commercial apple juice ruin cider productionyour average bottle of juice will rot before it fermentsand the lack of yeast means youd need to add your own (discerning brewers can do this anyway, but its not strictly necessary). If you must buy commercial juice, buy a brand without preservatives or other weird chemicals; otherwise, head to your nearest apple orchard and buy some fresh apple juice.More experienced brewersor those looking for a challengecan start completely from scratch by going to an orchard and obtaining fresh apples. This method is time-consuming and difficult; in addition to picking the right blend of apples, you must mash (scrat) and press the apples yourself to get your juice. Small volumes of apple juice can be obtained through juicers and small presses, but its advised you buy or youre your own equipment for larger amounts. All this can be tough work, but it offers something premade juice does not: total control over your cider-making experience. If you do decide to start from scratch, youll also need to carefully balance your apples. To create a dry cider, use a balance of 2:1 tart apples to sweet. To create a sweet cider, do the opposite. And never use cooking apples.The nice thing is, once youve obtained your must, the process gets simple.Store the juice.First of all, get a glass or wooden fermentation container to store your juice. This can be anything from an airtight jar to a full-sized barrel, depending on the volume of cider youre looking to produce. As with all brewing tools, your container must be sterilized before use. Pour in the must, and be sure the container fills to the top. Leaving extra space for air virtually guarantees youll end up making apple vinegarnot that apple vinegar is a bad thing, but its not what were trying to make!Once your must is in its fermentation container, check the gravity of the juice. This is the density of the liquid, and its an indicator of just how alcoholic your drink will bethe higher the number, the more potent the brew. Its not a critical step, but if youre going for predictable results, pick up a hydrometer (owners of a brewkit like Mr. Beer should already have one). Gravity should ideally be between 1.050 and 1.080.Pitch the yeast (maybe).Traditional cider is made using only the yeast present in the skins of the apples. If youve got fresh-pressed must or untreated juice from an orchard, you dont need to add any yeast at all. However, if youre using store-bought juice or want to more exactly control your fermentation, pitch in a vial of champagne yeast (available from brew supply stores). Then close your fermentation container, seal it, connect an airlock (partially filled with water), and play the waiting game.The waiting is the hardest part.Store your containers in a dark place between 40 and 60 degrees and proceed to twiddle your thumbs for at least a month, preferably three. You should check on the containers regularlyonce the bubbling stops, the yeast has consumed all the sugar in the juice, and its time to bottle, or rack, the resulting cider. Youre almost done! After sampling the fruits of your labors to make sure disaster hasnt struck, use sterile tubing to siphon your cider into bottles.Now, before you cap the bottles, a question: do you want carbonated cider? Traditional ciders are almost always flat, but most popular modern cider has at least some carbonation. If you want sparkle in your sip, pitch in a little extra-fine sugar for the yeast to continue chowing down on. Otherwise, simply bottle the cider.If all this looks too intimidating but you still want to try some fresh-made cider, kits can also be purchased from Mr. Beer.Now that youve got hard cider of your own, consider these fun applications:Apple Cider Corned Beef and CabbageButtery Mulled CiderBaby Back Ribs with Spiced Apple Cider MopApple Cider PunchBut make sure to save a bottle or two. Some days, theres nothing better than cracking one open, drinking deeply, and watching those leaves fall.
Most of us have purchased the 99 dollar BBQ grill from our local mart, yes it worked for a little while anyways. When you are ready to move up to the real world of BBQ and put the finishing touches to your patio read this to get a good idea as what to look for in a BBQ grill.Today Stainless steel s all the rage but there are different grades of stainless steel the best choice for a grill is 304 stainless steel it will not corrode and will last for many years but where do you need stainless steel? The most important areas of the grill that are subject to corrosion are the burners so even if the outside is made of aluminum as long as the actual burners are still stainless you are off to a good start. The next area of importance in my opinion is the cooking surface I prefer this to also be stainless steel or at least ceramic coated the beauty of the stainless steel cooking rack is that it can be but in your self cleaning oven and cleaned at the same time as you clean the oven. Ceramic cooking surfaces are also good but they are subject to cracking. One option that you may not even have thought about s whether to go with propane or a natural gas grill. Obviously if natural gas is not available in your area you will need to stick with propane however you can run a propane line from your supply directly to your grill this will ensure you never run out of propane on a Sunday afternoon. Today in most areas you can plug into a gas source much like you plug in an electrical cord or an air line. Most grill manufactures know offer their grills in either a propane or natural gas configuration dont worry in most cases you can convert a grill to run on natural gas. Today all large grill manufactures have their grills tested by independent laboratories like UL or CSI make sure yours has been tested. So many new advancements in outdoor grills make choosing a grill much harder. Options today include infrared burners, rotisseries, side burners, griddles, warming trays, and the latest option is a digital controlled one touch cooking. Some of these are self explanatory but a few can use some explanation. Infrared burners use ultra high heat to sear the meat to retain the juices. I am not sure that I like the idea of the computer controlled grill although it is amazing one touch grilling it might make it to easy.
In a world where seemingly every day a new fad diet hits the shelves, eating healthy can be mired in confusion and doubt. Its no wonder that we have such a difficult time making healthy food choices when everywhere we turn theres a new doctrine of nutrition. What health-conscious eaters need to remember is that no matter how many diets hit the market, there are fundamental guidelines that will always be in place; and ingredients that will always be the healthier choice. Tofu, for instance, continues to be a mainstay in the diets of vegetarians and healthy eaters alike. And finding a tofu dish that seamlessly integrates nutrition and great taste can be easier than you think.Tofu is made from soybean curds after which it is pressed into blocks to be used in a variety of cuisines. There are a number of forms of tofu the difference between the forms dictates what tofu dish in which it will work the best. Soft tofu has extremely high moisture content as it originates directly from soy milk. The texture of soft tofu is similar to that of custard and subsequently soft tofu is best in a dessert tofu dish. Firm tofu contains slightly less moisture and can hold it shape enough to be cut into cubes. A tofu dish in which the tofu is being used as a meat substitute may be the best use for firm tofu. Dried tofu has the least moisture content of all the tofu varieties. It can easily be used in a tofu dish that calls for crumbled or sliced tofu; as well as a tofu dish that calls for tofu noodles as dried tofu can easily be pressed into delicious noodles.Tofus versatility lends it to preparation in a variety of ways including stewed, fried, grilled, and raw, among others. It is for this reason that finding a delicious tofu dish is far from difficult. Because tofu can be used in almost all ways that meat can and beyond you will likely find a tofu dish to suit your personal tastes in any number of cookbooks or online.Ultimately, a tofu dish delivers more than great taste; it delivers astounding health benefits as well. Extremely high in protein, tofu is low in calories and contains no cholesterol. Research has also shown that the soy protein found in tofu has been linked to the reduction of heart disease. When you consider all the benefits of the tofu dish you are bringing to your table, it makes sense that you should continue to include tofu in the diet of your family.