company - education - coffee

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Introduction to the Micro Mill Revolution

Francisco Mena at Exclusive Coffees in Costa Rica
On the Ground: barismo's roaster Chris Malarick reports from Costa Rica to share developments with partners at Exclusive Coffees. Chris' first update starts with a bit of an intro of what is happening on the ground in Costa Rica. Stay tuned for more info as we build up to the arrival of this years lots.
Francisco Mena, one of the three founding members of the dry mill, QC lab and exporter, Exclusive Coffees, told me at the opening of his presentation "boutique coffees aren't simply produced, they're created". Since the birth of Exclusive, six years ago, Costa Rica has seen significant increases in coffee produce quality and producer viability, something Mena attributes to their diligent work on educating their producer partners on everything from soil composition and plant tissue health to the advantages of direct partnerships over the C-market. This education is a saving grace for a lot of these producers, as coffee production has declined by almost 50% since 1995; the C-market is too volatile for a lot of these small farms, causing some to sell their land or cross over to more stable crops like bananas or pineapple. One of the biggest factors in increased quality despite decreased volume is the "micro-mill revolution". Small producers are moving away from processing their cherries at larger mills and starting to build their own micro-mills on their property, allowing them tighter control over the processing stage of their coffee which leads to better quality, and giving them increased economic viability. In turn, we've seen producers go from worrying about whether they will be able to make ends meet to having the confidence to experiment with planting new varietals, like Geisha and SL-28 and try out alternative processing methods, like white, yellow and black honey, something that has shown mixed results but embodies progress. Exclusives dedication to crop development and education continues at their lab, where they roast and cup out hundreds of samples a week from their producer partners, measuring everything from moisture content to density, which allows them to give critical feedback that helps the producer continue to improve their harvest. This is why we've found Exclusive to be a perfect match for Barismo, our shared ideology of transparency, education and quality has cemented a relationship that has facilitated favorites like Finca El Quizarra coming to our roastery for years past, and allowed for new relationships to flourish.  We have a lot in store for 2014 with the help of our friends at Exclusive, so be sure to keep your eyes open.
- Chris | follow on twitter @Gastronomin and this blog for continued updates on this years harvest. 

Canonical, Coffee Education and Tech Tips: Practical tips and advice to give you the tools to brew better coffee. Brought to you by Pete Cannon, who handles barismo's in house training, education, and technical services. 

We’re back to water quality again, to finally talk about how to filter it for coffee brewing. See Part 1 for the basics of water chemistry, and Part 2 for how our water tests in the Boston area.

The numbers for what’s ideal for brewing vary slightly based on who you ask. The SCAA water specification is available here. La Marzocco has a more specific set of water specifications for what is best for the health of espresso machines at this link.

We have some variation from these numbers in the Boston area — our water is relatively soft (very low hardness), but you can still brew great coffee with it. In Boston, our pH is slightly alkaline; in Cambridge, occasionally the pH swings higher, but alkalinity stays roughly the same. Tangentially, we’ve noticed a decrease in brewed coffee quality when pH increases towards 9.0.

In Boston, the only major concern for water quality are chemical impurities: things in our water that give off tastes. The most familiar of these is chlorine, but there can also be localized plumbing issues that will contribute to this. The good news is that this is easy to take care of with a simple carbon & particulate filter. For in-line filtering, something like this. For home use, there are a number of common countertop water filtration devices (e.g. Brita) that provide basic carbon filtration.

In Cambridge, for home use a basic carbon filter will work fine for brewing filter coffee. However, for commercial applications, there are some additional concerns due to chlorides. Historically, Cambridge has experienced intermittently high chloride levels at times, due to runoff from road de-icing chemicals. High chloride levels  cause metals to corrode — with espresso machines being particularly vulnerable.

For commercial usage, it’s critical to test your water regularly. Water quality fluctuates seasonally, so a test at one point of the year will not always be representative for the rest of the year. If chloride contamination rises to unacceptable levels (>30 ppm), reverse osmosis is the only way to treat that water. You will need to design an appropriate remineralization system to restore some minerals to that water afterwards. RO is expensive, but it sure is less expensive than buying a new espresso machine!
- Pete Cannon | barismo's training, education and technical services. Follow his updates here on the barismo blog.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014 from 9:30am-2pm
barismo at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market
Grab a freshly roasted retail bag of barismo coffee from our well stocked weekly selection, as well as a fresh, made-to-order pourover or a delicious cup of cold brew iced coffee. Catch us soon, only two markets left! And then where will you go for fresh roaster coffee in Somerville? Stay Tuned for updates on our new location...

Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 5pm-7pm
Espresso 101 class hosted at barsimo
"A barista will explain grinding, tamping, and more, then watch as you pull shot after shot. Like an espresso coach, he’ll give you pointers on everything from your mouse tails to your brew’s hue. Small classes are taught monthly on Sunday nights" - from a recent Boston Globe article featuring barismo's Espresso 101 class. (And then there was this endorsement.) One seat left as of posting, sign up Now!