Coffee

Why Does Water Quality Matter? by Caleb Savage

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Let’s say you have a cup of coffee in the cafe. The coffee is clean and sweet, with a bright acidity. It’s balanced and enjoyable. As it cools, the coffee becomes sweeter and the acidity changes subtly. You buy a bag and take it home. Using all the right tools for the job and following your favorite brew recipe, you nail the pourover. You take your first sip. It’s dull and flat. The acidity is harsh. The overwhelming note present in the cup is one: coffee. What did the barista do that you didn’t? Is it worth buying the best coffees for home if you can’t make them taste the same way at home?

Extraction

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Coffee brewing is chemistry. Since making coffee is all about proper extraction, (moving all of the good flavors present in the coffee bean to the water/coffee solution) coffee makers should work to optimize how coffee flavors are extracted from the beans and preserved and perceived in the resulting cup of coffee. Variables like time, temperature, particle distribution (grind), the ratio of water to coffee, and agitation during the extraction process all help extract flavor, but it is actually the composition of the water itself that extracts flavor from the coffee bean.

Buffering

The minerals in water, specifically magnesium and calcium, do a great job extracting the acids and sugars present in the bean and the Malliard reactions that have occured from roasting the bean that give sweet caramelized flavors like vanilla or nougat. So, theoretically, the more minerals like magnesium and calcium in your water, the more you will be able to extract from the coffee bean. However, since we drink coffee, and we’re primarily concerned with the taste of extraction and not just the overall ability to extract, we need a buffer, namely bicarbonate, in the water to balance the chemical changes in the water to preserve the acids as they move from bean to cup. Dashwood and Hendon’s Water for Coffee recommends a 2:1 ratio of general hardness (minerals) to bicarbonate to provide optimal extraction for specialty coffee. To hear more about Water for Coffee, check out Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood’s 2015 Re;co Symposium Lecture

What it means

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Companies like Third Wave Water are working to take the research being done by coffee professionals and make it accessible to the average consumer. You can find Third Wave Water Packets for Pourovers and Espresso in the shop. The team at Barista Hustle has some great info on making your own water recipe if you’re interested in learning more about how various coffee professionals optimize their water with easy to use recipes.

New Milks and Sustainability by Steve Willingham

For the month of July, we’re bringing back the Maple Pecan Cold Brew!

Maple Pecan Cold Brew

If you’re not familiar with this special from last year, it’s a bit of our house made 14-hour cold brew, Malk pecan milk, and maple syrup. Sweet and refreshing for the hottest days of summer.

We’re also continuing the Oatmeal Latte that we re-launched a few weeks ago.

This drink is simply espresso, brown sugar, and oat milk. We first featured this drink in 2016, but we found it difficult to consistently get the oat milk that we were using. This is no longer a problem thanks to our friends at KLLR Coffee and their distribution, so this drink won't be disappearing at the end of its run on the specials board. It will just find a home on the secret menu

Our specials board looks like it has a theme this month. Everything on it is vegan.

When we started Clarity in 2015, we had two alternative milks on the menu: almond and soy. Then we discovered how delicious coconut milk could be and added it as a special and then, eventually, as a permanent addition to the menu.

Since day one at Clarity, we’ve had sustainability on our minds. Serving coffee has an impact on the environment no matter what precautions we take, but we know we can mitigate that impact through intentional decisions and expanding our non-dairy options to fit all sorts of tastes.

Alternative Milks

Last month, we added oat milk as a permanent offering. Now, with pecan milk added on for the Maple Pecan Cold Brew, we think it’s a great moment to talk about what alternative milks can mean for coffee, namely sustainability.

When we look at a drink like a latte, the milk actually accounts for two-thirds of the carbon footprint. Using a plant-based milk alternative significantly decreases that footprint. Almond milk, for instance produces less than half the emissions that dairy does, even after accounting for the longer distance it has to travel.

Coffee is hugely affected by climate change. In fact, a study in 2015 estimated that land suitable for growing coffee will be cut in half by warming temperatures by 2050. The warmer weather has already caused an increase in pests and diseases that have actually caused national emergencies in coffee growing countries. The impact on the rest of the coffee supply chain reminds us of our responsibility to the environment.

Here are a few of the things we’re doing as a company to be better.

Reduce

The most important thing you can do to limit your environmental impact is reducing what you use. We take that seriously and always have. For instance, we worked with TAP Architecture to use the latest in lighting technology. Every light in our entire space, save one, is LED. Most of our coffee equipment has the ability to go into an energy saving mode at night, so we can both reduce energy usage and limit the wear and tear caused by heating and cooling the machine daily, a nice compromise.

And this effort continues even now. Last month, we installed new insulation in our ceiling and on our heating and cooling system to make that part of the space even more efficient.

Clarity Coffee Latte

An even bigger impact, wasted coffee and milk plague both a coffee shop's carbon emissions and their bottom line. When we get together for training, we keep more than just quality and extraction on our minds. Part of the job of a great coffee professional is to limit the amount of coffee, milk, and other materials that are wasted.

We won’t serve you a drink that isn’t exactly right and reliably tasty, so the occasional drink has to be tossed. What we can do is limit the amount of mistakes that happen through a constant training effort and utilizing the latest technology to avoid inconsistency.

We work to be consistent in dosing out and steaming milk, so we rarely steam more milk that we need, which would be poured down the drain. Then we use a milk pitcher rinser to quickly rinse milk out. And that’s not just to save time. It saves thousands of gallons of water per year versus rinsing in a traditional sink.

And when it’s time to clean them more thoroughly, we use products from Seventh Generation and Better Life to make sure nothing harmful ends up in our sewer system.

Reuse

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Sometimes you need to take your coffee to go. No judgments here. We have disposable cups available every day. And if you’re able to bring your own cup, we’d love to put your coffee in it. Don’t have one? We have Hydro Flasks available in black or white.

But when you can, we love for you to stay and enjoy your coffee here. Not just for sustainability’s sake. We also just love having our friends here drinking coffee with us. Next time you stay, we have reusable cups in all shapes and sizes to fit perfectly with the drink you’re enjoying.

Drinks that are traditionally stirred, like cappuccinos, espressos, and the like, are served with a small spoon to eliminate the need for disposable stir sticks.

And just recently, we added reusable totes to our shelves for those who are interested in cutting down on disposable grocery bags. Keep an eye out for these new totes and the Hydro Flasks on our online store.

Recycle

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There are two recycling bins here in the store, and we take it seriously. We go through dozens of gallons of milk, tons of La Croix, and plenty more each week, and every last carton, can, and bottle is put into the recycling bin.

At first, we were packing our recycling up at the end of each day and taking it to a large bin, but after a few months of that, we partnered up with Fertile Grounds to do a weekly recycling pick-up. They’re an outstanding organization and if you have any recycling or composting needs, I highly recommend them!

What’s Next

Aardvark Paper Straws

Improving our sustainability is a constant process. There’s always something more we could do.

The next step for us is to eliminate our plastic straws by working with the paper straw company Aardvark. Our aim is to have this going by the beginning of August. Stay tuned to the blog to learn more about Aardvark, paper straws, and why it matters.

Good Folks Coffee Roasters by Caleb Savage

“The best cups of coffee are usually when you aren’t thinking about tasting notes, brew method, and extraction, but you raise the mug to your lips for another drink and realize it is all gone. That’s our goal with every coffee.”

Good Folks Coffee Roasters

Founded as Argo Sons Coffee in October 2010, Good Folks Coffee Company was founded by Matt Argo in Louisville, Kentucky with a passion to make “a positive impact on everyone that is a part of our coffee chain.”

After travelling the world over eight years in the Army National Guard and several trips with his wife to Africa, Matt “developed a love for coffee -- particularly the social aspect and the economic impact it has in producing countries." He knew he wanted to start a business after his military contract was complete, and already loved to travel and work with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Coffee seemed to be a perfect fit.

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Coffee Travels

In the search for “sweetness, balance, and complexity,” Good Folks “traveled to Guatemala to cup and purchase some fresh coffees. Several unique coffees that we purchased are currently on the water between Guatemala and the US, and we are excited to share the stories of the farmers, as well as the coffees themselves. A few of the coffees are experimental processes and/or rare varieties, resulting in some very small lots.”

Coffee + Bourbon + Louisville

While Good Folks doesn’t have a Brick and Mortar store front, you can find their coffee in Louisville at cafes like Please and Thank You, North Lime DonutsPearl Street Game & Coffee House, and restaurants including Proof on Main, Butchertown Grocery, Bar Vetti, and Decca.

Beyond coffee, “The Louisville Slugger Museum and Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville are must-visits. Keep an eye out at Evan Williams for a bourbon barrel aged coffee from yours truly. A quick stop at El Mundo for a house margarita (or two) and nachos with pork is a great option,” said Matt.

Now on Bar: Congo North Kivu

Good Folks Congo North Kivu is our first coffee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year! We’re serving Kivu on Espresso and Pourover and we’re really enjoying the nice pairing of sweet chocolate and bright peach notes in the cup! This coffee will only be on bar for a short time so stop in and let us know what you think!

Blueprint Coffee Roasters by Steve Willingham

 Mike Marquard, Mazi Razani, Andrew Timko, Nora Brady, Radames Roldan, Kevin Reddy, Jamie Levine, Brian Levine (Photo Courtesy of Blueprint Coffee)

Mike Marquard, Mazi Razani, Andrew Timko, Nora Brady, Radames Roldan, Kevin Reddy, Jamie Levine, Brian Levine (Photo Courtesy of Blueprint Coffee)

Blueprint Coffee was founded in 2013 by the efforts and vision of Kevin Reddy, Andrew Timko, Mike Marquard, Mazi Razani, Brian Levine, Nora Brady, and Aaron Johnson to “consciously connect joy and livelihoods through coffee excellence.” With a passion for creating and sustaining a series of “mutually beneficial relationships” between their producers, partners, and customers, Blueprint brings quality coffee and care to St. Louis, and this week, to us! We talked with Mike Marquard about coffee and the city they love to learn a little bit more about Blueprint Coffee.

St. Louis & Blueprint

 Roy, Ashley, and Garrett (Photo Courtesy of Blueprint Coffee)

Roy, Ashley, and Garrett (Photo Courtesy of Blueprint Coffee)

In designing their original cafe, Blueprint “wanted to break down the intimidation factor of specialty coffee bars. Our staff is very driven and directed to engage guests as quickly as possible and recognize the hesitancy and intimidation of our first-time guests.” Their second cafe, while smaller, will have more room for outdoor seating, 6 taps for non-alcoholic drinks, and deliver the same menu and transparency their friends have come to know and love.

Mike recommends checking out Forest Park for its “beautiful trails, green space, and free museums and a zoo,” city icons like the “City Museum, the Gateway Arch, or a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium,” and “breweries….we’ve got so many great ones, but be sure to hit 2nd Shift, UCBC, and Side Project.”

Beauty in Precision

 Mazi Razani (Photo Courtesy of Blueprint Coffee)

Mazi Razani (Photo Courtesy of Blueprint Coffee)

The ideal Blueprint coffee “tastes like the best expression of all the work and passion that went into producing it.

"We try to find the best coffees that are in season and produced by mutually beneficial relationships. Often, we will sacrifice a point or two on the cupping table if it means we are supporting producers that align with our principles and we see that we can grow together to achieve those additional points in the cup.”

This commitment to the people of coffee first comes through in all areas of Blueprint’s DNA. “We are attracted to partners that share our values. This may mean that the company we choose to work with for our janitorial products treats their employees well and their team is concerned with our success and we are concerned for theirs as well. At a coffee level, we are working with more and more producers that share our concern for healthy soil, covering a fair cost of productions, and striving for quality. When we are able to support these great producers, we find we’re more excited about their coffees and they look forward to working with us year after year.”

We’re so excited to be able to serve Blueprint’s Ecuador La Papaya and are thankful for the work Blueprint does to build relationships in coffee that lead to a stronger and more vibrant industry.

We’re tasting sweet citrus and dark chocolate in La Papaya, so grab a cup and let us know what you think!