Friday, January 19, 2007

Got a Coffee Question?

Thanks to anonymous for the prompt to create this post. It's been way too long since I've posted anything. The holidays, work, and a major death in the family have all taken me away from this place. I'll try to post more often.


I'm an amateur coffee roaster, not a professional, and I've been roasting for 1.5 years. In that time, my knowledge of the bean has grown far beyond my own expectations. It's amazing how much there is to learn about coffee. However, some days I feel as though I've only scratched the surface. Isn't that like any hobby? OK, passion.

I'm always willing to share a cup and some advice, so let this be your forum. Ask questions, give recommendations, whatever as long as it's related to coffee, even tenuously.



Anonymous said...

Okay, here I go....

Dark Roast has less caffeine than medium and light...why?

Does the fact you generally brew it darker, with more grounds, make up for it? So, the jolt per cup is similiar?

What brew method do you prefer? French Press results in a cup that needs to be re-heated...generally. And, the clean-up is a bitch. Tasty though! Drip is conveniant. Tell me about the residue in the filter. Is there "good stuff" there that I'm missing? FYI...I use a screen basket and deal with the small amount of residual grounds.

While we're at to me about Taurine (energy drink ingredient). I've googled it many times. There's not much out there regarding effective levels, and potential negative side-effects. Lots of other info though.

Also...The Mrs had to have a drip machine with the grinder attached. The units that grind the beans, transport them to the basket, and then drip brew. How does it work? It doesn't! It's almost comical how bad the thing operates...until you factor in the 150 bucks you dropped on it.

Just when I think I have my tastes dialed in, preferring a medium-dark roast, I have a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, and think that's the nirvana. Mmmm, beautiful reddish color also. Not so "tweaky". I suppose the scarcity has something to do with it. So, it's a "treat".

I love coffee but, the reality is, I only have one big fat cup every morning. Once in a blue-moon, I'll have a cappuccino later in the day. Never, ever,, or cap'.

So...any other "high-mountain" coffees you could recommend that compare to Jamaican Blue Mountain?

For the record...I'm a creature of convenience, so...I buy my coffee at the grocery store. Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and Peet's, always seem to be slugging it out on price. I usually snag a 12 oz bag for about $6.99. For what it's worth...I seem to gravitate toward the Starbucks Cafe Verona, even though I'd rather support a smaller company.

Roasting, seems like a cool hobby!

wolfgf said...

I had a cup of French Press at Dakota Harvest last summer and I'd call it one of, if not the, best cups of coffee I've ever had. Quite hot, too, actually.

Q: Is there any secret to the water you use in brewing coffee. Tap vs. spring vs. distilled, etc.?

wolfgf said...

And...Sorry to hear about your loss. Glad you're back.

Coffee Guy said...

Woah! Great questions! Let's get started...

Dark Roast has less caffeine than medium and light...why?

The jury is somewhat out on this. One school of thought is that there really isn't any less caffeine in darker roasts, and here's why: caffeine doesn't become unstable at the roasting temperatures. As such, the amount of caffeine per bean remains the same. However, the beans do expand when roasting. Therefore, the amount of caffeine by weight remains the same, but the caffeine by volume decreases. Think of it this way, less beans per tablespoon (due to the larger size of the beans as the roast level increases) means less caffeine per serving.

However, the more likely theory is that there really is less caffeine in darker roasts because caffeine, though extremely stable, does become unstable at the roasting temps, which are usually in the mid-400 degrees F (Wikipedia lists caffeine's melting point at 458F, solidly within roasting temps, and the boiling point—caffeine sublimates, going right from a solid to a gas—is even lower given more pressure, which is surely present in a roasting bean). In this theory, caffeine becomes vapor and escapes. More escapes with a darker roast.

To make a long story unbearable, a lot of roasters experience a "roaster's high" from inhaling caffeine vapors. Mmmmm...gooood times.

What brew method do you prefer?

95% of my brew is French Press (Freedom Press, for some of you). I also have a gadget made by the aerobee flying disc people that makes an ultra clean cup, but that's a topic for another evening. If you aren't doing espresso (which I don't. If you can't afford a good (read: expensive) machine I don't think it's worth attempting. I think I can get the best combination of flavor and control using a press pot.

Here's the only need 3 minutes for a press pot. Use the finest even grind you can that doesn't go through the filter.


The whirly blade grinder that most people have is only good for drip coffee. If your press pot taste sludgy it's because of the uneven grind. Whirlies make dust and boulders. Check it out next time and you'll see. It's next to impossible to get an even grind. That's OK with drip, especially if you use paper filters, but horrible for press pot. GET A BURR GRINDER! I have a Kitchenaid Proline, which is nowwhere near the best, but I don't do espresso (yet) so it suits me perfectly. I could not believe the difference in my cup when I switched to a burr grinder. It really was like night and day.

Back to our French Press story...

Use the correct amount of coffee (ask if you don't know), and water at the right temp (195-200F, but I often use water that has just come off a boil figuring there'll be a temp drop as I pour). Wet all the grounds and let it sit for 1.5 minutes. Then give it a stir (I usually add more water at this point because of the bloom. What's bloom? It's the expansion of really really fresh coffee when exposed to water. You may never have seen this, but oh my, it's there baby, it's there.

OK, after 1.5 minutes stir and add more water if necessary. At 3 minutes start the press and just go for it...slowly, it's HOTT!

Worried about the coffee getting cold? Forget that gimmicky insulated press pot. You don't want the water to touch the grinds or you'll get a bitter, over-extracted brew. Get a thermal carafe. I brewed at 8:30am today and had my last cup at 9:30 pm. I took a temp just for you guys and it was still at 140F. A quick shot in the microwave for 30 seconds at 40% power brought it back to temp(I'm a coffee snob, but REAL snobs are shuddering at the mere thought of this sentence).

While we're at to me about Taurine.

Never heard of it. Didn't they play the 2nd stage at the last Lollapalooza?

Also...The Mrs had to have a drip machine with the grinder attached.

STOP RIGHT THERE! That says it all. For starters (I don't sound too much like a jerk saying that do I?) most drip makers do not come anywhere near the correct brewing temperature. You want to spend $150 on a drip machine, spend a little more and get a Technivorm, the Rolls Royce of drip makers. Perfect cup each and every time. For under $50, the Presto Scandinavian is one of the few drip machines that can get the water up to the right temp. Just watch out for the plastic smell. Return it for another one. Some have it, some don't. It's also not the sturiest machine.

W/o the right temp, you get a weak, under-extracetd brew. That's why I love the Freedom Press. Perfect extraction every time.

So...any other "high-mountain" coffees you could recommend that compare to Jamaican Blue Mountain?

The coffee waiting for me tomorrow morning is an El Salvadoran that had to be carried down from a volcano's edge on people's backs because there's no way a vehicle can get up there. This is my forst time with this bean, and I'll let you know how it is.

For the record...I'm a creature of convenience, so...I buy my coffee at the grocery store.

You'd be amazed at what a really fresh coffee tastes like. I mean really fresh. Try a local roaster like the Coffee Company and see if you can try a bean that was roasted a day or two earlier. Your palate will thank you.

Roasting, seems like a cool hobby!

And so easy! And fun! And economical! And...

Coffee Guy said...

I had a cup of French Press at Dakota Harvest last summer and I'd call it one of, if not the, best cups of coffee I've ever had. Quite hot, too, actually.

I, too, have has a pot at Dakota Harvest, and I had a cup of Sumatran there just last week. It's good coffee, meaning quality beans, but to me it was just missing something. I'm sure it's a freshness issue. Did you notice the big supermarket-style bins of coffee in back of the counter? Remember, roasted coffee is like bread. It stales very easily. AIR IS THE ENEMY! After a few days exposed to a significant amount of air it's done for (is that the term?) Roasted coffee should be in an airtight or one-way valve container. Even so, I can taste the difference between fresh coffee and week old coffee that's been treated properly. It starts to lose the special qualities after a while and just starts to taste flat. And I've only been doing this seriously for 1.5 years. I really wish you could taste the difference. Heck, you can. Just shoot me an e-mail and come on over. I'm here all day just sniffing my beans, so to speak.

I wish their coffee was just a bit better. In fact, their bread still need some work. The baguette sandwich I had used bread that was firm until about 1/8-1/4" deep into the bread, most unlike a proper baguette. Maybe it was function of pre-made sammiches. If so, they need to rethink that concept. I've yet to be "wowed" by their breads. Their pastries, on the other hand, are most excellent.

But I digress...

Q: Is there any secret to the water you use in brewing coffee. Tap vs. spring vs. distilled, etc.?

I use good old Grand Forks tap water (cold, of course). We really have good water here. We were in DC a few weeks ago, and we forgot how terrible the water is there. My wife said it tastes like underarm, which it did. Of course, being the wiseass that I am, I asked her "and not in a good way, I assume?" Use GF water (let it run a bit in the morning) and enjoy it. We have it good.

BTW, thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Presto is discontinued and the quality/operation is hit and miss. Many places were blowing them out a 17-25 bucks. I'd buy one to check it out at that price.

Evidently it's just a flimsy lil' plastic thing that makes a good cup...when it works.

Any other recommendations for a drip maker that's less $$$ than the Technivorm?

Coffee Guy said...

There are very few recommendations. That's why so many of us use the French press and deal with the cleanup (which really isn't that bad).

Check out for reviews.

I recommend you stay away from Bunn, Krups, and Braun.

A little work using the "pour over" method results in a great cup, as good as the best drip machines.

Frodo said...

Is is true that you can use a pop corn popper to roast your own beans?

Coffee Guy said...

We have a caller from Connecticut...Thanks for stopping by, Frodo!

Yup, you sure can. That's how I started, and I still do most of my roasting in pretty heavily modified corn popper. I have a couple of them, plus a "real" roaster that basically roasts the same way.

Anonymous said...

I bought a Presto at K-Mart for 20 bucks. It is absolutely amazing how cheaply the thing is built. It also looks cheap.'s workin' great! No plastic smell, none of the other reported "problems" either. I think I should buy a back-up carafe right now though.

Thanks for the tip, CG. I do chuckle to myself though, everytime I walk into my beautiful kitchen and see the thing sitting there. Plus, I'm old enough to remember the Presto Burger craze.

Hey...maybe that's why the heated carafe tray is non-stick. Left over burger maker part perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Ouch, Coffee Guy, just saw a report on The Today Show regarding coffee side effects....

"Coffee inflames Irritable Bowel Sydrome". Not good, I'm not even sure I know what IBS is? I do know one thing, "Bowel Man" is a badass nick, way tougher than "Coffee Guy".

Thanks for all the info BM!

Coffee Guy said...

Why the ouch? Do you have irritable bowel syndrome? If not, no worries.

According to the Today Show's website, coffee: 1. helps keep you alert and boosts short term memory; 2. helps reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes; and 3. has been shown to reduce the risk of liver cancer.

Coffee Guy said...

Do you taste a difference using the Presto? What coffee/beans do you use?

Rick said...

Whoa, I've already learned a lot just by reading the comments. You really know your stuff.

Anonymous said...

Yes, CG, the Presto does produce a better cup. (Insert coffee geek jargon here) But, honestly, my wife brews the pot about one hour before I wakeup. It took me a year to train her to turn off the burner immediately. Waking up to burnt cup is a bad deal. I'll know more this weekend when I play the role of Brewmeister. No...I'm not willing to test the heat-control abilities of the 18 dollar wonder, it took me long enough to train her the way it is.

This week I'm drinking Starbucks Verona, grinding with a whirly bird, and using a Swissgold filter. I'll buy some better beans this weekend. I'm the guy, from a previous thread, that stated I usually buy Starbucks, Peets, or Seattle's Best. Whichever one is low-balling their product that week. Usually about 6.99 for a 12 oz. bag. I prefer a medium-dark roast. I notice the Verona is a blend of beans. Do you know the blend? Proportions? What I'm referring to is...some beans look like the French Roast beans, some are lighter to balance out the dark roast.

Is that the common method for a "medium-dark" roast? I'm guessing not. How about a batch of beans that are roasted "medium-dark"? I guess that's what I'm loking for.

Also...years ago I knew waaayyyy more about coffee than I do now. My memory dumped all the past knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Same anon here...
The Presto lasted 2 months and died. Piece of junk. No wonder it was only 20 bucks and is now discontinued.

Coffee Guy said...

OH NO! Do you still have it? I heard that they will replace if it dies. I just read that one one of my message boards.