Blog : youngstown

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.

Connections- Jimmy & Spade EAT!

Connections- Jimmy & Spade EAT!

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. 

Water and Chemistry

Water and Chemistry

This article was originally written by Matt Campbell for the membership of Coffee Props.  Please visit www.coffeeprops.com to join the conversation and be a part of the community!

So much focus has been put on the coffee itself, and rightfully so. The grind size, consistency of grind, freshness and quality of the bean, roast quality and method of brewing are all important factors when considering the end result of your brew. Traditionally when we would talk about water we would be discussing water to coffee ratio, temperature of brew water, speed and type of infusion method, and filtration. While these factors are all important, recent studies have broadened our understanding of our water.

 

What can be so complicated? Water is H2O, right? Well, yes; and no, not always. Without getting too deep into the physics and chemistry of it all, water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and the liquid we all know and love is capable of dissolving all sorts of other molecules. The makeup of water depends on a multitude of factors and conditions, and it is a complex array of chemistry and physics. Each water sample can react differently with its surrounding environment, and it is no different when we heat it and pour it over a bed of coffee.

 

It has been shown that magnesium (Mg +2) and calcium (Ca +2) are important to extracting flavor from coffee. These two atoms readily dissolve in water to create ions. These ions have a charge, which reacts chemically with flavor in the coffee to extract it into solution. Adding the sum of these two minerals together to calculate their abundance in parts-per-million (PPM) will give us an idea of general hardness, or GH.

 

On the opposing side of these ions are carbonate ions (HCO3 -1), which is more commonly referred to as the alkalinity or buffering agent (KH). This also contributes to coffee flavor, but it must be kept in check to prevent undesirable changes.

 

Although there are other minerals and ions in solution, the three mentioned above are the most important factors that impact flavor. These ions must be kept at the right level of hardness, but they must also be in proper quantities relative to each other. The preferred ration seems to be 2:1 in favor of the general hardness when the GH is around 100 ppm.

 

Believe it or not, that was actually a pretty dumbed down version of the whole story. Although these are just the basic facts, there is a whole textbook of information called, “Water for Coffee.” If you are they type that needs to know more, there is no more relevant and thorough information available. It isn’t exactly an easy read, but it is articulate and complete.

 

All this fantastic information has been made available recently, but now what can we do with it? Sure, we can purchase titration test kits and expensive filtration solutions to make the perfect water for coffee, but for the average household this is not a feasible option. Is all lost?

 

Not quite. The chemistry may be complicated to understand, but some very smart people have broken it down for us. Matthew Perger, WBC all-star and coffee guru has been dropping knowledge for us, so I will yield the floor to his recipe for perfect water:

 

Water Recipe:

 

Based on instructions from Matthew Perger, and the book Water for Coffee

Ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate (aka baking soda); magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt); distilled water

NOTES:

  • Distilled water, spring water, and purified water are not the same. It must be labeled distilled for this to work.
  • The Epsom salts must be unscented, and read magnesium sulfate. MgSO4

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

 

To make concentrate:

  1. Add 8.6g baking soda, and 25g Epsom salt to 500g distilled water. This is your concentrate.
  2. Shake this concentrate until it is all dissolved.

 

To make perfect coffee water:

  1. Place 500g of distilled water into a clean glass container.
  2. Carefully mix 2.5g of CONCENTRATE into the distilled water.
Cascara: A new take on an old drink

Cascara: A new take on an old drink

This weekend we released a new product; something that we have been working on for several weeks. As far as we know only a few cafes in the nation are offering cascara on their menu, and of those that have it only a fraction of them are serving it as soda. So what exactly is cascara, and how did this drink come to be?

 

Cascara is the Spanish word for “husk,” and it is the perfect description. Many of you know that coffee grows on a tree inside a cherry. When ripe, it is picked by the farmer and delivered to a washing station. The pit of the cherry is then separated from the fruit, and that pit is dried out and prepared to be the coffee that we enjoy daily. That remaining fruit or husk is called cascara.

 

Normally, the remaining cherry, or cascara is either discarded or thrown into a compost pile to be used as a fertilizer for the coffee trees. This has been the custom for decades, especially when global focus has been on maximum production for the corporate coffee world. With attention shifting from mass-produced coffee consumption to quality-centric specialty coffee, more focus has been placed on the coffee plant itself.

 

Cascara has qualities of both coffee and tea, putting it into a league of its own. It can be earthy, with many of the qualities of an Indonesian coffee, or a root-type spice. Usually that mild earthy taste is accompanied by a cherry or raisin-like flavor, and a pleasant sweetness; especially as it cools. There is caffeine content as well that is about the same amount you would expect from a cup of black tea.

 

For as long as coffee has been around, the cascara has been used as a tea, or eaten as a cherry. Coffee lure actually attributes the discovery of coffee to goats that were hyper-caffeinated by eating these cherries from the local coffee plants in Ethiopia. The farmers discovered the energy-inducing fruit, and began harvesting, cultivating and trading it. As the coffee trade took off, the seed became the central focus, but for many of the local producers the cherry would be steeped into a drink of its own.

 

In order to be made into a drink, the cherry must be carefully prepared and dried to a tea-like consistency. This dried cascara can then be stored, or shipped as a commodity, much like the coffee itself. Cascara has long been enjoyed in many European countries, often as a coffee and tea alternative. Of late, many leading specialty coffee companies have begun introducing it to the American market.

 

 

So how did we end up with a cascara soda? After learning about the flavors and qualities of cascara, we ordered some to find out for ourselves. We were immediately blown away by the taste and versatility that we found. Cascara was a huge hit among our baristas.

 

We immediately knew that we had something special on out hands, and we began to work tirelessly to create a drink that would be unique to Youngstown. After a few recipe attempts, we realized that there was more than one way to brew this cherry up, and we are planning on having an entirely unique cascara menu.

 

So what is the Cascara Soda? It is an amazing combination of flavor that is similar to coffee, tea and soda. The only way to truly experience it is to grab one of your own. This soda is only the beginning of the fun we will have; ask about the unique ways that you can enjoy cascara!