How I Make Coffee and Servers


I’ve got a disturbing array of coffeemaking gear:

My Coffeemakers
My Coffeemakers

From left to right:

  • Bialetti Moka – stovetop espresso maker.  Great for making powerful hot chocolates in the dead of winter.
  • Burr grinder – the best way to get very consistent grinds.  The grinders with spinning blades just randomly slice and dice your beans, but burr grinders get all of the pieces exactly the same size.  Probably the best $100 I ever spent to improve the quality of my coffee.  I linked to a different one since mine’s discontinued.
  • French press – produces very flavorful coffee, but it’s a complete pain in the rear to clean.  They have to go through the dishwasher after each use.  Since it doesn’t have a built-in heating element, I have to microwave water first, and the resulting coffee isn’t as hot as I’d like.
  • Krups Moka Brew – the easiest way to brew something that tastes like an Americano, which is an American-style coffee made with espresso and hot water.  Pretty easy to clean, produces a lot of coffee at once, and it has a built-in heater.  That’s a pro and a con – it means the coffee can taste burnt after it sits on the hot carafe for a few minutes.
  • AeroPress atop a Microsoft mug – the AeroPress looks like a gimmick when you first see it, but it produces the very best coffee I’ve ever had outside of a cafe.  Nothing else in my arsenal even comes close.  Big props to Adam Machanic (Blog@AdamMachanic) for telling me about this.  Fast brew times, absurdly easy to clean, great coffee – but only one cup at a time.

The AeroPress produces by far – by FAR – the best coffee, but when I get up in the morning, I fire up the Krups Moka Brew and make a pot.  I sacrifice flavor for ease-of-use, because I need more than one cup and I’m trying to get a lot done in a short amount of time.  I need to feed the dog, take her for a walk, check my emails, cook breakfast – okay, well, assemble breakfast, which usually consists of granola and yogurt.  I want to brew enough for me to have a couple of cups, plus Erika needs a couple of cups, plus a cup to-go for work.

Every now and then, in the afternoon, I’ll brew a cup of coffee with the Aeropress and savor every sip.  The rest of the time, though, I just can’t afford to micromanage my coffee one cup at a time to get it absolutely right.

That’s Why I Love Virtualization, Too

Most of the time, I need to get a database server up and running as easily as possible.  I don’t want to completely sacrifice all semblance of security, performance, and manageability, but I don’t have all the time in the world.  I can’t usually fine-tune every hardware setting like SAN multipathing, network card load balancing, failover protection with clustering, and so forth.  I just need a core set of basic hardware up and running to service the company’s needs.

I deploy a virtual server with a few mouse clicks, and presto, we’re off and running.

If I need high availability, disaster recovery, snapshot backups, or any number of common datacenter features, I just tell my virtualization sysadmin, and they’re handled.  Even better, they’re handled exactly the same way across all of the company’s servers, which makes management easier.  Don’t get me wrong, I still double-check what they do – like Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.”

When I need to wring every last bit of flavor performance out of a SQL Server, then sure, I build a finely crafted physical server for it.  But the rest of the time, I use virtualization by default, because it’s gotten good enough.

I’m kicking things off on my SQLskills blog with a virtualization series.  Visit me there, or subscribe to my SQLskills RSS feed, or subscribe to my SQLskills posts via email.  Enjoy!

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16 Comments. Leave new

  • What kind of power do you usually require for setting up a physical host, and how many guest OSs do you run. My assumption is that depending on the processing power required for the DB engine it will be assigned the resources (CPU, memory).

    Do you care if its VMWare of Hyper-V. Any preferences?

    • Oscar – it always depends. It depends on things like the activity level on each host, the operating hours for each application, the SAN backing it up, and so on. Every setup is unique. It usually takes me about a day of working with a client to find the right configuration balance for their VMware environment – unless it’s already having performance problems, in which case it can take longer to track down. I wish I could boil it all down to a single blog comment, but I’m not that good. 😀

      • Any link you can share about SAN snapshots and restoring from them? I know I have this feature at work (Dell Equallogic), but would like to understand how can we restore from a snapshot and include the changes after it happened up to the point of a crash. It would appreciated.

        • Oscar – it depends on every SAN vendor and their snapshot software. Your best bet is to contact Dell and get the latest documentation for your particular model. If you get frustrated, let me know – I do a lot of this kind of work (virtualization tuning, SAN disaster recovery planning, etc) as a consultant, and I’d be glad to talk through what an engagement might look like.

  • SteveLaRochelle
    September 15, 2010 9:05 am

    I thought I had reached the pinnacle when I got a burr grinder for my French press (which I just give a quick hand wash, never the dishwasher). The AeroPress is intriguing though. May have to get me one of those….

  • I’ve been checking every day waiting for the first post. Glad to see it up and running!

  • That Bialetti Moka Expresso maker works great. Just got one last week for my birthday lol.

  • I am passionate about coffee, and I drink it properly once a day. I make it right the first time, so I don’t have to come back to the experience later on and work on fixing my semi-offended taste buds by flattering them with a proper cup of coffee 8 hours later.
    My favorite, though, is when my neighbor comes to me in the afternoon, thirsty for good coffee and asks me to consult him on how to make it right. Then I charge him a lot of money for the consultancy, because I know that he would pay anything to get rid of the bad taste in his mouth from the mediocre coffee he drank earlier in the morning.

  • Microwaving water? What is it america has against the plain old electric kettle? On the otherhand I’m not sure us Brits can really criticise such frenchie non-friendly ways seeing as this diffiulty has driven you to discover something that looks awesome. I’ll have your one-cup physical caffeine server off your hands any day of the week. Thanks for the tip.

    • Adam, you make an excellent point, the microwave comment caught my eye as well.

      My husband (imported Brit 😉 ) had to search for awhile to find an electric kettle when we were married five years ago, but, they’ve become easier to find them since then, thank goodness.
      He’s definitely made a believer out of me. I use it for my single-serve coffees, and of course he uses it for his tea… and I also use the kettle to start water boiling for most of the noodles I cook.

      We’re currently using this one from American retailer, Target: Aroma 2-Liter Electric Kettle.

  • Brent,
    I too am a huge coffee fan – but I am afraid I might be arrested for keeping the AeroPress at my office. It really looks like a nerdy coffee bong! Maybe this could explain Em’s perpetually bloodshot eyes and propensity for late night snacks when she claims to be only drinking coffee all day.

  • Don’t make coffee with boiling water; it should be a little off the boil. A PINO Pro Digital Electric Kettle ( makes it easy to do. The improvement complements your use of a burr grinder. Also, consider roasting your own beans. I use a Hearthware i-Roast 2 ( Don’t understand your complaint about press-pots; I don’t need to put mine thru the dishwasher to get it clean enough for the next use. I also use the Aero-press; I have two, one for work and one for home. I love the convenience and the taste is excellent. Still, I prefer my press-pot for my morning java.

  • Rusty Eulberg
    October 11, 2010 9:25 am

    I can’t praise a vacuum or siphon coffee maker enough!
    not only does it make awesome coffee, it looks like something from a mad scientist’s lab. here is an example:

    as far as visualization goes — I keep a small one ready to go for when my developers need a private DB server to break 🙂


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