What do the astrological forces have to say for themselves this month? You Virgos may have a difficult time expressing yourself, while those of the Sagittarius and Aries persuasions won’t be able to keep it to themselves. Overall, there’s a general vibe of experimentation and learning, balanced by a little healthy personal assessment. You know, the usual.
As we have been tracking over the past couple of years, global warming has been impacting coffee growing regions around the world — from excessive rains leading to flooding to increased temperatures minimizing the available coffee-friendly agricultural regions.
The Guardian now has another update for us: The temperatures are warming enough that they are inviting a lovely little pest, the coffee berry borer, to live in higher and higher altitudes. This little beetle wants the same thing we do — coffee, delicious coffee! — but couldn’t hang with the coffee crops all that often because they preferred a cooler clime than the beetle’s 68F degrees. Warming kicked up temps in parts of Ethiopia’s mountainous growing region to this level in around 1984 and scientists have been tracking the borer’s population expansion ever since — it’s now present in every coffee growing region except Hawaii, Nepal and Papua New Guinea.
Coffee’s commodity price has been slowly increasing as a result of environmental and economic pressures and is at its highest this year. With an estimated $500m damage sourced to the coffee berry borer crew, it will only serve to increase the cost even more.
As we wrote about in March, Nespresso’s historically proprietary capsules were slated for competition this summer — and it’s about to get real. Both Sara Lee’s L’Or capsules and the Ethical Coffee Company’s biodegradable capsules have hit the market and Nestle has begun an avid defense of their ~1700 patents on how the espresso is produced on their machines.
With lawsuits in the works and police raids of manufacturing facilities in France, it’s clear that Nestle’s Nespresso business model is designed around a lack of competition. Since we’re ardent supporters of competition and believe it to be in the best interest of the customer, it’s hard for us to empathize with Nestle’s position on this one.
As with the machines themselves, there seems to be different target markets for each of the competitive capsules being produced and that kind of diversity will only serve to increase the reach, accessibility and attractiveness of the equipment itself. If you have people concerned about the environmental impact of the capsules, they can purchase the equipment and go with Ethical Coffee Company’s capsule approach; similarly, if someone is more budget conscious and willing to take a bit of a reduction in quality, it sounds like the L’Or capsules are cheaper but maybe not quite as tasty as the original. In both cases, Nestle should see the competing products as another marketing arm that feeds into their machine sales. Obviously, their model is designed around lower cost machines that are supported economically by capsule purchases over the life of the equipment, but the biggest complaint and ‘no’ factor we see on the retail side is this lack of easily accessible capsules.
On the US front, Green Mountain and Lavazza are in final negotiations to team up and take another stab at Lavazza’s capsule-based espresso in this market, so the competition will be equipment based, as well, within the next few years. In our opinion, both pressures will result in better options for the customer at the end of the day, so we’re all for it.
It’s that time again — you know, when the secrets of the universe are revealed and their influences on your java become clear. August’s Espresscopes are up over at Brown Bean , so check them out!
Libras have romance and love on their cosmic horizons — accented, of course, by sharing their equally passionate ardor for coffee — while Cancers need to slow down a bit and maybe take some time to enjoy a slow cold brewed coffee over ice.
What’s in store for your sign this month? Check out these caffeine-imbued predictions.
The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) recommends 1.15% – 1.35% coffee solids for an ideally flavored cup of coffee. That leaves ~98% of the flavor up to the water itself — something not a lot of people talk about. Some folks want to reduce the descaling maintenance required by using distilled water or water that is put through a reverse osmosis system that has no mineral content in it, meaning it won’t contribute to scale build up on the equipment.
But thorough testing by scientists much more focused on this than us has revealed that the ideal mineral content for coffee is 150 parts per million (ppm) of total dissolved solids (tds). More than that and you run the risk of under-extracting the coffee (basically, there’s not enough allowable space in the water for the coffee particles to be absorbed) and less than that means you can likely over-extract (there’s too much space and it takes on too many coffee particles).
Commercial coffee operations invest in high end water treatment systems that will ensure they’re using the best possible water/mineral balance to easily make excellent coffee. This is of particular concern to large chains that have cafes in different cities as they can’t rely on the local water’s tap to be the same across the board. Companies such as Cirqua came along to address this issue for cafes, but they understood that most folks that wanted to make coffee at home just weren’t going to invest in a high end filtration system.
So they developed this easy-to-use solution that you can employ at home: Add the two capsules (per dosage) to one gallon of distilled water and you have the perfectly balanced mineral water to make an awesome cup of coffee. We tested it out at the store, check out our results:
This infographic from awhile back laid out the different caloric intake of foods and drinks and the required energy output to balance their input, but we recently ran across this blog entry over at World of Mysteries that evaluated and named what they think are the 20 most harmful drinks in the US. Comparing each drink’s sugar content to another not-so-healthy food, they list several drinks that you’d expect to find on there — and painfully outline some coffee drinks as well.
Ever thought about what sucking down 68 strips of bacon would be like? Stop into your local Cold Stone Creamery to find out. Ijole!
Yeah, we’ll stick with our straight espresso shots, thanks.
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.
If you’re expecting to head to Rwanda and sample some of their world-renowned coffee, you’ll most likely be sorely disappointed in the cup of coffee you end up with. This is true of many of the coffee producing countries of the world, who actually have a relatively small population of actual coffee drinkers. The majority of their coffee is exported around the world — and you’ll probably find a tastier cup in Finland than you will in Ethiopia.
At the end of April, Bloomberg reported (from Euromonitor) the most avid coffee drinking countries in the world, measured by the quantity consumed in liters per capita. We took that, put it in a table and assigned each country a general region, as well, so you can sort it and see which parts of the world are the biggest coffee connoisseurs.
The caffeine contained in your daily dose of java may play a part in keeping your eyes in check. A recent study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that caffeine might provide protection against the lens damage that can lead to the formation of cataracts.
They engaged in two different studies:
The team studied the oxyradical effects in vitro by incubating mice lenses in medium exposed UVA in the presence of kynurenine with and without caffeine. In vivo studies were conducted in rats by incorporating caffeine with galactose in their diet. In both cases, caffeine was found to be effective in protecting the lens against damage. (Source)
Yet another reason to enjoy your morning cuppa — if you needed another one, that is.