Meet the Real Juan Valdez

On a visit to the coffee-growing hills above San Lucas, Rice cultivated what would later become the American fair trade movement. Founded in 1998 in a converted warehouse in downtown Oakland, TransFair USA began as a bare-bones operation with an unusual premise – put more money in the pockets of farmers in the developing world by persuading consumers thousands of miles away to pay a premium in the name of social justice. Modeled after organic produce and dolphin-safe tuna, Rice started the organization with the stark black and white label that told shoppers their coffee came from farmers who received a “fair price.”

The San Francisco Chronicle just wrote this very interesting profile of the man who founded the Fair Trade movement for coffee, Paul Rice. We highly recommend the read!

Rain in India Could Storm Your Wallet

“…all for the price of a cup of coffee.” The Christian Children’s Fund might have to change their pitch-line in the coming months, as India reports their Robusta coffee crops are down due to the excessive rain they’ve been experiencing — a drop which may result in an increase in coffee prices around the world.

India’s highest producing region, Karnataka, experienced intense rains during coffee’s blossom season, which will likely impact the amount of beans they are able to harvest. While this news story focuses on the fact that Robusta is primarily used in instant coffees, it is also very often used in high-end gourmet brands (such as Lavazza or Illy) in their espresso blends to create a thicker crema and a bolder body. Robusta is bitter due to it’s higher caffeine content, so it’s not used in high quantities, but the increase in prices could have an impact on the cost of your favorite coffee beans — whether or not you’ll see this passed on to you remains to be seen.

However, coffee’s global commodities pricing has dropped significantly over the past several months, due to the economic issues seen in Europe and the US, so perhaps these environmental and economic issues will balance each other out.

Tasting Event: Velton’s Coffee – 12.07.08

We’re having our first tasting event at our Lynnwood location on Sunday, 12/7/08, from 10am – 12pm. This event will feature local roaster Velton’s coffee and you’ll have the opportunity to taste four single origin beans plus the blend Velton created with them (the Bonsai Blend) in a traditional, plantation-style cupping.

At this free event, you’ll:

  • Learn about regional flavor trends
  • Have the chance to determine which kinds of beans taste best to you and why
  • Get information on coffee roasting & blending theory
  • Pitch all of your coffee and espresso machine questions at Velton & Gail
  • Be entered in a drawing for an awesome door prize!

Please join us as we taste and learn more about coffee in a fun, interactive and casual environment. Space is limited to 20 participants, so if you’re interested, please sign up here.

Hope to see you on the 7th!

Brew Tip: Flood-Free Joe

We have read user reviews of the DeLonghi DCF210TTC and DCF212T drip coffee makers that have referenced issues with water on the counter top or coffee not brewing into the carafe mess-free. When a customer of ours came in the shop with a similar complaint, we decided to figure out what the cause of this issue is — and if there is any way to keep it from happening. After all, who wants a coffee pot that leaks all over the counter?

After experimenting a bit, we determined that it’s a carafe design issue: To ensure that the coffee brews directly into the pot, you need to make sure that the carafe is inserted with the spout lined up to the back of the machine. We have found that if the spout is off to the side, the carafe doesn’t trigger the water release correctly and ends up brewing outside of the pot and sometimes leaking water during the brew process.

A poor design issue? Possibly. But with a little bit of extra attention before each brew, it’s definitely easy to work around.

Tech Tip: Backflush Flashback


If you have a semi-automatic espresso machine with a 3-way pressure release, or solenoid, valve, you need to backflush it on a regular basis to keep the machine in fine working order. Backflushing will clean up behind the screen and into the brewing system, cleaning out coffee or grounds residue and reducing the potential for clogs.You can watch Dane as he cleans a Rocket Giotto, or follow these steps:

  1. Replace brew basket with a blind basket in the portafilter (or you can use this universal insert in your existing basket)
  2. Place 1/2 teaspoon of a backflush detergent such as Cafiza or Joe Glo (Important: make sure it indicates backflushing as its primary use on the label — do not use Dezcal or any other standard detergent here!)
  3. Insert the portafilter into the brew group and initiate a shot
  4. Allow the pump to run about 4 – 5 seconds maximum
  5. Turn the pump off and allow the water and suds to release through the valve
  6. Repeat this process until the water coming out of the valve is clear and suds-free
  7. Remove the portafilter, rinse it in cool water to cool it down and then switch out the baskets again
  8. Before you pull your first shot, run a blank shot through the system to make sure there is no residue leftover

PR: Making Espresso at Home can Save Consumers Nearly $2,000 per Year

The team recently got together to analyze the cost and benefit of making your espresso at home and we released this study last week that details relative savings associated with each drink.

It’s kind of surprising, but we found data to support the fact that the average American coffee drinker can spend about $2800 each year on their daily coffee. This is based on the average cost of a latte at $2.45 and the average number of coffee drinks consumed per day of 3.2. Obviously, lattes can be significantly more expensive (we often shell out nearly $4.50 for a grande soy latte) and your daily consumption can vary, but we figured the averages balance each other out.

If you’re looking for ways to cut your expense budget but don’t want to give up your daily joe, strike a compromise between your hedonism and pragmatism by investing in a home espresso machine.