Category Archives: Tips – Brew

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

Brew Tip: Dialing in Your Grinder

If you’ve just picked up a new grinder or an espresso machine/grinder package and you’re wondering how to get it setup for that perfect shot extraction, check out this video. Gail shows us how to calibrate a grinder with an espresso machine and discusses tips for determining the extraction level and tweaking your puck.

You’ve Got Great Taste: Coffee Flavor Profiles

The world of coffee sometimes seems a little bit overwhelming — even to us! When we’re working with folks to pick the right machine to meet their needs or discussing the different coffee flavors inherent to different bean blends, we often hear the refrain that many people just want coffee to taste “good.”

Like any vague and subjective descriptor, “good” is defined differently by each of us, and how we achieve that “good” flavor is going to be similarly unique. Finding the blueberry or jasmine in a particular blend of coffee doesn’t have to involve pretension as much as it involves your particular sense of smell. Since flavor itself is defined as the combination of two sensory experiences — that of taste and smell — then your unique anatomical make-up regarding these two sensory systems will define your experiences of all foods, including coffee.

Continue reading You’ve Got Great Taste: Coffee Flavor Profiles

Italian Roast vs. French Roast

We’ve found that we generally prefer medium roasted coffees because we’re able to taste a more diverse palette of flavors in a specific coffee blend. However, we know that there are die-hard devotees of dark roasted coffee and we were recently asked what the difference was between French Roast and Italian Roast.

They’re both roasted quite darkly, so that they have an oily sheen to them after the roasting process is complete. With a French Roast, the temperature of the roast is high enough that these oils are brought to the surface and will impart a roasted flavor to the produced coffee or espresso. Aromas can vary from berry to citrus. Italian Roast is much darker and oilier than a French Roast and often preferred in Italy.

If a coffee is described as being a French or Italian roast, it isn’t because they were grown or roasted in these countries, just that the roaster utilized this generalized roast level for that blend of beans. You can read more about roasting in our article It Starts with Great Coffee.

What is your preferred roast or blend and why? We’d love to hear about some of your favorites!

The Grind – May 2009

The May issue of our monthly newsletter, The Grind, has hit the bricks! Including the Turkish Dee-Lite recipe, our process for making excellent french press coffee, tips on how to brew a strong shot in a superautomatic espresso machine and a directory of all the recent YouTube videos we’ve done over the last month, May’s news is a sweet little compendium of a lot of the content we’ve shared with you here.

But what you won’t find here is The Grind Special — this month: $10 off the Hourglass Cold Brew Coffee Maker! Get this special and all future specials by signing up.

New! Hourglass Cold Brew Coffee Maker

We have been waiting for this for weeks! The new Hourglass cold brew coffee maker has finally hit the shelves and we are digging it. Simple to use and probably the greenest coffee preparation available, the coffee is smooth and rich — perfect for adding hot water for a straight up cup of coffee or blending up with some ice and milk for a delicious chilled coffee drink.

Watch as Gail brews up and tastes the delicious flavor the Hourglass has to offer!