Cooling Coffee Beans after Home Roasting

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INeedCoffee‘s James Cameron has a very good intro to how to cool your coffee beans after self-roasting. He says that it is the most overlooked part of home roasting.

The process of roasting your own coffee beans is easy once you have a basic understanding of how it works. Home roasting is catching on rapidly and has been touted as the fastest growing hobby in the United States today. While simple, it does require some knowledge to produce roasts that are truly great. Understanding the entire process is mandatory in order to deliver the ultimate cup of coffee.

The number one problem in producing great coffee roasted at home is the failure to cool the roast quickly after roasting. Coffee is ”roasted” rather than “baked” and for good reason…

I’ve yet to try home roasting. I’m actually rather intimidated by it, since I am becoming rather picky about my coffee. So, that said, I think there is a lot to be learned. Maybe, after I soak up some knowledge on the topic, I’ll be able to dive in.

James says that roasting at high heat quickly will allow convection between the beans and the heat, so the beans never really ‘bake,’ a process which can make them taste rather flat. They need to crack, and this won’t happen in the bake situation. So, the same baking happens if you do not cool your beans properly. By not cooling them quickly, you are effectively allowing them to bake themselves past their peak point. This is why the roasters have those serious fast spin cycles to toss and cool the beans.

James makes a good point with home roasters. How the heck are you supposed to cool your beans in the same chamber they were just roasted in? That’s insane!

So, James takes his knowledge of using sample roasters to come up with an idea for an effective way for everyone to cool their beans. He has instructions for how to build a cooling pan at home really easily over on his site or visit his site for great home roast info.

Reheated Coffee

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A tip from Bloggle: The Coffee Odyssey: “Never — ever — reheat your coffee!”


Victrola Coffee - a short visit

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While we were down in Seattle we made a detour out to Victrola to have some coffee. We’d been looking forward to it for a good while. We managed to get lost on the way, but made it there. It has this real settled feeling of being a part of the neighborhood for a long time. That was nice.

We were a little rushed, but stopped in to say hi to Tonx and have a peek in the back room at the new roasting machine. What a beauty.

Victrola's roaster

Ianiv & I both went for the Americano. Lovely. Bold. Just what I needed to wake up. We were planning on going back to really sit down, have a chat, and get to know the coffee. But we were rushing around at the conference and never made it back. On the up side, we’ve decided to go back to Seattle early August so we’ll be coming back to Victrola once again.

But, best coffee I’d had all week. Made my day.

Victrola's menu

Seattle coffee is better

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Ok, so Seattle coffee has a huge heads up on New York. I made a quick run over to Victrola (have pictures for later time) for a great Americano. And, even the Starbucks served here at Gnomedex is far superior to that at my last conference!

NY Coffee

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Ok, so I just came back from NY and didn’t have any luck finding a good cup of coffee. I had no time to explore outside Manhattan - was far too busy - but boy did I dislike the coffee. Very few coffee shops worth mentioning that I could see out walking. Conference coffee was horrible - the food blew my mind, but the coffee. Whew.

But, I’m now in Seattle and am excited to get a great Americano over at some of the great local roasters. Been craving it for a few days now!

Starbucks’ Naughty Siren

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Ever wondered what is the origin of the Starbucks logo? To be honest, the question never crossed my mind, but now you can read all about it in Deadprogrammer’s Cafe. There is a good reason why it has two tails…

Cafe Geek review contest

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CafeGeek is having a contest where you can win 1 of 20 really cool limited edition CafeGeek t-shirts. And it’s easy, all you have to do is go to the site and write a review of your favourite cafe. The first 20 people who do this get one of the t-shirts.

Long-term coffee storage-where’s best?

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BuzzriteSince I gave up drinking dreck coffee May Long weekend—I did have to make one pot because my kids were sleeping one early morn and I didn’t want to wake them with the grinder—my coffee consumption has gone way down, and not really because of the economics of it—though that is a factor—but I’m just more satisfied with 1 liter of really good coffee than the similar amount of dreck.  Regardless, I do try to wait for the sales at the store to get my favourite coffees.  Salt Spring Coffee Co. coffee was on sale a couple weeks ago—not this week though.  This week my second favourite coffee is on sale, and at a pretty good price too—of course I had just bought a bag of it on Sunday and the sale started today, sigh.  So, I’m going to buy at least another 400g bag.  My question is, where is the best place to keep it?  Especially if I buy two bags, which I might, it might be a month or more before I get to the second bag I buy now—since I just started one Sunday night.  I’ve heard the fridge is bad because it isn’t cold enough and the oils go rancid.  I’m thinking two months in a cupboard couldn’t be good either.  What about the freezer?  Could I keep the two bags in the freezer until I need one, then take it out and keep it out?  I know that the oils on the cold beans don’t brew up as nicely—this is from personal experience—kinda like chocolate, frozen or even fridge-cold chocolate just doesn’t as good as room temperature chocolate to me.
So coffee experts out there, where should I keep this coffee that I’m not going to get to for a month?
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Torrefazione being shut down

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Starbucks has made the decision to close down the Torrefazione chain. They bought out the company a few years ago, and now it’s all over and done with. The stores will cease to exist, all 17 of them, and the brand itself will be refocused to a grocery and food-service deal.

It’s sad to see it die. I know of some people very sad to see it go as well. It’s always sad to see the hard work of many talented people be shut down. Coffeehouses just have so much more flair than Starbucks ever will. Sigh.

From Bloggle: The Coffee Odyssey

Swiss Water Decaffeination

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Last week Ianiv & I took a tour of the Swiss Water plant. The Swiss Water company is the only one of its kind. It uses a Swiss Water process to decaffeinate coffee - coffee then shipped back all over the world.

They’ve been around since 1989, and currently decaffeinate coffee from 30 origins, a little over half of which are their own coffees that they resell to brokers. The plant also adheres strictly to organic policies for those coffees certified as organic.

So, what makes this company different? Well, the swiss water process is the only decaffeination process that does not use chemicals. High entry costs have prevented anyone else from using the same process. And this I can attest to - the plant was huge and contained a lot of very large pieces of equipment and a very specialized crew who monitor the process and continually test all aspects of the coffee. It’s not something someone can just pick up and start doing.

How does the swiss water process work? Well you can jump over to their website where they have a very good movie you can watch. It’s the same one we watched as our intro. But, basically this is how it works:

1. Some coffee beans are soaked in normal water. This causes the beans to give off both the caffeine and the coffee flavour. They do this until the water is completely saturated with coffee flavour (saturation meaning no more flavour can be absortbed).

2. They compost those beans then filter the coffee flavoured water to remove the caffeine.

3. New green coffee beans that are to be decaffeinated are cleaned then soaked in this flavour saturated water. This time, they can only let off the caffeine since the water won’t allow it to let out flavour. The caffeine is filtered out through a carbon filter.

4. This is continued until no more caffeine is present. Then the beans are sent to be dried.

The whole process is very carefully monitored and seems rather complex. The machines were amazing. Especially the one that dries the beans. It seriously shakes around to make sure the beans dry evenly.

After our tour of the decaffeination process we went into the lab to see the monitoring equipment and also the chemist who makes sure that the coffee is coming out with the right properties and that everything is in order. This is done for every single batch. And, trust me, it is far more complicated than I make it seem. At the end, they roast the regular and decaf beans for each batch and do a cupping to make sure the flavour is the same. Quality control is very strict.

The whole process manages to take out the caffeine but retain all the original coffee flavour. No flavour is added by the water or anything. The only difference noticeable in the bean is its colour (it gets darker).

It was an interesting tour and I suggest you have a look at their website. If you have questions, post them as comments and I’ll relay them. We are lucky that the swiss water plant is in Vancouver, as it means that it is actually more convenient for people to choose this option over chemical treatments, the most of which are in Germany.

Thanks for the tour!

Coffee Review: Prado Cafe

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This is a review long time in coming. It was actually from a week after my first visit to Prado Cafe - the visit when I got a good cup of coffee but had a little milk overflow that kind of distorted my coffee. Anyway, second visit went well. Went in and got what is an amazingly smooth and tastefully mild Americano - so flavourfully mild that I could drink it black. Amazing for me. It is not a coffee I would drink everyday, as I do like something a bit more full-bodied, but I would put it in the top 5 coffees in Vancouver.

So, why the heck didn’t I say all this right after? Well, we actually did more than just have a cup of coffee. We interviewed one of the head baristas and took some pictures - and that’s the clincher. We were not allowed to use the photos in any way before asking permission of the owner, who was not there. After a couple of attempts to phone her, I gave up and forgot about it for a while. But today I tried again - I left a message. If, tomorrow, no response comes I am just going to post ‘em anyway. Not like CoffeeGeek hasn’t done it already. And, seriously, it’s free press!

But, yes, this has been a weird experience. Both Roland and myself had picture issues when trying to give them free press. Here is Roland’s Prado experience:

Had an *interesting* experience with the folks from Prado (northeast corner of 4th and Commercial, website forthcoming) yesterday. I took some pictures and one of the staff ran out and told me to delete them. No sweat off my back, so I deleted the photos! But isn’t all publicity, good publicity, especially VanEats 1000+ visitors per day :-) ? I can honestly say that in 4.5 years of doing VanEats, no other restaurant or cafe in the city has previously objected to me taking pictures of the outside of their establishment.

There’s also some discussion flying around about the flavour of the coffee that I noted. That it is smooth but rather unobtrusive. On e-Gullet mooshmouse went so far as to ask if we’ve been “indoctrinated” into dark roasts. That we have dark so so much that we forget how to appreciate other varieties and flavours of other coffee roasts. I think there is something to this. Like having an amazingly rich dark chocolate and never really enjoying milk chocolate in the same way again. That aside, I think I was able to appreciate it for what it was and will be visiting there when I’m on the Drive (although I will alternate with JJ - hard decision!)

CoffeeGeek tells us the story of Prado’s beginnings:

[Amy] York is the former manager of the JJ Bean on Commercial Drive and 6th Avenue in Vancouver, and was one of the main movers and shakers responsible for making that cafe a roaring success in the JJ Bean micro-chain of cafes in Vancouver. And she did this all before her 23rd birthday. She’s an ambitious person too - after working within the JJ structure, she had it in her mind to open her own cafe, and started making plans in the summer of 2004. She left her job, worked on financing and finding a location, and after many months of toil, Prado Cafe was opened in January, 2005.

From my interview I also know that all baristas have at least 2 years experience and are quite passionate about what they do.

The decor is Scandinavian minimalism. The coffee is from Intelligentsia - not the usual Black Cat you see everywhere else. They use the organic espresso blend. Hence the mildness. All 100% fair trade and/or organic. WiFi access. Yummy baked goods made on-site.

The baristas all seem very talented - some are a little bit too proud of their new jobs, but are pleasant enough. During my interview with Matt, one of the baristas, there was some evident mix of both characteristics. He was not overly willing to share information about what he thinks makes a good pull of espresso. His comments were coffee standards and proper extraction.

It’s clear that Prado has created a stir on many fronts. My personal conclusion - amazing coffee. Weird policies. Not so comfy but attractive in its design ethic.

Coffee: 95%

Service: 86%

Atmosphere: 89% (done well to its taste)

Location: 4th & Commercial

Coffee Review: Caffee Artigiano

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artigianoUpdate: We’ve been in to speak with Vince and had three different and all good cups of drip coffee. They were strong but full bodied. Even the strongest did not have bitterness. Now, I know the quality control is good so it may have been a fluke experience my first time in.

Ok, now for a hard review. It’s been one I’ve really been putting off. And, yes, up front I’ll let you know that I have not yet contacted Artigiano to talk about their coffee but it is on my To Do list. (Photo by Roland)

Ok, So Caffe Artigiano is a Vancouver hotspot for coffee. In the morning, you can see people lining up for their cup outside the door and into the street. Heck, even the co-owner Sammy Piccolo is ranked in the top 3 baristas worldwide. So, you’d think this would be an easy review? Not so.

Well, first time I went to Artigiano, before I started Vancouver Coffee and had tried as many good coffees as I now have, I thought it was just plain awful. I had the drip. The most bitter, acrid coffee. Right down there with my dislike of coffee from Tim Hortons.

Well, after that first experience I was not so hot on going back. But just about every coffee lover in Vancouver keeps telling me to go back there. So, I tried, two more times. The first time I was again really unhappy - not as bad as the first time, but still not making me think this cafe was so hot as everyone says. Granted, there could be some taste differences going on. But it was Intelligentsia, which I like, so I didn’t get it. Ianiv had an espresso there once and was ok with it - didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it. It is very much like having a Starbucks beverage, to tell you the truth. Just a little overdone.

Well, I argued myself into a third go of it. It was actually not bad this third time. No idea why. Was the barista better? The coffee fresher? A different roast? No idea. It was bold but soothing. None of the acrid taste I’d experienced before. I do hear from others that the drip is just plain horrible, so that is a confirmation. But, aside from that, it was still a 50/50 shot of getting a good Americano.

So, I will say that when the coffee is quite good, I can see why people like it. But that 66% chance, it would seem, of getting something awful is not worth it to me. I will put it at about my #6 choice of Vancouver cafes. Not in my top five. It has some nice branding going on, but I do find that it is too busy for my taste. There is nothing wrong with sitting in a busy cafe, but the layout and table/chair thing they have going on just doesn’t make me comfortable when it’s busy.

Yes, I do plan on talking with Artigiano about what could have gone wrong. Yes, I will be diligent on this one. I’ll report back. But, after many tries, my evaluation has to stick. And here it is:

Coffee - 80% (on average here)

Service - 83%

Atmosphere - 81%

Coffee Review: Viva

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vivaViva Fine Foods & Bakery is a little bakery and cafe just a couple blocks from where we live. Ianiv & I have been over there many times for coffee, a sweet little treat, or just a nice lunch. The paninis are really great - but the muffins are definitely to die for.

I have neglected to ask where the Viva coffee comes from on this visit, but will do so the next time I go in.

The coffee is not out of this world, but also has nothing bad to say for it. It is well prepared and, like Salt Spring, is called the “Canadiano.” It has a nice bold and subtle flavour. Not acrid in the least, which was a nice change over my last review. This was my first espresso-based coffee at Viva - I had always just gone for the drip. The drip is also very good.

The coffee seems very fresh and the baristas always seem to pay attention to what they are doing. And I’ve never had any server in Viva who was not overly kind in a non-obtrusive way. Very good staff.

The Viva location in Kits is not overly large. There is a bar inside to sit at or some tables outside. Nice place to go for a morning cup or to sit and have lunch. It’s been months, but I still remember an amazing panini I had there with some sort of curry sauce. So good.

Coffee- 83%

Service - 95%

Atmosphere - 89%

Coffee Review: Delany’s Coffee House

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A couple of weeks ago, after a nice hike at Cypress, Ianiv & I stopped at The Village at Park Royal to have a look around. I had heard of it during building but never went over to see. More than I expected. I expected a more West Vanish kind of Home Depot and a jumble of stores. But this was far superior. Very touristy with lots of nice little shops. A Whole Foods Market I would shop at a ton more just for the bread and cheese selection. Also a great little tea place we plan to go back to for the tea “experiences” offered - it’s called the Urban Tea Merchant.

However, at this time we went to Delany’s. It was a day before their “Grand Opening” - it had a very nice decor. Comfortable and stylish. The coffee comes from JJ Bean.

Ok, so for the review. I have before been to Delany’s at its Edgemont Village location. Love the food. Thought the coffee was good. Here is my problem with Delany’s. First, it is not clear that the coffee is JJ Bean. They put it in their own bags, which is fine. But what I don’t like is that they have put all over their walls messages about fresh roasting since 199x (I forget the date). The point is - they DO NOT roast. JJ Bean does. I find it very misleading. Also, we had a peak at the coffee bags on display for sale and most, if not all, were over a week old. So much for freshness.

So, we interrupted the youthful chat of the baristas and ordered our coffees. Disappointing. It was evidently partly the cause of older coffee and partly a lack of skill in making my Americano - the result - I actually had to add Vanilla sugar to make it drinkable. Sad. Next time we’re off to The Market we’ll try the coffee at the Whole Foods Market - or the tea. Not here.

Service - 70%

Coffee - 66%

Atmosphere - 83%

Roadside Coffeepot comes to Canada

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It’s nice to see Canada jumping onto the odd roadside coffee attractions. A while ago I posted about some giant teacups and coffee pots you can see around the USA - now Canada has one. And, not just any one. The largest one.

This one is supposedly the world’s largest coffee pot. It’s located in Davidson, Saskatchewan, measures 24 feet (7.3 meters) tall, is made of sheet metal, and could hold 150,000 8-ounce cups of coffee, according to the trivia list. Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea

Now, why can’t we have nice looking coffee pots and cups? What about a nice French Press with some great little stainless steel travel mug? Come on, people!

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