After the success of once-scrappy roasters, such as California’s Blue
Bottle and Portland’s Stumptown, a new generation of small shops is
reshaping America’s coffee obsession
Originally published WSJ Magazine
written by OLIVER STRAND May 22, 2015 10:08 a.m. ET photo: Allan Gastelum
ABOUT 15 YEARS AGO, a handful of small-time roasters set out to revolutionize their industry by approaching a cup of coffee with a chef’s reverence for ingredients and a bartender’s flair for presentation. They pioneered a direct-trade system, sourcing beans straight from farms around the world. Thanks to their efforts, America fell in love with flavorful, fragrant single-origin coffees and expertly crafted cappuccinos made with milk so creamy and sweet that sugar became unnecessary.
Those once-scrappy roasters—Blue Bottle, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and Stumptown—have now grown from regional companies with cult followings to national players with global profiles.
In 2014, Google Ventures, Morgan Stanley and other investors raised $26 million for Blue Bottle.
When the company opened in Tokyo earlier this year, there was a three-hour, Apple Store–like wait to get in the door. Stumptown, meanwhile, is now sold at the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers.
In Miami—a place not especially known for its coffee geekery—hipsters line up at Panther Coffee, founded in 2010 by Leticia and Joel Pollock (a Stumptown alum), for a taste of beans sourced from Finca Kilimanjaro, an experimental farm in El Salvador run by Aida Batlle, a fifth-generation farmer acclaimed for her ecologically aware practices.
Kathleen Pratt, co-founder of Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine, started as a barista at Blue Bottle in San Francisco and eventually opened the company’s large roasting facility and coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2012, Pratt and her husband, Will (who had been a Blue Bottle roaster), decamped to Maine; they launched Tandem five months later in the former office of a scrap-metal yard. “We wanted it to feel like you’re walking into our home,” says Pratt, who learned at Blue Bottle “how important it is to create an overall experience.” In addition to beans sourced from Rutsiro, Rwanda, Nyeri, Kenya, and Caldono, Colombia, Tandem offers free tasting sessions each Friday to demystify its coffees’ flavors and scents and allow customers to watch the roasting process.
Last year, the Pratts opened a second shop in a converted mid-century gas station, adding a bakery. Now Tandem sells about 900 pounds of coffee per week.
A return to intimate spaces and individualized attention is a distinguishing feature of coffee’s newest all-stars.
In Williamsburg, Dillon Edwards—formerly of Blue Bottle and Stumptown—opened Parlor Coffee in 2012 in the back of a barbershop. It was one of the tiniest coffee bars in the city at the time, just a single barista behind a Speedster espresso machine, and its quaint atmosphere stood in stark contrast to the jam-packed rush-hour scenes at the city’s Stumptown and Blue Bottle outposts.
Last year, Edwards became a fully operational roaster, and Parlor is now selling beans to larger destinations like Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel and Greenpoint’s Propeller cafe.
One factor driving the proliferation of independent cafes and roasters is that it’s never been easier to source obscure, overlooked coffees. The supply chains that established coffee importers spent years creating—and, in many cases, jealously guarding—are now accessible to small buyers with good taste. And a group of influential wholesale roasters is supplying high-end beans to neighborhood cafes (and even selling directly to customers online).
At various coffee shops in Portage County, Wisconsin, you can now find beans hailing from Gitesi—a well-respected washing station in Rwanda, where the coffee seed is removed from its skin and dried—by way of Ruby Coffee Roasters, a local outfit started by former Intelligentsia roaster Jared Linzmeier.
But the past year’s most anticipated opening was Supersonic Coffee in Berkeley, California. The first roasting company in the U.S. to buy from Nordic Approach, a renowned Norway-based importer that sources only high-quality “green” coffees, Supersonic will light-roast in the so-called Scandinavian style used by groundbreaking roasters in Northern Europe. “We wanted to look five years ahead,” says John Laird, one of Supersonic’s founders, “and do something that would feel fresh down the line.”
Panther has two locations in Miami: an airy shop in Wynwood (2390 NW 2nd Ave.) and one in a converted garage in Sunset Harbour (1875 Purdy Ave.), which feels more like a local bar.
The coffee bar in the back of Brooklyn barbershop Persons of Interest (84 Havemeyer St.) is one of the most stylish in the city; the roastery and tasting room are open to the public on Sundays. parlorcoffee.com
Supersonic will soon open a shop adjacent to its roasting facility in Berkeley, California (2322 Fifth St.); until then, they’re serving out of a 1965 Airstream trailer in the parking lot.
The Portland, Maine–based company has a tiny coffee bar at its roasting facility (122 Anderson St.) and a new bakery (742 Congress St.) in a 1960s gas station in West End. tandemcoffee.com
Posted: 03/19/2015 9:17 am EDT Updated: 03/19/2015 2:59 pm EDT
Whether you're a coffee addict or just a casual drinker, you've probably heard the term "coffee bloom" at some point. Most likely, if you were in the presence of a holier-than-thou barista or a serious coffee snob, you weren't only subjected to this jargon. You were expected to understand what it meant. For all of you bloom newbies out there who don't want to ask for an explanation, we at HuffPost Taste want to clear things up. In our latest installment of "what in the world is that food thing you've heard of a thousand times but actually know very little about," we're putting on our coffee snob hats.
A coffee bloom is the fast release of gas that occurs when hot water hits coffee grounds. It looks like this:
When coffee beans are roasted, CO2 gets trapped inside. From then on, the beans will slowly emit the gas over time -- a process known as "degassing." When ground, the beans will emit gas more quickly, and when met with hot water, all of the remaining gas will escape rapidly. This is the bloom, and the more gas that's escaping, the bigger the bloom will be.
All of this matters to you and your friendly coffee freaks for two reasons. One, "the majority of a coffee bean's flavor compounds are trapped in the CO2 gases," MentalFloss says. So, more gas = more flavor. Two, the amount of gas can indicate how fresh the beans are.
Beans that have been sitting out for a long time will have more time to release gas. (Stop laughing. It's going to be okay.) Thus older beans will produce less gas and a weaker bloom. Age isn't the only factor that determines how much gas escapes from beans. Storage is important, too. Beans kept in hotter temperatures will release gas more quickly. This is one reason to keep your beans in cool temperatures. Beans should also be kept in sealed bags with one-way valves that don't let oxygen in, but allow for CO2 to escape.
Of course, it gets more complicated than the simple equation that more gas signifies fresher beans and more flavorful coffee. The type of roast is a key factor, as well. Darker, more oily beans won't release gas as quickly. They've also endured a longer roasting process, which means they contain more CO2 in the first place. Thus, darker roasts tend to have bigger blooms than lighter ones. When comparing blooms, you need to also keep the type of roast in mind.
Finally, to confuse matters, "bloom" can also be a verb. You can create a bloom by blooming -- or adding hot water to coffee grounds. There are different techniques for different coffee-making methods. If you use a pour over, you should pour water over the grounds in a circular motion. If you use an automatic coffee machine, you should pour just enough water to wet the grounds, let them rest for a couple minutes and then use the machine as you otherwise would have.
Need a cup of coffee yet? To summarize:
More gas = more flavor and fresher coffee. More gas = a bigger bloom. So a bigger bloom = more flavor and fresher coffee. And now when your snobby coffee friends are fawning over a bloom, you can remind them that it's just gas.
By Naomi Starkman
originally published on May 2, 2014
Here’s some good food news: Civil Eats was just named the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Publication of the Year! The Foundation’s Journalism Committee, said:
In judging its Publication of the Year, the Journalism Awards Committee of the James Beard Foundation recognizes a publication that demonstrates fresh direction, worthy ambition, and a forward-looking approach to food journalism. Civil Eats, through its declared passion for “promoting critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems,” practices the kind of thorough and fair journalism that helps us make sense of the increasingly complex matter of getting food to our tables.
It’s an incredible honor to receive this award, which acknowledges the spirit and soul of the collective work of our edgy, funky, community supported blog. On behalf of our hundreds of contributors, I am so grateful to the Foundation and the Journalism Committee for this remarkable recognition amongst our esteemed peers.
It is especially meaningful that the Foundation chose to elevate sustainability in food journalism and is placing high value on our unique vision of food reporting through a wider lens. Having made this site my labor of love for many years, and a true passion project, it is truly rewarding to know that we’ve reached a critical mass.
Six years ago, I was brought on to head up communications for Slow Food Nation (SFN), an event that was considered by many to be a watershed moment in the food movement. While crafting the SFN website, we placed a blog front and center, in order to garner more discussion and interest in the event. And it worked. By inviting and curating voices from across the food movement, we attracted nearly one million unique visitors to the site in just a few months.
Slow Food Nation was attended by upwards of 80,000 people and included a victory garden in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, a marketplace, and multiple discussion panels including luminaries such as Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, and Alice Waters. It planted a seed that has grown into today’s food movement, a full-fledged garden.
When the event ended, a few of us decided to keep the momentum going, including Editor-at-Large Paula Crossfield, who joined me to accept the award in New York City today. Thus sprang Civil Eats, which has produced thousands of stories by hundreds of contributors since 2009.
Our goal was simple: Create a platform to publish unreported stories from the voices on the frontlines of food politics; be inclusive and support the leading NGOs in the space and help them tell their stories; and stay ahead of and often break news. We did all that and much more for many years, without pay, and without being able to pay our contributors.
All of that changed when we launched our Kickstarter campaign last October. As our readers and supporters know, we successfully raised $100,000, the highest amount to date for content for an online daily news site via Kickstarter. With our new funds, we’ve since been able to bring on a new managing editor, Twilight Greenaway (who’s kicking ass) and have begun to pay our writers and contributors. Our goal is to be able to pay a full staff (including me!) and hire a Washington D.C.-based reporter to cover food policy on the ground.
The James Beard Foundation award for publication of the year proves that content-driven, in-depth dialogue on food systems issues matter. Civil Eats is a spark that ignited the food movement and this award is for everyone who believes that storytelling can transform the world. Thank you all for being such powerful advocates for critical thought and positive change in the food system.
You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for our new weekly newsletter (coming soon!). Continue to expect big things from us at Civil Eats.
- See more at: http://civileats.com/2014/05/02/civil-eats-named-james-beard-foundations-2014-publication-of-the-year/#sthash.gFmxJmHi.dpuf
by Maria Goody
The Salt PBS originally published June 30, 2013
Being "born with a silver spoon in your mouth" has long been known to
have advantages. Apparently, eating off a silver spoon also has its
perks — it seems to make your food taste better.
word from a group of researchers who've been studying how cutlery,
dishes and other inedible accoutrements to a meal can alter our
perceptions of taste. Their , published in the journal Flavour,
looks at how spoons, knives and other utensils we put in our mouths can
provide their own kind of "mental seasoning" for a meal.
of my wine-drinking colleagues would have me believe that flavor is
really out there on the bottle, in the glass or on the plate," says , a
professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. "But I think
it is much more something that we ... understand better through looking
at what's happening inside the brain, and not just the mouth of the
person eating or drinking."
Alterations in taste perceptions
aren't necessarily the result of the cutlery itself, he says, but of the
mental associations we bring to a meal. "Silver spoons and other silver
cutlery, I'm guessing, are more commonly associated with high-quality
food in our prior eating experiences," Spence says.
years, psychologists have found that the color and shape of plates and
other dishes can have an impact on the eating experience. Studies have
found, for example, that people tend to eat less when their dishes are
in sharp , that the can alter a drinker's perception of how sweet and aromatic hot cocoa is, and that drinks can when consumed from a glass with a "cold" color like blue.
So why study cutlery? For starters, there wasn't any real scientific literature on the topic, Spence tells Linda Wertheimer on Weekend Edition Sunday.
Or, as he put it to The Salt, cutlery is "one of the few things we
stick in our mouth that others have stuck in their mouths. So it's a
Among Spence's findings so far:
will rate the very same yogurt 15 percent tastier and more expensive
when sampled with a silver spoon rather than a plastic spoon or a
lighter (by weight) option.
Combining a heavier bowl with a heavier spoon will tend to make yogurt taste better.
Plastic packaging or plate ware that's more rounded will tend to emphasize sweetness.
plates tend to bring out the bitterness in food, which works well for
dishes like dark chocolate or coffee-based desserts, Spence says.
People will rate cheeses as tasting saltier when eaten off a knife, compared to a toothpick, spoon or fork.
general, foods tend to be perceived as more enjoyable when eaten off
heavier plates and with heavier cutlery – perhaps because heft is
equated with expense.
Such research isn't merely
academic, Spence says. Food companies use these kinds of studies to
inform how they package their products. And in a world where modernist
chefs already pay lots of attention to how foods are arranged visually
on the plate, cutlery, he suggests, presents a new frontier for fine
Spence has already teamed up with some of the world's
top modernist chefs, using their restaurants as real-world settings to
test findings from the lab. Working with Ferran Adria, the culinary
superstar behind Barcelona's now-shuttered El Bulli, Spence tells us, he
learned that strawberry mousse tastes "10 percent sweeter and 15
percent more flavorful on a white plate than on a black plate."
And this summer, Spence says, he'll explore how ridged spoons impact the dining experience at , the restaurant run by British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal. A previous collaboration between the two resulted in ,
in which diners eat oysters and other seafood while listening to an
iPod playing the sounds of crashing waves. It's become a signature dish
on Fat Duck's tasting menu.
"Maybe in a year or two," Spence tells The Salt, "we will have signature cutlery associated with this chef or that."
Originally Posted: 01/29/2013 9:12 am on Huffington Post
by Nicholas Thompson
Sound simple? It sure can be. But I'm willing to bet that most
of you still need to be shown what bad coffee looks like before you can
identify the good stuff.
I've been in the coffee industry for quite some time, and I'm not one
of those baristas who holds his hard-earned coffee knowledge close to
the chest. A lot of the time, I hear these folks referred to as "snobs,"
but I generally try to avoid that word. Most of the time, they're just
burnt-out baristas, my brothers-in-arms too broken down by years of
double-shifts and crazy bosses to spread the gospel of good coffee. I'm
sure you've come across some of these poor baristas in your favorite
cafe: the dude with sunken eyes and beanie who smirks when you order
espresso in a to-go cup. Or the tattooed college grad who snaps back
when you ask to modify an order. These guys mean no disrespect. But too
often they have looked on in horror as their handcrafted beverages are
ravaged at the condiment counter: a delicate cup of Ethiopian coffee one
instant, a cream-and-sugar-freighted abomination the next. All they
really want is for you to be aware of a few key facts about the stuff
they prepare for you. Ironically, these guys are sometimes the least
likely to offer them up. That's where I come in, if you don't mind.
Any self-respecting barista should be concerned primarily with
quality. It's the cornerstone of the industry. Each shift is a battle
against inferior drinks and inferior product. But if there is one
notion, one overarching fallacy about coffee that the consumer must come
to understand, it is that dark roast coffee is not only bad, but it is
Yep. Dark roast is terrible in more ways than one. Sorry folks. Your
oily, burnt French and Italian roasts are the antithesis of what today's
coffee should be. It's not your fault that you've been told to enjoy
this stuff for so long. The Big Guys, in the early 2000's (and well
before, in fact), redefined the cafe scene by utilizing this greasy
roasting profile for a couple of reasons. For one, coffee roasted darker
and longer is easier to produce consistently on a mass scale. Plus,
roasting it for as long as they do reduces its mass. That makes it
cheaper to ship all over the world.
Because coffee is a sensitive, fragile plant, a good farm devotes an
unspeakable amount of manpower and resources in order to produce a
quality lot. Farmers must pay specialized processing facilities to
prepare the raw fruit before it even leaves the country of origin.
Superior quality Arabica strain only grows at higher altitudes, so often
times these hand-picked cherry are hauled down the sides of mountains
upon the backs of mules and the heads of laborers. We as baristas,
roasters and consumers must honor that. It is the very least we can do.
When these valuable beans are roasted into dark, smokey blends, we begin
to lose sight of how this product is supposed to taste -- what it is
supposed to be in the first place.
By the time the coffee reaches the shores of the United States (or
elsewhere, certainly) an importing company has already bought and sold
the beans to a roasting company. And at this point, things can go
horribly wrong, very quickly. For example, these precious, expensive
little beans may be ruined straight away if they are not stored in a
dry, climate-controlled facility. Worse, they could end up in a batch of
dark roast somewhere. All of that effort spent preserving the integrity
of the coffee can be erased in a matter of seconds.
There are dozens of amazing micro-roasters across the United States
these days. Many of them offer online ordering, and can deliver coffee
to your door within 48 hours of its roast time. Look for an organization
with a dedicated "green buyer," a person whose job it is to travel the
equator and build relationships with the farmers from whom they buy.
These companies generally won't even offer anything like French roast
coffee; they know too much about where the product is from and how far
it has traveled. In short, they respect it too much to roast it poorly.
Obviously, not all coffee companies decide to spend the necessary
effort to ensure quality. Macro-roasting companies, ones even bulkier
than the aforementioned Big Guys and who dominate the grocery store
aisles, roast millions of pounds per year. They know that their
costumers won't (can't?) demand a higher quality bean, so they are more
likely to blend the pricy Arabica with lower-quality robusta coffee.
They buy just about anything. They grind it up and put a "best if used
by" date on the container. Ouch.
Henceforth, dear reader, you shall seek bags of whole-bean coffee
upon which the following pieces of information are readily available:
where the product was grown, when it was harvested, and most
importantly, when it was roasted. Fresh drip coffee, the stuff you may
use in your press pot or Cuisanart coffee machine, should be no more
than a week "off roast." Once you grind up a coffee bean, its volatile
oils and aromas will begin to dissipate immediately. And so after even a
few minutes, ground coffee is compromised beyond recognition. That is
why, along with your first bag of Good Coffee, you shall invest in a
quality burr grinder for your kitchen. Your days of purchasing
pre-ground coffee are over.
You're going to want to give that Mr. Coffee a really solid cleaning,
while you're at it. A great bag of fresh coffee can come out tasting
like mud and sticks if you've used a coffee machine layered in months of
cooked-on, French-roasty oils. And I'm confident that after a few bags
of Good Coffee, you'll be posting your auto-drip machine in the "free"
listings on Cragslist. Soon, you may buy yourself some snazzy
manual-brewing equipment in order to fully harness the awesome flavor of
your new favorite beans.
You are alive during a time when the demand for superior coffee is at
an all-time high, and its supply is at an all time low. Remember, the
best coffee in the world grows around the equator, at altitudes of more
than 5,000 feet. Climate change has already damaged these ecosystems
beyond repair; there will never be as much coffee in the world as there
is today. While the cafe scene teeters on the brink of mainstream, a
veritable gold-rush of information threatens to inundate the consuming
populace. Suddenly, everyone wants to be a barista. Suddenly, everyone
wants access to coffee know-how. By all means, go out and seek answers
to your questions. But first and foremost, you must discover your source
for bags of fresh, lightly roasted coffee.
Buy whole beans in a heat-sealed bag. This is your new mantra. This is The Way.
originally posted October 17, 2012 and updated October 18, 2012
Blue Bottle Coffee, the respected California coffee micro-roaster that introduced the Japanese-style siphon bar to San Francisco before opening shops in Chelsea, TriBeCa, Rockefeller Center and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has a new owner.
According to a filing made with the Securities Exchange Commission, Bryan Meehan is the new president and chief executive of Blue Bottle Coffee Inc., heading a group of investors who purchased a controlling stake in Blue Bottle Coffee LLC for more than $19.6 million. Kohlberg Ventures, which invested in Blue Bottle Coffee in 2008, no longer has a stake in the company.
The news was reported in TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and other news-media outlets.
Mr. Meehan is the Dublin-born entrepreneur behind Fresh & Wild, a London chain of organic markets sold to Whole Foods in 2004, and Nude Skincare, a line of natural beauty products. He now lives in Marin County, Calif., and the Blue Bottle Coffee investment group he leads draws from the Bay Area’s high-tech executives. It includes Tony Conrad, a founding member of True Ventures and the founder of About.com; Kevin Systrom, the co-founder and chief executive of Instagram; Kevin Rose, a general partner at Google Ventures and the founder of Digg; and Mike Volpi, a partner in Index Ventures, formerly of Cisco Systems.
But not all of Blue Bottle’s new investors made their fortunes with keyboards: the skateboarder Tony Hawk is listed in a post published on the True Ventures blog last week.
Reached on the phone in Dublin, Mr. Meehan said that James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, would continue to occupy a central position in the company. “James promised to me that he’s going to spend the rest of his life growing his business,” Mr. Meehan said. “He’s the founder, and he’s still running things. My role will be chairman of the board.”
Ownership and management can be a touchy question in the coffee industry. Many respected roasters were started by coffee enthusiasts who spent years pulling shots and working long shifts. For some, selling a stake in a company is seen as an act of disloyalty.
What happens after the papers are signed depends on the company, of course. Last year, Stumptown Coffee Roasters reached a deal with TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm, and the company has steadily expanded since then. Then again, after Doug Zell, the founder of Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, announced last year that he would become a co-C.E.O. with a former real estate developer, Robert Buono, the company shed most of its senior staff.
Mr. Freeman, who is in New York to promote his new book, “The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee,” said the company he founded would remain the same, only with deeper pockets.
“I’m still going to make decisions about where or if we open new shops, what the new shops look like, what the new shops feel like,” he said. “I’m still going to be in charge of what kind of coffee we should buy, how much should we buy.”
Mr. Freeman said that he structured a deal that encourages him to remain with Blue Bottle Coffee. Every year, his stake in the company will increase. “It’s an incentive to stay,” he said. “I gave myself a really good job.”
Oct. 18| Updated
The board of directors of Blue Bottle Coffee Inc. announced that James Freeman is now President and CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee Inc. Bryan Meehan is now Executive Chairman.
“We want to clarify any misunderstanding about who runs the company,” Mr. Freeman said. “I’m going to be the one showing up to Webster Street every day and answer emails, cup coffee, talk to the troops and do everything I’ve been doing, only hopefully better.”
your parents make lousy coffee. posted by tonx.com and if you are into a single roaster's approach, this might be something to look at.
Your parents coffee probably sucks. Maybe it’s that their generation was raised on canned coffee and the false promises of dubious plug-in kitchen appliances or perhaps raising you and your siblings to adulthood drained them of any zest for life or belief in pleasure – but many parents-of-a-certain-age seem incapable of providing us good coffee when we visit for the holidays. So you need to plan accordingly.
I’ll suggest outfitting yourself with a travel rig. My personal set up consists of my Hario mini mill and a simple Hario V60 cone filter. They are light, reasonably compact, and make you a superhero when you bust them out at opportune moments (aka most mornings). But more important than gear and gizmos by far is fresh roasted, top quality coffee. Might I suggest a particularly awesome option…(insert his website)
Getting your parents to upgrade their morning brew is a noble pursuit that even many seasoned coffee professionals will admit can be a hopeless struggle. I know very few coffee nerds that have succeeded in rescuing their parents from bad coffee but you hear many war stories. Buy them a fancy new coffeemaker and grinder only to find them still fooling around with Folgers a year later or stockpiling criminally crappy k-cups from Costco to plunk into some $200+ abomination of ridiculously chromed plastic festooned with blue LEDs. I think my mom still has a pound of coffee I roasted almost a decade ago back in my Seattle Victrola days that she is saving for some special occasion*.
But if you do undertake saving your family from coffee hell, heed my (admittedly self serving) advice and start with great beans. Regardless of what brew method they’ve got going or that you want to steer them toward, it will all come to naught if they lack a fresh sack. The first bag will arrive in time for the holidays with a nifty customized gift card and you won’t have to suffer stale starbucks when you’re groggily opening presents or trying to avoid unpleasant conversations.
Posted by Erin Meister on Serious Eats, November 28, 2011 at 7:00 AM
Coffee at a cupping, or professional style tasting.
Tasting is hard. No, really—think about it. We put stuff in our mouths all day every day, and sure, hopefully we enjoy most of it. But how much do you actually think about what you're tasting? Tasting different coffees side by side can be as daunting as going to a wine tasting. How on earth is a new taster supposed to identify and name all the seemingly zillions of flavors and aromatics emanating from that hot black cup of joe?
Here are a few tips to help you exercise your tastebuds to better understand and appreciate your morning coffee. (Or, heck, anything you eat or drink, for that matter!) Join us to develop not only a more nuanced palate, but also the vocabulary to go along with it. Sip Before Sugar
This might seem obvious, but if you really want to get a sense of how your coffee tastes, try it—just try it—before up-ending that packet of Domino in there. To many people, coffee is a seemingly overpowering flavor, with strong bitterness or smokiness that can seem harshly unapproachable at first. That's often our first reaction to things like beer, wine, and fine liquors, too—until, that is, we develop a taste for them.
Nobody ever developed their taste for beer by dumping sugar in it, and neither will you for coffee by doing the same. Take one sip before sweetening it up, and try to savor that sip if you can. Next time you have a coffee, take two swigs before adding your lumps, and so on. See if you can't come to enjoy the taste of black joe little by little: it will significantly improve your ability to discern nuances you may never have experienced before through the milk and sugar. Practice Makes Perfect
In order to be a better taster, you simply have to taste more stuff. For the next few weeks, try to slow down for a second as you go about your eating life. Hold things on your tongue a bit longer than you normally would—whole foods especially—and try to think of what other tastes they remind you of. Does that bite of brown rice have a nutty quality to it, or is it more like grass? Is there something honey-like about the sweetness of a ripe melon, or is it more floral?
Even if the act of savoring each bite for the sake of storing flavor memory doesn't instantly transform you into a supertaster, it will at the very least probably help you enjoy your food more as you work through it. Win-win!
The Nose Knows
Our sense of smell deeply informs our sense of taste, so try to go in for a nice big whiff before you take your first bite or sip. Especially where coffee's concerned, the smell of both the dry grounds and the pot as it's brewing can give you a lot of insight into the flavors lurking behind that brown. And scent memory is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools in our palate-stretching arsenal: When a certain aroma conjures images of youthful camping trips, a favorite food, a fondly recalled afternoon at the beach...these things all sound hippie dippy, but they can be surprisingly telling. That camping trip might mean you're detecting a smoky or toasted note in the coffee, that favorite food might mean sweetness or spice, while a beachside afternoon could indicate savory umami in the cup.
Compare and Contrast
One easy exercise for your tongue is to taste several variations of the same thing. With coffees, we might taste a few different varieties of beans all prepared the same way, or try beans across different regions, the way we might do a wine tasting of one grape from a few different areas.
But you don't have to be a coffee guru or a wine connoisseur to taste with discrimination: Simply turn to the bounty of the season. Buy a bushel of different varieties of apples and taste slices from each in succession, making sure to note which is which, and maybe jotting down some thoughts about the flavors that strike you as you go. Think about how the texture of each feels in your mouth, think about how sweet one type of the fruit is in relation with another. If you can start to recognize these types of elements in other things you taste regularly, it will be more of a cinch the next time you face down a flight of different coffees.
I'm not trying to be preachy about it (that's your mom's job), but smoking does not only dull your sense of taste, but also your sense of smell, which is in large part what clues your tatesbuds in on what they're experiencing when you go in for the kill on that perfect slice of pizza or hand-crafted small-batch Scotch. If you want to develop a masterfully working tongue, then, unfortunately you'll have to kick that Kool habit you've been hanging on to since you were 16. (PS: Note that's "Kool," not "cool," which is probably what got you into this mess in the first place.) But hey, if you can't have your coffee without kicking up that cigarette jones, far be it from me...
What other advice would you give to a new taster? Have you found anything to be especially helpful when trying to develop your palate?
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista and an audacious eater, but she remains a Nervous Cook.
BY OLIVER STRAND Published: October 2, 2011 The New York Times
Grinding beans with a burr grinder just before you prepare your coffee is the single most important step to making a better cup. Because coffee degrades rapidly when exposed to oxygen, mediocre beans just out of the grinder have much more flavor than even fantastic beans that were ground up yesterday. (As for the beans you ground last week, it's time to add them to the compost heap.) A decent burr grinder doesn't come cheap, though. The entry point is about $100, and if you want a better engine or more settings, you can easily spend $300. But like investing in a chef 's knife, it's a one-time expense you won't regret. Its beauty is that it crushes the beans into particles of a consistent size, unlike a blade grinder, which whirs some of the coffee into powder and some into chunks. And consistency is incredibly important to coffee's taste: a blade grinder is very likely to produce grinds that lead to uneven extraction, which results in bitter flavors.The beans you grind are also important, of course. You should be drinking the ones that are in season and therefore the freshest -- right now, that means the beans from South America. It's important to remember that shopping for coffee beans is like buying fish: ask for what has just come in. It makes a big difference.
By JENNIFER CORBETT DOOREN Wall Street Journal September 26, 2011
In what might be good news for coffee drinkers, a new study found that women who regularly consume the caffeinated beverage are less likely to suffer depression.
Four or more cups a day lowers depression risk even further, by 20%. Women who had two to three cups of coffee a day had about a 15% lower risk of developing depression during a 10-year period than women who had only one cup of coffee or less per week. Consuming four or more cups a day reduced the risk of depression even more, by 20%.
The study, by Harvard University researchers, analyzed health data of more than 50,000 women who were part of the Nurses' Health Study, a federally funded effort that has followed thousands of registered nurses for decades to assess risk factors for cancer and other diseases.
The Harvard research, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is believed to be the first study specifically looking at depression and caffeine consumption in women. The study was primarily funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers said the study doesn't prove that caffeine or caffeinated coffee reduces the risk of depression, but it suggests caffeine has a "protective effect." Alberto Ascherio, one of the study's authors and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said researchers decided to look at depression after smaller studies suggested a decreased risk of suicide among women who were regular coffee drinkers.
Depression is a chronic health problem that affects twice as many women as men. At least 20% of women develop depression at some point in their lives, the researchers said. Caffeine, most often in the form of coffee, is considered the world's most consumed central nervous system stimulant that temporarily boosts alertness and often improves people's moods.
Numerous studies previously have looked at the health effects of coffee. Scientists generally have concluded that for most adults moderate doses of caffeine, or the equivalent of about two to four cups of coffee a day, aren't considered harmful. But too much caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness, stomach upset and a rapid heartbeat. In the latest study, researchers in 1996 identified 50,739 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study who were free of depression. The average age was 63 at the study's onset. Over a 10-year period, 2,607 of the women developed depression. Researchers measured caffeine consumption by analyzing a series of questionnaires the women completed between May 1980 and April 2004. The surveys asked about the types of coffee, tea, soda and other liquids that were consumed over the preceding 12 months. Women were also asked about their consumption of chocolate, which also contains caffeine.
Dr. Ascherio said most of the caffeine the women consumed came from regular coffee. He said researchers also looked at total caffeine consumption, including from other sources, and found results similar to those for coffee consumption. No association was found between intake of decaffeinated coffee and depression risk, he said.
by Oliver Strand New York Times Blog June 10, 2011, 4:15 pm
I became hooked on cold-brew coffee after working a construction job in New Orleans more than 10 years ago. It was strictly a regional thing then, everywhere in the Big Easy and nearly impossible to find elsewhere — you could find cold-brew concentrate in the supermarket, but most of the people I knew were given mayo jars full of the dark, dense liquid by an aunt or a grandmother. In the following years, I became a proselytizer for cold-brew coffee, gaining converts for a steep-and-strain method that seemed counterintuitive until you tried it.
The coffee started to catch on in New York in 2007; by last summer, it had become regular fare at almost all of the coffee shops I frequent — it seemed everybody had fallen for the clean, clear flavors of iced coffee that wasn’t traumatized by hot water. But in coffee circles, no conversation is closed. When I mentioned cold brew to Counter Culture Coffee’s Peter Giuliano, he told me that he only used the “Japanese iced method,” in which you brew hot coffee directly onto ice. With characteristic diplomacy, Giuliano told me I had it all wrong.
George Howell, of George Howell Coffee, was more direct. Brewing onto ice is “the only way to do it,” he said. “It’s fresh! There’s none of that oxidized flavor [of cold brew]. You want to know what [cold brew] is like? Open up a bottle and pour a glass of wine and let it sit around.” Cold brew is for “simplified Merlot drinkers,” Howell said. “But the Japanese iced expresses terroir beautifully.” Got it.
The iced method isn’t complicated. Basically, you prepare brewed coffee as you normally would, only you use half hot water, half ice you put in the bottom of the vessel. The hot, fresh coffee drips directly onto ice so that it’s cool and ready to drink right away.
My simplified instructions are below. (Coffee fanatics measure liquids by weight — these days, a digital scale is standard gear — but while most use grams, I prefer ounces because the low-scoring numbers are easier to track.) If you want to go deeper, Counter Culture’s recipe is here, George Howell’s is here, and Square Mile’s James Hoffman’s thoughtful and complicated take on it is here. Everybody’s is different, and everybody’s is right. Chances are you can make it with the coffee gear you already own, or you could get a Hario kit here.
Is it vastly superior? I’m not convinced. And I’m not giving up cold-brew coffee — opening the fridge to find a jar of concentrate is as much a part of summer as a nectarine or a Carvelanche. But I appreciate that the iced method is simple and quick, tasty, easy to master. It’s another addition to the repertory.
Iced Method Coffee 1 ounce fresh-ground coffee 7 ounces ice 8 ounces water heated to 200 degrees, plus extra for rinsing filter.
Place a filter in a Chemex (or any filter brew system) and rinse filter with at least four ounces hot water. Remove filter, discard water, place Chemex on a kitchen scale and add 7 ounces of ice. Replace filter, add coffee and slowly add 1 ounce of water heated to 200 degrees, until the grounds are saturated. Let the grounds “bloom” then deflate, which might take up to 1 minute. Reset scale to zero and add remaining 7 ounces of water heated to 200 degrees, in a slow, steady stream. Drink immediately.
Matthew Peyton for The New York TimesStylish baristas at the Stumptown Coffee Roasters cafe at the Ace Hotel.
By OLIVER STRAND Originally published in NYTimes' blog, June 2, 2011, 2:22 pm
It looks like a big year for Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The Portland, Ore., company, known for getting some of the finest coffee in the world and serving it with rock ‘n’ roll flair, plans to open two coffee bars in Brooklyn, add a bottling facility to its roaster in Red Hook for its cold-brewed coffee and, Duane Sorenson, Stumptown’s founder, says the company will try to open roasters in Chicago and San Francisco.
All of this is possible because of an investment from TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm that has invested in several successful brands, selling its stake in Vitaminwater for $677 million in 2006.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters is one of a small number of independent companies that set the standard for coffee roasting over the past decade. Its connection to TSG was first made public on Tuesday by Todd Carmichael in a posting on Esquire.com’s “Eat Like a Man” blog. In a piece titled “The End of Stumptown, America’s Hippest Coffee Brand,” Mr. Carmichael wrote: “Duane Sorenson, the founder of Stumptown, the Che Guevara of the rock-star barista movement, sold his life’s work to the highest bidder.” Mr. Carmichael is the founder of the coffee company La Colombe Torrefaction.
The post didn’t name TSG, but the next day, Ben Waterhouse of Willamette Week in Portland reported that Stumptown Coffee Corp., a new company that registered with the State of Oregon on April 28, listed Alexander S. Panos as president and secretary. Mr. Panos is TSG’s managing director.
Both Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Panos said the coffee roaster was not sold.
“I still own Stumptown,” Mr. Sorenson said in a telephone interview. “I’m still in control of Stumptown, the only thing that’s changed is that I brought in an investor, a buddy of mine, who brought in some money so that I can do the things I want to do.”
The two cafes in Brooklyn, which are expected to open this fall; the bottling facility, the company’s first outside Portland; and the two roasters would require a considerable investment.
Mr. Panos said he shared Mr. Sorenson’s vision. “If you’re Duane and you want to bring great coffee to San Francisco, how’s he going to do it?” he said. “Most of these companies don’t get past their home market. The fact that Duane came to New York is miraculous. He did it by his boot straps.”
Still, bloggers, coffee writers and denizens of social media expressed dismay that Stumptown, which has a devout following, would take on an investment partner known for scaling up – and selling – successful companies. The assurances the Mr. Sorenson was still in charge seemed to have cooled some tempers.
Mr. Panos said in a telephone interview that he was not, in fact, an officer of Stumptown Coffee Roasters and was listed as such only for filing purposes.
“Duane runs the show, no ifs, ands, or buts,” he said. “He controls the company. I’m just an investor.”
In filings in Oregon, he is named the president and secretary of Stumptown Coffee Corp., and as the authorized representative of its two subsidiaries, Stumptown Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters Inc. Mr. Panos also said that he had no involvement with an entity registered in Delaware as Stumptown Coffee Corp. on April 11, even though it was originally listed under the name TSG Coffee Corp.
“We can’t disclose the structure of the investment,” Mr. Panos said. “What I can say is that Duane controls the company.”
What’s certain is that there will be more Stumptowns, and soon.
“Getting some money to grow your business is not evil,” Mr. Panos said.
Brian W. Jones Michael Phillips, the 2010 World Barista Champion (Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, Chicago) and Oda Misje Haug (Kaffemisjonen, Norway.)
The TED conferences taking place this week in California are famous for their brainy presentations (held by futurists, technologists, the odd “paper-cutter artist”) and a rapt audience (a Comic-Con of early adopters and outliers), where a biomedical engineer might cede the stage to an artist who “reshapes urban airspace” while Bill Gates takes notes. Soon, TED could be known for its coffee, too.
This year the TED conferences are outfitted with seven coffee bars staffed by a roster of international all-star baristas, more than 40 in all, that include World Barista Champions and baristas with cult followings in their hometowns of Oslo and Sydney, Guatemala City and Montreal. They should be professional rivals – the baristas work for different coffee shops and roasters – but they’re at TED under the auspices of Coffee Common, a newly-minted organization with the unapologetically idealistic purpose to create “a community with shared values.” Counter Culture Coffee, Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters might duke it out for wholesale accounts in New York City, but at TED they’re all on the same side.
So you have Counter Culture’s Peter Giulliano praising MadCap Coffee Company, an upstart roaster from Grand Rapids, Mich., that was founded in 2008. (He writes in a Tumblr post that MadCap is “young and fearless.”) Or Stephen Morrissey of Intelligentsia, a former World Barista Champion, preparing Terroir Select Coffee’s Mamuto (from Kenya) in the morning and Ritual Coffee Roaster’s La Orquidea (from Colombia) in the afternoon.
Coffee Common is associated with Alex Bogusky’s Common (motto: “Collaboration is the new competition”), a community that sees fast prototyping, social ventures and better branding as a path to an improved, more entrepreneurial future. Big ideas. Maybe the appeal of Coffee Common at TED is more basic. As Laurel Touby, the founder of Media Bistro, tweeted: “Long Beach, where #TED2011 is happening, is not known for the coffee. Thankfully, there’s a thing called @coffeecommon here to save us.”
originally published on March 3, 2011 in the New York Times
Citizen Bean is about coffee, from seed to cup. Of special interest is the new generation of small, expert roasters. This blog is dedicated to bringing a better understanding and appreciation of organics, fair trade and sustainability throughout the community.
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