I was puzzled the first time I heard the words “rock star” and “barista” used together.
No. I don’t have pumpkin spice, Georgia pecan, hazelnut, amaretto supreme or anything else like that because:
1. Great coffee stands for itself and doesn’t need to have “flavor” added.
2. By and large, those additives are synthesized chemicals.
I’ve been in places that make artificially-flavored coffee and to me, it’s pretty nasty. Highly concentrated flavoring syrups are mixed with the beans and the whole place reeks. The smell permeates your clothes for the rest of the day. Yuck.
My mission is simple - find great coffee and roast it to bring out its true voice.
I guess it depends on what you mean by “strong.” Dark roasts like Italian and French roasts have a very pronounced smoky, sometimes ashy flavor. At that degree of roast, the origin characteristics have been pretty much roasted out of it, making one coffee indistinguishable from the other. To my thinking, that’s a damned shame. Not only that, they have less caffeine than a lighter roast.
Medium roasted coffee is very full-flavored and retains the distinctive taste and personality of the original coffee. I celebrate the uniqueness of each origin so you ain’t gonna catch me roasting my coffee until it’s oily.
If you normally drink dark roasted coffee, give a lighter roast a shot. You might discover a new favorite.
You touched on a very good point - that of seasonability. We know that freshly roasted coffee is best, but what about green, unroasted coffee? Does it go bad too? The answer is while it doesn’t go “bad”, it will get stale if it sits around too long in the warehouse. Acidity gets dull and those bright floral notes go flat with time. However, the degradation can be mitigated by careful storage in a cool, dry facility.
Regardless of origin, the coffee harvest typically lasts 3-4 months. The coffees are processed and permitted to rest for about a month at origin, then loaded onto a ship, where they arrive here about 2 months post-harvest. The harvest times vary but typically, Central and South American coffee are harvested Dec-Mar and are freshest here Feb-July. African coffees are usually harvested about 2 months earlier.
Harvest times vary between countries and regions. If you really want to get geeky, Tom Owen over at Sweet Maria’s has put together a really nice chart that shows the seasons country-by-country. http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.prod.timetable.php
To address your original question: your favorite Ethiopian coffee is best from Feb-Jun. That’s not to say that it won’t be good in other months, just not necessarily at its peak.
As you obviously know, coffee is a perishable product. Once it’s been roasted, the freshness clock is ticking, so the best strategy is to purchase however much you’re going to drink in the next 2 or 3 weeks.
That’s not practical for everyone, however. The next best thing to do is take those extra bags, put them in a heavy-duty zip lock bag, and stick ‘em in the freezer: the colder, the better. When it’s time to drink your stored coffee, pull out the still-sealed bag and let it come to room temperature before you open it. The wrong thing to do at this point would be to open it while it’s still cold because condensation would form on your coffee, which is not a good thing.
Oxygen, light and heat will all wreak havoc on your coffee, so store it in an opaque, sealed container at room temperature and it’ll keep fresh for a few weeks.
The tendency for a lot of folks is when they find a really great coffee, to set it aside for visitors on special occasions. I understand it, but it’s not the best approach. Sometimes, the most special things are fleeting, so enjoy them while you can. Look forward to discovering a new favorite coffee, it’s out there!
From what I can gather, 6 ounces is what the coffee industry has used as their standard for a “cup” since who knows when. Maybe it was so their coffee makers would appear larger than they really are. I do know that a typical coffee mug these days holds way more than 6 oz.
You can forget all of that crap though. It’s not important when you use the 1:15 ratio system that I spoke about earlier here. Now go out, get yourself a digital scale and don’t ever look back.
“Acidity” is a taste descriptor in coffee, but has nothing to do with measurable ph levels. Because of that term, it causes confusion when someone suffers from acid reflux, commonly referred to as heartburn. Coffee can be a trigger for acid reflux, not because of acidity, but because caffeine can relax the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus, allowing gastric acids to escape from the stomach and create that painful burning sensation.
The acidity that coffee professionals refer to is the bright, lively taste that is especially pronounced in lighter-roasted coffees. A fair comparison would be that of a sparkly champagne to an earthy red wine.
Coffee is mildly acidic with a ph of 5, but according to medical authorities, caffeine is the real culprit. If you really love coffee and suffer from acid reflux, you might find relief by just limiting your intake to 1 or 2 cups a day. I’m not a doctor, so as always, refer to your physician for medical advice.
Folks often ask me how much coffee to use when brewing. I used to give answers like “approximately 2 tablespoons per 6 oz. cup.” Then the inevitable follow-up question would be about how much to use when making a pot. I finally got tired of the confusion that would then ensue when trying to figure out what size coffee maker someone had and how that translated into actual, discreet measurements.
After reading what food writer Michael Ruhlman had to say on measurements, I began to think in terms of ratios, not quantities. After some experimentation with different brewing methods and proportions, I think that I finally hit the magic ratio… 1:15. 1 part coffee to 15 parts water by weight. Now, this means that you’ll need a scale to weigh your coffee. But the good news is that an accurate digital scale can be had for $20 - $30 and it’s a very valuable tool in the kitchen for things other than weighing coffee. Recipes (particularly baked goods) come out more consistently when the ingredients are weighed versus portioned out volumetrically.
Ever try to scale up a recipe? It can be a nightmare when you’re dealing in teaspoons or pints or cups. Also, bonus points for never having to sift flour ever again.