Tips you can use from your kitchen to the break room…or if you just want to be a show-off.
CTOW 6/27/11: Using A Coffee Filter for More than Making Coffee
CTOW 4/6/11: Big Sigh! French Roast is Not A Flavor 😦
Contrary to popular belief, French Roast is not – I repeat NOT – a flavor! French roast is a degree of roast and is one of the many roast levels. At the French Roast level, the beans are about 500 degrees, the sugars are intensely caramelized, and the bean’s surface becomes very oily as a result of the gases being further released longer into the roast process. The “bold” taste of the darker French Roast levels may actually come from the fact that the bean itself has become very heated. At this roast level, the coffee has lost much of its distinct flavor based upon the region it came from. Therefore, many different regions roasted at the French Roast level may actually taste quite the same (i.e., a Guatemalan coffee may taste the same as a Kenyan coffee at this level). A coffee from a specific region can, however, flourish at the French Roast level. Additionally, “french roast” as a sweet vanilla or caramel-like flavor may sometimes be added to the coffee beans during a roast or may be sprayed across the beans post-roast to give coffee at any roast level a particular flavor. If you have a thing for “bold” coffee, try to find a coffee that has specific taste characteristics as rustic, dark fruit, chocolate, full-bodied, cigar-like, or red wine. Check out the video below for an explanation of the various roast levels. **Clarification: I reference “espresso roast” in the video. Espresso is not specifically a roast level. Full City+, Vienna, and French Roast are the next roast levels. I will post another tip in the next few days regarding roasting coffee for the best espresso qualities.**
How complicated can coffee possibly be? Well, I like to think of it in terms of how versatile a coffee can be and all of its possibilities. Complexity: distinct flavor characteristics and possibilities revealed at different moments throughout the cup. And yes, it saves some of its possibilities for the honeymoon…wait for it… Balance: an experience of all the elements (complex) that do not overwhelm at any given point. Every coffee has its own complex elements to it. It is just a matter of how profoundly each element is expressed and if it peaks our interest enough to keep us coming back for more. How and when they reveal themselves determine how balanced – or unbalanced – a coffee may be. The Kenya AA is a perfect example. Find out more here.
CTOW 10/19/10: Acidity In Coffee
Acidity in coffee – what the heck is it? Acidity is to coffee as dryness is to wine. Be a little more direct? Not to be confused with an unpleasant sourness, acidity in coffee is a positive brightness experienced in the cup – the dryness, pleasant snap or tartness with a soft sweetness it leaves at the back of your palate after each sip. Ever heard the term winy as a descriptor for coffee? Understanding the element of fruit & wine’s characteristics and their marriage in a glass of wine or cup of coffee makes experiencing it a beautiful thing. Here is a video of the Ethiopia Limu which has incredible brightness and beautiful acidity. Photo Credit: Gevon Knox
How many licks does it take to get to the….ok, hee hee. It takes about 70 coffee beans to make a shot of espresso – roughly 1.25 oz. It should be finely ground and tamped (or compacted into the portafilter). As hot water is forced through the tamped coffee, it should take about 25-30 seconds to extract. Served in a demitasse (let’s just say a teensy coffee cup 🙂 ), the drink consists of a liquid topped with an elegant layer of crema (a little foam on top).
CTOW 10/13/10: Don’t Screw Up My Mocha!
What’s Mocha-Java? I like chocolate – is it chocolate?? Well, I explain exactly how we got to start using the terms Mocha and Java. Ever have something so great get screwed up? Take a look below, and I will tell you exactly what happened.
CTOW 10/6/10: All About Fair Trade
SIKE! (For those of you who followed my tweet to get here). October is Fair Trade month; however, fair trade standards are very important each and every day! So, what is “fair trade” anyway?? How would you like to work hard on your craft – let’s say designing and constructing 600 pairs of shoes each month. I come along as the middle man to help get your shoes sold. So I get it sold, make a $2 Million profit each month, but I only paid you $50. And because the world market fluctuates so often, next month I’ll pay you $10 – before I make my $2 Million…AGAIN. AND you have to pay your workers and you also have a family to take care of. Well, that doesn’t seem very “fair” now does it?
The overall point of Fair Trade is to ensure sustainability – fair pricing that doesn’t fall below a minimum for your goods, which in turn helps to build sustainable families, wage rates, and communities – and opportunities for everyone within that community. Now doesn’t that sound “fair?” Read more about Fair Trade and sustainability for coffee here.
CTOW 9/30/10: How Water Distribution Affects Your Brew
One of the ways to get the best out of your brew is to select a coffee maker that has an even distribution of water. This prevents underextraction. So what is underextraction and why do you want to prevent it? Let’s make a comparison – you wouldn’t pull a steak out of the freezer, thaw it, then eat it? You would cook it to its best qualities right? Properly “extracting” coffee just means taking the right amount of time, heat, and water to prepare the brew to its best qualities.
Suggestions: Drip coffee makers have a percolator which pumps water to the grounds. Having a maker that evenly distributes your water (ie drips water over all of the grounds evenly versus in one “hot-spot”) helps to properly extract your brew. The french press pretty much guarantees that your grounds have an even distribution of water. Simply boil water, place your grounds in the french press, and pour boiling water over the grounds (of course ensuring that water hits all of the grounds evenly). Of course there are several other types of ways to prepare your coffee.
CTOD 9/29/10: Today is National Coffee Day!
There are several translations for the word “coffee.” But let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The original term for coffee is “bunna” (or bunn, bun) – a name that was given to it by its birthright, Ethiopia. It is also known as “kaffa” because it was discovered in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia. Coffee began its journey shortly after Ethiopia invaded Yemen in the 6th century,where the Ethiopians made sure to set up coffee plantations. Arabs fell in love with the drink and called it “qahwa,” the Arab word for wine. Qahwat al-bunn, a combination of the terms bunn and qahwa, is a truncation meaning “wine of the bean.” Coffee Words: Bunna, Bunn, Bun, Kaffa, Qahwa, Kahwah, Kaveh, Coffee
CTOW | Coffee 101, 9/27/10: Breaking Coffee Down
Thousands of feet high into the tropical regions, the drink can be traced back to a coffee tree which produces red or purple cherries/berries (in some cases yellow or orange). The cherries usually produce two seeds (beans). A special type of seed/bean called a Peaberry occurs when the seed of the cherry does not split, and only one bean per cherry is produced. Smaller and more round in comparison to the “normal” coffee bean, this bean has intense explosion of flavor and is highly sought after.
Many times coffee can be described as berry, fruity, raspberry or another type of fruity-like taste – which makes complete sense since coffee cherries are the fruit of the coffee tree!
CTOW 9/24/10: Darker Coffee = Less Caffeine
The darker the roast of the coffee, the less caffeine it has. Why? As you get further into the roast process (the darker the roast), the natural characteristics of the bean begin to change, and more caffeine breaks away from the bean. Sometimes espresso is thought to have more caffeine than a regular brew (great assumption that dark roast always = espresso). Clarification? The term “espresso” originated based on how quickly coffee was able to be prepared: “I want it right now!” However, a blend of coffees at different roast levels paired with a finer grind, and the rate and elegance at which the coffee is “pulled” through the espresso maker results in espresso that is both beautiful in taste and in presentation. Which, of course, can either have less OR more caffeine content than a typical brewed coffee. And the same goes for a doppio (double shot of espresso), which can end up having more caffeine per serving merely by nature of the amount consumed.
CTOW | Coffee 101, 9/23/10: Birthplace of Coffee
The Kaffa Region in Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia – see map) is the birthplace of coffee (genus caffea). Brazil is the world’s largest producer of arabica coffee beans. Because of its large production, it is often confused with being the birthplace of coffee (refer to my post, Top 5 Things You MUST Know About Coffee). Although Brazil is the largest producer, Ethiopia has some of the most unique and highly sought after coffees. The versatile taste characteristics of Ethiopian coffee range from chocolate to honey, citrus, lemony, cocoa-like, coconut, fruity, floral, berry-like, and earthy (and even more!). Legend has it that an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi discovered his goats dancing joyously after eating berries from a green shrub. He tested the cherries himself, then ran to the local monastery to share them with Monks who at first despised it. In its earliest existence (circa 6th century), it was used by Monks to stay awake during prayers, was used as a medicinal herb, and eventually made its way around the world to become the basis for the early coffee houses where stimulating intellectual conversations took place amongst incredible entertainment.
Maxwell House Coffee was named after The Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. Coffee man Joel Cheek discovered a perfect blend of coffee and persuaded Maxwell House Hotel’s food buyer to sample the coffee for the hotel. Once the sample ran out, hotel guests became inquisitive about the “better” coffee. Cheek’s company eventually became the official coffee roaster for the Maxwell House Hotel. Several U.S. Presidents once stayed at the prestigious hotel. After returning from a bear hunt to the Maxwell House Hotel, President Roosevelt had a cup of the coffee and proclaimed, “Good. Good to the last drop.” This phrase became synonymous with the famed Maxwell House Coffee. And that’s your #coffee tip of the day!
CTOW 09/21/10: After import, coffee’s taste depends on three crucial things: The Roast, The Grind, and The Brew.
CTOW 09/20/10: Seek out a local shop that roasts their own beans. You will appreciate coffee all the more.