Profile: Portland Roasting Coffee

in Buying Coffee

     I was so excited to meet Andy Davis of Portland Roasting, that I took the bus to get there.  After all, I knew that Roast Magazine’s 2012 Roaster of the Year valued environmental stewardship in virtually every aspect of their operation.  From the bicycle racks installed in their facility to encourage employees not to drive to work, to local deliveries made by tricycle, to the compostable products that they distribute, to the aid projects that they support in coffee growing regions all over the world.

Read: Profile Roast Magazine

With so much effort put into responsibility and sustainability in their business practices, how could I not take the bus to get there?

Established in 1996, PRC employs 28 people in the sourcing, roasting, distribution, service, and sales of what Roast Magazine describes as having “led the industry curve with sourcing, sustainability, and humanitarian initiatives.”

     Andy took me on a tour of the entire facility so I could see for myself just what steps PRC takes to back up their mission of not only producing award winning coffee, but doing so with as much regard for the sustainability of their partners and practices.  I knew I was in good company when I walked into the warehousing and roasting parts of the facility, to the sounds of Turbo Lover by Judas Priest.

Portland Roasting‘s coffee is enjoyed by coffee enthusiasts through a number of channels.  While their coffee is shipped predominantly within Oregon, they ship to locations all around the US.  Local deliveries are made by tricycle, which brought to mind a funny story that I shared with Andy.  Shortly after moving to Portland, I was walking past the Three Degrees Waterfront Bar, located a stone’s throw from where I live and a wholesale customer of PRC.  When I saw a PRC tricycle parked out front, I loitered until its driver walked out of Three Degrees.  I thought maybe this was like an ice cream cart, but with coffee for adults.  The PRC employee let me know that wasn’t the case :(.

     Farther deliveries are made by vans that run on biodiesel.  Employees are encouraged to find alternative methods to driving for getting to work.  Recycling is even found for the burlap bags after they are emptied of their coffee.  Sustainability at all steps.

In addition to supplying cafes and restaurants with specialty coffee, coffee lovers can purchase coffee from PRC’s website, and locally from New Seasons and Zupans locations.  While the grocery store is the most convenient place to buy coffee, it is not generally the one that shows the right care for coffee’s freshness.  To ensure proper handling of their expertly roasted coffee, PRC employs direct-to-store representatives who ensure that the receiving, storage, and presentation of their coffee is in line with PRC standard.

Check out Portland Roasting Coffee’s website.
Visit Portland Roasting Coffee’s online store for buying coffee.
Learn more about Roast Magazine’s 2012 Roaster of the Year award.

     And just as importantly, stay tuned!  Andy couldn’t have been more generous with his time, and made sure I left crammed with more coffee knowledge than I was prepared for.  Not only did Andy treat me to my first coffee cupping experience, and share his own personal best practices for making good coffee at home.  We also spent a considerable amount of time discussing something of great interest to me, PRC’s international aid projects in coffee growing regions.  Ventures of true partnership between PRC and their growers.

Truly a responsible company, an environmental steward, and a recognized quality product.

 

Gift Ideas for the Coffee Lover

in Buying Coffee, Coffee and You, Coffee Gear

Each Christmas, I hear about how hard it is to shop for me.  And each year, it motivates me to see what gifts are out there for the coffee lover.  Here are the best ones that I found this year, and why.  Check them out, and click on any of the images for more information on how to get it.

The “Coffee of the Month” Club

Peet’s Peetniks Club is a recurring delivery coffee service, where the coffee lover in your life gets coffee delivered at regular intervals.  Unique and fresh-roasted coffee delivered right to their door.  You set the intervals of how much coffee and how frequently, and Peets manages the rest.

I have bought this as a gift for my parents.  If you have a sense of what to buy, you can customize the coffees that are shipped.  Otherwise, leave it to Peets – they offer coffee “tours of the world” and make the choices for you.  Set it up for a year, or as few months as you’d like.

It was such a great gift for my parents that midway through the year’s subscription of monthly coffees, they went on vacation for three months, and I had the coffees re-routed to my own address.  I could’ve logged onto Peets and put the tour on hold, but I was too tempted.  It gets worse.  They got back from vacation, and I never returned the shipping to them, so I enjoyed the rest of the great Peets coffees that I had bought them as part of this gift. *shrugging my shoulders*

 Books on Coffee

    I love to read, so a book is never a bad gift for me.  A book on coffee is an amazing gift for me.  The image to the left is my personal favorite book on coffee, called Javatrekkers.  It follows the story of a coffee roaster traveling the world, sampling the coffee that he intends to buy to serve to his customers back home.  At the same time, his travels give us a much-needed look at conditions in the growing countries that produce such great coffee for us all.

I wrote a recent post on Books for the Coffee Lover, that I recommend you check out.  If you’re buying for a coffee lover that also loves to read, a book on coffee makes a great gift.

 

And The Only Prescription is More Coffee” Mug

This is a great novelty coffee mug, available on Amazon. It’s the Big Mouth Toys Prescription Coffee Mug. Everybody has a regular old ceramic coffee mug. This one is shaped like a giant prescription bottle for “COFFEE”.

I thought this gift was a lot of fun, and I’ve never seen it before.  It’s still shaped like a mug, so not nearly as over the top as some novelty mugs I’ve seen.

 

Wall Mounted Coffee House Key Hook

This is another gift where I saw it in my search for great coffee lover gifts, and wished that I had one.  As my own kitchen slowly morphs into a coffee bar, this is the kind of addition whose design is not so over the top that it will clash.

The Coffee House Cup Java Silhouette Wall Mounted Key Hook Art comes with a small toolbox of the accessories that your lucky gift recipient will need to install this at home.

 

Wisconsinmade Wooden Coffee Scoops

This gift idea is so cool to me that I almost listed it first, and if nobody ends up buying this for me this year, I will definitely be buying it for myself in January.  I like it that much!

Why?  Because I didn’t realize how much I took coffee scoops for granted until I saw this.  I must have seven different generic plastic coffee scoops, and have never once given thought to having some style in the scoops that I use. The Handmade Wooden Coffee Scoop is a great way to upgrade something that the coffee lover needs, and who like me, probably takes for granted.

Happy Holidays to all!  I hope you have enjoyed my gift ideas this year.

Books for the Coffee Lover

in Buying Coffee, Coffee and You, Coffee Gear

      I like coffee and I like to read.  I have seven different books on coffee on my bookshelf.  If you’re book-shopping for the coffee lover or else looking for an interesting book on coffee for yourself, check out the ones I’ve read.

I shop for my music and books on Amazon.com.  They’ve built a Widget tool where I can show you what coffee books I have on my shelf, and some comments about each of them.  Check it out on the site’s Shopping Guide.

The image that you see here is for my all-time favorite book on coffee.  Not only is it a very informative book on the living conditions in different coffee-growing parts of the world, but it is an entertaining and often humorous read that follows one coffee roaster’s travels.  Dean Cycon brings us an incredible appreciation of coffee by understanding life where it is grown, each chapter focused on a different origin trip that Dean has taken to coffee-growing countries.

     A close second on my list of must-have coffee books is Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. For those of you who have read both this book and Javatrekkers, you may be surprised that I wouldn’t rank this as the world’s most informative book on coffee. The fact is, Uncommon Grounds is the most encyclopedic book I know on the history of coffee from its beginning to present.  It is only because it is so encyclopedic that I don’t recommend it first.  Javatrekker and Uncommon Grounds are both essential reading for the coffee lover, the latter as the definitive source on coffee, and the former as the most interesting read on coffee, in my opinion.

Visit the site’s Shopping Guide, where you’ll see the books I’ve read on the Amazon Widget, my ranking of the book on a scale of 5 based on how important it is to the coffee lover’s bookshelf, and some comments to elaborate on the ranking I gave.  I look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts on these books, and especially those coffee books that I haven’t read yet.

 

Seattle Coffee Fest 2012

in Buying Coffee, Coffee and You

     While the organizers of Coffee Fest plan for next year’s stop in Seattle, I’m just getting around to writing about this year’s show.  It was the first time that I had attended a Coffee Fest, the specialty coffee industry’s tradeshow with stops in Chicago, New York City, and Seattle.

     It was a great experience, with a very happy ending, as you’ll see below.

Aeropress was one of the exhibitors.  They have created a new brewing method that involves forcing hot water through the ground coffee into your cup.  It was cool that I just recently bought this coffee maker, so that I had time to try it at home before bring my questions to the exhibitor.  I wanted to be sure I’m getting the most out of it.  It was Jeremy Adams, owner of Portland’s Cellar Door Coffee, that had introduced me to the Aeropress.

Read: The Aeropress Brewing Method
Read: Profile: Cellar Door Coffee

     Nesco was another exhibitor.  They have designed the home roasting system that I use to roast green coffee beans for myself at home.  I found it interesting that they would exhibit at a tradeshow for roasters who do professionally what the Nesco unit allows you to do to some extent at home.  While a representative from Nesco described the system to a coffee lover, my timing was good to back up what he was saying, and how much I have enjoyed and relied on my own.

Read: Why Roast Your Own Coffee at Home?
Read: Introduction to Roasting Coffee

     There were a couple exhibitors on hand from the chocolate business.  There are so many similarities between coffee and chocolate, including how they are grown and the rich diversity of flavors.  I met a representative from Guittard Chocolate and described to him how much I was starting to enjoy dark chocolate, and have been writing about it.

Also on hand was the Portland Roasting Coffee, named by Roast Magazine as the 2012 macro roaster of the year.  Speaking of which, Roast Magazine themselves were on hand, and I was able to catch up with founder and publisher, Connie Blumhardt.

Read: Profile Roast Magazine

     And the happy ending I mentioned earlier?  After a week of travel, I returned home,  to find waiting for me at my door…16 POUNDS of chocolate courtesy of Guittard Chocolate.  I had mentioned that I’d love to try their dark chocolates from different sources, and they came through with more chocolate than I know what to do with.

The Seattle Coffee Fest was a fun experience, and my first coffee trade show.  As a coffee lover, it was interesting and enlightening.  Tradeshows keep their industry informed and educated, and as a coffee lover, it was cool to be a part of it.

Coffee beans come from red cherries

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     Recently, I sat down with Connie Blumhardt, founder and publisher of Roast Magazine, based here in Portland, Oregon.

It was a great question-and-answer session, but we couldn’t help but get a little scattered in our discussion, and the topic came up of just how misunderstood the origin of coffee is with many coffee drinkers.  Connie asked if most coffee drinkers even knew that the coffee bean comes from a red cherry.

Read: Profile: Roast Magazine

The first time it came to my attention that I really knew nothing about coffee was when I first stepped into a Starbucks many years ago.  For all of my good-hearted badgering of Starbucks on Facebook and Twitter, they truly did raise more awareness of coffee’s origin and diversity than anybody before them.  I only buy coffee from local roasters, but even they owe some credit to the attention that Starbucks brought to specialty coffee.

     There was a 3D diagram in that Starbucks location that showed the progression of a coffee cherry, first yellow, then green, then red, and within that cherry, two raw green coffee beans that are roasted before they are ground and brewed.  It was too much at once.  I remember half-rejecting it in my head because I had never heard of this red coffee cherry business before.

On my first trip to Hawaii, I toured the Ueshida Coffee farm in the Kona region of the Big Island.  As you can see by this picture, I saw my very first coffee cherries.  This picture captured shades of three levels of cherry ripeness, including the perfect dark red color at which point the cherry is ready to be picked.

Read: Profile: Ueshida Coffee Corp (Hawaii) 

     Within each coffee cherry is a seed made up of two coffee beans as we know them.  In this stage, they have yet to be dried out and roasted before they look like the coffee bean that we all know.  In this picture, I’ve busted the cherry open to reveal the two “beans” inside.

There are some things that I take for granted when it comes to coffee.  My conversation with Connie was a great reminder of that.  When I first learned of the coffee cherry in a Starbucks location, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Years later, I’m used to it, but shouldn’t forget that it’s nice to revisit coffee’s origin for those who don’t take it for granted.

 

Coffee Tasting: Maui Coffee Association

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     As the saying goes, it’s with mixed feelings that I write this.  It’s been a couple months since our amazing origin trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui.  It was my third trip to Hawaii, but first to this particular island.  While the Kona region of Hawaii’s Big Island gets most of the praise, the islands of Kauai and Maui also produce some incredible and unique coffees.

Read: Maui Mokka – a unique variety of coffee
Read: Profile: MauiGrown Coffee
Read: Maui Origin Trip Report

One of our first stops upon landing on Maui was to hit the MauiGrown Coffee Store to stock up on excellent coffee for the week.  While there, we met Vice-President Jeff Ferguson who spent time walking us through the history and practices of coffee grown on Maui.

     Purely by (awesome) coincidence, the Maui Coffee Association would be holding its first fair and coffee tasting for the public.  Jeff let us know where we would find it, and that he would also be there.

The Maui Coffee Association represents those coffee farmers on Maui that grow the four varieties of coffee that MauiGrown Coffee roasts to standard, packages, and sells to the world.  The fair was an opportunity to get to know the individual farmers themselves, and learn more about them.

Since each one was a coffee lover, they also blended and packaged their own individual coffees in small batches for local customers.  Each grower was on-hand to provide tastings of their coffees. 

     Jeff was also on hand, walking us around the fair and introducing us to the farmers.  Jeff’s energy for coffee and its growing is amazing, and contagious.  It was interesting to meet each farmer, and learn the story of what got them interested in growing coffee in Hawaii.  It was reminiscent of when I accompanied Fire Roasted Coffee’s Dave Cook as he met the Big Island’s Sharkman for the first time – the successful farmer has a unique profile and attachment to the earth.

Read: His Name Was Sharkman

We even met a couple that makes a salad dressing from the coffee that they grow on their lot.

An amazing coincidence while we were already in Maui to become acquainted with the people that truly give us some of the world’s best coffee.  Next on the horizon for me is an origin trip to a less affluent part of the world than Hawaii.  Until then, I still could not help looking at coffee differently, and leaving with an even greater appreciation of the labor involved in making good coffee available to us.

Learn more about the Maui Coffee Association.

Step into my kitchen (sorry about the mess)

in Uncategorized

     I’m so excited to announce a couple of new features that have just gone live on the website.  As the site has developed with new information, it’s made me a smarter coffee drinker.  By that, I mean I’m enjoying coffee better than I ever have, and I owe it to what I’ve learned along the way.

I thought it would be cool to share a couple things with you on an ongoing basis, and I hope you enjoy these two new features. 

Marc’s Coffee Bar: Want to know exactly what gear I use in my kitchen to make great coffee at home?  It’s all right here, along with some suggestions on where you can find these same items.  I give you an honest assessment of how long I’ve had each item, and what I think of it, good or bad.  Click here to visit Marc’s Coffee Bar.

What’s Marc Drinking?: An interactive feature that you’ll see on all pages will tell you what coffee I’m enjoying at home, and a few words about it, in case you’re interested in trying it yourself.  Click here to find out What’s Marc Drinking?.

Spend $40, Buy a French Press

in Brewing Coffee

Bodum 8-c. Chambord Coffee PressQuestion: “Mark – I really enjoy your web site. You don’t start with the premise that “good coffee requires an investment of $10,000” which makes is really fun to read and relate to!

Question on the French Press, my primary method right now: it seems to me that there’s no real point in “upgrading” a French Press, that they all work pretty much precisely the same. Unlike a drip coffee maker which has so many brands and variations, a french press is a french press – you just press down. Am I missing something? Interested in your perspective. Thanks!!!!

– Monte Mallin

Answer: Monte, I really appreciate the email, and the nice words.

The French Press is my favorite method of brewing coffee, and you hit every reason that I feel that way.  Simple, effective, no need for bells and whistles.  I’ve got good news: you’re not missing anything.  Keep enjoying great coffee!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the French Press, or Bodum, or press pot method of brewing coffee, click to learn more.  To summarize this brewing method, you steep your coarse-ground coffee in hot water for four minutes, and then “press” the ground coffee to the bottom of the pot so that everything above the filter is nothing but great coffee.

 Bodum 12-c. Chambord Coffee PressOf your choices for brewing coffee that require a little more work than the drip brewer, I find the French Press to be the most simple while still producing amazing results.  A great and consistent cup of coffee every time.  The image at the top of this post is the Bodum 8-cup (roughly 4 servings of “mugs” of coffee).  The best price and service that I know for getting this coffee maker online or retail is from Cooking.com at $39.95. 

If you’re used to making full pots of coffee, the image to the left is the Bodum 12-cup, available from Cooking.com for $59.95.  You can click either image for more information, or either of the links below:

 
 

32% Surveyed Got an Eye Roll From a Barista

in Buying Coffee

     Nescafe has launched a new line of three instant coffees that are meant to compete with specialty coffees, Nescafe Memento.  In their attempts to discourage you from buying specialty coffee and instead make this “equivalent” at home, they surveyed 1,013 coffee drinkers by email invitation and online survey earlier this year.  I found the results, and thought I’d share some of them.

It’s tough to say how scientific the survey is, because the results as they are presented are meant to attack specialty coffee shops.  This instant coffee is no doubt an economical alternative, but I use the word “alternative” loosely.  While I can’t condone making instant coffee when it is relatively simple to make good real coffee at home, here were some fun facts from the survey:

     – Americans who buy specialty coffee drinks are spending, on average, 36 dollars each month.  That adds up to 400 dollars per year, or “the cost of a 6-night Caribbean cruise”.  Nescafe calls this the equivalent of throwing money down the drain.  I spend about this much on professionally-roasted bulk coffee that I brew at home.  There is no substitute.  I think instant coffee is what should be thrown down the drain.

– Two out of 5 specialty coffee drinkers incorrectly think that a cupcake has more calories than their specialty coffee drink.  No argument here.  You should always question the caloric content of what you consume, or know that you’re treating yourself when it’s high.  I suggest a professionally-roasted black coffee.  It has no calories, and in my humble opinion, tastes better than any Buttery Caramel Latte.

– 42% of specialty coffee drinkers have been corrected by a barista for not using the correct coffee terminology.  I can’t argue this.  I think we’ve all interacted with a career barista at some point that could use a reminder that they’re in the customer service business.

– 32% of specialty coffee drinkers have gotten an eye roll from a barista for making a special request to their order.

     – 42% of specialty coffee drinkers have received the wrong size order because they confused the shop’s unique terminology.  I’m with Nescafe on this – I always thought new names for sizes was silly.

In short, some of these statistics made me laugh out loud because they ring true. 

But, consider the source.  The same survey goes on to criticize the time that people are spending in line waiting for a professionally served coffee when you can make Nescafe’s instant coffee at home.  It’s all meant to take business from specialty coffee shops by making you question why you would spend that time and money, over an instant coffee instead.  I have a better idea.  Invest in a quality coffee maker.  Find a good local roaster near you, or find one online, and buy your fresh roasted coffee from them.  Make good coffee at home!

 

The Coffee Artist of Buenos Aires

in Coffee and You, Coffees of the World

     I originally started this website and blog so that I could meet people that were smarter than me about coffee, and learn from them.  Often, I get questions that I can’t answer, but it’s in researching the answer that I myself learn something new.

Over the last couple months, I’ve developed an entirely new friendship over MakeGoodCoffee.com that I’d like to share with you.

Omar Panosetti is an Argentinian artist born in Buenos Aires.  Among his many projects is a sketchbook of coffee and cafe-related sketches.   Omar is a regular to the website, learning how to make better coffee as he sketches scenes that he feels capture the culture of coffee.  As Omar always reminds me of the site’s own motto, “Life is too short for bad coffee.”

     The first sketch that Omar ever sent me is the one of Nico that you see at the top. 

The second sketch is one that Omar did of yours truly, sitting on the street enjoying a good cup of coffee. 

It’s truly amazing to be put in touch with such creative people!  It’s a great feeling that in Argentina, an artist is looking to make better coffee, and at the same time, immersing himself in and capturing coffee’s rich culture and tradition.

 

Check out more of Omar’s sketchbook Cafe Panosetti by clicking here.

Check out Omar’s website by clicking here.

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