Carmen Estate coffee

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We tried another Panama coffee, this time from the Carmen Estate and also from the Best of Panama auction lot. Our beans were roasted by Hines, and thankfully provided by Elysian Room.

Carmen Estate is located in the Paso Ancho region, above the Finca La Florentina. From Sweet Maria's:

Carmen is on a very steep hillside with southern exposure, and due to the high altitude, the coffee has greater density, better acidity, a more piquant cup. So in a way, Florentina was getting some better cup quality with Carmen in the mix. But the farm was passed down to the new generation of the Franceschi family, namely Carlos Franceschi (Carmen was his grandmother) ... and he realized that they had a better coffee on their family farm then something to blend with lower-grown coffees. He built an independant mill for the Estate down in the valley using the latest equipment, and began a program to care for the trees usign new techniques. This farm uses the de-muscilage process where the muscilage is stripped off the parchment layer using friction, rather than traditional fermentation...

This coffee won the #3 spot in the Best of Panama competition in 2003, 2004 and #2 in 2005. The entire farm is very high altitude; it starts at 1450, an altitude many farms don't even reach, meters and goes up from there! We have a special arrangement to buy the coffee each year from the 1700+ meter altitudes, a very small amount of coffee. We sold out of that lot rapidly this year, but the entire crop is so good (a testament to Carlos' innovations) we set aside this Estate lot from his later shipment to the US, based on sample approval once it got here.

I preferred the brightness of this coffee over the more floral taste of the other Panama we tried. That's just a personal taste, as each has really bold flavours, but in different ways. I want to say this one was more sweet, although I know that was not the right word.

It was really a treat to drink it and to compare the differences, which were obvious right of the bat and in the finish, between the two Panama coffees.

Wicked Cafe

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We're sitting in Wicked Cafe right now, enjoying a warm fall day with a nice cup of coffee and lunch. The sandwiches here are amazing. And the cafe has a nice atmosphere with lots of open windows, and even some great photography showcased right now from Kris Krug. We've been here a few times before, and have even had a nice chat with the owner, Brad.

A couple of days ago he let us know that he will be holding Intelligentsia tastings at the cafe. Brad is the new Intelligentsia rep in Vancouver, so I think that's just great. I think he's accomplished a lot in the coffee world in the last few years, approaching coffee with a passion and dedication, but also with a lot of fun.

So, if you want to taste a great roaster and to understand a little more about coffee, join us at Wicked Cafe on the last Tuesday of every month at 7:30. The tasting for this month has been pushed to October 4th, so come out and learn!

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Trying an Intelligentsia coffee

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As mentioned in my last post, Ianiv & I are trying out a coffee from Intelligentsia. Although it did smell more sharp, it was actually quite different in taste than I expected - and in a good way.

I usually express my ideas of smell/taste in very similar words, and I think this is because both senses are very strong for me. You'll often find me saying that something smells buttery or tangy, which are not words anyone usually uses to express smell. Anyway, this time my nose was far off my taste, and that was interesting.

The coffee we are trying is from Honduras - La Tortuga

“Action-packed” only begins to describe the Tortuga experience. This is truly one of the most intriguing Central American coffees out there, dense with flavor notes that range from dark chocolate and fudge to fig, tamarind, and spiced pear cider. The body is plush and velvety, and the finish resolves itself confidently with some residual chocolate and a touch of cedar. There is a sense of intrigue with this coffee, as if one could continue peeling back layers of flavor without ever knowing the whole story. A tremendously satisfying taste experience!

I do find the coffee less full bodied than the previous one from Hines. This one sits in the mouth differently - more of a jolt than a smooth ride, if you can understand that weird description. I like it, though - it has an almost fruity taste to it. Still, when it's out, I'll be more preferential to coffees in the smooth, creamy flavour that I love.

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An ad goes here

W00t! Blog fuel, er coffee, is good for you!

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I heard about this on the radio this morning and was just about to Google for it and lo and behold it was waiting for me in my feeds!  Given that I consume a litre of coffee (two big mugs) every morning, this is good news.  Sure there is the jitteriness, okay the cream might not be great for me, but I'm awake!
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 — Coffee provides more than just a morning jolt; that steaming cup of java is also the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Scranton (Pa.). Their study was described today at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
"Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close," says study leader Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the university. Although fruits and vegetables are generally promoted as good sources of antioxidants, the new finding is surprising because it represents the first time that coffee has been shown to be the primary source from which most Americans get their antioxidants, Vinson says. Both caffeinated and decaf versions appear to provide similar antioxidant levels, he adds.
He cautions that high antioxidant levels in foods and beverages don't necessarily translate into levels found in the body. The potential health benefits of these antioxidants ultimately depends on how they are absorbed and utilized in the body, a process that is still poorly understood, says Vinson, whose study was primarily funded by the American Cocoa Research Institute.

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Coffee as health food

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BreadCoffeeChocolateYoga has all the scoop on using coffee for your health. Yep, it's the easiest indulgence I can think of.

The blog references a study that shows the use of moderate coffee intake and the resulting decrease in getting some health problems, especially diabetes. Women had more benefits from drinking coffee than men (I can live with that).

I agree, though, that the issue is about what is beneficial. Caffeine or one of or a mix of the other 1100 components in coffee?

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Where to get your caffeine

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Here's a handy list for when you need to pull a few extra hours out of your day. Which product has the most caffeine?

Espresso 100mg to 150mg a cup.
Instant coffee 65mg to 100mg a cup.
Decaffeinated, instant 2mg to 3mg a cup.
Tea 40mg to 80mg a cup
Cocoa and chocolate drinks 40mg to 80mg a cup.
Cola 35mg to 50mg a 330ml can.
Chocolate 150mg a family-sized bar.
Red Bull Marketed as an energy drink, a 250ml can provides taurine, a stimulating amino acid, and about 80mg of caffeine.
ProPlus With 50mg of caffeine a tablet, it has gained a reputation for giving an instant jolt to the weary.
Guarana This berry, grown in northern Brazil, produces seeds with the caffeine-containing substance guaranine. Drunk as carbonated cola, it contains two to three times more caffeine than coffee or tea.

Times Online

Coffee will help you work out better

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Apparently, coffee is great for getting that little extra juice (and results) out of your exercise routine.

Say goodbye to water and Gatorade, and say high to coffee, tea and pop as the new fashion at the gym.

Why? Here is the premise of the study:

1. Caffeine helps people work out longer
2. Caffeine leads to greater fat loss
3. Caffeine does NOT promote dehydration during workouts

Wohoo! amount considered acceptable by most health experts — only a cup or two a day — is needed to get better results at the gym.

They have shown that there are substances in caffeine which trigger the release of body fats into the bloodstream during activity. This means fat is burnt during exercise, rather than carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscle as glycogen but the amount that can be stored is limited. If you burn body fat first, it reserves carbohydrate for later use. The upshot? You have more energy and can exercise for longer.

Although most research into caffeine’s fitness benefits has been carried out on elite athletes for whom its boost could mean the difference between winning and losing, its effects are equally helpful to anyone looking to get more out of their gym session. Jane Griffin, a sports dietitian and author of Food For Sport (Crowood Press), believes that caffeine’s ability to help the body to “use fat efficiently” means that “when taken in conjunction with regular aerobic exercise, in theory it could help you to lose weight more quickly”.

Caffeine can also prevent workout fatigue. Feeling wired after a coffee is the result of caffeine’s stimulant effects. It works by increasing neurone activity in the brain, which then triggers the pituitary gland into secreting more adrenalin. The result? A perceived injection of energy that leaves you thinking that you aren’t suffering as much on the treadmill as you thought. A study at the University of South Carolina, published in the American Journal of Physiology (2003), revealed that one or two cups of coffee up to an hour before a gym session can delay or prevent post-exercise tiredness by up to 60 per cent: “People seem to be able to work harder without realising it when they take caffeine before a workout,” says Louise Sutton, the principal lecturer in sport and exercise nutrition at Leeds Metropolitan University...

For each of the trials, the cyclists took one of three different drinks — glucose, glucose mixed with caffeine, and plain water. Results showed that caffeine increased the amount of carbohydrates absorbed from the drink by 26 per cent.

Read more from Times Online

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Coffee Consumption up

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Coffee Consumption has gone up by 4% over last year - now, 53% of the population consumes coffee daily. Well, that's some figure. I am right in there - had my cup for the day already (soon to be one of many - gotta love days filled with really really long travel!)

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.

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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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!

Decaf coffee beans

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Had a brief glimpse of the difference between decaffeinated beans and regular beans. Both are still green beans - meaning they have not been roasted.

The darker bean is the one that is decaffeinated. The process of filters and swiss water decaffeination makes the beans much darker.

Caf vs Decaf

The glory of the roasting process

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Our hosts at Salt Spring Coffee invited us back to their facility to view the roasting process. They roast 5 days per week so one out of three of our vacation days was perfect to view the roasting. Good timing. So, I have to say it was a really amazing thing to witness. It was our first time seeing the roasting happen.

The smell of coffee was not even as strong as you would think it would be. I think the main smell of coffee came when they were grinding up the fresh beans for resale. Or maybe I just got used to it once we entered. Yummy though.

So, we came mid roast and then stayed up until another roast was completed. We were there for the Mexican roast, which is a medium roast. Light roasts are done first in the day, gradually going up to dark roasts. This is because the roaster continues to get hotter the more it is used. It was pretty cool to be there pretty well mid roasting for the day.

There is a really interesting process that happens during the roasting. First, when the beans are put in, the roaster (which is already warm/hot) cools off a bit because the beans are cooler. Then the temperature gradually spikes back up to over 200C (I don't recall the exact temperature).

What you see above is the green bean. It has been roasting for a little bit, but not very long. This is a little part of the roaster that lets you check on the beans during the roast. Just pulls out a bit. Very good control mechanism.

The beans are roasted for different lengths of time depending on the roast - a dark roast stays in longer. The roast is in usually between 10 to 15 minutes, I believe. Not as long as you would think, but you have to take into consideration that the machine is super hot.

As you can see below, the roaster is really quite impressive.

The topmost portion is where the beans tumble around during the roasting. They are constantly moving to make sure the roast is even for all the beans. Although you cannot see it in that picture, there is a set of tubing that dumps the raw beans (known as green beans) into the roaster. What you see above is the completion of the roasting when the beans are released into the cooling portion - it moves around until it comes to room temperature then it is put into a container. As you can see, the roast was very very even. It was a pro job.

It's really quite efficient. While one set of beans is cooling, the other is released into the roaster to start all over again.

So, the roasting process is not just about making the beans darker, although you can see that process happening in the above to pictures. The roasting also makes the beans expand. That was the absolute best part of being there. The beans expand in what is called the "crack" - it sounds like popcorn popping. And that is kind of what it's doing. The coffee is popping - getting bigger and losing weight. For a dark roast, there is actually two cracks. So, if you ever wonder why the packages for dark coffee are bigger it is simply because those beans expand more and weigh less. There is even some speculation that they eventually have less caffeine.

Great experience. Thanks again to Salt Spring Coffee!

One week, no dreck

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Well it's been a week since the Blogaholics visited.  They brought me a French press, great coffee, and their super duper grinder.  I made one small pot of dreck while they were there.  Then, then I discovered what real coffee is supposed to taste like.  Yep, no going back for me.  Salt Spring Coffee all the way, or similar if in a pinch.  It does just taste better to have really good, fresh roasted--I don't think I could've gotten my coffee much fresher--freshly ground, and immediately brewed.
So, while my coffee consumption quantity might be way down, the quality is way up.  I've also found that this Roaster's Special I'm drinking has a serious kick.  One mug gets me going most mornings, two at most.  Three and I don't need to touch the ground to move because I'm levitating.

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Tris Hussey is a professional blogger and blog consultant, the Chief Blogging Officer for Qumana Software, and Managing Director of Qumana Services.  He can be reached at tris AT qumana DOT com or tris AT trishussey DOT com.
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Roasting complete

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Can't get any more fresh

This is a picture taken the instant the roast is done and it is dumped out to be cooled. It was really amazing - all the steam just coming off it!