company - education - coffee

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's cold!

The weather is turning a bit chilly here. It's a good time to try some new coffees.

If you are still looking for a good hand mill or a pour over kettle, look right here. We have ice brewers and other unique items coming later, so keep an eye out.

As for coffees, the Kiandu is really good right now for those of you who like a balanced light roast with deep dark berry notes. We are still working on the Guatemala coffees that arrived but the Nimac Kapeh is available now. It's red fruit and distinctly Oolong character is really unique. The other Atitlan will be available later next week but it will be roasted only as an espresso. More coffees later...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jute free since 07

I know 'in season' is marketed as a cutting edge deal or at least that's the pitch. In an industry full of so much gimmicky nonsense and blatant chicanery, it is a good start. The thing that I want to know is what about the handful out there who aren't going the jute route? Where do we fit in this whole in season model?

There are two roasters local to our area who are adamant about not storing coffees in jute. We are very happy to to be one of them so excuse our barismo bias. Are there any others in North America whose entire storage is vacuum packaged?

If you want in season, you have to keep the coffee as close to the farm gate as possible and the concept that freshness is only a byproduct of time is a bit of a generalization. Time is only one of several factors that affects freshness. Setting a sell by date on milk would be silly if it were not stored in a proper container, away from contamination, and then kept at stable appropriate temperatures.

Why do we assume green coffee is so immune to age that it can sit in jute bags for months in open warehouses and say that the coffee will be fine? How can we even begin to account for the conditions of storage the coffees endured in transit? The fluctuating humidity and wildly changing temperatures are as fickle as ... well, the weather.

If we are going to trademark every term about quality, let's start with accounting for how the coffee get's here. Was it really fresh and in season when it arrives 3-4 months off milling and wasn't protected in some degree from the factors that act as catalysts for degradation?

This week provided an affirmation of just how difficult this issue is. I had to rejigger my whole roasting profiles as the new vacuum packaged at origin coffees began arriving. The Kenya Kiandu was our most recent lesson in how freshness makes a huge difference. After moving through an excellent batch, we began working through a bag that had lost it's seal at some point during transport. It was not the same coffee. The sweetness was there but the roundness and freshness of the coffee was no longer there. It just wasn't as dynamic and was a bit on the tannin side of the equation. That's still better than the wood and paper notes you see as a coffee really turns the corner and you have to move darker to balance the coffee.

I am profiling the Guatemalan coffees that have just arrived which were vacuum sealed at origin like the Kiandu and I will honestly say, I intend to work to have every coffee we source jute free from this point on, before it's arrival. It isn't cheap but fresh coffee doesn't begin and end at the roast date on the bag, it starts way back at the mill as that coffee leaves parchment and begins the long journey here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Deliveries, originally uploaded by coffeedirtdog.

Our Guatemalan coffees finally arrived.

More to come later...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Event: Getting the most out of your drip machine

Time: October 25th, 2~4pm
Place: 169 Mass Ave, Arlington
Fee: $0

Please join us at the shop for a session to get a better understanding of your auto-drip machines. Using a couple tricks, you can make a very flavorful cup of coffee (that rivals some manual methods) with this simple brew method. You are welcome to to bring your home drip machines and grinders if you wish, but please RSVP as counter space is limited. Email ben_A_T_barismo_D_O_T_com for more info.

Light roasting fresh coffee

This much is a fact at this point. If you have a fresh coffee, you can roast it pretty light. As a coffee ages, it ends up requiring a darker roast profile.

Working with the Kiandu has been a real lesson in reminding us how important keeping the coffees fresh can be. We can really push this coffee lighter and just make it pop. It's a real interesting issue as we have about four more coffee coming over the next few weeks that are really fresh or should be because they were all vacuum packed at origin.

That should be exciting but the work of getting this massive load of coffees into storage and then setting out to profile them for a production roast is a serious challenge.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

New crops arriving...

It's been a busy week. Last week and it looks like next week also.

This week, our new premium Kenya arrived in beautiful boxes sealed in shiny bags that popped open with the smell of fresh coffee. We profiled it and I think the final production profile was laid out Saturday morning. There will be more tweaks but I think we found the sweet spot. From that Saturday morning berried vanilla result came a much sweeter and more powerful cup. A tiny adjustment in a variable most have no control over put this coffee on the top shelf for me. I'll talk more about that soon as I have more fresh new coffees coming. Some more vacuum packaged stuff like the Kiandu was and a lot more work to do.

We debuted the newest Kenya, the Kiandu Microlot 9686, in an open house event this Saturday. We received a lot of positive response from the visitors who tried it. It went over great in Syphon but I noticed something odd. A lot of people in this area seem to cringe about Kenyan coffees. It's the acidity issue which I think is a touchy topic. Our fruit in the Kenya is juicy but not the tannin tart acidity you very often taste. To which, the response I have formulated is that drying astringency is not necessarily the terroir of the coffee, quite often it is a byproduct of the roast applied to it. Don't throw out the whole origin based on a few bad experiences. It's hard to get people to try something when previous experiences have been unpleasant. The feedback on this Kiandu was that it was really sweet, really juicy, and we won over more than a few converts to what Kenyan coffees are like in our profile.

Today was also another chance for us to debut our Kiandu at an event hosted by the coffee club at Olin College. We went out and did a talk on everything from processing methods to grinders and brewing. It was a good turnout (by one observer's note, almost 10% of enrollment showed for the event ;)) and we were appreciative of the interest. We kept it free flowing and informal but the audience was great and it was a lot of fun. The Kiandu in Syphon really was the highlight of the tasting though only a few days earlier, I was really sweating bullets over that coffee's roast profile.

That's generally how the business has been as we have fought so much to get up and running. A lot of ups and so many downs but we keep pushing forward. There are moments of doubt, self reflection, and then I just push forward. For that, there is nothing else I can say.

Next week, it will take a few roasts to get the Guatemalan coffees profiled to my overly critical group's liking but the lessons learned from this week will surely be essential to getting those Guatemalan coffees nailed quickly. Keep an eye out for them, we'll be busy working them over.