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Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
Top Of The Best Coffee Roasters Reviewed In 2018Last Updated January 1, 2018
№1 – Weekend Coffee Roasters Costa…
№2 – Weekend Coffee Roasters Colombian (Dark), 12oz Bag
№3 – Lavanta Coffee Roasters Costa Rica…
The Gene Café Home Coffee Roaster CBR-101
If you’re quite serious about roasting your coffee beans at home, the Gene Café Roaster provides a professional-quality roasting experience. In addition, this roaster is adequate for smaller coffee shops. The Café Roaster uses indirect hot air roasting technology, and offers full temperature control to produce the perfect, desired roast. The roasting cycle takes approximately 1minutes to complete, so a large quantity of coffee can be roasted in a relatively short time.
The Café Roaster handles a full oz. of coffee beans in a single roasting session.
The glass roast chamber sits off-axis and allows for maximum visibility during the roast cycle to choose the desired roasting level. The chaff collector is highly efficient and effective. In addition, a vent access port enables the attachment of ductwork to limit smoke in your home or business during roasting.
This is a high-quality, easy-to-use roaster; if you are committed to roasting all of your coffee at home, it’s an excellent choice.
The FreshRoast SR500
While the Gene Café Roaster and the Behmor 1600 Plus are relatively high-end roasters, with a number of easy-to-use features, the FreshRoast SR500 provides a higher-effort and lower-cost home roasting system.
This is a fluid bed air roaster, rather than a drum-style roaster. This inexpensive roaster offers a glass roasting chamber, an easy-to-use chaff collector and both heat and fan adjustments. The batch size is ounces, and you will need to supervise the FreshRoast SR500 carefully—there’s no setting this and going. You may need to manually stir the beans during roasting.
In addition, there’s not an effective cooling cycle; you’ll need to cool your beans with a countertop fan after roasting.
While the FreshRoast SR500 doesn’t have a smoke-control system in place, it does vent smoke from the top of the roaster. When placed under a stove vent hood, the smoke is relatively well-controlled.
The FreshRoast SR500 is an ideal introductory coffee roaster for home use. It’s small, practical, and effective for regular home use.
The Wabash Popcorn Whirley Pop Popper
If you’d like to try out roasting coffee at home, but don’t want to invest hundreds of dollars, there’s a cheap, fun and effective solution—the Wabash Valley Farms Whirley Pop. The Whirley Pop is a stovetop popcorn popper. There’s no real technology here—it’s a sturdy pot with a well-fitting lid and a stirring paddle, and available at a price point in line with other small kitchen appliances. You can even use it for its intended use and pop a tasty batch of popcorn to go with your coffee.
Unsurprisingly, the Whirley Pop doesn’t come with coffee-roasting instructions, and roasting on the stovetop is a challenge. The Whirley Pop can handle up to 8.ounces of coffee beans at a time, but you’ll need to manage and control the heat carefully to avoid burning your coffee. While you need to watch the temperature, this also means you have full control of the temperature. There’s no smoke control, so disconnect those smoke alarms, turn on your vent hood and open the windows.
You’ll need an instant-read thermometer—start by heating the Whirley Pop to 500 degrees. Add your beans and start cranking. You’ll keep cranking until your beans are fully roasted, typically around eight to nine minutes, then transfer beans back and forth between two metal colanders to separate the chaff and cool the beans.
Watch this video review of how to roast coffee with the Whirley Pop to see how it is done.
We hope we were able to offer you some decent options when it comes to roasting your own coffee beans at home. We believe that if you are willing to go the whole yards, getting yourself a home coffee bean roaster, plus the best burr coffee grinder you can get, and then dish out for a proper espresso machine
The Yirgacheffe bean is great for anyone growing their coffee buds (taste buds that is). It has a bright acidity and floral/citrus flavour. It’s tehrefore less intense than some of the full bodied beans. Look out for a smooth medium roast
The 4th annual Good Food Awards were awarded last night in a ceremony at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, and Sprudge was there to bring you on the ground coverage, and bask in the glow of New York Times food writer Ruth Reichl and Alice “Alice” Waters as they gave awards to each of the 1winners in the coffee category., Guatemala Acatenango, Pennsylvania
Tandem Coffee Roasters, Aylele Yirgacheffe Ethiopia, Maine
1000 faces coffee, de la paz, flying goat, gfas, good food awards, intelligentsia, kickapoo, kuma, metropolis, olympia coffee, panther, reanimator coffee, roast house, sightglass, square one, tandem
Brewing up coffee history
Discover a surprising history of the mighty coffee bean in the South West from 17th century coffee houses to the present day
South West Independent Coffee Guide launched ‘You never need have a bad coffee again,’ said Jo Rees editor of the brand new South West Independent Coffee Guide
Originally from Nepal, Dhan Tamang is a world-renowned latte artist who has won the title of UK Latte Art Champion five times. Well known for his use of colour and his precise designs, he shares his frothy tips in a new book featuring step-by-step instructions on how budding baristas can create beautiful latte art at home.
Whether it’s a tulip or rosetta, or a more advanced swan or unicorn, there is no longer any excuse to serve up a flat-looking flat white or a lacklustre latte. Follow his advice and you will soon be the crème de la crema when it comes to coffee art (£10, Cassell Illustrated).
Arabica vs Robusta
In general, Arabica coffee beans are grown at high altitudes, cultivated with the care that a vintner may show his grapes. They carry twice the number of chromosomes that a Robusta bean carries and tend to even look different before roasting. Where Robusta beans are pale green with a brown tint, Arabica beans are deep green and slightly larger in size to boot.
While Robusta beans are definitely the hardier crop, Arabica beans produce a much superior brew whose flavors will be milder, more aromatic, and overall less bitter than those produced by Robusta beans. This is what makes Arabica blends richer in every sense of the word.
As I said earlier, Robusta beans are really all about function. Since they are a hearty and economical crop, the beans they produce are oftentimes used for blends. Sometimes the combination of Arabica and Robusta is just right for lighter roasts.
The Most Informative Coffee Blogs
This list consists of websites and blogs with great informative content. That means from educational facts and stats to guides, how-to’s, tips and advice about coffee. Therefore, their award represent our appreciation to their devotion to shed light on the coffee world.
CoffeeNate – Nate Smith
CoffeeNate is a great resource for anyone, short of a coffee expert, can learn a lot of invaluable coffee knowledge. If you’re just starting to brew your own coffee at home, then check out Nate’s Coffee Brewing Guides. There you can find a bunch of different methods worth learning. For the serious coffee enthusiast, check out Nate’s Home Coffee Roasting Methods. There you can learn how to roast your own coffee beans at home in order to experience the freshest possible coffee.
Grind per cup.
Small-batch roasters are intentional with when and how they roast. Their roasting schedules changed based on the season because, hello, the optimal beans change with the season.
Small-batch roasters are also more intentional withe the farmers they work with. They share in their store and want to share in that store. It carries the same affect as shopping small.
Look for roasters who include full origin information on their bags (elevation, region, etc.). If you do not understand the information, get a little curious and dig deeper! And regardless, when a roaster is consciously sharing that information with the consumer, it shows that a. they care about you, and b. that they care about the farmer.
Also, most roasters do not offer dark roasts, but rather focus on the wide array of notes and flavors in light and medium roasts.
P.S. Lighter roasts have a higher caffeine content than medium and dark roasts!
There are two broad categories of commercial coffee beans in the market today, Robusta and Arabica. Knowing what you like will go a long way in helping you pick what you want. The Arabica type of coffee grows in high altitude areas. It is commonly known for its slightly acidic, smooth taste. On the other hand, Robusta grows in lower altitude areas and has a strong, bitter taste. Though Arabica is considered to be of a higher grade, this largely depends on its growing process and the treatment it receives during its journey to the coffee roaster. All this does not guarantee that the end product is of highest quality. So, unless you want to become an expert, quit worrying about bean type and focus on finding the roaster or brand that makes beans that meet your needs. But remember, simply knowing the 100% Arabica (or the like) is not enough.
Step out of your comfort zone and try something new! More importantly, educate yourself on what you are buying from a specific roaster and learn to appreciate the depth behind each cup!
Even better, we only partner with small-batch roasters! So you are supporting roasters from all across the country (meaning farmers from all over the world) that you over wise would have never heard of!
Tips in Roasting Coffee a Home
Having the right home coffee roaster can indeed make a big difference, but this is not enough to influence the outcome of your caffeine fix. With this, below are some of the most important tips that you have to keep in mind as well.
Choosing a Home Coffee Roaster
As you try to narrow down the options that are available in the market, the following are some of the most important considerations that will help you to narrow down the possibilities:
Ease of Use: Admittedly, not a lot of us have the patience to deal with complications. With this, make sure to choose a coffee roaster that is as user-friendly as possible. The buttons must be strategically positioned. The manufacturer must provide comprehensive instructions, as well as instructional videos, if possible.
Versatility: It will be best to choose a home coffee roaster that has programmable settings. This means that you will have complete control of how it works, such as in terms of roasting time and temperature. You will need to have a bit of an experience to determine how to tweak the settings to come up with the right roast.
Size: Consider the amount of beans that you will roast to determine the right size of the roaster to purchase. In the case of most households, a small one will be more than enough, which is also great because of its space-efficiency.
Roasting Time: A better choice is a unit with an adjustable timer, which will provide you with better control. In most cases, one pound of beans will take up to 20 minutes of roasting.
Chamber: As much as possible, choose a coffee roaster with a see-through window. If the chamber is transparent, it will be easier to monitor the beans, such as if they have already reached the roast level that you want.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Even if you pick the best product, it is inevitable that there will be problems in the future. It will be good to choose one that is easy to clean so that you can effortlessly maintain it at its best. Choose a machine with dishwasher-safe parts.
Warranty: Similar to other products, if you want to have peace of mind, consider the warranty that is offered by the manufacturer to determine the kind of support that they can extend if in case he product proves to be defective.
Type of Roaster: Here are the two common types of coffee roasters that you can find in the market:
Air Roaster: One of the best things about this roaster is that it ensures the consistency of temperature when roasting across all batches. It is a better choice for beginners as well because of the ease of control that it can offer.
Drum Roaster: If you intend to be roasting a lot of beans, which is uncommon for many households, this is a good choice because it generally has a higher capacity. There is a drum that is integrated in the roaster, which turns the beans and allows it to rotate.
Below is a sort video that shows more about choosing a home coffee roaster:
Gene Café CBR-10Home Coffee Roaster
Taking a look at the features of this product, one that makes this an impressive choice is the 3D off-axis rotation. Simply put, this is the one that is responsible for rotating the beans while they are being roasted. The outcome is that they are roasted consistently on all sides.
In terms of capacity, this can also prove to be an exceptional choice. The roasting chamber has a minimum capacity of 50 grams and maximum of 300 grams.
It is also a good thing that you will have complete control on the quality of the outcomes depending on the roast level that you prefer. In front of the unit, you can see two knobs. You can adjust these knobs to modify the temperature and time of roasting depending on your personal preferences.
Ease of set up and use are two other things that you can expect from this roaster. The buttons are designed in such a way that they will be easy to access. Even if you are a beginner, with this equipment, roasting does not need to be a complicated task.
Fresh Roast SR700 Home Coffee Roaster
If you are on the lookout for a highly-advanced roaster, this is an option that you might want to consider. One of its best features is its computer compatibility. As a modern appliance, you can operate it with a computer, provided that there is a compatible operating system.
I personally liked the fact that you will have plenty of choices when it comes to customization. This means that you will enjoy the freedom to control the machine on the basis of the outcome that you expect. You can control the fan speed and level of heat, among other things.
Another feature that is worth highlighting about this product is the Speed Roast Fluid Motion System. One of the main benefits of the latter is that it speeds up the roasting process while still making sure of consistency.
The roasting chamber can only accommodate up to 130 grams, which is quite small compared to many others in the competition. You might find yourself roasting in several batches if you have to work on a lot of beans.
Fresh Roast SR300 Home Coffee Roaster
If you drink coffee and if you use whole beans, this is definitely one product that is going to make your life a lot easier. It is going to roast beans quickly, and best of all, without having to require too much effort on your end.
Feature-wise, one that I find to be impressive in this product is the Fluid Bean Motion. This is an innovative technology that has been developed exclusively by the manufacturer, making sure that you won’t have to wait for a long time before the beans are roasted.
The clear roasting chamber is also a good thing. You will see the beans as they are roasted, making it possible for you to see how they transform.
With this roaster, you can effortlessly control the roasting level of the beans. There is a dedicated cool down button. All that you have to do is to tap it if you want to stop the heat. If you want to roast more, there is an up button that will immediately add six seconds of roasting.
Bunn HG Phase
We love the overall concept, especially since this coffee machine is widely available at retail stores and affordably priced to reach a larger market. Helping folks make great coffee easy is something we like! And the simple, straight-forward, familiar design makes it very approachable. However, though it can deliver on quality, this Bunn’s durability and reliability are dismal compared to the other brands. But if you don’t mind the risk of a faulty unit just to try out a higher-end coffee machine, this is definitely your best option.
Tried and true, the quality of both the finished brew and construction has made this coffee machine the top choice for many people for many years. And there are numerous other variations to choose from in the Moccamaster line to suit your needs. However, this unit’s price undermines its value for us. Is it necessary to spend that much, especially given its very basic features? Perhaps not. Even if with durability in mind, it lacks any programming or customizable features, making it less suited for the coffee aficionado who might like to tinker with settings. On the other hand, if you’re the type willing to make a long-term equipment investment for a solid design and a consistent cup of coffee, the 958is the ideal choice here.
Proceed with caution.
There are a few legitimate badges that can appear on coffee packaging, which we’ll get to in a minute. But literally everything else is marketing, and has no legal, regulatory muscle to back it up. This can include some very popular labels!
There are a few legitimate badges that can appear on coffee packaging. But literally everything else is marketing, and has no legal, regulatory muscle to back it up.
Direct trade. Theoretically, this refers to a cutting out of middlemen, and reveals that the roaster has a personal relationship with the farmer, therefore allowing the farmer to take a larger cut of the profits. In reality? This phrase has absolutely no legal meaning. Anyone can say it. That doesn’t mean that the companies that do use the phrase are lying or misleading, but even in the best-case scenario, the lack of a formal legal definition means that the customer really has no idea what information to glean from the phrase. “The words ‘direct trade’ are not regulated at all,” says Ionescu. “So each company can define that term differently, and there’s no body that determines what is and is not direct trade.”
Shade grown. This one actually is a useful theoretical definition: It means that the coffee plantation is set up with various large, shady trees forming a canopy over the shrub-like coffee plants. It’s a great idea; it retains the natural multi-level character of the environment, which allows for farmers to grow coffee without uprooting every other plant and animal in the area. It also helps retain moisture so farmers use less water, and keeps the soil in place to prevent erosion. Shade-grown coffee is great! It should all be shade grown! But that phrase is, again, not a legally binding one; anyone can say it, to mean anything or nothing at all. Luckily there are actual labels that will let you know if your coffee fulfills the shade-grown requirements, but if all your coffee says is “shade grown”? Nope. Means nothing.
Fair Trade Certified
Then there are the labels which have legitimate meanings but are confusing in their execution.
Rainforest Alliance Certified is an okay certification, provided by an NGO of the same name. Its focus is ecological, requiring some shade, some clean water rubrics, some attempts to not destroy the environment. It also is a pretty decent protection against the exploitation of child labor. The problem is that, while Rainforest Alliance is absolutely a real certification with real requirements, those certifications aren’t … very strict. For one thing, sometimes only 30 percent of the coffee in a package needs to have passed muster for the package to be legally labeled Certified, which is pretty messed up. (The packaging does have to state that only 30 percent of the coffee is certified, and companies are required to scale up over time, but still.) For another, it doesn’t require a minimum purchasing price for coffee, nor does it actually do anything at all to ensure more equitable wages for farmers. It’s been widely criticized, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
Bird-Friendly Certified is hugely important. If you see the green and brown Bird-Friendly logo on your coffee? You’re getting some good stuff.
UTZ Certified, certainly a lesser-known certification, is not specific to coffee, but is sometimes applied. (It’s also common in chocolate.) UTZ is agriculture-focused, working specifically on habitat preservation, water use, pesticide use, and soil erosion prevention. But it’s attracted criticism for being too general, and for not requiring the use of shade trees.
The last big one is one of the best, and probably the least known:
Bird-Friendly Certified. This certification comes from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and requires extremely strict adherence to the guidelines of shade-grown coffee—it even mandates a canopy height. Bird-Friendly Certified coffee is also, by requirement, organic, meaning you get kind of a two-for-one. The name of the certification isn’t great; something like “direct trade” sounds an awful lot more powerful and important than “bird friendly.” But this certification is hugely important. If you see the green and brown Bird-Friendly logo on your coffee? You’re getting some good stuff.
Ionescu notes that these certifications aren’t everything. “Just having a certification doesn’t guarantee that the farm is sustainable,” she says. “It could be organic certified but the farmer might not make much money, or the coffee quality might not be good.” And there’s basically no way for a consumer to casually learn reliable information about a coffee supply chain; companies have a firm incentive (in the form of dollars) to present themselves as the pinnacle of green-friendly, labor-friendly producers, and the dearth of third-party verification can make it hard to trust any of that.
As with all foods and beverages, different people will have their own preference of coffee, but I will try to present the individual coffee flavours at each cafe so you can decide what you like. In the end, you will have to decide what type of taste you prefer but most Singaporeans at this stage of our coffee culture go for a more balanced, easy drinking variety of coffee with milk.
A great guide for getting new cafe ideas, this is for the Singapore cafe-hoppers.
Nylon Coffee Roasters
A simple small cafe born out of only reason: a passion for Coffee. Nylon sources their coffee from all the world, roasts and brews their own amazing coffee not just based on their preferences, but also experimenting objectively. The espresso blend changes seasonally, while packed beans are available for purchase. While I was there, I had the Four Chairs blend which was a 50-50 mix of Nicaragua and El Salvador beans for a sweet, well-balanced finish with notes of black berries.
Symmetry is a cafe by day and restaurant bar by night that also pays homage to classical French cuisine. As a third wave cafe believing in artisanal coffee and food, Symmetry employs a professional roaster in Senoko, where coffee beans are medium roasted once a week.
Dutch Colony Coffee Co.
Their Dutch blend ristretto has a citrus-like acidity, is full bodied, slightly nutty and with a smooth velvety finish. Being coffee suppliers with freshly roasted beans, of course Dutch Colony also has seasonal single-origin coffees at the outlet which can be prepared in various brewing methods of your choice. Their bottled cold brew coffees is also something to look out for, coming in sweetened and unsweetened states.
Dutch colony has since opened a 2nd specialty coffee lab at Frankle Ave, serving even more advanced filter brewing techniques than their Pasarbella store.
Coffee workshops like degustation tasting, latte art making and basic barista training is also provided by Dutch Colony to any aspiring coffee connoisseurs.
The Gibraltar latte (similar to a piccolo) we tried was floral and fruity on the nose, a nutty front with a rather bright and acidic note upon taste. The acidity tapers off very quickly to reveal notes of berries at the end. Overall a very well-balanced brew. All lattes, cappucinos and espressos are made with a double ristretto shot for more intensity.
Yellow Cup Coffee
A Hawaiian coffee concept, Yellow Cup boasts single origin coffees from Ethiopia, Uganda, El Salvador, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Brazil and even Hawaii. While I was there, I tried the Nicaragua (smooth, simple, sweet hint of maple syrup and butterscotch) and the Sumatra longberry (heavier in profile, spices and herbs, sweet tobacco and dark caramel).
As with many other cafes, the beans rotate regularly too. The latte art could use some work though in my opinion.
Using beans roasted by Yahava Koffeeworks, the Arabica house blend combines Colombian, Ethiopia and Papa New Guinea beans to give a strong robust body. There is a mellow acidity to the coffee as well as lingering caramel and floral flavours, but is overall pretty balanced and simple to drink if you like a heavy mouth feel.
Bird Rock Coffee
Started in San Diego back in 2007, this young coffee roaster has grown into a force to contend with in the craft coffee world. They regularly produce coffees that are rated in the high 90s by Coffee Review and even won coffee of the year in 201Their Cafe in Little Italy, while not their first, is their best in which you can enjoy a pour-over or an expertly pulled cortado brewed with farm-to-cup beans.
Based in San Francisco, Sightglass coffee’s flagship store in the SoMa district serves as both their main shop and primary roastery. Over a century old, the building features a large second open-air second story that looks down on the sprawling cafe and roasters where you can see coffee being processed and turned from green to coffee. Started in 200by a couple of brothers, Sight Glass has grown to be a substantial wholesaler that supplies cafes both around the country and internationally.
Salt Lake Coffee Roasting Co
Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Roasting Co eschews the almost clinically sparse cafe style for a more traditional crazy atmosphere. That isn’t to say their coffee isn’t up to snuff. Far from it. The owner of the cafe mentored under Alfred Peet (yeah, that Peet) and has decades of experience under his built. The coffee is roasted in-house as are the pastries that are sold alongside it.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Starbucks may serve up technicolor monstrosities at the lions share of their cafes, but their Reserve Roastery is honestly something to behold. You can’t be a coffee lover and not honestly be impressed with the detail they put into this place. They offer up in-depth tours of their facilities, and access to some of the rarest coffees the gigantic company has.
At one point in time, this small shop was a beauty salon named ‘Hair Bender’. Now, coming up on 20 years since Duane Sorenson set up his little coffee roasting company there, the name ‘Hair Bender’ is better associated with the brand’s blend of coffee. The well-lit cafe has ample room for sitting down and enjoying a cup of coffee too.
When it comes to just about everything, a disproportionate amount of attention gets paid to coastal cities. It’s just the inherent bias that goes along with the majority of digital and print publications being based in coastal locations. Dig a little, however, and you’ll find a staggering number of top quality roasters and cafes in this vibrant part of the country.
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, this small shop serves up seasonal coffees in a warm and welcoming environment. The bar is made from reclaimed wood and the walls feature exposed brick. A really solid place to pick up quality roasted beans and hang with good folks.
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters
Usually when you think Milwaukee, what comes to mind is cheap beer. The city’s coffee scene, however, is full and vibrant thanks in large part to leaders Kickapoo coffee roasters. Their new cafe in the city’s Third Ward is a sparse, clean, and light space ideal for enjoying the bright, flowery cups of coffee that Kickapoo has become known for.
The Coffee Studio
A coffee shop serving up Intelligentsia in a warm and welcoming environment. They boast plenty of tables and reading chairs to kick back and relax in. When the weather is nice enough they also host some outside seating in the front of the building.
This place is a gem. Usually, the further you get away from the larger cities the more removed coffee house are from the more popular brew methods and roasting profiles. When it comes to Amherst coffee, this couldn’t be further from the fact. The cafe features brews from Barrington Coffee Roasters and even boasts a full whisky bar.
La Colombe Coffee Roasters
Specialty coffee heavy hitter La Colombe wasn’t messing around when they opened up their Fishtown flagship. Essentially a massive warehouse space, this cafe boasts not only a top quality cafe, but roasting facilities, offices, and even a rum distillery. Yeah. We know. We were impressed, too.
Irving Farm’s UWS location in New York has just about everything you could ask out of a cafe. The well-designed space features a Kalita brew bar, house recipe sandwiches, and even a sections of solid wines and beers. A great place to escape during the colder months thanks in large part the skylight in the back room.
Black Tap Coffee
A top notch cafe located in Charleston, South Carolina, Black Tap Coffee offers up a laid-back vibe, creative flavored lattes that manage not to come across as sticky sweet, and even better pour over brews. A solid no-frills shop.
A third wave cafe through and through, Crema sources and roasts all of their own beans and brews them up expertly at their downtown Nashville, Tennessee location. Their cafe has a large front deck for enjoying a bit of sun with your coffee, as well as ample room to sit and talk inside.
Experience Fresh Roasted Coffee
We carry a number of unique Single Origins, Blends, Espressos, and Fair Trade coffees; all of which are carefully roasted to perfection. Our gourmet coffees are fresh roasted and in many cases ship the same day. Our coffees continue to receive rave reviews from industry experts, lifelong coffee fanatics, and people who are entirely new to coffee.
At Driven Coffee we focus our efforts on learning, implementing, and mastering coffee roasting and brewing techniques. We take the craft approach to everything we do and it shows in every cup.
Driven Coffee makes a positive impact on the world by roasting and selling the world’s finest specialty grade coffees and donating 5% of profit on all web sales to our partner causes.
Three Important Differences
Besides the obvious differences that can be seen from the basic definitions of the terms, there are a few other differences that should be noted. Although some of it applies to gourmet coffee in general, these differences focus on gourmet flavored coffee as I believe this is the greatest misrepresentation of the word “gourmet.”
Flavored Coffee versus Coffee with Flavor
Support for gourmet coffee comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of coffee and coffee flavors. There is a general misconception that coffee tastes bad and we need things (sugar, flavoring, whimsically named creamers) to make it drinkable.
Third Wave coffee is good on it’s own merits, without additives. A good cup of coffee has all sorts of interesting and delicious flavors both subtle and not so subtle. Coffee can have a natural sweetness, an enjoyable complexity or creamy smoothness (take a look at this coffee tasting chart). Do not underestimate the potential of a quality coffee.
As with most food related tastes, artificially flavored coffee is no match for the natural flavors that a quality Third Wave coffee can have. Don’t opt for “Blueberry Pie” gourmet coffee. Search out coffee that has blueberry in the tasting notes.
Chemical Process Versus Natural Processes
One of the things I love about coffee is the roasting process. Did you know that you can roast coffee at home? You cannot, however, roast gourmet flavored coffees at home. The chemicals used for such a process are too dangerous to sell to an average consumer. (They typically use propylene glycol… yikes!)
The processing that a coffee goes through to produce it’s natural flavors are, as you may expect, 100% natural. The country of origin and how it was picked and processed impact the flavors immensely.
Don’t spoil your morning ritual with an unappetizing mixture of coffee and flavoring chemicals.
Mega Farms Versus Micro lots
Most coffee for gourmet flavored coffee comes from large farms in Brazil. These giant coffee plantations use the most convenient (cheapest) methods for growing, harvesting and processing your coffee. This means you are getting an inferior product and the roaster has no choice but to add flavors or over-roast the coffee in order to make it “palatable.”
A great majority of Third Wave coffee comes from small farms. In many cases, there are people and organizations working with these farmers to improve their coffee crop. These small farms typically expend tremendous amounts of effort to maintain, grow and harvest their product. The results of their efforts are small lots of unique coffees, prized for their flavors and quality.
Give Third Wave Coffee a Try
You can, of course, drink whatever you like but don’t be fooled by the marketing gimmicks. Gourmet is a term that is often associated with connoisseurship and quality. Gourmet coffee is typically not either of those things.
If you are looking for a relentless pursuit of quality and craftsmanship, Third Wave coffee is where you want to be.
Ok. Be forewarned, but please don’t be intimidated. Brewing espresso is very technical and could possibly qualify as a dark art. The equipment demands are heavy and the costs will add up. Truthfully, if you’re not planning on pulling at least a shot per day and a few on the weekend then it’s best to leave this one to the professionals. But, if you think that you’ll get some mileage out of an espresso machine then I’ll briefly walk you through the main topics. Brewing espresso at home is a lot of fun so it’s worth giving it a go if you have the resources and dedication.
Moving on… We’ve spoken about the initial equipment out lay. Now you’ve got to track down a tamp pad to protect your counter tops, a knock box for your spent coffee pucks, tools to keep the machine clean, steaming picture, tamper, scale, timer, etc. The La Marzocco Linea comes with a quality tamper and picture though with kinda makes up for the price tag. Once you track down all the equipment and your plugged in then you’re ready to go. From here you just need some quality filtered water and some fresh coffee beans.
Every machine will have its own operation instructions so this shall serve as a general guide to pulling quality shots.
Step Warm the espresso machine as per manufactures recommendations. Warm the machine with the portafilter holder in place so that everything that touches the coffee is warm.
Step Ensure that you have the desired size basket in your portafilter holder for the dose you intend to pull. Usually you’ll have a choice of 14, 18, and 2gram baskets. We use a 1gram basket right now so I’ll speak to those parameters, but keep in mind the general rule of thumb for espresso dosing is a ratio of part ground coffee for every parts of espresso produced in the cup. For example — 1grams of ground coffee makes 3grams of coffee beverage. If you want a lesser volume shot then use less coffee to start. We’ll talk more about grinding in a sec.
Step Fill the hopper on your grinder with fresh coffee beans. You can either dump a whole bag in there; a couple handfuls; or exactly the amount of coffee you think you need for the drinks you plan to make in this session.
Step Insure that the machine is fully heated, full of water (or plumed to your water supply) and everything is ready to go.
Step Remove the portafilter holder and wipe inside the basket to ensure the basket is clean and dry.
Step Purge the group head briefly on the espresso machine. No more than a couple seconds. This gets out old coffee left over from a previous session, or from the last shot pulled. Also, purging gets fresh water moving into the boiler and warm water moving through the machine.
Step Grind the desired amount of coffee, 1grams for us, into the portafilter. The grind should be the consistency of talcum powder. If you take a bit of the grinds and rub them between your finger they should fill you prints, and if you pinch a bit the grinds should adhere to one-another and shape up. Espresso grind is very fine.
Step Distribute the grinds in the basket evenly. There a few ways to do this, some better than others, but all methods achieve relatively the same results. I prefer to distribute the coffee using the thumb and index finger of my right hand while holding the portafilter in my left hand. Slowly take the mound of coffee in the filter and move it around so that the grinds fill in the voids evenly. You can also lightly tap the portafilter on the heal of your hand to distribute the grinds.
Step At this point you’re encouraged to check the weight of the coffee grinds that you’ve dispensed into the basket. To achieve this you’ll want to weight the empty portafilter and tare the scale prior to dispensing the grinds. Dispense to the desired quantity.
Step While standing at the counter using your dominate hand grab the tamper like you would a door-knob. If you’re holding the tamper with your right hand place your right hip slightly against the counter. Using your free hand move the portafilter into place on the tamp pad. Take the tamper and while using a fluid motion depress the tamper into the basket as straight as possible so as to create a flat surface on the puck. Push the tamper just to the point that you feel it somewhat pushing back. That’s as far as you can go. Don’t be tempted to tap the tamper agains the portafilter to get the little bits of coffee climbing up the basket down in the basket for a second tamp. It’s not going to help, and it’ll just make things worse. Tamp once and be done.
Step 1Put the tamper down and with your empty hand wipe clean the top of the basket so that a good seal will be achieved against the group head gasket.
Step 1Locate your timer, dispensing container, and scale. Reset the timer and tare the scale out with the empty demitasse glass or shot pitcher.
Step 1Activate the dispensing action while starting the timer and watching the scale, if used.
Step 1At 1grams you’ll be looking for 3grams of espresso to be dispensed within 25-30 seconds. Any longer you’ll get bitter flavors. Too short and the espresso might be sour and/or salty. Adjust your grind (dial in) to get the desired quantity in the appropriate time.
Step 1Taste the coffee. If your spro was a face melter then AWESOME! You nailed it! If not then you’ll likely need to make some adjustments. Go to step 16.
Step 16. This is where the dark art comes into play. Continue adjusting the grind and dose to get it within the 25-30 seconds, or whatever tastes best. What’s good for one machine and one bean in certain climate one day may not be good the next day for the same bean. Imagine the difficulty when changing beans constantly. After a while though the “dial in” will be much easier.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your Coffee Roasters wisely! Good luck!
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