A comic that teaches 15 important facts about coffee. It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s still fun.
Posts by Mark
We’ve found it. This machine will take your home espresso craft to the next level. Your neighbors will burn with envy. Your dinner party guests will linger for hours over your microfoam macchiatos. Also, you’ll want an insurance rider on it and please remember to name in your will the lucky soul that’s going to inherit this machine. Quickmill’s Andreja Premium is a compact, commercial-quality espresso machine with classic lines and a high-sheen stainless steel exterior.
We’ve also added the Mazzer Mini grinder to our lineup. Get it with the Andreja and save $100 by using coupon code andrejamazzer.
Open up the latest issue of the best cooking magazine published, and you’ll find a list of the “Must Have Small Appliances.” Making its third appearance in these sacred pages since last October, the Technivorm KBT-741 is listed once again as the only drip coffee maker worth owning.
We couldn’t agree more.
See it here :: Nov-Dec Cooks Illustrated- Technivorm
It may be unseemly to pick on a coffee chain that has received its fair share of beatings in the last couple of years, but this news release prompted me to discuss some of the differentiating factors between generic, mass quantity coffee such as Starbucks, and the specialty coffee that is quickly gaining traction as a more delicious and carefully crafted product, and often at the same price as a sack of beans at Starbucks.
The other prompter for this post is the fact that Starbucks is now claiming to have the best coffee according to Zagat, and are promoting this factoid in their stores. Here’s the catch: the small type at the bottom of the signage in their stores says “among fast food restaurants.” I walked into a local Starbucks to see this for myself, and it’s true. I believe Starbucks is trying to be all things to all people by purchasing the high end commercial coffee maker company, Clover, while simultaneously releasing instant coffee. I’ll let the free market and Starbuck’s customers and shareholders decide if this is a smart move or not. There’s plenty of room for all sorts of coffee and coffee shops in our world, and I completely support Starbuck’s desire to maximize shareholder value in any way they can.
That being said, it’s time to clear up some misconceptions about the differences between Starbucks and small batch roasted coffee.
In short, Starbucks is releasing Via, an instant coffee product that is supposed to taste the same as other Starbucks coffee. To prove the similarities of Via to their other brewed coffees, Starbucks is holding “tasting challenges” that will take place at Starbucks stores. Customers will be asked to determine which cup holds the inherently inferior product. This should not be understood as compliment on the taste of Via, but rather an indication on the abysmal quality of what passes as “good coffee” these days.
There are significant differences between mass market, generic coffee, like you find at Starbucks and other chains, and the coffee that you’ll find around the country that is roasted by small, independent operations that deal in much smaller quantities.
First, mass market coffee is standardized to low standards. In order to ensure consistency of the product, Starbucks buys coffee in massive volumes – they bought 385 million pounds of coffee in 2008. Starbucks is purchasing lots that number in the millions of pounds. This is not a specialty product. It’s a mass market commodity when you’re talking about numbers this high. There are numerous factors that influence the final cup of coffee, including the widely varying growing conditions found around the world, how the coffee cherries are harvested and milled, transported, roasted, then finally brewed in to a cup of coffee. The standards that Starbucks adheres to are inherently low to allow for purchasing such gargantuan amounts of coffee.
Second, Starbucks is roasting in such large quantities that the innate nuances in small batch coffee is covered up with a overwhelming flavor of dark roastiness, and the beans usually glisten with an oily sheen. There’s a reason why their espresso is not palatable by itself. It’s highly carbonized and basically burnt to a char.
Third, Starbucks has to have a long shelf life for their product in order to maximize efficiency. They allow up to 1 year shelf life for their roasted coffees. Coffee oils quickly oxidize after a matter of days, not months. The one way valve bags that a lot of roasters use (including Clive Coffee) give you a little more time, since they prevent oxygen from entering the bag and let the beans outgas the Co2 that they produce, but the coffee should still be consumed within 30-40 days after being roasted. Once the bag is opened, it should be used within 7-10 days. The one year expiration on Starbucks Coffee pretty much guarantees that a lot of their coffee is stale, in addition to burnt, so to be a product fit for human consumption it must be heavily dosed with milk, sugar, caramel, syrups, etc.
This is why an instant coffee product like Via tastes just like a cup of brewed Starbucks coffee. That instant coffee could have been manufactured 6 to 12 months ago.
Coffee lovers: there is no reason why you should pay for an inferior product from Starbucks. I would encourage you to find a local coffee shop or roaster and try out their beans. Ask them the story behind the beans and how the coffee is processed. You’ll find that small batch coffee has nuance to it just like a bottle of wine that was carefully harvested and fermented by an artisan vintner and winery. It’s really not the same product as a bottle of wine that was made from a million ton batch of grapes that were blended together then sugared up to create a mass market fruit bomb.
If you don’t have a small roaster or coffee shop in your area, check out the coffees we have on offer. You’ll find the price is the same as Starbucks but the taste is dramatically different. One to three bags are shipped via Priority Mail for only $3. We’ll be roasting up another batch of the Nicaragua Miraflor co-op coffee in October, and we’re donating 100% of the proceeds to a very good cause in Nicaragua that builds homes for children that used to live inside the garbage dump of Managua. Our last special roast of the Nicaraguan coffee raised $1,650 for this cause.
We’re pleased to present the Hario kettle, a great way to boil water to the right temperature, then direct it very precisely over the grounds as you make coffee. In conjunction with a Bee House dripper, you can easily and quickly make coffee for one or two people without a french press or coffee maker. The Bee House dripper will fit on most mugs and carafes and holds a standard cone filter.
We’ll also have available a larger porcelain dripper to make 6-8 cups of coffee, along with new insulated stainless steel carafes from Frieling, in the same design as their illustrious French presses. More info to come.
We’re working on a video of how to make the best cup of pour-over coffee possible. Look for details soon.
Who knew the man knew his coffee? His office ordered a Technivorm from us and had it delivered to the Rose Garden before his show on Friday, Sep 11th. Does that mean we can take credit for his presumably energetic performance?
If you’re the type to be persuaded by celebrity endorsements, consider this one to be of the purest sort. Upgrade yourself to a Technivorm.
Found this today – an app for your iPhone or iPod touch that is built around SCAA specs on cupping coffee. It’s called the iCupper Master Assistant. The look and feel needs a little help, but the functionality seems to be well planned and executed.
Check it out. If you’re using a Mac you might need to select iTunes as the software to open the link like I did. Or you can search for it in the app store, of course.
I’ll be posting some thoughts and ideas soon for doing a cupping at home. It’s a fun way to play around with coffee on a lazy Saturday morning.
The minimalist makes iced coffee at home! As summer winds down, take advantage of the last few balmy days with a cold, low acid iced coffee. You only need a french press to accomplish iced coffee like you’d get from a Toddy. We wrote up this guide to make it all very simply and fool-proof.
I love this method for iced coffee because it doesn’t involve buying more stuff to fill up my kitchen. You just use a french press, brew it strong and for a long time, then you have iced coffee mix that will last 10 days or so. You’ll probably want to mix with milk or cream over ice after the first day. A friend of mine adds a pinch of cardamom to get all fancy. Hats off to ya, Mitch.
Here’s to the weekend and coffee in all its forms!
It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and
friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the
coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered
felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a
cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out
a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a
pencil and started to write.
- Ernest Hemingway
I saw this online today and am not sure what I think about it. It seems like a fad product that could not possibly pull a good shot. Even the idea of it seems incongruent with espresso craft, which is supposed to be about slow, careful extraction of the bean, requiring time, patience, and a little bit of skill. Portable espresso? Really?
But I’m willing to be shown that this really is a great product. I haven’t seen it in person yet. Check out the clip of this thing “pulling” a shot (and I use the term loosely). Thoughts?