Cuppin’ Da Bea’s Knees

Less than a year ago my husband and I took an Intro to Cupping workshop at Pacific Coffee Research, which I blogged about. We learned a lot but were also overwhelmed and intimidated … not by the nice people at PCR, but by the cupping process. We knew we were interested in having our coffee cupped, but we wanted to wait for the second season’s coffee, because we know our coffee will be improving year to year.

So we recently had our coffee cupped and our green (unroasted) beans graded and analyzed. They did this without us around. They’re supposed to be quiet and not influence each other’s observations. We got our information back from PCR, and we think the results were solid. Right now our idea is to go through this process with each season’s coffee, because it’s an outside, independent party following a standardized protocol to make a subjective process quantitative and objective. In a few years we’d like to enter a coffee cupping competition as a learning experience.

We got back the remaining sorted green beans and roasted-for-cupping beans. When professionals cup, they roast the coffee much lighter than we drink it. When we took the cupping class, PCR was going to include our coffee with the other coffees, but unfortunately their sample roaster was broken at the time. So this is the first time we’ve tried our coffee this way.

Hubby and I were left to our own devices, armed with our notes from our PCR class last year, to cup the coffee. There is a 16-step protocol in our class notes, which we actually mostly followed. But the class was taken a while ago, and we hadn’t practiced the protocol until now, so some things were forgotten; mistakes were made. We quickly learned one lesson — if you’re using a measuring cup, warm it up prior to wetting all the grounds. If we had the exact same cupping cups, and did this enough, we could’ve just poured from our kettle directly into the cups instead of introducing a measuring cup in between. We saw that the first cup probably had cooler water than the 200°, so I introduced a flaw fairly early on.

We took our notes on dry aroma, wet aroma, and then all the various parameters. We didn’t give a final score, because we don’t know how to assign absolute numbers. Still, it was a first step at cupping and trying to evaluate and remember our coffee. We’d have to practice much more for this to really be useful.

In any case, I’ll share our coffee descriptors from the two professionals:

Professional #1: (+) Dark Chocolate, Toasted spices, Bittersweet Chocolate, Hint red fruit, Compote, Nutty, Malic Acid

Professional #2: (+) Nutty, Chocolate, Hint red fruit, Dark Chocolate, Sweet cream, Toasted almond, Brown Sugar

What do you taste in our coffee?

The Whole Farm Has Met the Ax

We’ve reached an important milestone for our farm — as of mid-January, the whole farm has now been stumped. It’s a harsh pruning method, but now that we know that the trees recover, it is also a good way to tame a “feral” coffee farm.

Yay! Celebrate!

We’ve reclaimed the coffee farm. The days of a jungle coffee farm are behind us!

See (1) my very first post and (2) this post from last year for more background on pruning. Because of our terrain, it didn’t make sense to stump by rows, but by blocks. When we started in 2018, it was the plan to stump a block a year, meaning 1/3 of our farm is growing leaves and not producing fruit every year. No fruit means no housing for coffee borer beetles.

The Stump Class of 2020

As of a few weeks ago, with this block, all of our coffee trees have now been stumped.

The Stump Class of 2019

This block did not contribute any fruit to the past season’s coffee harvest. They got to concentrate on growing, without having to produce fruit.

This part of Block 2, stumped in January 2019, is doing well.
The trees circled in orange were stumped at the same time. Some recovered fine; some didn’t fare so well. The larger trees between the foreground and banana trees, circled in purple, were stumped in 2018.

This blog post is from about a year ago:

This article looked at those 2019 stumps a few months later, in June:

The Stump Class of 2018

The trees in the first block to be stumped in 2018 have mostly survived. Yet it’s very interesting how some trees have thrived (they’re currently 9′-12′ tall), and some are only 3′ tall. It’s probably not the pruning, though. Some trees have very small trunks — they weren’t big to start with. Maybe the nutrients or water flow away there, or the roots have hit bedrock, whereas other trees’ roots have tapped into the good stuff.

This blog post was written five months after stumping Block 1, class of 2018:

There are always more problems to solve and more to be done, and it sometimes weighs heavily on me. But we do have to try and reflect upon and linger on what we have accomplished. For my own encouragement, this is a meatier post I’ll have to refer back to every once in a while.

Kahlúa Pig Coffee Cocktail

Some people just love to tinker. In the kitchen, in the lab, in the workshop, on the computer. My long-time friend, Joe, just spontaneously experiments with food and drink, often with a zany sense of fun. He can meticulously tinker, as well. He can cook inventive, delicious, elaborate multi-course meals. He knows various techniques and has many kitchen skills. But what stands out in my mind are the impulsive, almost irreverent, break-the-rules moments. Leftover bottles or glasses of different wine at the end of a party? He might toss them all — red, white, whatever — in a glass and, with a few mouth-filling swishes, taste his special blend.

He did the coffee equivalent with our coffee. He brewed another type of coffee he had; and with our coffee, he machine brewed it and also made a pour-over. He sipped each, then he just tossed them altogether. Sipped, swished & swallowed. Paused to reflect & absorb. Then added ingredients that, in his opinion, will always improve coffee … half and half and sweetener. Joe will doctor his Joe how he likes and enjoy it. So there!

He also loves to whip up cocktails. So I challenged him to come up with recipes with our coffee, whether cold brew, iced coffee, or hot brew. We’ll see.

I admire Joe’s impulsiveness, since I’m more of a recipe follower (careful, predictable), and he’s like a super-hero alter-ego (carefree, bold, daring) with ever-present, wacky humor. If you like recipes, to follow or to use as inspiration, here are some creative cold brew recipes from the Perfect Daily Grind.

Here’s another: How to make cold brew, plus 20 extra recipes for tricking out your cold brew from Home Grounds. In the long article, there’s an FAQ about how to make cold brew without a cold brewer, which has always been my situation. I use the Mason jar technique or AeroPress, but I also don’t drink a lot of cold brew except mostly out of curiosity. How to make cold brew is addressed in our FAQs. Did you know we have FAQs? It’s under the “About” menu item.

If you haven’t already read the blog post about the AeroPress, you might want to check it out. If you can’t remember the iconic earlier invention of the AeroPress inventor, maybe you should skim the article again.

AND, last but not least, here’s the first of Joe’s recipes, the Kahlúa Pig Coffee

4 oz Bea’s Knees Kona coffee
1 oz Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur
2 oz Maui Brewing Company Coffee Coconut Porter beer
Optional splash of creamer of your choice
(Serve piping hot or iced)
1 strip of candied bacon, laid across the top

After giving me the recipe, he said it needs to be iced, and needs a splash of whiskey. He also wrote, “not quite delicious enough.” I hope that means he’ll still fiddle with it! Great recipes often arise from dissatisfaction and/or kitchen mistakes. Thank you, Big Joe (AKA, Big Kahuna Kahlua Joe)!!

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!