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How Coffee Processing Affects Flavor

Posted by Julie Beals on Tue, Apr, 12, 2016 @ 09:04 AM

by Jim Sherfey


As much as the best baristas in America can control a cup of coffee when the kettles are steaming and the scales are beeping, the fate of a bean is sealed far earlier, while still in its green state some thousands of miles aways.

A number of factors result in a bean's suggested notes of caramel, stone fruit, pine nut, and sesame. Coffee flavor profiles have to do with genetic cultivarsBourbon, Caturra, Castillo, and Gesha all carry distinct tastes. Elevation, also plays a role. Lower levels of oxygen in the air create a dense, more complex bean. But to tap into those flavors, coffee must first be transformed from its original state, as the seed of a fruit, into a roast-ready green bean. And how producers handle this transition has a lasting effect on the coffee.

The most common ways a farmer treats coffee cherries (the name of the plant's fruit) are called Natural Process, Washed or Wet Processed, and Honey Processed or Pulped Natural. Practices vary by country and region, and myriad permutations can take place on the journey from cherry to bean. Below, the three most popular ways green coffee beans are handled, and how those processes impact your cup.


Tags: coffee, flavor

Cupping Notes: Learn to distinguish between coffee characteristics

Posted by Julie Beals on Sun, Mar, 20, 2016 @ 17:03 PM

Cupping Notes: Fragrances, Acid, Body, Flavor and Finish


As a follow up to our cupping guide, here's a handy guide for distinguishing between coffee characteristics — which, for the novice cupper, can sometimes seem like five ways to say the same thing.

Here are a few more tips for advancing your cupping skills by sorting out dry grounds from wet, and distinguishing aspects of acidity, body, flavor and finish.

Fragrance of dry coffee grounds

Do they smell fresh? Stale? Over roasted? Under roasted? This is a great place to find out, before water is added to the mix.


Sweet   Spicy

Roasty   Nutty

Malty    Carbony

Stale     Fresh

Fragrance of Wet Grounds

When the grounds are wet, they emit aroma. Water mixing with the coffee and oxygen produce a more intense smell than with the dry grounds.


Smooth   Fresh

Lively     Creamy




Acidity can be a desirable attribute in coffee (when it’s lively and fresh), or an unwelcome o­ne (when it’s sour). But make no mistake: coffee devoid of acidity is flat an lifeless. Yet coffee with too much or the wrong type of acidity can be hard to swallow. If the acidity is unpleasant, pleasant, fresh, sour, or what have you – jot it down in your cupping notes.


Nippy     Neutral

Soft       Tangy

Tart       Rough

Mild       Delicate

Smooth   Winey



This is a description of the richness and fullness of the feel of the coffee in your mouth.


Full   Rich

Fat    Thin



This is the fun part. Is there chocolate? Fruit? How much depth do the flavors have?


Fruity        Winey

Buttery      Caramel

Chocolate  Blackcurrant

Woody       Grassy

Honey       Liquorice

Malty        Nutty

Spicy (and what kind of spice?)



After you’ve swallowed or spit out the coffee, what are you left with? Aftertaste is an important part of the cup. It’s what lingers, what you remember about the coffee.


Sweet   Smooth

Sour      Full

Bitter    Silky

Sharp    Burnt




Tags: coffee, cupping, training

Three Ways Millennials Will Change Your Business

Posted by Julie Beals on Thu, Mar, 03, 2016 @ 12:03 PM

Dana Manciagli , Contributing Writer, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Last year, millennials surpassed Generation X in the workplace.

Today, in the U.S., one in three workers is a millennial, someone between the ages of 18 and 34.

They’re numerically the largest generation, standing strong at an estimated 80 million.

But beyond the numbers, the millennial mindset is changing traditional views of business, creating challenges and opportunities.

A 2015 Deloitte survey highlights the millennial attitude:

  • About 6 in 10 respondents said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer.
  • Nearly 64 percent believe businesses are focused on their own agendas rather than helping to improve society.
  • The 2014 survey showed that only 28 percent of millennials felt that their current organization is making full use of their skills.

Businesses need to focus on more than just profits and embrace new skill sets to tap into the strength of millennial leaders. While making a business and leadership shift will be challenging, it is necessary to remain relevant in the face of these new realities.

Jon Mertz, author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders, focuses on bringing generations together to guide and challenge millennials in the workplace. According to Mertz, while current generations need to provide a foundation, millennials will mold it in three key ways.


A Cupping Guide For New Staff or Customers — and Maybe Even Yourself

Posted by Julie Beals on Tue, Feb, 23, 2016 @ 12:02 PM

It’s a weird word, cupping. Yet all it is is ground coffee and hot water, with no fancy brewing process to affect its flavor. It’s what you’ve got to do to evaluate the characteristics of coffees, to understand their nuances — their basic tastes and defects — and how they compare to other coffees. And it’s something you can share with your customers with weekly or monthly cupping events — perhaps during a slower weekend hour.

Three — or more — coffees is sufficient for a cupping session. Sometimes when you try just one coffee, it can actually be harder to pick out the flavors. But when you try several in one sitting (or cupping), you get to taste different regions, roasts, nuances and underlying flavors.

All of the coffees should be lightly roasted at the same time, so their flavors and faults stand out equally, without being unduly influenced by roast type.

Cupping supplies:

  • Coffees! Three or more.
  • Coffee grinder
  • Scale
  • Timer
  • Hot water
  • One small bowl (or a mug will do) for each coffee. Must be equal size.
  • Two extra bowls, any size
  • One cupping spoon for each person participating — or other deep-bowled spoons
  • Two extra spoons
  • Cupping Form (optional)
  • Flavor Wheel (optional)


Now get to cupping:

  1. Grind each coffee coarsely — French-press style.
  2. Pour an equal amount (typically 12g) of each cofee, into each bowl.
  3. Smell the dry grounds of each coffee. This is the first highlight of the process.
  4. Add water to fill each cup. (No need to measure as bowls are equal in size.) Also fill one of the extra empty bowls with water.
  5. Wait 4 minutes. Smell the coffees as you wait. Another highlight.
  6. Break the floating grounds — called the “crust” — of each coffee with your cupping spoon, and stir a few times. Be sure to get a big whiff of the aromatics that rise once you remove the crust. Yet another highlight!
  7. Use the extra bowl of water to wash off your spoon between breaking the crust on each coffee. You don’t want to contaminate the flavors.
  8. Take the two extra spoons and scoop the grounds out of each bowl and discard them. Again, cleaning the spoons after putting them in each bowl is important — no mingling of flavors.
  9. Replace the water in the spoon-cleaning bowl with clean water.
  10. Now, let the slurping commence. Spoon up some coffee and aerate — i.e. add air to the coffee by slurping hard — so the liquid splashes the roof of your mouth and your entire tongue, fully touching each sensory area while and at the same time stimulating your sense of smell.   
  11. Roll the coffee around in your mouth and think of tastes you can compare it to. Nothing is ridiculous — you taste what you taste. Take notes on fragrance, acidity, body, flavor and finish. An experienced cupper can give you pointers as to what to look for in these categories, and you can use the SCAA’s Flavor Wheel for some hints, and to get some industry lingo down. Don’t hesitate to ask questions  cupping should be an enjoyable experience, and you’ll get more out of it with someone to be your guide.
  12. It may seem wasteful, but it’s a good practice to spit after sampling each coffee to avoid overstimulating yourself. That’s what the second extra cup is for — spitting out coffee.
  13. Write down your feelings about each coffee’s sweetness, acidity, body and mouthfeel. Use a Cupping Form for general or strict guidelines — depending on how serious you’re taking this cupping.
  14. Keep going back to each coffee and reassess them until they’re lukewarm. It’s important to note how they taste from their hottest state to their coolest. If a coffee can’t hang onto its winning traits as it cools, that’s a major mark against it—as far as specialty-grade coffee goes. If it actually gets better, you might have something special on your hands. Or on your spoon, as it were.
  15. Asses your scores and reflect. You’re on your way to growing your palette!



Tags: coffee, cupping

SCAA's new flavor wheel groups together different flavor attributes of coffee

Posted by Julie Beals on Mon, Jan, 25, 2016 @ 13:01 PM

The SCAA's Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel was updated last week. More science went into the updated wheel than you might think. Sensory scientists at Kansas State University created something called the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon, a kind of dictionary of the many different attributes of a cup of joe. Each flavor is tied to an actual object so that roasters can describe both a type of flavor and its intensity when they talk coffee. The lexicon was used as the basis of a kind of lingua franca among tasters—a language that lets roasters ensure they’re talking about the same thing when they discuss the different notes they detect in a particular brew.
Once the language was established, researchers from the University of California, Davis undertook the even heavier task of figuring out how coffee tasters group all of those flavors together. A study of over 70 tasters showed that these sensory specialists were pretty consistent in their groupings.

Tags: coffee

2015: The Year In Coffee Culture

Posted by Julie Beals on Tue, Dec, 29, 2015 @ 18:12 PM

by Liz Clayton

Originally published at eater.com.

This year, coffee culture went from specialty to mainstream.


The contemporary specialty coffee movement, whatever you wish to call it, has long been entwined with what many people have viewed (and embraced) as groups that are outsider and indie. And while it's true that fancy coffee places haven't really been "for geeks, by geeks" for some time now—and some never were—the shifting sands of this once outlying culture had not, until this year, seen quite such bold steps towards mainstream.

While ardent coffee fans may have already noticed this shift, it was never more pronounced than October's headlines announcing Bay Area-based Peet's Coffee—themselves owned by the JAB Holding Company investment group, who control majority shares in Caribou Coffee and fashion house Jimmy Choo, among others—had purchased Portland's Stumptown Coffee Roasters, as well as Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters. Stumptown, which had already been sold in 2011 to TSG Consumer Partners, is poised to extend Peet's boutique-market reach, particularly through Stumptown's rapidly growing grab and go cold brew vertical. The addition of Intelligentsia to the Peet's portfolio (Peetsfolio?) mere weeks after enables the Bay Area roaster to be even more competitive. As Peet's president CEO Dave Berwick explained in October, the moves guarantee Peet's a stronger foothold in the diversifying coffee industry: "To capture more than our fair share of this market, it's important that we offer differentiated craft coffee brands."

Though it's not a new phenomenon in the haute coffee world—Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee has raised multiple rounds of $20,000,000 plus financing in the last few years—a well-known, major chain purchasing two once-independent roasters almost simultaneously gave some people pause. But it shouldn't have.

"Honestly it's the natural process, it's the life cycle of a business," said Tracy Allen, president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. "You build your company to a certain point, someone buys it. This gives us a look at what the ceiling is for true specialty coffee. $20 or $30 million seems to be the point where you get the attention of companies that are looking to put portfolios together of regional roasters with established brands."

Though it's not a new phenomenon in the haute coffee world—Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee has raised multiple rounds of $20,000,000 plus financing in the last few years—a well-known, major chain purchasing two once-independent roasters almost simultaneously gave some people pause. But it shouldn't have.

"Honestly it's the natural process, it's the life cycle of a business," said Tracy Allen, president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. "You build your company to a certain point, someone buys it. This gives us a look at what the ceiling is for true specialty coffee. $20 or $30 million seems to be the point where you get the attention of companies that are looking to put portfolios together of regional roasters with established brands."


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Tags: coffee, culture

Non-Dairy Milks: Which Ones Are Best With Espresso?

Posted by Julie Beals on Thu, Dec, 17, 2015 @ 14:12 PM

Dairy milk may still rule the latte universe, but a variety of alternatives have been threatening its dominance since soy milk started showing up in cappuccino cups in the ’90s. And with almond and hemp milks — and even macadamia, cashew and coconut — to contend with, baristas can find themselves juggling a variety of steaming techniques as they try not to burn non-dairy milks while getting them hot enough to add to espresso. 

Soy’s Superiority

For vegans and the lactose intolerant, soy milk is still the standby. It’s also the non-dairy choice of baristas because it creates the best foam, with a consistency that is comparable to dairy milk. This means soy milk can be used to make any espresso drink. Soy milk is also complementary or at least forgiving to many types of coffee. The nutty, creamy flavor pairs well with common flavor profiles and can even enhance the flavor of some coffee varieties and blends.

Almond Joy?

Not quite as forgiving as soy, is almond milk. While soy’s nuttiness ca complement coffee, almond milk be too much for some coffees. But an almond milk latte can still be a good thing — just be sure to stretch your milk early, and don’t go beyond 130 degrees F (55 degrees C) to avoid burning it. Almond milk also curdles at certain temperatures, which looks terrible, but tastes the same.

Almond has even begun to replace soy as the standard nondairy milk in some cafés, typically due to digestion and allergy issues that some customers have with soy. There’s also the concern among label readers that almost all soy milks contain various unpronounceable ingredients and sugar, as well as questions about the health risks possibly associated with GMO soybeans.

Nutty Options

Some coffee shops are offering seemingly exotic macadamia or cashew milk for their rich, buttery texture. And when Starbucks announced in February that it would add coconut milk to its offerings after decades of staunchly serving soy, heads turned. Reviews have been mixed, which is to be expected. Every alternative milk imparts its own unique flavor in the cup and can be tough to swallow in the same mouthful as a bright, medium-dark roast with loads of complexity.

Rice Milk: Ridiculous?

With little to no fat or protein content, rice milk steams about as well as water. Translation: don’t even try. Still, it has a subtle sweetness and virtually no aftertaste that makes it appealing. It can be good stand in for dairy or soy as a simple, lighter creamer. It works equally well with espresso and standard brews, without the nutty flavor if you’re so opposed.

Is Hemp Here To Stay?

Relatively up and coming as a popular option, hemp milk complements coffee flavors similarly to soy but is a bit thicker due to its fat content. This result is a creamier latte with a flavor that leans toward almond milk. Vegans, vegetarians and the highly health conscious are fans of its notable protein, calcium and omega-3 content.

Hemp milk also steams rather well. Read more below.

How’s the latte art?

If you and your customers do like the taste, will the latte art come deliver on its end of the bargain? Hemp milk steams similarly to soy to produce respectable lattes and cappuccinos — and even latte art.

Turns out it doesn’t have to suffer (too much) with almond and coconut milk. A latte art contest in New York in October featured winners in the coconut milk and almond milk categories who jiggled their wrists to produce some pretty impressive rosettas from milks that don’t typically froth as well as dairy or soy.

Pacific Foods’ Coconut and Almond milks, the most popular alternative milks among baristas (after the company’s Barista Soy), are part of the reason. (The NYC alternative-milk latte art contest was sponsored by Pacific Foods, and supplied the milks.) They’re formulated for coffee shops to produce a better, more textured froth for espresso drinks. Baristas tend to agree.

That said, cappuccinos are best made with dairy, soy and hemp milks. Their creaminess is one reason, and the protein content helps considerably. Almond and coconut milks just don’t produce a thick enough foam to make a respectable cappuccino.

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Tags: coffee, espresso, milk

For The Love of Coffee: Work Injuries Among Baristas

Posted by Julie Beals on Sun, Nov, 29, 2015 @ 22:11 PM

This article appeared on the Australian website, safetyculture.com.au.

The café industry is booming and the demand to consistently provide the best product and service is taking its toll on baristas.

Work-related injuries among baristas are on the rise due to repetitive stress from slinging coffee. Coffee tamping using manual pressure can increase the risk of barista elbow, repetitive strain injuries (RSI), and barista wrist.

Treatments for these injuries include analgesics, physical therapy, and ultrasound therapy. Severe cases may require more aggressive interventions including surgery.

Two years ago, a Canberra barista who suffered permanent disability after years of steaming jugs of milk won a payout of almost $600,000.

A 2013 study on the health risks that baristas are exposed to in the workplace revealed that 47 percent of the participants suffering from RSI directly attributed the illness to their jobs.

One of the survey respondents said his injury forced him to quit being a barista.

“My doc said surgery for carpal tunnel is pointless. I essentially had to let my body heal, which meant that I had to quit being a barista. Now I sit behind a desk and I wish every day to be out with my customers, exploring the coffee world, and seeing farms! But those jobs are so hard to find without being forced to deal with torn ligaments,” he said.

A hand specialist told the New York Post in a 2014 article that work injuries among baristas in the cafe industry are common.

“It’s common, and usually chronic,” said Phaeleau Cunneen, a hand specialist at SPEAR Physical Therapy in Manhattan.

He said the dangers involved in the motions of making and serving coffee are far more serious than what the average person knows.

He explained that to make an espresso, “you have to stamp the espresso, push it into the machine, then turn the knob – and the person running the machine is probably making 100-300 cups a day, maybe more.”

In an effort to minimise injuries brought about by manual tamping, Barista Technology NSW has introduced a fully automatic coffee tamper that completely removes the manual pressure required to tamp coffee.

With just a push of a button, the world’s first automatic coffee tamper, PUQPRESS removes the need for repetitive application of pressure in tamping coffee.

“With long term RSI injuries to baristas becoming more and more apparent, minimise the risk to your business and protect your staff by replacing your traditional tamping method with the PUQPRESS. The PUQPRESS eliminates the need for repetitive application of pressure, dramatically decreasing the stress enured when tamping with manual coffee tamps. Coffee is perfectly tamped by the push of a button,” Barista Technology NSW stated in its website.

Coffee shop owners are now becoming increasingly aware of the risks that their employees are facing daily. Many have worked to retrain their staff to protect them from the physical strain of coffee making and serving. Some have even redesigned their bars to be ergonomically safe.

Diane Gregory, a professor of kinesiology and ergonomic expert at Laurier in Canada told the National Posthealth problems that baristas experience resulting from physical stress can be minimised.

“From an ergonomics perspective, there shouldn’t be a physical pain or injury-inducing parts of a job,” she said.

She suggests using automated tampers and for staff to be rotated through tasks to reduce long shift of constant tamping.

Tea Infusions: Add subtle sophistication to your drink menu

Posted by Julie Beals on Wed, Nov, 18, 2015 @ 17:11 PM

Tea is all about soothing flavor — flavor that whispers instead of shouting. It’s a subtle touch that adds a gourmet feel to other beverages, and can enable anyone to develop a signature drink that is truly unique.

And with so many types of tea to experiment with — green, black or oolong for purists, or flavored spice or fruit teas for nonconformists — you can enhance everything from lemonade and lemon drops, to hot chocolate and hot toddies. The vast array of flavor profiles offered by tea makes the possibilities nearly endless. 

Add the fact that 87 percent of millennials drink tea according to the Tea Association of the USA (albeit mostly ready-to-drink or iced at this point), it appears that giving tea a sophisticated spot on your menu, with infusions, could be good business.

Start out slow and simple with your tea infusions, and see where the journey takes you. The basic Arnold Palmer is an obvious choice — half lemonade, half black tea. You can spice it up by infusing the black tea with berries. Simply steep sliced berries with the tea and remove them after chilling the tea. 

Tea Infused Cocktails

Words like "smooth," "smoky" and "floral" might bring to mind bourbon, tequila or gin, but those terms can also describe roobios, green or black teas. The subtle similarities between teas and spirits make them perfect companions in a cocktail.

There are simple cocktails to try as well, such as a pu-erh old fashioned or a green tea mojito. These cocktails can involve adding an ounce or two of brewed tea (which has been chilled) to the beverage. But given that the water in tea will dilute the drink, you can get a little fancier by simply infusing a bottle of liquor with about three teabags — letting them sit in the bottle for 45 minutes to an hour. Try peach tea in rum, chamomile in tequila (which makes a great tequila sour), spice tea with bourbon or whisky, and just about any variety of tea with vodka.

Tea Infusions For the Daytime Crowd

And lest we forget about every coffeehouse’s core business, you can offer more than tea lattes — really. Try infusing cider with rooibos, or add mint tea to smoothies for a refreshing hit. Juices, and lighter sodas like ginger ale or club soda, are great bases for tea drinks as well.

One of the best things about a tea infusion is that the flavor it brings to a drink can minimize the amount of sweetener needed. Most tea-infused drinks call for a bit of simple syrup. Use a small amount at first, so as not to overpower the tea and other flavors.

Infusing drinks with tea makes them memorable, whether you’re creating them for your restaurant, bar, cafe or your home. You can find almost endless ideas online. Take this handy list from BuzzFeed, for instance. Or get lost in the flurry of tea-infused pins on Pinterest. And get to steeping, infusing, mixing and tasting.


Iced Coffee Versus Cold Press: Is Therecold_brew_and_iced_coffee A Clear Winner?

Posted by Julie Beals on Wed, Sep, 09, 2015 @ 19:09 PM


Cold brew coffee and iced coffee are arguably the trendiest summer drinks in coffeehouses around the country — but they hold their own in winter months, too. In a Dunkin Donuts poll, 56 percent of those surveyed said it is never too cold for an iced coffee. Devotees aren’t deterred by dropping temperatures — maybe they just wear gloves. 

But many are torn between the two methods. To cold brew or to ice, that is the question. Here we’ll break down the differences.


Cold Brew: The Smooth, Low-Effort Concentrate

With a brew time that lasts up to 24 hours, you’d think cold brewing would be a complicated process. But it couldn’t be simpler — easy to enjoy with or without fancy equipment. While it takes time, cold brewing is less finicky than ice brewing. Basically, you just set it up and walk away until it comes time to strain the concentrate. You can mix it up in a pitcher, no problem, and just let it sit in the fridge until it’s time to separate the brew from the grounds with a sieve or other filter. 

Minimizing the coffee’s exposure to oxygen is a must, since oxidation creates a bitter brew. You can sidestep bitterness simply by using a container that holds only the necessary volume of coffee and water, and no more. Some cafes are even opting to serve cold brew on tap — further reducing its exposure to oxygen and enriching its texture with nitrogen,  and offering a slick new visual from across the counter. 

The long brewing process is what makes the coffee concentrated — resulting in about twice the caffeine as regular coffee. The deep, smooth flavor, low acidity and typically chocolatey notes of cold brew complement the rich sweetness of dairy, so don’t let any self-proclaimed purists guilt your customers out of adding milk. 

Cold brew is also a dream for a fast-paced cafe. Iced coffee takes longer to prepare and serve, but cold brew just needs to be poured from its refrigerated storage vessel. 

Iced Coffee: The Classic

Since iced coffee is brewed hot, it can be more bitter than cold brew. But high temperatures can also extract more coffee solubles than cold brew, adding to iced coffee’s body. 

To counteract bitterness, it is essential that hot coffee be cooled quickly in order to become tasty iced coffee. Brewing directly over ice does the trick, maintaining aromatics and desirable acidity. It is thinner than the original hot brew, but with a full body. It is even less oxidized than cold brew — fresher, in other words. (Though cold brew fans will argue the superiority of a long, cold brewing process.) 

But how can coffee poured over ice be anything but watery? It helps to use more grounds than usual (say, 10 percent more) but don’t overdo it. Also, introduce hot coffee to ice drop by drop — not all at once. Known as the Japanese method, this cools the coffee faster and doesn’t melt as much ice. 

Is it a tie? 

Cold brew is a bit easier to brew, can be prepped ahead, and provides a uniquely rich, smooth brew. Iced coffee is arguably more authentic and fresh, preserving more solids and therefore more nuances of the coffee’s character. It comes down to what you want to serve, and what your customers want. You can offer your favorite (or easiest) option, or try serving both for awhile and see how they sell.