One of the most frequent requests that we hear involves recommendations for home auto-brewing machines. There are several factors that go into a machine like this, and several of them involve budget, desired features, size, and style.
Many of our other blog posts deal with the components of making a great cup of coffee (grind, water chemistry, water temperature, brewing parameters, type of coffee, etc.), and when discussing them we always concentrated on pour overs. We have already discussed how “batch brew” can be every bit as good or better than pour overs, so let’s look at the recommended gear to get you brewing on a home machine.
The true test of a good home brewing machine is its ability to brew coffee. Home machines have only a few jobs, but they must be done properly to ensure a great experience. They must:
Heat water to the right temperature
Infuse the coffee with water
Filter grinds so they don’t enter the brew
Some brewers have advanced features, such as being able to set the brew temperature, to set a “bloom” time, to set an infusion program or protocol, or to determine total brew time and contact time.
As long as we are using proper water, a properly set burr grinder, and expertly roasted coffee, you should have all of the other ingredients to make a great pot of coffee at home. So which machine is right for you?
We will yield the floor now to a guest blog, which has reviewed several different models, and explained their features and any up/down sides that they may have. All of these are excellent options, and all would make a great countertop companion.
The flight to Piura was uneventful, and we met up with Elmer, the partner of Farm to Roast, and our Peruvian guide for the trip. We met our driver for the trip, Robbie, who warmly greeted us and loaded up our gear into his truck. After introductions and exchanging pleasantries, we departed the airport and headed across the city of Piura to the Norandino coffee-processing factory.
This is one part of the trip that was completely new to me. All of the conversation about coffee exportation concentrates on the harvesting and processing at the farm level. Once the coffee is properly dried and packaged at the farm, there is a whole series of steps that need to take place before the green coffee is ready to be packed into containers and shipped to the docks for export. We got to see the process in action, and we walked through the entire plant with the manager of operations.
The coffee at this point has been carefully harvested, processed at the farm, dried to the proper moisture content, and shipped from the remote coffee growing regions, the Norandino Mill. Each coffee bean has a thick parchment that is natural to the bean itself, which needs to be removed before bagging and export to the roasters. This is accomplished by using a series of machines that work at a very high rate of speed to rub off this parchment and “clean” the dust off the beans with massive blowers.
Click for Video! The cleaned coffee is immediately dropped into large oscillating tables, which help to sort the coffee away from any contaminates like stones, sticks, coins and other junk that sometimes makes its way into the coffee supply. These tables also work to sort the coffee into different sizes. This table is on a slight angle, and as it shakes, the larger beans move toward one side of the table and the remaining smaller dense beans begin to collect in another corner. These beans shake off of the table at two different points, with the higher quality and more dense beans being kept for the specialty exports, and the rest being used in commercial grade coffee.
This first sorting is important to ensure that there is consistency in the size, density and shape of the coffee being exported. There is still one more concern in the specialty world; the presence of defects or “bad” coffee beans. Defects can occur naturally as part of the growing genetics from that particular coffee bean, or as an error in harvesting (picking a cherry too early or too late). These defects often have negative tasting consequences, and in order for a coffee to make it to “specialty” grade, there must be exceptionally few of these defects present in the green coffee.
Coffee sorting video
This would be an incredibly time consuming task to do by hand, but we were fortunate to be able to see some cutting-edge technology being employed at the Norandino Mill. The mill uses optical sorting technology, where hundreds of beans per minute pass by a bright light in a single file line. A computer quickly determines weather that particular bean has the proper shape and size, and gives that single bean a pass/fail. The failures are sorted out of the machine into a holding bin to be sold as second-rate commercial coffee. The passing beans are approved for bagging and shipping to the port. There were about 200 of these light samplers, and each sampler can test hundreds of beans per minute. The process is lightning fast, and incredibly accurate.
The final stage of the processing is to load all the passing coffee into a giant hopper, where workers will bag it up in specially sealed bags to ensure that the coffee makes it safely across the ocean to its destination.
The Norandino Mill is certified to process Organic, and Fair Trade coffee, and it has won numerous awards for its exceptional processing and milling procedures.
We finished the tour by cupping coffee samples in their coffee lab, and learning about some of the different farms in the area, and how the mill keeps careful records of processing, and segregation of the coffee to ensure that the individual farm’s coffees do not get blended together for Direct Trade models such as Farm to Roast. Norandino makes sure that the farms that Chris buys from are properly labeled and sorted so that each lot retains its distinct characteristics and flavors.
Seeing this kind of precision and accuracy on such a large scale was extremely impressive. To know that our coffee was coming through a mill with such advanced technology helps to explain why we are getting such a high quality product from these beautiful Peruvian farms.
At the end of August 2017, we will be heading to South America, to visit several small coffee farms. This will be our first origin trip, and our first attempt to bring home something that is truly unique. In the next few weeks, we hope to secure outstanding single-farm coffee, trading directly with the producers who own the farms. This is true sourcing.
In a previous blog post, we touched on one form of trading called “Fair Trade” and the controversy that surrounds the certification. Since its inception, the Fair Trade label has become weighed down under layers of bureaucracy and the money from the roaster didn’t always make it directly into the hands of the farmer. It is filtered through different hands until only a fraction of the purchase price makes it to the producer.
Due to the shortcomings of the Fair Trade system, many roasters decided to circumvent the import process, and source their own coffee by paying the farmers directly. They hired importers to come with them on the trips, they paid the farmers and the importer separately. The coffee skips past several links on the chain and both producer and roaster win in the end.
Producers of specialty coffee are extremely talented and hard-working farmers, who understand the growing conditions, and the harvest processes that will produce exceptional, one of a kind coffee. Often these producers are humble families of meager means, and their hard work shows in the quality of their product. These farms are usually small plots of land, and their yield is typically dozens of bags of coffee (not the hundreds of bags that some larger farms produce).
Direct Trade has been the buzzword for many years now, but just like Fair Trade, the waters have become muddied. Since no central governing body has oversight over the label Direct Trade, anyone can call any coffee by that name. People claim that they “source” coffee or that a coffee is “Direct Trade” all the time, and unfortunately sometimes they never even left the country.
So how do we differentiate ourselves from all of the “grey area” labels that exist, and let the people buying our coffee know that we have gone the extra mile (thousands of miles, actually)? We are creating a special label that will let you know with certainty that the coffee you are holding is from one of the farms that we have visited, and purchased the coffee from directly. We are dedicated to making sure that there is transparency in our products, and we will go the extra step to continue to bring amazing coffee to you, and we will work hard to tell the stories of the farmer while respecting the process along the way.
This is the first of our guest blog series. Please meet Jimmy & Spade Eat, a dynamic duo of amazing culinary insight and creative write ups for local food venues. Check their blog out, and find some new favorite places for grub!
Have you ever sat and had coffee with a friend while discussing some of life’s most intriguing questions? Have you ever spent time serving in a soup kitchen or enjoyed a family gathering around an array of delicious delicacies? Maybe you’ve had lunch with a new business partner and brainstormed innovative and exciting ideas. We all love the guy in the office that brings in donuts on Mondays when most of us don’t want to be there. There seems to be a certain nuance that food and drink bring to the human experience. Our existence here has many complex facets. One that I believe most of us may overlook or gloss by is the connection we share with other individuals on this planet. C.S. Lewis puts it like this, “Human beings look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well, and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees is, it would look like one single growing thing—rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected with every other.” How profound that it is time and space which constricts our view of humanity as a whole. One of the greatest adventures in life is realizing this misconception and reestablishing our connectivity to our fellow man.
Reestablishing connectivity—this, I believe, is what food and drink are meant to facilitate. It will take most of us a good meal or a fresh cup of brewed coffee to break down these barriers. We have become so over-obsessed with self that we need a conduit for conversation. I would reason to say that this is a barrier that transcends time, but it is even more relevant in the day and age we live in. We spend more time using technology which is meant to connect us but ultimately separates us. We have every form of entertainment at the click of a button. We can drift off into the distraction of nothingness for hours and completely forget about the outside world. The idea of social media seems like a revolutionary concept that would propel a communal humanity. However, it often serves to only feed our self centeredness and disconnect us from the “real” world. If you were to try and explain Facebook to someone a hundred years ago, one could describe it as a page that ultimately is a shrine to a self image manufactured by one’s own skewed perception. I am not denigrating technology. It can be an impactful tool in many avenues. Rather, I am raising the awareness of motive. Also, I reason that there is no consolation for the kinship evoked by a meeting of two or more soulful beings in person. This is something that a labored meal or beverage can create that technology never could.
Every good restaurateur may seemingly have different passions. Each one is unique in this. One’s passion may be to create the best cup of coffee. Another’s may be to install a new way of life through food. Another’s may be more simplistic in nature—to bring their family’s old recipes back to life. These passions, while being very personal and real, are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an even greater, much more climatic end. The over arching theme is connecting people. They connect individuals with each other as well as assimilating and introducing them to new ideas, concepts, and even ways of life. I cannot speak for every restaurant, café, or coffee shop because I know that there are many out there with false motives. These are establishments that because of a lack of passion create an inconsistent or low-grade product and service. However, the culture of passionate business owners that I do know and support bring all of these thoughts to life every day through there diligence, tenacity and perseverance.
This is the platform that Spade and I build our entire model off of. We are here to create convocations of connectivity in the community. We wish to become a medium where we can bring together all types of people. We want to introduce patrons of all ages and races to genuine, authentic establishments that will care of them and their loved ones. We desire to allow business owners a forum to introduce themselves to people in the community. We also hope to create a hub for cross-cultural connections of different business owners in the area. We connect people through food. I hope that as you sit down to your next meal you will be aware of this dynamic— this great and wonderful connection between food and community, food and family, and food and friends.