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Joe Riley
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I haven't had it, but am ready for a coffee tasting. Anything.

I have good beans and a Krups coffee maker and my coffee tastes like dishwater this morning. And, I even whipped the milk with an aerolatte.

On a separate note, someone told me about Michas in Old Town. Apparently it's one of the few places around that roasts its own beans. I didn't buy a bag to take home (what was I thinking?) but it was great in-house.

How does a recent roast make a difference in taste? Or does it? Would doing a Michas beans/St. Lucias taste test be like testing a reisling against a pinot noir? Or are the variations much more subtle? (Maybe this should be split into a "coffee 101 for the ignorant" thread.

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How does a recent roast make a difference in taste? Or does it?

Unlike tea, which simply loses potency over time, coffee does go bad - it develops off flavors. Old coffee smells distinctly skunky too me. I'm going to guess that the oils go rancid, but frankly I've forgotten the chemistry and am too lazy to look it up. :) And I have a dim sum to get to.

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I haven't had it, but am ready for a coffee tasting. Anything.

I have good beans and a Krups coffee maker and my coffee tastes like dishwater this morning. And, I even whipped the milk with an aerolatte.

On a separate note, someone told me about Michas in Old Town. Apparently it's one of the few places around that roasts its own beans. I didn't buy a bag to take home (what was I thinking?) but it was great in-house.

How does a recent roast make a difference in taste? Or does it? Would doing a Michas beans/St. Lucias taste test be like testing a reisling against a pinot noir? Or are the variations much more subtle? (Maybe this should be split into a "coffee 101 for the ignorant" thread.

Is your coffeemaker a Krups drip pot or an espresso maker? A number of years ago, we "graduated" from filtered drip coffee -- anybody here old enough to remember Chemex pots, from the pre-Mr. Coffee days?--to Bodum press-pot to serious espresso machines (and I don't think the low-end Krups espresso machines are adequate). If you are a coffee drinker seeking gravitas, it is inevitable. Over the years, we have had two different Swiss Rotel machines, a Saeco Italian machine, and graduated to a La Pavoni last Christmas. And we get freshly roasted Peet's beans shipped to us monthly. If coffee is as important to you as it is to us, starting the day is unthinkable without a kick-ass homemade cup of cappucino, made with a triple shot of espresso from fresh-ground beans. Compared to what we make at home, Starbucks sucks.

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Is your coffeemaker a Krups drip pot or an espresso maker? A number of years ago, we "graduated" from filtered drip coffee -- anybody here old enough to remember Chemex pots, from the pre-Mr. Coffee days?--to Bodum press-pot to serious espresso machines (and I don't think the low-end Krups espresso machines are adequate). If you are a coffee drinker seeking gravitas, it is inevitable. Over the years, we have had two different Swiss Rotel machines, a Saeco Italian machine, and graduated to a La Pavoni last Christmas. And we get freshly roasted Peet's beans shipped to us monthly. If coffee is as important to you as it is to us, starting the day is unthinkable without a kick-ass homemade cup of cappucino, made with a triple shot of espresso from fresh-ground beans. Compared to what we make at home, Starbucks sucks.

I really like Mayorga's beans in Silver Spring. French Press is the way to go. Cheapest setup and the best cup of coffee.

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I searched for a thread for this most basic of liquid sustenance for office workers worldwide and was surprised not to find one. In this world of Starbucks and lousy ready-made coffee machines, do any (if not all) of you stick to, you know, buying your own beans and drinking that coffee instead??

Personally, I was getting sick of the nasty French Roast made by Flavia in those ready-made packets for the automated coffeemaker at work and decided to take a stand. Since I am kind of DIY guy, I went on a bit of a coffee excursion this weekend, and purchased a large tin of Ethiopian Fair Trade medium dark roast beans from Trader Joe's and Bodum's 3 cup (1.5 US cup, since everything's bigger in America) Chambord French Press from Wegmans for 20 bucks. While it seems like a extra work for something you could easily procure from Starbucks or what have you, I can now enjoy great, French-pressed coffee at my desk.

This is single-handedly the best purchase I've made recently (next to new tires for my car).

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I searched for a thread for this most basic of liquid sustenance for office workers worldwide and was surprised not to find one.

It was hiding in the Wine & Beer forum, but has now joined your post. :blink:

And the thread on coffee makers is here.

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Anybody know a good place to go taste a few different coffees? I want to experiment with adding coffee to an imperial stout, but I know next to nothing about coffee. Ideally, someplace that would sell me brewed to-go coffee in little 3-4 oz sample sizes (so I could cool them down and do little pipette samples at home). Failing that, someplace that I can pick up several different kinds of whole beans so I can grind the beans myself, borrow ladi kai lemoni's french press, and do the whole thing at home.

Slight tangent: does coffee vary in sugar levels between varieties? The beer is on the sweet side, so I'd like something on the dry side of the coffee spectrum (if there is such a thing) to help balance it out.

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Eric, I think you want to make a Coffee Toddy for your purposes. A coffee toddy is a cold-brewed base for either iced or hot coffee, and is lower in acid.

Interesting. "leaves behind bitter acids and oils".

leaving behind the oils = good (oil affects head retention)

leaving behind the bitter acids = not sure...i'm looking for coffee to be a balancing factor here, for the roast to contrast the sweetness of the beer.

do you (or anybody else) have one I could test out? i'm hesitant to spend $40 on something I'm going to use for a one-off.

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Interesting. "leaves behind bitter acids and oils".

leaving behind the oils = good (oil affects head retention)

leaving behind the bitter acids = not sure...i'm looking for coffee to be a balancing factor here, for the roast to contrast the sweetness of the beer.

do you (or anybody else) have one I could test out? i'm hesitant to spend $40 on something I'm going to use for a one-off.

Well this sounds like the cold-brewing process described in the Times, which doesn't need a special device.

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Is there a difference in Europe in method of roasting, or suppliers, or SOMETHING, that makes the coffee seem so much better than one typically finds here? I think I found the best coffee I've ever had in Barcelona at a place off of La Rambla called La Portorriquena that roasts their beans daily. They ground up a pound of Kenya AA for us to make in the run of the mill drip coffee maker we had back at our apartment. Despite having to evict the mouse living in the water reservoir, the coffee was amazingly good. I bought a couple of pounds to take back to the states before we left.

I wish these guys had product available online, but I can't find it. :(

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Is there a difference in Europe in method of roasting, or suppliers, or SOMETHING, that makes the coffee seem so much better than one typically finds here? I think I found the best coffee I've ever had in Barcelona at a place off of La Rambla called La Portorriquena that roasts their beans daily. They ground up a pound of Kenya AA for us to make in the run of the mill drip coffee maker we had back at our apartment. Despite having to evict the mouse living in the water reservoir, the coffee was amazingly good. I bought a couple of pounds to take back to the states before we left.

I wish these guys had product available online, but I can't find it. :(

Hmm. It's interesting that you mention Kenya AA. That's our brew of choice from our local coffee vendor, and it is, as you noted, the best coffee we've ever had. We're in the near-hinterlands of Japan, but we've found a coffeehouse where the owners buy beans, store them raw, and roast them to order. Not having any idea who their supplier is, I would venture a guess that time plays a big role in the taste -- our coffee tastes almost as good, if not as good, as it did when we finish it off a week later (we buy in 200-300 gram increments). How did the last coffee from your trip that you drank taste in comparison to the first?
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How did the last coffee from your trip that you drank taste in comparison to the first?

I think pretty much the same. I've bought Kenyan several times in the past in the US and I don't recall it ever making such an impression on me. Maybe I just need some freshly roasted from some online source.

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I think pretty much the same. I've bought Kenyan several times in the past in the US and I don't recall it ever making such an impression on me. Maybe I just need some freshly roasted from some online source.

Here's a pretty good list of highly-rated Kenyans that are available for online order, with the reviews starting with the most recent. I get a kick out the way this guy reviews--he uses a Parker 100-point scale and his reviews are floridly descriptive, to say the least. I've never been able to tease out all those flavors, but I've never been disappointed by a coffee he recommends.

Kenya Coffees

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I think pretty much the same. I've bought Kenyan several times in the past in the US and I don't recall it ever making such an impression on me. Maybe I just need some freshly roasted from some online source.

Freshness is a huge factor when it comes to coffee flavor. Pretty much after the moment that coffee is roasted, it's a downhill slide. The carbon dioxide begins to escape and the subtle, complex flavors lose their intensity until they become completely dull. The effect is even more pronounced with the high-acid east Africans, such as Kenyans.

Stored in the cupboard or on the grocer's shelf, coffee is effectively dead after a month. I recommend that my customers only buy enough coffee for 2 weeks time. Next time you're in the store, look at the expiration dates on bagged coffee. It might just shock you.

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Slight tangent: does coffee vary in sugar levels between varieties? The beer is on the sweet side, so I'd like something on the dry side of the coffee spectrum (if there is such a thing) to help balance it out.

Sweetness can definitely vary from coffee to coffee for sure. However, if the beer is sweet, it's gonna be way sweeter (in terms of actual sugars, as well as taste-wise) than the coffee will ever be.

You say that you'd like to balance out the flavors of the beers. You can get some interesting flavors in coffees... especially if you throw espresso into the mix. I think that while I'm all for balance, I'd keep an open mind as far as looking for a coffee or espresso that would compliment the beer.

Is there a difference in Europe in method of roasting, or suppliers, or SOMETHING, that makes the coffee seem so much better than one typically finds here? I think I found the best coffee I've ever had in Barcelona at a place off of La Rambla called La Portorriquena that roasts their beans daily. They ground up a pound of Kenya AA for us to make in the run of the mill drip coffee maker we had back at our apartment. Despite having to evict the mouse living in the water reservoir, the coffee was amazingly good. I bought a couple of pounds to take back to the states before we left.

I wish these guys had product available online, but I can't find it. :(

What did you like about it?

Just FYI, Kenyan coffees are sold (in Kenya) via an auction system. A generic "Kenyan" is somewhat analogous to having a bottle of wine marked "French Chardonnay," and that's all. Personally, I'd be looking for more specific info, but that's just me.

Another FYI: "AA" in "Kenya AA" refers to the size of the beans. It is NOT a measure of quality.

I've never been able to tease out all those flavors...

Why not? What are you brewing on? What are you grinding on?

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Nick,

I love slightly "green" flavors in my wines - a bit of green fruit in my German Riesling, some every-so-slightly underripe qualities in my Red Burgundy (when I say "ripe," I'm talking about full-blown physiological ripeness here). I know these wines with all my heart and soul, and I can "see" what's there, with the acidity amplifying the terroir for me, rather than it being masked by long-hanging grapes which produce lots of raw stuffing and components - sugar, ripe tannins, and alcohol.

This having been said, I keep wondering what I'm missing in Murky Coffee, which comes across to me as consistently underroasted. Tell me what I'm missing, please. At the opposite extreme, I think Starbucks (and by extension, Kirklands) is the nastiest, most overroasted crap in the world. I keep looking for a happy medium, balance - is it possible I'm finding it in Kill Devil Hills?

This is not a snotty question. I honestly think I'm missing something, and yet I'm being drawn AWAY from Murky when it comes to buying beans. Help!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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This is not a snotty question. I honestly think I'm missing something, and yet I'm being drawn AWAY from Murky when it comes to buying beans. Help!

How are you grinding and brewing the beans? Do you feel the same way about our in-shop brewed coffees?

Let me know when you can come by, and we'll do a full-on cupping if you want. Throw in whatever coffees into the mix. Anyone else is welcome to join as well!

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How are you grinding and brewing the beans? Do you feel the same way about our in-shop brewed coffees?

No, I don't. Once in awhile I do, but that's only 10-20% of the time. The vast majority of the time I love your drip coffee.

I use this Cuisinart Grind and Brew.

Which begs the question: If THIS isn't good enough, what percentage of the home brewing machines are?

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Why not? What are you brewing on? What are you grinding on?

Here's an example: Deep, pungent aroma: cedar, orange, molasses, honey. In the cup sweetly and crisply acidy, with dry berry, continued citrus and honey notes and an underlying pungent richness that suggests moist pipe tobacco

Hey, I love good wine and I love good coffee, but I'm not good at dissecting the taste into so many elements. I can't begin to taste what Parker tastes, or what this guy--who I like a lot--finds in his coffee. I'm pretty much a "hey, this is really good" person. I grind with a blade grinder-I know this isn't as good as a burr grinder--and I use a press for brewing.

And FWIW, I've gotten some excellent coffees from Counterculture Coffees, where I understand you get many of your beans.

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No, I don't. Once in awhile I do, but that's only 10-20% of the time. The vast majority of the time I love your drip coffee.

I use this Cuisinart Grind and Brew.

Which begs the question: If THIS isn't good enough, what percentage of the home brewing machines are?

A darker-roasted coffee will have more "bite"--the sorts of flavors that persist even if your brew proportions and/or grind yields a weaker brew. I'd check to see that you're using enough coffee, or grinding to a proper grind-size. I could get more specific, but because it's easier to remember, 1/4 oz (weight) of coffee per 4 oz. of water. An 8-cup brewer:2.0 oz coffee.

What percentage of home brewers are "adequate?" Honestly... very few. The main problem is that most home coffee brewers simply can't get the water hot enough (195-205*F). A low-water temp (typically in the 170*F area) will yield a weak brew.

Hey, I love good wine and I love good coffee, but I'm not good at dissecting the taste into so many elements. I can't begin to taste what Parker tastes, or what this guy--who I like a lot--finds in his coffee. I'm pretty much a "hey, this is really good" person. I grind with a blade grinder-I know this isn't as good as a burr grinder--and I use a press for brewing.

And FWIW, I've gotten some excellent coffees from Counterculture Coffees, where I understand you get many of your beans.

Jeff, you had me until "blade grinder!" :(

For a proper coffee brew, the grinder is the most important tool. A blade grinder isn't really a grinder at all, and merely pulverizes the coffee beans down to smaller sizes. It's like chopping vegetables with a hammer.

The rate of coffee brewing is determined by the grind size. A good grinder will grind the majority of the coffee to a specific particle size, with a steep bell-curve of smaller and larger particles (it is grinding after all... not surgery with a scalpel). That allows you to control the brewing well with the other "control" elements in coffee, also known as the 3 T's: Time, Temperature, Turbulence. With a blade grinder, the grind-size is all over the place.

To put it simply, the larger bits brew too slowly. The smallest bits brew too quickly. There is then a comparatively very small quantity of the coffee grounds at the "proper" grind size that brew properly. The smaller bits lend what we call "overextracted" elements: bitterness, astringency, and extra caffeine. The larger bits remain "underextracted."

Hate to say this, but one of the WORST pairings, however common it may be, is a blade grinder and a french press. If you don't want to get a new grinder, I suggest sifting out the finest particles with a sieve or something before brewing. That will reduce the overextracted elements, which lend the most negative flavor elements.

That's why you're having trouble picking out those flavors. If your grind is unfocused, the resulting flavors will be unfocused.

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For a proper coffee brew, the grinder is the most important tool.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I had a Solis burr grinder for years, which recently "bit the dust." I replaced it with a Rancilio grinder, which set me back a fair amount. But it has made all the difference in the world. It purrs like a Bentley, has very precise grind contol, and produces a magnificent cuppa. We get Peet's coffee on a regular basis via UPS delivery--it arrives a few days after being roasted. Coffee is important enough to us that it is worth the investment in good home equipment. We almost never go to Starbucks or other coffee shops--we make it better at home.

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I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I had a Solis burr grinder for years, which recently "bit the dust." I replaced it with a Rancilio grinder, which set me back a fair amount. But it has made all the difference in the world. It purrs like a Bentley, has very precise grind contol, and produces a magnificent cuppa.

Like this one? Anyone else have any tips on good non-blade grinders or what to look for in them?

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Like this one? Anyone else have any tips on good non-blade grinders or what to look for in them?

That's the one. It's stainless steel and heavy-duty. The Solis was a cheap plastic piece of crap by comparison. It clogged up and was hard to clean and when a piece inside broke while we were trying to clean it, we called the company and they acknowledged that it was a bad design and sent us a replacement part for free. When the motor finally died, we decided to get a better one. I did some research online and unlike many of the different grinders available, the Rancilio seemed to make all of its owners happy.

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The Rancilio Rocky is a great home grinder for sure. The Solis Maestro and Maestro PLus are actually very good grinders, though older models had a problem where the grinder burrs sort of "floated" and the beginning and end of your grind would grind too fine. The burr-float problem has been resolved, and the burrs themselves are great quality. The Baratza Virtuoso is made by the same folks, and is also a great home grinder. Maestro is ~$100, Plus is about $120, and the Virtuoso is about $200. Disclaimer: we sell the Maestro and Virtuoso at our shops, but for good reason.

I've looked for a burr grinder for cheaper that I can recommend and/or offer at our shops, but to no avail. Whenever I look at a grinder for evaluation, the first thing I do is remove the bean hopper and try to look at and feel the grinder burrs. The edges should be fairly sharp, and be made of quality materials. The burrs are where the action happens, so for a home grinder, all I care about is the quality of the burrs.

I've seen some cheaper burr grinders, by Krups and other "kitchen-stuff" companies, that have burrs with no real edge to them. The beans would only be crushed, which makes them barely a step up from a blade grinder.

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I picked up a bag of the Pinon nut coffee at Trader Joe's a while back and I really like it. Probably one of you smart people is going to tell me it's the coffee equivalent of Twinkies to fine pasties. :mellow:

I have been bouncing around with coffee methods for a long while and have finally settled on my cheap-o grinder and Bialetti. I did the high maintenance machine thing and it cost me more aggravation than the coffee was worth to me.

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I picked up a bag of the Pinon nut coffee at Trader Joe's a while back and I really like it. Probably one of you smart people is going to tell me it's the coffee equivalent of Twinkies to fine pasties. :mellow:

I have been bouncing around with coffee methods for a long while and have finally settled on my cheap-o grinder and Bialetti. I did the high maintenance machine thing and it cost me more aggravation than the coffee was worth to me.

You hit it right on the head. It really depends what it's worth to you. Some people are content with premade, jarred pesto and others would rather make pesto by hand from fresh basil, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Drink what you like.

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The Rancilio Rocky is a great home grinder for sure. The Solis Maestro and Maestro PLus are actually very good grinders, though older models had a problem where the grinder burrs sort of "floated" and the beginning and end of your grind would grind too fine. The burr-float problem has been resolved, and the burrs themselves are great quality.

Nick, I don't suppose you know the model numbers that fall after this problem was fixed?

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Don't laugh...

Costco in Sterling has their own roaster and delivers some great Sumatra for something like 2 lbs for $9 dollars. The Kona coffee I had there was smooth, but not as flavorful as others ($19 per pound). There are several other varieties as well. Many of the coffees at Trader Joes are pretty good as well.

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Has anyone ever tried coffee brewed in a Japanese siphon bar? Sounds interesting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/dining/2...&ei=5087%0A

With its $20,000 price tag and labor-intensive brewing process, that has to be one expensive cup of joe.

I haven't tried the coffee from it, but I'm working on getting one for a customer of mine (please don't ask me who it is).

That $20,000 price tag is, shall I say it... a little exaggerated.

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Has anyone ever tried coffee brewed in a Japanese siphon bar? Sounds interesting.

With its $20,000 price tag and labor-intensive brewing process, that has to be one expensive cup of joe.

The $20,000 is for the special heating elements that James at Blue Bottle bought. There are cheaper heating elements available.

A siphon (a.k.a. vacuum pot) is a fascinating way to brew coffee, which interestingly enough, pre-dates drip coffee makers. Done correctly, it yields tons of clarity in the cup which highlights the brightness (acidity) of the coffee.

We actually sell a model from Bodum, but the best ones are from Japan, which usually come with a heating tool, usually a propane burner. The Bodums are designed for stovetops, but it's harder to control the heat, which should be very gently for optimal extraction.

If you ever see Aaron Ultimo (our barista trainer) around the Arlington shop, beg him to do a Hario siphon brew for you... he loves to make em!

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Has anyone else ever had anything from Rao's of Western Mass/Boston? I just finished a bag of their Tanzanian Peaberry blend and am thinking about trying some of their other stuff. The beans are friggin beautiful - I mean really pristine - and the brew has some really nice winey notes without being totally overpowering. Or are there good local purveyors offering Tanzanian Peaberry, which apparently is fairly different from your average bean.

A peaberry is a single coffee bean grown in a coffee cherry rather than two. These coffees are grown on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro under the shade of banana trees. Tanzanian coffee is bright and rich with a delicate acidity.
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Has anyone else ever had anything from Rao's of Western Mass/Boston? I just finished a bag of their Tanzanian Peaberry blend and am thinking about trying some of their other stuff. The beans are friggin beautiful - I mean really pristine - and the brew has some really nice winey notes without being totally overpowering. Or are there good local purveyors offering Tanzanian Peaberry, which apparently is fairly different from your average bean.

Reading Ken's article (the "fairly different" link), I'm surprised that he didn't know why Tanzanian Peaberry was so prevalent.

Tanzania is a country with a history of German occupation, and Germans consider peaberries to be defects. Other coffee origins usually leave peaberries in with the flats (normal beans). Tanzania and El Salvador separate them out for tradition and for the German market.

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