The Basics: Understanding Coffee Bags

Understanding Coffee Bags

For those just entering into this beautiful world of specialty coffee, finding the right coffee for your personal preference might not be that simple in the beginning, but the process is soo worth it!

To help us in our coffee quest, we are going to break down the following key points you will commonly find on a bag of beans:

  1. Origin (Name of the farmer, farm, producer, village, region, etc)
  2. Altitude
  3. Variety of the Tree
  4. Processing Method
  5. Roasting level and date
  6. Score
  7. Sensory note

Origin

Origin is the story of all that makes up the unique journey of a coffee from the farm to the cup. The more traceable, the better.

You will likely find 1) coffees of a ‘single origin’ and 2) ‘blends’, or coffees that are blended together.
You may also find micro-lots or nano-lots, which are special single-origin coffees: rare, refined and delicious.

It may be easier to initially select your coffee by its’ country of origin: usually, African coffees are the fruitiest, brightest and juiciest. Central and South American coffees are usually heavier, with bolder bodies and flavors of chocolate and caramel.

Buying single-origin coffees allow us to taste the unique characteristics of each bean, terroir, processing, etc. Buying blends can also be interesting, as a rich, full-bodied coffee may be blended with a fruity juicy coffee for a balanced mouthfeel and interesting sensory experience.

Here at Fábrica, we prefer to showcase the individual characteristics of our beans, so mostly sell in single-origin.

Altitude

The ‘Altitude’ of a coffee plantation is measured in Meters Above Sea Level (MASL)

Usually, the higher altitude a coffee, (1000 MASL plus) the higher the density, the higher the quality and complexity, but this is not always true. There is a lot of climate factors that affect the flavor and overall quality of a coffee.

The coffee publication ‘Perfect Daily Grind’ gave a lovely example where a coffee grown on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, with only 200 MASL, with a colder and specific climate, provides a complex, tasty and sweet coffee.

Variety of Tree

Coffee begins its life as a fruit on a tree. And like many fruits, has different species and varieties.
The most commercialized species are Arabica and Canephora (Robusta)

Species: Specialty coffees tend to always be Arabica; known for its’ wide scope of potential flavors, delicate aromas and pleasant notes on the palate. They are more difficult to farm, as they require specific climates and conditions for their growth and are susceptible to diseases and pests. Robusta is popular in the commodities sector. The flavor is more intense and bitter, and contains almost double the caffeine content of Arabica.

Varieties: The genus Coffea has around 100 varieties, a handful of which are commercially relevant. Some common varieties are; Bourbon, Catuaí, Gesha, Various Heirloom varieties, Caturra, Scott Laboratories: SL34 and SL28.

They each have their own individual characteristics.

Processing Type

How the coffee fruit is processed down to its seed form (known as a coffee ‘bean’) has a huge impact on the flavor. There are three main processing methods;
1. Washed, 2. Semi-washed (Honey) and 3. Natural,
but we are beginning to see some very interesting developments in the processing of coffee such as various phases of controlled fermentation.

  1. Washed: This usually results in a cleaner tasting coffee.
  2. Semi-Washed (Honey): A combination of the natural and washed methods. The fruit is pulped and dried with the mucilage still attached. Results in a fuller coffee than its washed counterpart.
  3. Natural: Can result in fruitier flavors with enhanced round sweetness. Is harder for the farmer to control the drying process.

Roast Grade and Date

It is common for a roastery to sell one or more roast types. Usually a darker one for espresso and a lighter one for filter.
When buying beans, try and buy the freshest you possibly can. (Don’t trust a coffee that has only the expiration date on it, as coffee won’t expire for a long time, but can taste flat after a month or two from the roast date) For best results, BEGIN using them around a week after their roast date and try to FINISH them between one to two months after their roast date.

Grading

For a coffee to be certified as “specialty” it needs to be tasted and evaluated (as 80 out of 100 or higher) through a specific method (known as cupping) by various qualified professionals (known as Q-graders).

Here are some points a coffee will be graded on:

  1. Aroma
  2. Uniformity
  3. Absence of defects
  4. Sweetness
  5. Flavor
  6. Acidity
  7. Body
  8. Finish
  9. Overall harmony
  10. Final concept

According to the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), “the quality attributes of coffee cover a wide range of concepts, ranging from physical characteristics, such as origins, varieties, color and size, and even environmental and social concerns, such as the production systems and the working conditions of the coffee workforce”

Sensory Notes

All of the descriptive flavor notes we see on the coffee bags are naturally occurring, and the product of the coffee bean’s journey from the farm to the cup. The coffees are described by professional coffee tasters at the various phases of testing, and lastly with us here at the roastery.

Hopefully this has helped you to better understand specialty coffee bag labels. For any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

The Basics: Chemex and Recipe

The Chemex (and Recipe)

In this interview about the beautiful Chemex, I speak to a dear friend of Teresa, one of our ninja Fabrica baristas.

I had heard a lot about Ondrej Sejk, his cafe project (@kavarnasnilek , translated in English to ‘Dreamer’s Coffee Shop’) and his infatuation with the Chemex; and I wanted to know exactly what it is that tickles his fancy about the beautiful brewer. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this pour-over method, the Chemex brewer was invented in 1941 by a chemist known for his eccentricity, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. He developed over 300 patents throughout his career, ranging from cocktail shakers to automobiles. He wanted to make everyday objects more functional, attractive and enjoyable to use.

Shannon Lawn and Ondrej Sejk:

S.    Hi Ondrej, I’d love to hear about the Chemex and your cafe project, Kavárna Snílek, in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Firstly, what is it about the Chemex, compared to other brewers, that makes it stand out for you as a favorite?

O.        The image is the first thing that drew me (and I think many people) to the Chemex.
It is much more beautiful than the V60 or Aeropress.
Secondly, I really fell in love with the clean taste of the coffee, especially naturally processed coffees, because the filter is much thicker than other brewers, making the coffee cleaner and more palatable.
I think the cleanliness of the cup makes it easier to experience the flavors of each coffee, more so than on the V60.

S.    When did you first brew with a Chemex?

O.        The first time I ever prepared a Chemex was about two weeks before we opened our coffee shop, (our shop opened in the beginning of June, 2019) because previous places I worked would never serve them.
We wanted to know why other places didn’t serve them and also saw a potential opportunity to provide something different for our customers. After tasting, we found it delicious and we experimented a lot to try and find the best recipe.

S.    What are the main differences you’ve found between brewing with both the V60 and Chemex?

O.        I’ve prepared the V60 and Chemex side by side to compare; for the flavor, the body of a V60 brew is not as clean as the Chemex and I found the biggest difference was in the aftertaste.
The V60 has a more intense aftertaste, usually more with chocolate and sweet tones.
Most of the taste with Chemex is apparent in the body of the drink itself, not so much the aftertaste, but more harmonious in the body.
About the preparation, they are both roughly the same; but the Chemex requires more care in the rinsing and preheating because the filter is thicker than the V60.
Because of this, the Chemex is also more inclined to have a papery taste if not rinsed properly.
The Chemex also brews better when bloomed a little bit longer, around 45 seconds. (See Ondrej’s full recipe, below)
Overall, because of the difference in the paper filter, the Chemex is cleaner, the body full and light.

S.    Can you tell me about your café and project?

Ondrej and his shop in Pilsen

O.        We opened a coffee shop named Kavárna Snílek (@kavarnasnilek), in Pilsen, In June 2019. Our first objective was to give people a place where they can experience the highest quality local products that we could find, the main product being coffee.
      We have one local roastery called Beansmiths’s, (@beansmith.s) whose beans we usually feature for espresso-based drinks, and we also offer two different filter coffees, one from Beansmith’s and another from a different European roastery. We plan on having Fabrica coffee on offer within the next few weeks.
We bake our own cakes, cheesecakes and cupcakes and we have a small kitchen where we offer English-style breakfasts like pancakes, waffles etc. We open only at 8.30, with 4 options for brunch, it’s beautiful.
      I think our overall idea is to build a place where you feel free, comfortable and nice, filled with lovely things. Our eggs are high-quality and locally produced as is our bacon, and we use local products wherever we can because it’s more transparent this way. We know about the quality, we can easily check it out and we are able to nourish strong relationships with our providers.
      We also want to share with people our passion for coffee! We are starting to offer coffee courses so we can share how to use Chemex, French Press, V60 and Aeropress. We try to show people what they can do when the coffee is a bit acidic or bitter/burned. We also offer an espresso course, but we focus more on professional baristas than for the hobbyist. 

S.    Would you be so generous as to share with us your recipe for Chemex?

O.        Sure! I will share as if you are a first-time user of Chemex, but have tried with other brewers like V60.

 

Chemex Recipe

Notes:

  • Firstly, grind your coffee a little coarser than you would for V60.
  • As usual, take care to pour directly on the coffee and not the paper.
    Make the bloom time around 40-45 seconds in total.
    The pouring is up to you; if you prefer to divide your pour two or three times, it doesn’t matter in my opinion.
  • The total brew time is between 3min40 and 3min50.
  • One more thing, that you need to take care of the Chemex, on the one side you have a channel, like the spout. This is where air escapes when you add water, so you have to take care, the thicker side needs to be on the part with the spout.

Recipe:

Start with 35g of freshly ground coffee.

Start brewing (Time in bold):

0:00: 60-65g water for bloom 

0:40-1:30: 250g water poured slowly for the second pour

2:00: 500g of water for full brew

3:30-4:00: A little longer than V60 usually gives better results

 

S.    You rock, thank yooou! Have you experimented with reusable metal filters?

O.        We have experimented with the metal filters in brewing, I personally prefer the paper ones as the taste is cleaner. The metal ones leave a little metallic aftertaste in the coffee. It’s kinda similar to using takeaway metal cups; it’s not so good if you leave the coffee sitting for a longer time. I do know that it would be more eco-friendly, buuut the taste is so much better with the paper filters.

S.    Thank you so much for all this! One last question, more out of curiosity; how have you guys been with the Coronavirus experience?

O.        With Coronavirus, right now is a struggle, and we don’t really have the best location for being open with just a window (as are the rules right now where we are), so for now we are open only from Tuesday until Friday, from 8am-5pm. We are delivering brunch boxes for 2 people: they have 2x batch brew coffees, 2x fresh juices, 2x salty items like a filled bagel or croissant for example, which we rotate every 2 weeks, and 2x yoghurt bowls and 4x some special sweet things. 

(S.    I saw on their Instagram @kavarnasnilek and oh wow, it looks sooo good!!)

O.        For sure it’s not ideal. I don’t like the delivery service so much because it’s not so personal, you don’t have a lot of contact with the people, and one of the favorite things about my job is to be in touch with people and build relationships with them. SO i really hope this will end soon.

The Basics: Grind Your Coffee Like A Pro

If you are new to the world of home-brewing or are beginning to explore the wonderful world of coffee, you will most likely be arriving at the topic of GRIND.

 

What Is Grinding Your Coffee?

To break it down; grinding coffee is to crush a whole coffee bean into many tiny, (ideally) even-sized, particles.

If you tried making a cup of coffee with whole beans, the water wouldn’t have enough surface area to extract all the desirable flavors; it would taste weak and watery. The finer we grind, the more surface area of the coffee we are exposing to the water, and the faster the flavor will be extracted.

One thing to note is that not all of the potential flavor we can extract from the beans tastes good. It is possible to extract too little (known as under-extraction); resulting in a weak, sour, salty, astringent and unbalanced cup. It is also possible to extract too much (known as over-extraction); resulting in a bitter, ashy, unbalanced and empty tasting brew.

Knowing how to grind our beans properly is crucial for fine-tuning our extraction to get a balanced, delicious cup of coffee.
The adjustments we make can be described in relation to other particle sizes: coarse sand, fine sand, table salt, icing sugar. These may be usefully imagined as Macro-adjustments.
Tiny adjustments (imagine as micro-adjustments) to our grind setting can have huge results on the brew time and therefore flavor: in espresso, this is especially true; where 1/100th of a millimeter adjustment can alter the extraction.

The best way to understand this is to purchase your own grinder and experiment. Get close to the desired particle size for your particular brewer first, and then fine-tune to find your ideal brew.

 

Grinding is one of the most important factors as to whether a brewed cup of coffee will taste good or bad. Here is what we must know:

 

  1. Every type of coffee is different and therefore must be ground slightly differently.
  2. As a bag of coffee degasses (see our blog on storage and coffee-bean care here) we must also slightly adjust our grind size for the best results.
  3. Coffee is a natural product and is easy to stale. After grinding, the staling process occurs much faster.

 

To summarise; It is important that we know how to adjust our grind settings to control our extraction (and therefore FLAVOR), and we must grind just before brewing (ideally 15 mins before, max) for the best results.

The Roast Date?

We recommend brewing with your fresh beans after about a week from their roast date to allow them to rest. Apart from this initial resting phase, try using your beans as soon as possible, and ideally no later than 5 weeks after roasting.

 

Which Grinder Should I buy?

There are many different grinders on the market, but we can simplify what to look for by discussing the main types.

  • Blade grinders

This type of grinder uses blades that spin, resulting in some big particles that won’t extract enough and many fines that will add a bitter flavor to the cup. Our resulting brew will probably not be super balanced or delicious.

  • Burr-grinders

Burr grinders utilize two cutting surfaces facing each other that have a small space allowing the coffee to pass only when it has been ground to a certain size.

The resulting grind is much more evenly distributed and will extract far better. You can find both manual and electric burr grinders on the market, both of which have a range of prices and quality. For espresso, find a grinder that is designed for espresso use.

 

 

Grinding your coffee fresh at home or work will dramatically improve your overall flavor and control of your brewing process, see you on the journey, and thank you for being here with us!

The Basics: Storing Your Coffee

STORING YOUR COFFEE

Brewing yummy coffee is made much easier when using freshly roasted (and rested) coffee.

It is also very important that your coffee beans have been stored correctly.
In order to understand how to store coffee correctly, let’s first quickly look at what happens to coffee during and after the roasting process.

ROASTING

Roasting is a process that transforms dense, relatively stable green coffee beans into the brittle, volatile, aromatic and flavorful brown-bean we love so much.

During the roasting process, chemical reactions involved in the browning of our beans create carbon dioxide, and straight after roasting, a process called de-gassing begins. Carbon-dioxide is released quite quickly within the first few days after roasting, and slower after. Hot water makes coffee release Carbon Dioxide instantly, which is why you will see bubbles in the ‘blooming’ phase of brewing sometimes.

In the beginning of a roasted coffee’s life, the high amount of gas present in the beans can make it difficult to brew well-extracted coffee, this is especially true in espresso where we have such a small amount of time to extract all the desirable flavors.
We recommend letting coffee rest for about a week after roasting before using it on your espresso machine, and at least 4-5 days before using it in pour-overs or other slower brewing methods, after which it will generally taste better.

For best results, we also recommend using your high-quality beans when fresh, within four weeks of roasting.

 

STORAGE

If we don’t store our coffee correctly, then this four-week period of deliciousness will be greatly reduced.
Coffee is a product that easily can become stale.
Staling occurs when coffee is exposed to environmental factors such as air, moisture, heat and light.
We want to store our whole-beans of coffee in an airtight container in a cool, dry, place; away from direct sunlight and moisture.

Take good care of your coffee, and you will have the best results in return. Happy brewing!