Blog : roasted

Tasting or Drinking?

Tasting or Drinking?

This blog post has been written by Ben Ratner, co-owner of LiB’s Marketplace in Salem, Ohio. Ben has extensive experience in food and wine, and has been working in the coffee profession since opening Lib’s with is wife Lindsay. We are proud to partner with LiB’s in bringing you this outstanding class, taught by Ben himself to help us all expand our enjoyment of our food and drink. Without further ado:

When you enjoy coffee are you drinking it or tasting it? The difference is subtle but measurable. Most people looking for a quick pick-me up may fall into the “just drinking” category while those looking to experience something more; a connection with their coffee, land more on the tasting side of things.

In specially coffee we are always striving for that something extra. It could be learning more background or production info, that season’s particular weather, anything to allow us to feel more connected to the cup and the lives of those that made it possible to get from a farm to your belly.

Perhaps sometimes we lose the most important factor in coffee. Behind the specifics in climate, growing region, processing methods, bean elevation, the name of the farmers first born and so on…the most important thing being; is it delicious and tasty?

After we have qualified a coffee as delicious, does it stop there? Of course not! We need to know why that cup stands out, and as coffee professionals we need to be able to explain to a guest of our café, or orderer on our online shop, and in some ways insure the type of experience they will have after making a purchase. Similarly, it’s a coffee professional’s job to be able to pick out flaws on the production side before adding a specific bean to the offering list so they know if it will properly represent the shop that will be presenting it to the consumer.

Here is where sensory evaluation comes into play. Your palate is like a muscle, and it takes practice to teach our brain and sensory systems to work together to pick out regional notes and flaws a like.

This is where Branchstreet Coffee Roasters, LiB’s Market and you come into the picture! We are partnering up for an awesome intro into sensory perception workshop to take place at Branchstreet on May 21, at 3:00pm. We will discuss how to start making connections between your sensory systems that will get you on the path to being a better perceiver in general which will lead to having a more enriched experience in life not just coffee tasting because these skills will make it possible to feel that much more connected to the things we consume.

As humans on this journey called life, our memories and experiences will last a lifetime. Join us to make some memories and get the ball rolling on becoming a better taster. Those wishing to get started and those looking for a  refresher or if you just want to be sure you’re fully enjoying the things you consume and squeezing every last drop from life! Join us.

The Grind

The Grind

Home Coffee Brewing: The Grind

 

This is the third in a series of blog posts that will teach you how to confidently brew exceptional coffee at home.

 

So far we have discussed the importance of the two main ingredients in coffee; the beans themselves, and the water that brews them. How the beans are ground is just as important to coffee brewing as the water and coffee selection. Slight variations in the grind setting can have dramatically different results in the final product. Let’s get down to the details, and help to really fine-tune the process.

 

To grind, or not to grind?

 

When buying your beans, you have the choice of buying pre-ground or whole bean. At a micro roaster all of the beans are likely whole bean, and your barista will grind them for you at the time of sale if you need. Is there a difference in quality one-way or the other? You bet.

 

Why grind at home? A few days after the coffee is roasted, it begins to lose flavor. When the beans are ground the surface area of the beans is increased exponentially, allowing more of that flavor and aroma dissipate and escape! Most reputable coffee shops will only grind their beans moments before they start the brewing process to retain that flavor you have come to expect. Grinding your beans at home will dramatically increase the freshness and flavor profile of the coffee you have brought home to enjoy. There are many types of grinders out there, so which one is best?

 

At the entry level, you can find cheap blade grinders which use a propeller like action to chop up the coffee. They are entry level grinders that allow you to grind only what you need for the coffee you are making at the time, but they fall short on another important quality; consistency.  These grinders have a major fault when it comes to grind uniformity.  They create lots of boulders (huge chunks) and fines (powder) at the same time.  Although we used to carry them on our shelves, we have replaced them with a line of manual and electric burr grinders.

 

A burr grinder will allow for more control over the coarseness of grind, and provide for a much more consistent result. Most burr grinders will have a ‘hopper’ or chamber where the whole beans will be stored and fed into the grinder as needed. Quality and consistency are the benchmarks that should be expected from most burr grinders. There is a wide price range in this category that varies depending on features and manufacturer reputation. If there is room in your budget, and you are looking for a drastic improvement in your home brewing, burr grinders are the way to go.

 

When it comes to choosing the proper grind for your coffee, everything will depend on your brewing method. There are as many ways to brew coffee as there are countries enjoying that coffee, and each one comes with its own unique style and grind. From the French Press with its course grind, to the Turkish coffee and its (almost) powder-like grind, there are limitless options and methods to prepare the beans for brewing. You should ask your barista about how to best grind the coffee for your particular method, and then experiment a little bit until you find that ‘sweet spot.’

 

So our best advice to you is to spend a few extra dollars and get a grinder. You will notice an immediate improvement in your brewing quality, and get more enjoyment out of those specialty beans you are buying. Grinding fresh is one of the most simple things you can do to step up the home coffee quality.

 

Up next:

Home Coffee Brewing: By the Numbers

 

 

Home Coffee Brewing:  The Water

Home Coffee Brewing: The Water

Home Coffee Brewing: The Water

 

This is the second in a series of blog posts that will teach you how to confidently brew exceptional coffee at home.

 

We have already touched on the importance of using fresh delicious coffee for your home brewing, and now we will cover the next most important ingredient: the water.

 

In properly brewed drip coffee, water makes up more than 98% of your drink. If you are not using great water, you are already limiting your ability to enjoy excellent coffee at home. Depending on your source of water there can be many contaminants that impart flavor, odor, or other undesirable characteristics directly into your cup.

 

Water is one of the most important considerations to professional coffee shops, and most will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to test their water and develop a filtration plan that will adjust the water to perfect the coffee. Baristas and espresso technicians are continually tasting, testing, and evaluating the quality of their water to know when the filters may be in need of a replacement.

 

There are dozens of ways to filter water and every process has its drawbacks. The best place to start to evaluate your needs would be to get a water report from your local water utility. They are required to file public reports of water content and contaminants, so this may give you a good starting point of what your water may be like. If you are on well water, there are usually test kits at local hardware stores.

 

Although reverse osmosis (RO) is all the rage in home filtration systems now, this process strips the water of all contaminants, even the minerals that give water its clean and crisp taste. These minerals also help during the extraction process and allow the water to remove the delicious coffee flavors and aromas. RO is almost too pure of a filtration system, and we do not recommend it.

 

Another option is the activated charcoal in common kitchen appliances (Britta or Pur). These do help to remove the odors and flavors that we don’t like in our coffee, like chlorine or sulfur. Using these will absolutely improve your brewing, but they can be hard to remember to change the filters on time, and the filters can become overly saturated with the contaminants and become less effective.

 

The best system we have found is a triple filtration system. They consist of two charcoal block filters, and one descaling filter. These systems keep the good minerals to ensure proper extraction and flavor, and they remove a surprising amount of the negative components. This is not very practical for most people, however. These systems are somewhat expensive and they take up a good amount of under-counter space.

 

The most practical option for most people is to buy their water from the supermarket. For between $0.99 – $1.25, you can buy fresh and delicious water and keep it dedicated for your coffee. Using name brand waters may improve flavor further because the big companies tend to have a tight control on their mineral content.

**If going this route make sure you buy the spring water, not distilled water! Distilled water has the same flaws as RO!**

 

Now let’s bring it all together. Although it is not often thought about, water is just as important to the coffee brewing process as the coffee itself. There are tests to find out what your water content is, and there are filtration solutions that can be tailor fit to your results. This could be a good option for the consumer who wants to get perfection from their home brewing methods, but they can be expensive and time consuming.

 

For most of us that just want a few simple tips and tricks to improve the taste of the morning coffee, we recommend trying and tasting the differences. Most people will find that just using a bottle of spring water from the grocery store will have a significant impact on their coffee.

 

The coffee world is full of opinions, but the only one that matters is yours. We write these guidelines to help you avoid the pitfalls we have discovered through years of experience. You should feel encouraged to explore and experiment for yourself to find a combination that works!

 

Up next:

Home Coffee Brewing: The Grind

Home Coffee Brewing: The Coffee

Home Coffee Brewing: The Coffee

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will help teach you how to confidently brew exceptional coffee at home.

Although there are only two main ingredients in making coffee, there are dozens of variables that can have an effect on the final cup.  Over the next few posts, we will dive into some of the factors that can be adjusted to help you brew some great coffee in your own home.

The first thing we have to consider is the coffee beans you are using to brew your cup.  As with most things in life, there are endless choices when it comes to selecting your coffee.  Coffee ranges from pre-ground commercial mass production, to rare small batch specialty lots.

If you want a coffee that is full of flavor but is a huge step up from your generic big-box variety, then you will probably be looking for what the coffee industry calls “Specialty Coffee.”  This is a term that is used to describe coffee that is a cut above the rest.  You wont find this term on any of your typical well known brands on the supermarket shelves.  There is a whole world within the coffee industry that only deals with “Specialty Coffee.”

What is specialty coffee?  90% of the coffee beans grown and consumed are considered ‘commercial grade.’  This means that they are just average, and targeted to the consumer that only wants caffeine in a cup.  That other 10% of coffee is something special.  It is carefully selected from the entire crop and put aside for purchase by a more selective consumer.  This is the quality of coffee that Branch Street uses, and we know that it makes for a better end product.

If you want a more enjoyable coffee get rid of your commercial coffee grounds.  So where should you be getting that specialty coffee from?  Seek out a knowledgable and local coffee roaster.  Buying fresh roasted specialty coffee will be the most important upgrade in quality you can make.

Roasting is the process of changing the green, or natural coffee bean, into the brown and delicious drink we all love.  Anyone can roast coffee, but it takes someone with special knowledge and training to do it well.  There are many factors along the way that can either make a coffee amazing and full of flavor, or flat and unimpressive.  Even worse, it could taste baked or burned.  No one wants a boring cup of coffee, or a mouth full of ash.

Roasting coffee is a lot like cooking.  Two cooks with the same ingredients can have to completely different products, and experience can make all the difference.

Not only does it have to be expertly roasted to ensure the flavor and unique characteristics are preserved and accentuated, but it needs to be fresh to really impress.

Once a coffee is roasted, it begins a process called ‘degassing.’  Degassing is the bean releasing carbon dioxide, and opening up flavors within the bean.  Most coffees are best when they have rested for a day or two after roasting.   If they are not protected from oxygen and temperature changes, it will quickly go stale and lose all of that incredible flavor we worked so hard to find.  Look for a “Roasted On” date on the bag.  If you can’t find one, you have no idea how long that bag has been sitting on the shelf.

If you make the decision to buy from a local roaster you are taking the first step to ensure that you are going to be brewing high quality, fresh coffee at home.

Ask to taste the coffee you will be buying.  A reputable roaster will be more than happy to brew a cup for you, and let you drink it how you see fit.  Add your own milk add sugar if that is how you normally enjoy your coffee.  Make it how you would drink it at home, and see if you want to commit to a whole bag.

Talk to your barista about the coffee.  Your barista should be knowledgeable about all of the coffee they are serving, and they should be able to guide you to a coffee you will love.  Tell them the flavor traits you love, and let them find a coffee that will fit your needs.  Your local roaster should have a wide variety to help you find your way.

At Branch Street Coffee Roasters we are committed to the whole process, from bean to bag.  All of our coffee is roasted as we need it, and packaged in sealed bags with one-way valves (to allow CO2 to escape, and keep oxygen out).  The beans are kept in a temperature-controlled room out of the sun until it is sold to you.  We do not sell or serve any coffee that is past our date standards, so you can be confident that you are bringing home exceptional, fresh coffee.  Come by and taste the coffee before you decide if it is one you will love.

Up next:

Home Coffee Brewing: The Water