company - education - coffee

Friday, May 25, 2012

Buena Esperanza 2012 Harvest Tasting Event

The Buena Esperanza lot from Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro in Huehuetenango, Guatemala was one of our most popular coffees last year.  Though it arrived much delayed, it had an instant following.  Calen from Voltage competed at the NERBC with it which was a footnote to third generation owner Gustavo Alfaro's visit to Cambridge last year.  Gustavo got to hang with us at barismo, Voltage, Simon's, and a few other neighborhood haunts in a whirlwind tour of our town.

Gustavo's coffee is milled and awaiting shipment to us, but thanks to an invite to the World Barista Championship side brew bar, we arranged a little extra to be air freighted to us ahead of normal shipping schedule.  When we committed to the WBC, we knew Gustavo would love that chance to be featured and have worked to make it happen.  Most of that air freighted lot is headed out to Vienna shortly but we are planning on having a little bit for a tasting with 'El Catador' Silas Moulton over at dwelltime this coming Tuesday at 3pm.  Silas spent several weeks living and working at Hacienda Santa Rosa during the peak of their harvest.  He did many varying experiments on the farm and learned a lot in the process.  The finale of which was a plaque installed by Gustavo to note how far the farm had come that was placed at the entrance to the Buena Esperanza lot.

It was a humbling and unique experience on our side that really put into perspective how much goes into making a great coffee.  The same lot we worked on was split in half, one part going to us with the other going to the Cup of Excellence placing 4th in the rankings.  A huge turn for a farm that not long ago was not selling microlots or doing any direct trade.

Join us over at dwelltime (364 Broadway, Cambridge, MA) the 29th of May at 3pm for samples of Syphon brews featuring the Buena Esperanza a week off dry mill.  Get a conversation with Silas and a unique taste experience.  This event is free but the supply is limited so first come, first served.

Gustavo Alfaro at the Cup of Excellence competition.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Iced coffee is trending hot

A while ago, we wrote an article on iced coffee that got a lot of industry discussion.  Since the first week of summer is nearly officialy upon us, it might be time to come back and have a few discussions about cold coffee over the next few weeks.

For one, cold brew has become the 'hot' and trending product in the coffee hipster scene this year.  Much like Single origin espresso years ago, per cup (see v60/Syphons/Abids etc), and others we've gone from rebutting the hoardes of industry types arguing against a particular approach seen as 'out of the main stream' to watch it trend to the front and become the thing to adopt.  On one hand being at the front means you get the benefeits of early adoption (incuding the risk associated). The flip side being the frustration when the trend waters down the name and identity of the product as it becomes widespread.  It has helped that in each of these cases, a larger industry company has adopted these methods and brought them to the mainstream but has simultaneously made it more difficult with each trend to identify our own methods.  Being more nerdy than hipster, we are always working on getting ahead of the next technique or method as long as it makes our coffees better.

We've seen this 'trending' happen over and over again to a point where there are vocal figures in our industry lumping together all forms of any particular brew method as being one monolithic approach.  It makes for better arguments when you have a straw man to knock down but overlooks the facts and complexities of the situation.  This is perhaps part of our rapidly growing industry that as prominent voices struggle to maintain a perception of leadership over the rest of our peers, the finer points are likely to be dismissed in discussion.

In Cambridge, the approach to cold brewing over the last 4 years has shifted in the better shops to involve actual brewing of the coffees cold (at ~40F) and then a fine (often cloth) filtering the coffees.  (This version is not the cold brew which is a room temperature toddy filtered with metal filters or cheese cloth)  It requires a more medium grind and a lot more care  to get the particulate out but single estate coffees can come out with more character this way.  Think of normal toddy (what everyone now generically calls cold brew) as a farm house wine with the sediment in bottle (filtered through a sieve or cheese cloth), this Cambridge version is filtered by either flannel cloth or in the case of dwelltime, a  three stage polypropylene filtration that gets the coffee pretty crisp and free of particulate.  The resulting product is completely different and absolutely unique in comparison.  dwelltime may be the only place that is nitrogen flushing the canisters the cold brew is stored in (and offering them on beer style taps) to prevent oxidation and flavor changes but we know of at least two more shops discussing the logistics to adopt the same system (in Cambridge no less).  The fact that nearly a dozen shops in the area are already brewing variations of this style or are beginning to adopt this style 'cold immersion/clean filtered' as a methodology doesn't escape us that it's caught on locally.