Thursday, December 18, 2014

Green Beans and Home Roasting

It's all the buzz this year! If you aren't, you probably know somebody who is. Here are some tips and updates on our products for home roasting.

Green Unroasted Vietnamese Coffee KitBy far our most popular gifts for home roasters are our special kits. The World Heritage Green Coffee Kit features all four of the remaining unique species of coffee on the planet - Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa, with an educational booklet and roasting tips, and 1 oz. roasted samples of the beans as well as your choice of a half-pound or full pound of each of the green coffees.

And we wouldn't be the world leader in Vietnamese Coffee if we didn't offer the Green Unroasted Vietnamese Coffee Kit! A traditional blend of Vietnamese Arabica, Robusta and Excelsa ready to roast and enjoy as Cafe Sua Da, hot or cold.

Or if you want the beans and just the beans, most of our unique coffees are available in green beans, in 1 pound and 3 pound bags. Visit our Green Coffee Page to see the full range of offerings.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Green bean beverages

I just finished watching a video on YouTube about how to make green bean extract. I guess you get what you pay for on Youtube... this unfortunate soul wasted a lot of digital "film" and time making a drink he cheerfully described as "horrible". The problem is, somehow the making of green bean extract has circulated around as a process that requires soaking after boiling the green beans.

Well, soaking green beans is how you make water-process decaf coffee. Yes, caffeine is a slippery little molecule that is very water soluble. Swiss Water Process coffee involves soaking green beans in already-brewed coffee. The relatively large flavor molecules in the brewed coffee block the flavor from escaping into the brew, but the caffeine is not blocked and freely leeches out. Presto, 97% of the caffeine winds up in the outside liquid while most of the flavor stays inside the bean.

So, when this hapless fellow instructed his viewers to "turn off the stove after boiling and let the mixture sit for an hour" he was creating a caffeine extract, not green bean extract. Caffeine is a very bitter molecule and that is why low-caffeine coffees have a smoother taste profile. The effect on the body would be more like drinking rocket fuel than something healthy.

Here's a simple recipe for green bean extract:

1. Start with green beans that have gone straight from hulling to drying tunnels. Most coffees spend many hours traveling from the huller to the drying tables, causing fermentation. This is not a big issue but it's simply healthier if you are going to drink green beans "straight" to get beans with no fermentation. Our Costa Rica Estate beans are a perfect choice.

2. Rinse the green beans in a strainer or colander for a minute as you would any fresh food. Then put together in a saucepan one part green beans by volume to about 4 parts water that has been brought to a boil. This ratio does NOT have to be exact.

3. Boil for about 12 minutes. Then pour off the liquid through a strainer. Let the liquid cool unless you are making a hot beverage.

 4. Add any sort of fruit juice to your preference, we suggest cranberry because a little goes a long way. If the fruit juice is unsweetened you may want to add a little sweetener. You could also mix it with tea.

5. Drink and enjoy.

Taste the green bean extract by itself. It should taste a little like dilute pea soup, slightly sweet, and not at all bitter. The drink you make with it should be quite delicious. Ours are!

If you want to store the green bean liquid for later, put it in the fridge immediately.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Making of a Master Roast

What is a "Master" roast? Or Artisanal roast? To some coffee companies it simply means they take a single-origin coffee and take care to find the optimal roast level for it (to their tastes) and perhaps are super-selective on the bean size and quality. We feel they should do this for every roast!

For us, a Master Roast should give the consumer something they can't normally get. So, we start with a single-origin base that we really love, then add 1-2 "balancing" coffees to create what we feel is a perfect blend guaranteed to tickle every palate, not just coffee drinkers who happen to hit the button with the single-origin base coffee alone. In this case we were eager to try all three of our super-special Robustas in one blend.

Then, unlike standard roasting practice, we roast each of these three coffees at its own peak level, testing to find the right level for each... and then we put them together after the roast.

Master Roast Robusta Dream

This month we are featuring "Robusta Dream". Robusta appeals mostly to people who are "back-palate" oriented, who like low acidity, high body/crema, and good persistence in the memory (retention). Because low-altitude Robustas get a bad rap from people who are not really coffee experts, there are extremely few good Robustas on the market and not one Robusta blend that we know of. But we love being first!

So, we roasted the beans together in the ratio we wanted - 50% Vietnamese screen 16, 25% Peaberry Dalat, and 25% Bantai super-high altitude Robusta. Then we poured out the beans and see how that temperature point treated each type. Note in the picture that the peaberry (round, unsplit beans) look burnt, while the other sources were two different shades of medium roast. We theorized that the higher sugar content of the Peaberry was causing a burnt sugar effect.

Next we brewed two lots, one run a little darker than the other, which actually gives us 6 points of reference. We definitely preferred the lighter of the two roasts, where more of the creamy, buttery mouthfeel of the Robusta was better preserved, and the overall taste had more dimensional appeal. The darker roast seemed a little "flat".

So, by comparing the three color levels and the taste profiles, we determined that it would be good to roast the Peaberry at 15 degrees less, and the other two should be 5 degrees apart (+10, +15) to achieve the best taste on this blend. The result: Robusta Dream. A coffee even the non-Robusta fans really loved. We hope you enjoy this recap of our Robusta Dream Master Roast coffee for this month!

Click here to shop for this coffee on our Exclusive Offers page.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

NEW - Guatemalan Antigua blend

While visiting a coffee expo in New York we made the acquaintance of people from a wonderful organization working in Guatemala to provide a market for indigenous items, including coffee, jewelry, clothes and crafts.
Antigua Highlands

They have created a select blend of coffee from three different regions, primarily Antigua, with a Bourbon Arabica base (they had us at "Bourbon"!). This coffee has all the plusses - it's certified organic, super-high-altitude, shade-grown, sun-dried, direct trade, charitable... and has amazingly rich taste. It's another Latin American coffee we have found that is so smooth and delicious that we are drinking it black or with cream because it just doesn't need to be sweetened (but it plays well with sugar if you want!).

We are roasting this coffee a little lighter than our standard Full City, it's a bona fide Medium Roast. It's also available green (unroasted) and is a great coffee for a beginning home roaster because it is very forgiving and has several optimal roast points. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Read more here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Nicaraguan Coffees from El Recreo Estate Farm

El Recreo Estate farm is located in a region known as 'The Coffee Triangle', at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level. Nicaragua’s northern region is the most fertile in the country, with volcanic soil and luxurious rainforests.

Nicaraguan coffee nursery

World-class coffee: El Recreo placed in the top 10 in the Rainforest Alliance Cupping Quality contest. We receive the beans unroasted and roast them fresh locally. This is a Caturra variety, which is derivative of Bourbon, an Arabica that we love and our customers are very familiar with - smooth, low in acid, very full palate.

Environmentally and socially conscious: El Recreo supports local adult technical education and provides a children's school and a health center to its workers. 30 families live on the estate and receive medical care from the health center's doctors and nurses, as well as nutritional and work safety education. The estate is Rainforest Alliance certified, and the coffee is grown under the shade of indigenous hardwood trees.

Did we mention that the taste is awesome? 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bach Coffee - new from Vietnam

We are excited to bring new brands from Vietnam to our offerings. While nobody can argue that Trung Nguyen corners the market with their wonderful Creative Coffee series of coffees, they specialize in vacuum-packed, nitrogen-flushed ground coffees that stay super fresh in their packages, but they refuse to export whole bean to us directly. They simply don't believe whole bean is "necessary", and there is no consumer market for it in Asia. So we have to buy our whole bean from them through our agent in the coffee shop distribution channel in Vietnam. That is not working out very well for us, and there is a cost differential because of the extra transactions involved.

Enter a new generation of fresh coffee companies from Vietnam. The first we will be featuring is Bach Coffee. (No, it's not named after the composer, but a region in Vietnam). They are proud to offer whole bean coffees and are very cooperative to work with. To distinguish themselves, they have adopted a more Western-style air roasting, solving two of the problems we have with the Trung Nguyen whole bean.

Trung Nguyen whole bean is "wet-roasted", meaning they apply what they call "butter oil" and a little sugar to the roasting pans, because it is needed to make the beans roll properly as they tumble and roast. It also creates the distinctive Vietnamese buttery taste. Oddly enough, they often use lecithin or oil that is not butter-based, but it is still referred to as butter roast. Now, that causes two issues. Vegans can't drink this coffee because it might have butter in it, and the beans wind up being stickier in most grinders and can cause clogging issues. We do get a number of calls on that.

Bach beans are drier and will work in any grinder and are suitable for vegans.

But we drink coffee for taste. How good are the Bach coffees? When you pour out the beans from a Bach bag, the first thing you notice is how 100% sound and ripe that are. While a certain percentage of less-than-ripe beans do not ruin the taste of a cup (contrary to a highly publicized myth), 100% ripe beans does make a difference. In general, people have been amazed at how good the Bach coffees are. My personal favorite is the Moc 1, their 100% high-altitude Robusta. This is Vietnamese Robusta at its best, the type of Robusta Italian coffee companies have been secretly sourcing for their top espressos for decades.

Arabica fans will enjoy the multi-source Arabica (Moc 2) that has Bourbon Arabica sourced from Buon Me Thuot and high-altitude Laotian farms.

We invite you to try the new Bach coffees and we have obtained a limited number of small 100-gram "trial-size" bags so you can sample more of them without breaking the bank. Bach coffees are numbered 1, 2 and 3, but we call them simply Robusta (100%), Arabica (100%), and Arabica/Robusta Blend (50/50). Amazingly delicious!

Dangerous Grounds - or Dangerous Ignorance?

Well, I guess we have to laugh (or cry) at the notoriety achieved by Todd Carmichael (of "Dangerous Grounds" television series) for managing to create adventure and pathos around every acquisition of interesting coffee. His latest proclamation is that he is the first to bring Liberica coffee to the USA for us backwards Americans who haven't tasted it since .. well, ever, apparently. Breaking news, Todd, Heirloom Coffee has been bringing the best Liberica coffee from the Philippines to the USA since 2008 and we have been instrumental in assisting in the recovery of this once-endangered species for many years.

I guess he had to go to Borneo to find it because it wasn't "dangerous enough" to get it from the cradle of the species, the Philippines. Well, welcome to the wonderful world of Liberica coffee, Todd, come on by any time and we will brew a cup for you! ;-)