On July 1, 2001, I opened Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee. The first decade flew by quickly enough; it’s hard to believe we’re an additional four years past that. When I started out roasting coffee beans, it was just over my kitchen stove. I’ve obviously learned quite a bit since then and refined my technique considerably, but it was there in my kitchen in the early days that I discovered I could craft a coffee that I really liked—and I already knew that I liked great coffee.
In the beginning… there was a lot of smoke
My first “roaster” was a three-quart sauce pan held over an electric range. I spent hours and hours adjusting that process and really getting to know the beans. I learned a lot about the way coffee behaves during the roasting process. I also learned the importance of meeting certain “marks” in while batch roasting. This was when I began to recognize how to use all of my senses to gauge how the coffee was coming along. If you listen just right, you can hear the beans relay precisely when they’re ready.
It wasn’t too long before I was hooked on roasting. The electric range worked, just not particularly well, and the six or eight ounces I could roast didn’t go very far. I needed something bigger and less hokey, so I set to the task of having my own roaster built. It was a simple, charcoal-heated drum. I could roast about two full pounds at a time, which was certainly an improvement, but this low-tech unit definitely came with some drawbacks.
My home-built roaster had a hand crank on the side, and the process involved an awful lot of smoke in the face, if you were doing it right. Getting the thing to breathe properly was a creative journey unto itself. It was with this roaster, though, that I began to acquire my first commercial accounts, small as they were, and realize that I might have a future in producing fresh, whole bean coffee. I roasted for nearly a year and half on this roaster, learning more every smoke-in-the-face-filled day about the need to employ rigid consistency measures between batches.
I toiled day after day with my hand-cranked roaster and earned enough to start getting serious. I started shopping around and ended up purchasing the roaster I use to this day: a 15-kilo Balestra wood-fired drum roaster. I set up my first real shop during this time, too.
This is when the fun really began. Sure, I got to leave some of the face-smoke behind, but now I had to learn a new method of roasting and strive to overcome the inherent obstacles that come along with wood roasting. All the while, I was teaching myself how to build a real business, which comes with its own challenges. I should note that both have become incredibly rewarding experiences. I would, however, recommend doing them separately if at all possible.
Stoking the fires
As I honed my craft and came into my own as one of less than a dozen wood roasters in the country, my knowledge and standards grew. Today we source only Specialty Grade, 100 percent Arabica coffees. We roast to order as much as possible to minimize waste and, more importantly, maximize freshness. It’s rare that we have more than ten or fifteen pounds of coffee roasted and languishing on a shelf—and we only keep that amount around in the event that someone stops in unexpectedly to buy a few pounds.
When beans are roasted over a wood fire, the sharp edges of the coffee are softened. Acidity is muted on the palate. The beans retain their regional character, and, in fact, it sings in them. Complex flavors arise, flavors I’ve learned to draw out or temper in the roasting process, depending on how I’d like a given roast to turn out.
Generally being a traditionalist, I felt that employing an age-old and time-tested method for roasting was in order for my business. I struck by the process, wooed. I wanted to come as close as I could to imitating the old world style that was employed for centuries, roasting coffee over the cooking hearth. It’s a very hands-on, artistic way to craft roasted beans, much more so than computer-generated roasting profiles and degrees. Both methods have their place, but it was clear early on which way I wanted to take my craft and my business.
One of the more fun aspects of coffee roasting is the constant growth. I so enjoy keeping up with trends not only in roasting style but in boutique coffees. In 2011, we here at Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee had a phenomenal experience that can only be attributed to this constant learning. Ken Davids and Justin Johnson of CoffeeReview.com gave our Kenya Nyeri Gichatha-ini AB Signature Series a 97 out of 100 in a blind tasting. It’s the highest rating they’d ever given, and we had the honor of having the ninth coffee to achieve it in their fifteen years of reviewing.
Our life blood is regular and devoted customers, of course. There is something special, though, about one’s craft being recognized on such a large scale. Our Signature Series roasts are sourced from carefully selected small lots grown with care. It’s finding the true gems from amidst a world of coffee growers and coaxing the subtle characters and nuanced flavors out of the non-descript green coffee seed that is my passion, and bringing that to friends, my joy.
Roasting in the moment
We’re fortunate to have a community of followers and dedicated clients who appreciate our work. Today, Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee is appreciated in more ways than I could have anticipated. We’ve been a part of award-winning barbecued ribs. We’re a part of FiftyFifty Brewing Company’s Eclipse Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, a beer that’s so popular they actually sell futures.
However people choose to enjoy my efforts, I like to stress the importance of being with the experience in the moment. In other posts, I’ve talked about developing a coffee ritual to get the most out of every cup. I take pains to make sure my roasts stay flavorful through the final sip of every cup, and when you take time to enjoy that, it can be a truly wonderful experience. Take the time to find your perfect cup of coffee—the perfect grind, the exact proportions, the precise brew method, it all works together to help you get everything out of our roasts.
Our success has been such that we’ve been able to give back to the community that supports us. Since 2010, we’ve donated over $10,000 to local nonprofits. We’ve also helped numerous children’s fundraising efforts over the years, offering our coffee to them at a big, so they can resell it to raise money.
Self-Evaluation is ongoing, particularly around this July 1st anniversary date. I think about our business dealings, product decisions, personal interactions, and client development, and I try to figure out exactly what Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee is all about. After much dwelling and deliberation, the answer I always come back to is this: we are about the coffee. Fourteen years later, I stand by it. I live it. And I drink copious amounts of it.
From roots to roast, crop to cup: A brief look at coffee’s infinite variability
It might not be something you want to think about while brewing your pick-me-up at sunrise, but coffee is staggeringly complex. It’s more convoluted than simply asking for Mokka-Java or Colombian and being done with it. The factors that influence and nuance that morning cup are nearly infinite, and they interact with one another. Change one thing, and you change them all.
As a roaster, I’m always intrigued to find out what people call their favorite coffee. I try to match those preferences with my coffees, but it can be quite a challenge. I have to work off of my perceptions of those stated flavor preferences, which isn’t the most straightforward process. It would be great if everyone’s taste buds, olfactory nerves, and brains worked together in the same way, but that’s clearly not the case. I roast coffees to get what I interpret to be the best flavor from the beans. To a degree, every roaster does this, but some aim just for a flavor profile they think will sell, others try to exemplify the character of the bean, and still others simply go through the motions of what they believe to be the “correct” process and apply it across the board.
From the very ground in which the seedling is planted to how you end up grinding the beans and brewing them—even how you sip, slurp, or gulp it down—everything affects the taste of coffee, some things more than others. Here are ten of the biggest variables influencing your cup of joe:
1. Origin. Coffee is grown in the equatorial band around the globe between the Tropic of Cancer to the north and the Tropic of Capricorn to the south, known generally as the tropics. Dozens of countries produce coffee inside this strip of the globe, and each one has different circumstances that affect the green coffee seed from the very start.
2. Subspecie. There are dozens of subspecies of coffee, known as varietals. Every varietal has its own story. Some come from selective breeding and adaptation to new regions after being transferred by horticulturalists. Some were created with various grafting techniques. Some were cooked up in laboratories in attempts to minimize susceptibility to disease, infestation and drought. Many trace their lineage through several or all of these, and every single one has a slightly different flavor profile.
3. Soil. Differing soil conditions also play a role in fruit development. Just like terroir has an effect on wine, it also affects coffee. High iron content in the soil can add a metallic taste. Phosphorus can increase acidity in the cup. While they haven’t all been isolated, you can be sure that for every compound found in the earth in which the coffee is grown, there’s a difference in the taste.
4. Microclimate. Differing microclimates contribute a surprising amount to the final cup. Sometimes a certain section of a hillside will get different breezes, moisture, sunlight, or rainfall, each of which in turn affects the plant and therefore the fruit.
5. Macroclimate. Of course, if a small change can alter the taste, a large one undoubtedly does, too. Coffee grown in a sheltered area away from prevailing weather patterns will have a substantially different outcome than coffees grown elsewhere in a given region, and coffee grown in an entirely different part of the world more prone to fog or sea breeze, high heat or wind, humidity or harsh weather will do the same.
6. Altitude. The higher one climbs, the thinner the air. I know it. You know it. And coffee definitely knows it, too—as do the various pests that attack it. Coffea Arabica, for example, is very susceptible to disease and infestation and therefore requires higher elevations to thrive. There are other advantages to this as well. Higher elevations place more stress on the plant causing it to put more effort into reproduction (the seed), in turn giving Coffea Arabica deeper and more complex flavor profiles than its Coffea Robusta counterpart.
7. Processing. Yes, even the act of removing the fruit from the seed can change the taste of a coffee. In fact, it can be the single largest contributor to a bean’s flavor profile. The difference between an identically grown varietal processed two different ways (e.g., being washed and dry-processed versus being wet-processed) can actually be greater than the difference between two coffees processed the same way from opposite sides of the globe. It’s that big of a deal.
8. Roasting. The coffee seed is transformed into a palatable product and made ready to brew through roasting, and it can make or break a bean. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,400 roasters in the U.S. alone. Roasters range from mass-producing, industrial corporations to micro-roasters like us at Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee. As a micro-roaster, I have the opportunity to spend time with bean, to get to know it and really bring out the best in it. I roast to achieve total cup balance. This can mean maximizing characteristics like acidity and terroir, or downplaying them in a roast. The goal is a cup that sings from start to finish and stays true to its ideal flavor.
9. Grind and portion. This is where you (or your barista) come in. These are very important steps in the pursuit of a perfect final cup. Believe me, you can have the best coffee roasted to draw out everything wonderful about the bean, and if you don’t grind the coffee right or use the proper amount, you will always come up shy of greatness. My standard is 1 gram of coffee to 15 grams of water. Start there, and adjust to your taste.
10. Brewing. The penultimate step, right before you bring that cup to your lips, is brewing. You’ve selected your coffee. It’s fresh. It’s from your preferred roaster, and you have put in the effort to ensure that the portion and grind are just right for your brew system. I always recommend the French Press for brewing, as it gives the most control over all aspects of the brewing process. A couple of great alternatives: The Chemex brew system or the Clever Dripper. I never under any circumstance recommend an auto drip coffee maker or percolator. Please ask why next time you are in the shop.
Neither of us, nor the growers, have control over every aspect we’ve covered, which is why trust and experimentation are sort of meta-factors in flavor. You need to trust that your roaster can pick the right crop and roast it to the height of its potential consistently. Once you’ve got it, experimenting to really zero in on what you like best is key to finding your cupful of Nirvana. The next time you wrap your hands around a piping hot mug of coffee, spend a moment thinking about all of these factors and the myriad others that had to line up to get you—and the coffee—to that perfect place.
The brewing of coffee, that nectar of the gods, is steeped in tradition. The best and brightest of many a culture have been powered by this elixir, and many of them have devoted serious time to getting the perfect cup out of every brew. Of course, in the case of coffee, perfection is a relative term, or at least a subjective one. Even dip your toe into the vast pool of information available online about coffee brewing methods and you’ll find evangelists espousing their preferred method of brewing and spouting vitriol about others.
The big secret is that the best method for brewing coffee is the one that you like best. There are benefits to be considered for each method, and they range from ease to economy, health to heat, caffeine to convenience, and everything in between. As invariably as Earth’s axis tips our hemisphere towards the sun this time of year, warm weather always starts the conversation about cold coffee. Numerous options exist for making your daily cup cooler as temperatures climb, but one method that’s been steadily growing in popularity is cold brewing—and some take it hot. Its roots run deep, with devotees in the American South tracing their love for the stuff back generations. It’s not for everyone, but it might just be for you.
The Skinny on Cold Brew Coffee
In contrast to the relative speed with which a hot cup of coffee can be brewed, cold brewing coffee takes a time commitment of around twenty hours. As opposed to the aromatic, acidic coffee with a bite that hot brewing produces, cold brewing rewards your patience with smooth, sweet coffee concentrate. To understand why, it helps to understand some of the chemistry behind it.
Coffee beans are chock full of oils, acids, and aromatic compounds that are collectively referred to as coffee solubles. Every method of brewing involves releasing these coffee solubles into water, and variations in time, temperature, grind, and water-to-grounds ratio all contribute to different flavors coming out of the process. Each of these compounds has different degrees of solubility and volatility, which are basically the ability for the compound to dissolve into the water or be evaporated into the air, respectively.
Generally speaking, the ideal temperature range for extracting most coffee solubles is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why hot brewed coffee is often referred to as being more full-bodied than its colder counterpart. Solubility and volatility both increase with temperature, and it’s the latter that is responsible for the incredible aroma of a fresh brew. Also increased at higher temperatures are oxidization and degradation. Oxidized oils taste sour, and acids taste increasingly bitter as they degrade.
The decreased extraction rate of cold brewing is why the amount of grounds used is about double compared to a hot brew and the time it takes is hours longer. Oxidization and degradation are also slowed way down with the cold brewing process, and some compounds attributed with unfavorable tastes and many acids only dissolve at higher temperatures. As a result, cold brewed coffee is almost completely lacking in sourness and bitterness. With cold brew, chocolates, fruits, flowers, and nuts come through in the flavor profile, and there’s a certain sweetness in spite of the beans’ residual sugars not being fully extracted. Cold brew also only has about one-third of the acid, which makes it a lot easier on the teeth and stomachs of drinkers.
At this point, the question on everyone’s mind is, of course, “but what about the drugs?” Caffeine is extracted early in the brewing process, and brew time does not determine its concentration. By using twice the grounds, you’re effectively doubling the caffeine in the concentrate you make by cold brewing, but again, it’s meant to be a concentrate. You’re meant to be cutting it with water, milk, or whatever’s your pleasure, not drinking it straight. At the diluted level, you’re still getting your regular fix.
You Can Do It: How to Cold Brew It
For what seems to be a fairly straightforward and simple brew process, there are a staggering number of even more staggeringly expensive machines out there for making cold brew coffee. Of the devices specifically designed for the job, my favorite is the Toddy, which was developed by a chemist largely responsible for the popularity of cold brew outside of the South, where the traditional apparatus is a simple lidded Mason jar.
After many years of cold brewing, I’ve refined my own technique to suit my taste, but it’ll be good place for you to start and several of these techniques can be translated to other cold brewers, like the aforementioned Mason jar.
1. In a 38-ounce French press, add six ounces of cold, preferably filtered, water to the empty reservoir.
2. On top of this, weigh out 7.5 ounces of coarsely ground coffee (a little more coarse than a standard French Press Grind) and add that to your six ounces of cold water.
3. Add another 16 ounces of cold water, pouring it slowly over the grounds to moisten all of the coffee.
4. Wait five minutes for the coffee to bloom and soak up the water.
5. Add the final eight ounces of cold water slowly and steadily, taking care not agitate the grounds too much.
6. Cover loosely with a plastic bag, and let your concoction sit for 20 to 24 hours.
7. Just plunging the French press won’t get out all of the grounds, so have a secondary filter ready.
This produces the concentrated coffee mentioned above. You’ll want to mix this between 1:1 and 2:1 with water or milk to your personal taste (note: cold brew is known for going wonderfully with dairy—try pouring your concentrate over chocolate or vanilla ice cream; it’s fantastic). For hot coffee, mix concentrate with boiling water (don’t boil the concentrate itself!). Take some time to vary all of the elements at play here. Brew time, grind, even grounds-to-water ratio—all can be tweaked to net a cup of cold brew that is perfectly suited to your tastes.
In this grab-and-go world, stopping to smell the roses, or should I say taste the coffee, quite often gets passed up. As you may have read in the last blog post, I recommend having a coffee ritual centered around the quality, brewing, and flavor of coffee. I also recommend setting aside 45 minutes to an hour at least once per week for this ritual. Why? The idea is to develop awareness of your morning cup and make enjoyment more accessible when things are hectic.
Happiness studies show that mindfulness, being in the moment, increases enjoyment—no matter what we’re being mindful of—and that when our minds wander, even while we’re doing something we love, it diminishes the experience. When it comes to coffee, we tend to rush things, throwing it down our throats to get that precious caffeine pumping through our veins as quickly as possible. Like with any kind of meditation, practice makes truly losing yourself to the experience easier. For example, the more practiced your taste buds are, the easier it is to:
• Identify flavor components
• Feel viscosity
• Be aware of lingering and changing characteristics
As you become more familiar with the way to thoroughly taste your coffee, you can find a greater depth of enjoyment in every sip of every great coffee you drink. You’ll find it easier to identify the less-than-stellar coffees, too, in addition to really getting in touch with the elements you love.
Training Yourself to Taste
There is a lot that goes into the tasting process. It’s not just about sitting and sipping in silence. It all starts with a better understanding of your sense of taste. Like all of our senses, taste has its roots in basic survival. Back in the times before artificial flavors, our sense of taste helped us pick out foods high in nutrition and identify others that might have spoiled or been poisonous.
Taste is the chemical recognition of molecules on our tongues. The tongue has five types of taste receptors that work together to create the full sensation of a taste. These receptors register sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and savoriness (sometimes called ‘umami’ or meaty taste). Each has its own specific job to do when something hits our tongue. We register sugar content on the sweetness receptors, sodium chloride on the saltiness receptors, acids on the sourness receptors, and so on. With these five signals, the brain (somewhat mysteriously) builds us hugely complex and widely varying taste profiles for everything that touches a taste bud, intentionally or otherwise.
Of course, taste is not solely the product of our tongues but includes all of the amazing things our olfactory systems can bring to the sensory table, as well as the textures and temperatures felt by our senses of touch. Eating and drinking engage all five of our senses, but the taste, smell, and touch trifecta really does the heavy lifting.
When I say ‘tasting process’, it’s this trifecta that I’m referring to, and when it comes to coffee, it’s broken down into aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. For your mindful tasting experience, be present with each of these aspects individually and with all of them together. In other words, shift your focus to the small details of the experience, then let those enhance your awareness of the whole, and then shift back.
There are two ways to perceive coffee aroma. You can sense it nasally, smelling the coffee through the nose, or retronasally, backwards to the nasal passage from the mouth or after swallowing. The aroma is said to be the most important attribute of specialty coffee. Today, more than 800 aromatic compounds have been identified in coffee, with more discovered every year. While all coffee has at least a small amount of a reasonable number of these compounds, there are many factors, from growing and roasting to grinding and brewing, that affect their concentration and expression.
Each compound adds to the complexity of the aroma, making it smell fruity or honey-like, roasty, earthy, buttery, spicy, floral, nutty, and even caramel-, chocolate- or vanilla-like. Of course not all of these compounds produce the best smells, and minimizing those while accentuating others is part of the art (and science) of making great coffee.
Take the time to experience the aroma of your coffee from every angle. Breathe it in on those first curls of steam as it brews. Sniff it before your first sip, then inhale and let it waft up retronasally. Be present with aroma. How does it change for you after it hits your tongue? What flavors come out as the coffee cools? Take it all in.
We’ve already talked a bit about taste generally. When it comes to coffee, things are a little different. The savoriness or umami element of taste plays little role in coffee tasting because coffee lacks the glutamate these receptors require. In spite of this only leaving four types of taste receptors, we still discuss five elements present in the taste of coffee: acidity, bitterness, sourness, saltiness, and sweetness.
While acidity should technically fall under sourness because of the receptors being triggered to produce the sensation, it’s broken out because it’s considered a favorable attribute, as opposed to sourness. If you taste a strong, unpleasant vinegar or acetic acid flavor, that’s sourness. If the coffee has a pleasant sharpness to it, that’s acidity.
Use every part of your tongue to taste the coffee. Swish it. Let it coat your mouth, then rinse with water and experiment with individual parts of your tongue. How does it taste up front? In the back? On the sides? The myth of specific regions of the tongue being solely responsible for certain tastes has been debunked, but you do have concentrations of different receptors in different areas, so play around with the different tastes, and remember to breathe to engage your olfactory system.
If you’ve been swishing coffee around in your mouth, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the mouthfeel. There are two main components to mouthfeel in coffee, and neither involves whether you burnt yourself because you didn’t wait for it to cool. Mouthfeel is all about body and astringency.
When you consider the body of a coffee, think about how full it feels. You want robust, whole-mouth sensations, not thin, watery, quick-to-fade flavors. Astringency is an undesirable attribute that leaves your mouth feeling dry. It can be nice to switch between coffee and a nice cool glass of water, but it shouldn’t be necessary to do it for fear of having your tongue shrivel up. Coffees with low astringency can feel refreshingly crisp or decadently creamy.
As you explore the aroma and taste of your coffee, pay attention to how it feels in your mouth. How does the mouthfeel affect the flavor? How do different roasts feel? Different brewing methods?
As you take yourself through aroma, taste, and mouthfeel, pay attention to how they change over time. A coffee’s finish is just as important as its first impression. How does the coffee change as you drink it? Does retain its character or fall apart as it cools?
All of these things will help you elevate your tasting experience, and over time, you’ll find it’s easier to be fully present with your coffee. Every step of the process, from opening the bag of beans to letting that last drop hit your tongue, is worth the attention. Mindfulness can change your entire outlook on life. Why not start with a cup of good coffee?
A BIG thank you to Karl Fendelander of Biggest Little Group for compiling my thoughts into this wonderfully written and expressive Post.
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,