The Unseen Bean: Blind Roasted Coffee


Gerry Leary, who is seeing impaired, was led by his curious passion and love for good food to start his own coffee company when he as introduced to coffee roasting on a visit to San Francisco in the early 90′s. After learning the audible cues of coffee roasting, Gerry began searching for a job with several companies, but was unable to find anyone who would hire him, unconvinced that he could roast by smell and sound alone. So Gerry opened his own roastery and later bought a struggling coffee shop to learn more about his coffee and his customers.

The film was created by Ira Chute for Whole Food’s online magazine Dark Rye and offers an inspiring look at how far motivation can take a person, no matter what obstacles they may face. Beautifully filmed and heartwarming. Grab a fresh cup and enjoy.

The Unseen Bean



posted by on 03.06.2013, under Recommended Roasters, Videos

“Coffee Roasting Phases”


William LeGoullon is an Arizona-based artist and photographer who also happens to be inspired by the bean. A recent project called “Coffee Roasting Phases” was prompted by his experience working as a barista at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe, AZ. It’s a strikingly simple composition revealing the physical changes coffee beans go through in the roasting process and it’s currently on exhibit at the Eye Lounge Gallery in Phoenix.

It’s fascinating to look at the fine details of something we handle each day, but rarely stop to inspect the subtleties. These photos really capture a unique perspective of coffee at a scale uncommon in our daily coffee routine. I would love to see a large print of this on a light box in a café somewhere. It serves as a good reminder of the craft behind each bean. Hopefully your coffee doesn’t resemble anything close to that last one.

More work from William in his portfolio and on his blog Dry Heat.


posted by on 02.23.2012, under Misc.

Green Coffee Defects


Here are some nice charts from the Colombia Coffee Hub that show 14 possible green coffee defects. They include brief summaries of what causes them and how they affect roasted coffee. I almost find it hard to look at—like photos of STDs in a science text book—the sad little leprous beans that will never make a happy cup of coffee. But we must not avert our gaze, but show compassion for the process, and learn from them.

If you haven’t signed up for the Colombia Coffee Hub yet, there’s a lot of  nice articles worth reading. It’s also a really cool site, but a bit lonely right now.

[click images for a larger view]

posted by on 11.12.2011, under Coffee 101, Misc.

Starbucks Wants to Have More Fun


Two weeks ago Starbucks made a big announcement. Bigger than dropping their written name from their logo (which I never covered), and bigger than this month’s roll out of Starbucks k-cups. On October 18th, the green giant announced that it would start selling lighter roasted blends, misleadingly named Blonde.

This is big for several reasons.

First, it supports the notion that a growing segment of the market realizes that Pike Place tastes like charcoal and they’re looking for something not-so-burnt. It may also encourage other roasters—who were worried that the size of the light roast market would not support their business—to lighten their roasts. If the market for lighter roasted coffee is big enough to gain Starbuck’s attention, there’s enough room for the small guys to compete in better ways and with more panache.

I’ve previously written about the uselessness of the term “bold,” and Starbuck’s role in perpetuating its use. Like it or not, the size of their business allows them to shape the language and perception of coffee for many people. How many independent coffee shops regularly get requests for tall, grande and venti drinks? Or have upset customers who ordered a macchiato, by serving them a shot of espresso with a bit of foam on top—where’s my caramel!? If Startbucks and its ginormous $2 billion dollar marketing megaphone can get people to think lighter roasts are a good thing—it allows the roasters who have already been roasting more enjoyable coffee to reach more people.

All of that said, there’s one big caveat to the Blonde roast—it’s not actually “light.” The new roast has been compared to the “milder taste” and “lighter roasts” of Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds, not Tim Wendelboe and Intelligentsia. So there is a bit of subjectivity in how the Blonde roast has been described. In the Starbucks video that announced the new roast, two Starbuck’s roasters discussed the process saying:

We went through 80 to 100 iterations…we were narrowing in on it for quite a while. At second pop is where we found the sweet spot for Blonde roast.

Second pop? On my recent trip to The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, the first pop (or crack) took place in the cooling tray of the roaster. There’s usually another minute or two between the first and second crack in roasting, which means the Blonde roast is being cooked for 10% longer (or more) than light roasts that tend to highlight the taste of the coffee and not the roast. Not that its a fair comparison, since Nordic roasters are often teased for simply brewing green coffee, but it does put things into perspective.

For the sake of those who truely do roast light, its nice that Starbucks choose the name “Blonde” instead of “light,” even though it’s really medium dark. Just because Blonde is roasted lighter than the other Starbuck’s coffee (which isn’t hard to do), doesn’t make it a light roast. But it does make for great marketing, who doesn’t love a tall blonde?

So will Starbuck’s Blonde roast steal customers away from other roasters who have been roasting lighter for years—highly doubtful. Will it open the door for those same roasters to have conversations with new customers about lighter coffee—absolutely. It may even make the occasional, intolerable cup of airport coffee, slightly more tolerable.

posted by on 11.04.2011, under Products, Recommended Roasters

From Green to Great


This beautiful film produced by Hybrid Media Company was shot for MadCap Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It showcases the process from green bean to cup. Keep an eye out for a cameo of Ryan Knapp’s sexy beard and a Coffee Common tamper.

I’d suggest turning the volume up and watching it full screen. Enjoy!

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posted by on 04.04.2011, under Misc., Recommended Roasters, Videos