Fans of the movie The Bucket List wuill remember Jack Nicholson's character wanting to try the world's most expensive coffee: Kopi Luwak (aka cat poop coffee). Kopi Luwak comes from Indonesia, and is the result of coffee collected from the excrements of the palm civet. In the wild, palm civets select the nicest, ripest coffee fruits to eat. During digestion the seeds of the coffee supposedly benefit from the shorter peptides and free amino acids, resulting in a coffee that had lower acidity and more body. Nevertheless, professional cuppers poo-pooh Kopi Luwak (pun intended). In strict cupping results, Kopi Luwak ranked lower than the undigested bean from which it was derived. Also, intense palm civet farming has reduced Kopi Luwak to the level of a novelty item. Mind you, a novelty item that sells for hundreds of dollars a pound.
We've officially started our ranking of brewing methods. Over the next few months, we'll give every method we can find a test to see what is the best brewing method for your coffee. We'll also address the value proposition by reviewing cost of acquisition, cost of consumables, the amount of coffee required, etc. So, while we rank the Technivorm Moccamaster as our current number one for taste, the cost of the unit may make its overall value less than a Melitta pour-over. Feel free to propose brewing methods we haven't tried.
We're sometimes asked why some products appear and disappear from our product list. Are some of our coffees blends bad? Do they get replaced by better blends? Not at all.
As quipped by the owner of Sweet Maria's Coffee in Oakland, California: "Coffee is a crop, not a can of pop!" That means that some of our blends are dependent on the availability of certain types of beans. For example, our 13 North blend includes coffee from El Salvador, which we can't currently source because it's the wrong time of the year. The crop isn't ready yet so there are no beans available. We could stock more beans, but then we'd give up on freshness. And that's a no-no...
Photo by L. Shyamal
The journey from freeze dried instant coffee to the freshest, tastiest coffee is long and fraught with misinformation. Large corporations that sell whole beans in supermarkets have a vested interest in ensuring their clientele believes the coffee is fresh. But a quick perusal of the Internet's expert sites like Home Barista and Sweet Maria will confirm the fact that roasted coffee beans reach their peak within 48 hours or so, and last a maximum of 10 to 14 days before declining in flavour and aroma. Furthermore, the darker the roast, the shorter the shelf life.
A large well-known corporation distributes its "grind your own" whole beans at supermarkets everywhere. Their "best before" date is nearly a full year after roasting. Another well-known manufacturer, renowned for its dark coffee, roasts its Canadian offerings in York, Pennsylvania. From there, it is packaged and shipped internationally. That product is kept in the supermarket warehouse until needed, then put out on shelves until you pick it up and grind it weeks (maybe months) later!
Fresh coffee is like baked goods: the fresher the better, There are a few excellent small roasters in the Ottawa area, and I encourage you to give them a try. The taste and variety will convince you.
As soon as coffee beans are roasted, they start to age. Freshly roasted coffee beans need to rest for 8 hours at least before they are ground and brewed to allow carbon dioxide to escape. The beans will reach their fullness of flavour within 48 hours of roasting, and that prime taste will only stay for about a week. After that, beans start to become stale. But there are ways of ensuring that your beans are always at their freshest. Roasted coffee beans are affected by air, moisture, heat and light (in that order). So minimize your beans' exposure to these.
Buy only what you need for a week and no more.
2. Store your beans in an air tight container.
3. Don't store your beans in the fridge or freezer which would expose them to excess moisture.
4. Store your beans in a cool and dark cupboard. Cupboards close to appliances or to outside walls exposed to sun are not recommended.
When a coffee roaster says he's about to "get crackingf". When coffee reaches it's first level of "done-ness", it cracks rather loudly. This is called "City roast". As it cooks further, it stops cracking and that's "City+ roast", then it becomes browner and browner, reaching "Full City roast". Then the coffee starts cracking again, but it's a soft snap rather than a crack. That's "Full City+ roast". From there things happen quickly and the coffee goes from "Vienna roast", to "French roast", to "Italian roast", to "Spanish roast", to charcoal in a very short time.
The coffee of Brazil
Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, producing about a third of all the world's coffee. So much so that roasting a good quality Brazilian coffee to a medium roast will give you a very recognizable cup of coffee: it's the coffee you'll drink at your local donut and coffee shop.
Brazilian coffee is also used as a base for espresso blends (as well as many drip blends). It is an overall inoffensive, easy to sip coffee that has a lot of body, with sweetness and nuttiness. It provides a good base and mixes well with anything else. Want more sweetness and acidity? Add a Central American to the mix. Want to add spices, fruits and a dark roast taste? Throw in a Kenyan, or a Sumatran for added depth and earthiness.
Brazilian coffees are best roasted to a medium roast (City to Full City).