Month: July 2014

Coffee Roasting Improvements

Here is an intellectual exercise that can improve your home coffee roasting skills.  Work out what it would take for you to sell your coffee commercially.  If you are like me, you know that your home roast is better than what you can buy in your local market.  What do you need to do to sell it?

After a particularly frustrating day at work I figured I’d chuck it all and just sell beans.  I know, pie in the sky, tilting at windmills kind of thinking, but it did give me a project to play with for a bit.  I went through the marketing 4Ps to figure out what steps I needed to take.   Price, Promotion, and Place can be skipped for this discussion, but when I seriously looked at ‘Product’ I saw weaknesses in my roasting that I needed to correct if I want to create pro-quality beans.

I grew up ‘dog bowl roasting’.  I enjoyed the method, but it was a chore.  It took forever, it was boring, and it produced low volume.   My attitude of roasting became just get ‘er done.  I roasted by ‘feel’ and gradually became less and less precise in my roasting.  I upgraded to a BBQ drum roaster in an attempt to improve quality and increase volume.   However, my attitude never changed from my dog days.

If I truly want to roast good coffee, I need to convert much of the art of the roast into a repeatable science.  I increased my roast volume not to improve quality but to reduce the ‘chore’ of roasting.  I was roasting 2-3 pounds in a single roast.  The actual roast was good, but we only go through about a pound a week.  And I wasn’t actively working to improve the processes.

To do:

  • Reduce batch size –> fresher beans and more frequent roasting to improve technique.
  • Improve bean cooling technique
  • Improve roasting hardware
  • Improve palette
  • Figure out how roasting profiles improve bean flavor


What the world needs is another Hobby Lobby hand-wringing blog post.  If you read some of my other posts you can probably guess what my ‘opinion’ is on the matter.  Discussing the merits of either side of the case isn’t where I want to go with this post.  Even if you think you disagree with me, please keep reading because I have a point to make that I think is fair regardless of your position on this specific case.

The society places a lot of emphasis on the need for business people to be ethical.  Ethics is taught in business school.  News reports complain about the lack of ethics in business people.  The thing about ethics and morality is that it is divisive.  In the case of Hobby-Lobby, the CEO has very specific morals.  You may or may not agree with his position but I hope you agree that he does have a position and he made a call based on what he honestly thinks is correct.

After the fact, when a company makes an immoral decision, the media causes an an uproar.  “The CEO should be arrested!  It doesn’t matter if what the CEO did was not against the letter of the law, he should have done what was right regardless.”  Congressmen rush to subpoena people and make bold statements to the nearest television cameras.

However, when a CEO or leader states moral beliefs, when it runs counter to the popular culture, he gets vilified.  It is very difficult to ask someone to make morally hard stands when the reward for those hard stands is what happened to Hobby Lobby, Chick Filet, Mozilla, etc.

You might argue that ‘companies aren’t people’ and they shouldn’t even be involved in this.  That’s an interesting argument, but usually is only made when people disagree with the position the company staked out.  During the same Hobby-Lobby reporting cycle, Apple and Starbucks took public stands on different controversial public policy issues that just happen to be popular with vocal activists.  Why is it right for Apple and Starbucks to take a moral stand but not Hobby Lobby?

I find Apple and Starbuck’s stand wrong and destructive to our country.  However, I don’t see a problem with those companies making a stand.  It is the organizations’ right to make such a stand.  You might disagree with Hobby-Lobby’s stand, or Apple’s stand, but it is its right to make that stand.

But… but… but… ‘it’s health care’.  I can solve the health care crisis.  But probably not in this blog post.  The road I’d travel on to answer the ‘but its health care’ is that no one is prohibiting people from obtaining health care.  Hobby Lobby isn’t firing people over this, they just don’t want to provide that particular benefit because they find it morally wrong.  If you disagree with my solution, fine, I’m not trying to argue health care. 

I’m not trying to create a crazy provocative post.  My main point is, if we want business leaders that make moral decisions, some of those decisions will be contrary to what you believe.  If we constantly shut down the likes of Hobby-Lobby and Chick-Filet, we will end up with amoral organizations that only attempt to get in front of a parade, instead of staking out real positions.

Thanks,  I hope I was fair in my points.


Rainier To Ruston 50 Mile 2014

R2R Race Report

Rainier to Ruston 50M was my first attempt at 50 Miles.  The course was a downhill point to point course with about 20 miles of trail and about 30 miles of paved trail. This is a very fun course with the whole distance being very runnable.

Just before the start

The start of the race was a bit disorganized, not bad, but a little crazier than I’m used to.  Driving to the starting line, we nearly turned around before we got to the start due to lack of signage.   Much of the confusion is understandable. I’m used to races set in rural areas or mountain trails in the middle of nowhere.  Those RDs mark the course during the week and get everything set up the day or night before.  This race was on a heavily used urban trail and ran through city parks.  The RD must go crazy trying to get a 50 mile course up in time for us.

My ‘plan’ was a 12 minute mile pace for a 10 hour finish.  Figured I might drag at the end but still be able to make 12 hours.  We were off and quickly I ran into my first strategic error (second if you count the goal pace).  Turns out there are trees in Washington.  I’m used to running in the desert southwest where I can always see the sky.  My Garmin lost signal under the canopy of trees — so my primary tool to rein me in during the start of the race wasn’t very useful.  Without the feedback of the watch, and with the wave still tightly packed, I probably was running 9-10 minute miles.

The first 3 legs of the course are primarily trail.  Some of the relay runners were nervous about the ‘secluded wilderness’ advertised on the website but these are the best legs! (Assuming it hasn’t been raining) This was a very pretty trail that you could actually run on.  Some roots are there to try and place you in the dirt but I was able to get through unscathed.  There were a few muddy sections to scramble around but it was a dry year for the course so it wasn’t too bad.  This section could be very challenging in a wet year.

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After the trail sections, the course moves onto a nice and active urban trail.  From this point on it was like running a ‘supported’ run out in the community.

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Navigating the course was easy; although I spotted some runners heading off in the wrong direction in 2 spots so you can get lost if you try.  Some of the city portions can get a bit sketchy – especially if your pace starts falling off.   I was cheered on by some homeless guys later in the race as I ran under a freeway overpass.

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I really enjoyed the course, but I struggled the whole way with my pace.  It didn’t help that my left knee was killing me.  By about mile 39 I lost the desire to go on.  It was a combination of exhaustion and nausea that probably finished me – though I didn’t realize how much the exhaustion hit me until 2 days later when I noticed I had 2 black eyes.  I kept on going until about mile 41, search and rescue was stationed there and my wife and her friend also had walked down the trail to that point to cheer me on.

I sat and talked for a half hour trying to rally but that wasn’t happening.  I ended up DNF’ing at 41 miles and 11 ½ hours or so.

Perhaps with more experience I could have rallied and gone on.  I didn’t notice the nausea.  I’ve been nauseas on runs before but this felt different.  I just didn’t feel good.   While I was being driven to my car I fixed my nausea problem  :-).   My pace had dropped off to somewhere around 20-25 minute/mile pace but perhaps with caffeine and an understanding that I was going to take 12-14 hours and not 10-12 hours to finish I could have combatted the fatigue.

But those are all …could have dones… They didn’t start to hit until a week after the race.  I was pleased with the distance I went.  I am starting to plan my next 50+ mile attempt.

Key Learnings:

  • I figured the ‘easier course’ would compensate for the longer distance.  I had run several 50Ks, but they were intense courses.  -Nope – Miles is different than intensity.
  • Pace.  Argggh. –Maybe I should have spent more time ‘resting’ at the early aid stations.  That would have helped me get away from the pack that I was running with.
  • My left leg – Grr.  I wore an IT strap above my knee.  I think it worked – or rather it hurt worse when I tried to run without it on.
  • Hammer Anti-Fatigue caps seem to work.  When my legs got sore, taking one of those eased the pain.
  • Around mile 20-30 my shoes felt like they were a half size too small.   Not sure if that’s just my mind finding something else to worry about.
  • I’ve never had problems with socks before.  But after a while my socks felt a little like sand paper.  I even changed socks at mile 20.  My feet were fine after the race so maybe it was all in my head but it will give me a reason to buy more running gear.
  • Caffeine!  10+ hours running – I need to add caffeine to my nutrition about 8-10 hours into the course.

Aside from the DNF, I had fun on my run.  I need to figure out my stupid left leg and make some other changes to my strategy and try again.