Regarding coffee: for the longest time we’ve simply used a french press for our coffee. Easy, fast, really tasty if you want a thick strong brew.

It required (in my mind) the purchase of a good quality grinder — I bought a Gaggia MDF off Amazon, and, between the sale they were running on housewares, and finally getting an Amazon credit card, got it at a good price. We could tell the difference in taste between the Gaggia and the simple blade grinder we’d been using before.

Several months ago, after years of french press at home and lattes out, I decided I wanted to make my own espresso drinks. I bought a Rancilio Silvia (aka Miss Silvia) from Whole Latte Love. It has a pretty steep learning curve, but I’ve pulled some lovely, crema-rich shots off it. And I can froth milk better than 95% of the so-called baristas at Starbucks, if I do say so (though one woman at the Peets in Costa Mesa impressed me with some nice latte art — the only time I’ve even gotten a latte with latte art from a chain coffee place).

However, I was noticing that, after opening a recently roasted bag of coffee — even the awesome stuff from Intelligentsia — that, though everything was great for a few days — lovely shots, not requiring too much adjustment on the grind, tamping, etc — four or more days later I just couldn’t get enough out of the coffee for good shots from Miss Silvia. It was still fine for the press pot, and generally, we’d finish up a half pound within a week, but….we just didn’t drink enough coffee to use it up fast enough.

So I got a home coffee roaster (an iRoast 2) and some green beans from Sweet Maria’s. (If I’d thought Miss Silvia was loud while working — well, she was quiet as Rigel basking in the sun in the afternoon compared to the louder-than-a-hair-dryer roaster.

Roasting too has a learning curve, and I’m not as far along it as I’d like. But now I can roast 1/4 lb or so at a time and have deliciously fresh coffee of whatever varietals I have on hand (and since green beans keep a long time, I can have a nice little selection).

Getting into all this coffee stuff meant of course surfing the web and discovering CoffeeGeek.

And their silent auction for Coffee Kids, a nonprofit to help people in the coffee-growing areas of Mexico and Central America. I couldn’t resist bidding on something — it’s a great cause, silent auctions are fun, and heck, I’d read a little about stovetop vacuum coffee brewers and was intrigued.

Thus I ended up with yet another way of brewing coffee.

It really does look like a chemistry experiment (which gives me hope my Physics teacher husband can master it — he’s not even tried Miss Silvia). The coffee brewed is a little clearer and brighter than with the press pot — it does taste different.