Profile: Roast Magazine

in Buying Coffee, Coffee and You

     I recently sat down for a (wait for it…) coffee with Connie Blumhardt, founder and publisher of Roast Magazine, headquartered in Portland, Oregon and serving as a “technical” trade journal for the specialty coffee industry.  More on “technical” later.

Connie let me decide where we would meet, and I happily chose Coava Coffee Roasters on SE Grand Ave.  It has sentimental value to me as one of the first roasters I visited in Portland before I even moved here.

With over 15 years of background in magazine publishing, and the last ten of that in the coffee industry, Connie is a familiar face in the specialty coffee industry, and certainly in a Portland roastery.  We had a great conversation covering different aspects of the coffee business, and particularly the opportunities to raise awareness of quality among coffee drinkers.  I asked my most burning question first: “How does Connie make good coffee at home?”

     Connie was sure to preface her answer by letting me know that she is not a coffee snob.  I’m learning how relative a term that is, because I call myself a coffee snob, and Connie is a coffee black belt compared to me.  Connie uses a Technivorm coffee maker, favors coffees from African regions, and gets her beans from Batdorf Coffee out of Olympia, WA.

Ten years ago, the specialty coffee industry and its roasters were missing a technical trade journal.  Roast Magazine was founded with focus on all technical aspects of making the highest quality of coffee, from growing coffee to proper roasting to brewing, even to serving it.  If you buy your coffee from a local roaster, there is a good chance that they subscribe to Roast, and that means benefit from the knowledge that Roast provides.  Behind the scenes, this magazine is improving all of our coffee by facilitating the exchange of information in the industry. 

In fact, almost two thirds of roasters surveyed ranked it the industry’s most useful periodical, a full double the responses as the industry’s next most useful.

Roast Magazine allows all of us roasters to share the outcomes and learn from each other as well as point-reference each other, which to me is amazing.” – Trainer, multi-store independent, West

I’ve been a subscriber for two years.  I was introduced to Roast when I saw a copy in London, Canada’s Fire Roasted Coffee Company.  Owner Dave Cook recommended it as reading not just for the industry professional, but for anybody interested in learning more about coffee.  I recommend the same.  While I am not a coffee roaster, there are several articles in each issue that are interested and enlightening to me as a coffee drinker.  You can learn more by visiting Roast Magazine’s website

Stay tuned!  Connie and I discussed a number of coffee-related topics that I look forward to sharing in the days to come.

And the next time I’ll see Connie?  This weekend at the Seattle Coffee Fest!  An industry gathering where Roast Magazine will most certainly have a presence.

Where Can I Buy McDonald’s Coffee to Make at Home?

in Buying Coffee

     Question: “Where can I buy McDonald’s coffee so I make it at home?” – Duane Schroeder

Answer: Hi Duane,

Thanks for the question – it comes up from time to time.  Last November, somebody asked something similar:

Read: Where Does McDonald’s Coffee Come From?

McDonald’s sells a coffee that they’ve blended to recipe.  That blend is proprietary information, so it will be difficult to make the exact same coffee at home that they sell, but that coffee is out there and accessible to you.  To find out where McDonald’s coffee comes from, I went straight to their website.  It shares some information.  Their Premium Roast Coffee is advertised as “a blend of Arabica beans grown in Brazil and the mountains of Colombia, Guatemala and Costa Rica,” brewed no more than 30 minutes before you buy it.

So, what’s the best way to replicate the coffee blend that McDonald’s sources from four different countries?

Peet's Coffee & Tea     All four of those countries are Latin American, and many roasters offer blends made up of coffees sourced from this part of the world.  Go to Peet’s Coffee & Tea website, and check out their House Blend and Blend 101.  Both blends are well-balanced in flavors from Latin American countries.  It may not be a perfect match to McDonald’s, but there’s a good chance you will like them.  In my opinion, it will be better, and I think you’ll be happy with either one.  Since McDonald’s does not sell their coffee in bulk, but you clearly like what they’ve blended from Latin American countries, the two blends above should also be to your liking.

Alternatively and wherever you currently buy quality coffee, keep an eye open for blends advertised as Latin American.  It may not be as fresh as what Peet’s sells, but give it a shot.  The origin of a coffee (and the roasting) defines its flavor characteristics, but freshness is so important to coffee that what you buy from a l0cal roaster or what you buy from Peet’s will have a noticeable difference over what you buy from Costco or from a grocery store.

I hope this helps!

Support the Thanksgiving Coffee “Buy-cott”

in Buying Coffee

     Global shipping currently accounts for more than a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Coffee is the most widely traded agricultural commodity in the world.

Small coffee companies have already transformed industry practices (i.e. fair trade).  A move in coffee could yield similar results in other fields like sugar and cocoa.

What’s a “buy-cott” and how can you be a part of a social movement throug the buying decision that you make?  Carrotmob, a commerce platform for socially and environmentally conscious purchasing is launching a new campaign with Thanksgiving Coffee.  If consumers purchase $150,000 in Thanksgiving Coffee over the next 20 days through this site, Thanksgiving will become the first company in over 150 years to transport their beans through wind power.

This is the chance for consumers to vote with their money and effect change in real time.

Thanksgiving Coffee Company is an artisan coffee roaster in Northern California. The family-run company buys from small farms and cooperatives around the world, and already embrace cutting edge sustainability practices.  Thanksgiving has long held a dream to transport their beans through wind power.

Carrotmob believes that people can influence businesses by voting with their money to increase sustainability. The Carrotmob model asks consumers to “vote with their money” and show that there is market demand for sustainability.  Carrotmob has had close to 300 successful local campaigns at cafes and grocery stores around the world in over 20 countries.

What do you think?  Does this motivate you, when buying a quality product that you were going to buy anyway, to buy from a company that makes such a commitment for change?

Making Dunkin Donuts Coffee at Home

in Brewing Coffee, Buying Coffee

     Question: “Help. When I buy Dunken Donut beans and use them at home it taste nothing like Dunkin coffee at there store.  What kind of coffee machine do I need?” – Jerry Stevenson

Answer:  Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the question.  Alot of the big coffee chains sell bulk coffee at their stores for you to make at home.  Based on what I hear from comments like yours, it just doesn’t stack up to the coffee that they’re serving at their locations.  If you love their coffee that much, but can’t make it as good as they do, I think I can help in two very key ways to making good coffee.

Grinding: Invest in a grinder and buy your coffee in whole bean rather than pre-ground.  Ground coffee goes stale faster than whole bean coffee, and freshness equals flavor in your coffee.  Right before you brew your coffee, grind what you need.  It’s one more step but if you’re after better tasting coffee, it’s a very overlooked step, especially with how much pre-ground coffee is sold to us for “convenience”.  Learn more about Grinding Coffee.

Brewing: The coffee stores have good machines.  Good gear for brewing coffee is defined by the ideal temperature of the water when it is exposed to the ground coffee, and the amount of time that it’s exposed.  Check out our Coffee Maker Report Card – we reviewed every coffee maker that’s widely available to score them based on what they cost and how good the coffee is that they make.  You’ll find the coffee maker for your budget in our Report Card.

Help, my coffee tastes like rain-soaked cigars!

in Brewing Coffee, Serving Coffee

     Question: “Hi Marc, I’m 48 and have never liked coffee, but I’m approaching it with an open mind and learning to love it. Friends and family, all avowed coffee drinkers, tell me it is an acquired taste. We’ll see.

“I carefully researched what I thought might be the best brewing option (your website was a great help) and, on the recent occasion of my 48th birthday, my wife presented me with my very own Bodum French press and a burr mill grinder. I have been grinding my beans to a course grind and preparing my brew according to instructions gleaned here and elsewhere. My difficulty is that I want to learn to love coffee, but it’s difficult. My question is, should my brewed coffee taste like a rain-soaked cigar, or am I doing something wrong? It isn’t particularly bitter, but just doesn’t taste good either. Perhaps this is all normal and I’ll adjust in the fullness of time. Just wondering how normal my experience is. Are there folks who take their first sip of coffee and love it, or is this normally a rocky road?

Thanks, Chris”

Answer: Chris, thanks for the e-mail, and sorry that I laughed out loud when I read the part about your coffee tasting like rain-soaked cigars.  It might be one of the funniest comparisons I’ve ever heard.

I have some suggestions, and they involve easing yourself into enjoying a straight-up cup of black coffee.  Bear in mind that much of coffee’s rise in popularity over time has been through people’s ability to customize it to taste.

Cream and sugar: I drink my coffee black today, but drank it with two creams and two sugars for most of my life.  Purists would tell me I must not like coffee to add so much to it, but I disagree with that, even today as I only take my coffee black.  Coffee should be enjoyed however its drinker prefers, and people have been adding cream and sugar to coffee for as long as coffee has been popular.  Add sugar to offset the natural bitter of coffee – sweetness and bitterness are two of the four basic tastes.  This may not be the answer for you, as you mention the bitterness is not what is bothering you.  Add cream or milk to make a “creamier” drink of your coffee.  The fattier the dairy, the creamier it will make the coffee; the less fatty the dairy, the less it will really impact and change your impression of the coffee.  In other words, if this improves the flavor for you, I suggest a dollop of cream instead of a lot more skim milk.

     – The Cafe Mocha: The combination of coffee and chocolate is more popular than ever.  If you like chocolate but aren’t catching on to coffee the way you’d like, check out our Cafe Mocha Recipes to learn different ways to make coffee with chocolate.  You would still use your French Press to brew the coffee – as mentioned on that page of the site, the rules of making good coffee shouldn’t change even when making a Cafe Mocha.

Origin of Coffee: You might just not have found the origin of coffee that you’re looking for.  Try a medium-roasted coffee and experiment with different origins.  Go to your local coffee roaster, and find their signature blend, usually referred to as “House Blend” or some other catchy name containing “Blend”.

Good luck!  I hope this helps, and I hope you make the connection with coffee.  I can tell by your message that you’d like to, and I think these suggestions might help.


Maui Mokka – a unique variety of coffee

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     When you mention Hawaiian coffee, people immediately think of the region of Kona, which produces some of the most esteemed coffee in the world thanks to its elevation, tropical climate, and rich volcanic soil.

On our recent trip to Maui, I needed to learn more about that island’s unique coffee, and what it has to offer.  At the MauiGrown Coffee company, I learned all about Hawaiian coffee’s best-kept secret: Maui Mokka.

Read: Profile MauiGrown Coffee
Read: Maui Origin Trip Report

     Coffee originated in Ethiopia.  From there, it was exported to the world through a Yemeni port by the name of Mokka.  To this day, “Mokka coffee” or as part of the popular Mocha Java blend, is named after this port through which coffee reached the world.  Over time, it was exported and grown in other parts of the world, giving us the many different origins that we now enjoy.

Today, MauiGrown Coffee isn’t just growing coffee in an excellent environment – they are growing specifically the Mokka variety of coffee that originated in Ethiopia.

Referred as their “champagne of coffee” due to the small, roundish beans, it produces subtle flavors, pleasant acidity, and chocolate tones with hints of wine and fruit.  Due to its size much smaller than the average coffee bean, it is often mistaken for a peaberry.  In the image above, Jeff Ferguson of MauiGrown is showing me the screening tool used to separate the smaller Mokka bean from other beans.

     When we first arrived at MauiGrown Coffee, we were treated to a tasting of the four different varieties grown on Maui, including the Maui Mokka coffee in regular form and in peaberry form.  As you can see by the picture to the left, it didn’t make it any easier to nail down which specific coffees we ended up buying :).

In a recent press release, MauiGrown announced record harvest, with the Maui Mokka specifically leading the charge as its star variety.  Last year, they all but sold out of the variety, with roasters around the world anxiously waiting for the 2012 harvest.

Ironically, when I brought it up with my friend David Cook, owner of London, Canada’s Fire Roasted Coffee Company, he mentioned that they had previously imported the Maui Mokka into their roastery, and that they had an order in the pipeline for another shipment.

It’s easy to find out for yourself just how great this coffee is. 

Check out MauiGrown’s website, to learn more about all of the coffees that they grow, roast, and sell.

Check out MauiGrown’s online store, where you can order their Maui Mokka coffee either in regular form or in peaberry form.  As a big fan of peaberry coffees, I recommend that you order a pound of each to decide for yourself which you like best.  I can’t wait to tear into the pound of each that I bought and brought home!

The Melitta – Simple Pour-Over Coffee

in Brewing Coffee

     We recently visited the Hawaiian island of Maui, and our first stop even before checking into our condo, was at the MauiGrown Coffee Store.

Read: Maui Origin Trip Report

We let store vice president Jeff Ferguson know where we’d be staying while on the island, and he was happy to let  us know that MauiGrown supplied the coffee that we would find in our condo when we got there.  The good news is that when we arrived, our welcome basket did indeed contain some ground MauiGrown coffee.  The not-so-good news is the “coffee maker” in the kitchen was not even a drip brewer, but rather what you see in the picture above: a percolator.

I hadn’t even seen a percolator since I was a child.  In fact, it occurred to me that I had never made coffee in one before.  I understood the concept, that it would release boiling water onto the ground coffee, which is the reason most people don’t use these anymore: boiled coffee is spoiled coffee.

     The MauiGrown Coffee store to the rescue!  Not even 24 hours after having last been there, we returned for something that was inexpensive, mobile, and that would give our MauiGrown coffee its just brewing.

Me: “Jeff, you were right, there is MauiGrown coffee in the room.  But, the coffee maker is a percolator.”

Jeff: “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Me: “What can I buy today that will make coffee right?”

Jeff: “We sell the Melitta pourover.”

Me: “I’ll take it.  But I have to admit, I used the percolator this morning because I had no choice”

Jeff: “That’s what a junkie has to do.”

     I’ve written alot about the quality of coffee made by pour-over, but mainly in reference to the glass pitcher designed by Chemex.  The Melitta product offers what I needed for this trip – something inexpensive, something I could take home after the trip, and something that would make great coffee while I was there and on future trips away from home.

Essentially, where the drip brewer was an improvement on the percolator that boiled coffee, the pour-over techniques offered by Melitta and Chemex allow you to control the drip of hot water onto ground coffee in steps rather than in a continuous stream as the drip brewer does.  The result?  A better cup of coffee, and only a little more work to make it.  And definitely, far superior flavor over the percolator, which by the way didn’t get used again by us on this trip.

Ugh! Avoid 10% Hawaiian Coffee

in Brewing Coffee, Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     I recently travelled to the Hawaiian island of Maui, both to take (as far as I’m concerned) a much-needed vacation, and to visit farms there.  This would be my third trip to Hawaii, and my first to Maui.  If you are ever visiting a coffee-producing region of the world, I certainly suggest visiting a farm to gain an eye-opening perspective on the origin of coffee, and to pick up coffee as farm-fresh as you’ll ever find it.

Read: Maui Origin Trip Report

After visiting the MauiGrown Coffee company store and visiting their coffee orchard, it was off to Costco to pick up supplies for the week.  We decided to venture down the coffee aisle just for the fun of it.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but shown above is a picture of what we saw…10% Maui Coffee Blend.

I wrote about this recently, in response to the amount of 10% Kona coffee or “Kona blends” that I was seeing in the market.

Read: Don’t Buy 10% Kona Coffee

Here is the jist of it.  Hawaiian coffee is esteemed, and that means that you will need to pay a premium price if you want the real thing.  Different vendors of coffee want to give you the impression that you’re getting this premium coffee, but cannot sell it in a retail environment without charging an amount that a retail customer will not likely pay.  So instead, they blend it with something else, and you believe you’re buying premium coffee for a standard price.

To quote Jeff Ferguson, vice president of MauiGrown’s company store, “When they say 10% Maui (or Kona), what they’re not saying is 90% Mexican.”

If you want the experience of enjoying Hawaiian coffee, be prepared to pay a premium and buy it 100%, and from a source that you know would only sell you fresh coffee, like a local coffee roaster.  And, please check out the link above where I wrote on this same subject with regards to the proliferation of misleading Kona blends.  Hawaiian coffee is excellent coffee, and I suggest enjoying it in full, or at least staying away from a coffee that is barely Hawaiian at all.

Profile: MauiGrown Coffee

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     We recently planned a trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui.  I had never been to this particular island, but when I travel to a coffee-growing region of the world, I make a point of visiting a coffee farm.  Not only does it provide you with an amazing and eye-opening perspective on coffee and its origin, but also provides you with coffee as farm-fresh as you’ll ever find.

Read: Maui Origin Trip Report
Read: Upcoming Origin Trip to Maui

     My research ahead of time had pointed me in the direction of the MauiGrown Coffee company, but it took some work to get the information that I was looking for.  A lot of my research pointed me in the direction of coffee roasters that were situated on Maui, but roasting coffee from the Kona region of Hawaii’s Big Island.  This isn’t what I was looking for.  I’d been to Kona a couple times already, and had visited farms there.  I knew that Maui offered the same tropical climate, elevation, and rich soil that made Kona coffee so esteemed, and wanted to learn about its own unique coffee.

Over e-mail, I met Jeff Ferguson, vice president of the MauiGrown Coffee Company Store.  I let him know when we were landing on Maui, and that we would be driving straight to their location.  Even before checking into our condo, I might add – hey, we weren’t going to be drinking anything but premium coffee throughout our stay!

     As soon as we arrived at the store, we were treated to a tasting and background of the four varieties of coffee that are grown on Maui: Yellow Caturra, Red Catuai, Guatemalan Typica, and the esteemed Maui Mokka, that you will hear much about in the weeks ahead.  In this picture, Jeff is walking me through the bean-to-cup process of how MauiGrown grows, separates, pulps, dries, roasts, and bags its coffee.

MauiGrown Coffee is Hawaii’s largest independently owned coffee grower, with 500 acres of trees on the slopes of West Maui.  Fifth-generation Maui resident and native Hawaiian James “Kimo” Falconer started MauiGrown, only the second company to grow coffee on Maui.  The first was Pioneer Mill, for which Falconer was director of agriculture.  Since 2003, MauiGrown Coffee has been the only major producer of 100% Maui origin coffee.

     I’m a coffee fiend, so the tasting didn’t make the decisions of what to buy any easier.  We wanted to make sure we were drinking good coffee during our stay in Maui, but also had enough good coffee to take home.  On top of it, we wanted to make sure not to buy so much that any of it would go stale back home.  While we deliberated, Jeff warned us that the place where we were staying in Maui included MauiGrown coffee for guests!

In this picture, Jeff is walking us through the four different varieties grown on Maui, their background, and flavor characteristics.    

     From the store, we went on a self-guided tour of MauiGrown‘s coffee orchard.  Harvest generally starts in September for the Yellow Caturra, and extends into the early part of the new year for the Guatemalan Typica

In this picture, the dark green color of the coffee cherries means that it has not yet ripened, but will soon turn to the ripe dark red color, at which time it will be picked.

Check out MauiGrown’s website, to learn more about them.

Check out MauiGrown’s online store, where you can order their signature coffees and merchandise.



Maui Origin Trip Report

in Buying Coffee, Coffees of the World

     This was my third trip to Hawaii, and my first to the island of Maui.  In previous trips, I had visited coffee farms in the Kona region of the Big Island, and on the island of Kauai.  The coffees of Hawaii, particularly those of Kona, are among the most esteemed (and pricey) in the world.

Since Hawaii is one of the United States, its economic picture is very different from the more impoverished parts of the world that grow some of our finest coffees.  Nevertheless, it’s still so interesting while visiting a coffee-producing region to take some time to visit the farms.  Not only do you learn about where coffee comes from and how it is grown, but you can also pick up coffee as fresh as you’ll ever find it – right from the farm.  You’d have to grow it and roast it yourself to get it any fresher and more flavorful.

Read: My Kona Hawaii Trip Report
Read: Profile Ueshida Coffee Corp (Hawaii)

     I’ll have a lot to share in the days and weeks to come on this most recent adventure into the origin of coffee.  Here were some of the great highlights of this trip:

– We drove straight from the airport to the MauiGrown Coffee store, through which all of Maui’s coffee farmers make their coffee available throughout the area and for shipping off-island.  While there, manager Jeff Ferguson talked to us about the four different varieties of coffee grown on Maui, and some history.

– We were able to visit the trees of MauiGrown Coffee, where the four varieties are organized in lots.  With the growing popularity of Hawaiian coffee, there are many lots available for sale.

– By coincidence, the Maui Coffee Association was holding their first fair for the public to learn more about the individual farmers themselves, and the blends that they’ve perfected.  It was an amazing opportunity to talk with individual farmers about how they became involved in growing coffee.

– On the Road To Hana (worthy of an Indiana Jones movie, those who have visited Maui know what I’m referring to), we stopped at a fruit stand where everything for sale was grown on-site, with the farmer herself describing the produce and how it was grown.  While I stopped because the sign said coffee, I had no idea I would be treated to coffee also grown on-site and roasted only days earlier.

Another amazing coffee origin experience!  I look forward to sharing more of these stories, and how important it was to me as a coffee drinker to experience it for myself.

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