Whenever I begin to talk with someone about coffee I always ask, “What do you look for in your coffee?” My aim is to find people’s preference in terms of flavor and roast profile, so I can better guide them to their ideal cup, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Often, the response I’ll get sounds something like, “I want my coffee to wake me up.” Fair enough, but let’s make something abundantly clear right off the bat: coffee has caffeine, and in the vast majority of situations, caffeine, when ingested, will wake you up. If I asked you what you look for in a car, odds are low that you’d stop talking after “I want it to take me places.” You’d probably have a thought or two about storage capacity. Fuel efficiency and reliability would probably make appearances, too, but when it really comes down to it, a true connoisseur can pontificate for hours about an ideal driving experience. In coffee, just as with cars, there’s no need to settle for a gas-means-go mentality.
The ritualized coffee experience
Now that we’ve gotten the strictly utilitarian aspect of coffee out of the way, let’s make this conversation about the aroma, feel, and flavor of the coffee you are drinking. Let’s talk about creating your own ritual and savoring every sip.
By definition, a ritual is a solemn ceremony that consists of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. We could all use a few more moments of solemnity in our lives, and what better way than to fit them in while enjoying your favorite cup of stimulants? Here are a couple examples of classic coffee rituals from which to draw some inspiration:
Ethiopian coffee ceremony. It begins with roasting the coffee so the aroma of the roasting coffee permeates the room. The freshly roasted beans are crushed with a mortar and pestle then spooned into a jebena, an Ethiopian and typically clay coffee pot. Water is added, and the jebena is place on a fire to heat to near boiling.
- The coffee is served in a social setting where the guests and host drink the brew and visit with one another. The coffee is served with a healthy dose of sugar.
- After drinking the initial cup of coffee, more water is added to the jebena, not more ground coffee. The second serving is drunk, and water is again added without adding more coffee. This third cup is said to bestow a blessing.
- This ceremony is a social event and lasts two or three hours.
Arabian or Turkish coffee ceremony. A social ceremony intended to honor a special guest, in this ceremony pulverized coffee, often with ground cinnamon or cardamom, is added to sweetened water in an ibrik or cezve, which is a small, traditionally copper or brass coffee pot. The mixture is heated to near boil in a specific fashion three times.
- The sweetness of the coffee served in this ceremony is determined by the guest. The more joyful the events, the sweeter the brew.
- While it is not considered an insult if a second cup is refused, it is definitely good for the guest to accept more.
Developing your own coffee ritual
The thing to notice in both of the preceding ceremonies is they are coffee rituals centered around social events. As a coffee enthusiast, I like my coffee rituals to focus on the coffee itself. The ritual I describe below can certainly be used to enhance a social event, but it can also be a great way to lend some solemnity to hectic mornings and calm you before your daily commute.
The first thing to do is brew the coffee well. Make things even more special by using a brew method that is different from your everyday brew method; you can even select a special coffee. I designate 45 minutes to an hour just for my coffee ritual, which I enjoy at least once a week. Think of it as meditation, but you also get to enjoy a good cup of coffee with your enlightened state of mind. My ritual:
- I prepare the items that I will need for brewing and drinking, and begin heating the water.
- I measure and grind the coffee. Grinding is done by hand, with an antique Zassenhaus Mokka grinder. I use this because it is very tactile; I can feel the beans crunching and crumbling, allowing me to become more in touch with the coffee-making process.
- I prepare the brewer, a Clever Dripper immersion brewer. Pouring boiling water through it preheats the brewer and washes away impurities.
- I then add the ground coffee and begin the brew cycle.
- Once the brewing is complete, I always let the fresh coffee rest for a moment. When you do this, you can contemplate the curling steam as it rises or stare into the dark ambrosia you’ve brewed.
- The initial taste—a quick slurp that sprays coffee all across the palate, creating an aerosol distribution of the aromas—allows me to take note of the smells, tastes, and general mouth feel of the coffee. Repeat this a couple of times. Are there any specific flavors that come to mind?
- After some reflection, I relax and enjoy the cup in its entirety, while remaining mindful of the changes in the brew as it goes through its life cycle, as it cools.
In a group environment, we’d discuss all of these processes, from grinding to how the coffee changes over the time it takes to drink. The experience is highly sensual whether or not it’s shared.
Coffee is about the flavor experience, not just the burst of energy you get from being caffeinated. Whether you’re trying to add a little more calm to your morning commute or truly enjoy a special roast you picked up, a coffee ritual that makes you more mindful of each part of the experience can only heighten the taste of the brew. I want everyone to have the best coffee experience possible, but a well roasted bean can only take you so far. Build your own ritual, and drink up.
We are having a coffee roasting demonstration and tasting to benefit Foster Grandparents/Senior Companion programs of Reno and Sparks. This event will be from 10 am until around noon on February, 21st, 2015. To register for this limited attendance event please visit our EventBrite registation page.
what we will be doing at this event is roasting a couple of batches of coffee talking about the process, affects of time and temperature on the bean as well as how different techniques affect the final taste in your cup.
For more information on the Foster Grand Parent/Senior Companion Programs please visit.
Cupping is a very specific method of tasting coffee and a great way to discover the, often times, hidden characters of coffee. In the shop we use this method for sampling new coffees to determine optimum roast degree and technique. Specialty Coffee Association of America Cupping Standards . (follow the link, then click on coffee standards then on cupping standards) These are the guidelines we use in the shop with some modifications to meet my personal roasting style and facility limitations.
We also, monitor the roasting through various means, mostly we taste the coffees brewed in the French Press or Chemex brewer, however, to keep a tight watch on quality and consistency we “cup” the coffees regularly.
To cup at home I recommend the following procedures (because a professional cupping room is generally out of the question.)
Set aside an area where you can heat water and grind coffee with enough room for two to three cups for each coffee you are going to sample. The cups should be 6 to 8 ounce capacity. Have plenty of soup spoons in a hot water bath as well.
Preheat the cups
Put 8.25 grams of medium ground coffee in each cup. (it is best to have two to three cups for each individual coffee)
Add 5 ounces of off boiled water about 202-203 degrees F.
let steep for 2 minutes then break the crust while breathing in the aroma deeply. Break the crust in a circular motion down in the front, up in the back. when the spoon breaks up through the crust on the upward motion gently move it forward towards your nose. This helps to direct the aroma into your olfactory system.
Let the coffee steep for another two minutes for 4 minutes total.
Gently skim any floating grounds off of the top of the cup.
Time to Taste:
Fill your soup spoon about half full then slurp the coffee into your mouth coating the entire inside of your mouth.
Make notes of the feel, flavor, aroma, finish, and body. Every coffee has varying degrees of pluses and minuses.
Taste the coffee regularly as it goes through he cooling process and note the changes as you do this.
The SCAA Cupping Standard (linked to above) is a guideline for noting the positive and negative attributes of any individual coffee. The roasting standards noted are not necessarily the best method or degree of roasting for any single coffee. A coffee may cup well with these roasting standards however each coffee has its own best roast profile.
Cupping can be fun and very informative.
I was thinking about the concept of “resting” coffee this morning as I was drinking a cup of our new Panama, Boquete. The coffee was brewed while was still warm from the roaster. As with all things coffee I am a firm believer in giving it a minute, never rushing any aspect of the process. Coffee this fresh will generally have some harsh characters that settle down after a few hours. That being said, there are some wonderful characters that can settle down as well. So, what is my take on resting?
1) Coffee, during the roasting process builds up carbon dioxide in little chambers inside the bean, you see the effect of this, the bloom, when you brew your coffee. The CO2 slowly dissipates over time. This CO2 can inhibit extraction when the coffee is very fresh causing a “less than” cup of brew. You can take steps to help overcome the inhibiting nature of the CO2 simply by pre-infusing the coffee grounds with a bit of off boiled water. This step allow the coffee to off-gas prior to brewing the coffee. Yes, this is a step in the brewing process and as soon as the water comes into contact with the coffee the brewing process begins.
2) Over the course of the first few days many changes will occur in the freshly roasted coffee. The highly volatile flavor compounds will begin to breakdown and dissipate, other flavor components will mature and the off-gassing will continue. Think about this, as the coffee rests it gives off aromas, these aromas would have been part of the flavor in the cup if you had brewed the coffee right then. So, as the coffee gives off aroma it is also giving off flavor. Again, some of these flavors will be detractors from the coffee drinking experience as well as some being enhancers.
3) Coffee is ever-changing, it will be different from day to day even pot to pot; there are so many factors that affect the brew in your cup. Then there is the pairing aspect of coffee, what are you eating or drinking with your cup, if anything?
4) Really, I hold the opinion that questing for the perfect cup is a process that involves all aspects of coffee from seedling to cup. Furthermore, what is perfect for one may not be perfect for another. Generally speaking, coffee hits its overall peak at about 3-4 days after roast. However, it will lose 100% of its most volatile flavor components before that. My advice: Don’t worry about resting the coffee, know that it is an ever-changing thing and it will be different tomorrow than it was today.
What is the “god shot”? As defined by CoffeeGeek .
A God Shot, by nature has to be the double ristretto. This is a double shot of espresso that is specially prepared to produce a 1 ounce (give or take a quarter ounce) beverage using the same amount of grinds as a normal (3oz) double, in the same rough time as a normal double (25-30 seconds).
Ok, what does that really mean? A god shot is attained when all the factors involved in making espresso; the water, the temperature, the tamp, the coffee, the pressure, and the person drinking the shot are all perfect. “What,” you ask, “the person is perfect?” What I mean by that is everything comes together just right for the person that, at that instant, is able to experience its perfection. If every thing comes together ideally it might be a god shot for the next person in line but because of some individual reason the person getting that particular espresso can’t fully experience it, the perfection is lost. Some things that could affect the experience, allergies, you know, a stuffy nose or eating something just before that doesn’t react well with the shot.
Enough of that, “blah, blah, blah.” As a roaster, it is my job and joy to taste espresso.
I not only taste my espresso blends and the various coffees I roast as espresso, but I taste espresso most places that I go. If it is offered, I try it. I can tell you this I have had, outside of my shop, more bad espressos than good espressos, a lot more. Probably 95% (I don’t track them but this is close) are down right lousy and undrinkable. Most of the other 5% range from palatable to awesome. I have never had a god shot pulled by anyone else. That is not a testament to me or my coffee, it is that I pull my shots in the way best suited for my coffees. God shots do not happen often, but when it does it is a show stopper. For a moment or two, experiencing espresso at its finest is all that matters.
Finally, no one else can tell you that you are drinking a god shot. The experience in exclusively personal and you will know when it happens.
For me, when I go to a place that has espresso I will order a shot of espresso and a cup of coffee. Not together in the cup, you can’t experience either if they are mixed, I invite you to try this method when ordering coffee. Always have the espresso first, experience it then a few sips of water and on to the cuppa. Enjoy!
The is a copy of a letter from Lynette Eddy, the Executive Director of Eddy House. We, at Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Company, are proud to offer support to this worthwhile organization.
The Eddy House ● P.O. Box 6207 ● Reno, NV 89503-6207
Dear Community Partner,
First of all, I would like to extend my appreciation for your interest and support of our amazing community, which we all call home. As a resident and social worker I have become aware that we need to come together to assist young adults who have “aged out“ of the Washoe County foster care system, many of whom will end up homeless or incarcerated. They don’t have the necessary skills and support for independent living. I have taken on the challenge of helping to close this gap in our system by opening the Eddy House in 2011.
The Eddy House is a 501(c) 3, non-profit organization that provides supportive residential housing to six young males who have “aged out” of the foster care system. The home provides a safe place for these youth to pursue their educational goals and learn valuable life skills. The Eddy House also offers a work experience program through Z-Pie Reno, a local restaurant where the residents learn job skills and build a resume. All of the profits from Z-Pie Reno are donated to the Eddy House project.
Our mission is to provide an organized, consistent and structured lifestyle to disadvantaged and abandoned young adults who have a history of instability and transience. Our vision is to ensure that when a resident “graduates” from the house he will have an educational degree or trade certificate, bank account, life skills, job resume and job skills. The philosophy at the Eddy House is “Education First”. Case management and Service Coordination are also essential components of our program. Life skills are taught in a group setting as well as on an individual basis. This supportive service is greatly needed in our community.
The fastest growing segment of the Reno Sparks homeless population are the youth, many of whom are aging out of the foster care system.
We are unique:
• We are completely funded through private donations, hopefully the future profits from Z-Pie and minimal rent from our residents.
• No direct government assistance goes to the Eddy House! The Eddy House does not bill Medicaid or other government programs for our services.
• We provide a work experience program through Z-Pie.
How your donation dollars would be spent:
• Increase our supportive services and strengthen our program development through the addition of a Program Assistant position. This person would assist the Program Director with case management, volunteer coordination, planning and facilitating life skills groups, educational support and the day to day functioning of the home.
• Funding for college tuition and school supplies.
• Improve household and program necessities i.e. passenger van, utility assistance.
• Open additional homes for both young adult males and females who have “aged out” of the system.
Our annual budget:
• Annual cost of our housing and assistance: $60,000 (Administrative costs are only $24,000)
• Annual cost per resident: $5833
• Total annual rental income from residents: $25,000
• Annual donation requirement to support the house: $35,000
• The Eddy House was recognized as the “Best Non-Profit” of the Year by the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce in 2013
• All residents are fulfilling the requirements of the Work Experience program at Z-Pie. For most of the residents, working at Z-Pie is their first job. One resident has worked his way up from busser to a management position.
• Three residents are enrolled at TMCC earning 9 credits this semester. They will be registered for 12 credits next semester and 15 credits the following semesters.
• Three residents are working towards their high school diplomas.
• All residents have opened and maintained a bank account.
• One resident recently bought his first car.
• Six residents obtained their driver’s licenses.
• All residents have volunteered in the community.
• Each resident has:
o Learned to budget $50 a week for their food/hygiene needs
o Acquired cooking skills from qualified volunteers
o Learned nutrition and food purchasing information from a State Certified Nutritionist
o Met regularly with the Program Director or Social Work Intern to monitor progress and meet personal goals
Please consider contributing to the Eddy House. You will be assisting in many ways with a cash donation. Also, please enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner at Z-Pie and use us for your business catering needs. It all helps!
Z-Pie is located at 138 West Street in the West Street Marketplace. Please call me at 775-636-4234 or visit www.eddyhouse.org if you have any questions. We need to come together when it comes to helping our youth. We can do this with your support!
Advisory Board Member:
Warm wishes from all of us at the Eddy House,
Barb and her Daughters Skye and Bianca opened Daughter’s Café a quaint little café in a Victorian style house on the corner of First and Bell. This is truly a family operation with Barb doing the cooking and Bianca as your server. They opened in the summer of 2007 with the goal of bringing a taste of New Orleans to Reno. I do recommend the beignets, Daughter’s signature item. These along with an ever-changing menu featuring breakfast and lunch items make for a wonderful dining experience. Daughter’s is open from 9 until 2 Tuesday through Sunday and has special evening events regularly. Please stop in and say, “Hi,” to Barb and Bianca and relax for a casual breakfast, lunch or Sunday brunch.
Well, in our home town of Reno, cool crisp mornings are the norm now. What that means is, it is time for me to start developing this year’s “Holiday Blend.” Every year I develop a different, unique blend and roast it in a special manner, over an apple wood fire. This has become so popular over the years that I begin getting requests for it in July.I do something different every year to keep the concept fresh, and, quite frequently, some of the coffees in the blend are not consistently available or are in tight supply. I have been playing with some blends for the past couple of weeks and expect to finalize the “Holiday Blend” in the next few days.
When will it become available? Because of the use of different wood I can’t roast this special blend when I am roasting the other coffees so I have to roast on the weekends. The first roast will be November 23, 2013. I will roast every Saturday between then and December 21st (the last Saturday before Christmas.) This is the norm for this production. I will put it up on the web-site around the 20th of November. Pre-orders are welcome as well. For pre-orders please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 775-856-2033. And we can get your order shipped via USPS on the 23rd of November.
#1 I want a “strong” coffee
This is one of the hardest to address so I ask, “What does strong mean to you?” It does mean different things to different people so I try to open a dialog. Mostly the customer is looking for a dark roasted coffee. They prefer the roast driven characters of dark chocolate, caramelized sugar, and smokiness over the subtle nuanced regional characters prevalent in the lighter roasts. However, many times they are looking for something with “Kick” to get them started in the morning. For these people I direct the conversation toward flavor profile so that I can find the coffee they will enjoy the most. Properly brewed Arabica coffees are pretty much similar in their caffeine content. (Allowing for minor variations based on varietal and growing conditions a 6 oz cup will have around 100 mg of caffeine.)
#2 I was actually asked this question. “Do you have a Colombia Roast?” What this gentleman was really asking for was a Colombian coffee roasted in a specific style that he had had before. The Place of origin, in this case Colombia, has nothing to do with the roast as interpreted by the roaster. After a short conversation I helped him determine a specific profile and roast style and make a recommendation to fit his needs.
#3 I want a lighter roasted coffee because it has more caffeine. There is no simple answer to this one. Coffee expands when it is roasting, the more it is roasted the more it expands. This causes the beans to be less dense the darker the roast. So, if you portion your coffee by volume (with a coffee scoop) a darker roasted coffee will have fewer beans in the scoop, therefore, less caffeine. We recommend portioning coffee by weight as it equalizes this discrepancy. Just think, if there is less caffeine there is less of the flavor components as well. And, of course, this assumes that everything else is equal. Such as the coffee roasted both light and dark are from the exact same region, growing condition, varietal, etc. The best thing to do is not worry about caffeine and roast level portion your coffee so it tastes the way you want it to and most important, ENJOY!
One of the many questions that we get in the shop is about caffeine content of dark roast coffees vs. lighter roast coffees. This blog post gives the best, most undersatandable explaination that I’ve seen.
Coffee and Caffeine FAQ.
Many comments that I have read over the years don’t take into consideration the other contributing factors on caffeine content in your cup.
Here are some of the variables that effect caffeine content in your cup (this is only a sampling of all of the variables but it should help clarify the point.)
The Water Temperature: Cooler brewing temperatures will extract less caffeine if all other factors are the same.
Coffee bean varietal: There are several species of coffee but only two are palatable for drinking Arabica and Robusta. Robusta beans have nearly double the caffeine content of Arabica beans, but there is a trade off. Generally speaking, Robusta beans are a lower quality coffee. They are preferred by instant coffee producers and many massed produced national brands add these lower cost, lower quality coffees, as much as 30% to their blends to minimize costs and boost caffeine content. Arabica coffees may be lower in caffeine but, in my opinion, caffeine is just a small part of the overall coffee experience. Truly great coffees are of the Arabica species, grown with care and concern for the overall final product, your cup.
Time of extraction: Caffeine is very soluble in water, so at a brewing time of about 4 minutes at a brewing temperature of 195-200 degrees F. properly ground coffee dosed at 10 grams per 6 ounces of water your 6 ounce cup will have around 100 mg of caffeine. and will run in a range from 60 to 100 mg depending on the various factors discussed here and others that contribute as well. Espresso, (the is no “X” in espresso) runs obout 40% less per shot mostly due to the faster extraction time (25-30 seconds). Some roasters will add some Robusta coffees to their espresso blends to boost the caffeine content and to enhance the crema development. I have not seen the need to do this, again, its about the flavor first.
To sum up this simple caffeine discussion:
1) Buy good coffee and brew it well, if you enjoy your cup it will do more for your day than caffeine. Keep a smile on your face.
2) If you portion your coffee by weight, the amount of caffeine in your cup will be the same regardless of how it is roasted.
3) The varietal will have an impact on the caffeine content in the cup. Don’t let this effect your coffee buying, let your taste buds make your decision.