• On Decaf and Dark Roasts

    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'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 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.  


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  • Welcome to My Coffee Nook

    Welcome to My Coffee Nook

    With this post, I'd thought I'd share what equipment I use to make my own coffee on a daily basis.  I'm not going to do a full-scale product review, but know that I am generally very happy with my set up. 

    I've got 3 main coffee appliances in my kitchen: a grinder, a drip coffee maker, and an espresso machine.  There are also a couple of other, smaller pieces that are worth mentioning, including my scale, sifter, and French presses of various sizes (not pictured). 

    Let's start with the grinder.  For my personal use, I use a Bayka stainless steel conical burr coffee grinder.  It's a serviceable little grinder whose hopper holds a little over 1/2 lb of beans at a time.  There are stepped coarseness adjustments, and while it has a "Fine/Espresso" grind setting, I find it works best for my daily pot of drip coffee or for grinding coarser, such as for a French Press or Cold Brew.  The one thing I dislike about the grinder is that it grinds by time (10s - 60s), not by weight, which makes using a scale to brew anything (consistently, at least) essential. This is the next piece I plan on replacing/upgrading...but the next step up in grinder quality is a costly one.

    Before I move on to the brewing equipment, I need to mention what is quite likely my favorite coffee related toy, my Kruve coffee sifter.  After I grind a batch of coffee, I put the grounds in this little box and shake it up for about a minute.  The Kruve, with its system of sieves, sorts the grounds into 3 chambers by their coarseness.  For instance, when I use 700 and 1300um sieves, I wind up with espresso-fine coffees in the bottom chamber (smaller than 700um), drip-appropriate coffee in the middle layer (between 700-1300um), and French Press/Cold Brew grounds remain in the top level (>1300um).  It's a handy tool for dialing in a new grinder, but I especially like it for helping to remove the ultra-fine grounds from my French Press and Cold Brew grounds (no one likes chewing their coffee).   Final point - it's not just for coffee.  I break it out when I grind whole spices, too. 

    On to the brewing equipment!  My drip coffee maker is an 8 cup Bonavita BV1900TS brewer.  When I was finally ready to move on from my old Mr. Coffee, I did tons of research and one thing that pretty much everyone agreed on was that until you're ready to spend $300-500 on a Technivorm, the Bonavita may be the best drip coffee brewer out there for under $150. There are 0 frills.  No clock.  No timer.  Not even a heating plate. Only 1 switch to turn it on.  That's it.  But it brews damn good coffee.  It does exactly what a coffee maker should do and nothing else: it heats up water to the right temperature and distributes the hot water (fairly) evenly across the bed of grounds.  Preheating the carafe before brewing, utilizing the brewer's "bloom" function, and turning the carafe while brewing help make the end result that much better, but it's great coffee even without those little extra touches.    

    Continuing with my no-frills approach toward coffee brewing, we finish our tour with my espresso machine, a Gaggia Classic Pro.  While I have purchased a bottomless portafilter and replacement silicone gasket for it, I have otherwise left it in stock condition. Simplicity reigns again - just 3 switches (for power,  espresso, and steam), and 1 knob to control the steam wand. It's taken quite a few shots to dial in shot size (18g in, ~35-40g out) and grounds coarseness, but I'm finally pulling shots that I can drink on their own and not just in milk drinks. I can also get foam thick enough from my 1% milk to hold up a quarter (exaggerating for effect, but it is thick foam).  

    That's it for my personal use equipment.  Although I made it pretty clear that I love my little Kruve sifter, I'd say the most underappreciated piece of equipment I have (and is something that all coffee drinkers, regardless of budget, should pick up) is a digital scale.  It doesn't have to be fancy - a "coffee scale" is really only necessary if you're making lots of espresso or brewing by pour-over method - but something accurate to 0.1g for espresso or to 1g for drip really helps ensure consistency from cup to cup.  My next post will get into Inflection Point Coffee's roasting equipment and I'll eventually subject you to my Ode to Cold Brew, but that's for another day.  

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