2010 Coffee Survey: How would you answer?

in Buying Coffee, Coffee and You

FilterFresh Coffee Service is an office coffee services company.  This year in honor of National Coffee Day on September 29th, they released the results of their national coffee survey.  I like these surveys when I know they pulled alot of responses because it’s usually representative of the larger American or North American population.  So I will see how I would have answered the questions and figure out how representative I am.  Of course I already know I drink far more coffee than the average American, approximately ten times more to be exact.  But I’m also interested in the coffee drinking habits.

Let’s check out what the survey says and I’ll tell you where I fall in.  Wanna tell everybody how’d you answer some of these questions?  Just fill out the comment field at the bottom and tell us what you think.

How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?
One cup: Exactly what I need to get me started      23.6%
Two to three cups: Almost awake…       58.7%
Four of more cups: Admittedly, I have a problem     17.8%
Marc: Four or more, but I don’t have a problem.  I could wean myself down to three cups but I generally have two cups first thing in the morning, so that only leaves one and there’s lots of day left.  My problem would be withdrawal symptoms, which a steady 4-6 cups a day wards off.


When do you drink coffee?  Please check all that apply
Morning          89.6%
Day              34.2%
Evening          13.8%
All day, every day        10.8%
When my children whine    3.1%
When I am stressed        8.8%
When I want to relax      16.9%
Marc: All day, but not to relax or relieve stress.  When you drink as much coffee as I do, the science says that you are no longer drinking coffee for a high, you’re drinking it to suppress caffeine withdrawal symptoms.  But this isn’t as bad as it sounds (spoken like a real addict)…I love the taste of coffee and with changes to my diet and fitness that were much needed, coffee intake is now just a natural part of my routine.  So I’ll be honest, I occasionally have a coffee in hand at all times of the day. 


Who do you drink coffee with?
My dog and/or cat     23.7%
The newspaper/good book   37.5%
My SO                 40.7%
Co-workers            71.5%
Friends               45.1%
Marc: This is very un-European of me to say but coffee-drinking is not a social event for me.  If I get together with somebody “for a coffee”, it’s because there are coffee shop chains everywhere.   I’d sooner drink coffee with a good book which is how I like to start each weekend morning, and if in company, it’s because I’m getting tired and there happen to be people around.


Is coffee a meal replacement?
Yes      17.8%
No       82.2%
Marc: The people that answered yes to this question are the ones with the real problem.  Coffee is not a meal replacement.  It has no nutritional value unless you put cream and sugar in it, and those aren’t meals.


Does coffee improve your mental focus?
Yes          72.3%
No           19.6%
What was the question again?  I didn’t have my coffee yet!     8.1%
Marc: Hear hear!  Yes, coffee improves mental focus, even for a caffeine addict. 


At what age would you let your child(ren) drink coffee?
Over 18      31.7%
Over 16      41.7%
Over 12      12.4%
Over 10      2.3%
Whenever they want    12.0%
Marc: I have no medical background, but I would say 26.7% of respondents should not be allowed to have children.  I believe the caffeine content in coffee is mild enough that 16-year olds and older can enjoy it.  I was 17 when I started drinking coffee and besides growing up with horrible heartburn (attributable to more than just coffee), I turned out ok (aside from the caffeine addiction). 


What would you give up first?
Cell Phone   53.9%
Coffee       46.1%
Marc: I surprised my own self with this question.  I would sooner give up coffee, cell phones do way too many things these days, and do more for me than coffee does.  If I had to choose, I would need to take 1-2 weeks off work and detox myself off of caffeine. 


What does your daily coffee cup look like?
Ceramic mug    55.8%
Styrofoam cup      10.5%
Reusable mug    17.4%
Anything    15.9%
Marc: This was my favorite question.  I will drink coffee out of anything but I will always prefer a ceramic mug.  To each their own but when I picture a good coffee, it’s in a mug.  But hey, I travel like everybody else so I’ll drink it out of anything, just as long as I get it.

Check out FilterFresh’s complete 2010 survey results.

Profile: Just Us Coffee, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

in Buying Coffee, Fair Trade and the Environment

An amazing thing happened to me last week…I stumbled upon a remarkable (and giant) coffee roastery and its story in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.  It was the first time that I came upon a roastery that I hadn’t intended to visit, but once I arrived, it was hard to leave.  I’ll do my best here to capture everything I saw but do yourself a favor and visit the website of Just Us Coffee yourself for the full story about this company.

Wolfville is in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, one of four Atlantic provinces.  Wolfville boasts of a population of 3,772, and while Just Us Coffee’s roots are planted there with its coffee house and coffee museum, they also operate three other coffee houses throughout Nova Scotia.

Just Us Coffee was Canada’s first Fair Trade coffee roaster, and sells only organic Fair Traded coffee.  The story of how the company was founded starts with Jeff Moore travelling to Mexico in the thick of a civil war over who would control the country’s coffee production.  Jeff made his way high up into the mountains where farmers took pride in growing organic coffee, and he also saw the poverty in which they lived.  As the company has developed, it has stood for a quality product backed by a social and environmental responsibility.  This is the quick version of the company’s story.  Click here to learn much more about how Just Us Coffee was founded.

As I drove into Wolfville, the sight of this massive roastery and coffee house came out of nowhere.  I recognized the name immediately and swerved in to pick up a pound of coffee, check out their much revered coffee and fair trade museum, and listen to anybody who would talk to me.

Here’s Doug, who had enough of watching me in the coffee museum like a kid in a candy store.  Doug was good enough to walk me through the museum and even show me the roasting operation himself.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve met somebody so proud of his job, and Doug explained that the company is an employee-owned co-op so that he was as much a proud owner as a proud employee.

Here are some other shots from the Fair Trade Museum…

It was unfortunate for me that I didn’t get as much time as I wanted to go through the museum.  It only means on a return trip that I will need to set the time aside.  I figure I could spend at least an hour, maybe two looking at all of the information made available on everything from the growing of coffee, fair trade sourcing, roasting, and cupping.  It is an amazing not-for-profit production.

Of course, I could not forget the coffee itself.  I picked up a pound of Just Us Coffee’s Jungle Blend, bringing together “the zing of Central American beans with the sweetness of the Andes”.

Doug was able to show me the industrial roasting operation.  Laws in Nova Scotia mean that customers can’t get close to the roasting equipment, so Just Us Coffee has a built-in window in an adjoining conference room where I was able to see the operation in action.  Five days a week, Just Us Coffee roasts as much as 3,600 pounds of coffee that it ships to its coffee houses, its grocery store customers, and as far as Vancouver, British Colombia, on the west coast of Canada.

Check out the website of Just Us Coffee and if you’re anywhere near Maine or Atlantic Canada, set the time aside to visit the main coffeehouse and museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Paper filter versus mesh filter…fight!

in Brewing Coffee

Question: Does it make a difference what kind of filter I use between the premanent metal one and the paper ones you can buy in bulk? I’ve used the metal one before but I found it left a bit of sludge at the bottom of my cup so I went back to paper.  — Neil

Answer: You’re right about the “sludge”, that’s coffee solids that pass through the mesh filter but get caught in the paper filter.  Those solids are extracted from the coffee by the water and they contain coffee flavor.  You want that.  But admittedly, it leaves something at the bottom of the mug unless you swish your mug once or twice when there’s only a bit left.  It’s no worse than Turkish Coffee that leaves actual ground coffee in the cup, but in the case of solids that pass through a mesh filter but not a paper filter, you can dissolve it into the coffee with but a swish of the mug.

I’ve gotten into this habit when I drink coffee since I only use the mesh filter.  The swish dissolves it into the rest of the coffee in the mug for a great one or two last sips.  For pros and cons, the paper filter is worse for the environment than something you can re-use indefinitely but is easy for clean-up since you dispose of the filter and grinds all together.  The mesh filter adds an extra step for clean-up but you won’t need to keep buying filters.  With pros and cons on each side, I favor the one that puts a better coffee in my cup and that’s the mesh filter that stops less solids than paper from ending up in the cup.  And yes, it adds an extra step in that swish, but by now, it’s force of habit for me.

Click here to learn more about filters and the drip brewing method.

The Best Cinnamon Coffee I Ever Made

in Brewing Coffee

I love the taste of cinnamon with coffee.  It’s been some time since I bought a flavored coffee like Hazelnut Vanilla but every now and then, I could add a hint of cinnamon to just about any coffee.

The problem I’ve always had is that aside from some new medicinal cinnamon I hear about, it is not water-soluble, so you can imagine the trial and error I’ve enjoyed in trying to make my own cinnamon coffee without resorting to a sub-par coffee that was sprayed with a cinnamon flavor while it was being roasted.

First, putting cinnamon in my coffee like sugar.  Again, not water-soluble and downright unpleasant to choke down…like coffee with pulp in it.

Then, pouring cinnamon over the ground coffee in my drip-brewer’s filter before running the cycle.  Again, not water-soluble and you guessed it, formed a barrier between the heated water and coffee until the filter started to overflow.  An even worse mess.

Finally the other day, I was about to make some coffee with my French Press.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, click here to learn more about the French Press brewing method.  The short explanation is that you pour hot water over coarse-ground coffee that sits at the bottom of a container like the one you see here.  After a few minutes of exposure between the coffee and water, you press a filter downward to hold all the ground coffee at the bottom so that everything above the filter is great brewed coffee.

For many, this is the best way to brew coffee.  And if you have one or if you can imagine the mechanics of it, you might already see where the cinnamon fits in.  Since the filter holds everything at the bottom, it would hold cinnamon at the bottom so that it doesn’t float in my brewed coffee.  And since there’s no downward drip of water, the cinnamon doesn’t stop the water and coffee from doing their thing.

It was that simple.  I poured cinnamon onto the ground coffee at the bottom of the container and poured the hot water over both, letting all three interact.  The result, a cinnamon-flavored coffee with no cinnamon floating in the cup and no mess.  It was the best cinnamon coffee I ever made!

Why local roasters are awesome

in Buying Coffee

I buy my coffee from the Fire Roasted Coffee Co. in London, Canada.  Like many, I used to buy all my coffee from the grocery store, already ground and in a big steel can so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for a month or so.  After all, if you never try great coffee, you’ll probably never be unhappy with decent coffee.

This point was driven home for me when I recently went on vacation with friends to Hawaii.  They both love to drink coffee but like me, only knew coffee from a grocery store in the steel can.  While we shared a beachhouse, I took responsibility for coffee, including selecting what we drank and making it every day.  To their surprise, they never had coffee so good.  I made coffees from both Kona and Kauai, and they were blown away.  They had only one question: how can I get coffee that good when I get home?

For this job, I recruited Patrick Dunham of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company.  The challenge: send two pounds of their coffee to my friends on a monthly basis and use their feedback to decide which ones they might like best in each next month’s installment.  My friends live a distance from the roastery, but it was easy enough to do since Fire Roasted Coffee can take orders and ship from their website no matter where you are.

It would take quite a bit of trial and error to do this on your own, but thanks to Patrick’s expertise, we’re able to cut down the number of coffees that my friends likely won’t enjoy based on their feedback of ones they’ve been sent previously.  In their first shipment, Patrick opted for a couple rarer coffees, including a limited-supply Haitian coffee that my friends really liked.  In their second installment, an Indonesian Sulawesi that got mixed reviews and a Bolivian Peaberry coffee that my friends liked so much, we’ll be including it as a repeat in the occasional future order.

Most recently, Patrick shipped them two varieties of Ethiopian coffee, a Sidamo and a Limu, as we both wait for my friends’ verdict.

You can’t get this kind of service, expertise, or quality from a grocery store and despite the smiles and friendly service, not likely from a Starbucks either.  You can only get this kind of service from a local roaster that gets to know their customers and know their coffees so well that they can make smart matches like my friends are getting.  Even when I walk into the Fire Roasted Coffee Company today, the same gentleman that sold me a pound of Hawaiian Kona coffee still remembers that was the first one I bought from them.  And that’s why local roasters are awesome!

Starbucks and Instant Coffee

in Buying Coffee

In late July of this year, Starbucks announced that ten months after the launch of its new VIA Instant Coffee, that sales of the product had hit $100 million globally.

Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee is available in a bigger and more economical bulk format from the Starbucks Store online.  Click here to learn about the Starbucks 50-Serving Colombia Ready Brew.  At $34.95 for 50 servings, you pay 70 cents for a cup of coffee that is ready in as fast as it takes water to boil and according to Starbucks, with all the flavor of its in-store coffee that costs about twice this.

You may remember when the VIA instant coffee was first launched and I was challenged to tell the difference between that and their machine-brewed coffee.  What gave it away for me was almost a complete lack of aroma in the instant coffee.  And if you don’t remember, yes, I killed that challenge without guessing.

When Starbucks announced the launch of an instant coffee, it was a shock to the specialty coffee market that Starbucks had a large hand in awakening.  After all, instant coffee gained popularity in the 40s and 50s in response to rising coffee prices and the overwhelming resistance of North American consumers to pay anymore for coffee than the nickle they were paying.

Instant coffee was cheaper to make than to sell ground coffee and it grew in popularity as people couldn’t give up the drink but weren’t going to pay any more for it.  It was also a popular format in wartime since soldiers needed only to boil water and dissolve the coffee crystals for the cuppa they needed.  But the bottom line is that the quality of coffee was terrible!

As more quality has been demanded even of canned ground coffee, and as specialty coffee and the quality associated with it has grown in popularity, instant coffee has never been so obsolete.  Grocery stores carry less of it than ever, so it was a big surprise that the company that led the specialty coffee charge would be the one to make instant coffee popular again.

My take? To me, instant coffee is the same as the percolator, great for camping (or wartime, I suppose)!  By that, I mean it’s so convenient when I’m somewhere I can’t take my coffee bar with me.  I wouldn’t buy the best instant coffee in the world to make myself at home because I have time to brew a coffee the right away, either with my drip-brewer or french press.  But I will say that for convenience when that’s not possible, Starbucks has definitely created not only the most drinkable instant coffee I’ve ever had, but I’ll admit a surprisingly nice coffee all around.

Profile: Byron Bay Coffee Company

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

Recently, my friend Julie visited Australia and came back with a half-pound of local coffee.  I love when friends lay these kinds of gifts on me and am all too happy to try them out.

The coffee comes from the Byron Bay Coffee Company of Newrybar, New South Wales, Australia.  At first, I was skeptical, we just don’t see that much Australian coffee in North America and there’s usually a reason for that.  As it turns out, there isn’t large-scale roasting in Australia and it’s restricted to northern Queensland and northern NSW.

If you pull out your atlas, you’ll see that this corresponds to neither a tropical part of the world nor high elevations, the two characteristics of quality coffee.  And yet, virtually all coffee grown in Australia is of the high-quality Arabica species of coffee.  Having said that, total production out of Australia is not even high enough to be listed in the International Coffee Organization’s ranking of coffee producers, and half of what is grown never leaves the continent.

I was treated to Byron Bay’s Nero Espresso, blended of different international coffees, likely for a greater acidity or pop of coffee flavor, mellowed out with the Australian coffee grown locally, together for a nice espresso blend.  It was already ground for me (too bad) and was ground to suit espresso brewing, so very fine versus the regular grind I would brew in my drip brewer or the coarse grind I would brew in my french press.  If your grind is too fine for the brewing method, you overextract flavor from the coffee and will not enjoy the taste in your cup.  I didn’t feel like dusting off the espresso maker so I took my chances with this grind style in the drip brewer.  If I had have used the french press, I would have overextracted for sure.

The result was definitely a full-bodied coffee, which I like and a semi-rich flavor that was much bolder than what I was expecting of Australian coffee.  I liked it as a rich and full coffee, and something different than what I’m getting used to from the three or so roasters I keep going to.  Before this half-pound is done, I will make at least a couple shots of espresso with it and expect even more from that since the coffee was ground for this brewing method.  Where the coffee lacked aroma and an even richer flavor, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and blame myself for not brewing it sooner, as my friend has been back from Australia for at least a few weeks now.  That means the coffee is not as fresh as it was when she got back.

This coffee has won the Byron Bay Coffee Company a gold, a silver, and three bronzes in the Australia Fine Foods Competitions as recently as the silver in 2007.  Proceeds from the coffee go to supporting Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certifications on coffee, so you make a small donation to the cause just by buying this coffee.

Family owned and operated since 1989, the Ivancich creed: “After all, isn’t a great cup of coffee at the heart of life”.

Check out the website for the Byron Bay Coffee Company.

Stale Grocery Store Coffee

in Buying Coffee

Question: I had an argument with [grocery store chain]. I think selling thanksgiving coffee and chrismas coffee in July is a little late, they are selling old coffee instead of sending it back to the vendor or throwing it away. I think if you are paying for something it should be fresh. This is a low income area and I think they are misinterpreting the people who live here as stupid. Just how long can coffee stay on a shelf.I believe in fresh roasted beans ground just prior to (I use a french press) brewing. I was astonished they were putting off 6/7 month old ground coffee at .00 for 13 ounces. You are an expert and in a grocery store it is hard to find fresh roasted beans and not everyone has a grinder, but under just normal circumstances what do you think? — Hallie

Answer: You are absolutely correct Hallie, no vendor should be selling 6-7 month old coffee.  Before coffee is roasted, it keeps for 1-2 years without going stale.  After it’s been roasted, it’s good for 2-3 weeks.  If they have some kind of vacuum packaging, this will extend the life of the coffee but certainly not by that long a period.  They shouldn’t be selling this coffee.  If you buy it from them already ground, then it’s even less fresh – coffee expires at a faster rate after it’s been ground so you have even less than 2-3 weeks from that point.  By then, it’s lost alot of its flavor and I wouldn’t buy that coffee even at a discount.  At least you are brewing your coffee by french press which is one of the best ways to brew coffee, but won’t save the flavor that’s already been lost in coffee that old.  I hope this helps.

Click to learn more about the Golden Rules of Coffee and making sure it’s fresh and full of flavor.

Iced coffee drinks for a hot summer

in Brewing Coffee

A long time guest to the site asked over Twitter how to beat the summer heat and still enjoy the great taste of coffee.  It turns out coffee has been enjoyed cold for at least as long as World War II where soldiers in a hurry to get their coffee fix got used to cold coffee, and even developed a taste for it.

In North America, where steaming coffee suits the colder months, retailers introduced iced coffee as an experiment, validated by the popularity of iced tea.  While off to a slow start, iced coffee is catching on in various forms, and the best part is that you can make it yourself at home.  It’s this easy.

  1. Brew a half-pot of coffee to your regular strength.
  2. Once brewed, pour it into a container that can withstand the heat and temperature change, and put it directly in the fridge.
  3. Once cool, remove from the fridge and stir it to make sure coffee solids are fully dissolved and the coffee is a consistent strength and body throughout.
  4. Pour over ice.  A standard half-pot should serve four people.

As far as the best coffees to use, coffee afficianadoes at Peets Coffee and Tea recommend coffees from Costa Rica or Kenya (make sure it’s AA auction lot).  They also recommend Papua New Guinea coffee which is one of my absolute favorites so I mention it separate because for personal taste, I think this one has to be enjoyed hot.  But don’t let me be biased and give it a try, you’ll just find it’s a little more difficult a coffee to find.  They also recommend their own Ethiopian Fancy blend.

My preference is an iced mocha, and when I happen to be passing a Starbucks and don’t feel like a hot coffee, I order a mocha frappuccino.  I take it without whipped cream so I can enjoy more coffee flavor and a few hundred less calories.  One of these came in handy recently on a scorcher of a day walking in the blazing heat with no shade.  The great espresso taste but blended with ice was the perfect drink, and even turned on a non-coffee-lover friend to it.

While on the Peets website, check out the new Iced Coffee Press that Bodum has designed.  I have yet to use one, but apparently you put the coarse-ground coffee and cold water in the fridge overnight and press it in the morning for a smooth coffee over ice.  I would have thought that long a time before pressing would overextract the coffee but without heat, I will take the word of the good people at Bodum that it doesn’t.

Now Brewing: Peets Ethiopian Fancy

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

I am a member of the Peetniks Coffee Club.  This is a recurring coffee delivery program where I get a pound of coffee delivered to me in intervals of my choosing – in my case one pound every four weeks.  The coffees I get are also up to me, or I can leave it to the experts to decide what I get.  Each pound arrives with the date that the coffee was roasted by Peet’s so I know I’m getting it fresh.

The Peetniks Club is offered by Peet’s Coffee and Tea.  I have my favorite coffees but leave the selection up to one of their Coffee Tours.  This week, I received a pound of their Ethiopian Fancy.  I have yet to receive a coffee from Peet’s I didn’t like and this one is no exception.

As far back as we can trace, all coffee originates from Ethiopia, exported from the Arab world to the rest of the world through ports in neighboring Yemen.  For many, Ethiopian coffee is still the finest coffee in the world and certainly there’s the intrigue of drinking coffee from its origin.  For a time, internal strife in Ethiopia had an effect on the consistency and quality of coffee out of that region but that has changed greatly over time.

Ethiopian coffee has a medium body, so neither too thick nor too thin.  It’s fully of very “bright” flavor, with high tones and sometimes described as the world’s most distinct.  The beans used by Peet’s in this coffee are meant to deliver a floral almost perfumed aroma common to coffees from this region.

While not formally certified, Peet’s Ethiopian Fancy coffee is also organically grown.

Click here to learn more about Ethiopian coffees.

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