Tag Archives: coffee

The Lowdown on Distilled Water

A common inquiry we receive is in regard to the type of water customers should use in their coffee making equipment. Some folks think that distilled water will be their best bet, as they won’t have to worry about scale build up or performing descaling procedures for the life of the machine. While there seems to be as many supporters as there are detractors regarding whether or not it’s healthy for the human body, we do know that distilled water is not healthy for your machine. Seriously!

First up, let’s talk about your equipment. Putting water that has a lack of ions or mineral content through equipment that is basically composed of minerals (stainless steel, copper, nickel, brass, etc.) means the water will take that opportunity to take on ions from the surrounding space, contributing to a slow breakdown of those materials. It will essentially leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine’s performance over time. Additionally, there are several models of machines on the market (such as the Rockets) that use a minor electrical charge to determine if there is water in the reservoir. If there aren’t enough minerals in the water to conduct that charge, the machine’s sensor will report that the reservoir is empty.

Now, let’s talk about the coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America performed extensive testing and found that the ideal mineral balance is 150 parts per million (ppm). Coffee produced with water that contains this level of hardness is better balanced and a smoother cup. A lower mineral content allows for too much available space, often resulting in an overextraction and a bitter flavor. Conversely, water with a higher mineral content won’t have enough available space, so coffee will be underextracted and possibly more sour. As distilled water has hardly any mineral content (roughly 9ppm), using it for coffee preparation will result in a bitter cup.

We often say that you should use water that you like to drink to make your coffee — after all, coffee is over 98% water. Another option is to use softened water, which encapsulates the minerals, maintaining their structure within the water while prohibiting their ability to adhere to internal components. This can give you the best of both worlds: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee while also reducing the overall maintenance for the life of the machine.

One More Cup Away from Diabetes

Well, looks like coffee’s done it again. As if we needed another reason to grab a second cup of joe in the morning, now you’ll have good reason — one for the kick and one to help fight diabetes!

The Harvard School of Public Health has done a series of studies uncovering the health benefits of coffee for preventing diabetes. In the well-known Nurses’ Health Study, they looked at 982 diabetic and 1,058 non-diabetic women without cardiovascular disease.

‘They wanted to see if the beneficial effects of coffee on metabolism were from changes in the hormone adiponectin,’ said Jonathan Galland, health writer for HuffPost Healthy Living. Adiponectin is key in that it promotes insulin sensitivity which protects individuals against Type 2 diabetes.

What they found was women who had four or more cups of coffee per day ‘had significantly higher adiponectin’ than those who did not drink coffee regularly.

Across the world, scientists in Germany, Finland and Denmark have been raving about the benefits of increasing one’s coffee intake to improve cholesterol levels and blood levels of inflammatory compounds.

Referring to the European scientists studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ‘Coffee consumption appears to have favorable effects on some markers of sub-clinical inflammation and oxidative stress and to increase plasma concentrations of potential biomarkers of coffee intake.’

In Layman’s terms, since subclinical inflammation is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes , coffee mediates and reduces  the risk of type 2 diabetes amongst people who drink coffee habitually for years.

But it’s not only caffeinated coffee that helps prevent diabetes, studies have shown that decaf may have the same positive affects also!

It’s not necessarily the caffeine that gives individuals the health benefits, Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health explains to WebMD. Coffee is jam packed with other nutrients, such as antioxidants, that he says contribute to, ‘the whole package.’ Antioxidants help prevent tissue damage caused by molecules called oxygen-free radicals.

Coffee also is full of minerals (i.e. magnesium and chromium) that helps the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose). In type 2 diabetes, the body loses its ability to use insulin and regulate  blood sugar effectively.

So if you’ve been looking for an excuse on which to pawn off your java addiction, now you’ve got a few health points to reference! Sip that second (or third or fourth) cup of the day and ruminate on how well you’re treating your body — and your taste buds.

Nitrogen-Flushed Coffee

We offer a couple of different coffee varieties that are treated with a nitrogen flush during their packaging (specifically, Lavazza and illy employ this practice), and we often have folks ask about what this is and why it’s done.

Once a food is processed, it begins to deteriorate immediately with exposure to oxygen. Foods that are high in fat or oil content are especially susceptible to this degradation, as their oils will begin to break down and become rancid in relatively short order. Flushing the package with nitrogen forces out the majority of oxygen and, unlike vacuum-sealing, also provides a bit of packaging protection as well. Nitrogen-flushing is often used with more delicate foods (like potato chips!), but is also very popular in preserving coffee beans.

According to a few different roasters over on coffeed.com, coffee preservation experiments revealed that while packaging the coffee directly after roast did result in the out-gassed CO2 expelling oxygen through the one-way valve, their nitrogen-flushed counterparts lasted longer. In fact, one roaster reported that the shots pulled with a bag roasted 24 days previously still held up well! A major drawback, however, is that the nitrogen flushing process is not considered to be an organic-friendly practice, so roasters that are certified organic cannot employ this technique.

Whether or not you’re cool with this preservation process is sort of personal preference, but it’s something that a lot of large scale roasters practice — even some of the renowned third wave roasters, like Europe’s Coffee Collective. And while the coffee will stay fresher using this method, once the bag is opened, it will age just as rapidly as any other variety … so use it or lose it.

The Lowdown on Bikini Barista Stands

Putting our noses to the grindstone and getting our hands dirty like the intrepid reporters that we are, Kaylie and I hit the streets with one question on our mind: What’s all the hullabaloo with bikini barista stands?

As far as we can tell (through very informal polling of other crew mates who hail from different states in the union), this type of business is something unique to the Pacific Northwest of the US — scantily clad ladies serving up java in drive through stands. But is it just a marketing ploy to attract the male population or do they actually serve up tasty coffee?

While these stands are hardly an anomaly in our neck of the woods, it was pretty clear that two high class ladies such as ourselves rolling up to the drive through window at the three different stands we visited definitely was. Since this was our first foray into semi-nude java, we were prepared for awkwardness on our side of the car window, but were surprised to find that the bodacious baristas felt the same way!

Read on to find out how we rated our visits — drink making skills, efficiency, service, hospitality and the overall experience.

Businesses Java Juggs
“Some Like It Hot”
Beehive
“Come get your sexy coffee BUZZ on at the Beehive Espresso!”
Stiletti
“Sexy. Classy. Gourmet.”
Drink: Americano
Allison’s Rating: Scalding hot to the point where we let it sit for almost 45 minutes before we could put the cup to our lips. We know this changes the flavor but we figured the safety of our mouths was a little more important than getting second degree burns over a cup o’ joe.Kaylie’s Rating: Overly hot and a little burnt. Allison’s Rating: A bit watery but reached the average drinking temperature right when she served it since she had the decency to ask if we’d like ice in it.Kaylie’s Rating: Closer to the correct temperature and she asked if we wanted ice in it, which was nice. Allison’s Rating: By far was the strongest and at the right temp cup of coffee. She not only asked if we wanted ice but also offered to make them doubles.Kaylie’s Rating: Best of them all and she offered ice — score! Could drink immediately without saying goodbye to taste buds.
Drink: Latte
Allison’s Rating: Was it curdled steam milk with a tablespoon of espresso or was it just a weak shot of espresso in some milk? All I could taste was a milky concoction with maybe a hint of espresso flavoring.Kaylie’s Rating: I’m not even sure there was actual espresso in there…it just tasted like steamed milk! It also took almost an hour before I could take a sip — way too hot! Allison’s Rating: A better temperature but still a little weak on the espresso, this drink was passable but not exceptional.Kaylie’s Rating: Once again, closer to the correct temperature and could actually tell there was espresso in this one…we’re getting closer! Allison’s Rating: Looks can be deceiving because you’d think a girl with star-shaped pasties would give you a mediocre latte, but surprisingly out of all three she had the best — strong flavor and great temperature that would rival any standard cafe.Kaylie’s Rating: Once again, we have the winner here! Right temperature and could taste the espresso with my milk. Plus? Foam!
Service Rating Allison’s Rating:A bit peppy and nervous when she saw us, I’ll give the barista credit when she said she’s only been working at the stand for a month, but I think her talking and rambling got in the way of the quality of our drinks.Kaylie’s Rating: She was talkative and friendly, but she was also nervous and I think her talking led to the long wait time. Allison’s Rating: Still a bit hesitant but friendly, knowledgeable and more business-like, the barista had more experience and said she’s worked at previous bikini barista stands (i.e. Chicka Latte). She was able to make small talk while efficiently making our drinks.Kaylie’s Rating: She was definitely nervous and made friendly conversation without as much compromise to wait time. Allison’s Rating: There to get the job done, there was no hesitation about asking what we’d like and how we’d like it but with a courteous smile and small conversation. We got out of there with quality drinks in an efficient timeframe.Kaylie’s Rating: She was very nice. Made polite conversation while she made drinks and didn’t seem too nervous.
Timing 3 minutes and 50 seconds 2 minutes and 50 seconds 2 minutes and 30 seconds
Comfort Rating Allison’s Rating: As nervous as the barista was, since this was our first stop we didn’t know what to expect. But once the drinks were ordered, and barista started rambling from nervousness we realized she was just as uncomfortable about serving ladies as we were being there.Kaylie’s Rating: I don’t know if it was because it was the first bikini barista stand we hit or if it was because she had her leg out the window as we drove up, but this stand made me super uncomfortable. Allison’s Rating: A little more comfortable since we got the first one out of the way, it wasn’t until I saw the Penthouse Posters plastered inside of the espresso stand where I once again wasn’t sure what to expect from my drinks. However, after chatting with the barista she was a little more confident than the last and acted more like how a barista should treat their customers, even with a bit of nervousness in her voice.Kaylie’s Rating: Was less uncomfortable on approach than Java Juggs, but the Penthouse posters on the wall didn’t do my uncomfortableness any favors. Allison’s Rating: What do we find but a barista with star-shaped pasties and those same yellow hot pants. Let’s say uncomfortable much? Once you start chatting up the barista with your drink order and she responds back with drink-specific questions, you forget about the pasties and are just impressed by the quality of her drinks and how efficiently she got them to us.Kaylie’s Rating: I really wasn’t that uncomfortable going to this one. Which is surprising, considering she was the only one wearing pasties while the others wore full bikini or bra tops.
Final Thoughts Allison: What I expected was basically what I saw: A girl dressed in lingerie (mind you not a bikini), with no real training except for what she was given when she was hired along with telling us that as long as you apply, be naughty and make customers drinks, you’ll get pretty good tips. Definitely quantity vs. quality of their product.Kaylie: She said this wasn’t their busiest stand, but she still makes $100 per 5-hour day in tips. When she works at the busier ones, in Everett, she gets $300-$400 a day in tips. She told us that she’d never been a barista before and they train you if you get hired, which has the only requirement of being ‘pretty’. Also, she said that when you are hired they instruct you to ‘be naughty.’ Allison: This time we actually rolled up to a barista who I believe was actually in a bikini. I couldn’t help but ask if she had been a barista before, she responded by saying she had previously at a Chicka Latte. With a little more knowledge in making drinks, it made me give the business a little more credit for hiring people with experience.Kaylie: This barista made mention of being in school and said she previously worked for Chicka Latte. She seemed generally sweeter and more ‘put together’ than the barista at Java Juggs. Allison: Once again, the pasties were deceiving but I found that this business used the sex-appeal to their advantage, while still hiring baristas that can slang an ideal Americano and Latte. With themed days, such as Tini-Bikini Tuesday or Fantasy Friday, you can either find this pure entertainment or just wrong. I’ll let you decide.Kaylie: This was by far the best in terms of actual quality and the barista was like a normal girl (pretty but not stick thin). Plus they get extra points for themed days!

Cost of Kopi Luwak Leads to Civet Cruelty

Whether you call it Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee, the java produced through the ‘natural processing’ system (AKA the digestive tract) of this cat-like marsupial from Indonesia has been given high marks (and prices!) in terms of cup quality around the world.

But what many have considered an exotic yet expensive luxury bean is not just costly to the privileged coffee drinker, it recently has become costly to the lives of the producers — the civets themselves.

For those new to ‘cat poop coffee,’ Kopi Luwak ‘is the product in which coffee cherries, the complete fruit of the coffee plant, are eaten by the palm civet cats of the far East, typically in Indonesia. The cats digest the cherries but excrete the inner beans, which are then roasted and brewed as any other coffee bean,’ describes Boughton’s Coffee House.

Historically, these beans were harvested in a natural way — foragers would search the forest floor for civet feces to find these beans. Since finding them was a lot of work and there was an arguably very small supply, it resulted in a high price — a small cup could run between $30 – $50 and a pound of the stuff could cost upwards of $600.

With those kinds of prices and a rise in popularity, however, this novelty bean has been transformed from a happy accident, as it were, into a factory-like production model designed to increase financial gain and meet the worldwide demand. Instead of foraging for the beans in the civets’ natural habitat, they are now caging them and feeding them cherries in order to increase available output.

‘With the sudden rise in popularity, the far majority of legitimate Kopi Luwak coffee sold today comes from grizzly civet cat farms where rows and rows of the enslaved creatures bred specifically for coffee production are kept in small cages and force-fed coffee cherries — ripe or otherwise — until they die,’ states coffeestrategies.com.

This ethically questionable method of harvesting Kopi Luwak has only come to light in the past few years, and there are reports that the average small farmer keeps around 102 civets and collects 550 pounds of processed coffee per month.

Is their flavor worth their high price — in terms of both monetary and ethical concerns? If you’re a fan of Kopi Luwak, it’s something only you can decide … but we think it’s well worth at least a few moments of healthy consideration.

Can I Get a Babyccino with That?

As you walk into your local cafe and notice a 3-year-old sitting in the corner with his mother sipping on what looks like a foamy, velvety cappuccino, don’t doubt your vision: That’s exactly what it is. And because its a fad it’s gotta have a cutesy amalgam of a name, right? Yup — it’s called the Babyccino.

Beginning in Australia about a decade ago, the Babyccino craze recently headed to Great Britain and then leapt across the pond to the eastern US. According to The Brooklyn Paper, the term Babyccino is used to ‘describe a macchiato-like beverage featuring a shot of decaf espresso topped with steamed milk and froth, while others use it to describe steamed milk with foam on top and a touch of cinnamon.’

Surprisingly we haven’t seen this oh so popular trend pop up in every cafe in the west coast quite yet, but many east coast cafes have jumped on the bandwagon and put their own twist to these trendy miniature sized drinks. Running at about $2 for a cup, the price may seem a little steep until you consider the peace of mind provided to mothers everywhere, who can finally furnish their toddler with a drink just like mommy’s.

However, even though they’re cute in size and are said to be kid friendly, not everyone is a big fan of them. ‘There is no reason on earth to have these drinks and introduce caffeine to a younger population,’ said TODAY chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

While some may look at the health factors caffeine could cause in children, baristas themselves are affected by the new trend also. Many explain how the increase of children will affect the coffee shop community negatively. ‘Some baristas do not want to cater that much to kids,’ states a blog on roaste.com. ‘On the one hand, kids are good from some businesses, but if the noise becomes a factor, the home workers and students might take their laptops elsewhere.’

But other New York cafes, such as Sit and Wonder, cater to their Babyccino fans by outfitting their joints with changing stations in the bathroom and a backyard with toys for kids to play. Others, like the Tea Lounge, even offer stroller parking and designated areas for mothers to breastfeed their babies.

We say to each their own; who are we to say what’s right or wrong for a child we’re not rearing? And who’s to say that Babyccinos are only for kids? Bring out the inner child in you and enjoy a few sprinkles with your drink! Also, do you really want to deprive Ruby of her sprinkles on her Babyccino?!

Coffee: A College Student’s Life Line

Before the days — or should I say the long nights — of cramming for tests, writing papers and preparing presentations, I’d never even thought of caffeine as an essential element of balancing my life. But in  my first years of college, I wanted to have fun! And a daily dose of coffee helped me get all my schoolwork done without impacting my ability to hit the dance floor.

From the beatnik vibe of the Solstice Cafe to the hustle and bustle of the University Village Starbucks (one of their busiest shops, even today), my devotion to java ensured I wouldn’t be running on empty before I hit my next lecture.

It’s not that I was before my time or anything, but since I’ve moved from over-caffeinated college student to … er, over-caffeinated working professional, I thought I’d take a look at what the kids are doing these days. Enter this blog from BestCollegesOnline.com, in which they rate the top 25 college coffee shops in the country that keep our future’s creative juices flowing.

Have you been to one of the coffee shops listed? If so, is it worth the press? What was your favorite java joint when you were in college? Please share in the comments below!

Compare: Airscape vs. Coffee Bean Vac

In the world of coffee bean storage, do either of these devices do a better job of keeping your beans fresher, longer? We asked Gail to throw a bag of Velton’s Bonsai Blend into an Airscape and a Coffee Bean Vac, then we pulled shots a week later and two weeks later to see how they held up. Aside from when we opened them for testing, they were securely sealed.

Watch to find out how they stack up!