Coffee Interlude: Cake, Jasmine, and Bourbon

This is what I’m roasting and drinking. Four coffees from Sweet Maria’s, and I really like all of them.

Honduras Ocetepeque El Jutal.

I bought 5lbs from Honduras. I liked what the flavor profile looked like: cinnamon, buttery, walnut, and good all the way into Vienna roast. This one I like to refer to as “Coffee Cake”, though it is subtle. I imagined that the bean would show well and be versatile in the levels of roast, the way it is brewed, and if I happen to infuse it with whiskey (which I did, and haven’t tasted yet). Crowd-pleasing coffee.

Ethiopia and Rwanda

I also wanted to venture out into some African Coffees, and I bought beans from Ethiopia (Ethiopia Shakiso 2lbs) and Rwanda (Rwanda Karongi Gitesi 2lbs) that are nicer in the lighter roasts. Most people I don’t think are used to a good African coffee. They tend to be a bit more acidic (citrusy), and don’t lend themselves as well to darker roasts. At the same time they can be very complex with spicy, fruity, and floral notes. I haven’t been able to get a good test on the Ethiopian that I bought, but it is definitely more tea-like with hints of jasmine coming through, it is sweeter, and if you’re paying attention you might think of cherry cola while you drink. It’s an interesting cup, and I can’t decide how I feel about it.

The Rwanda, I think, is my favorite right now. It starts out a bit caramely, honey, tea, and finishes lemony, but in a muted way–like a custard. The roasted beans even have a less classic coffee smell, it’s way more complex, kind of bready sweet flowers. There is a lot you could imagine with this coffee. But it’s not exactly the classic nutty chocolate flavors most people like.

Donkey Decaf Espresso

Donkey espresso decaf (2lbs). This stuff is what I use for my afternoon latte. It’s made to be roasted a bit darker, and with a decaf bean, it looks darker than it was actually roasted. Even with my mediocre (at best) espresso pulls, this bean gets good crema, and taste very strong: bitter, chocolate, nutty, dying to be mixed with milk. SM recommends mixing it with another bean, but I think it’s pretty great the way it is. It’s the closest thing to rocket fuel I’ve drank in a while, and that’s saying a lot from a decaf.

Booze-infused coffee

Booze-infused coffee. I’ve been experimenting with small batches of booze-infused coffee. I’ll let you in on the 6 step process.

  1. Look in liquor cabinet.
  2. “Oh, this is almost empty.”
  3. Look in coffee cabinet.
  4. “Oh, I’m running out of this bean.”
  5. Mix booze and coffee
  6. Soak and stir for a week (1oz/1lb)
  7. Roast
  8. Morning smells like I’m an alcoholic.

I’ve done rum+guatemala (FAV-think bananas foster), rum+el salvador, scotch+guatemala, bourbon+costa rica, bourbon+guatemala, maple whiskey+costa rica, and maple whiskey+honduras. The next infusion will be 3-5lbs with Knob Creek Maple Bourbon turned into a nitro cold brew. It’s a serious experiment.  

I’m already picking out my next beans. I’m still a little shy of the Indonesian region, but I’ll work my way there. I’ll probably pick out a 5lb bag of central/south and 5lb from Africa. Every time Sweet Maria’s sends out their newsletter with the list of new beans, I’m tempted, but I have to get through what I have.

Buy some.

If you’re in Tampa 8oz coffee + dozen eggs $10. Everyone else $8 plus shipping. Venmo (@Paige-Cargioli) or Facebook is great for orders and/or payment. First come first serve. 

7 Things I’ve Learned Roasting My Own Coffee

img_4347Going from buying fancy coffee to roasting your own coffee is insanely easy. I wrote about it in the last post, and with very little (money and time), you can be your own roaster.

You could roast on your grill, in the oven, on the stove in a cast iron pan… The whole process can be very raw and earthy – fire, bean, water… As for my own roasting craze, I’m not even sure if it was my idea or if Steve planted it in my head. I’m not even sure if I started with the popcorn air popper or the stovetop whirly popper. But I did have them both at the same time. I killed the air popper in a few roasts… After about a year, the gears on the whirly popper give out, and I have to make good on their lifetime warranty. I’m on my 3rd lid. Now, with a friend’s generous investment, I have a Behmor 1600+. It’s basically an expensive toaster oven for coffee.

I began with the popcorn popper and green beans from Sweet Maria’s. Sweet Maria’s sells new roaster kits and all the instructions, tips, and tricks you could want.

Every coffee and roast can be different. The average coffee drinker lives in the dark roasts. But seriously, a light to medium, freshly roasted coffee is where it’s at.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Coffee expands but loses weight while roasting. So, 8oz green = about 6.5oz roasted.
  2. Coffee doesn’t taste good right after you roast it. It doesn’t even smell like coffee. It takes at least 3 days before it’s at its most awesome.
  3. When roasting, coffee “cracks”. Like when you’re popping popcorn, you get really distinct snaps. Once those first snaps end (“first crack”), you have drinkable coffee, and hopefully a light roast.
  4. It also cracks again, called “second crack.” This is where your bean is like crackling like it’s on fire. That’s where the dark roasts begin and end. If you get through 2nd crack, you’re beans are basically ash.
  5. Second crack is also where all those oily beans come from. If your beans are oily, they went into 2nd crack.
  6. Espresso is mostly just a way of brewing, not a bean. Any bean (and roast) can be espresso, but certain beans (and blends of beans) and roasts make better espresso.
  7. Country, altitude, processing, bean type, infusion, roast, water, brew method, filter, and on and on are all variables in a delicious cup.
img_4469
A guide to roast level. Who cares if it tastes good?

To roast a batch of coffee, 8oz, takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes. I know my stove, and I know my Whirly, and I know my thermometer. I aim for finishing first crack and no second crack.

Over 20 batches in, and I’m still working out all the options on the Behmor – the variables and precision is amazing. So, for every bean I get, I can try something different.

Now, I’m selling coffee with the intention of breaking even enough to buy and try more. It is quite the hobby. If you want any, just leave a comment!

 

From Specialty Coffee to Roasting

img_4464Where to begin? I’ve been roasting coffee for about three years now. Why roast, Paige? It started as a money saving, good stewardship thing. Coffee is grown in the poorest parts of the world, and buying good coffee can help sustain good communities. But for every exchange of hands: from farmers, to green, to roaster, to shop, to your cup, the price goes up linearly 3x-4x.

$1 per pound –> $3 green –> $9 roasted –> to like a million dollars for a Frappaccino

$1 per pound is not a fair trade price. The same way I shop at local businesses, buy second hand clothes, and since I drink coffee everyday, I wanted to make good coffee decisions.

In Boston, I investigated all the specialty coffee places (new and old ones were popping up like every week), stumptown, intelligentsia, blue state, fuel, and George Howell. George Howell is the man, and he schooled me on this whole “fair trade” “organic” business. Buying fair trade and organic is a good way to insure good coffee, but it’s at a cost to the growers for the label. THE LABEL. You might be fair trade, i.e. buying coffee for a very fair price, and/or organic, i.e. not using certain pesticides, etc., but until you buy that label…Nobody cares. Well, some buyers do, and if you buy from a specialty store claiming “direct trade” – no middle fair trade person, then it’s probably pretty great. Though, I’m pretty sure even that term is Trade Marked now… At Sweet Maria’s they call their direct trade program “Farm Gate” and you can read about it here.

Most, if not all, specialty coffee is going to be bought at a fair price and not using pesticides because they care about the cup.

So, I’m buying my two weeks worth of roasted coffee at like, $15-20 per pound (really like 12oz) from a local roaster in Florida who gets his beans directly from a coffee farmer in a coffee shop that is half a pentecostal church, and I feel good about it. Yeah, it’s still cheaper than buying out, but it’s still too expensive. I make a quick jump from buying fancy coffee to roasting my own fancy coffee.

I started roasting, and I was amazed at how insanely easy and cost efficient it is to make an outstanding cup of coffee. And I will write about that in the next post.

If you want to learn (and buy) more about roasting your own coffee, pretty much anything and everything about coffee, you should check out Sweet Maria’s. They are a business based in San Francisco and all their green coffee and gear is outstanding.

Also, I love all the Seattle Coffee Gear videos if you want to learn about all coffee gadgets.

Super Bulletproof Coffee Mocha Madness!

I hate to break it to you Today show, but I’ve been putting grass-fed butter and coconut oil in my coffee all year, but finally…

I did it. I bought the stuff.  All the Bulletproof stuff. To make REAL Bulletproof Coffee.  And briefly review it.

It was pretty easy to rationalize:

  • Coffee–I ran out of coffee beans.
  • MCT oil–I wanted to try it (as opposed to just coconut oil), plus is preferable in Bulletproof Ice Cream
  • Chocolate powder–I use a lot of chocolate…
  • Vanilla stuff–it looks awesome, and I also use a lot of vanilla. Continue reading “Super Bulletproof Coffee Mocha Madness!”

Locavore = Brave

Look it's me!Explaining this whole “Lenten Locavore” thing to people has been a real challenge.  They basically look at me like I’m insane, and I’m pretty sure I am.  This is winter.  This is New England.  This is impossible.  And no, it is not easy.  It is not cheap. There is tons of cooking!  It takes serious planning and time.  But what came to my attention yesterday, is that it really takes some courage to be a locavore. It takes bravery… Continue reading “Locavore = Brave”

Buying Direct Trade Coffee?

The day has finally come.  My pre-Lent-bought Trader Joe’s cuppa fair trade joe has run out, and I need to find a coffee source.  I’m not embargoing the world here!  I mentioned in the comments of this blog that I plan to buy fair trade for some of my non-New-England staples (coffee and coconut oil).  BUT I don’t really know anything about fair trade, and if you do a little searching on the interwebs, there is some understandable skepticism about it.  Coffee, in particular, is super complicated… Continue reading “Buying Direct Trade Coffee?”

What is the weirdo locavore eating for lunch?

mysteryveggies
Mmmm. Delicious celeriac.

What are you having for lunch? I have been fixated on this since last night and this morning. Lucky for me, I got my Boston Organics box of local mystery veggies, and then promptly ended my subscription for this winter… Not that I don’t LOVE the challenge, but the taste of the Farmer’s Market last weekend demonstrated to me that there is A LOT more good stuff to be found, AND it gives me more creative freedom. Granted it’s going to take quite a bit of creativity to eat all these mystery roots. Honestly, I’m getting tired of roasting, boiling, soup, and salad (though it is delicious). Continue reading “What is the weirdo locavore eating for lunch?”