You Can Create the Best Homemade Coffee Blends

832287705c53b565a54ffa03723ad54eIf you love good coffee and you are a constant coffee shop habitué, you have probably wished you could get the hang of making good homemade coffee blends so you could treat yourself to a fantastic cup before going to work. If you could learn to make coffee the way baristas do, you would certainly have something worth waking up a little early for.

Check your Equipment

The large automatic coffee makers are good for making regular brew and making plenty of it quite fast. However, an automatic coffee maker isn’t what you need if you want to make gourmet coffee. Most modern coffee makers fail to bring out the unique characteristics of the special beans you are brewing, thereby defeating the purpose of going the extra mile for extra flavorful coffee. The low-tech coffee makers are actually better the best flavor. Take your pick of either a French press pot with a finely perforated plunger or a drip brew pot where you pour water over coffee beans in a filter.

Apart from the coffeemaker you use, coffee experts say that if you are really serious about the quality and the freshness of the coffee you create at home, you should think about investing on a burr coffee grinder – one that will chop the beans uniformly so that water can run through the beans uniformly and extract flavor efficiently.

Another thing coffee gurus say is that you should use a standardized scoop so you can accurately feed 2 tablespoons of ground coffee into each 8-ounce cup. Moreover, get yourself a carafe or a thermos so you can store any excess coffee. Never let it sit on the burner – that can turn your coffee into swill.

Start with the Beans

If you really want to get started on producing awesome cups of this drink, the first thing you need to do is find good coffee. Your best bet would be a reputable local roaster or supermarket that keeps freshly roasted beans on stock. Begin by buying a quarter of a pound each of three or four kinds and test them for flavor. As you try each kind, smell it and take a few sips without any creamer to discern the taste of the beans fully. Take note of where the beans come from and how they were roasted. After you’ve tasted all the flavors you are inclined to try, take note of the ones you like and begin the serious project of creating the best homemade coffee blends at home.

Maintain your Equipment

Keep your coffeemaker clean. Fill the reservoir with a mixture made of 50% water and 50% white vinegar. Turn your coffeemaker on, run through several cups, and let the mixture sit for an hour. Discard the mixture and run plain water several times until all traces of the vinegar odor disappears. Never clean your equipment with soap. Soak all the removable parts in water with baking soda, and then rinse them thoroughly in running water. After you have done the vinegar routine, you can do place the carafe and the filter basket in your dishwasher’s top rack. On a side note, you could also invest in an ice maker machine if you wish to make iced coffee or frappe from your homemade coffee blends.

Other tips to get the best homemade coffee blends:

  • Never buy more than you can use in a week or two weeks at the most.
  • Do not freeze your coffee. Store it in a dry, airtight container.
  • You should use only filtered water. For the times you run out and have to use tap water, gather enough for what you need to brew in a pitcher and let it sit for a few hours to allow chlorine and other chemicals to evaporate.
  • Follow the directions that come with your coffee makers.
  • Brew your coffee for 4 minutes or a maximum of five. Over brewing coffee will give it a bitter, musty taste.
  • Water at just below boiling point will extract the most flavors from your grounds without turning the brew bitter.

Music to My Ears

Aside from reading, listening to music is something I consider therapeutic to my well-being. While there are a handful of TV shows I love watching, I turn the TV off in a heartbeat just to listen to my music playlist.

I listen to music when I’m working, when I’m lying in bed and trying to will myself to sleep, when I’m reading, and as weird as it sounds, I also listen to music while watching TV (sometimes…but I mute the TV’s volume). Yep, that’s how much I love music.

I guess that’s the reason why music production interests me, too. When I listen to a particular song, it makes me wonder how  it was produced, what equipment the producer used, and how many hours were spent churning out the song. I’m 100% sure something like Pro Tools was used, it being a software that’s considered an industry standard in audio production. But hey, I am no music geek.

I’m just someone who loves music and singing along to my favorite songs a whole darn much. :)

Back to School with Swish

School is cool, or is it? When the merry summer months draw to a close, children usually have mixed emotions. Some are skeptical, others are excited to see old friends, and others just can’t believe summer’s over. Then there are those who would much rather sleep through the whole 9 months of school so it’ll be summer again.

I have a 7-year old nephew who’s now in second grade, and although he’s been going to school for several years already, he still can’t place himself in any of the above-mentioned categories. Observing him, all I know is that he goes to school because he has no choice – he has to. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant student; and I’m not saying that because I’m his aunt! However, he can never be too sure about his feelings for school.

I’m sure there are other students out there, regardless of grade level, who feel the same way. So, a month and a half after the start of the 2014 school year, I have decided to write this. As someone who stuck it out in school and endured sleepless nights preparing for final exams, here are some pieces of advice I would like to share:

1. This first advice is a bit cliché, but it’s a fact – study hard. Your parents work hard trying to give you a bright future. The least you can do is appreciate what they’re doing for you by studying hard. There are no hard lessons in school, at least not to someone who pays attention (LISTEN!), asks questions, and strives to understand. Everything will become clearer once you understand why you need to study hard, so start now.

2. Make it a habit to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. A well-rested body is able to perform better the following day. You would also be able to understand your lessons better with a clear and refreshed mind.

3. Don’t put off working on your assignments until the last minute. As much as possible, you want to go to bed without any worries clouding your mind. So as soon as you get home from school, rest a bit, eat your favorite snack, take a quick nap if you want, then hit the books. That will leave you enough time in the evening to enjoy your favorite TV show or have a real conversation with your parents before hitting the sack.

4. Never cram come exam time. This is somehow related to the first advice. How so? Well, if you listen to the everyday discussions in the classroom, it would be easier for you to retain the information. Hence, when it’s time to study for your exams, you wouldn’t need to stress yourself to the point where you want to pull all the hairs on your head out.

5. Mind your manners. You’ve probably heard that school is somewhat like a second home mainly because you spend most of your time there. As such, give your teachers and other school staff the same kind of respect you give to your parents.

6. Mind your hygiene. There is no right or wrong age when it comes to proper hygiene. In fact, parents should teach their children the importance of proper hygiene at an early age.

  • Take a bath every day before going to school.
  • Make sure your clothes, socks, shoes, and other stuff are clean.
  • Brush your teeth regularly and make sure to gargle with Swish before going to school. Why Swish, in particular? Well, Swish is not just a quality product of Unilab but it’s also something kids will enjoy using as it leaves no sting-y in the mouth. They even have a chocolatey-minty flavored mouthwash, which I’m sure kids will love.

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7. Keep your school stuff neat, tidy, and organized. It’s easier to look for books and notebooks you’ll need when these are organized. Heck, that’s the reason you have that cool trolley in the first place!

8. Enjoy your school lunch or recess. Keep in mind that your mom woke up early to prepare your “baon”, so be appreciative of that fact. Savor each bite you will take of your lunch, no matter how simple it is, for it was prepared with love.

9. Don’t let anybody bully you. Nowadays, the number of school bullies is growing. Don’t let yourself be a victim. Ask your parents how you can protect yourself from school bullies. More importantly, alert school authorities and your parents at the first sign of bullying.

10. Enjoy school, enjoy meeting and making new friends, enjoy the simple joys of being a student, and enjoy your youth. Soon, you’ll be out in the real world where you can no longer run to mommy or daddy for help; you’ll be out there on your own. So while there’s still time to be carefree, do it. Just don’t be carefree when it comes to studies. The last thing you want is to bring home flunking grades to your parents.

What You Should Know about the Cupcake Business

Photo Credits to Sugarbabys/Flickr

The cupcake business has become the subject of many success stories. This has become such a supposed sensation it has even spawned a TV series entitled Two Broke Girls. Several other shows make mention of cupcakes as a business, and all these, along with cooking shows, have brought this enterprise into the public eye. It is true that there are people who make a living successfully from this business. However, in order to follow suit and achieve the same positive results, it is necessary to learn a few lessons about the cupcakes as a business.

Capital Outlay to Start

Bakeries, diners, and existing establishments can easily start selling cupcakes as one of their regular items. They would only need to invest in the labor and materials needed to produce the cupcakes, plus equipment if they don’t have this yet. In other words, these already established businesses would have an easier time getting into the cupcake business. They can merely pick up a recipe, tweak it a bit, and display them in their showcases. They would have the benefit of incidental clients – people who go in to buy bread or have a cup of coffee.

The private entrepreneur who wants to start a cupcake business would have rather a bit more to figure out such as the product, capital, clientele, space, labor, and permits, for a start. On top of that, he or she would have to consider the equipment needed to sell the cupcakes, such as a cake display. It’s a good thing that with a few keyboard strokes, one can now find, select, and purchase a cake display available online. Still, a good number have made a go of this business, and they probably learned as they went along.

Skill Level and Quality Control

Almost everyone can make cupcakes, and almost everyone loves cupcakes. That’s all you really need, right? Wrong. To start a viable business out of making cupcakes, a person has to have a certain level of skill, and a relatively stable recipe. He or she must know how to manage the production of possibly a hundred cupcakes of the same kind. Consistency is something paying customers will expect and demand. Friends may ooh and aah over the cupcakes you give them as gifts, as customers, their behavior and standards will be vastly different.

You Don’t Own Your Cupcakes

Unlike other products that can be patented, the cupcake can be copied by just about anyone, and sold anywhere. There is no exclusivity in the business, so if your recipe is the basis of your success, you had better hang on to it very tight. The only thing you can patent is the name you put on your box or on your wrappers.

Sustaining the Market

People eat bread every day and children drink milk regularly up to a certain age. There will always be a market for bread and milk. The question is will there always be a market for cupcakes. People will eat cupcakes and a good number will profess to love them; but that doesn’t mean they will eat cupcakes daily, or even weekly. The nature of the cupcake market is that people will eat them maybe a few times a month. Anyone who wants to venture into this business successfully must have enough of a market to sustain the volume of sales needed to keep afloat.

Consider Current Health Trends

People are no longer as blissfully uncaring of things like calories, saturated fat and sugar – all of which a cupcake has in generous portions. If the trend towards health consciousness continues, the market for cupcakes may fade. People who eat cupcakes once a week may limit such treats to once a month; others may decide to give it up. This, too, is to be considered when planning to venture in to business of making cupcakes.

If you were thinking of going into the business of baking cupcakes, wise step to take would be to find resources that can help you make a business plan. Find people who will help you look into all the requirements to start such a business, and the honest-to-goodness challenges that go along with of making go of it.

SWISH Your Way to a Healthier Mouth

Isn’t it ironic that one of the most important parts of your body, the same one you use to nourish yourself, is also the dirtiest? Yes, the mouth is proof that you can’t have it both ways. While it is essential to eating, communicating, and even breathing, it is also one of the areas in your body where bacteria thrive and survive. Given that information, should you just shrug it off and say there’s not much you can do about it? Not quite.

There are things you can do to keep your mouth healthy, and even a young kid would tell you that a great way to start is by brushing your teeth with the right toothpaste at least three times a day. Nevertheless, brushing alone is not enough. You need to schedule regular trips to your dentist. Brushing only cleans the surface of your teeth. Most toothbrushes aren’t made with bristles that can penetrate the small gaps between your teeth, and that’s why regular dental checkups by your dentist is imperative.

Of course, using mouthwash is a great way to eliminate bad bacteria in your mouth, too. Since dental cleanings are done twice a year (at the most), you need everyday protection to ensure your mouth stays clean and healthy. A highly recommended mouthwash brand is Swish®, an alcohol free mouthwash that helps kill bad breath causing bacteria and prevents plaque build-up, gum disease and tooth decay. The keywords here are ‘alcohol free’, which means you won’t feel a sting (I personally hate this!) after gargling. Moreover, it is powered by SureFresh Technology, which means the mouthwash doesn’t just mask bad mouth odor – it kills bad breath-causing bacteria, prevents plaque buildup, and protects your gums from gingivitis.

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Another great thing about Swish® is it comes in a bevy of flavors, one of which is Mangosteen Mint. Now, you might think that’s a weird combination, but I kid you not, it is yummy! It has a unique mint taste that leaves your mouth with a refreshingly cool mint aftertaste. You can be sure of Swish® Mangosteen Mint because it is another quality product of Unilab.

Even people on the go can be confident of long lasting fresh breath, thanks to Swish® Breath Spray that gives you instant fresh breath in 10 seconds! Incidentally, SureFresh Technology powers the breath spray, too.

So if you want your mouth to stay clean, fresh, and healthy, make sure you use Swish® Mouthwash. It’s an inexpensive way to take care of your mouth and look after your oral health.