Life is too short for mediocre beverages  

I have a theory about popular beverages. People learn to tolerate a flavor profile in a brand of coffee or beer to get a dose of the psychoactive ingredient, like caffeine in coffee or alcohol in booze. Once accustomed to a certain flavor it's easier to ignore the known than expose yourself to sundry new off flavors in other brands. Coffee can be loaded up with cream and sugar to blunt all but the worst Robusta beans, mixed drinks conceal the alcohol in sweet fruit juices.

Quality beverages can actually taste good on their own, any psychoactive kick is just icing on the cake.


I've done my share of taste tests in my life long research study of beer. I learned (or think I did) that there is a different quality and severity of hangover from good expensive beer than from cheap piss-water, but the cost of the test subjects may have some influence on the quantity consumed in those unscientific experiments.

A couple of decades ago I tasted some homebrew made by a friend and was hooked. It was like home made bread but with a buzz.

A label made by another friend modeled after some inferior product made from fermented rice.                

After 25 years or so of home brewing I have reduced it to a pretty convenient process. For any interested in trying it for themselves I suggest ordering a starter kit from Williams Brewing         



Like most I learned to tolerate coffee with creamer and sweetener. Not even real cream or sugar. in the Army I learned to take my coffee black because that was often the best or only option. Drinking coffee black you can actually taste several flavor characteristics masked by the common garnish.

There are two basic elements to coffee quality. Starting with good raw material and not damaging that good raw coffee by mistreatment. We have little control over the altitude, or dirt where the coffee beans are grown and even the farmers have no control over their day to day weather. We can only apply the best practices to the best coffee we can get our hands on, and do no harm.

Freshness is a huge factor. I need to repeat that, "freshness" is very important. While it can never make garbage beans good, or poorly roasted beans taste good, too much time can make even fine coffee taste blah.

Brewing: throw away any old percolator style coffee makers you may own, or those owned by friends (they will thank you later). The water needs to be hot, but doesn't have to be, coffee can be cold brewed in the refrigerator over night. Boiling is an easy preparation for brew water, but ideally 190'F or so is considered optimal. After the brew water extracts coffee liquor from the ground beans, adding additional heat after brewing can damage the flavor. Modern drip machines will do a respectable job but use good water and don't leave the pot on the heat after brewing. If you want to reheat, a few seconds in the microwave will nicely reheat coffee without hurting the flavor.

Grind the beans immediately before brewing. Exposure to air will immediately start degrading ground coffee flavor. Invest in a grinder, and grind fresh just before brewing. This will make an easily noticed improvement over buying pre-ground coffee, which is stale before you take it home. There are subtle improvements between more expensive burr grinders and cheap blade grinders but either will be a huge improvement over stale pre-ground coffee.

Roast: While not as rapid a deterioration as occurs after grinding, flavor  peaks a few hours after roasting, then starts a gradual decline. I can taste a definite decline between first and last pot with my typical once every 5 days roasting cycle.

I am very pleased with the quality of green beans sold by Sweet Marias.



Alcohol is a vice but like many things in life, is not all good or all bad. Moderate drinking of one mixed drink or 2 beers per day has been associated with general good health. Research has determined that consumption of alcohol actually increases serum HDL (good cholesterol). More alcohol makes more HDL, but beyond a few ounces  per day there are negative impacts on other bodily systems.

Mixing alcohol and gasoline can be bad for your health, and tastes lousy too. Even kids are not dumb enough to think that they can get drunk then drive and “never” get caught (think Russian Roulette). The problem is that after a few drinks you have the mental judgment capacity of Daffy Duck. You have to make these important decisions before you start drinking, like now.

Even if your family tree isn’t littered with alcoholics you can be “involved”. At one point I had convinced myself the several drinks every night was to unwind from job stress… Horse hockey. It had become a bad habit, if you are in a pattern of heavy daily drinking just stop. It’ll take about 10 days to break the pattern. Then resume or not, but it will be a cognizant decision, not your monkey driving the bus.

 I made myself a promise to never wake up in jail (again) and I have found that you can stop after a few drinks and milk the buzz for the rest of the night. You might find this hard to believe but women aren’t really attracted to that guy puking in the corner, and I for one don’t miss waking up with bone crushing hangovers, or worse.

Once you decide to cut back on the volume of your drinking, you can afford to consider better quality brewskis. Just writing about this is making me thirsty.


Coffee and health.  I'm tempted to joke if you don't like the latest health study on coffee you've read wait a few months and another will come out contradicting it. The roasting of the coffee beans seems unhealthy not unlike cooking at high temperatures, but this has not been proved. Caffeine in excess will interfere with sleep alerting mechanisms and sleep is pretty useful. Again moderation is advised.