Sunday, January 31, 2010

Updated Aeropress brewing method

The Aeropress is taking its victory rounds online and in real life in the coffee shop.
When we first launched the Aeropress in the coffee shop back in June we kept kinda quiet about it. We wanted to try it out with the regulars first and get feedback from our baristas on the brew recipe. We've changed it slightly several times since then, very much inspired by the work of Tim Wendelboe and his World Aeropress Championship.

Our current recipe was fine-tuned by Casper over the course of several weeks and really aimed at bringing out all the aromas in the coffee. We're still using the same profile for all our coffees, but perhaps in time, we'll develop separate brew profiles for individual coffees or roasts.

The biggest problem with brew recipes - in my opinion - is grind size. We've found that a small adjustment in grind makes a huge difference in the cup. Particularly with the Aeropress. Grinding just a little too fine and we'd get a slight bitterness and a bit too coarse and we wouldn't get all the delicate aromas. This presents a problem when we want to communicate a brew method to home consumers, since most don't even posses a grinder that can be as finely adjusted or will grind as evenly as the Mahlkönig VTA-6 we use. So please, do experiment with the grind to really nail it!

So, here is the current profile:

16 grams of coffee
Ground somewhere between a filter grind and french press - leaning to the coarser side.
170 ml. water of 92-95º Celcius
Steeping time 2 minutes

We use the Aeropress upside-down (or inverted as some like to call it). Put the rubber part just below the number 4 mark. Put the freshly ground coffee in it, add the water - use a scale for accuracy if you're a supergeek - and stir very well just as you have poured the water. Steep for two minutes and meanwhile rinse the paper filter in the filter holder with lots of hot water. Stir again after the two minutes, put the filter in the filterholder on and screw tight. Now carefully turn the Aeropress over and press into a sturdy cup or pitcher.

The advantage of this method is the total immersion brewing like you have in a French Press. But with the Aeropress you get a much cleaner cup. None of that dusty mouthfeel you sometimes get in a French Press, especially towards the bottom of the cup. We tried a lot to see if we could use a finer grind and shorten the steeping time, but the aromas really never came through as well as with the 2 minute steep time. In theory you should be able to grind finer and shorten the extraction time, but in reality we find it just doesn't work as well as this profile.

Anyway, the main reason we love to sell the Aeropress remains the amount of options you have with it. So do experiment! We've had lots of feedback from customers who use it in a variety of ways. Some grind very fine and use very little water to produce a very strong cup and others use it just like a French Press with a very coarse grind and 4 minute steep time.

Have fun!

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Crop Daterra Sweet Collection

Last week we received our biggest container yet - a 40 foot - directly from the Daterra farm in Brazil. The container was swiftly emptied and the coffee is now in our storage space. This week we're roasting it and Tuesday afternoon it will be on the shelves.

Daterra Sign

Four years ago Klaus and I got a dream fulfilled when we, in search for coffee to be used at WBC, tasted the Sweet Collection at the Daterra farm. Ever since we have enjoyed the sweetness and creamy body of this coffee!

Back in March 2009 I went to Brazil again and I of course was very happy to be able to visit Daterra again. Andreza Mazarao followed me to the farm and was the same wonderful host as I remember from the last time!

Peter and Andreza

Since we had recently gotten a new lot of Daterra Sweet Collection it was interesting to try to track this back. And here the People at Daterra showed one of the reasons why they consistently produce such high quality: It took them less than two minutes to track back and find the specific lot.

Daterra March 2009 14

It turned out that the particular lot we got last year was from their Fazenda Tabuoes Lot no. 22 and this was a lot of pure Bourbon trees. This to me shows a systematic approach which - along with the craftsmanship and continued drive towards higher quality of all the people at the farm - is very convincing. Beside the wonderful hospitality I really enjoyed and learned a lot from the talks with Carlinhos in the cupping lab and the agronomist Gustavo in the field.


To me Carlinhos is an extremely skilled cupper and we are very grateful for his work. On Fazenda Tabuoes his counterpart is Renato who is the cupper there. Since our lot is from this Fazenda he obviously has been more involved in the production of our lot of Sweet Collection and we are therefore also very grateful to him.

Peter and Carlinhos

This is just to mention a few of the people who work hard to produce the fantastic coffee and of course our thanks goes to all the people at Daterra!

A topic that has had my interest for a long time as an espresso enthusiast is the definition of the Cerrado region. We had some very interesting talks about this and especially Gustavo shed some lights on this for me. As I understand it now the Cerrado region is mainly lying within the State of Minas Gerais but partly also in Mato Grosso do Sul and Goias. The region is defined by certain geographical features. The Climate is rather dry and the soil is red with approx. 40% clay which makes the soil quite good for retaining water. But since the climate is rather dry the vegetation is adapted to low precipitation rates.

Typical Cerrado vegetation

Typically for the region is the Lobeira tree (Lobo = wolf. The name was given because the typical wolf of cerrado "Lobo-guará" eat the tree fruit). It has very thick leaves which is good for storing water. It has a bark similar of cork which gives the tree protecion against some of the naturally occuring fires in the dry enviroment.

The Lobeira tree
Lobeira tree

It is believed that the geographical conditions is stressing the coffee tree a bit. Not stressing the tree too much but enough so that it develops a coffee with good body. At Daterra some of the coffees are irrigated and others not. Carlinhos told me that the irrigated coffees tended to be less dense than the coffees that came from trees that was not irrigated. If this seemingly relation between supply of water and the density of the bean also reflects in the body it would be intesting to find investigate more. But the dry conditions in Cerrado and creamy body that coffees from this region sometimes has might indicate some relation like this.

Peter at Lot 22 with Bourbon trees
Peter at Lot TB22 - our lot that year.

All in all the visit at Daterra answered many questions for me and at the same time new questions came along. As if it wasn’t enough to be with people this knowledgable about farming I had the pleasure to be accompanied by distributor of La Marzocco and Mahlkönig in Brazil, Paul Germscheid, whose technical knowledge of these machines is just flowing from him in a continuous stream.

Thanks a lot to everyone for making this trip wonderful!


Daterra Flowering

Friday, January 8, 2010

La Esmeralda - we eat our own words!

When we first presented the coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda, we said that we would not serve it as any form of espresso drink! Well, hmm, we couldn't leave it there. We have decided to put a small batch in the grinder and serve this as espresso, in cappuccinos and americanos, as long as the batch lasts (through the weekend?) !

The espressobrewing is really bringing the elegant aromas of this coffee forward. It might even be the brewing method where we find that the aromas of abricot, bergamot and the heather honey is the most intense and maybe a hint of eukalyptus also sneaks through. Even in the cappuccinos there is no doubt on which coffee it is.

If you are in the neighborhood during the weekend drop by and ask to get yur coffee with La Esmeralda.