Coffea Roasterie

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Coffea Blog

Social Media, Sustainability, and the Coffee Industry

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 7:59:29 AM America/Chicago

I recently wrote the following article for Augustana's Business Newsletter on the topic of technology in the coffee industry. There have been a surge of technological advances in coffee in the past 20 years, but I have always been especially drawn to how technology can not just catalyse profitability, but sustainability. I believe we are only as strong of a company - and society - as how we treat those less powerful, and, as a business owner, it would be far too easy to take advantage of those without a voice in order to become more 'successful'. While many companies take this approach, I believe I am a part of an industry that is increasingly using technology to fight for our farmers in less developed countries, giving them a voice, and bringing our local community together to help support the entire coffee chain. Anyway, the following article encompasses my meandering thoughts on the matter.  

-Jenna

 

Confessions of a Coffee Shop Owner: Throughout my coffee career, I have often

found technology – to be frank – quite cumbersome. When I started in coffee in

2001, I believed I had sheltered myself in an industry as far from modern technology

as possible. My life simply consisted of brewing coffee, talking to customers, then

brewing more coffee, and I was happy to keep it that way. It was a time when

Facebook didn’t exist, twitter was still a sound, and ‘foursquare’ only brought to mind

my playground glory days.


So upon opening Coffea Roasterie in 2009, I thought I could keep these newfangled

social media fads at bay. For hundreds of years, coffee houses have represented a

place of physical community, face-to-face relationships, and actual conversation. I

thought no amount of hash-tagging or likes could change my mind. But change it

did. As I saw the format of communication not only shift, but its influence grow, I

began to see possibilities never before realized.


Prior to the internet’s worldwide prevalence, various middlemen had been the link

between third-world farmer and first-world roaster. Both parties had been at the

mercy of volatile market prices instead of a mutual investment. Coffee quality was a

gamble at best. Yet with the rise of the internet, email, and social venues, the gap

eventually filled. Today, we have the unparalleled ability to connect directly with our

farmers. This allows us to share our knowledge, collaborate on growing better

coffee, and work together on the financial stability farmers need and deserve. Most

importantly, technology has not only filled the gap between grower and roaster, but

grower and consumer. Our customers can literally see, watch, and hear about the

hands that labored over each cup of coffee and the lives that are transformed by

their purchase.


It’s been twelve years since my first experience behind a coffee bar. Yet my work

now consists of a constant awareness of social venues: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp,

Foursquare, blogging, Instagram, YouTube, you name it. We are now a crucial

liaison between farmer and consumer, using technology to create transparency and

facilitate global community. (Plus, we get to share some pretty delicious coffee in the

process.) So, yes, my day consists of a little less brewing and a little more tweeting

than I thought it would. However, social media proved to me it could accomplish

what nothing else would; share the farmer’s story and, in doing so, create

unprecedented sustainability.

 

Posted in Blog By Jenna Aukerman

Brewing Basics: Water

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 4:59:38 PM America/Chicago

Brewing Basics: Water

 

Short Summary:

 

Water Quantity: For every 6 oz. of water, use 2 TBS coffee. (or 17 grams water : 1 gram coffee)

Water Quality: Make sure to use purified - but not distilled - water for brewing your coffee. Unless you're surrounded by Zombies...then see below.

 

Detailed Summary:

 

Water is like the red-headed step child in the family. We all seem to forget that it's a critical part of the whole. But seeing that coffee is 98-99% water, sense would tend to hint that caring about our water quality and quantity should be equally shared with caring about our coffee. Thus, it's important that we know how much water to use, and what kind of water to use. So here we go....

 

Water to Coffee Ratio

 

First and foremost, make sure to use enough coffee when brewing. Most people tend to think they like "mild" coffee and thus will just "add more water". Unlike a chia pet, coffee does not get better with more H20. There is an ideal balance between extracting just enough solubles and no more, no less. Pouring too much water over the grounds than is ideal will result in a weak, bitter, awful cup of coffee. (Think typical church coffee...yeah, there you go.) So, work with this ratio:

For every 6 oz. water, use 2 Tablespoons of coffee 

(17 grams water : 1 gram coffee)

 

You can fiddle with a little, but don't stray too far unless you happen to prefer bad coffee.

Q: What if I like it milder than this ratio?

A: Great question! If you prefer milder coffee, brew with this ratio and then add hot water AFTER brewing straight into your cup.

Q: Why should I add water AFTER brewing instead of before?

A: Great question again! Using the proper ratio of water to coffee will ensure you don't overextract the coffee grounds while dumping more and more water on it. Now that you have extracted the coffee properly, adding hot water after brewing will keep the integrity and deliciousness of the flavor while taking the strength down a notch or two. 

 

 

Water Quality

 

 

While there is a lot of complexity to the make up of water, I have not the education nor am I a certified scientific mumbo-jumboist to explain water to that level. (But if you're interested, you can start here: http://www.scaa.org/?page=resources&d=water-standards) But I'll shell out the basics that seem helpful for brewing great coffee.

 

Water typically has, among other things, minerals in it. It's important to note that a certain amount of mineral content is desirable for coffee brewing. Too much though, and our coffee will taste deposit-y and have an off flavor. Thus, we do NOT want completley distilled water (Not enough stuff! Oh no!) and we do not want unpurified tap water (Too much stuff! Oh no!) 

 

So what do we do? 

 

Plan A: For the Serious Geek, or Coffee Shop Owner

 

At our shop, we use Reverse Osmosis Water (RO) and then add back in a small amount of filtered tap water for mineral content. A TDS (total dissolved solids) range of 100-200 ppm (parts per milliion) is a good starting point. This Plan would require you to have an RO system, an additional purification system and then a TDS meter. Not gonna lie, maybe a little overkill for the home coffee enthusiast, but if you are ever in the coffee business, this method is critical. (Seriously...critical. You will ruin commercial coffee equipment in a hurry if you have the wrong makeup of water.) 

 

If you do happen to have a home RO system, you could just add in a little tap (my personal home method.) Without a TDS reader though, you will just have to play around and taste the coffee with more or less tap water added. 

 

Plan B: For the Realist that Still Cares

 

If you have a Britta filter or something of the kind (I'm not advocating for Britta, any equally performing water purifier will work), that will certainly be better than straight tap. And in my experience, I have tasted some pretty awesome coffee with this method of water filtration. Definitely worth the $20 or so a fitler will run you. 

 

Plan of Last Resort: When You're Hiding in the Woods After the Zombie Apocolypse

 

As long as you can confirm your water source is safe, forge ahead! It's not the best of situations, but hey, neither is being surrounded by zombies. 

 

Happy Brewing!

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Posted in Blog By Jenna

Brewing Basics: Grinding

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 9:38:36 AM America/Chicago

Brewing Basics: Grinding


Short Summary:


Always buy whole bean coffee. Grind right before brewing. If at all possible, use a conical burr grinder.


Detailed Summary:


After buying great coffee, grinding at home is the easiest way to ensure you are drinking delectable coffee. Yet we see so many people drop literally hundreds of dollars on the newest, flashiest brewer with all the latest features, only to buy pre-ground coffee every week. (Apparently there is more money to be had in the Mr. Coffee industry than the Mr. Grinder industry.)


Ok, but why is a grinder so important?


Coffee Basics 101: Coffee stales quickly. Very quickly. Whole bean coffee will stale within 2-3 weeks of roast date. Ground coffee will stale within 2-3 minutes. Seriously, it’s that fast.


 Once ground, oxygen in the air is exposed to the volatile oils in coffee and they rapidly deteriorate beyond a point of no return. Just think about it: You know how great freshly ground coffee smells? Well, enjoy that aroma because you are witnessing your coffee’s flavor leaving your bean, quite literally, and disappearing into thin air.


Now you may be asking yourself: “Wow, if coffee stales within minutes, how can hundreds of bags of ground coffee be sitting on my grocery store’s shelves? Doesn’t that mean they are stale already?” …Now you’re getting it.


And the sad truth is that, even if you grind it at our store, using our really, really nice commercial conical-burr grinder, by the time you get home it’s still too late.


But hark! There’s hope! <enter your own personal home grinder>


Ok, so you know you need a grinder to optimize your coffee experience: What kind of grinders are there? What should you have?


Here are my recommendations:


IDEAL: Conical Burr Grinder $30-$90+

 

Capresso Infinity: It's electric and retails around $90.

Hario Skerton: Manual (you crank a handle) for around $50. They have a smaller size ("Slim") for around $30.  

 

Why go Conical?

 

Basically, a conical burr grinder grinds coffee in such a way that it cuts the bean in a uniform size so that extraction is as even as possible. The electric models also grind slower than other electric grinders, which prevents a buildup of heat. (That’s Good!)

 

PLAN B: Flat Burr Grinder $40-$70

 

Flat burrs are a little less ideal (but still a great option) because they can produce a little more heat while grinding (That’s Bad!) and can end up 'crushing' the bean at times instead of 'cutting'. This will still produce a more uniform particle size than a blade grinder. 

 

LAST RESORT: Blade Grinder $20-$30

 

The big downside of a blade grinder is that all your coffee particles are going to be vastly different sizes. Thus you will end up over-extracting the smaller particles and under-extracting the larger ones. (That’s Really Really Bad!) A blade grinder can be a great tool for grinding spices, but I'd limit it to that. 

 

If you are contemplating a blade grinder because of price, get the Hario Slim Conical Burr Grinder for the same cost AND you'll end up with a much better tool.

 

However, if your only option is a blade grinder, it’s still better than pre-ground coffee. So do what you can to make the particle size as even as possible and brew your coffee immediately after grinding.

 

A final note - We recently had a great question come in:

 

Q: “Can an amateur coffee drinker really tell the difference between a conical burr grinder and blade grinder”

 

A: “If you are a black coffee drinker, you will most definitely notice a difference. The coffee will taste more balanced because it has more evenly extracted. Now, if we add Nescafe French Vanilla Creamer to that coffee, you might have a more difficult time pulling out the subtle nuances in your coffee.”

 

Great question though. And in the end, this is all about your coffee and your palate. So do what works for you and what tastes great.

 

OK, to sum up our coffee basics knowledge so far:

 

#1: Get great coffee

#2: Grind immediately before brewing, using a conical burr, or flat burr, grinder.

Next up, #3: …drum roll…water! Distilled or Purified or Tap…oh my.

 

 

 

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Posted in Blog By Jenna Aukerman

Back to the Beginning: Coffee Basics

Sunday, September 16, 2012 12:42:55 PM America/Chicago

Brewing Basics: Getting the small things right.

 

So we kind of like coffee here at Coffea. (I know, I know, you all realize this.) But I don’t know if many of you have seen the depths of our geekiness at work. The level at which we talk and think about coffee should probably terrify as much as it exhilarates us. However, we truly do live in this little coffee bubble at our shop where we keep pushing our knowledge and boundaries. This, I believe, is why most people enjoy our coffee. We worry about it so you don’t have to. (What a burden we bear.)

 

As of late, however, I have had more people ask very basic brewing questions in the shop, and I am astounded at our lack of thorough education for you on this foundational level.  No one should be expected to take (or even survive) Calculus 1 without taking Algebra. So in our mission to build a passionate coffee community, I think we need to pull in our reins a little and make sure we cover our basics first.

 

The best part about this? This isn’t difficult. Heck, it’s not even tricky. Using my math metaphor, this is on par with 2nd grade addition; and you will be amazed at how simply tinkering with the little things will result in a delightfully more enjoyable cup of coffee for you in the morning.

 

Ok, let’s begin.

1.      

 1. Coffee.


Summary

Easy! Use only fresh, high-quality, locally roasted coffee. 

Brew within appx. 1-10 days of roast date. Store in airtight container in a cool space (a cabinet works well). Keep away from moisture, heat, light, oxygen, etc. (Never ever ever ever store in the refrigerator or freezer please.)

 


Detailed Summary

Fresh coffee is important; most of you probably know that. But high quality, fresh coffee is much, much, more important. “What? Huh? I thought all fresh coffee was high quality?”

 

So here’s the deal (or ‘scoop’ if you prefer puns): coffee is a crop, like any agricultural product. For example: tomatoes. 

 

I recently had a lovely conversation at Coffea with a local tomato grower, and I was amazed at how similar these products are (as well as how lovely tomato-growers are). We’ve all had fresh tomatoes. Go to any grocery store and you can find tomatoes at any point of the year.  However, do you remember the first time you ever had a fresh, local, in-season, heirloom tomato? Oh, the sweetness, the juiciness, the humanity. Your world imploded. “I didn’t know tomatoes could taste like this!” Instantly you think of a dozen ways that you want to prepare this particular tomato varietal. But you just wind up eating them all raw in the end. 

 

Those are no grocery store tomatoes, my friends. Those are real tomatoes, grown in rich soil, picked at their peak, fully expressing their 'tomato-y-ness". And you cannot get them year-round; their harvest season is fleeting. You are forced to breathe in tomato season as deep as you can before it passes you by until the following year.

 

For better or worse, coffee is just like tomatoes. You can find it anytime you want in any grocery store, at least in the developed world. And for all intensive purposes, it is coffee. But, my friends, it is not the kind of coffee that will implode your world. You can’t brew it well enough to create flavor potential that is simply not there to begin with. You may be able to tolerate it, but you'll never be awed by it. In order to find coffee that will change your world, you need coffee that has been lovingly grown, harvested, processed, and roasted in a way that highlights its nuanced, developed flavor.  

 

You need heirloom tomato coffee.

 

There are quite a few roasters in the country that strive for that kind of quality. Not as many as you’d think, but it is growing. So do some taste-testing, see what your local roaster has to offer, and make sure you are finding coffee that has real, honest-to-goodness soul and flavor. 

 

A Few Notes:

 

1. When evaluating coffee, always taste it black. Then, if you prefer additives, go ahead with your business. But you always want to taste just the coffee first. (i.e. You wouldn't judge the quality of a tomato based on a pizza sauce.)

 

2. If you insist on drinking ultra-dark-roasted coffee, quality matters much, much less. Now, look at what companies roast consistently dark and ask yourself if you think sustainable, quality coffee – or shareholder profit – is at the core of their business. You don't have to change, but just know what you are buying. And if you find yourself willing to come to the lighter side, come see us. (Remember, lighter roasted coffee can be just as "bold" as dark roasted coffee. In fact, it can be downright brazen.) 

 

So, to sum up: Don't buy coffee you like, find coffee you love. Now we have something to work with.

 

Point #2 will be on Whole Bean vs. Ground: Do I really need a grinder? ...Or something of the sort. 

So “TO BE CONTINUED….”

 

-Jenna

(P.S. Thanks to Jon for giving me my first taste of a real tomato years ago, and thanks to Bill for your enthusiasm!)

 

 

Posted in Blog By Jenna Aukerman

Getting Everything Right

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 10:58:16 AM America/Chicago

I have yet to see a green coffee that gets everything right, and it is understandable. Cherry selection is a tough process; a few under-ripes always slip in (even if its only 1 in 1000).  100% even drying is impossible.  Many origins are dealing with extreme difficulties in the export/shipping process.  Nevertheless, we manage to find a handful of coffees every year that come really close to getting everything right, and our newest offering comes as close as any I've seen.  

 

It is extremely refreshing to come across a producer like P.T. Toarco Jaya in Sulawesi.  In an origin classically known for defect-ridden wet-hulled coffees that range from completely unacceptable to interesting but flawed, Toarco is truly a rarity.  They are making an impressive effort to do everything right, and when I first heard the details on (and tasted) this coffee, I was shocked. 

 

Toarco is clean.  Really clean.  This, not surprisingly, is the result of careful wet processing, which takes place in immaculately clean tile-lined fermentation tanks and rinsing channels with fresh water from the producer's own spring. Couple this with sophisticated, even drying and intensive sorting and you have a beautiful coffee. This is a dramatic foil for the typical Indonesian wet-hulling process, which could appropriately be described as abusive.  Wet-hulling instills Indonesian coffees with the characteristics they are typically known for; earthy, funky, dusty notes, along with low acidity and heavy body.  While this flavor profile can be enjoyable in some coffees, it really covers up the delicate nuances that high grown arabicas are capable of.  

 

And on that note, Toarco is high grown.  The coffee is harvested at altitudes upwards of 1400 meters, which is where things tend to get interesting. Some parcels are hundreds of meters higher.  This altitude is largely responsible for Toarco's ability to deliver the delicious floral and citrusy aromas and juicy acidity that lower grown Indonesian coffees lack.  

 

Our Toarco was shipped right, too.  A refrigerated shipping container protected the coffee on its long sea voyage from Sulawesi.  This is the first time I've heard of this, and I like it... a lot.  This ensures that Toarco arrives in the states tasting every bit as fresh and vibrant as it did in Sulawesi.  

 

I'm sure I've left out a few things, but hopefully I've illustrated just how much care went into this coffee.  In this concluding paragraph, I would probably claim that Toarco got everything right, if it weren't for one small detail; it is bagged in burlap.  We prefer to have coffees shipped in air-tight GrainPro bags or mylar vacuum bags, which do a much better job of protecting a green coffee from moisture loss as it ages, but, not to worry, a few sweaty hours of rebagging in our warehouse solved that problem.  

 

The Sulawesi Toarco AA will be available in our online store later this week.  Check it out here.

 

-Jon

Posted in Blog By Jon

The Summer of the Pacamara

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 2:15:37 PM America/Chicago

 

The Pacamara variety is a newer Arabica hybrid developed by the Salvadorean Coffee Research Institute(ISIC) from a cross of Pacas x Maragogype.  When grown under optimal conditions, Pacamara coffees can show intense, herbal, floral, fruity varietal character.  Also, the beans are huge.

 

We'll be adding two excellent Pacamaras to the menu in September.  We've been anticipating the arrival of one of these for months; La Montaña Pacamara from the Chalatenango region of El Salvador.  This one came besting our already high expectations, with a characterful, aromatic cup.  With Nekisse as the only exception, this will be the sweetest coffee on our menu, full of juicy stone-fruit notes.  

 

The second comes from farms surrounding the town of Esquipulas in South Eastern Guatemala.  This lot shows the more herbal, floral side of Pacamara.  When we cupped this one for the first time, we were shocked at how Kenya-like the cup became as it cooled.  Lively acidity with grapefruit and the slightest hint of currant.

 

Both are excellent coffees you won't want to miss.  I hate to make such sensational statements, but the Montaña has to be the best washed coffee I've had this crop year. 

 

-Jon

 

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Posted in Blog By Jon

My New Favorite Way to Brew Coffee

Friday, April 16, 2010 11:06:49 AM America/Chicago

I've always liked the Chemex, but it has problems.  First, it loses a lot of heat during extraction, and it is nearly impossible to keep a proper temperature for the duration of brewing.  Second, the filter clogs easily with just about any grind setting.  The only way around the clogging problem is to pour the water over the grounds in such a way that it keeps them near the outside of the upper regions of the filter, rather than forming a restrictive bed in the bottom of the cone.  This also prevents an even extraction, however, which is perhaps the biggest problem with a Chemex.

 

Even with these limitations, the Chemex can still brew a very nice cup with great aromatic clarity, but the extraction quality often suffers.  This results in a cup that lacks sweetness and acidity, accentuating bitter notes.  Flavors are not fully developed, and the coffee just can't show everything it has to offer.

The solution? Use the Chemex only for what it does best; filtration.  Brew the coffee in another vessel, where it can extract evenly at a constant, ideal temperature.  The resulting cup has the same brilliant clarity that the Chemex is known to produce, but has the flavor, body, and balance of a proper extraction. Here's how I do it:

 



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Posted in Blog By Jon

Ethiopia Nekisse

Thursday, April 1, 2010 11:50:27 AM America/Chicago

We're expecting the arrival of another excellent coffee next week.  

 

We first tasted a sample of the Ethiopia Nekisse a couple of months ago, and we've been anxious to get it in ever since.  This is an incredible dry processed coffee, one of the best I can remember tasting.

 

The aroma is unbelievable; it is one of those super distinctive coffees that smells like nothing else.  Apricot, orange, and flowers are all present, with very high intensity.  Its always nice when people several feet away can notice that you've sent something special through the grinder.

 

The cup is sweet and fruity, again with apricot and orange along with chocolate and berries.  Best of all, there are none of the distracting defect notes that plague almost every natural coffee (usually from improper drying or under/over-ripe cherries).  This coffee is clean.  You can taste the care that went into every stage of harvesting and processing.

 

It may take us a while to find the ideal roast profile, but once we do, the Nekisse will be available online and in the cafe.  Don't miss this one; you'll be talking about it for a while.

 

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Micro-Lot Update

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 8:46:57 AM America/Chicago

The Dominican Gold Estate is still processing a special micro-lot for us this year, but with a slightly different plan...

 

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Empty Bowl Fundraiser

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 7:30:09 AM America/Chicago

Come see us this Saturday, March 27th, to help us celebrate our first year of business by supporting this great cause!!

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Posted in Blog By Jenna Aukerman

Oro Dominicano Bourbon Micro-lot

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:36:31 PM America/Chicago

 

I am thrilled to announce that the Oro Dominicano Estate in the Dominican Republic is preparing a special 100% Bourbon micro-lot for us this year (right now actually)!  

 

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Coffee Classes Round Two!

Monday, March 8, 2010 6:15:08 PM America/Chicago

Coffee classes are starting again! 

Class size is limited, so sign up soon! 

When:

Sunday nights 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm from March 14th - April 11th 

(NO class will be held April 4th in honor of Easter.)

  • Week 1 (March 14th): Sourcing. Learn where coffee comes from as well as the distinct flavors of different regions.
  • Week 2 (March 21st): Roasting. Learn why coffee is roasted lighter or darker as well as how decaf coffee is made.
  • Week 3 (March 28th): Brewing. Learn the proper way to brew coffee as well as alternative brewing methods.
  • Week 4 (April 11th): Preparing and Serving. Learn about traditional Espresso drinks like the macchiato and cappuccino.

Where:

Coffea Roasterie, 2318 S. Louise Ave., Sioux Falls, SD 57106

Why:

To have a little fun, taste a little coffee, and learn a lot about coffee from seed to cup. 

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Posted in Blog By Jenna

Our Dominican Republic is on Coffee Review!

Thursday, March 4, 2010 4:32:31 PM America/Chicago

Our Dominican Republic Las Lagunas, from the Oro Dominicano estate, tied for the top score on Coffee Review this month, with a 92 point rating!

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Innovative Coffee Roaster Seeks Likeminded Producer

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 12:34:30 PM America/Chicago

This is something that's intrigued us for quite some time.  We're always interested in what kinds of experiments are being done in origin to produce coffees that push the envelope and stumble upon new flavor profiles in the cup, and a lot of work has been done to this end lately.  We've seen interesting experiments with fermentation procedures in Hawaii,  SL-28 plantings outside of Kenya, incredible dry-process coffees from Ethiopia, and some exciting pulped naturals coming out of Panama and elsewhere.  Finding and tasting these new coffees is perhaps my favorite part of this job.
We think we have another new idea that has some potential, and we'd love to collaborate with a producer to see what we can do.  Here's a quick run down:

 

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Coffee Classes

Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:56:52 AM America/Chicago

Join us for a crash course in the basics of coffee that will explain the life of a coffee bean from the time it is harvested until the time it ends up in your mug. Discover where coffee comes from, how it is roasted, the best ways to brew, and finally be able to tell the difference between a cappuccino and a latte! This course is sure to enrich your coffee knowledge and will allow you to personally taste the difference with hands on activities in every class.

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Posted in Blog By Paul

Akiba, Gebeya, and Providencia

Friday, October 2, 2009 12:46:30 PM America/Chicago

In the past few weeks we've introduced three excellent new coffees; the Kenya Akiba peaberry, the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Gebeya, and the Guatemala Finca La Providencia.

 

The new kenya was sort of a surprise find. We were cupping a sample of a really generic sounding Kenya (The name was something like "Kenya Stock Lot 147592"), with no specific information telling us anything about the location, cultivars, etc., and were surprised to find a wonderful cup with sweet, juicy blackberry and currant. This one has a ton of the Kenya character we look for, and a very interesting acidity/sweetness profile. At first, it doesn't seem as acidic as many great Kenyas, but the acidity is there; just balanced by a lot of sweetness. Since "Kenya Stock Lot 147592" didn't sound very appealing, we chose the name "Kenya Akiba." Akiba is Swahili for stock, supply, or reserve.

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Posted in Blog By Paul Brough

New Arrivals!

Friday, July 17, 2009 10:36:12 AM America/Chicago

Two exciting new coffees are in transit to us as I write this, and we'll be roasting the first batches early next week.

We've been talking the first one up for a couple of weeks now, the Costa Rica Helsar de Zarcero. This was a surprising find for us. To be honest, we've had a bit of a bias against Costa Rican coffees in the past couple of years. Plenty of good, untainted samples have made it in, but nothing that had the abundance of character we were after, and I had begun to doubt we would find a special Costa anytime soon. This lot from Helsar de Zarcero was a different story.

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Green Storage Experiment Results

Thursday, June 18, 2009 9:54:32 AM America/Chicago

About a year ago, I took three samples of a very nice Guat, and put them into storage three different ways. One sample was held in a cloth bag, along with a piece of burlap, and put into the bottom file cabinet drawer in the office. The second sample was also put into this drawer, but was sealed inside an air tight mylar bag. The third sample was held in the freezer, inside of the same type of mylar bag. For a bit more info, check out the blog post from a few weeks ago.

I opened the samples up yesterday, and the first thing I did was to take a close look at the green. I expected to see paler color in the burlap sample, but there was no difference that I could notice. We also tracked down a small amount of the same coffee, Finca Agua Tibia from Fraijanes, from this year's harvest. There were some significant differences in appearance between the '08 and '09 lots.

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Posted in Blog By Paul Brough

Brewing Chemex Coffee

Monday, June 1, 2009 4:35:11 AM America/Chicago

Cupping is probably my favorite way to taste coffee, but it is far from ideal for enjoying a cup in the morning. French Press is great, but it can lack clarity and I don't like the sediment. Plastic manual drip cones (Melitta) do a decent job, but it is difficult to get a really great cup out of them. It is tough to find a simpler, more consistent way to make an awesome, clean cup than the Chemex, which is why it is the method I most commonly recommend for brewing at home.

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Posted in Blog By Jon

La Sierra

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 9:54:20 AM America/Chicago

I just made a few consecutive french presses of a sample we received a week or so ago, the Colombia Cauca, La Sierra. I love this coffee.

In a few words, it is powerful, very complex, and very characterful. The sample is almost gone, and I'm afraid we won't be tasting it again until the full shipment arrives from Colombia in about a month. When it comes in, we'll taste another sample to make sure nothing detrimental happened in shipping, and then we'll be sure to pick some up.

I can't wait to get this one in.

-Jon







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Posted in Blog By Jon

Time to Taste Some Old Coffees

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:34:12 AM America/Chicago

About a year ago, we started putting a good portion of our green coffee into air tight mylar bags. We were sick of coffees losing character and liveliness after a few months, and we knew getting them out of burlap was one of the best things we could do to prevent this. We're now doing it with all of our coffees. We go through each lot pretty quick, usually within about four months, but the bags still make a tremendous difference.

On July 18th of '08, I bagged up some coffee for an experiment. I took our Guatemala Finca Agua Tibia, and stored a sample sized amount three different ways. First, I put a half pound in a cloth drawstring bag, along with a piece of a coffee bag, to simulate traditional storage in jute. A second sample was stored in an air tight bag. Both of these went into the bottom drawer of our file cabinet.



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Posted in Blog By Jon

Coffee Misconceptions Part 1

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 7:43:27 AM America/Chicago

Training staff is a big part of my job at Coffea. On their first day, I try to always ask new hires what they know about coffee and espresso, and they usually give pretty similar answers, especially if they've worked in coffee before. Almost without fail, we stumble upon a few common misconceptions. They often have to do with very absolute statements (x is better than y), which are seldom safe in the world of coffee.

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Resume Blogging

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 7:56:12 AM America/Chicago

Coffea is open, and the word is out. We've been serving drinks in the cafe for a little over a month now, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Our customers have really been enjoying the menu, our coffees, and the atmosphere, and it feels great to see everything received so well.

We also just got back from our first time exhibiting at the SCAA trade show in Atlanta, where we cupped our coffees with like-minded coffee fanatics from all over the world. Inquiries have been coming in from cafes throughout the U.S. (and a few from elsewhere), and it looks like our coffees will soon be on the menu in a number of quality oriented shops outside our area.

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Now Open

Monday, March 30, 2009 7:30:45 AM America/Chicago



Its tough to sneak away on your first day open, so I'll keep this one short.

We turned the open sign on for the first time today at 6 am. The drinks are tasting awesome, the shop looks great, and we're all really enjoying ourselves.

I hope everyone reading this will stop in and pay us a visit when you get the chance. And... please let us know what you think!

-Jon

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Progress update

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 12:32:12 PM America/Chicago

If you've been following the updates on the Coffea News section of the site, you already know that the building is really taking shape. We're expecting the arrival of our custom bar early next week, which has all of us excited. We decided on dark stained ash mill work with a beautiful black granite top.

Blue Devil Creative has been building us some very cool furniture as well; everything from bar stools, to tables, to our menu board. I've only seen sketches thus far, so it should be a lot of fun to see the finished pieces. Everything in the building is moving at a rapid pace now, and its exciting to see all of our planning finally take shape. For a while there, it was feeling like March would never come.

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Posted in Blog By Jon

Kaelin's Roadtrip

Friday, February 13, 2009 6:34:53 AM America/Chicago

A few months ago Jon got an email from Kaelin McCowan asking if he could stop by our shop (Great Plains Coffee at the time) as he was driving through South Dakota on his way to Toronto with a Deidrich IR12 coffee roaster that he picked up in Seattle. He's opening a quality focused roasterie called Detour Coffee Roasters. We had a great time chatting with him (as we do with any like-minded coffee lover), and wish him success in his new venture.

He wrote an article about the businesses he visited along the way, and he had some very kind words to say about our humble cafe. Here is a pdf copy of the article - reprinted by permission from Barista Magazine. (The section about us is on the second page.)

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Posted in Blog By Paul

The Bean Menu

Monday, February 9, 2009 6:00:00 PM America/Chicago

We've been putting a lot of thought into how we'll decide what coffees will make it on to the bean menu at any given time. At Great Plains Coffee, the menu was fairly static. I don't think we ever found ourselves without a Colombia, Sumatra Mandheling, or Kenya, despite some close calls, and we always maintained a list of about 10 - 15 coffees.

Maintaining this type of menu served a definite purpose; we had lots of customers that liked being able to purchase the "same" coffee every time they came in, and the large variety seemed to have something that appealed to everyone, but there were a few major downfalls as well:

1) Every coffee is unique. Just because a coffee comes from the Huila region in Colombia, doesn't necessarily mean it will it will approximate the flavor profile of another Huila. A certain origin or region name on a bag label should not be seen as a guarantee of what flavors and aromas are to be found inside.

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Posted in Blog By Jon

El Salvador Finca Suiza

Thursday, February 5, 2009 2:28:09 PM America/Chicago

We just found the best El Salvador we've ever tasted. Finca Suiza. This coffee is grown by Francisco Menéndez in the Santa Ana region. It consists of an interesting blend of varietals: 60% Bourbon, 30% Pacamara, 10% Catimor.

The Pacamara contributes to a particularly interesting fruity flavor profile. It's not funky-fruity like a Harrar or natural Sidamo, but dignified and clean. Cupping and french press show lots of berry and stone fruits, and drip brewing shows more apple and cinnamon than anything else. The body is thick contributing to a long sweet finish.

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Posted in Blog By Paul Brough