Questions

Coffee Questions: Coffee Grinders & Freshness by Caleb Savage

THE GRIND

If you want to make great coffee at home, do you have to have a grinder? And do you have to grind your coffee right before you make it?

Kinda.

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As we’ve said before, Coffee is a fruit. Fresh fruit means great flavors. Since coffee loses flavor the older it is, and, coffee stays fresh best when it it’s kept as a whole bean, waiting to grind coffee until right before you brew can keep your coffee more fresh. That being said, you shouldn’t buy a grinder based on freshness alone.

For making great coffee at home, buying a serious coffee grinder is probably the most impactful purchase you can make. While finding a brewer might depend on preference or style, and all scales generally do the same job, (some are more beautiful than others) not all grinders are equal.

All grinders grind coffee, but good grinders grind coffee evenly.

Thought experiment: You want to cut a pizza into equal size slices to ensure that everyone gets the same sized slice. Giving someone a larger slice means that someone else will get a smaller slice. In a world where one slice of pizza is enough to eat, one person will have too much food and the other won’t have enough. Getting flavor or extracting coffee is similar.

Holding all other variables constant, coffee particles at different sizes will extract at different speeds, because smaller particles will have less to extract than larger particles. This means that some coffee particles will over-extract, giving off bitterness and weakening the body of the coffee, and other coffees will under-extract, adding sourness and lessening sweetness of the cup. Having the ability to extract each coffee particle evenly leads to a balanced, sweet cup of coffee with brightness, clarity, and body.

Is it better to have coffee that tastes fresh or evenly extracted?

Freshness changes, grind consistency doesn’t. That being said, buying a great grinder isn’t the best option for everyone.

Solution: Fellow’s Atmos

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Do you go through 12oz of coffee about once a month or faster? Fellow’s Atmos Vacuum Canister might be the solution for you! By removing oxygen and sunlight from the equation, the coffee beans are able to retain the acids and sugars that give us the flavors we love longer, slowing down the ill effects of aging on coffee. Let us grind your coffee for you on our Mahlkonig EK43! This will give you more consistency than any home grinder could provide. By storing your ground coffee in the Atmos, you’re able to retain the freshness you want from whole bean coffee while getting a more consistent and improved extraction.

Coffee Questions: Brewing That Works by Caleb Savage

NOT JUST HERE FOR THE CAFFEINE

“What’s the best way to make coffee at home?”

Coffee making can be pretty frustrating. We want good coffee. We want to make it in a way that’s both fun and relatively easy. We don’t want it to break the bank. Why? Because we want coffee to be both utilitarian and pleasurable. We want it’s caffeine, but we want also want it to be sweet, well-balanced, and enjoyable. We want it to help us wake up in the morning so we don’t want a setup that requires us to be alert to be able to do it well.

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So how do we balance making great coffee without having to have the best equipment or follow a complex set of rules to get your first sip of caffeine?

The best cup of coffee is a coffee you like to make and drink.

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The Balancing Act

We can divide home brewing into a couple areas to determine the best setup for anyone: Interest, Time, and Cost.

Interest

Do you enjoy learning about where coffees are from? Do you follow recipes when you make coffee? If you want good coffee, but don’t have a lot of interest in the details, there are some great automated brewers that make Specialty quality coffee at home!

Time

Are you looking for a coffee setup that allows you to start a cup and be out the door five minutes later? A stovetop kettle might not be the best choice. Also, avoid hand grinders. If you have the time and interest, you can sip slowly and think critically about the coffees you make and make slight adjustments to your recipe until you’ve found the program that works best for you.

Cost

Sometimes we have a lot of interest and time to make great coffee but are missing the budget to have the “perfect” setup. Don’t sweat. Sometimes small improvements to things like water, coffee quality, or temperature can have dramatic results on the finished product!

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THINGS WE LOVE

“What equipment should I get?

The equipment we sell comes from companies we believe in. We use and sell Acaia scales, XF brewers and kettles, Chemexes, and Baratza grinders. If you are considering a new kettle or brewer, ask us about why we love the gear we use.

We also love helping you make the best coffee you want to make. Our team loves finding the gear or solution you need the balances your interest, time, and budget. Stop by the shop and chat with your baristas about the best set up for you.

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Coffee Questions: What is Terrior by Caleb Savage

Every so often, we get a question at the bar related to coffee or our thoughts on coffee that we feel should be discussed on a larger platform. We started a series of posts called Coffee Questions where we try to answer those questions and leave as a resource to anyone looking to learn more about the industry, brewing, or anything else! Click here to check out other posts in this series!

For our October Palate Training, we tried some Dick Taylor Chocolates from Madagascar, Belize, and Brazil and discussed the role different environmental effects have on the outcome of coffee, chocolate, and most other plant products! Factors like what variety of plant is being used, where the coffee is grown, sunlight and water received, and other decisions being made by farmers can all make a significant impact on the quality of the your morning cup of coffee. We can wrap all of those ideas into a single idea: terroir.

Terroir. /terˈwär./ Tear-wah. Yes, we’re bringing French to the blog. Pardon.

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Are Red Delicious Apples even Moderately Delicious?

I don’t think so. I’m more of a Granny Smith fan. Gala is okay, but save the Red Delicious for applesauce. I don’t want it. What’s with the apple rant? Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious are all varieties of apples. We can categorize them under that broad category of “apple” and you recognize them as they are, but no one would say that a Granny Smith apple tasted the same as a Red Delicious apple. Like apples, coffea arabica, the species of plant we use to make coffee has dozens of varieties grown around the world.

How does variety affect coffee?

Thanks to World Coffee Research, we can learn more about the different Arabica varieties, their susceptibility to various diseases, and other information farmers making decisions about profitability would be concerned with.

The variety of coffee plant grown can have a significant factor in the outcome and profitability of coffee, but it’s not the only factor.

Elevated Sweetness

In general, the higher elevation a coffee is grown, the better we will be able to achieve more sweetness & better developed flavors in the cup. Why?

Because temperatures are lower at higher elevations, coffee cherries mature more slowly which allows for more and more complex sugars to develop in the fruit. These sugars get stored in the seed that ends up becoming what we know as roasted coffee beans and when brewed, result in sweetness in your espresso or coffee!

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For coffees grown at lower elevations, farming decisions like shade and controlling access to water can mimic the benefits of higher elevation.

Care Creates Quality

At the end of the day, terroir is the set of environmental factors that affect the quality of our end cup of coffee, and more importantly, the sustainability of our industry, and the profitability of coffee producers.

For most coffee farmers and producers, developing coffees to their fullest potential is about increasing profitability and providing for their families and employees. This dedication to quality leads to higher premiums for their coffees and recognition from the coffee community. Therefore, a producer armed with the right tools, knowledge, and experience can temper potentially negative environmental concerns to cultivate excellent coffee.

We love getting to share great coffees with you every day. These coffees come from roasters, importers, producers, and farmworkers working hard to ensure that only the best is harvested, sorted, roasted, and brewed for you. If you’re curious about learning more about the coffees we serve, just ask a barista next time you’re in the shop!

Coffee Questions: What is Specialty Coffee? by Caleb Savage

Specialty Coffee

“What’s the difference between a good cup of coffee and ‘Specialty’ coffee?”

Simply put: A good cup of coffee is any coffee you like to drink. Specialty coffee is a technical standard given to green (unroasted) coffees that meet or exceed a list of standards defined by the Specialty Coffee Association or SCA.

Green Coffee

Green Coffee

Grading & Defects

Why do some coffees have letters like AA or PB following the name?

It’s their grade or size! Countries may use terms like “Supremo” or lettering to give designation between sizes of the beans or number of defects like rocks or chipped beans found in a small sample of the coffee. 

In Kenya, where lettered sizing is the standard, AA refers to the largest sized beans, AB the size immediately smaller, PB referring to Peaberries, a mutation in which a coffee cherry forms only one seed (or bean) instead of two, and E for Elephant referring to an ear-like shape, similar to the mutation that creates peaberries.

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Effects on Taste

“Is a Peaberry sweeter than a normal coffee bean?”

Maybe, maybe not. While most grading systems give some sort of designation to quality, defect, or taste in cup, coffee is still a complex drink with varying techniques of care, preparation, production, and consumption. Coffees harvested from the same farm may contain different varieties of coffee plants. Coffee cherries from the same plant may be processed a handful of ways. Entire crops of coffee may be bought by dozens of roasters and prepared with varying beliefs of roast time or the natural flavors of the coffee. Finally, a brewer may manipulate the taste of the coffee based on all the previous steps to produce a cup that a co-worker might interpret completely differently.

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Good, with guidelines

Ultimately, a cup of coffee is only as good as the experience surrounding it. While the diversity of coffee and the diversity of palates create a multitude of definitions of “good”, we can use grading, the standards that define “Specialty”, and the interpretation of coffee that roasters and cafes use to define and describe the coffees they serve as a framework to give us a better understanding of what makes coffee so special.

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Coffee Questions

This post is a part of a series of articles written to answer the questions you may have wondered but might not have asked. Have a question? Contact us here!