Irish Coffee

Place in a mug (preferably an Irish coffee mug):

  • 1.5 oz (1 shot) Irish whiskey
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Get a small plate handy. You’ll need it quickly.

Steam this with the steamer on an espresso machine until it’s about as hot as coffee. About 160-180 degrees Ferenheight if you’re counting. Using a grill lighter or match immediately ignite the vapors of the whiskey, let burn for one to three seconds, and snuff by placing the small plate over the cup.

Make and add to the cup:

  • 1 shot espresso

Top with:

  • Lightly whipped cream

The whipped cream should not be whipped as much as you would for other purposes but rather be to soft peaks.

The shortcuts

We don’t all have espresso machines or want to whip our own cream for just one drink, so here are some possible shortcuts…

You could probably do the whiskey and brown sugar mixture in the microwave. You’ll still want to ignite it. That is a very important step.

Strong black coffee could be substituted for the espresso.

For the whipped cream, buy the stuff in the can and don’t shake the can before you use it. You’ll get a thicker, more liquid cream out that’s perfect for this recipe.

Thanks to Amy for reminding me of this recipe. It’s been a long time since I made it, but I think I remembered it all.

coffee, drinks, alcohol, beverages, whiskey, whisky, irish whiskey, irish coffee

Alan Baker’s Bar Monkey

Pouring a drinkWhile I have written about the Bar Monkey I helped Alan build this winter it’s time to give a better overview of how the whole system works. This is not intended as a how-to but may be of help to folks who are looking to make their own Bar Monkey.

The Bar Monkey is a device for automatically mixing drinks. The concept comes from BarMonkey.net where you can see several other versions of bar monkeys. Almost all of Alan’s Bar Monkey, including the software, was designed by Alan.

How it works

To dispense a drink with the Bar Monkey all you have to do is place a glass under the tap and choose the drink you want from the display. Your drink is poured from the sixteen ingredients (13 liquors and 3 mixers) contained in the Bar Monkey, all you have to do is add ice and stir! If your drink requires something that didn’t make it into the Bar Monkey (we had trouble piping soda and decided milk products would probably go sour) the software will remind you to add it afterwards.

The Software

Pour a drink

The brains of the system is the Bar Monkey software. Alan wrote this custom Java application which, on startup, reads a text file with a list of drinks and ingredients.

The application has four screens for setup and controlling the Bar Monkey. The first and most important one is the “Pour Drinks” screen where just a single click can pour a complicated drink with up to sixteen ingredients. While the drinks are of different sizes any of them will fit into a standard pint glass with room for some ice. If you’re not sure if you’ll like a drink you can view the ingredients on screen or even use the “Taste Test” option which will pour a small drink, one quarter the size of the normal one, with exactly the same proportions.

The second screen will pour a 1.5 oz shot of any of the ingredients in the Bar Monkey. If your favorite drink is not in our list you can use the “Create Custom Drinks” screen to enter the amount of each ingredient for your drink. You can then pour the drink, or pour a “Taste Test” to try it and adjust ingredients if necessary.

The final screen is the “Priming/Cleaning” screen which allows you to control individual ingredients to clear air from the lines, backflow to empty the lines, or run a cleaner through.

Alan is continually updating the software and future features include drink pictures and the ability to save custom drinks. If you’re interested in the software you can contact me and I will pass your requests on to Alan.

Inside the Bar Monkey

ComputerThe software runs on a Windows PC which has been mounted in the Bar Monkey without a case. The PC controls a set of serial relays built from a kit. The kits can be purchased from ElectronicKits.com.

ValvesThe serial relay kit is used to control a series of 16 refrigerator water valves which run on 120 volt AC. These control the flow of each liquor to the tap. Since everything is live 120 volt Alan put together a Plexiglas shield to reduce the risk of electrocution.

C02 tankThe valves provide flow control but, just like in a refrigerator, something else needs to provide pressure. In Alan’s Bar Monkey the pressure comes from a five pound tank of CO2. The variable regulator on the tank regulates the pressure down to only 5 PSI and the valve coming off of the regulator provides easy shut off and converts the thread of the regulator to 1/4-inch outer diameter polyethylene tube. This tubing is the standard for hooking up water to a refrigerator and is available along with a wide variety of splitters, valves, and couplers at home improvement stores.

If you’re considering building your own Bar Monkey I suggest starting with the pressure system. Finding a size and style of tank that fits right and can be refilled locally, then matching it up with a regulator and converters proved to be quite a challenge. Pay special attention to the thread (right-hand or left-hand) of all connections to make sure it will go together in the end.

SplittersIn order to pressurize all 16 bottles the pressure line must be split. While I’m sure there is a more elegant way to handle this, we used T-splitters to make one end into two. It took quite a few splitters but they do not seem to leak. We also added valves to be able to shut off each side independently for easy refills. All the splitters and valves are a quick-connect type which allows the tubing to be removed easily to clean and reroute tubing.

capWe chose to use two liter soda bottles to hold all the liquors. Two liter bottles are surprisingly strong, cheap, common, and all have a standard cap. The bottles, caps and lines are all marked with painter’s tape to assure the right bottle goes on the right line.

capThe caps, which we thought would be easy, turned out to be the biggest challenge of the project. The caps, and the tubes which are glued into them, are made of polyethylene. The molecular bond of polyethylene is so strong it is almost impossible to glue. After several failed attempts with hot glue, cyanoacrylate, silicone and epoxy we finally landed on a solution.

This may sound a bit extreme, but in order to glue polyethylene you must “flash” it first… with a propane torch! By just touching the polyethylene with the blue inner flame of a torch it changes the molecular bond (this is a chemical change, not melting) in a way that it will take glue. We actually found this tip in an Old Town kayak repair manual.

The first step to making the caps was to drill two 1/4 inch holes in the cap. The plastic insert usually falls out at this point, but its absence doesn’t seem to hurt anything. You can then insert the tube through the cap. The tube going to the tap should be long enough to nearly reach the bottom, the other just needs to go through far enough to be solid.

Next we flashed the tubing and caps and wrapped a piece of painter’s tape around it to form a cup for the epoxy. At this point we put the cap on a half full bottle to keep it upright and poured enough epoxy to get a good thick layer. We used 30 minute epoxy but faster epoxy would probably work as well. Once the epoxy had a couple hours to set up the caps were ready to go.

The line which runs to the bottom of the bottle is run up to the valve array. Here wire ties and coaxial cable tack-downs were useful to keep things organized. As seen above, the valves were mounted on three boards to make them easier to install.

The tube coming out of each valve runs all the way to the output of the tap. That is why you can see separate colors on some of the pictures. The tap itself is half of a standard sink trap. Running all 16 tubes around the bend of the tap takes a little fidgeting but is possible.

The full monkeyThe housing of the Bar Monkey was an inexpensive computer cabinet from a popular box store. A hole was drilled in the top for the tap and plywood was used as a substitute for the cardboard backing that came with it. The handles were also replaced to dress it up a bit.

Final Thoughts

Alan, and those of us who helped him, learned a lot on this project. The whole thing took probably around 200 man hours to complete. We have not calculated the total cost, but if you were looking to build one of these yourself you should expect to be into it for up to $1,500 or possibly more depending on how much you can scrounge. I also wouldn’t recommend this as a project for anyone who is not comfortable working with household current.

project, diy, drinking, drinks, entertaining, bar, mixed drinks, bar monkey

Chipotle Garlic Chicken Marinade

Here’s a quick marinade I came up with last night.

Mix together in a medium bowl:

  • 4 tsp Chipotle Tobasco
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp sugar

Make several shallow slices in the skin side and place in bowl and turn to coat:

  • 3 chicken breasts

Let merinate at least 10 minutes but probably not more than an hour. Grill or broil.

Mix all but chicken in a bowl or ziplock bag. Add chicken and marinate for at least 10 minutes. Cook on grill or broil.

In just a short amount of time all the flavors of this marinade come through quite nicely. The fresh lime helps a lot and I would not substitute bottled.

cooking, recipes, grilling

Bill and Tim’s Excellent Adventure

Or…

Geek 2.0 meets Geek 1.0

If you’ve been following the “Web 2.0” conversations, are interested in the future of web technology, or just have a half hour or so to kill, you should check out this video of Tim O’Reilly and Bill Gates. In the video from Mix 06 O’Reilly leads off by drawing a paralell between Web 2.0 and Microsoft’s Live Software, a parallel which I’m afraid Gates didn’t (or didn’t want to) understand.

Common Web 2.0 topics came up, like perpetual beta, user added value, RSS, etc. Not surprisingly Gates was clearly uncomfortable with the topics. For example, when O’Reilly brought up the topic of perpetual beta, Gates went to his comfort zone and talked about how Microsoft’s plan to upgrade IE as often as three times per year was cutting edge. Similarly when O’Reilly mentioned the mashup of craig’s list and Google Maps as part of the evolution of the web as a platform rather than continue on that topic, Gates shapes his response into a description of the products Microsoft is developing to compete with Google Maps.

Through the whole presentation it becomes increasingly clear that Gates is only comfortable speaking about his own company’s technology while O’Reilly is talking about the direction of the industry. This is why I say Geek 2.0 meets Geek 1.0. Geek 2.0 (O’Reilly) speaks in terms like standards, technologies, trends, platforms. Geek 1.0 (Gates) speaks in terms like program x, technology b, product t. Geek 1.0 thinks their software vendor should and will innovate within their field, while geek 2.0 reaches out to open-source products and custom mashups and software which will evolve with usage.

Watch the body language in this video. O’Reilly looks like he could be sitting in his living room talking to someone. Gates looks like he’s on trial. Pretty bad since the Mix conference was hosted by Microsoft.

Check out the video here.

Thanks to Ken for pointing this out last week.

microsoft, oreilly, o’reilly, web 2.0, web20, web office, software, software development

Kopi Luwak – Review 2

Armeno Kopi LuwakAfter trying the excellent luwak coffee from AnimalCoffee.com I decided I had to try Armeno Coffee Roasters offering of this rarest of coffees.

Armeno is my preferred coffee roaster from which I drink several pounds of coffee each month. Their Kopi Luwak has gone through the same unusual process as the Luwak Coffee from animalcoffee.com, and while their coffee left nothing to be desired it will still be nice to have something to compare it to.

The packaging (shown in the image above) is a stark contrast to AnimalCoffee.com’s gift box however is sufficient to protect its contents. One of the things Armeno offers over other roasters is freshness. They ship only coffee roasted the day of shipping, and since Armeno is located in western Massachusetts their coffee reaches me overnight. If you’re not convinced freshness makes a difference, give Armeno a try. I think you’ll be surprised.

Now for the tasting… Cup one is with cream and sugar. The coffee is medium bodied with excellent flavor and a pleasant bouquet. There is a slight nuttiness to the coffee and no hint of bitterness. The finish is clean, with no acid or bitterness. There is a bit of fruit to the aftertaste and perhaps a little smoke.

Even black the coffee holds its balance extraordinarily well. Those who feel they need cream or sugar to combat the bitterness of coffee will likely find they don’t need it in this coffee.

Final Thoughts

Overall the coffee is very well balanced, a little mild for my taste, but I like strong coffees. In comparison to the Luwak from animalcoffee.com I have to say the flavor of the Armeno offering is a bit more refined, however, this smoothness comes at the price of some of its uniqueness and complexity.

This definitely ranks in the best coffees I’ve ever had. Armeno fetches $120/lb for this treat, but thankfully they offer a 4 ounces portion for a mere $30. Not a bad price for bragging rites on trying the rarest coffee in the world, but if you’re looking for a nice presentation and the full experience, I’d recommend a gift box from AnimalCoffee.com.

coffee, kopi luak, kopi luwak, luak, luwak, luwak coffee, poop