Education

In Defense of Decaf by Caleb Savage

“Death before Decaf” is the motto of many baristas and coffee enthusiasts. “Why would anyone want coffee without caffeine?” For many, the thought of starting the day without coffee, or more precisely, caffeine, is unfathomable, but the reality is, a number of people don’t consume caffeine or limit their intake for various reasons. For many who decide to consume less caffeine, coffee breaks and coffee-shop meetings can be frustrating. At Clarity, we try to provide a number of low-to-no caffeine options and work diligently to ensure that those items meet the same quality and care standards we have for the rest of our offerings.

How much caffeine does a barista consume?

“So when you’re working, you’re probably drinking espresso all day, right?” From dialing in our coffees to quality control throughout the day, it’s easy to consume a good amount of caffeine. That being said, an unscientific poll of our team says that on average, they drink about 2-3 servings of coffee on a day they’re working and just 1-1.5 servings on off days. Generally, all of our coffee offerings have the same caffeine content, between about 120-140mg per serving.

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Of course offerings like our sparkling lemonade or a hot chocolate are going to be caffeine free, but what about a green tea or decaf pourover?

We always have an herbal tea available that will be caffeine free. (Our current herbal offering is Chamomile Mint from Urban Teahouse.) With tea, caffeine content correlates with the level of oxidation. The darker the tea leaves, the more caffeine the leaves will contain!

Decaffeinated vs. Caffeine-Free

While it may vary from one process to another, decaffeinated coffee is not completely free of caffeine. Our current decaf offering from Cooperatives in Western Ethiopia is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process which removes 99.9% of caffeine. That leaves you with about as much caffeine as you would get from a small bite size piece of chocolate.

The Swiss Water Process is a proprietary decaffeination method that removes 99.9% of the caffeine from small batches of coffee without the use of chemicals. By soaking the coffee in a green coffee extract infused water, the process allows caffeine to diffuse naturally out of the green coffee and into the extract. After decaffeination, the coffee is then sent on to the roaster before they end up in the cafe! We’ve written about another common decaffeination process, Ethyl Acetate, here!

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In Defense of Decaf

If caffeine intake is the primary objective for your morning latte or afternoon cold brew, decaffeinated coffee doesn’t make much sense. However, if you are concerned about the amount of caffeine you consume on a daily basis, but enjoy the taste of a great cup of coffee, decaf is the way to go! There’s so much more to coffee than being able to “make it through the day.” For someone who is used to drinking coffee to improve focus but needs an extra boost later in the afternoon, making your regular drink decaffeinated, the ritual of making and drinking a cup may help you trick your mind into a little more productivity without the loss of sleep later on.

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Deciding to limit caffeine intake need not be an end to coffee-shop-hopping. A great decaf like KLLR’s Western Ethiopia Co-ops tastes great in milk, as espresso, or a pourover! If you haven’t tried your favorite drink decaffeinated, stop by and try it today! All of our espresso drinks can be made with decaf and we can do both hot and iced pourovers with decaf as well!

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!

Chocolate Palate Training: Class Recap by Caleb Savage

Last weekend we hosted a chocolate palate training and discussed how environmental factors impact the taste and quality of coffee!

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Using our Dick Taylor chocolate bars, we tried chocolates from Belize, Brazil, Madagascar, and a 58% milk chocolate bar using the same chocolate from Madagascar! Like coffee, the taste of chocolate can vary based on where the plant is grown, how the cacao or coffee bean is harvested and cared for, and how the product is roasted and prepared to be served.

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Afterwards, we compared the chocolates to KLLR Coffee’s Guatemala Ranferi Morales, a coffee from Southwestern Guatemala with a sweet milk chocolate body and tart grape acidity.

Curious about coffee growing and processing? Check out our overview on coffee from seed to cup!

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