On Decaf and Dark Roasts
As I've mentioned elsewhere, I once worked for a large chain coffee shop. While there's a lot that they do wrong, in my opinion, re: their coffee roasting (try dropping those beans 10-15 degrees sooner...it'd do wonders), I can't really complain about how they treat their employees. They actually do provide the kinds of perks and benefits that you'd expect from a company their size.
I also can't complain about the quality of their management training program - at least as it existed 20-ish years ago, anyway. While I practically lived in my college coffeehouse, I didn't drink coffee at all until I started working for the big guys. One of the moments that stands out in my training was having to prepare "tastings" for the store manager I was shadowing and the district manager. For one, I did a blind tasting of their regular and decaf Kenyan coffees (sadly, I don't believe their decaf Kenya is offered any longer). Some part of me expected to be able to taste the difference right away. I was certain there'd be an obvious chalkiness, or that it would taste emptier, or just generally weaker even though I brewed them both the exact same way. I didn't expect them to be indistinguishable, but they were. The store manager guessed which was which correctly, but both the district manager and I guessed wrong. That was a revelation. Decaf coffee can be (GASP!) good!
I know most of us primarily drink coffee to help wake us up in the morning or provide that extra burst of energy we need to get us through the afternoon, but I think there's an argument to be made that the biggest coffee fans are the ones who do it for the taste and taste alone. The decaf drinkers who boldly brew yet another full pot while dinner cooks, knowing that their cup (or 3) with dessert won't keep them up all night. They drink it for the flavor. Because they actually like it, rather than merely tolerate it. I tip my hat to you. And soon, I will offer a decaf of my own for your enjoyment. I just ordered my first full bag of an Organic Mexican Decaf coffee. It's decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process (look it up on YT...no way I can do it justice here), which means there are no chemicals involved. I should have it by the end of April, and ready to sell by early May once I decide on roast level. Stay tuned!
Select Coffees Getting a Dark(er) Roast
By the time I left my job at the big coffee chain, my standard drink was a double espresso over 1 ice cube. For several years after leaving them, I continued to hold them up as my standard for what good coffee should be. Once I started roasting my own beans, I discovered that I liked being able to taste my coffee beyond "char." I quickly began roasting lighter and lighter, landing in this light-to-medium roast realm as my coffees' happy place.
Over the last few months, I have been reminded that some people like making espresso. I've tried using lighter roasts for espresso, but I have to admit that it's significantly better with a darker roast. I've also been reminded that people who are used to the bigger roasters' coffees may need a darker drip option or two to ease their way into the pool of lighter roasts. Jumping right into the light end can be scary...and taste weird.
Up to now, I've taken a couple of coffees to the edge of dark, but just to the edge. I hear a few outliers start to hit 2nd crack (I'll eventually make and share some videos), and I drop the beans to cool. Beginning next weekend, April 24-25, I will be offering extra dark roasts of my Honduran and Sumatran coffees in addition to their current medium roast options. These beans won't just flirt with the dark side...they're going all the way, not dropping until deep into 2nd crack's full chorus. I tested and tasted all of my current beans at that level, and those 2 options really stood out as working great for both drip and espresso.
Of the two, the Sumatra is denser, almost syrupy. It's base flavors tend more to the bittersweet chocolate as opposed to the semisweet chocolate base notes in the Honduran coffee. As an espresso, the Honduras' creaminess stands out. Terrific coffees both.