Browsing Tag

coffee

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Can You Do Cold Brew Coffee at Home?

September 22, 2016

Randy and Cold Brew

Abstract:

Coffee is good. Hot coffee when it’s still hot out is not so good. Will the Cold Brew Coffee Maker save me?

Background:

I am one of about 2/3 of adult Americans who will have a cup of coffee today at work. But in the dog days of summer, hot drinks aren’t really what I’m thirsting for. Unfortunately, every time I’ve tried to make iced coffee it came out bitter. It usually just sits in my fridge as a testament to my failure for a few days before I toss it.

Maybe I’ve just found 1,000 ways not to make iced coffee.

With that in mind, I set off with the Cold Brew Coffee Maker to try one more time.

Before I picked up this coffee maker I had no idea what “cold brew” meant. As I learned from the instructions, it’s a method of brewing where cold water is slowly percolated over ground coffee. The cold water prevents the bitterness of the beans from flowing into the retaining jar, and the slow pace allows plenty of flavor to end up in the final product. It takes a while, and the longer you allow it to take, the more flavor will end up in your cup.

Hypothesis:

My null hypothesis: I can’t make a decent cup of iced coffee.

My alternative hypothesis: I can (if I use the right tools).

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Laura Cabrera

January 12, 2016

Laura Cabrera | UncommonGoodsLaura Cabrera, Recruiter

My hometown is…
Brooklyn, NY; however, I reside in Queens, NY.

I’m inspired by…
A mother’s strength, when they have a child battling cancer.

If I could learn to do one thing perfectly, it would be…
Making lasagna.

My guilty pleasure is…
Cheese of any kind, and coffee.

Within the next 10 years, I hope to be…
Able to volunteer a chunk of my time at any children’s hospital and help parents, children, and siblings get through their tough days.

If my 6th grade teacher could see me now, he or she would say…
“Your English has improved, and do you remember the preposition song?”

My favorite food of all time is…
That’s a hard question…because I like food.

An uncommon fact about me…
I’m an identical twin.

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Rebekah Krikke

October 22, 2015

RebekahKrikke

Rebekah Krikke, Assistant Production Manager, Product Development

My hometown…
A hybrid of central Illinois and Kobe, Japan.

I’m inspired by…
Long walks, new perspectives, gratitude, and the color orange.

What I love about Product Development is…
Seeing a product take form as it moves from concept to reality.

When I’m not at work, I’m usually….
Exploring random neighborhoods in New York, relaxing at home with my husband, or being “productive” at a local coffee shop.

My favorite place to bring out-of-towners is…
Brooklyn Bridge Park.

I’m most looking forward to _______ this summer.
Going to my first Indian Wedding in Bangkok.

An uncommon fact about me is….
I studied Japanese tea ceremony for a few years in high school. I love green tea, so much so that my family named our Boston Terrier “Matcha.”

If I could put my desk anywhere in the world it would be…
An ocean view office where you can hear the waves from your desk and go on occasional swim breaks for inspiration.

My favorite uncommon good is…
Our Personalized New York City subway signs.

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Kimberly Hadlock

September 7, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Kimberly Hadlock, maker of the Coffee Lover and Edible Flower Lollipop Sets.

PicMonkey Collage

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I always kind of have been. When I was little I would design jewelry on rubber bands, going around door to door. I studied music from an early age along with dance. Later came photography. I have always had something going that requires design & creativity.

salted caramel

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Seeing my ideas reach thousands of people. Having a simple idea of a flavor profile enter my mind, calibrating till I think I have it just right. Then releasing it to the world. Knowing that my hard work is paying off and people are enjoying what I do.

1341 (3)

What does your typical day in the kitchen look like?
Up at 6am and packing up the car with my supplies for the day. Heading off to whatever share kitchen I am using for that day. I work solid for 5-6 hours making orders, then play with flavors for about 30 min. Package everything up and head back to my office where I will set and design custom labels for our wedding / corporate orders for 3-4 hours. The last 6 hours I will either tweet the website, or photography. Head off to bed then in 6 hours do it all over again.

herb shot

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Huh. Never really thought about it. Does coffee count? It can be inspirational and keeps me going.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
give me give me give me

birthday cake lollie

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Wisdom begins in wonder – Socrates : If you had said to me 5 years ago that I would be making lollipops for a living I would have laughed. One Christmas holiday I wondered how to make lollipops for a Christmas gift. I played around a bit to figure some things out. My friends loved them, suggested I start a shop. I have never looked back.

izzie lollipops 111

What are your most essential tools?
My mind. All the recipes are up there. I have never written any of them down.

PicMonkey Collage

Gift Guides

It’s Coffee Time: 8 Uncommon Facts About the World’s Favorite Bean

June 23, 2015

Summer is a telling time for coffee drinkers; the heat naturally flushes out the untrustworthy fair-weather “It’s too hot for coffee” types from their ruse and lets us know who we can really trust. I started drinking coffee as a kid – funny given a popular myth regarding the discovery of the bean’s stimulating properties. Coffee originates from Ethiopia, allegedly first noticed by a goat herder named Kaldi whose goats began acting jumpy after eating several wild coffee cherries. The bean has since grown to become an essential part of global food culture – the second most widely traded commodity after crude oil – and the basis of millions of people’s livelihoods (and others’ mornings).

In honor of one of the world’s favorite beverages, we’ve compiled 8 coffee facts about our favorite gifts that will have coffee lovers buzzing no matter how they take it.

Coffee Cold Brew Gift Set

1.) Cooler than you think: It’s never too hot for coffee, but for those who are after a refreshing and revitalizing afternoon drink, cold brew is for you! Plus, cold brew coffee may actually be more flavorful! When coffee grounds are exposed to hot water, acidic oils are extruded that don’t dissolve at lower temperatures. This gives coffee its bitter kick, but masks some of the fruity, aromatic flavor retained by cold brew. Check out our gift lab to see the Cold Brew Set in action!

 

 

The Coffee Towel

2.) Mornings on tap: Here in North America, one third of tap water used for drinking is used to brew coffee! Soak up a little extra with this towel – perfect to hang nearby your coffee station to dry mugs between mornings.

 

 

 

Coffee Explorer Set

3.) Sadly, you can’t wear the Coffee Belt: Though the most coffee is consumed by the global north, coffee can only be grown in a region straddling the equator known as the ‘Coffee Belt’ (or Bean Belt). The Coffee Explorer Set takes you on a tour of the belt with four varieties from Ethiopia, Brazil, Colombia, and Honduras without having to board an airplane. That could get expensive quickly; the only U.S. state in which coffee can be successfully grown for commercial purposes is Hawaii, which explains why backyard bean growing hasn’t quite taken off.

 

  

 

Coffee Liqueur Making Kit

4.) Before on-plane temperature control: This DIY take on coffee liqueur promises a different kind of buzz than your morning cup of Joe. Coffee Liqueur’s distant, freckle-faced cousin, Irish coffee, was conceived in the 1940s by the head chef at now-Shannon International Airport to warm American passengers on cold winter flights. When asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, the chef labeled it ‘Irish Coffee.’

 

 

Le Café Personalized Art

5.) Stimulating more than your mornings: Turn your kitchen or dining room into your own café – maybe you’ll spark an important intellectual movement! European coffee houses, precursor to modern cafés, are often credited with helping to spark the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries for their role as public places for discussion. Plus, coffee benefits short term memory recall!

 

 

Ceramic Greek Coffee Cup

6.) Classic CoffΣΣ: Immortalized in ceramic, the classic Greek motif coffee cup is an iconic symbol of the New York City morning rush. Makes a perfect gift for a coffee loving New Yorker, who drinks (on average) close to a whopping seven times more coffee than inhabitants of other major cities!

 

 

Café Collection Soaps Set

7.) Caffeine Vaccine: With these soaps active in the shower and caffeine active in the bloodstream, you’ll be extra safe from unwanted microbes! Long credited speculatively with antiseptic properties, a 2011 study indicated that caffeine may be more effective than ampicillin at inhibiting bacteria like staphylococcus, salmonella and E. coli.

 

 

Espresso Pop Chart

8.) Who needs unions when the boss has a bean machine?: Depicting 23 different kinds of espresso, the Pop Chart serves as an aesthetic reference for any espresso lover! Just don’t spend too much time staring at it with mouth-watering daydreams of bold, Italian goodness – espresso was first invented in the early 1900s as a means to decrease the time laborers took on their coffee breaks. Get back to work!

 

 

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Stay Cool & Caffeinated with Cold Brew Coffee

May 15, 2015

Abi tests the Cold Brew Coffee Set

Product: Coffee Cold Brew Gift Set

Hypothesis:
Iced coffee is one of my favorite morning treats, so I was super excited to try out the Cold Brew Coffee Gift Set (and drink the coffee in the morning at work). I hypothesized that this set would be a great alternative to spending money at coffee shops.

Research:

The set includes instructions, which I followed to the best of my ability. I am rather impatient, so there were parts that I was tempted to skip, but I stayed faithful to the directions throughout.

Experiment: 
I began by boiling the filter (the instructions say to boil the filter before its first use, to pre-shrink it) in water for 10 minutes. The instructions say that filters “will continue to shrink slightly for the next few uses and will produce the best quality brew from then on.” I don’t have any proof of this yet, but I look forward to tasting all the future cold brew coffee batches to see if taste improves over time.

Boiling the Filter

The provided recipe says to use 2 cups of freshly ground coffee of your choice (the kit comes with two cups ready to go for your first batch).

Coffee Beans

I added the coffee to the fabric filter and “bloomed” the grounds, as per the directions. In this case, to bloom the grounds means to wet them thoroughly and let them stand for 60 seconds.

Grounds

I twisted the neck of the filter, as tightly as I could, and wrapped the tie string around the neck a few times, then slipped the neck of the filter through the glass ring (which is attached to/hanging from the filter bag).

Tightening Filter

Then I inserted the filter into the jar and filled the jar with cold water.

Cold Brew Coffee In The Works!

Luckily I did this at the end of the day in the office, because it takes 12-16 hours to cold brew in the fridge till it’s ready. The next morning, I would get to sample my first batch of cold brew!

Conclusion: 
Fresh Coffee | UncommonGoods

Ta da! I opened the fridge to find some actual cold brewed coffee. It looked pretty good, smelled delightful, and was also tasty. I did feel that it was a little weak, though. I removed the filter, dumped the grounds into the compost bin, washed the filter out, and set it out to dry until I made my next batch.

Finished Coffee

The kit comes with a pouring device that fits inside the lid, which works quite nicely for pouring the coffee once its done.

Drinking Cold Brew Coffee

People don’t naturally look at a camera when they are drinking coffee, but I wanted to show you that I was trying the coffee I just made, and allow you to fully see the expression on my face while I first tasted it. I look pretty strange, but I assure you, the coffee tasted good and I was excited to be trying it out.

Yumzies! |Delicious Iced Coffee with Coconut Milk
Here I am, showing off the final product, in my favorite glass, complete with almond/coconut milk. So yummy!

In case you are wondering (and you really might be curious about this), I do not add sugar to my coffee, unless it tastes completely awful. I did not even consider adding sugar to this batch. I found it very yummy (though, like I said, I would have liked it to be a bit more concentrated).

During my next trial, I filled the filter as much as possible (this was probably almost 3 cups of coffee grounds). It was delicious but quite strong. I think two and half cups is probably the ideal amount of coffee grounds that should be used for this cold brew coffee (at least for it to be just right for me). I’m excited to use the Coffee Cold Brew Set this summer to beat the heat in a very delicious way!

blogcta-abigiftlab

Maker Stories

Max’s Mug: Nothing But Net

September 23, 2014

Max and the Mug with a Hoop | UncommonGoods

Max is a budding entrepreneur who created a slam-dunk design: The Mug With a Hoop™. It’s no surprise that he’s a fan of playing with his food—after all, he was just 8 years old when he stepped out on the court to get in the design game!

The young inventor presented his product at the Babson College Center for Entrepreneurship, and in the Product Pitch at Fenway contest—so he could then tell his friends he had “pitched” at Fenway Park! Max’s mug was named one of the ten finalists in the contest, encouraging him to stay in the game.

Great publicity soon followed, including stories in the Boston Herald and Boston Business Journal. Max and his team (mom, dad and brother) then mounted a successful crowd-funding campaign, and their full court press put the mug into production.

The Mug With A Hoop™ isn’t just an addictively fun product; it also serves as a model success story and celebrates the creative focus found on the upside of dyslexia, a learning disability that’s affected Max from an early age.

Max (chief creator for MAX’IS Creations, now 10 years old), his brother Sam (13 years old and VP of product testing), and their mom, Jen (chief creator’s creator) took some time out from juggling school, entrepreneurship, and sports fandom to give us more detail on their uncommon venture, insight into the inspiration for the mug, and a glimpse of what’s next.

Mug with a Hoop | UncommonGoods

Q.) What was it like starting a business at a young age?

Max:
It was hard but I got it done. I like that I get to make money by doing my job. Other kids make money by doing chores, but I sell mugs. It’s more fun than doing chores, but it’s hard because I have to do a lot of work. And I’m proud to be donating 5 percent of the profits from MAX’IS Creations to charities that support learning disabilities like dyslexia because I’m dyslexic.

I made my original mug in art class at school. But then to turn it into a product to market, I had to work with design people to turn it into a prototype for a mug we could manufacture. I had to decide on what it would look like, what shape it should be, what color, and how big it should be. Then I had to decide where to make them. We had to talk to lots of factories until we found the right one. And now I do a lot of work going places to sell my mugs.

Sam:
I’m very happy for Max and his business. He’s very entrepreneurial, and our whole family is helping him succeed. I like seeing the reaction of the people buying the mugs. Everyone seems to really like it. And it’s great to see places like UncommonGoods wanting to carry it.

Painting Mugs

Q.) Your company motto is “The world would be better if we could play with our food.” Did you get in a little trouble?

Max:
Sometimes…I like playing around but this is a good way to have fun at the table! I really like to play with my iPad at the table. But my parents don’t like me to do that because then I’m not part of the conversation. The Mug With a Hoop™ is a way for kids to play and be part of the conversation. It’s something you can do as a family. And the world is better if you can play with your food because it’s more fun!

Play with Your Food | UncommonGoods

Sam (left) and Max (right) play with their food.

Q.) What came first, the motto or the mug?

Jen:
The mug came first. As our family connected with other entrepreneurs, we quickly learned the adage that successful products solve a problem. Looking at Max’s invention, we asked ourselves what problem it solved, and realized that Max’s value proposition in his own words was rather simple but true: “it makes eating fun.” And for many families, the dinner table is not seen as a place for fun. So we came up with the tagline “the world would be better if we could play with our food” to address the problem Max’s product solved and how his way of looking at things could make a difference in the world.

Q.) Now that The Mug With a Hoop™ is doing so well, do you have something new in the works?

Max:
Yes, my baseball mug—The Mug With a Glove™—is in production and should be available next spring! I 3D printed a prototype this spring at Fenway Park. The Mug With a Glove™ has baseball colors: the bowl is white in the shape of a baseball, with red baseball stitching with a brown glove attached that you throw the marshmallows into. It’s fun because you can throw marshmallows into the glove. It’s going to be great for small kids and big kids—any kind of kid, because it’s easier to get it in than The Mug With a Hoop™, which may be harder for little kids. I also have mugs coming out for football, hockey and soccer!

Q.) It must have been cool to visit Fenway a couple of times related to promote and develop your products.

I’m a Red Sox fan and love going to Fenway Park! I was excited to be able to go to Fenway to pitch my Mug With a Hoop™. And then they invited me back and I got to 3D print my baseball mug. It was fun to be on the Jumbotron. My favorite player is Dustin Pedroia, because he’s really good in the field.

Max "Pitching" His Design

Max at Fenway Park with
The Mug With a Hoop ™ and The Mug With a Glove ™.

Q.) Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

Max:
Don’t go too big at first because you may not sell that many. Keep it simple. And then if it’s good keep doing it. Also, you should get other people to help you. If you’re a kid, you don’t really know what to do, so get someone to help you. My mom and dad are helping me, and my brother Sam and his friends Bobby and Marc also helped me a lot.

Sam:
Starting a business takes time and effort. If you put in time and effort you’ll have a good product and will be able to sell more and more until you make enough money to create another product and you keep building up.

You don’t really need to be an expert. If you want to be successful you just need to put time and effort in.

When Max made his first product, we chose to take a lot of time out of our regular activities as a family to try to make this product successful. And if you put in enough work and effort you will have a great product and it will be able to sell well.

Max and his team have every reason to be proud of their record so far. You can become a fan by picking up a Mug With a Hoop™ for yourself or for your favorite sports fan.

Design

And The Winner Is…

January 28, 2011

Congrats to Rachel W!

And a warm round of applause for our runners up:

“That’s gonna go straight to your handle.” — Chris B.

“Mug#1: Why the long face?
Mug #2: I’m only half full” — Lauren

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