Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Never a Bad Monday

It’s easy to see what all the fuss is about coffee. Wouldn’t you be aroused in the morning once you smelled the caramel aroma of organic Bolivian coffee? I roast and brew coffee for a living so I get to smell it all the time.

It’s one of those beautiful things no one thinks of, but coffee never has a bad Monday. Coffee can be bad – but no matter how bad it is, it makes the most terrible days a little better.

You look at your horse standing there in the morning light, its breath pluming, the glistening frost on its back. Bluffs and plateaus loom in the distance…it could be worse. You’re out in the middle of nowhere – You have nothing but a fire, a pot of boiling water, and some fresh coffee in your Bodum. Your handy, travel French press suits you well dosed with Nicaragua Segovia fair trade.

Keeping the tradition of the wild, you toss your cushy travel chair aside and sit on the rocks…

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Roast Master

I loved my little, red 1979 Volvo 242 - her two doors and wool seats and lack of air conditioning - she was always dependable; an absolute joy even in 100 degree heat. On sunny days, I'd get into my car and go to the café where I worked to amp up on some double espresso shots for an hour or so. When I got back into my boiling car, I was buzzing. Everything had that 60's high-school yearbook fantasy picture fuzz on it. Driving while impaired on caffeine, I tried not to hit anyone while flying through the city in my ancient, beat-up Volvo, singing and restlessly agitated by the caffeine.

That café had an unbelievable machine from space. The agtron control system and mass spectrometer used to determine roast degree was impressive. She was dialed in, roaring, turning, and exiting. Blue, silver, chrome, brass, and coffee oil. For some, a coffee-roasting machine is like a big steam engine.... like a huge tractor when you were a kid. Some people when they see it say, "Wow, that’s a big coffee maker!" or "Hey look, a gigantic coffee grinder!"

Roast science has been evolving for a while now, and people discovered that coffee is the most aromatically diverse food or drink on the planet. There are over some 850 volatile aromatic compounds, many of which are still misunderstood. The roast master controls the induction of heat and air over a time period, and this determines how these sugars,chemicals, and compounds react with each other, and ultimately determines the quality of the roasted product.

Density and moisture content are major factors when roasting. Also, barometric pressure and humidity effect how air and temperature work with the beans in a roast chamber. Whether you are using a drum roaster or a fluid bed air roaster, this technical information can affect the quality, finish, and degree of roast.

Each coffee from its different growing region has unique properties and is analyzed, tested, tasted, graded, and so on. I take information like density and moisture content and roast the coffee to magnify its individual characteristics. I try not to dark-roast coffee because it loses a lot of delicate aromatic and taste properties due to carbonization of sugars and other factors. Many customers favor a dark roast, so I do try to make a blend of a few coffees with different taste profiles and roast them a slight degree darker then a medium roast to get a rounded full-bodied cup while still preserving the aromatic and taste properties.

If this information is useless to you - don’t worry! My French roast rocks! Try it!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Morning Routine

How do you make your coffee? What role does coffee play in your life? Do you start your day in the morning by waking up early to get your cup of coffee and the morning paper? Or do you wake up in a rush, dash to the café, and grab a drip coffee to go?

I’m a lucky one, I wake up and begin the day with a cup of coffee and an article or two (usually just the weather and horriblescope). I can vary my coffee choices, since I have a couple different machines. I went on eBay and purchased a nice espresso machine for my home so I can gloat about it to my friends, saying, “My new machine makes better espresso than the machine at work”—no one cared. My other machine is one of our Bodum French presses.

I believe the French press is the best device to use. It's simple to operate, easy to clean, and small enough to fit in your cupboard. No dangling power cords, no “on” switch, free of paper basket filters and under-the-pot warmers that develop tetrahydroxycyclohexanecarboxylic acid (quinic acid - c7h12o6) in the coffee, which destroys a pot of coffee as badly as a percolator does.

The French press delivers a delicious cup of coffee full of natural coffee oils and particle suspension so you get the fullness of the body and crispness of acidity on your palate. Some folks don’t like the sediment in the bottom of the cup. I don’t drink the sediment. I did notice, however, that if I get a cup of drip coffee I automatically go for the sugar and cream, but this is not so with a French press coffee. With the French press, I enjoy the natural flavor characteristics much more the taste of sugar and cream. It’s laughable when a customer buys a $10 pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain and asks for some cream and a packet of Equal. But I just say, “Sure, no problem!”