December 8th, 2014
I was looking into coffee grinders the other day and came across this graphic. It shows visually how concentrated specialty coffee shops are in San Francisco relative to other cities. That means more competition but it also means that there is a large audience who appreciates specialty coffee. Perhaps we should hit a couple of these specialty coffee shops in San Francisco to learn more about coffee serving technique and equipment. Check this out: youarehere.cc/#/maps/by-topic/coffee_shops
||We learned from Pierre Capy, the owner of Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro, VT, that the best time to brew coffee is within 2 weeks from the roasting date. That’s why we order our coffee every two weeks. I saw other people mention that the coffee pros claim that 4 days to 14 days is the best time to brew coffee. The moment after roasting, the process of oxidation starts and “oxidation” is another word for being stale. You are losing flavor as the roasted coffee becomes stale.
|Now, a similar thing happens when you grind your coffee beans. By grinding your beans, you are increasing the surface area that is exposed to air which increase the loss of flavoring gas. Some of our guests mention that when we grind our coffee in the morning, the smell of coffee fills the entire house and they can smell it from their bedroom. Now that is the flavor gas of coffee beans leaking out. By grinding just before you brew, you are trying to capture some of those fleeing flavors in the brewing process.
By the way, I told some of you that Pierre used to put water through 3 water filters at his coffee shop in Brattleboro VT. By the time, water comes out from the third filter, it is pure H2O. He then reintroduced the exact mix of minerals to mimic the water in Italy, and that’s the water he used to brew his coffee. That’s pretty deep into the water dimension of brewing coffee, though an ideal cup of coffee is less than 2% coffee solubles and 98% clean hot water, so it makes sense to work on the water element.
Also you might have heard me tell the story of Mocha Joe’s technician, Benjamin. He calibrated our FETCO coffee machine to optimize the coffee extraction, testing the results with a digital refractometer to obtain the right level of TDS, i.e. total dissolved solids. Extraction is one of the most important elements of finished coffee. While coffee beans are comprised of about 70% non soluble materials and 30% that dissolve in water, not all of the 30% is desired for a good coffee. Too much extraction can give the finished product bitter flavors. Hitting the optimal balance, which is typically 18% to 22%, is what makes a great cup of coffee.
|Coffee brewing is as much a science as an art; therefore, you can improve a cup of coffee with technology that leverages your knowledge of what makes the best coffee. Yet, there is variability in what coffee people like. Different types of coffee appeal to different people. Some like dark roast, some like medium roast, some like strong caffeine and a few like the mildness that acidity brings. At Ormsby Hill, we purposefully avoided defining what type of coffee is the best coffee, but instead we defined “fresh” coffee as the “best coffee” for everyone. We then pushed the definition of “fresh” coffee as not only “fresh brewed” but also “fresh roasted” and “fresh ground.”
Come to Ormsby Hill and taste Mocha Joe’s Peruvian Organic French Roast. It is guaranteed fresh.
In pursuit of the best coffee…
December 8th, 2014
When we came to the Ormsby Hill in July 2012, there was an audio system which consisted of a Sherwood stereo amplifier and Yamaha six-disc carousel CD player. The previous owners had several six-pack cassettes of CDs, that were used as a storage device for various collections of discs. They would manually change the CDs in the carousel CD player every five hours so that the same music would not be heard that day. The next morning, they’d repeat the same routine.
|On Day One at Ormsby Hill, I connected my iPod stand to the amplifier and played Pandora so that I did not have to change any CDs. I carefully scheduled Pandora stations to change every hour to reflect the cadence of the day at the inn. Music automatically comes on at 7:00 am with the lazy sound of Jazz guitar and the tempo picks up a bit to Jazz Bosa Nova around breakfast time to gently wake you up to anticipate what is to come today. Then the tempo increases and so does the sophistication, though we are still in the Jazz mode. Just when you are starting to wonder what kind of music is coming up next, it phases into the lounge BGM (Back Ground Music) in the afternoon, which brings contemporary synthetic mixture and laid back melody into this 18th century house. In the early evening, straight ahead jazz and piano trio will lightly fill the common area as you pass through to go to your room.
In Tokyo, I would go to HMV in Shibuya and spend two to three hours sampling CDs that looked good. This particular HMV store had Japanese Pop on the first floor, Rock and Soul on the second floor with a large alternative section for Acid, House, Techno, Ambiance, and Drum and Base. The third floor was all classic music and the fourth floor was the Jazz floor. I bought 5 to 10 CDs at a time as I found music that matched my mood among discs that I sampled. With Pandora, hunting for new music and sampling is so easy to the point that it became a passive activity. I miss the days when you flipped through the albums with your fingers and selected albums based on the album cover, which worked sometimes and other times it didn’t. But that’s how you discovered new music to expanded your album collection. Now, not only do you get to sample, but some algorithm picks up a song that is similar to what you’ve chosen previously without specifying what elements attracted you to that song to begin with. I still don’t know how it does it, but it seems to know my taste.
||I put my old analog tube stereo system in FRANCES, so next time you have a chance, please check it out. I’ve already gone through the first set of tubes (they physically burn out after so many year’s use) and the current ones are Russian KT88s. I came to the conclusion that the inefficiency of the analog tube amplifier actually enhances the main sound element being played while dropping other noises to inaudible levels, though still present in the background. The result is a mild and comfortable rounded sound that you can listen to for hours. The digital music sometimes has too much sound data that you do not need to enjoy the recording and the unadulterated clarity gets to be tiring after a while.
||In TAFT, I put a Nu Force Icon Amp connected to a pair of piano black lacquer finish Monitor Audio speakers. Weighing only one pound and measuring 6 x 4 1/2 x 1 inch, this amp was conceived to operate as an audiophile-grade desktop power amplifier. TAFT’s unique tent like ceiling architecture seems to further enhance the acoustic expansion, filling the room with breathy balanced waves… perfect BGM for a side-by-side massage or soak in the whirlpool tub.
||The newest addition is NHT speakers in LIBRARY. I bought something called a digital amplifier which digitally amplifies the sound data, thus eliminating any noise. It is connected to a small tablet with WIFI connection. So far, it is not at the level of FRANCES or TAFT, but the NHT speakers are a good starting point to build another audio set. I have an analogue tube CD player kit that I bought in Tokyo 15 years ago, which is still in the box. Perhaps I should finally build this CD player to match up with the NHTs.
In pursuit of the “best” sound…
The Inn at Ormsby Hill, Manchester VT
September 23rd, 2014
Enough about gardens for a minute. This is a very important (and long overdue) update on our grandson, Owen. At 19 months old, he is saying lots of words and short phrases, like ” snow truck, digger, big engine…” He loves trucks of all kinds.
Earlier this month he started preschool, and is learning to clean up after himself and doing some mysterious activities like “scooping work.” I’m not sure what that is, but I’m sure he loves it and is very good at it.
Well, that’s just a tidbit for you. Until next time, we are proudly,
Owens Grandma and Grandpa
Owen and his Dad
Owen and his Mom
September 10th, 2014
New gardens look like they belong
Many new landscapes take a while to meld seamlessly with their surroundings. I am not a fan of this gardening technique. The three years it takes for most perennials to mature seems too long to realize your vision. Either way, the plants hardly ever behave exactly as you expect. For instance, why did every ‘Overdam’ grass turn brown soon after planting? They flowered just fine, but something seems strange. I never used this grass before, so it will be a lesson that encompasses several growing seasons. I have to learn the nature of this plant.
It is almost mid-September, and soon it will be time to cut back and get this new garden ready for its first winter rest. After a brilliant birth it needs to garner strength for its juvenile season.
July 17th, 2014
According to an article in USA Today, we have the honor of being one of the best B&B’s in the country. What a great way to start our third year at Ormsby Hill. Thank you all for being a part of our journey.
July 10th, 2014
Friday, July 11 is our 2 year anniversary as owners of Ormsby Hill. It seems we have been here a lot longer than that, especially when we try to recount all the changes we have made – big and small. What we never wanted to change, and never will, is the character of this inn, this home. Every day we marvel at the beauty and strength inherent in this home. We are trusted keepers (we know the house has accepted us) of the property, as well as keepers of your stay with us. Everything ties together, as do all things in life.
Today I was thinking about our gardens (haha, no surprise there), and how I might describe their significance to anyone who asked if they had special meaning. They do. Every thought we have, every word we speak, every action we take adds something to the collective consciousness of our world. These gardens were made with love, hope, and acceptance: my love for plants, my hope that they will grow and fulfill my expectations, and my acceptance that many things are beyond my control.
This, I believe, is also how we can describe our inn keeping over the last two years. We love Ormsby Hill, we hope to fulfill our potential and your expectations, and we accept that we cannot control your experience.
June 6th, 2014
Today I gathered the first flower bouquet of the year from our gardens. No more flowers from Shaw’s until frost! That means more time moseying, gathering, and arranging. It is so easy with flowers from your garden, because they all look good together. I love, love, love homegrown flower displays.
First flowers from the garden for the inn.
The new gardens are still a work in progress. At this time we are waiting for several more plant groups (Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’, some asters, and perovskia). I also have to fill in the vegetable section. All in all, it is coming along very well. Many, many thanks again to Equinox Valley Nursery (www.equinoxvalleynursery.com) for searching for, gathering, and delivering plants on my list, even though it is their busiest time of the year. They are some of the best people you could ever meet. I hope you stop in on your next visit to the inn.
Here are a few photos Yoshio took last week of the labyrinth and new gardens.
Pathway to labyrinth connects the gardens
Planting in progress
Mostly green labyrinth with lots of dandelions
If you are not interested in gardens, please excuse me. After almost two years at Ormsby Hill, my true nature has finally found its way home. Indulging my passion will help me honor myself, the inn, and you too.
May 14th, 2014
Between now and our last blog, Yoshio and I went to San Ramon (Jesse, Lisa, and Owen’s house), Mendocino, and Napa California. I ordered plants from Equinox Valley Nursery in Manchester for the new gardens, plants arrived at Ormsby Hill, and plants went in the prepared beds. While we are still awaiting more plants, and have several full days of planting left, my dream garden is a reality.
Special, special thanks to Equinox Valley Nursery (www.equinoxvalleynursery.com), located just south of the inn, for their amazing support in providing all the plants for this garden within our budget. They have very big hearts! Also, Jim Colvin, a local lawn care business owner, shared my vision for this field, starting with the labyrinth. He is an expert at working the land and we are happy he is part of the Ormsby Hill family. Yoshio, Christine, Amanda, and Nicole have spent hours planting. I am so grateful for everyone’s help.
First load of plants delivered by Equinox Valley Nursery
Setting plants in place
After first day of planting
April 28th, 2014
The weather has finally cooperated and we began creation of the new gardens. Jimmy and Yoshio worked the sod cutter to remove the turf.
Yoshio and Jimmy removing sod
Bye bye sod
After some minor clean up of the edges and remaining turf, some tilling, a planting plan, plants, water access, and our hand crafted arbor, we will have a young garden for your pleasure.
Outline of our new gardens
April 4th, 2014
Welcoming you, and welcoming spring to Ormsby Hill
April is a pivotal month in Northern New England. We are so ready for a new season, we catalog all the changes just to make sure it’s true: snow is melting, robins are back, days are longer, the sun IS warmer, check, check, check. Optimism is on the rise. Weather related small talk is happy; no one grumbles about warmer days.
It’s a good thing we are energized because there is a lot of work setting things straight after this damaging winter. Fence posts are tilting crazily, if still standing; gravel from the driveway is now part of the lawn, and our plants are frozen in the earth. We need to get ready in April so we can burst into outdoor living in May, and the glory months of summer and fall.
That’s what’s happening at Ormsby Hill this month. Wishing you all the joy and anticipation I am feeling right now.