coffee

  • Coffee Acidity

    Ah acid, it’s a constant topic of conversation for some coffee drinkers, and we can understand why. The acidic flavors in coffee are one of the reasons people love this drink so much. From bright citrus and fruity flavors to sparkling notes that dance across your palate, those acidic flavors are enticing for a lot of coffee fans. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have to avoid acid for health or taste reasons. The issue is that sometimes the flavors we associate with acids and the actual acid content in a cup of coffee do not correlate at all. So what’s the deal?

    The Chemisty

    Acid content in a cup of coffee plays into flavor extensively. In fact, it’s a careful balance. Too much acid leads to sour tasting coffee. If the acid content is too low, the coffee will have a flat, uninteresting taste. Striking that balance is key. The first thing to understand here is that there are multiple kinds of acids at play. Malic, citric, and tartaric acid (along with some other acid compounds) all add unique flavor to the roast. There are also chlorogenic acids, which break down into quinic and caffeic acids. These acids come out during the roasting process, and cause bitterness and a sour flavor. This is why darker roasts tend to be more bitter.

    This means that your first step is in determining what acids you want to avoid. From there, you can make informed judgements about acid content based on factors of the coffee’s production.

    Origin, Variety, Process

    As you (hopefully) know, coffee is a plant! This means that its nutritional content largely comes from the contents of the soil it draws nutrients from. This means that origin plays into coffee acidity very much. Different origins have soil with different acid contents, so if you know that Colombian coffees tend to be grown in soil with higher citric acid contents, you can assume a Colombian coffee will contain more citric acid than an Ethipiopian coffee. 

    Then there’s variety/species. Arabica coffees tend to be lower in acidity than Robustas, for example. From there different varieties will have their own differences in acidity. Climate and elevation can also play into the equation, with cooler climate coffees tending to be higher in acid content due to their slower development.

    FInally, there’s processing. 

    Washed processing, for example, leads to more acidic flavors. This is because the pulp of the cherry is washed from the bean, so those fruity compounds don’t dry into the bean. This is why washed coffees tend to taste a bit more sparkly and balanced without that sweetness to overpower the acid. This is not a change in the overall acid content however, just perceived acidity. 

    Brewing

    You can also affect acidity with your brew method. Since coffee extraction is the chemical process of water bonding with molecules in the coffee grounds, it plays a big role in determining overall acidity in your cup. How does this translate to your recipe? 

    To get a lower acid cup, you’ll want a finer grind time, longer brew time, and lower water temps (but still in the 195-205 fahrenheit range). This lengthier extraction time will allow acids to release during brewing, leading to a less acidic cup. For more of that sparkling acidity, simply reverse those parameters.

    In the end though, there’s no way to completely eliminate acids from coffee. The best you can do is make informed guesses as to acid content. 

     

  • Hot-Blooming Cold Brew

    If you’re here at the Seattle Coffee Gear blog we’re betting you know a thing or two about cold brewed coffee. This method of brewing has become incredibly popular over the last decade or so, and with good reason. Cold brewing coffee leads to fantastic extraction of flavor notes by slowly brewing coffee with the simplicity of overnight saturation. Did you know that you can tease even more flavors out of your cold brew with a neat trick? Follow along to find out!

    The Bloom

    If you’re a pour over drinker you’re familiar with the bloom. This is the part of the pour over process where you add water to your grounds, often around 1:1, to start the extraction and release gas from the grounds. You’ll see the grounds bubble as those gasses are released. This is an important step that is one of the reasons brewing pour over results in more distinct, smooth flavors than an old drip brewer.

    Cold brewed coffee already eliminates a lot of the bitterness that can come with coffee by nature of its slow-brew process. To get an even smoother, more complex flavor, you can bloom your cold brew coffee as well!

    How-To

    To do this, you’ll need to heat up some water to brew temp. For the very best flavor, you’ll want filtered water heated to 195-205 degrees fahrenheit. Once you have this water heated, add the hot water to your coffee grounds at a ratio of 1:1. You’ll want to let the coffee bloom for around a minute, which will release those gasses and flavors mentioned above. From there, simply add the rest of your room-temp or cold water and set your cold brew to saturate overnight!

    The resulting coffee will be smoother and more flavorful than your typical batch cold brewing. This technique works especially well for naturals and honeys that have a stronger flavor. If you think about this, it makes sense that brews that work best as pour over will also perform better using this method. It should be noted that this method of hot blooming your cold brew can add a very minimal amount of acidity to your coffee, but it’s something most coffee drinkers won’t even notice. It’s just something to keep in mind if you specifically need to keep your acids as low as possible.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, Hot blooming your grounds before you set your cold brew to steep can add flavor and depth to your caffeine concentrate. Give it a try and see how you like it, and let us know how it goes!

  • Video Roundup: 8/21/2020

    Hello Coffee Fans!

    We've missed a few video roundups here and there. So sorry for that! We're back on track this week with a trio of fun videos. Let's dive in!

    First up, Ariel gave us a review of the P90 Ultralight Coffee Press!

    Next, we've got a crew review of the Oxo Cold Brewer with Jake:

    And finally, Allie and I sat down to taste our August Roast of the Month!

    That's all for now! Join us next week for all kinds of delectable coffee content. Have a great weekend coffee lovers!

  • Roast of the Month: Brandywine Costa Rica Las Lajas

    It’s that time once again for Roast of the Month! This month we have a unique and delicious Costa Rican Black Honey roast from the ever excellent Brandywine Coffee Roasters! 

    Region and Process

    Costa Rican coffee is always a treat because the flavors present are usually quite diverse. Typically coffee regions tend to have a unifying theme when it comes to flavor. Colombian coffee with its rich chocolate flavors and Ethiopian coffee featuring those strong berry notes. In the case of Costa Rican coffee, you tend to get a wide range of notes that are hard to push into a particular bucket. While that may mean it’s harder to pick out a perfect coffee from the region, for adventurous coffee drinkers it’s a great thing. Thankfully roasters like Brandywine also offer quite accurate and detailed tasting notes as well, which helps.

    Black honey processing is a unique method of processing that is becoming more common, but is still not something we see every day. Honey processing is a type of processing where the skin of the coffee cherry is removed (as opposed to a natural process where it’s left on) but the some of the mucilage inside of the cherry is left on the bean to ferment (as opposed to a washed process where the whole cherry is removed). The result is flavors that mirror a natural process but with slightly less intensity. Black honey processing is a process by which the smallest amount of cherry is removed from the bean, which leads to more intense flavor than a typical honey process. 

    Brewing and Flavor Profile

    As with most of our Roast of the Months, we recommend brewing this one as a pour over. This is because it has diverse and complex enough flavors that the separation offered by pour over really does the job best. We brewed at a standard pour over grind with a V60, 200 degrees fahrenheit water, and a standard 1:16 ratio. The result is a dazzling cup that brings out the notes on the bag pretty exactly.

    The apple juice note is subtle but present in a sort of fleeting way. It’s met with those delicious sweet-tart kiwi notes and a softer melon flavor. Finally, the brown sugar note is what ties these three fruity flavors together. It sort of dances around the edges of the palate, offering a delicious bow for this present of a roast. Body wise, this coffee is well rounded and full without venturing into heavy, oily territory. It’s definitely a medium roast that trends lighter, but without the brighter characteristics you get from a light roast.

    This coffee does hold up in other brew methods as well, working especially as a drip brew. With a great brewer and the right grind, you can get a near perfect cup of drip coffee from the roast. 

    Like with every single origin, this roast will only be available for a limited time, so be sure to order a bag before it’s gone!

  • Coffee Regions: Ethiopia

    We’ve taken a look at some of the unique regions that coffee is produced in before, but we wanted to revisit them! Today we’re talking a bit about Ethiopian coffee. We’ll discuss the geographical concepts at play, and dig into the flavor profiles typical for coffees of the region. We’re excited to highlight these interesting concepts in other regions too! For now, let’s get started:

    Geography

    Ethiopia has a diverse range of climates and biomes. From the dusty, but vibrant eastern deserts to mountains, jungles, and forests, this is a large, beautiful country. It also means that it contains the ideal climate for growing coffee plants. Indeed, most consider this country to be the birthplace of coffee. It’s also one of the finest regions for coffee production in the world.

    In light of this, coffee accounts for most of the foreign income in the country. Most of it is produced in the Western part of the country, with some coffee coming from central Ethiopia as well. Because of all of this, coffee in the country is grown at varying elevations. Most coffee is grown in the 1,000-2,500 meter range, but there are outliers as well. With the excellent elevation and climate, Ethiopian coffee beans really are of extremely high quality.

    Processing

    Ethiopian coffee goes through all sorts of processes. Even within specific regions like Yirgacheffe or Limu you may find multiple processing methods. For the most part, the aforementioned regions feature washed coffee. However, it’s not uncommon at all to find a delicious natural Yirgacheffe coffee. By contrast, coffee from the Harrar region is primarily natural processed. This means you get interesting processing experiments as well. Honey processing, for example, is common in Ethiopia, but reserved for specific harvests.

    Their wet and natural processing is managed by highly skilled coffee processors whose attention to detail is fitting for the quality of beans that are grown there. 

    Flavor Profiles

    The easiest way to break down Ethiopian coffee flavor profiles is by region. Generally though, coffee from the country is recognized as some of the most enjoyable and flavorful available. Rich berry notes are some of the most recognizable elements of Ethiopian coffee. You’ll also find bright, almost tea-like roasts from the region, and more balanced affairs. Here are some examples of flavors you can expect from some of Ethiopia’s most prolific coffee growing regions:

    • Sidamo
      • Rich, full, lots of floral and citrus notes.
    • Yirgacheffe
      • Bright, herbal, floral, very light and delicate.
    • Harrar 
      • Intense, fruity, acidic, and rich. Lots of berry notes.
    • Limu
      • Floral, balanced, and a hint of spice.
    • Jimma
      • Bright, fruity, and tropical.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Ethiopian coffee and we can’t wait for you to try some for yourself!

  • 2020 Rocket Espresso Home Machine Lineup

    Rocket Espresso’s home machine lineup is an excellent way to bring cafe quality drinks to your kitchen. Hand built in Milan, Italy, these machines bring authenticity and sophistication alongside their powerful performance. With the addition of the stunning R58 Cinquantotto, Rocket Espresso’s lineup of machines just got an upgrade. We thought we’d provide an updated look at this fantastic collection of espresso machines!

    Rocket Espresso Appartamento

    Rocket Espresso’s Appartamento is a fantastic entry into the prosumer espresso machine space. We often get questions about performance in machines under $1,000. Users sometimes purchase a machine like this and assume they will get the same kind of performance from them as you might from a commercial machine. The Appartamento is an option that gets you closer to that kind of performance without the cost of a professional machine.

     

    Featuring standard Rocket Espresso features like a heated E-61 group head, beautiful and solid case design and construction, a fast heat exchanger boiler, and commercial-like steam want, the Appartamento is a powerful option. On top of this, this machine’s cut out side panels and colored inserts give it a unique, striking look. The compact design of this machine compared to other Italian espresso machines makes it suitable for more counter tops as well. For an added dose of style, check out the Appartamento Nera.

    Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato & Giotto

    Rocket Espresso’s Mozzafiato and Giotto machines offer an upgrade in performance and capabilities over the Appartamento while maintaining the same design ethos and Italian espresso aesthetics.These machines feature similar design elements on the inside, and represent an upgrade due to the addition of PID controlled temperatures. The result is more stable temps under heavy load than the Appartamento offers.

     

    Both of these machines are available with a rotary or vibratory pump. Rotary pumps allow these machines to be plumbed in directly to water lines for the busiest users. The main differences between the Giotto and the Mozzafiato are the side panels, with the Giotto featuring sharp, slanted panels that provide a little extra visual flair. THe Mozzafiato features an integrated cup rail that is part of its flat side panels.

    Rocket Espresso Porta Via

    The Porta Via is Rocket Espresso’s travel machine. While this may sound counter intuitive, it’s actually a clever offering that folds into itself to create a simple to transport case. With a little bit of setup, this is the perfect machine to bring on your weekend road trip or to a cabin getaway.

     

    While it definitely doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, the Porta Via fills a unique niche that will make it the perfect option for some on the go espresso drinkers!

    Rocket Espresso R58 Cinquantotto

    The Cinquantotto is a new update to the classic R58. This machine features all of the design standards of a Rocket Espresso machine with some overhauled elements that take home espresso brewing to the next level. The Cinquantotto’s dual boilers make for an outstanding brewing platform that is nearly impossible to outrun for a home user. This means you’ll always have the perfect temps for steaming and brewing. The Cinquantotto also features a touchscreen controlled PID that allows precise temperature control, auto-on time programming, and more with a vibrant, easy to read interface. 

     

    The Cinquantotto is also plumbable and features the stylish, polished case design of other rocket espresso machines. If you’re looking for some of the highest performance on the home machine market, the R58 Cinquantotto is a compelling offer.

    Rocket Espresso R9 One Group

    The R9 One Group is a complex, hobbyist machine. This is one built for the most dedicated home brewer and features nearly unparalleled control over the brewing process. By using the machine’s brew handle you can recreate the pressure application of a wide range of machines. This lets you mimic brew pressure to recreate the kind of drink you’d get from almost any machine on the market. While the brew paddle reacts slightly slower to adjustments than with something like the La Marzocco GS/3, with the R9 One you can actually store those pressure profiles. By doing this, you can recall past pressure recipes to try your favorites over and over again.

    For a visual look at these machines, join Allie for her overview of Rocket Espresso's machine lineup:

  • Video Roundup: 7/31/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time for another video round up over here at SCG. We have a mix of videos this week we hope you'll love. Let's jump right in!

    First up, we have a review of the new and upgraded Capresso Infinity Plus:

    Next up, we've got some Rancilio Silvia tips and tricks with Allie!

    And finally, a commercial crew review of The handy dandy PuqPress Q2:

    That's all for now friends! We'll be back with more videos next week! Happy sipping!

  • Coffee Testing

    One thing we don’t talk too much about is the way we taste test new coffees, and how that might help you experience a new roast. 

    As you’ve almost assuredly noticed, coffee tasting notes aren’t always perfect. There’s usually some nuance in there, which we’ve talked about in the past. As such, we don’t just look at the notes and decide whether or not to bring on a roast. We actually try everything we bring on to make sure we like it.

    Given that, you might wonder why sometimes your brew is different from what we describe on product pages. So much of this comes down to brew method and personal palate, but what are the ideal ways to try a new roast?

    Brew

    For brewed coffee instead of espresso, we recommend a pour over. This allows you to start with a small sample of coffee instead of a whole pot’s worth. You’ll also get the most definition in the coffee’s notes, which is important for the initial tasting. 

    For a recipe, we always stick to a 1:16 standard ratio of coffee to water. It’s good practice to use around 20 grams of coffee and 320 grams of water. We then brew with three pours, using around 106 grams of water in each, starting with a 30 second bloom. Spreading the pours out evenly like this can help to balance and settle the tasting notes, even if an ascending pour ultimately leads to better flavor.

    Once you’ve tried a pour over of your new roast, you’ll be able to understand the way the flavor will come out in a drip brewer or press. I’ll also give you the best baseline for understanding those flavors.

    Espresso

    We often receive roasts not explicitly marked for espresso that seem well suited for the brew method. For these roasts, we still taste them as a pour over as described above. After that, we’ll try dialing them in for espresso.

    Dialing in a shot can be very challenging depending on the roast. Many coffees just aren’t suited for the brew method. Some trickier single origins (or even blends!) really need a long pull rather than the standard 20-30 seconds you usually start with. By developing your palate and practicing with different espresso blends you should be able to use pour over brewing to understand a coffee’s flavor. Developing this understanding can make it much easier to dial in a shot, because you know what you’re looking for. 

    In any case, it’s always exciting to pick up a new coffee and work out all of its subtle notes. We highly encourage you to experiment with these different tasting methods to get the most out of your coffee too!

  • Roast of the Month: Colombia Finca El Cedro

    It’s time once again for our Roast of the Month! This month we’re featuring Colombia Finca El Cedro from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters! We always love a unique Colombian single origin, and this one is no exception. Let’s get into brewing and tasting this delicious roast!

    Spice Forward

    We definitely think this one works in a variety of brew methods. Regardless of how you brew, this roast is very interesting because it really fits a “spice forward” profile. This is unique among Colombian coffees, which usually favor strong chocolate notes. In the case of this roast, the more chocolatey flavors are quite subtle, with much more spice coming out in the flavor profile. When we say spice here, we really mean a baker’s spice kind of thing. Notes cinnamon and nutmeg are what we taste, along with some of those sweeter notes from the fruitier flavors.

    The raspberry note on this one comes across as quite subtle, barely presenting unless you brew as a pour over. More prevalent are the brown sugar and apricot notes. When combined with that spice flavor you get a delicious fruit pie-like taste. We get the sort of pie notes that you might encounter in a Fall apple pie. 

    One interesting element to this roast is just how bloom time really affects the flavor here. Let’s talk about brew methods to get into that a little bit more!

    Brewing and Blooming

    When we refer to bloom time, we’re talking about the bloom step of brewing as pour over. This is the stage where acids are released from the coffee with a short pour at the start of the pour over process. By extending the bloom time on this roast, you can really affect the flavor. A longer bloom will bring out more of those spice notes, versus a shorter bloom time, which highlights a bit more of the sweetness. We’ve experimented with bloom times ranging from 20 seconds to a full minute!

    If you’re not brewing pour over, you’ll still get a great cup of coffee out of this roast. Drip brewing leads to a more balanced cup, which still highlights the spice notes we keep mentioning. As an espresso, you’re going to get more of that sweetness, which is usually the case with this richer brew method.

    No matter how you brew, Colombia Finca El Cedro is a delicious coffee that you won’t want to miss! Grab a bag today!

  • Coffee History: Japan

    It’s time for another look at coffee history, this time, in Japan! So much wonderful coffee gear comes from this island nation, so we wanted to take a look at how the drink has had an influence on the culture there! Let’s jump in.

    Coffee Arrives in Japan

    Like many goods, coffee first arrived in Japan in the 18th century, sometime around 1700. Our favorite bean found its way to Japan via Dutch traders, some of the first foreigners to make contact with the Japanese. For most of these early years, coffee was a luxury brewed at home by the wealthy, rather than at coffee shops like in most places. It wasn’t adopted widely in the country until the Meiji Era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. Even during this time, its popularity was brief and limited.

    In 1888 the first coffee shop opened in Japan, and it closed just a few years later. It’s hard to pinpoint why the beverage had trouble catching on. A factor that may have been related is cost and difficulty in importing beans, especially already roasted ones.

    Coffee During the 20th Century

    During World War II, coffee was seen as a Western influence. This was true of many Western items, and was a function of the government’s stranglehold on the populace during their Imperialistic attempts at expansion. As a result of this, coffee was banned in Japan and didn’t have much presence in the country until well after the war was finished.

    Coffee began its resurgence in Japan in the 1960s, and grew immensely in popularity over the rest of the century. According to Rochelle and Viet Hong (Coffee In Japan: 100 Years of Mornings), imports grew from just 15,000 tonnes in 1960 to over 440,000 tonnes today. Part of this rise can be attributed to the ways in which Western culture became a fascination in Japan in the latter half of the 20th century. That, coupled with coffee’s marketing as an on the go beverage made it a convenient thing to enjoy on the way to work or school. This worked well in Japan’s busy, always in motion economy. 

    Modern Coffee Consumption

    In modern Japan, coffee occupies an interesting place in culture. It is still viewed as a Western beverage, and is treated like many elements of Western Culture. Much like American fast food and theme parks, coffee is viewed as a novelty. While still a largely on the go drink, it’s also one that’s enjoyed as a solitary one by most people. Unlike the United States, where coffee is often a social activity, this is largely reserved for tea in Japan. The exception comes from young people, who view coffee as a disruptive drink, and often enjoy it in groups as a counter-culture activity.

    We couldn’t talk about modern coffee in Japan without mentioning how much Japan has influenced Western coffee culture. Manufacturers like Hario have created some of the finest equipment for pour over in the world. Coffee may come to Japan from the West, but Japan has certainly made its mark on the way the world drinks coffee too!

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