NPR ran a nice piece yesterday featuring Peter Giuliano (who recently departed from Counter Culture) and Allie Caran, who opened Artifact Coffee in Baltimore this summer, that highlights specialty coffee’s focus on coffee quality and its diverse flavors.
Increasingly, specialty roasters are working directly with coffee growers around the world to produce coffees as varied in taste as wines. And how are roasters teaching their clientele to appreciate the subtle characteristics of brews? By bringing an age-old tasting ritual once limited to coffee insiders to the coffee-sipping masses.
The writer, Allison Aubrey, visited a cupping at Artifact to learn about tasting the flavor nuances in coffee and some of the characteristics that help them develop.
Matt Perger, the 2012 World Brewer’s Champion, has put together a lovely V60 tutorial for ST. ALi in Australia. The two and a half minute tutorial is a fully annotated, “real time” brewing demo filmed to the sounds of Frank Ocean.
While there are a couple moves I’d consider a bit risky for those just learning, it’s worth trying out if you’re not satisfied with your own pourover method. Tap dat.
Stunts, explosions, & coffee. This may be the greatest coffee brewing video ever. From the same people who brought you syphon brewing in the dark, comes this explosive 80′s throwback to my favorite brew method—the AeroPress. Huge thumbs up.
I’m a fervent believer that Seinfeld is and will be the greatest television show of all time. Every situation in life relates back to one of the 180 magnificent episodes—even if most could now be prevented with a simple text message. There is something so realistic, yet hilarious about those conversations about nothing that took place over a cup of coffee.
On July 19th, Seinfeld will be back on screen having coffee with his comedian friends. Only this time he’ll be driving around in a selection of shiny classic cars with a GoPro camera mounted on the dash to capture the hilarity or Larry David-esque awkwardness.
The show, called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, will include appearances by Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Ed O’neill and Michael Richards (Kramer!) to name a few. Let’s just hope their candid conversations are just as memorable as the scripted ones.
This fascinating video from “The Coffee Brewing Institute,” circa 1961, takes a look at the simple joy of brewing coffee. Over the years, research and experimentation has made much of this information out of date (like their insistence on using fully boiling water), however there are some gems of wisdom that are still just as relevant today.
How, then, do we make the perfect cup of coffee to our taste? Success lies in a single word: Care. Three simple ingredients go into the brewing process: water, coffee, time. Care will produce a perfect result every time.
Brew yourself a fresh cup, take a break and enjoy this trip down coffee lane.
Here’s a beautifully simple video of a syphon pot in action—capturing all its romantic serenity—only to be shattered with an odd and unexpected ending. Bonus points for being unique? I hear the clubs in Berlin are fantastic. Enjoy.
To finally pick a coffee cherry off the tree and taste the inherent sweetness that should be found in your cup (cliché as it may sound) gives an entirely new understanding and appreciation for the farmers, roasters and baristas who are able to maintain the true characteristics of this wonderful seed throughout it’s long and complex journey. Great coffee should not be unpleasantly bitter, it should not need sugar, and it should not be insulting to pay as much as you would for the cheapest glass of wine on a menu.
I learned so much during this week, but nothing more important than just how little I know. Though I experienced many things on this trip, it was only a few farms, in a couple regions, of one country out of many, that produce coffee in different ways, in different parts of the world. After finally visiting origin, I now feel like I know less than I ever have—which is more of a reason to keep learning.
After five days of immersive education at coffee farms, labs and mills, the remaining two days of my trip were reserved for experiencing some of the non-coffee related highlights in Colombia. To wrap-up a long week of travel and learning, I was excited to relax on the beach with new friends, enjoy a few bottles of Aguardiente & dance the night away in moonlit clubs. I spent the weekend visiting cultural landmarks and enjoying a few restaurants in Bogotás lively food scene—complete with belly dancers, burgers & beer.
At the beginning of the year, I made it a goal of mine to visit origin in 2012, but I had no idea it would be through such an incredible opportunity as this one. I can’t thank the Colombia Coffee Hub and the FNC enough for this experience.
Marcela, Camillo and Michael were incredible hosts, answered all my questions (no matter how controversial the answers may have been) and were genuinely fantastic people to be around. Also the media team—Lina, Jorge and Sebastién who did their best to avoid awkwardness while filming my every move for a week. This journey would not have been the same without all the lovely people who were a part of it.
In the coming year, there will be more origin journey’s featured on the Hub, including another (like mine) to be given to a lucky Hubber. So if you haven’t joined yet—it may be one the best decisions you’ve ever made.
As we continued along the path Colombian coffee takes before reaching roasters around the world, we arrived to a mill owned by Almacafé. In Colombia, coffee farmers sell their coffee with the parchment (a thin crumbly skin) still on the beans. So after coffee is sold, it’s delivered to one of several large mills throughout the country and stored in clean, moisture-controlled warehouses to await the final steps of processing and export.
The parchment coffee is periodically checked for quality throughout its stay, to ensure nothing has gone wrong while it has been stored. When it’s time to be hulled, coffee lots are pulled into a silo through a labyrinth of conveyor belts and tubes, like a loud and dusty version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
From this point, the coffee moves incredibly quickly through a series of vibrating screens and wind tubes to clean the parchment coffee from debris, sticks, stones and any other foreign objects that may have found it’s way into bags. When the coffee has been cleared of debris, the parchment is milled off and the naked green coffee begins an intense, multi-tier sorting process to separate the coffee into more homogenous groups.
Beans are sorted based on their size, density and weight by a process of air blown up through a series of slanted trays. The smaller, lighter beans become airborne, jostling them into a high position on the screen. The beans are then separated by slats of wood sending them onto designated tracks according to their characteristics. The coffee goes through this process several times to ensure thorough sorting.
Once the coffee has been shaken and separated physically, they zip down a more technological belt where light spectrometers spot and remove beans with color defects.
The coffee then pours onto a moving table where rows of women identify and pick out defects that have eluded all other measures. This finely sorted coffee is then placed in one last silo before its bagged for roasters, cupped again for defects and sent to port.
After leaving behind the drone of the mill, we emerged from the cool shaded warehouse to the immense heat of coastal Colombia. Outside, we were greeted by our fantastic driver, who kept the mood light and the reggaeton beats heavy, as we traveled the last few winding miles to the port of Santa Marta.
As we approached the shipping yard, I eagerly watched the colorful towers grow above the van’s windows. Throughout my life, I’ve lived in several port cities and always had a fascination with shipping containers and their structural impressions left on the horizon of the harbor. But until this point, I had only viewed them from outside the shipyard’s fence and I was excited to finally explore one from the inside.
Upon our arrival, we donned FNC hard hats and began to trek through the container canyons to the central warehouse where coffee awaited export. No matter who is exporting the coffee, FNC requires all of it to be checked for defects and quality. All coffee must meet certain criteria (12-13% moisture level, minimum defects, no insect infestations, clean cup, no foreign odor, Excelso screen size, uniform color) to be allowed to leave the country and maintain a minimum standard for all Colombian coffee.
When the coffee has passed its final round of quality inspection, it’s loaded into a container one of several ways, depending on the buyer and destination. While most green coffee is shipped in 60-70 kilo sisal bags (about 250 per container) it can also be loaded into 500 kilo bags, or giant bladder-lined containers that hold 21 tons of coffee.
While we were at the warehouse, I saw one of these bladder-lined containers being filled. Each individual bag of coffee destined for that container had to be cut open and poured on to the conveyor belt leading into the box. It would take the small team of men about 2 hours to fill the container with 21 tons of coffee.
Following our tour of the warehouse and another Almacafé test lab, we were treated to a better view of the whole operation from the top of a loading crane. After traversing more corridors through the towering stacks, we took turns squeezing into a tiny elevator that lifted us high above the makeshift city below. As I stepped onto the platform, I stopped to gain my balance as the crane swayed and vibrated with the operator, who was lifting 25 ton boxes into position underneath us.
The view was a tremendous one, offering the rare and delightful opportunity to watch ships sail off in the distance, carrying coffee to your favorite roasters.
Just over 6 months ago, I wrote about a website called the Colombian Coffee Hub that launched a new space for coffee lovers to share and learn about coffee, specifically about coffee in Colombia. They began by following Tim Wendelboe on a journey to origin as he learned about different processing methods and varieties being grown in Colombia.
When the Hub launched they announced the opportunity for active Hubbers to win a trip to Colombia for a chance to experience origin and share their journey. I’m more than honored to have won the first trip and stoked to share my journey with Hubbers & DCILY readers. I’ll be learning about the process from plant to seaport and meeting some of the growers and researchers continually working to produce better coffee.
There will be videos of my trip posted along the way on CCH, just sign up to follow along—as well as more opportunities to win a trip of your own. See you on the Hub.