Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grind fine for better flavor and aroma

Full aroma is one of the main traits of Costa Rican coffee, specially the one we produce in my farm in the Dota region.  So, if you like to get the most out of each cup, grind as fine as you can. 

You will probably have to deal with a residue in your cup, but if you don't mind that, then you are in for a special treat.

I just spoke with one of my customers from Bosque Farms, New Mexico today, and he shared his experience with me.  He started buying my Dark roast ground but later moved to my Espresso ground and kept brewing it in their regular coffee maker. 

To deal with the residue in the cup, they simply added a paper filter to the machine (it has its own gold metal filter so the paper filter is additional) and a fuller cup is ready to be served.

Like anything new, there is no guarantee that you will like the results but it is worth a try.  You can do this with any of my roasts, by grinding fine you will get more aroma and flavor out of it.

Give it a try and let me know.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Roasting is key to make coffee taste good

Eleven years ago, when I started producing coffee in the Dota mountains of the Tarrazu region in Costa Rica, I did not do the roasting personally, I used to take it to a roaster and even though I was there all the time and got involved in the process, the roasting was somebody else's craft.

A few years later I decided that to master my product completely I had to roast it myself. Once I got into it felt I had found my true calling: shaping the flavor of your coffee in 15 to 20 minutes is what it is all about. It does not matter how good the coffee grows and how much care you put in the process, if the roasting is not good, then the coffee quality that you worked for is ruined, or at least diminished.

So, how can the roasting spoil coffee? "Roasting is the key factor in driving the bitter taste in coffee beans", says Dr Thomas Hofmann, a German expert in Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science. "So the stronger you roast the coffee, the more harsh it tends to get". He adds that "prolonged roasting triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that lead to the formation of the most intense bitter compounds. The roasting process changes the chemistry of the coffee bean".

This concept answers many questions, like Why Starbucks coffee tastes so bitter? Why does Starbucks coffee have a taste almost like it is burnt?

I have been telling people for years, both at the farm coffee tour and at my store, that the lighter roasts are the better cups of coffee, technically speaking. At the same time, i tell people that there it does not make any sense to swimm against the current, you like what you like. But if you have a chance, give the lighter roasts a chance. The light roast might be too much of a change but the medium is the perfect point to start.

If you prefer Darker roasts, you are safe with my dark and my espresso roasts. As a principle I dont roast as dark as the commercial brands so you would not find that extreme bitterness in them. I actually had to adjust my Dark roast standard because i would often get emails from customers who expected it to be "stronger" or show more of a "shine". These two are the characteristics of a dark roast like the one that Dr Hoffman described above.

I hope this article provides enough insight in your coffee. Knowing what you like and how it comes to be that way is key to know where you are going to go next.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What is happening to coffee taste

I have a few selected places in San Jose, Costa Rica where i can go have a cup of coffee in a time of need, they are commercial venues that can serve a decent cup of coffee before i get home.

But about three months ago I had a surprise. The cappuccino i ordered from one of these places tasted really bad, my feeling that it was not done properly so i asked the girl to do it again. The second time around it was just as bad. So i took a look at the beans in the machine and alas, they were over-roasted. One thing led to another and soon i heard from the employees that their coffee was suddenly coming darker. They wanted to know why.

Sadly for them, the reason was simple. The world shortage and the skyrocketing of coffee prices had forced their supplier to alter the blend to include cheaper, lower quality beans as fillers, in a proportion greater than before. And the way to hide that was to roast even darker, hoping that the stronger flavor would disguise the bad quality in it.

For anybody in the business it was a no brainer. If the coffee is more expensive you look for a cheaper bean to maintain your profit margin. But, for the consumers, nothing like that makes sense. They come to a coffee shop to enjoy consistent quality, not something different that does not taste as good as before.

I visit this shop often and they are still getting the same lower quality product. Probably the owner does not know or does not care. And the same must be happening around the world. With market prices up almost 100%, and retail prices of coffee increasing as much as 80%, you should be prepared to drink a lower quality blend.

Bottom line is that this will be a way to see how reputable your coffee brand/coffee shop is. If the quality goes down substantially, you better look for a new source somewhere else. If the quality stayed the same with a small increase in the price you pay, you should feel proud because your shop values you tremendously. They are probably taking a hit in the profit margin, partly off-setting it with a small increase in prices, but they are sticking to quality. And in turn, you should stick with them.

Writing about coffee again

My audience of three should be happy to see that I am back. Yes, I started this coffee blog in 2009 and just like 90% of bloggers I never wrote back.

Why? Well, it is a mix of a few very good reasons. First of all, I wrote all encompassing articles about coffee quality and taste that made me feel I had said it all. I also have very little time and writing to me is a state of mind, I need to be in the mood and have the peace of mind to do it. I also spend a lot of time on the road between the farm and the store, with my home & family exactly at the half way point, so it is always hard.

But the most important reason, is that most of the time i can not think of things to write. For some reason I dont consider my experience as a Costa Rican coffee grower and roaster important. Yes, i know, that is crazy, and when i analyze it, I come to the conclusion that i am silly.

One of the events that started to make me change my mind was a couple of visitors i had in the farm. A Canadian couple came in late January 2011 to spend a week at the farm. And they not only wanted to come visit but also paid for it (!!!!).

If that was not enough of a clue, they also had a great time and are still telling me about it. She is a writer who just published her first travel article about her experience at the Down to Earth Estate. He is a coffee blogger who is still publishing articles about the process and all he learned during that week. (check him out at www.coffeetroupe.com)

Seeing people that interested was an eye opener. I do coffee because i love it and i enjoy the appreciation of my customers. What a great feeling is to open up my email and see messages from people telling me how much they love my coffee.

So, I am back. From now on my articles will be more about the personal experience of producing and selling coffee than educational. I will still throw in some facts and tips, probably comments about how the industry practices affect you, that is also expected from me, but this is going to change a bit in focus. I hope you enjoy it.