Category Archives: Books

New! Everything but Espresso – Scott Rao

In follow-up to his seminal work on professional espresso preparation, The Professional Barista’s Handbook, Scott Rao takes on all the other forms of coffee brewing and gives them their day in the sun. Broken up into three main parts, and supported by a thorough reference bibliography for folks that want to read more, Everything but Espresso covers the following:

  • Part One: Coffee extraction, measurement and methods on improving flavor by changing the brewing parameters
  • Part Two: How to achieve optimal flavor via different brew methods (such as drip, pour over, press pot, steeping and vacuum pot)
  • Part Three: Proper water chemistry and bean storage

If you’re either an espresso aficionado who wants to spread their wings or someone who cherishes their old press pot, this book is the definitive guide to making the best possible brew at home.

New! The Professional Barista’s Handbook

When we started to poke around for a good general information book on espresso preparation and theory, we stumbled upon Scott Rao’s gem of a primer that covers pretty much everything you need to know about making excellent espresso, coffee and tea.

Designed to meet the needs of professionals in an industry that isn’t known for a lot of regimented curriculum, The Professional Barista’s Handbook is Rao’s answer to his own questions as he worked and developed his skill set over the years — opening, establishing and selling a couple of cafes along the way.

If you’re looking for a practical, well-thought-out guide that will give you some great information that you can apply to your home espresso setup, this book is definitely for you. It provides an excellent understanding of the basic theory behind different coffee preparations and the ideal ways to achieve the best flavor possible.

Coffee Roasts: Shades, Names and Flavors

Back in May, we wrote a little bit about Italian vs. French Roasts, but lately we have been sampling a lot of different roast and blend types and decided to read more about the basic theory behind roasting and blending. In our research, we ran across Kenneth Davids’ excellent table describing the different roast styles and their corresponding flavor, so we thought we’d reprint it here for easy future reference.

The big question that was on our mind was in regard to dark roasts: Peet started an American tradition back in the 60′s by taking his roasts well into the very dark brown degree and we wondered why. Particularly because, for us, the darker roasts just aren’t as complex flavor-wise, so we were curious about his roasting theory — one that would ultimately be imitated by the founders of Starbucks and eventually influences hundreds of small specialty roasters around the world. It seems that it’s largely due to the fact that, when taken to a darker roast, the oils and sugars caramelize in a manner which imbues the roast with a bittersweet tone — if it’s not taken too far, it will still retain much of its richness and will also feature less caffeine. However, and we think this is where we have often found ourselves, when the beans are taken to a really dark black brown, they’re just charred at that point — dried out little husks with little to no coffee oil or sugar leftover, so very little can be imparted during extraction.

So while we personally prefer something in the medium brown range, we’re glad we now understand why all the dark roast lovers out there are such ardent fans. If you want to learn more about roasting and blending — as well as pretty much anything else to do with coffee — we highly recommend picking up Kenneth Davids’ book.

Right now, however, you can check out his handy reference table after the jump.

Continue reading Coffee Roasts: Shades, Names and Flavors

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series – First Lecture Update

Last night was the kick-off of the Coffee: From the Grounds Up lecture series that is being held in tandem with the Burke Natural History Museum’s Coffee: The World in Your Cup exhibit. The series was kicked off by Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, and was quite enjoyable. He discussed a lot of what is in his book, but here are some bits n’ pieces we picked up that we thought were interesting:

  • Caffeine is likely a natural pesticide that exists within the cherry to keep it from being decimated by tropical pests. This is similar to how coca leaves have a small amount of the chemical used to produce cocaine.
  • There is a resounding myth around the discovery of coffee — replete with dancing goats and monks — but there is some evidence that, at some point, nomadic Ethiopian people discovered that grinding up the beans of the cherries, placing them in fat and then ingesting the mixture would help them travel long distances…and this practice is still in existence among nomadic tribes in that African region today.
  • Brazil became such a big player because of two primary reasons: They had a lot of land and they were poised to take over the crop when the coffee rust disease nearly wiped out all of the bushes in Indonesia.
  • Americans have a very emotional relationship to coffee and kind of act like it’s our birthright that we should have access to cheap beans, regardless of market, environmental or political forces. There have been several times that frosts in Brazil resulted in an increase in bean prices — which then spurred congressional hearings to discuss the cause of the prices and find a way to resolve it! Communism was listed quite often as a cause during much of the cold war, and in 1962 there was an international coffee price agreement that was in affect until 1989, when the cold war ended. It was in our best interests politically to support the large coffee growing regions of the world, lest they fall pray to the evils of communist ideals! :)
  • There has always been and always will be a boom/bust cycle in coffee agriculture, due in part to the economic drivers of coffee growing regions as well as the basic growing cycle of the bushes themselves. They take a few years to produce quality cherries, so a time investment can be lost if too many are grown or not enough, etc. Around 2001, there was a huge bust due largely to an overproduction of robusta coming out of Vietnam, which was being grown to the detriment of the native highland peoples there that were being systematically and forcefully removed and persecuted in order to make room for coffee plantations. This is something that hasn’t been talked about much that we’re going to look into more.
  • Haiti was the site of the first and only successful national slave revolt, which included the burning down of coffee plantations and tons of the native trees. There are some theories that posit that the heavily denuded nature of Haiti and the removal of the colonial structures could play a part in the fact that hurricanes ravage it so often and it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere to this day. Another interesting topic for further research.
  • Because carbon dioxide is produced during the roasting process, coffee has to be a bit stale to begin with if it’s going to be packaged for export; this makes it not an easily manageable product for mass production, because the packaging can explode if the coffee wasn’t allowed to sit long enough. With the invention of the one-way release valve that is seen on many high end coffee bean bags these days, however, the coffee can be packaged more freshly and this could mean that roasting could take place in the growing country instead of after it’s exported to the consuming country. This could mean that there is room for future economic benefit in the growing countries, who could start roasting the coffee as well and then ship it out in bags with release valves.

Next week’s lecture is on direct trade and we’ll provide a similar synopsis of our thoughts here then. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or comments on what we shared here.

New! CoffeeSmarts

Flavored lattes originated in:

  1. Seattle
  2. Rome
  3. Portland
  4. Vienna

You’ll find out the answer to this and 59 other caffeinated trivia questions in CoffeeSmarts, a fun and interesting Q&A game that covers everything from coffee history to concoctions. In addition to the 60 Q&A cards, CoffeeSmarts includes a 16-page CoffeeTips guide with information on brewing, drinking and traveling to some of the world’s most infamously perky places.

Or…you can find out the answer…after the jump!

Continue reading New! CoffeeSmarts

New! Coffee – A Guide to Buying, Brewing & Enjoying

We just got in a batch of Kenneth Davids’ seminal coffee book, Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying and we highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in an in-depth explanation of pretty much all there is to know about coffee.

Covering the entire lifecycle of your favorite bean, this book talks about history, agriculture, roasting, tasting, grinding, brewing and serving — a resource-rich compendium that will most certainly answer any coffee-related question you might have had.

Kenneth also authors the website Coffee Review, which provides detailed assessments of hundreds of different coffees from around the world. If you’re looking into trying out some new coffees, his website is definitely a place to start your research.

Recipe: New Orleans Cafe Brulot

Who doesn’t love a little voodoo in their coffee cup every now and again? We were thumbing through Betty Rosbottom’s book Coffee: Scrumptious Drinks and Treats, looking for a yummy concoction to spice up these darkening autumn days, when we happened upon this recipe for Cafe Brulot that we just had to try — and share.

Ingredients:

  • 3 thin orange slices, quartered
  • 3 thin lemon slices, quartered
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, coarsely chopped
  • 20 cloves
  • 2 cups freshly brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Directions:

  1. Prepare 6 warm demitasse cups and saucers
  2. Put the orange and lemon slices, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a medium, non-reactive saucepan.
  3. Add the coffee and set pan over very low heat, just to keep the coffee warm while you flame the brandy.
  4. Put the brandy in a small saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. When the brandy just starts to boil, avert your face and flame the brandy with a lit, wooden match.
  5. Turn off the heat and when the flame in the brandy goes out after a few seconds, add the brandy to the coffee.
  6. To serve, ladle the coffee, brandy, fruit and spice mixture into the demitasse cups.

Makes 6 4-5 oz. servings.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

New! Coffee: Scrumptious Drinks & Treats

Irish Coffee Tart or Profiteroles with Coffee Ice Cream & Warm Chocolate Sauce? Who can choose? We certainly can’t — and now, we don’t have to!

We love Betty Rosbottom’s elegant and treat-filled book Coffee: Scrumptious Drinks & Treats so much, we just had to offer it in the shop. We highly recommend adding this book to your kitchen’s library; it’s chock full of wonderful espresso-inspired recipes that will keep you, your friends and family sufficiently sweetened.