Storing Roasted Coffee

Have you ever had a cup of coffee at a cafe you often frequent only to find something is off? We run into this a lot!  Sometimes we ask questions and find out that it is simply a novice barista. Sometimes we realize that a setting with the espresso machine/pour-over system/French press/etc is off (normally a water temperature problem).  Sometimes we find that the grinder needs to be calibrated. But most often we find that it is a storage issue.

All the attention possible can be given at the farm, in the roastery, and by the barista only to find that the manner in which the coffee is stored is the culprit for a bland cup. Light, heat, moisture, and oxygen are the elements that need the most attention when considering how to keep your coffee the freshest. We have seen some beautiful displays of airtight artisan glass coffee containers that cafe’s use to display their beans only to place them on a counter in direct sunlight. The containers are rated to keep all oxygen and moisture out but the light will still adversely affect the coffee. We have seen others place the coffee in well engineered stainless steel canisters that keep out light and oxygen but then place them in a cooler to keep the beans chilled. This is another attempt to protect the beans that does damage because refrigerating them increases moisture.  Many times though, it is isn’t necessarily a problem in the immediate environment it is simply a storage medium issue.

From May to September 2018 Blue Bottle conducted a fascinating experiment trying to identify the best way to preserve freshly roasted coffee. For the analysis they not only controlled the environment to minimize the exposure the beans would have to light, heat, moisture, and oxygen, they also placed the coffee in three different types of packaging. They wanted to gauge the resulting effect on the beans if the greatest concern for environment was tended to how much responsibility for freshness was due to packaging. The different types of packaging they used were:

A compostable paper bag (Blue Bottle’s standard storage method), opened once a month to take a sample
A GrainPro 15-kg Ultra-Hermetic zipped bag, opened once a month to take a sample
A GrainPro 15-kg Ultra-Hermetic zipped bag, which remained sealed throughout the entire five-month trial

With the standard compostable bag used by Blue Bottle they found that the cupping score dropped from 86 to 79 over the five month period. With the GrainPro bag they found the cupping score dropped less drastically. In the ultra-hermetic bag where they were sampled each month the scores only dropped 5 points over the same time period (from 86 to 81). Whereas the beans that were not opened a single time during the experimented only saw a 3 point change during the five months (86 to 83). Needless to say, the beans with the least amount of oxygen exposure won the day. It is important to note that regardless of the storage medium freshness was lost.  Drink your coffee – best not to let it linger!

Farmer First Green Coffee Pricing

While most of the coffee industry is primarily concerned with consumer-first costs we are primarily concerned with farmer-first price values.  It might seem backwards for a for-profit company to focus on the product provider as opposed to the product consumer but it is for the best interest of the industry and end-user for us to be primarily concerned with farmer first green coffee pricing.

In the current specialty coffee environment there is such a demand for competition in pricing to get specialty coffee in local cafe’s that the demand is driving prices so low for the distributors the prices they are willing to pay is causing the farmers to sell their green coffee at such a low amount they aren’t able to sufficiently cover production costs.

Fortunately, there are industry leaders throughout the value chain that are not only aware of this problem but wanting to do something about it.  Recently an initiative was formed to gather data with the hopes of being able to make strategic proposals based on what is discovered.  Emory University will be leading the project by collating the information provided by data donors to create transaction guides that will allow us to monitor and respond to this challenge in the specialty coffee industry.

To learn more about this project and see the initial transaction guide you may follow the project here at the Specialty Coffee Association

Our partners are working hard to produce some delicious coffee, let’s honor them and support our farming friends by enjoying it!

2018 SQUARE COFFEE REPORT

 

SCA recently teamed up with Square to publish their 2018 coffee report.  It is really good to see some of the trends that are going on across the States:

  • In regards to tipping baristas: National average is 11.4% but Alaska is the setting the bar high at 17.5%.  Things aren’t so good for baristas in New Jersey where the average tip lands at only 7.5%
  • While iced coffee consumption is on the rise 42% of Americans prefer cold brew to iced coffee
  • The latte is far and away the most popular coffee drink in the US.  The most expensive cup is found in North Dakota while it is most economic to buy a latte in Idaho
  • In a little more than a year’s time oat milk has seen a whopping 425% increase!
  • American’s are staying caffeinated all day long.  The most prominent hour for drip coffee is 8am while Iced blends are in peak consumption at 2pm
  • Australian Flat white sales and Spanish Cortado sales are the international styles that have made the most significant gains in the US market over the past year
  • Part of the reasons the latte is the typical Americans favorite coffee drink is because of all the add-ons that can accompany it.  Over the past year the average American requests two add-ons to their latte orders

If all of these fun numbers made you thirsty head on over to our shop and buy some delicious coffee to enjoy from the comfort of your own home!

Green Coffee Data

In the past most green coffee grading was done by physical analysis.  Defects were easy to find: insect damage, chipped, black beans we very easy to spot.  As technology advances so is the ability to track other types of defects in beans.  Some of these defects are not as easy to spot…but they greatly impact the quality of the bean.  Density and water activity are two examples of this.  Physical defects like are much easier to measure over time than they are through a simple sorting process.  Earlier this month the Specialty Coffee Association of America published an article withe following quote:

“If you capture water activity over a green lot’s life cycle, you will see changes over time and this will affect how you design your roast profiles. Beans with a lower water activity lose moisture more quickly, which will have an impact on your roast duration and how you’re going to apply heat during the roasting process. This also means that when you plan to roast a coffee over the course of several months, this coffee will begin to mature and its physical properties will change. Knowing what to measure and how this data influences your roast profiles over time is an essential skill a roaster needs.”

These types of advancements in the industry help each member of the value chain responsibly steward its link in the chain so that the consumer is able to have the best cup possible.  The farmers work so hard.  The more data we analyze the better job we do of enabling you to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

To learn more about how data is helping improve the quality of coffee from crop to cup please check out this great article. 

Behind a Coffee Bean

 

The Roasters Guild recently did a coffee tour in Yunnan in conjunction with the Yunnan International Coffee Exchange.  From that tour they produced a great little video to let the world see just how good the coffee is here.  Please watch this little video for a great glimpse into the quality of coffee that is starting to be produced here.  When you are done with the video visit our store and try some for yourself!

The Milling Stage


For the majority of coffee growers around the world harvest season is nearing an end.  Much of the coffee that will be enjoyed over the next year is entering a critical phase of its journey to your cup – the milling stage.

Milling

During the dry mill stage the coffee is sun dried to prevent the beans from over fermenting or spoiling.  To dry the beans they are placed on raised beds that allows airflow from both above and below (or a cool patio floor depending on the climate and environment). The beans must also be carefully monitored so they receive the right amount of sunlight and the right amount of shade.  It is a laborious process because the beans must be turned during the process and moved in and out of direct sunlight based on temperature, moisture in the air, or cloud coverage (not to mention the careful attention given in regard to wind, rain, insects, etc).

Hulling

Once the beans are dry they are still covered by a layer of parchment. This is a layer that coats the coffee between the bean and the mucilage.  It is like a dry thin shell that either needs to be removed by hand or through a huller.  The advantage of a huller is that it enables you to do large volumes quickly.  The advantage of hand sorting is that it creates more jobs and is safer for the bean.  In our current environment, most hulling equipment is well built and calibrated so damage to the beans is minimal to non-existent.

Sorting

During the sorting phase we make sure that any defective beans and all other debris are removed from the lot so that only pure high-end coffee remains. If the lot is earmarked for instant coffee then not as  much attention is given to the removal of defects.  If it is a specialty grade lot then careful attention is given to remove everything but the best of the beans.

Most high end processing plants use a gravity machine and/or color sorter for the final sorting stages.  The gravity machine sorts the beans by weight.  The color sorter scans each individual beans to make sure that unripe/overripe beans are removed from the specialty lot.

Size Grading

The beans need to be separated by size because roasting different sized beans together can greatly affect the success of the roast.  A larger bean will respond to the temperature variables differently than a smaller one so it can lead to an uneven roast if the beans are different sizes.

During the grading process the beans are sifted through sieves which are filled with carefully perforated holes based on internationally accepted sizes. They are numbered 8-20 with each number referring to how many 64ths of an inch the holes are.  So a size 8 sieve has holes that are 8/64ths of an inch while a 20 sieve size has holes that are 20/64ths of an inch.

The sieves are stacked on top of each other and the beans are poured into the largest sieve which remains on top.  They then fall through the holes until they reach the size they can no longer fit through.  Even-numbered sieves are used for Arabica beans while odd-numbered sieves are used for Robustas.

If you are interested in some delicious green coffee that has been carefully procured through the milling process – and all other stages from crop to cup – please visit our shop!

 

Coffee Habits Around the World

 

Xinglong Coffee

The enjoyment of this coffee for the locals is not due to the economic benefit it brings.  In a land where tea culture is deeper than any outsider can truly understand, tea is the sacred part of culture where relationships are forged, broken, and deals are made. It is an event that is to be stretched over a long period of time…to rush the process is to dishonor the relationship of the person you are sharing tea with.  In a small town on a small island in the South China Sea – Xinglong, Hainan – coffee has been able to replace tea in this pivotal part of the culture.  This is where we get the privilege of living.  We previously did a post on this coffee but it is still one of the strangest coffees we have ever had.  Their method for roasting is to add a local butter, salt, and sugar into a wok with the coffee beans. It is then maintained in canisters or bags in a very oily and burnt form.  It is truly a challenge to drink. It can only be consumed small sip by small sip over a prolonged period of time…I guess that is the point.

 

Fika Coffee

In many circles, fika is known as coffee with butter in it…but fika is so much more!  It is actually a pretty keystone part of Nordic culture.  It is time sanctioned off during the day to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life.  In the the US, coffee is more about grabbing a boost of caffeine on the way to accomplish a litany of tasks.  In Sweden, it is more of an opportunity to slow down and relate with others around you.  To learn more about fika, check out this great book: “Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that’s what fika is all about.”

 

Es Alpukat Coffee

This is a truly unique experience coming out of Indonesia.  It is a mix of coffee, avocado, pandan leaf/syrup, and condensed milk.  The name means ‘iced avocado’ and is available in most restaurants and many roadside stalls.  Many of those have their own localized version of the beverage (vanilla, chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, etc).  Wherever you travel in Indonesia though, you can find some form of Es Alpukat.

For a great recipe with directions for how to prepare this check out this article from the Washington Post.

 

Yuenyueng Coffee-Tea

This is a truly unique drink.  It was first offered as a street food but has recently made its way into specialty café’s and fine dining establishments.  Some Starbucks in Hong Kong even offer Yuenyueng Frappuccinos.  The name comes from the Cantonese word for mandarin duck.  These ducks are a revered part of Chinese culture because the male and female plumages of the mandarin duck are so different; yet, in the midst of those differences Mandarin ducks mate for life.  They are a paradox – a seeming opposite but an obvious pair once united.  This is how true Hong Kong locals view coffee and tea.

One of our favorite Hong Kong coffee blogs recently did an interview with Lam Chun Chung, the man who claims that his shop came up with the name that endears the beverage to this day.  It is an interesting read, you can access the blog and article here. 

Coffee Ground Uses

If you search online for uses of old coffee grounds you will find a lot of different ideas.  We tried a lot of the ideas to see which ones really work.  The following list are our top 5 favorite uses for coffee grinds that we found work really well

  1. Coffee as Fertilizer

Coffee is highly acidic (unbrewed grinds significantly moreso than brewed grinds).  This can have a negative effect on some of the plants you grow in a garden.  It is very beneficial to a lot of other types of plants.

Carrots, beats and radishes grow exceptionally well with coffee.  These types of plants you can use fresh coffee grinds while planting.  The coffee gives them energy and helps them sprout quickly.

Azaleas, hydrangeas, rhodendrons, camellias, roses and other acid-loving flowering plants also love coffee.  For these, mixing the brewed grounds with dead grass clippings or brown leaves works the best.  Combining the straw type material with washed coffee grounds neutralizes some of the acidity but draws out the nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium in the coffee that helps these flowering plants thrive

  1. Earthworms

Earthworms improve crop (or garden) productivity.  Their tunneling through the soil helps aerate which leads to a more stable soil structure.  Their paths through the soil not only lead to better drainage because of the tunnels they create, they feed on dead roots, leaves, and plants as they travel.  Their secretions increase nutrient availability.  Earthworms are attracted to coffee so adding used grounds can provide many benefits far beyond the grounds themselves

  1. Compost

The amount of nitrogen present in coffee makes it an excellent green matter.  Simply throw it onto the compost pile as you are finished drinking your brew and your compost pile will benefit greatly.  Make sure you keep your greens and browns in balance so that you compost equally and do not begin growing unwanted bacteria and molds.  However, if your compost is in balance it will even further attract the earthworms you desire to create a really healthy soil environment.

  1. Absorb Odors

Coffee grounds (fresh or used) can serve in ways similar to baking soda.  You can place it in the back of your fridge to absorb odors or use them as a soap to wash your hands after chopping garlic or onions.

The best part is that even after you use them for absorption you can still use them later in the garden as fertilizer or for composting.

  1. Flavor Enhancer

This is one of our favorites.  We have found that a really fine grind (like a powder) makes coffee useful to put in all kinds of recipes.  You can make granola bars, brownies, cookies, muffins, etc.  Everything tastes better with a little bit of coffee added.  When used as a flavor enhancer it is best to use fresh coffee.

To try some of this flavor enhancer head on over to our store and buy a bag to see for yourself!

What is Specialty Coffee?

Last year, Perfect Daily Grind, published an excellent article detailing what specialty coffee really is.  It is an important distinction because we hear different terms thrown around interchangeably and it causes a lot of confusion.  Specialty coffee is not a flowery term used to make bad coffee sound good.  It is coffee that has been graded and received a score placing it in a category of excellence that is highly monitored and highly coveted.  The aforementioned article describes it as Arabica coffee that has been cupped by a certified Q grader with a cup score of 80+ points without any processing defects that disqualify it.  There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into obtaining marks high enough to advance coffee into the specialty category.

While the article mentions that Specialty coffee must be Arabica and scored by a Q grader…it fails to mention that Robusta can also obtain a specialty rating.  Since Q graders are only certified to grade Arabica there is also a special type of Q grader qualification that is used to grade Robusta – this is less formally known as R grade certification.  You can learn more about the Q Robusta certification (R grade certification) at coffeestrategies.com.

At Sina Green we will only sell specialty grade coffees.  Since we are a farm direct supplier and will only partner with those whom we know to be fair trade we do not yet have a specialty Robusta we can offer in the States.  We are working closely with a couple of farms though and hope that within the next two harvest seasons we will be able to share some specialty grade Robusta from Hainan Island!

 

Interview on Yunnan Coffee

Yunnan Coffee has not yet gained the recognition it deserves.  There is a lot of effort and quality control being put into sharing this coffee with the world.  A recent interview was conducted for China’s main social media outlet WeChat in which Tim Heinze, founder of Hani Coffee and CEO of Yunnan Coffee Traders answers some questions about Yunnan coffee.  The article is back-translated into English so some of the wording is a little funny but it is a great read nonetheless.