The perfect coffee for this Summer: Cold Amaretto-Vanilla Latte

I don't know about you, but this summer it has been unusually hot in California with temperatures on the high 80's and 90's. I regularly drink a couple of double shot lattes or cappuccinos during the day, but lately, I have been replacing my evening Cappuccino with a refreshing creation of my own: A Cold Amaretto-Vanilla Latte.

What I love about it, is that it is not only refreshing, but it also has the right balance between coffee, sweetness, and booze. You will be able to enjoy a drink that could easily be offered at $12-15 at a bar, at only a fraction of the cost.

The preparation is as important as the ingredients. I am using a cocktail shaker to mix it and to get it cold. The shaker is important, because it allows you to get it nice and cold really fast, and it reduces the dilution of your coffee. Have you ever ordered an Iced Latte from Starbucks, just to find a bunch of watery coffee and tasteless ice at the bottom of the cup? That doesn't happen with this preparation.


  • 1 double shot of your favorite espresso
  • 1 cup of milk (I use whole milk)
  • 4 drops of good quality vanilla extract
  • 1/3 shot of Amaretto Disaronno. You can find this available in most Supermarkets
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 cup of ice cubes
  • 1 pinch of ground cinnamon



1) In the cocktail shaker add the ice cubes, milk, vanilla extract, Amaretto Disaronno, and sugar. Add more sugar if you want it sweeter, but keep on mind that the Amaretto is sweet.

2) Prepare a double shot of your favorite espresso

3) Add the espresso into the shaker

4) Close the shaker and shake for one or two minutes. Note how cold and frosty the shaker is going to get

5) Using the bar strainer (or fork) pour into your favorite glass

6) Garnish with ground cinnamon

Final Notes

Like anything else in life. The better the ingredients are going in, the better the final result

If you use low-quality ingredients, don't expect a high-quality beverage.  I know there are Amaretto essences, but I strongly advise on using Amaretto Disaronno, since it provides a nice touch and with the amount suggested the alcohol level will be very low.

The presentation is also important and affects your senses. Try not to use a plastic cup or mug for this drink. If you have one, use a tall transparent glass. It will improve your experience, and it will make it more enjoyable.

Let me know if you try it and if you think there are ways to make a better recipe.

3 Reasons why you should be roasting your own coffee beans

Three months ago I started an experiment to find out if it was cost savvy and efficient to roast green coffee beans at home instead of buying roasted coffee. After crushing the numbers and several weeks of roasting, my conclusion is that I should have started several years ago! 

Reason 1: It is easy!

When I started my research, I was intimidated by the amount of information that is out there. I found tons of recommendations for specific temperature profiles, multiple temperature levels, cycles, timing, etc. It seemed that a Ph.D. was required in order to get it right.

So, why it seems to be so complicated to roast coffee? 

Let's remember that coffee green beans are a commodity. What this means is that there are many substitutes for a particular product, you can easily substitute beans from Costa Rica with beans from Tanzania and still make coffee; therefore, it is difficult to justify a higher price tag. To be able to charge a higher price for the product, Coffee Roasters, i.e. Starbucks, Pete's Coffee, and others, try to find ways to differentiate from each other and make their product "less common." Having specific blends, selected by expert connoisseurs and roasted to perfection are part of the marketing message.

For most of us, mere mortals, we can live with slight variations in our roasts. What I have discovered is that, for me, the window of acceptable roast levels is quite wide. In three months I haven't ruined and wasted a single batch. Beans that were darker than what I normally like were greatly appreciated by an Italian friend who is used to those roasts.

Today, I can turn on my roaster and do a couple of batches with almost any effort or supervision other than pouring green beans on it, removing them once they are roasted, and discarding the chaff. A batch takes me around 8 minutes, and in the meantime, I can keep writing this post.

Reason 2: Freshness

Since my roaster is very small, I need to do three batches of coffee every week (which takes me around 30 minutes total). What is great about this process is that every week I have freshly roasted beans. 

When I was buying roasted coffee, a bag could last anything between two to four weeks. By the third week, as most of you probably know, the coffee had lost a lot of its aroma, and there was a noticeable degradation in flavor.

By roasting green beans every week, I get the freshest possible coffee beans. 

Reason 3: Money Savings!!!!!

The main reason why you should be roasting your own coffee beans is that it is cheap. Cheaper than any decent roasted coffee you could buy. On my two previous posts (Does it makes sense to Roast your own coffee and Roasting Coffee at Home: can anyone do it?) I ran some numbers on how much cheaper it was to buy green beans versus roasted ones. In average it is 75% to 80% cheaper to roast your own beans.

Are there any cons?

The main one is that if you don't plan accordingly, by the end of the week you might run out of coffee, and you will not be able to roast more and consume it immediately since the recommendation is to let them rest for 24 hours. A couple of times I was about to get to this point, and I had to decide whether I go out and buy some roasted beans or do a batch on Thursday night.  In every occasion, I chose to roast some more beans, since it represented a $0 additional cost.

I have been roasting my beans in the patio since I am pretty sure that the smell it generates will trigger the smoke alarm if I do it inside. If you don't have a balcony or patio, it will be challenging to roast your beans without a couple of visits from the fire department. Even if you manage to avoid triggering the alarm, most likely the smell will stay in your apartment for a couple of days. 


The Pros of roasting beans significantly surpass the cons. There are other ones that we didn't discuss, like the ability to try single origin beans and compare the differences in taste and aroma among different regions. It is simple enough that almost everyone can do it with a very low investment. I think that the companies that offer roasted beans have done an incredibly good marketing job on convincing people to pay high prices for their product.
Considering how simple it is to have freshly roasted coffee at a fraction of the cost at home, I am surprised that no more people are doing it. I am starting to wonder what other things I could do at home by myself: brewing beer, pickling and stuffing olives, curing prosciutto?  This seems like a great topic for a new post...

Roasting Coffee at home: Can anyone do it?

In theory, it makes economic sense to roast your coffee. In theory, you could save a lot of money and have the freshest coffee possible; however, is it practical and is it worth to do it?Let's get our hands dirty and roast some coffee!

In my previous post, we got to the conclusion that investing on a coffee roaster could pay for itself within the first year. To test this, I bought a Fresh Roast Coffee Roaster SR500 and plenty of green coffee beans from Sweet Maria's.

For me, it would be worth it to roast my beans if, in addition to the cost savings, I could reliably produce good coffee, with no waste, and I could make enough for two weeks in less than 30 minutes.

Initial Investment

At $200, buying the Air Roasting Starter Kit was no brainer because it turned out to be a lot cheaper than buying things separately. With the kit I received:
  • The Hot Air Roaster: Fresh Roast SR500 
  • 8 Lbs Green Coffee Sampler 
  • 10 valve bags for storing 
  • 1 Roast Log 

Let's forget about the bags and the roast log; getting the roaster and the green beans by $200 was a great deal, considering that buying the roaster by itself is $179. At this price, I just bought 8Lbs of coffee at only $21, or $2.625 per pound

In my previous post, Does it makes sense to roast your coffee, we established that the average pound of green coffee beans was ~$7 if you buy individual bags. With this sampler, each ounce of green coffee is $0.164, which is 11.6 times cheaper than buying roasted coffee!!!

By purchasing the sampler, you lose the ability to select particular coffee beans, but we are just getting started, at this point we don't even know what coffee beans we want. 

The roaster is super simple, setting it up and reading the instructions is a matter of a couple of minutes. We are ready for our first batch.

First Batch

For the first trials, I am using Ethiopian green beans, which are supposed to be good for espresso.

Since I was afraid of burning the beans or creating a lot of smoke inside the house, I did this batch in the patio. I don't think this is required, but to avoid the smell inside of the house, I will continue doing it this way. The hot air roaster is small and portable.

I followed the instructions on the tips sheet included by Sweet Maria's and used less green beans than what the instructions manual indicated (two scoops of green beans instead of four). I know I don't like very dark roasts; I prefer medium roasts which are sweeter and less bitter. On
 my first batch, my primary concern was not to burn the beans and end up with waste and lots of smoke. Therefore, I was very conservative with the times and heat.

Ready to start the First batch

Based on what I read, I set up my timer for 7 minutes. Unfortunately, I was too excited to see the results, and I interrupted the cooling cycle by mistake( I didn't know there was a cooling cycle). The final result was a very light roast, with beans that didn't increase much in size, and with a lot of chaff left on them.


I believe that I should have waited longer, the color of the beans seemed to be on the light side. I also expected them to grow more in size, but they were almost the same size as the green beans, which tells me they probably didn't go through what they call "The second crack".

Batch Size

I was disappointed by the final amount of coffee, it was not even enough for one day at our home, it was over after two double and one single shot (3 Shots). I believe I can increase the batch size a little more, but I don't think I will be able to make enough coffee for one week on a single roast. With this type of roaster, if you make the batch too big, the air will not be able to move the coffee around, and it will burn some beans (continue reading since I tried this).


Although it tasted good, it was too mild. We prepared a couple of lattes and the coffee flavor almost got lost. I believe I can correct this by roasting it a little bit more.

Second Batch

This time, I added one extra scoop of green beans for a total of 3 to try to get enough coffee for at least a couple of days. I also waited 1 minute longer (8 minutes) while roasting and let it run its 3-minute cooling cycle.


The coffee beans look darker than the first batch, but they are still within the parameters I like; however, there is a notorious increase in the size of the bean. I believe this is due to "The second crack," which it didn't happen on my first batch.
From left to right: Green Beans -> First Batch -> Second Batch

Batch Size

Since this time the beans increased in size, the extra spoon of green beans is more notorious, and the batch is considerably bigger; However, it only lasted three days (around eight shots of coffee). On the 4th day, I was almost tempted to go out and buy some roasted beans.


The coffee is stronger, still sweet, but even in a latte, you can taste it.

Third Batch

It was midweek, and I was out of coffee, this was a disaster! I had to roast some more. This time, I used the amount recommended on the manual, but not on Sweet Maria's tips sheet, which is four scoops. The batch obviously was bigger, and it gave me a total of twelve shots, which should be enough for four to five days (almost a week).

However, the roasting was inconsistent. Since there's a greater amount of coffee, the hot air (which was set to max) is not able to adequately move the coffee around, and some of the beans got burnt while others were not roasted enough. Fortunately, it was only a minor portion of the beans, most of the batch was acceptable. There are ways you can control this by manually moving the beans or playing with the cooling cycles; however, I want an automated process, and I'll reduce the batch size next time.

Too many beans could produce inconsistent roasting: These come from the same batch

Preliminary Conclusions

After these initial batches, I believe anyone can roast coffee at home; however, it is too early to reach a conclusion on whether it is worth it. The roasting process is very smooth. I was initially afraid of burning the beans, but you can easily control it if you are paying attention.

Quality wise, once I find the right settings I am pretty sure I will be able to make consistent good batches, comparable to some of the best ones I can buy, but at a 10th of the cost. 

My primary concern is the batch size. Their documentation indicates it should give enough for 20 cups, but they might be talking about very light brewed coffee. For espressos, I don't think I will be able to get more than 12 single shots or 6 double shots in one batch; however, the total process takes around 11 minutes per batch, it takes me more time to go to the store and buy roasted coffee. I believe that making a couple of batches over one weekend should give me enough for two weeks, but we will see...

Does it make sense to roast your own coffee?

If you are buying freshly roasted coffee beans from your local roasters you probably already know that it can get very expensive. Is it worth to roast your coffee? I have been buying my coffee beans from Slight Glass, Blue Bottle, and other similar local roasters; the price for an 8oz to 12oz bag could go anywhere between $12 to $18. We  (my wife and I) typically go over a bag in around two weeks. In other words, we spend $30 per month on coffee beans; that 's $360 a year!!

In this post, we are not going to discuss the qualitative advantages people claim over roasting your beans, such as getting them to the exact point you want, knowing exactly when your beans were roasted or the satisfaction of doing it yourself.  Today we are just going to check if it makes economic sense to do it.

How much does it cost to buy freshly roasted beans?

We already established that an 8oz bag of locally roasted coffee could be in average $15, with two bags per month this adds up to $360 per year.

So, how much does it cost to roast your beans?

Two components need to be considered to answer this question: the ongoing cost of the green beans and the initial investment on a roaster.

For all of us, who are getting started on roasting coffee, Sweet Marias is going to be the site to go for everything you need: information, green beans, roasters, etc. All the equipment and prices discussed here will be based on this site.

By looking at the cost of the green beans, we can see their prices can go from $6 to $8 per pound for beans they consider good for espresso. There are 16oz in one pound, double the size of an average roasted coffee bag; this means I would spend $84 per year on coffee beans. In other words, savings of $276.

Comparison Table (without investment)

Average Price per bag
Quantity Oz
Price per Oz
Oz per year
Cost per Year

Just based on this information, it seems that buying roasted coffee beans is 4.25 times more expensive than buying green beans. However, note that these numbers are not considering utility costs, time, weight reduction and waste due to the learning curve.

Investment cost

There are different types of roasters for coffee: hot air roasters, drum roasters, and stovetop.  Although stovetop is the cheapest method and the one where you can make the biggest batches, we are not considering it, since it requires a lot of manual intervention, something I don't have time to do, and I am assuming it is similar to you.

Drum Roaster
The cheapest drum roaster is $369, and it can roast batches of up to 16oz, which is slightly greater than what I need based on our current consumption. Even with $276 on savings per year on beans, once we include some utility costs and waste, I believe it would take two years to justify the investment; this seems too long to me. Not to mention, what happens if I find that coffee roasting is not for me?

Hot Air Roaster

There are a couple of different types of Hot Air Roasters, and the prices go from $20 to $179. However, the $20 one is really a popcorn popper which makes me doubt it will create a consistently good quality product. On the other hand, the SR500 which costs $179, although similar to the popcorn popper, was created to roast coffee. With this model, in the first year, I could recover the investment, even considering the additional costs and waste.

Here is a nice video about the SR500 in action


I believe that the SR500 Hot Air Roaster is the way to go to get introduced into the coffee roasting experience. If you normally finish a 12 oz bag of roasted coffee every two weeks, you could recover your investment in less than a year, and you could potentially save a couple hundred dollars per year after that. It seems it gives you enough consistency on small batches, and even if you decide that coffee roasting is not for you, the investment is not as significant as with other types of roasters.

Do you have any experience roasting coffee? Leave your comments and recommendations

5 Coffee Mugs Every Geek Should Have

The right cup is as important as the coffee you pour on it. For coffee purists, there is one perfect cup for every type of coffee. For the rest of the people, the coffee mug where you drink your coffee is often a display of who you are, of your personality. Unfortunately, most of the time we end up drinking in paper cups or simple plain ones. 

Today, we will break up with this, and we are going to check the 5 coolest Coffee mugs you could buy right now. After all, coffee should be fun!! These are the "shut-up and take my money" finalists for the Geekiest Coffee mugs

5) The Classic Camera Lens mug

"You just ruined a $200 lens!, oh no wait, is that a mug?". If you or someone you know is a Photography Geek, this is a perfect gift.  This model has been out there for several years and it has become a classic. A very clever design.

You can find it here

4) The self stirring mug

For all the lovers of swagways, roomba and "easy six packs in seconds" there are good news: The self stirring mug: "just add coffee, cream and sugar, and press one button". However, the best part is that it is self-cleaning! Just add water, soap and press the button. Perfect for the Gadget Geek.

By using this mug, you would also become eco-friendly since you would save tons of plastic spoons and plastic stirrers... mmmm... wait a second... are batteries eco-friendly? 

You can find it available in Amazon

3) The Lego mug

"Lets run the financial projections for the next quarter, just let me give a sip on my completely ordinary cup of joe".  

Make every drinking experience unique by creating your own mug every time. Are you an Star Wars fan, do you like Batman or do you want to  look at a City on every sip, this is the cup for you. All your Geek friends will be jealous. This could be a perfect gift for the Star Wars Geek or Comic Book Geek

You can get this at Amazon or ThinkGeek

2) The Floating Coffee mug

I know what you are thinking: "this is not a fun cup", and you are right; however, it is a cool one.  It is not colorful, self stirring, or  deceiving, BUT the air isolation between the coffee and the outer glass is perfect to maintain the coffee temperature. Besides, its simple and clean design make it perfect for the Chic Geek who always like what is cool and trendy. 

You can get this one on Amazon

1) The Not for the Geek with OCD mug

This cup  (or is it cups?) is (are?) not recommended for the people with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). My brain hurts when I look at it and I just want to unstack the cups. It is not natural for cups to be like that, something needs to be done... what were we talking about? 

You can find it in Amazon

Bonus) The Hi-Tech mug


The honor position and the one you should get right now is The Ember Mug, that is assuming you have $144 to spare. It comes with an LED display, bluetooth chip, adjustable temperature dial, and battery; more importantly, it keeps your coffee at the exact temperature you like. 

Their video is probably the best coffee mug video I have ever seen. Although, I think it is the only coffee mug video I have seen. As I have mentioned before, coffee should never be drunk from a paper cup. Take a look:

You can order yours at the company's website here. Now you know what to give me for an early Christmas present.

Do you agree with the list? Have you seen cooler cups? Add a comment with other cups you think are really cool.

By the way, you can check the Sacred Order of Geeks on this website, although they missed one: The Coffee Geek

4 Great Cafes to visit in the San Francisco South Bay - San Jose, Santa Clara Area

These are my top 4 Cafes in the Santa Clara area. Please note that none of them are in San Francisco since all of them are within 8 miles of the Levi's Stadium.

1) Roy's Station

 Located 6 miles away from Levi’s Stadium, in what used to be a Gas Station in the middle of San Jose’s Japantown. This is my favorite

Why I like it: Its character. You can still see the structure of the gas station, which gives them a unique personality. It was beautifully designed, and it has a nice outdoor seating area (combine that with the great weather in San Jose). 
What I don’t Like: If you are driving, you need to bring coins for the meters during the week (and between 9 am o 6 pm).
Their coffee beans: They serve Verve coffee from Santa Cruz

197 Jackson St, San Jose, CA 95112 | Website | Yelp Reviews

2) Bellano Coffee at San Pedro Square

Located in Downtown San Jose inside San Pedro Square. , 7 miles away from the Levi's Stadium.

Why I like it: Since it is located inside of  San Pedro Square, it is the perfect place for grabbing a coffee and then going into some of the other establishments for food, desserts or even drinks. If you park on the structure in front of it, you can validate your parking, and it is free.
What I don’t like: There’s a nice seating area outside, but you will need to walk around 100 feet to get there.
Their Coffee beans: They used to serve Verve from Santa Cruz, and Slight Glass from San Francisco, but they are now they are roasting their beans

87 N San Pedro St, San Jose, CA 95110 | Website | Yelp Reviews

3) Red Rock Coffee 

Located in Mountain View Downtown, 7 miles north-west from the Levi’s Stadium. This is a not for profit that has multiple events (music, book reading, etc.) scheduled through the week.

Why I like it: Being at the heart of Silicon Valley, you will feel energized on this place. You will be able to see bunches of young entrepreneurs discussing their business plans, pitching their ideas, or just focused on their laptop creating the next big thing (or maybe just playing online games). 
What I don’t like: They don’t have outdoor seating, which is a shame. During peak times is hard to get a table. The free wifi (both from them and from Google) makes it a perfect place for people to camp for hours
Coffee Beans: They use Four Barrel from San Francisco, and they have a single origin bar where they prepare spectacular espressos

201 Castro St. Mountain View, CA 94041 | Website | Yelp

4) Bellano Coffee, West San Jose

Locate in West San Jose, 7 miles away from the Stadium; it belongs to the same group as the one in San Pedro Square
Why I like it: There is usually a small crowd, and it is easy to find parking and a table indoors or outside. It was a little surprise to find good coffee in this little strip mall.
What I don’t Like: They need to put more work into their decoration, both inside and outside. Outside they have some tables, but it is not inviting to sit down
Their coffee beans: They use to carry Slight Glass, but they recently started roasting their beans, but I still miss when they had Slight Glass; however, I think they are getting there.

3985 Stevens Creek Blvd. Santa Clara, CA 95051 | Website | Yelp

Please leave a comment to let me know your opinion if you visited any of this places. If there are other great places you discovered, please let me know.