Thursday, September 8, 2011

The MOST IMPORTANT raid consumable

All raiders are responsible for their consumables. Even if you're in a guild like mine (or just in my guild!), where we supply 100% of your consumables, it's your responsibility to ask for them. Scandalously, however, if you were to poll the world's WoW raiding population and asked them what the single most important raiding consumable is, you'd be lucky to get a single correct answer. It's time to address that failing.

The most important raid consumable is your coffee.

Frankly, I am almost beyond disappointed that this even needed to be said. This is really basic stuff, guys. I don't think it's that big of a deal if you have trouble with haste rating, or even if you're doing things like gemming pure crit rating to get a socket bonus (although really, don't do that). But I mean, not getting your coffee right? Inexcusable. So, since a guide on the subject is clearly sorely needed, I've taken it upon myself to write one.

The good news here is that this particular guide is spec-independent. And class-independent. And game-independent. It is also independent of gaming. Just remember that even though it can be used outside of raid time, it is absolutely necessary during raid time.

When I was in the fencing club in college - don't worry, this relates back to the post, I promise - our coach was a really neat guy. Let's call him Mike. Mike had worked in a fair number of occupations, but they tended towards the sales side of things. This made sense, as Mike was this really friendly, chatty, and personable guy. One of the sorts of things he'd sold had been audiovisual electronics. Stereos, TVs, that sort of stuff. He always said that one of the things that drove him up the damn walls was when some over-monied idiot would come in with a budget of five thousand dollars for a home stereo system and spend forty-three hundred on the receiver, two hundred on scam cables, and five hundred on speakers. This bothered him so much because the most important part of your stereo system is the part that makes the sound. If you're getting a fancy home theater setup, spend the majority of your money on the speakers and the TV, ok?

This happens a lot in coffee. Like, almost always. Someone will decide they like coffee and want to enjoy it in the privacy of their home. Wonderful! Me too. So they'll spend $500 on a drip coffee maker with its own built-in water filtration, digital water temperature setting, a carafe rated for atmospheric re-entry, wifi connectivity, and cool blue LEDs. Into this contraption they will dump hazelnut-flavored coffee they got from the grocery store pre-ground. Or maybe, and this is in some ways worse, they'll actually get pretty decent bean and then grind it with a seven-dollar blade grinder.

No. No! Bad. Bad. Do not do.

On the left is nothing too special. That's a very basic conical burr grinder from Capresso. You can get it for around seventy to a hundred dollars, and it'll give you a pretty darn even grind. Sure, a thousand-dollar commercial unit from Ditting would be better, but this little grinder is totally sufficient for your typical raider. The coffee is, as you can see, from Dogwood Coffee Roasters. They're local to me and they print the roast date on the bag, so you can make sure you're not getting stale coffee.

Actually, I should back up a bit here. When you taste coffee, it should not be bitter. It should be rich and flavorful and complex and mouth-filling and warm and fortifying but it should not be bitter. It would take a while to go into all the whys and wherefores of this, so I'll try to reduce it to a couple simple statements. The first is that most of the wonderful flavors in coffee come from very volatile compounds. "Volatile" means they react strongly with just about anything, including air, which is why an air-tight storage container is important. Even with that, however, if your bean was roasted a long time ago, the flavor will have sublimated right out of it.

Secondly, bitter coffee is burned, over-extracted coffee. If the hot water has sat in the grounds too long, chemical reactions happen that produce some truly unpleasant flavors. Further, the definition of "too long" changes with how finely you grind the coffee. The finer the grind, the less time it takes to over-extract and convert a brilliant light roast into bitter muck. This is why it's so important to grind at home and have an even grind from a burr grinder. Blade grinders leave your bean ground into a gradient of particles, from too large shading all the way down to too small, regardless of how you're brewing. Good bean and a good grinder: these are the most important elements of good coffee.

This is my preferred method of brewing: french press. You may have noticed that that's a Frieling stainless-steel presspot, and you may think it's a little too expensive. You may point out that it retails for around ninety dollars, the price for three perfectly serviceable Bodum presspots. And you'd be absolutely correct! I know this because I bought and broke three such glass presspots before I decided to get this one. So if you can use the glass ones without shattering them every other month, then by all means: go glass. If you're an irredeemable clutz like me, though, you'll save money in the end by getting a nice stainless one.

If I were really hardcore, I'd have a scale so I always brewed with exactly the same ratio of bean to water. But we're casual raiders here at Piercing Shots, so we use the "2 tablespoons of unground bean per eight ounces of water" rule, and it's worked pretty well so far. Here's how it goes:

  1. Bring water to a boil
  2. Coarsely grind appropriate quantity of beans
  3. Place grounds in presspot
  4. Pour just a few ounces of water on them and wait for the bubbling and fizzing to subside*
  5. Fill to top, like so:

Set a timer for four minutes. When it beeps, dongs, or buzzes, come back and scoop the "cake" of grounds off the top with a large spoon, then press it. Finally, pour yourself a mug of brain-nutriment before resuming your assault upon the Firelord's throne (or whatever):

*This is called the "bloom". You only really need to worry about it with bean that was roasted 2-5 days ago. It has something to do with carbon dioxide, I guess? If you skip this step with really freshly roasted bean, you'll end up with the bloom taking up too much room with froth, not having enough water, and thus over-extracting.

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