Category Archives: Articles

Jura Ena5 Wins Good Design 2008 Award

This is cool!

One of our favorite machines, the Jura Ena 5, recently received a 2008 Good Design award from the Chicago Athenaeum. It’s one of the most prestigious design awards and focus on a high quality blend of form, function and aesthetic. Judging was performed by a panel of design specialists, who based their selections on concept, materials, utility, energy-efficiency, cutting-edge design, construction and sensitivity to the environment.

Winners of this award become a permanent part of the Chicago Athenaeum’s exhibit, touring around the US and abroad. We also honored Jura in this video on all the awesome features and functionality.

Caffeinated from Morning ’til Night

We don’t talk about it much here because, well, this is a coffee blog, not a boozin’ blog, but we really truly love stouts with all of our heart. It’s our favorite microbrew, hands down, and when we find a brewery that’s crafting one with the words chocolate or coffee in the flavor description, it’s hard for us to find a reason to leave (much to our — and the proprietor’s! — chagrin).

So when we stumbled across Guelph, ON, Canada-based F&M Brewery’s newest concoction — Stonehammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout — we almost considered jumping the nearest flight to Toronto to get a sip. But doing so would be ridiculous…right? Uh, right.

If you’re in that area and you get a chance to imbibe, drop us a line and let us know how it tastes!

Blue Mountain Coffee: Dodo or Buffalo?

We found this very interesting letter to the editor of a Jamaican newspaper, which describes the state of the coffee agricultural industry in different regions around that country. The writer references the fact that the farmers in non-Blue Mountain areas decreased their coffee output as a form of protest against the commercial industry’s treatment and pricing. Over the last eight years, output has plummeted by nearly 85%, yet it hasn’t been addressed — or even picked up on — by the international coffee community.

Now, even Blue Mountain farmers are fed up with the industry and may head in this direction, as well, which would be a real shame. People often dismiss the essential influence of climate, environment and soil in the end result of any agricultural product — and Blue Mountain coffee has a distinctly unique flavor. While varietals were transported to Hawaii and form the basis of Kona coffee, the environment is quite different and Blue Mountain still retains its special taste.

This is part of a larger picture, however, that encompasses how we get our food — who grows it, how it’s grown, preserved and delivered. Applying a mass market ideology to our food supply has been detrimental in many respects, most poignantly in regard to the basic economic viability of smaller scale farms. If you’ve ever been part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group with an annual subscription, you understand that the cost and time involved in growing food on a smaller scale is significantly higher than what you might find at the local Safeway. It may not seem worth it — you know, when you can’t get oranges in December or your eggplants don’t last 6 weeks.

Could the Direct Trade or Fair Trade movements help balance this out? Will an international acceptance of more equitable trade practices happen quickly enough to address the issues these Jamaican farmers are experiencing? There is something to be treasured in the limited, hard-to-find, micro-production of artisan foods and we hope there will continue to be an avenue for Jamaican coffee to be shared with the rest of the world.

With the explosion of the Robusta coffee industry in China, whether or not the international coffee industry will see the value in quality over quantity remains to be seen.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

It would make sense that the purported origin of coffee would proffer an elegant and traditional ceremony that highlights the importance and appreciation of this little bean. Taking you from green bean to brew, the Ethopian Coffee Ceremony begins with freshly roasting beans before your eyes and ends with the sipping of a rich, delicious cup of joe — or three.

We found a great description of the ceremony, which covers both how you might experience it in a restaurant versus a traditional ceremony at home.

Continue reading Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Perky Tampa

This year’s Super Bowl may seem far more animated than usual, considering its stadium will be chock full of Tampa residents — the highest caffeinated town in the US. The source of the caffeine for Tampans was more likely pain relievers, energy drinks or tea than it was coffee, but they’ve finally outpaced the previous over-caffeinated city of Seattle this year.

After Tampa, Seattle and Chicago rank 2nd and 3rd, with New York City and LA rounding out the top 5. The least caffeinated region is the Riverside/San Bernardino area of California, where you’ll no doubt find plenty of chilled out folks telling you to just take it easy.

Event Update: NWRBC Winner – Alex Pond

If you aren’t in the NW area or couldn’t make it to the regional barista finals this past weekend, you might be interested in reading about the winner — Alex Pond of Fresh Pot in Portland OR.

The 22-year-old wunderkind concocted a signature drink using Tanzanian salt and Balinese chocolate that sounds quite delish. He’ll go on to compete in the US finals this coming March in Portland — where all of the regional winners will be pit against each other to determine which java slinger will represent the US in the world championships later this year.

Coffee in High Altitudes

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were wondering in the store how brewing coffee or pulling espresso differs at higher altitudes. We’re basically at sea level here, but we’d been talking about the kind of coffee some of us have found in the higher elevations of Montana — more bitter and like ‘coffee water’ than what we make and drink here.

We found the answer in this interesting piece on coffee in Santa Fe, NM. A Qasimi discusses how the higher altitude affects brewing and roasting:

I don?t drink home-brewed coffee in Santa Fe. I?ve often found it sour and lacking in the depth, robustness and natural sweetness that makes great coffee great. How does high altitude affect coffee and espresso quality at home and with the use of commercial equipment? Drip coffee machines that merely boil are convenient devices but they deliver water to the grounds at below the ideal range of temperatures, leading to underextraction of the beans and a sour, dull or poorly developed brew.

Thus, the only way to compensate for altitude is pressure — and that means espresso — but pulling a proper espresso shot is not easy at this altitude either. Ironically, though the best coffee grows at higher altitudes, with water?s lower boiling point in elevated places, brewing can get tricky. Roasting, on the other hand, merely benefits from altitude: The best possible results come from roasting the beans at the same altitude as they?ll be used and particularly at high altitudes that allow for faster roast development at lower temperatures

Roasting Art

We found this great article on coffee roasting and it inspired us to think more about roasting beans at home. We carry three different models of roasters, and have been thinking about trying out the i-Roast 2 to get more familiar with the roasting process. Do you roast your own beans at home? Got any tips for us? We’d love to hear them!

Article reprinted here for your reading pleasure.

Continue reading Roasting Art

Cream, Sugar and….Salt?

We love to adulterate our favorite brew with all manner of sauces, syrups and additives — we’ve even been known to throw a little bit of cayenne into the mix. But salt isn’t something that comes readily to mind when we’re concocting a new espresso recipe.

Cut to the Taiwanese, who are going gaga over ‘Salt Coffee’ — brewed coffee topped off with two layers of milk and cream infused with sea salt. The craze was inspired by their current mass-love for all things sea salt because of its higher mineral content and improved health benefits over regular table salt. 85 Degree Bakery Cafe, Taiwan’s largest coffee chain, developed the idea and imbibers report that it’s not so much a salty brew, it’s just a heightened taste sensation…which makes sense, given salt’s uncanny ability to accentuate the positive in nearly every other flavor.

We’re heading to the testing lab to develop a salt coffee recipe of our own!

Health Watch: Caffeine & Pregnancy – Part Two

The most often used mood-altering drug around the world, caffeine has nearly an equal amount of advocates as it does detractors — it’s even moving into the holy ‘anti-oxidant’ status, previously reserved for the likes of broccoli and pomegranate.

But up for debate is how much should be consumed by pregnant mothers, and we found this interesting article that highlights different studies and their findings, with an overall recommendation that coffee consumption be either avoided or greatly reduced while pregnant.