506 Roasts

Life, Love, Coffee….and everything in between

the (bi)daily grind

We’ve had the same coffee grinder since before we were married, and the truth is I hate it!  Technically, its a burr grinder which is supposed to be better than a blade grinder.  While it certainly grinds more uniformly than a blade grinder, our “trusty” Braun grinder has some very poor qualities about it as well.  This is the one piece of coffee equipment that I’ve most wanted to replace, but have yet to do it!  This got me thinking about the different types of grinders out there…

If you really enjoy coffee then a blade grinder shouldn’t even be an option, especially if you spend a lot on high quality beans!  Basically, blade grinders overheat the coffee and don’t even grind the beans uniformly…it’s just not good.  Now, a good quality electric burr grinder will cost quite a bit, but this isn’t your only option.  There are all kinds of manual burr grinders which do a fantastic job, although I don’t own one (yet!).  There’s the Turkish coffee mill,

A typical Turkish coffee mill

the beloved Zassenhaus mill,

Zassenhaus 156 ( quick tip…look for a high quality vintage one!)

and the Hario brand mills.

The sacrifice is that you have to crank the mill by hand which can take quite awhile, but these mills have been known to outperform high end electric burr grinders, especially for espresso.  Speaking of the Turkish coffee mill, I found a seemingly high quality one at an International market in Raleigh for a mere $14.95…I’m kicking myself for passing on it!

Everyone out there who is as passionate as we are please share some cool ideas for grinders, we are always open to try new things!

A short brew thru

The variety of coffee preparation methods can be a little bit overwhelming. To some, the french press might be a little exotic, but for those who really love great coffee, its a staple.  The stovetop moka pot has also gained significant popularity recently, however numerous methods exist which can offer a superior cup of coffee when compared to a standard drip brewer.  Some of these methods actually save you money versus buying a drip brewer, which is certainly advantageous if you’re willing to put in a little effort for your coffee.

A sampling of our coffee brewing equipment

Bonmac coffee filter cone

The most cost effective and (arguably) the most simple coffee preparation method is by the use of a pour over filter cone. These can be purchased for as little as $10. Except for paper filters (or a reusable one) that’s all you need if you have a way to heat water. For a Melitta-type filter cone, the idea is to add ground coffee to the filter cone, which sits atop your coffee mug, then add hot water to the filter cone. A small hole in the bottom of the filter allows water to pass at the proper rate so that amazing quality coffee is produced with minimal effort.

Cona vacuum brewer size D

One of the more exotic methods being enjoyed today is the vacuum pot. This one is on our wish list of coffee equipment. The idea is really cool and the results are supposedly optimal if done correctly. According to SCIENCE, over-extraction of the coffee grounds is impossible, and the coffee is brewed at exactly the right temperature. Water is poured into the bottom bowl, while the coffee grounds are placed in the top bowl (funnel).  When the water is just starting to boil, you place the funnel into the bottom bowl and wait for the majority of the water to ascend into the funnel, then wait about a minute for the coffee to infuse. It’s a little more involved than most methods (with the exception of the lever espresso machine), however you see the whole process right in front of you because the brewer is made of glass!

As for espresso, there are several options, depending on how involved you are willing to get. If, like me, you’re lucky, you can find a vintage espresso machine for cheap and enjoy high quality espresso anytime you want.  However, there are reasonable alternatives to searching for a cheap vintage espresso machine or popping for a brand new one. The most common alternative is the moka stovetop pot. This isn’t true espresso, however, the results can be impressive and some prefer the taste of well made moka coffee to a proper espresso. But, if you’re looking for true espresso on the cheap (and on the fly), then this cool gadget could be what you’re looking for. I’ve never tried this one, but it looks awesome. The Mypressi Twist is a C02 powered portable espresso machine. I might take one of these instead of my moka pot next time I go backpacking!

Mypressi twist

What Keeps you GOING??!!


Since we’ve been slacking off on the blog lately, we thought it would be appropriate to write a little about motivation. What motivates you? Being in the very early stages of starting a small business, we constantly need motivation ideas. There are small things to get us “up and at ‘em” such as music, inspirational books, quotes and, of course, a great cup of coffee!!!

As I sit here writing this post, I have Maroon 5 blasting in the background; it gets me excited and ready to work. Now, Cary would probably choose something a bit less mainstream like Ratatat or Ghostland Observatory. However, we both would agree of some Trombone Shorty though!!

Cary and I are not motivated by the prospect of making a lot of money. Of course, we want to be able to provide for ourselves and we enjoy nice things, but money is not what makes us happy. This took me awhile to learn although I am convinced Cary was born without the desire to become wealthy. As long as he can pay his bills, have his family, his dog and good beer every now and then he is content and satisfied! Our true goal is simply to bring joy and a great cup of coffee to people who will appreciate it. We also want to give back to the community and be as good to our earth as possible in the process of everything.

We enjoy being together, and with our family and friends, which is a HUGE motivation. We are motivated by all those things but what on a day to day basis motivates all you readers out there running your own business?? Please share!

Raleigh’s Ragin’ Coffeehouses

During our dating and early married life Cary and I spent a lot of time in coffeehouses. In fact, we still frequent coffeehouses whenever we’re looking for a good time. It’s a cheap date, most are quiet and we both enjoy it!! Having both spent a lot of time in the Raleigh, NC area we decided to share a bit about our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh.  The entire Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has great coffeehouses, but we are only sharing our Raleigh favorites today!

Global Village Owner, Mike Ritchey

Global Village Owner, Mike Ritchey

One of the most consistently fabulous places for great coffee is Global Village Organic Coffee on Hillsborough Street.  The owner himself is a wonderful barista, always challenging himself to keep up with the best brewing methods and newest drinks for serious coffee lovers.  From a ristretto to a single cup made with a drip filtercone, you won’t be disappointed.  There is also a great deal of consistency from barista to barista at Global Village, which is often challenging to find from a coffeehouse. Global Village also offers great food and other drinks. They make a mean mango smoothie and have great sandwiches for lunch and delicious muffins and croissants for breakfast. Global Village also does an excellent job of keeping their prices as low as possible for their loyal college students. By the way, the success of Global Village drove Starbucks away from Hillsborough street, if that says anything about the dedication of Global Village to great coffee!

Café Helios

Café Helios

Next up we’ve got Café Helios on Glenwood Avenue. Café Helios has always had outstanding coffee, whether freshly brewed drip coffee or a perfectly pulled double shot. More recently, Café Helios has introduced more local, fresh foods to their menu.  They also have a wine menu and incorporate a lot of local bands into their nightly schedule for great entertainment.  Check out their facebook page for info about their great new food items and for pictures of beautiful latte art!

A staple of downtown Raleigh, and the Five Points area in particular, is the Third Place coffeehouse. It’s quiet and quaint making it great for a cheap date night. The whole Five Points area is full of goodness. Take in a movie, have dinner, and then finish the evening with coffee at the Third Place. The Third Place was also a regular choice during college to spend those late nights studying.

Cup A Joe, Hillsborough Street

Vintage Probat roaster at Cup a Joe!

If you’re looking for a very hip coffeehouse, then you’ll want to visit Cup A Joe, particularly the Hillsborough street location. Their coffee is great, but not quite as good as the coffeehouses above, however the atmosphere is fun and eclectic. The Hillsborough street location is frequented by hotrodders, artists, musicians and students alike.

If you’re familiar with any of these coffeehouses then tell us your favorite! Otherwise, we would love to hear about the great coffeehouses in your area.

A Few of our Faves


There are many items Cary and I love and use every day that we thought would make a great post to share.

We both use Keihl’s facial products for our skin care. We love Kiehl’s! I’ve been using their face wash since college and introduced Cary to it in his stocking on our first married Christmas. We both currently use Facial Fuel(Cary) and Rare Earth(Katie). We also love their lip balms. Kiehl’s uses all natural ingredients which is a plus, and working with a Kiehl’s sales person is such a great experience. They are so well trained in the products and stand by each and every thing they sell (you also get fun samples with every purchase, online and in the stores).

Burts Bees we are partial to first of all because it’s made in our neighbor hometown, Durham NC!! Burt’s Bees is affordable, easy to find, and they also uses all natural ingredients. We have a few favorites that we use all the time. I love their Naturally Ageless Line Diminishing Day Lotion, while Cary uses muscle mend for back pain and Beeswax and Banana Hand Creme in the winter when his hands get really dry and cracked. We really have not tried a Burt’s Bees product that we haven’t loved.

A few shout outs need to go to the Seventh Generation products as well as Mrs. Myers. Both companies sell natural, great cleaning and general home products.

So what are some of your favorite “green”, natural, or made in the USA products? We would love to try anything new so please share!!

It’s Movie Night!

{Courtesy of Mike Rooney Studios}

I thought we would share some of our recent movie picks and all time favorites with everyone today. The above picture is a painting by Mike Rooney of our favorite theater, the Rialto in downtown Raleigh. Cary and I LOVE movies, any kind of movie actually, comedy, drama, documentaries, animated….we just love good movies!! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about some movies many may not consider good such as Legally Blonde, Overboard, and The Devil Wears Prada;whereas Cary’s taste leans more towards actual award winning, thought provoking films. Whatever it is, movies are something we love to share together. It is honestly something we look forward to all week, our movie nights and we rarely even GO to the movies!

So with that being said, I thought I would share some really cool films we have watched over the past few weeks and please share some with us. We have an instant Netflix account and always love cool recommenations people have of little gems they have found online!

Fresh, about the good food movement

We watched a documentary this weekend called Fresh, recommended to us by Cary’s cousin. It was so cool because I had recently done some research on a sustainable farm in VA we would like to visit and that farmer was on this documentary. The film discusses so many problems we face today with the growing industrialization of farming. I won’t go into much detail because I believe EVERYONE should watch this movie but it will truly change your outlook on what you eat.

Midnight in Paris

A film we first watched about 2 months ago has become a staple in our household now. Midnight in Paris!!! Ummmm WOW!!! Most amazing film I’ve seen in at least 10 years, I’m serious! I loved this movie and have now seen it about 5 times. The music, the fashion, the comedy, the writing…..just a wonderful, gives you chills movie! If you want a feel good, finish with a huge smile on your face movie, then RENT IT NOW!!!

The Sea Inside

Now for some films we both just LOVE. They may be older but not many people have heard of some and they were just wonderful movies. The first being The Sea Inside. This is a foreign film, so unless you speak fluent Spanish, get prepared to do a lot of reading. An amazing film, get your tissues ready! It’s the story of a paraplegic and his struggle with life. Very sad but gives such an amazing outlook on life and how precious it is.  If you want to see Javier Bardem before he became famous in the U.S., then watch this movie!

Eleven. Exactly. One Louder.

Another great movie, that will make you laugh till you cry, is This Is Spinal TapIt’s a mockumentary of a fake British band. The film follows the band while they are on tour, if you even want to call it that. This movie was written and directed by Christopher Guest who did another film that you may have heard of, Best In Show…also a great laugh.

If you love Barry Manilow, you're gonna love The Insane Clown Posse.

Finally, this one may not be for everyone but check out Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion It is mostly Zach Galifianakis’ stand up routine but there is also a fictional brother that makes appearances that are anything but boring! It’s funny, not too long, and a little strange….really great!!

So those are the movies we felt like we wanted to share with our readers! If you watch any let us know what you think. Please also share any quirky, off the wall films with us you have watched that we may not have seen. We are always searching for fun new movies!

From Green to Caffeine

Freshly pulled double shot!

The transformation from green coffee beans to something drinkable is quite miraculous, in many ways comparable to grapes becoming wine.  There are numerous similarities between coffee and wine, however the process of making drinkable coffee is drastically different from wine making.  Roasting the beans is analagous to the fermentation stage of wine making; this is where the magic happens.  The process itself is rather simple, though it depends on many variables, such as bean type, roast level preferred, and how the coffee is intended to be brewed.  A seemingly minor change in one of these variables can have a major impact on the end product.

Unroasted, green coffee beans

For the unfamiliar, roasting coffee is simply turning green beans into brown beans by means of some heat source.  Rather than a technical description of the process I’ll focus on a general outline of how this works.  The heat source can be anything, for instance, simply roasting beans in a skillet works, though the results are far from remarkable.  I’ve roasted beans in everything from a skillet to a convection oven to a homemade contraption made from an old pressure cooker.  With practice, the results can be quite good with some of these methods, though consistency from roast to roast can be a challenge.

One of the most important aspects of roasting coffee is knowing when to stop.  If the beans are under-roasted the coffee can have a very grassy taste, while if you over-roast you simply end up with charcoal.  You can determine roast level by visual inspection or temperature, but one of the most important methods for determining roast level is to listen to the beans.  As a result of chemical reactions, the beans make a cracking sound when they heat up.  If roasted long enough, there will be a first and a second crack.  The first crack signifies what is known as a City roast, while just before the second crack signifies a Full City roast.  French roast is carried all the way through the second crack until the beans are quite dark and oily.

Freshly roasted beans from a co-op in Burundi

You might ask Which roast level is the best?  Well, that depends (a lot) on the type of bean being roasted and how you want the coffee to taste.  Lighter roasts have the potential to bring out more of the bright, flowery tastes in a coffee while a darker roast might bring out the deep, chocolate like flavors.  Some beans are very forgiving with respect to roast level, while others will only taste good on one end of the spectrum.

Vintage La Pavoni Europiccola

Making a great cup of coffee is an art; an art which we sometimes take to the extreme. For instance, we make our coffee in this vintage La Pavoni lever espresso machine! It’s not a pretty machine, but there’s something about the manual labor involved with using this machine that makes the end result that much more enjoyable.

So there you have it; a little insight into roasting fresh coffee.

Trying to be green….whenever we aren’t being pink!

It’s true, Cary lives in a pink, pink world. Any and every pink item I can sneak in I try to, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

We try very hard to make our lives as green as possible. We buy organic, recycle, compost and now we have added hydroponic farming in an effort to be as green as possible.

Mac Farms in Walton County

There is a small family farm here in Walton County Florida called Mac Farms. Mac Farms uses the hydroponic farming system to grow all their amazing produce.  According to their website: Hydroponics literally translates from Latin to “water labor”, meaning the water is working to bring the nutrients to the plant as opposed to the soil.  In typical Cary fashion we could not just think this was a cool idea or possibly incorporate some hydroponic produce items into our diet, no sir…..we had to start our own!! I have to say this is Cary’s baby, I basically OOOOHHH and AAAAHHH at the unbelievable growth.

Here are some recent pics of the status of our tiny little farm. So far, we have grown beets, collards, romaine lettuce, basil, summer thyme and arugula.  The water contains a nutrient solution from General Hydroponics.

Float system next to wick system

Collards and beets in floating and wick-based hydroponic systems.

The hydroponic systems we’ve been growing in so far have been strictly experimental and homemade, using items we had around the house. The systems are far from perfect, but the results are quite impressive so far.  Now we need some input from you our readers! As you can see we are using styrofoam for our pots and the base which floats on the water. As styrofoam is not environmentally friendly, we need suggestions for other items to use to build a larger scale system so that our system is truly green! All and any suggestions are much appreciated; keep them coming and we will keep you updated on the status!

Float system

Collards flourishing in our floating hydroponic system.

Stay tuned for this weekend’s post about roasting coffee!

Nice to Meet You

Hi! We are Cary and Katie. 

Image

Before we start, we wanted to share a little about ourselves and why we have decided to start blogging together. Cary and I have been married 6 blissful years. One thing we have learned in those 6 years, and 8 years together, is that life really does throw you a lot of lemons. The saying is really true though that it’s up to you what to do with those lemons, we decided to roast coffee with them! Not literally of course, but we have turned the trials in our life into finding something we are both passionate about and something we can share together. This blog is about our journey in roasting some pretty awesome coffee and what we learn along the way.

Now a little about us…..

Cary Ross is the coolest nerd you will ever meet. He’s a doctor! Earned his Phd last May in mathematics and truly has the coolest job title ever….mathematician! But that’s just the tip of the ice burg with Cary. This guy can do it all. He renovated our historic home. He cooks some of the most amazing food you will ever taste and has a unique way of figuring almost anything out. Cary loves coffee but hates bad coffee. After finding little nooks and crannies around the world with great coffee other’s just didn’t compare and that’s why 3 years ago Cary decided he would just do it himself and never looked back. After many failed attempts and many fire alarms we now share amazing coffee every morning roasted right in our own home because of Cary’s determination and passion for a great cup of coffee!

Now me…Katie. When they say opposites attract I’m pretty sure they hadn’t met Cary and I yet because if they had there would be a whole new category for opposites. First off, I am about as mathematically inclined as a mailbox, probably worse. I’m loud, outgoing, and emotional whereas Cary is quiet, subdued and calm all the time. We definitely balance each other out. When Cary and I started dating back in 2004 I can honestly say I hadn’t even tried an espresso let alone cared about coffee. But after dating and then living with a coffee fanatic I now cannot start my day without it! I’m a self proclaimed coffee snob all thanks to Cary. 

So this is our journey to perfect our coffee and hopefully bring it to the world! Keep checking, we will have a site up and running soon so you can purchase your own 506 Roasts! Until then, this is a little spot to show the world what we learn along the way and hope to hear feedback and stories of other’s journeys too. 

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