Hearkening back to the days of Root beer floats, warm summer nights and the cooling draught slinking down your throat? But damn it all you still need something to give you a shot in the arm? Then I have just the beverage for you. A coffee float. Amounts and mileage may vary, so play with the amounts … [Read More...] about The Coffee Float
Café d’Epoca recently launched its website that revolves around personalization and coffee discovery. You take a simple 6 question profile assessment quiz and it designates your flavor profile type. It then recommends which Profile Coffee type you should drink and associated origin coffees that match your flavor type.
It’s fun, beautiful and interesting. Take a look here, Cafedepoca.com
For the most part there is a standard that is followed within the coffee industry when it comes to identifying different roast levels, but this is prone to vary within different regions, different countries, and even within different companies. It’s important for coffee drinkers to understand the key differences between these roasts to help them better identify their ideal brew and purchase the right brands and roasts for home brewing. Here’s a quick reference guide, in order from light to darker roasts:
Cinnamon (or New England) Roast
Cinnamon roasts are one of the most popular roast selections, often seen in donut shops and breakfast blends. The Cinnamon roast is the lightest roast with a very high acidity and less body. This type of roast is used often by larger manufacturers and high end roasters as it is a more revealing roast – you can taste any slight defect in the coffee in this roast.
This roast is 1-2 shades darker than the Cinnamon roast and typically carries a less powerful body as well. The difference with the City roast comes in with the caramel notes that are present (not present in the cinnamon roast) with the slightly longer roasting, and some loss of acidity.
The Vienna roast, founded in coffee houses in Austria, is slightly darker than the City roast and begins presenting with some oil. This roast is sort of smack-dab in the middle of all the roasts, and while you can effectively enjoy the particular beans unique tastes you will also taste a very present thicker and more syrupy taste.
Espresso roast is the first roast to come along in the dark roast category. It has far less acidity than all the other roasts, making it perfect for the espresso brewing process, and makes for a very balanced bean.
The Italian roast is a more complex roast. This roast is darker than the Espresso roast, more oily, contains much less acid, and is almost bittersweet in flavor while also bringing forth a very pronounced coffee punch.
The French roast, darkest of all roasts, is the boldest and smokiest of all the roasts. It boasts a very oily,robust, smokey flavor with often strong notes of hickory.
How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Garden
- Throw it in your compost: Coffee grounds are 1.45% nitrogen and contain calcium and magnesium to add some trace minerals you may not get from your other organic material. Coffee grounds are a green material (I know coffee is brown, but same idea as grass clippings) so you should add with at least equal amounts of brown material (leaves) but if you are like me my browns are way to high already.
- Add it directly to your garden: I have seen some arguments that coffee grounds are acidic, but others claim it loses most (or all) of its acidity during the brewing process. Due to my natural curiosity I need to know the answer. So the answer is, it has an average pH of 6.9 so for all intents and purposes, it is neutral. Though if you are really tired and forget to brew it, it will be somewhat acidic.
- Fertilizer: Sometimes your plants need a little boost in the morning as well. Simply add a couple cups of coffee grounds to a bucket of water and let it seep for 24 hours and apply to plant in the same way you would compost tea. Using gardener terms I can’t think of any better name for this as “coffee tea” If you are busy/lazy you also can use it as a side dressing on top of your soil and let the rain seep it for you.
- Annoy your pests to stay out of your garden: It has been said that coffee grounds can deter cats from using your garden as their own personal commode. There are also reports that it can deter slugs as well. I am not sure if it is the abrasive soil effect on their sensitive underside or just the cruel reality that with their slow pace they can’t do anything with the caffeine rush they get. Coffee grounds may annoy ants to convince them to move their home elsewhere.
- Feed your worms: To worms this stuff is like ice cream, if you listen carefully you may hear them cheer your name when you add a handful to your worm bin when your greens from the kitchen may be a little lacking.
According to Starbucks brochure, you should use the coffee grounds within 3 weeks to get the most nutrient value, though if you are composting I am sure you can start out the process in the bag if you really want to. Given that 16.34 billion pounds of coffee is produced each year there is plenty for you to save from ending up in a landfill. This is a great way to help the environment while also adding value to your garden without affecting your pocketbook.
Let’s look at bags first. If your favorite coffee can be found in a supermarket or other kind of store, and isn’t scooped as whole beans or ground fresh on-site, look for brands packed in bags with a one-way valve. They are common. You can spot the valve, which looks like a little round button, near the top of the bag. In addition to protecting contents from moisture and light, one-way-valve bags allow coffee to be packed soon after roasting, without forced degassing.
That’s a good thing, because it means carbon dioxide remains present in the bag, pushing out oxygen to protect against oxidation and promote proper aging. The valve also allows small amounts of carbon dioxide to escape from unopened bags, protecting against the bag exploding during normal rises in atmospheric pressure. But the valve giveth and taketh away; escaping along with the carbon dioxide are those essential volatile aromas. Bottom line: You’ll want to open one-way-valve bags within a few weeks of the roasting date.
But how to know the roasting date of non-store-roasted, bagged coffee? Forward-thinking roasters like Intelligentsia and some others have started to stamp the roasting date on bags. Otherwise, there is an unscientific approach that works pretty well: hold the bag with the valve close to your nose, squeeze gently and let a little gas escape. If the coffee is of a good age, you’ll sense good, intense aromas. [Corby’s note: But remember, those escaping aromas mean less in your cup! The problem, as Giorgio points out, is if the good aromas have already been lost, in which case you smell nothing, or whether the odor is frankly stale, in which case you shouldn’t buy it.
Try to use up the contents quickly—ideally, within a few days to a week—because of the ensuing rapid staling. The one-way valve fully opens the first time you open the bag, and serves no purpose afterwards.
Non-valve bags are the norm for coffee packed fresh at your local roaster or café. [Corby’s note: Though Starbucks and other large roasters used to, at least, ship bulk coffee in valve-lock bags.] They are a viable packaging option if the coffee going inside was freshly roasted three to five days beforehand, allowing for sufficient initial degassing. Maybe a day or two on the long side won’t make a big difference, but more than that, and you’ll experience a variety of issues, like the overabundant crema and taste flaws described earlier. I strongly recommend asking the barista or counterperson how recently your choice was roasted. If the person isn’t sure, I’d recommend not buying. When you do buy, start using fresh-packed coffee right away—simply keeping the bag sealed doesn’t stop the rapid degassing process—and finish it within a few days to a week.
If finishing a bag that quickly isn’t in the cards, you can extend your coffee’s life through refrigeration. The key is first transferring it to an airtight container, then making sure to bring it to room temperature before preparing, especially for espresso. [Corby’s note: I don’t think Giorgio’s way! I never believe in refrigeration. Keep in an airtight bag at room temperature for five or so days, and that’s it.] For longer-term preservation, you can put an open one-way valve bag or any non-valve bag in the freezer. Know that there will be some flavor and aroma loss. [Corby’s note: a lot!] I don’t recommend freezing coffee intended for espresso under any circumstances.
On to cans, where lots of confusion reigns. The most common canning process is vacuum packing, which does an excellent job protecting coffee from moisture, oxygen, and light—better than bagged coffee. You can store it for many months on the shelf, or in your pantry, before unsealing. But vacuum packing has one major flaw: The coffee must be completely degassed before packing, because there is no valve to let gas escape. Without degassing, vacuum-sealed cans are prone to expanding, or even exploding. The problem is that full degassing prior to canning causes immediate loss of very desirable, volatile aromas that come from coffee’s natural aging process. So the tradeoff is clear: gain shelf life, lose some aroma and flavor.
The other major canning method, pressurization in a modified atmosphere, provides the best of both worlds: protection from staling-inducing elements while permitting proper aging though carefully calibrated degassing. Full disclosure: This method was invented in the 1930s by illy’s founder, Francesco Illy, by chance as he was seeking the best way to transport his coffee from Trieste, Italy, to Switzerland. [Corby’s note: And it’s also Illy’s opinion—its canning method best shows its own blend, as other companies’ storage methods do, dictated by economy and technological prowess. And Illy has always been at the technological forefront.
This method puts newly roasted coffee in a rigid, sealed can with a special, one-way valve. As with vacuum packing, the air is drawn out. But a critical, extra step then occurs: the introduction of inert nitrogen gas, which pushes out any residual oxygen while increasing internal pressure, promoting proper aging from the start. As gas fills the can, the can’s internal pressure increases, effectively slowing down future degassing.
During the initial 10 to 15 days, a strong aging effect takes place, improving the quality of the coffee. The high internal pressure spreads the natural oils around the coffee cells (see photo), creating a barrier whereby the volatiles normally forced out by escaping carbon dioxide remain trapped inside. The net effect is shelf stability for months, enabling long-distance transport with no quality loss.
Cain, Abel, and other biblical siblings aside, understanding coffee packaging can make your coffee a truly religious experience.