Category Archives: Cooking

Keurig vs. Tassimo – A side by side comparison

Keurig vs. Tassimo – How to make bad coffee slightly better

Oh now stop it. We’ve all lowered ourselves for a quick caffeine fix. These single serve coffee makers are perfect when you want a quick cup of ordinary to awful cup of dark hot liquid.  They are on the same shame level as a foodie going to McDonalds or a beer nerd drinking a macro beer. It happens. It’s shameful but sometimes convenience trumps good taste.

I already have a Keurig, but when a friend (Random Ron) dropped off his german designed Bosch Tassimo I had to do a side by side comparison.

Looks:
Winner: Tassimo
The Tassimo is compact. It artistically shines a beauty light on your coffee mug for goodness sake.

Sound:
Winner: Tie
The Keurig sounds industrial the Tassimo spits and sputters. Both models fail the 5am sound check.

Cost:
Winner: Keurig
Keurig dominates the US market for single serve coffee makers. As a result, there’s more economic support for the replacement k-cup market. I purchased a box of k-cups at Costco that was the size of a microwave once. I also wonder if design has a part to play in this pricing equation.

The Keurig k-cup is a shining example of design simplicity. Coffee grounds are packed on top of a paper filter, all of which is packaged inside a thin walled cup. The Tassimo disk just seems to have more plastic packaging complexity and heft.


Keurig
Machine range: $80-$180
Cartridge: $0.35 – 1.00

Tassimo
Machine range: $80-$190
Cartridge: $0.50-$1.00

Ease of Use:
Winner: Tassimo
I always seem to be flipping the Keurig handle to reset the machine in an attempt to trigger a brew. Up, down and pushing buttons until something happens. The Keurig dance works until I realize the reservoir is empty.

The Tassimo machine reads the barcode on the top of the cartridge and determines how to brew the coffee for you. Granted there are less options, virtually none in fact, but I crave early morning simplicity. Also, the cleaning function is unreal. Put the yellow disk in place (stored in back of machine) and then push the button. The machine will automatically run through a short cleaning cycle or a 20 minute descaling routine.

Flavor:
Winner: Tassimo
I believe additional testing is required and would welcome additional feedback from our readers. For a fair test, the same roaster brand should be evaluated on both machines.

From my limited sampling, the Tassimo had a richer tasting brew that smelled good. The Keurig coffee had limited flavor and aroma, almost as if the water didn’t spend enough time in the grounds.

I do marvel at the k-cup design simplicity (again). Water is pushed through the top and exits at the bottom. Contrast that with the disk which demands that the water enters and exits the same side of the cartridge ( a water circuit best described as in-up-around-down). The water’s straight forward route in the k-cup leaves much less residual moisture in the grounds. Why is this important? I have no idea. 

Overall:
The flavor, ease of use and aesthetics are superior for the Tassimo. However cost and vast coffee variety will continue to make the Keurig the market winner for the US market. If I were to choose between the two, I would choose the Keurig. Nothing from either of these singe serve machines will taste as good as coffee from a full pot maker. It’s all about convenience here. The Keurig allows consumers to buy their refill k-cups just about anywhere at an affordable price.

Federal Jack’s Chowder

Chris Charland’s Chowder:

chris-charland-of-federal-jacksFederal Jack’s chef shares his recipe for a sure respite from the winter weather
A couple of years ago, in my infinite wisdom, I asked Kennebunkport Brewing Company if I could brew with them for a day in February. I had done this back in the 1990’s for an article I wrote about the experience. This time it was February, oh, did I mention that? And even lovely Kennebunkport in southern Maine was a frigid eight degrees. “Dress in layers” was head brewer Mike Haley’s email instruction to me. Well, my layers were feeble and I froze to death until the mashing-in got into full swing, the steam eventually warming the brewery a tad. I should have dressed in seven layers of thick down ski clothes, but I didn’t. Instead, I clutched my cup of coffee and hoped the steaming liquid would warm me. It didn’t. All I could think about while I loaded the grain into the auger, weighed out hops and watched Mike Haley clean out the mash tun (hey, my hands were frozen) was lunch, when I could repair upstairs to Federal Jack’s Brewpub and have a bowl of hot-as-Hades chowder.

We all have that in common in our cold Maine winters. And the one dish we can make and enjoy all winter long, for both body and soul, is a hot, buttery, creamy chowder, thought to come from the French word for cauldron, chaudiere. It’s quick to put together, and gets better if you let it “age” for a few hours or even up to a few days. But if you think you’re going to keel over dead if you endure one more snowstorm, or bombogenesis, as that horrific storm in 2015 was labeled, you are welcome to eat it as soon as you make it. You have my permission.

When the leaves came down this autumn, and the balmy days turned cold, I thought about Fed Jack’s chowder once more. I asked chef Chris Charland if he would share his recipe and he did. No precious Top Chef or Chopped secret-keeping here. Just a simple and easy-but-foolproof recipe from Federal Jack’s chef of over eighteen years, who began as a prep cook and worked his way through the ranks to become head chef.

I asked Chris to tell me something about himself and was delighted to hear that he grew up and still lives in his home town of Biddeford. His cooking background? He attended Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and was mentored by chef Christian Gordon. But even earlier, as a boy, Chris credits his grandmother with teaching him how to make his way around the kitchen.

“My grandparents had a garden so they did a lot of pickling. My grandmother also taught me how to make a great Thanksgiving dinner, blueberry pies, her delicious southern no-bake cookies (my favorite recipe from her) and what I call “Memere soup,” which is her tomato soup with noodles.”

Of his favorite dishes to make at Federal Jack’s, Chris says, “I enjoy working with local farmers and purveyors. Our weekly special menu is dedicated to doing just that. I take their products and give them my twist by incorporating our beers (made right below the restaurant and the freshest beer possible) into them. I sometimes use the beer itself in a braising liquid, the malts used in beer- making to make crusts for fish and meat and hops to make sauces.”

What do you bring to holiday dinners? “I usually make most of the meal such as turkey or prime rib, ham and some sides like fresh herb and olive oil smashed potatoes, maple roasted butternut squash with sage, or desserts.”
When he has a day off, Chris loves spending time with his two boys, Caiden, age 6 and Carson, 2. “We play sports or build ninja warrior courses for Caiden and go for adventure walks with my youngest.”

20161101_132108CHRIS CHARLAND’S CLAM CHOWDER, from FEDERAL JACK’S BREWPUB
This is a recipe that doesn’t impose amounts for the ingredients. If you have never made chowder before, you can consult another recipe that does give them. I suggest you look at the list and decide what you like and just throw it in there. I prefer chunky chowders and add lots of rough chopped onions and potatoes. For clams, canned are fine. You might luck out if you live near a fish store, like Harbor Fish in Portland, that sells them by the quart. But the supermarket clams from Maine make a delicious “chaudiere.”

Here is our ingredient list
Whole unsalted butter
Small diced white onions
Small diced celery
Medium diced white Maine potatoes
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Fresh thyme [Kate’s note: I use a few pinches of dried when I don’t have fresh]
Chopped clams and juice
Clam stock [Kate’s note: Julia Child used bottled clam juice!]
Heavy cream
Water
Cornstarch

Instructions:
Melt butter in a heavy pot or pan.
Add onions and celery and seasonings and cook until onions are translucent.
Add clam stock and bring to boil.
Add potatoes and cream. [Kate’s note: I leave the milk/cream out until everything else is done, just to avoid separating.]
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
Cook until potatoes are fork tender.
Add chopped clams and simmer until clams are cooked.
In a separate mixing bowl, mix water and cornstarch to make a slurry.
Bring chowder to boil and slowly whisk in slurry.
Bring to boil until desired thickness.
Serve with oyster cracker and a pint of Export Ale.

whats-brewing-cover-2016
kate-coneKate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England, a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs. (Down East Books, 2016 and 1997). She loves to cook just about anything and chowder saves her life every winter. She lives in Waterville, Maine with her husband, Patrick Brancaccio.

How to make better coffee

Look.  I’m not here to make sweeping judgments about you or the people you care about. But if you use a K-cup or automatic drip, you are a monster.

You know what? I’m sorry about that. Like I said I am not here to…actually who am I kidding? I gotta go back to that K-cup/automatic drip thing. Why are you doing this? Did coffee hurt you in some way? Did someone raise you to believe you should go for the least best way to enjoy life? Including the stimulating dark as night bringer of joy and wonderment, coffee?

And I know we’re all busy. And I know at times we just need caffeine and we don’t have the time to have it in its best form.  But I also think that most of the time, you probably do. And I think you are selling coffee short. Especially since raising your morning coffee experience is easier than you think. So come with me on a journey where we can learn and grow.

Just kidding.

But here is how to make better coffee. It’s not that hard. Grow up.

THE COFFEE MAKER

Stop being a baby and get yourself a French Press. Sorry, I’m just still mad thinking of all that stale pre ground stuff that used to be coffee you have crammed in those K-cups.

But seriously. French Press.

Not only is it a relatively simple system, it is so much better than what you’re using. It’s not even close. Now some will champion pour over or Aeropress. And those people are not wrong. Those methods are fantastic. But they are a lot more sensitive to variables to get it just right. And you don’t need that kind of hassle. You’re a busy man/woman with a winning smile who grabs the bull by the horns. Yes, I am resorting to cheap flattery. But this is serious.

French Press.  Any one from Target or Bed Bath and Beyond will do. Bodum is a good brand and not expensive.

THE COFFEE

If you take nothing else out of this discussion I just hope in the name of all that is decent and right on God’s great earth it’s this: only buy whole bean coffee.

Please. Heaven knows I don’t ask you for much.

Coffee is actually pretty volatile. It goes stale pretty quick. So get whole bean and grind it right before you brew it.

Also, Starbucks is terrible. Find a hipster coffee shop near you and get beans from them. Now, nobody would mistake me for a hipster. But they contribute great things to coffee. Getting fresh roasted, local coffee is best. But if that isn’t possible most non-Starbucks whole bean coffees will do.

Even if you plan to stick with automatic drip coffee this will make your experience so much better. And you can believe me. Because I am always right.

Which brings us to our next element…

THE GRINDER

Invest in a conical burr grinder. I use a Cuisinart I got from Bed Bath and Beyond for 45 bucks.

It’s this one.

Sure, there are better ones, but this is the one I can afford, okay Zuckerberg?

The conical burr grinder is way better than those hand held ones. Those are dangerous for a couple reasons. One, they tend to “burn” the beans. And two, the grind is inconsistent. I’ve seen it compare to randomly chopping a steak all different sizes then throwing it on a grill and expecting it to all cook the same.

The burr grinder produces a very even grind and doesn’t ruin the beans.

If you are using a French Press (did I mention you should?) grind the beans to a coarse grind. If still using auto drip go for medium.

As a side note,  I will say the hand held grinders are still better than pre ground coffee, you animals. If you must use one don’t hold it down. Pulse it twice. Then shake it. Then pulse it two more times. Keep checking the beans until you have a relatively even grind.

BREWING

The general idea is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 oz. of coffee. I tend to do a little more than that cause I like stronger coffee. My suggestion is to experiment during the weekends and times where a cup isn’t imperative or there isn’t a time crunch to get to work. It took me a good two weeks to get it right when I got serious about my coffee.

So, get the ratio right.  Do not be afraid to figure it out. Use you K-cup or auto drip and then figure this out in your off hours. Now, here’s how to brew….

Bring a tea kettle to whistle. Remove it from heat. Then grind your beans. Boiling water will burn your coffee. But waiting 30 – 60 seconds will bring the water down to perfect brewing temp.

Pour the coffee into the French Press. Pour just enough water over the coffee and mix it. It should be like a coffee mud. Let that sit for thirty seconds. It’ll expand. That releases the flavor.

Now, at this point, famous Food Network guy Alton Brown says to add a pinch of salt to reduce acidity. He is right. Not like a tablespoon. Just a pinch.

After that pour the rest of the water, give a stir to mix it all together, and let sit for three minutes. Now über snobs will tell you to plunge it for 30 seconds. But come on. Who has that kind of time? Just do a slow, steady plunge.

RESULTS

You will have a cup of coffee that is worlds ahead of the normal one. Mathematically it’s an 80% better cup of coffee with 10% more effort. These numbers are not official.

If you follow these rules, however, you will make a great cup of coffee every day.

Snow Smoke

This post utilizes the marinade I made in my last article “Drunken Marinade“.
I love to smoke.  I use my smoker all year long even in the winter.  It is a common belief that it’s difficult to do this when it is snowing and frigid outside. Not true.  In fact I have been successful even with my electric smoker.

 

To accomplish this I insulated the outside. The next smoker will have a more professional wrap, but what I have works.

 

Tips for solid snow smoking
1. Marinate the meat at least over night.  Beef can marinade for days.  Chicken should only have a few hours.
2. Consider milder wood like pecan and fruit woods (apple, peach) that is more forgiving and allows you to smoke continuously.  The strong stuff like hickory is too easy to over do, plus it’s just so common. Shake things up and experiment.  I commonly mix my woods during the same smoke (apple and pecan for example).
3. Keep the water tray full.  It helps to prevent the meat from drying out. Just grab some (clean) snow.
4. Enjoy a beer. This is the best part about smoking outdoors in the winter. Bundle up grab a beer and chill.
5. Smoking takes time, throw in some appetizers to tide you over. We added cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos.

Seems nobody hangs out, outside in my neighborhood. I’ve always thought this was weird but it does help my smoking by limiting distractions.  I can tend to the smoker for hours and not have any surprises.

Check out this action smoke video!

My Smoker Settings for beef and pork
1. Temperature: I run low at 200-210 degrees
2. Time: Minimum of 5 hours. Check the meat moisture for the last hour (tinfoil helps).  Internal temps need to be safe.

 

Have fun and Cheers!

David