Featured November Snapshooter

Photographer Dennis Merth

Check out our latest featured photographer. Dennis won our November cover for “Talent”. This new-to-retirement photographer is embracing his newly found “free time” in style.

Name: Dennis Merth
Home Town: Placerville, California

What’s your story? Are you a pro-photographer, or a weekend snapshooter, or something in between? I’m a newly retired physicist/software engineer who loves taking photographs.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
I like the unusual shots, mostly outdoors.

Dennis’ winning “Talent” snapshot. Rocking it old school is very cool.

What would you say to someone else about the Lizzy’s Fresh Label contest?
I would encourage them to send in their snaps, it’s great fun.

Oh yes, what’s your favorite way to drink your coffee?
Black, nothing added, completely natural.

Where can our readers see more of your photography?
www.flickr.com/photos/SunSeekingGuy/

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Do you have the perfect shot for one of the Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee labels? Submit it for a chance to win the cover of one of our coffees a free month of coffee! Go to www.lizzysfreshcoffee.com to submit online now.

To order Dennis’ winning coffee label, or to browse them all, shop now at www.lizzysfreshcoffee.com

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Coffee Peep Show

Somewhere back in the 70s or 80s, grocery store shoppers were introduced to the wonderful world of bulk products. These grand rows of foods ranging from candy to flour to beans and cereal were displayed in large, “fancy” plexiglas containers, inviting the shopper to overindulge in goodies and staples at prices that couldn’t be resisted. All the while the shopper felt so victorious thinking of all the money she was saving by choosing products sans packaging, regardless of the fact that she bought lentils, which she never eats. The grocer looked like a hero to the shopper, showing a generous tolerance to shoplifters of 1-2 gummy bears, or that old lady who always used her hands to dig out a few more dried apricots. It certainly paved the way for today’s bulk food and junque giant, Costco.

Although these bins are less common in grocery stores now, they still hang on in patchouli scented health food stores, and in nearly every grocery store I’ve seen for the display and dispensation of coffee. If you buy your coffee at the grocery store, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. There, shining in the distance is a shelving display stacked 6 across and down filled with what you believe to be fresh coffee. You get closer, and notice that almost every container’s front surfaces is a greasy brown textured mess as the beans have created etched in goober streaks as a few ounces of coffee are emptied out into your awaiting paper-ish bag. Usually accompanying this display is a grinder that lets you destroy your coffee even further as you select a grind from “drip” to “ Turkish” at the turn of the dial. How convenient. You scamper off happy with your fresh, bulk food purchase.

Let me tell you what you’ve just paid $11.95 for…

Let’s just back up to the facts about proper coffee storage. Coffee’s mortal enemies are light, air, and moisture. To properly store coffee, it must be in an airtight, opaque container at room, or slightly below, temperature. These bins have everything going wrong for them. They’re not airtight, opaque or moisture barriers (that being the least of the possible problems in this storage situation…but we’ll skip that tangent). The worst of the situation is that they’re almost NEVER clean. That chunky brown greasy front is the coffee’s oils building up on the surface as week after week, the beans are left to grow old and stale. There are 2 reasons that coffee oils are on the surface of the bean. Reason 1- the coffee was roasted very dark, and the oils emerged from inside the bean to the surface. Reason 2- the coffee is old, because as any degree of roast ages, the oils migrate to the surface.

Caked on coffee oils and residue.  Yuck!

Caked on coffee oils and residue. Yuck!

This Grocery store bin display actually has an OPEN 5 lb bag of beans sitting atop the display itself.

This Grocery store bin display actually has an OPEN 5 lb bag of beans sitting atop the display itself.

I can almost promise you that it’s likely that you’re not in the presence of freshly roasted dark, oily beans when staring into the tempting little box of coffee in a miniature peep-show of sorts. The reality is that it’s more likely that those coffees are weeks or months old. They arrived from the roaster in a bulk 5 pound bag, and the grocery store stock boy poured the next “fresh” batch onto the remnants of the last order. I’m merely guessing here, and I don’t know what the grocery store protocol is to clean those bins, but the reality is that there’s usually so much gunk built up inside those little boxes that you can see it from isle 4. What’s the problem with coffee oil? When coffee oil comes in contact with oxygen, the process of rancidification begins within 45 minutes. Once rancid, oils boast unpleasant noxious odors and flavors. Ever had rancid butter? I rest my case.

The only time I’d buy coffee out of an open bin or container is if I visited the roaster’s shop, and that morning’s coffees were displayed for sale just like a baker has today’s fresh breads out. You ask for your fresh beans, and get a 12 oz bag that you’ll immediately place in your countertop airtight canister when you arrive home..just like you’d put the ice cream into the freezer when you arrive home (read carefully here…Ice cream in freezer, Coffee at room temperature). At the store, you’re much better off buying something that’s sold in an airtight bag, as long as you can figure out how old it is. Don’t waste your money on anything that you can’t finish up within 2 weeks of the roasting date. Buying anything other than that? You’re just spending your money on “day olds” so to speak. The bummer is the store isn’t giving you the “day old” price.

Dispenser loaded with rancid oils and caked on gunk.

Dispenser loaded with rancid oils and caked on gunk—Stay away!

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The GPS

Girls from Idaho mostly arent fantastically savvy big city freeway drivers. I can point my mountain bike straight down a trail and hit speeds that might make some people puke, but theres something about bobbing and weaving between 5 lanes of traffic while going well above the 65 mph speed limit that makes me a little uncomfortable. I was on my big adventure to visit my coffee supplier last week, though, so I sucked it up and became best friends with the voice on my $9 per day GPS. If you dont know where youre going and the digital voice inside a plastic box thats plugged into your cigarette lighter can tell you how to get there, listen. She knowsyou dont. Continue reading

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Two Hands, Stupid

Have you ever fallen off a moving treadmill? I did this once. Not that it was actually falling off, but it was more like an attempt to get on the moving apparatus that caused the situation. Its not often that I find myself jogging at the gym on the treadmill. Its something I save for frigid winter days when theres no option to go outside for a little ski or something. Anyway, there I was about 3 minutes into my jog, completely annoyed that I was watching Gun Dog: Bird Hunters on the TV with an out of range remote control in my hand. Bugged by my inability to control my environment, I stepped off the moving treadmill to walk up to the TV to get the thing to change to something more appropriate, like todays Oprah, for example. Should I have asked the man 2 treadmills over if this was ok? Maybe, and this is probably why karma took control in the next moments. Continue reading

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Ta-Da!

Most people wont refuse free cookies or free coffee, but thank goodness my highly polite friends, neighbors, and work colleagues were willing to give the garage coffee in the little brown bag a try. Some of the roasting attempts tasted great and some tasted downright boring. The quality of the green coffee beans that can be purchased by home roasters over the internet is as uncertain as Brittany Spears behavior, but none the less entertaining to roast and try. Continue reading

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Science or Art?

Flip red switch to on position, temperature control to high, ensure fire extinguisher is nearby. This is how the instructions for my new in-home coffee roaster read. Great, Im going to burn the house down because Im too lame to buy coffee at the store. I decided to stop there and back up about 20 steps. Now that I had the equipment that could actually turn out a decent roast, I needed to match my coffee roasting skills to it. This wasnt cave-girl and the popcorn popper anymore. Continue reading

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The Good Stuff

Certain things in life are saved for those of us who fit into descriptive categories like “artsy fartsy” and “clog wearing”. It would be reasonable to say that I am not a fit for either of these categories, and may be as far away from them as a person can get since I’m mostly amused by rules, process, boxes and squares.

Without offending those who seem to have a knack for colorful dress, or choosing Dutch-inspired safety footwear, I might suggest that the above two categories fit with types who make their own kitchen gadgets from materials grown in their own gardens, or drink breakfast juices from green plants that would send my allergies so far into outer space that I’d need a moon sized Zyrtec to stop the itch that’s taken the place of my eyeballs, or think it’s a good plan to roast their own coffee beans in a “not intended for that purpose” popcorn popper out in their back yards just so they can have fresh coffee every week. Wait, what? Continue reading

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Hair and Cake

That was how it started (hint..read the first post first, starts from the bottom up:)). I was on a big high with the thought of starting and running my own business. The only problem was I didn’t know what I was going to sell. How does a person figure that out? I only knew one thing for sure, and I learned it from the companies I’d worked for in the past. If you’re not authentic, you’re just another company trying to sell stuff. People don’t believe in your stuff if you don’t truly have a connection with what you’re selling. It’s just that simple to me. I had to feel personally connected to what it was that would become the core of my business, and something I loved as much as a family member. This would become my adopted child, and I never wanted to be embarrassed about it in public or have to ask for my money back. Continue reading

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