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How to Measure Coffee

From last week’s post, “Which roast has more caffeine?” if you read the linked article, the comprehensive answer given was:

A 12 oz. brewed cup of dark-roasted Arabica coffee will contain more caffeine if it has been weighed prior to brewing as opposed to a lighter roasted Arabica coffee taken to the same weight.

The darker you roast, the more volume the beans require. You can hold the image of beans puffing up more, the longer/darker you roast. For fixed volume, like when we ship in a flat rate box, we can fit slightly less medium-dark than medium beans. For the same weight, if you’re a bean counter, there will be more beans in the medium-dark roast bag than in the medium-roast. And if you buy green beans, a pound looks like a similar volume to our half-pound roasted coffee. Is your head spinning?

This article from Home Grounds goes into detail about why you should measure your coffee according to weight. Once you’ve dialed it in to what you like, though, you can note the volume (X tablespoons or scoops, whatever), and you can just measure by volume.

I’m sure Bea would find this all incredibly fastidious and fussy. She often makes instant coffee, and it serves her needs and taste. Do any of you use recipes from Cook’s Illustrated? I’m very appreciative that they fuss over every last detail, explain as much as possible, but then give you the conclusion, the recipe that works. So if you feel like it, you can read the backstory to any recipe. Or you can just use the recipe, and tweak it for your own needs/requirements.

That’s what I’m trying to provide you … some details if you care about them. There’s a lot that goes into coffee. Myself, I make notes about my brewing recipes and results. Sometimes I use the machine drip brewer, sometimes the Chemex or AeroPress, etc. It depends how many people I’m serving and whatever constraints. When I do something different, I just try and jot down what I do. That way, whatever the result is, I remember what I did. I write it down by brewing method, weight, grind size, water amount, and anything else involved (bloom time, stirring, etc.). I still manage to frequently mess up a fairly simple task (my recent Chemex brews come to mind).

It has become my business to understand what goes into a good cup of home brewed coffee, and I’d like to know how to eke out the best, even if I don’t do it all the time. But I’ve found that as I’ve learned more about coffee, friends are more afraid to serve me or apologize for their brewed coffee. Don’t worry! It’s all good. It should be about more enjoyment (a pause and enjoying time together, or maybe just waking up) and less stress (doing it “right”). That could hold for everything we do — more enjoyment, less stress.

Which Roast Has More Caffeine?

Do you think the lighter the roast, the more the caffeine? A few years ago I didn’t know, and since then my take-away learning was that a lighter roast has more caffeine. Recently, a friend shared this article with me from Scribblers Coffee, “Which Has More Caffeine: Light or Dark Roast?” He said the article’s answer was different than what a Kona farm told him. (My quick answer to myself was also “light roast.”) After I read the article, which answered the question comprehensively, the answer (“it depends”) made sense to me. I knew many of the various facts that come into play, but still in my mind I had distilled it all to the simple answer.

I happen to be reading Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Answering “Which roast has more caffeine?” gave myself a perfect example of how we like the quick, easy answer. From the description on the back of the book, “Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking.”

Kahneman assigns the label System 1 for our automatic, quick thinking that requires little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. System 2 is associated with our deliberate, calculated, concentrated thinking. The book formula, simplified, is that the author gives you a fun, relatable example choice/quiz, which illustrates when the different “systems” come into play, sometimes to our disadvantage. After you’re humbled when you fall into the thinking trap the author’s trying to demonstrate, you’re curious and ready to receive the following discussion/explanation. The book is over 400 pages, and it isn’t light reading, though it is if you compare it to the papers these types of academics usually write. You’ll probably need coffee to stay alert to follow the book. I like to read these types of books when I have insomnia, because I want to read them, but they aren’t beach reading. If I read during a wake spell, either I eventually get sleepy or I make progress in the book. It takes a little of the bite out of insomnia.

There you go. Maybe you’ve learned a little about caffeine in coffee if you read the linked article, you have a book recommendation, and you’ve learned one example for dealing and coping with insomnia. One thing I’ve learned with this blog is that I can start with something related to coffee, and from there I can go all over the place!

Some Changes in 2020

Greetings and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou in 2020! We hope you were able to spend some special, meaningful time over the holidays, and that you’re feeling optimistic about this year, decade, and beyond.

We have a few administrative changes to let you know about. You should not be seeing our coffee with the little circle sticker 100% Kona seal anymore. There has been no change to our coffee. We are still 100% Kona. However, we decided not to renew our membership with the Kona Coffee Council, and therefore can’t use the seal. We are still members of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. We may or may not use their seal.

We will be raising our shipping prices by a dollar starting in February to reflect the United States Postal Service flat rate shipping changes taking effect at the end of January. We set our shipping prices in 2018 and then the USPS rates went up a few months afterward. Since they’re going up again, we are changing our rate this time. We still offer you free shipping with orders of five pounds or more.

Roasting For Your Brewing Method

Many of us think a dark roast is required for espresso. Why might you roast differently for a pour-over versus for an espresso? I read this article months ago, but it was interesting to read again after writing about home roasting. If you do make espresso at home, AND you have a home roaster, you can experiment with some of the parameters mentioned here, from the Perfect Daily Grind, “Roasting For Filter Coffees vs. For Espresso.” We do sell green beans (unroasted coffee); contact us.

Filter/pour-over and espresso methods extract the coffee at different rates. Dark roasted coffee is more porous than lighter roasts. With espresso, you’re quickly pressing water through a puck of coffee. However, professional roasters might roast to the same end-temperature, but they can still develop different roast profiles. For a rough analogy in the kitchen, you can rapidly pan fry onions on high heat, or you can use low heat & cook the onions more slowly until browned. Another example: you can rapidly bring ingredients in water to a boil, or you can use moderate heat to slowly bring them to a boil.

One customer wrote to say he didn’t seem to taste as much “soil or volcano” with the espresso brewing style with our medium-dark roasted coffee. Yet I know at least one couple (he’s from Italy; she’s from Belgium) who regularly purchases our medium roast to use in their Italian espresso machine. We do have expectations for tastes and flavors, and we do get accustomed to foods/drinks we regularly consume. It has probably happened to you that you initially don’t like something, maybe because it’s different or unexpected, and you later like it.

I’m always interested in learning of your experiences with our coffee. I highly recommend having someone help you with blind tastings, even if it’s just clarifying for yourself if you prefer A or B. Taste is subjective. You’re allowed to like what you like!

Roasting Coffee at Home

I remember years ago, before taking over the farm, a coworker/friend shared that you can roast small batches of coffee at home that are pretty good. The home roasting machines were increasingly affordable, sophisticated, you didn’t have to roast much, and it didn’t take too long. I mentally filed that away. From the start of our coffee business, I thought that I’d like to reach those home roasting enthusiasts. They’re into coffee, but it’s personal-sized small-batch.

We’ve had a few customers buy our green beans (unroasted coffee, not the green bean vegetables you might eat at Thanksgiving). I’ve asked them to report back or send photos, because I’m curious. But one can’t nag or beg the nice customers.

One green bean customer is originally from Eritrea. I asked about their coffee roasting story and learned that here in the U.S. they first roasted the beans in a pan on the stove. Then they used a popcorn machine, which had better results in terms of uniformity. But soon it broke from the weekly use. Finally they bought a good roasting machine, which has been working well for more than 10 years, which is the point when they bought their Bea’s Knees green beans. They bought a five-pound bag of green beans, and they roast maybe 250 g or so for the week. When the mom visits from Eritrea she roasts the beans in a little pan to have the smell in the room, before she serves the actual coffee.

A friend recently bought a bag of green beans for her home roasting enthusiast friend. She kindly shared photos.

I did my usual quick search on the internet. I liked the info about home roasters, from novice to semi-pro, on the beanpoet’s site. You can get lost for a while on sweetmarias’ site. I think if you have dropped some dough on any expensive home brewing equipment (like a fancy espresso maker), you should consider roasting your own coffee, too. Have fun exploring and experimenting!