Things You’ll Need One gallon glass canning jar Coffee Sock (or a..Read More »
I once enjoyed a well-roasted coffee from the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica, and it made an impression on me. When I first started roasting, I searched for this coffee but it was not available at that time. Fast-forward a couple years, and the dream has finally come true. I have Costa Rica Tarrazu coffee, and now you do too!
When I first started roasting, I was offering a delicious Panama Boquete coffee as my lightest roast. Central American beans are often best-roasted light, otherwise you lose much of the lively acidity that characterizes coffees from this region.
I had a minor panic attack when I went through my big burlap sack of unroasted Panama Boquete coffee, and learned that it was temporarily unavailable due to the seasonality of coffee farming. But every now and then, a negative turns into a positive and I was introduced to Costa Rica Tarrazu coffee in its place.
Two years ago, a friend and I made an origin trip to Costa Rica and Panama. Here’s a picture of us getting back to travel basics, and using a map and compass to find coffee farms. While there, we were able to meet with coffee farmers and workers, and truly get in touch with coffee origin. Trips like these truly drive the point home that much care has gone into making green coffee available to me, and it is my responsibility to treat it with as much care before it ends up in the homes of coffee lovers.
Coffee farming has a key part of Costa Rica‘s history, and it is still one of their top three exports. Costa Rican coffee is considered some of the best in the world.
And within Costa Rica, Tarrazu is considered one of the most desirable regions for coffee farming. The Geisha strain of coffee grown in Tarrazu is one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
Our new Costa Rica coffee is also designated SHB, for Strictly Hard Bean. Coffee flavor depends on the altitude at which it was grown. The SHB designation means that it was grown in the region’s highest altitudes, and is the best tasting coffee that this region has to offer.
Try this coffee! I roast it medium, which for me means the lightest that I roast any coffee in my line-up. This maintains the lively acidity that coffee lovers should look for, unless they prefer dark roast coffees. It has a milk chocolate aroma that is evident as soon as you open the bag, and reflected in the flavor, along with a naturally sweet berry flavor.
“I’ve been wondering how much caffeine is in a tablespoon of ground coffee (the actual grounds) but I can’t seem to find it on Google. Please help if you can.” – John
I have a hard time answering coffee questions without geeking out, so this is sure to be longer than what you anticipated as an answer :).
Let’s get the chemistry out of the way. Caffeine, as well as another alkaloid named trigonelline, account for 1% of the weight of green, unroasted coffee. As an aside, did you know that the coffee plant produces caffeine as a defense against insects?
Green, unroasted coffee is dense and heavy with moisture, which is expelled from the coffee bean as it’s roasted. The amount of weight that the coffee bean loses as it’s being roasted varies, but let’s go with 15% of its weight as a good round number.
This is where the debate starts about whether or not different-roasted coffees contain different amounts of caffeine. Many years ago, it was my understanding that dark-roasted coffees contained more caffeine. I wasn’t alone, as I recall many people at the time equating a “strong coffee” with being dark-roasted. Further on, I started hearing that the roasting process itself burns off trace amounts of caffeine, which would mean that the darker the roast, the LOWER the caffeine.
But wait, there are a couple other ways to look at it! I’ve been told even more recently that the roaster never reaches a high enough temperature to burn caffeine, therefore caffeine content is THE SAME between a medium-roasted and dark-roasted coffee. To make matters worse, if the previous statement is true and coffee loses more weight the darker it’s roasted, then we’re back to the understanding that a dark-roasted coffee loses more weight but keeps the same amount of caffeine. That would mean it indeed has HIGHER caffeine, all other things being equal.
Sorry for the tangent. Let’s just assume that 15% of the coffee’s weight in moisture is expelled in the roasting process, and that the caffeine content stays constant. That would mean that caffeine would go from 1% of the coffee’s composition to about 1.2%.
According to convertunits.com, one tablespoon equals 15 grams. 1.2% of 15 grams is 180 mg.
I invite people to double-check my math, and I am always more than happy to admit when I am wrong. I checked myself by looking online, and found it universally accepted that one metric cup of coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine – ironic that number is exactly half of what I came up with above.
First off, who was Joshua Bean? I’ll never forget the night I was reading about the history of San Diego, California and learned that the last name of its first mayor was Bean. Bean?!? I couldn’t believe it. If ever I needed proof that San Diego is destined to be a coffee capitol in the US, its first mayor was named Bean. I decided that after creating my first signature blend, I would name it after San Diego’s first mayor.
Why a coffee blend? There is a science and an art to coffee blending. At this time, I’m carrying seven different single-origin coffees. Each one contains unique and specific aromas and flavor notes. I like every one of them and have roasted each one the best I can through trial and error, and more trial and error. With a coffee blend, there is an opportunity to create a coffee experience that no single-origin coffee captures. The opportunity to capture flavors from different coffees, to create a brand new coffee experience that is unique.
The picture above is a real photo of all of the coffee cupping evaluation forms that I used to evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate different individual coffees, as well as their contribution to the blend. Some of those cupping forms are filled out by fellow coffee aficionados with different opinions on coffee than my own, who contributed their feedback to the process.
Each coffee cupping allowed me to narrow down the recipe, until I was completely satisfied with the result. And here it is, the Joshua Bean Coffee™ Blend of coffee. It combines a natural berry sweetness in flavor with milk chocolate and spices. Natural flavors of berry, chocolate, and spices?! Get you some!
There is another personal and important reason for me in naming this blend. On August 12, 2012, two very dear friends lost their beloved son Joshua at the age of 19. I met Joshua twice. In fact, I met he and his father at the same time, and both of his parents have since become very important people in my life. Josh loved music, and I kept his mental image and photo nearby when making this blend. While you won’t find it on the cupping forms, I wanted there to be music in this blend. Listen to your own favorite music while you enjoy this coffee.
I’m so excited to formally launch the Guatemala Antigua SHB. This was a coffee of very personal significance for me to roast, because two years ago, my father and I toured Guatemala and specifically visited coffee farms while we were there. We also spent some time in the city of Antigua, coffee capital of Latin America.
Antigua is located in the central highlands of Guatemala. It is famous for its Spanish-influenced architecture and ruins of old churches. It is even designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The culture in Antigua that I was not expecting was its clear place as a coffee capital. There were cafes in every direction. Also interesting was that American chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King have been allowed to open outlets in Antigua – however, to preserve the local culture, these chains are not allowed to have prominent signs outside. You could potentially walk by the McDonald’s and not even know it was there.
One of the most interesting parts of the visit was our tours of Guatemalan coffee farms. My Spanish skills probably doubled as I struggled to translate from our fast-talking guide to my father, who doesn’t speak Spanish. When we were there, they had just completed construction of a new school within the community of coffee farms. When coffee was not being harvested, children had access to improving education. If we continue to invest in quality, we not only enjoy a better cup of coffee, but coffee growing communities have the opportunity to prosper.
The SHB designation of this coffee is abbreviation for Strictly Hard Bean, synonymous with Strictly High Grown. Coffee growing altitudes in Guatemala reach as high as 5,000 feet above sea level, and the SHB designation means that the coffee was grown at least 4,500 feet above sea level. Higher-altitude coffee grows slower, resulting in a denser bean, which results in a more desirable coffee. In short, these are the best beans grown in this area.
I roast the Guatemala Antigua SHB to a medium-dark. I try not to over-roast coffee, and with my connection to this beautiful country, I feel like it would be a disservice to “burn” it. A lighter roast doesn’t develop all of the potential flavor in this coffee, so I’ve found the perfect profile to be somewhere in the middle. A well-balanced coffee that is not high in acidity, a crowd-pleaser for its mellowness, with hints of berry and milk chocolate flavor. It’s the coffee I make for myself at home, and I hope you enjoy it in your home.
I’m so excited to announce that the Make Good Coffee Co. will be live every Saturday morning at the Scripps Ranch Farmers Market in San Diego, California!
There are approximately 50 farmers markets in San Diego County, and in a period of a few weeks, I visited easily more than half of them. We have great markets across the County and throughout the week, but the one that I liked the best is in Scripps Ranch.
I was ecstatic when the owners of the market let me know that they not only had a spot available, but were excited to welcome a coffee roaster as one of their new vendors.
Local certified and 100% organic produce, plants and flowers, arts and crafts, even live music! And of course, I’ll be bringing the whole line-up of coffees every Saturday morning.
If you live in San Diego or are visiting over a weekend, make sure you visit…
Scripps Ranch Farmers Market
10380 Spring Canyon Rd
San Diego (Scripps Ranch)
Open every Saturday, year around, rain or shine from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm
Alright, this blog post title is kind of a cheat. This is really about three different ways to greatly improve the quality of coffee that you drink at home without spending more money, followed by two ways that will cost you just a little bit of money.
- Use filtered water
More specifically, apply whatever standard you have for drinking water to your coffee water. Coffee is 99% water (not exactly, but you get the idea), so it amazes me what care people put into their drinking water that they don’t apply to the water they use to make coffee. If you use a Brita to filter your drinking water, use that same filtered water to make coffee. If you have a drip brewer, keep in mind that the water never reaches the point of boiling, so many things that would be removed from the water through boiling will remain in your drip brewer, and into your coffee. That affects flavor. I mainly use a Chemex and AeroPress at home to brew coffee. Both methods require that water be boiled first, then cooled. And even though I boil my water, I still put filtered water into the kettle to boil.
Never was this point more clear to me than when I was staying at a hotel, and needed to make myself a coffee in the room. Using tap water, the coffee I made was as bad as you could imagine. I made the next cup with bottled water, and while it still wasn’t a great coffee, there was a very noticeable difference in flavor between the two cups.
- Clean your machine regularly
Vinegar is an excellent mild cleaner. It will help maintain your coffee making system to run the occasional cycle through it of vinegar and water. You can play with the ratios, but I recommend starting with a mix that is somewhere between 1:4 to 1:2 water:vinegar. If you use a drip brewer, take note of what the water looks like after it’s been run through the cycle, to see what difference you’re making. Coffee is oily, sticky, and perishable. That means it wants to stick to parts of your coffee maker, and go stale. That stale coffee ends up in your otherwise fresh cup of coffee if you don’t clean your machine regularly. I suggest running the vinegar cycle monthly.
- Don’t grind until you’re about to brew
Growing up, my parents always ground their morning coffee the night before. They did it for two reasons. One, it then just required a flip of the switch in the morning to get the coffee brewing and two, the grinder wouldn’t wake up anybody the following morning. The latter reason is way more valid, but even still, upsetting my neighbors with the sound of my grinder is the price I pay for fresh coffee! There are two distinct points at which coffee begins going stale…when it has been roasted, and when it has been ground. After it’s been ground, it begins to expire at an even faster rate. If at all possible, grind your coffee only as you’re about to brew it. Otherwise, it is much staler and you will taste the difference in your cup.
And now, a couple ways to improve your coffee by investing only a small amount…
- Upgrade your equipment cheaply
The last tip wouldn’t matter if you don’t own a grinder, and buy your coffee pre-ground. If that’s the case, for heaven’s sake, invest $20-30 in a propeller grinder. A burr grinder offers a more consistent grind, but if you don’t have a grinder at all and aren’t ready to invest in a burr grinder, then buy a propeller grinder and start grinding your coffee only as you’re about to brew it.
If you’re not happy with your coffee maker, take $20 to Target and buy the Black and Decker drip brewer. Black and Decker strips down all the bells and whistles and while by far not the best machine on the market, I believe it is the best value. For $20, you will get a decent of cup of drip brew coffee.
- Buy from a local roaster
I had to say it! The grocery store is full of coffee options, and they’re all stale. The conventional grocery store channel simply cannot purchase and stock fresh coffee. Somebody in your area offers an affordable fresh roasted coffee, or better yet, visit our Online Store and learn about the Colombia Excelso that costs only $12/bag. It’s one of my favorite coffees right now, and comparable in price to what they sell at the grocery store. Buying coffee online means it gets delivered to your door, so you don’t have to make an extra trip for it. And while there are far cheaper coffees at the grocery store, the difference in flavor will be FAR greater than the difference in price.
A lot of my coffee education took place at the Fire Roasted Coffee Company in London, Canada. I’ll never forget walking up to their “wall” of coffees from around the world, and being overwhelmed by the selection. I didn’t know at the time that the world of coffee was so vast. I was fortunate that a well-educated employee approached me with questions that helped him decide which coffees to recommend.
A few months later, my brother asked me if any kind of tool existed online that helped connect the coffee lover with the right coffee for them. It reminded me of my own experience at Fire Roasted.
The Coffee Quiz was born!
With a little input from the coffee drinker, I felt that intelligent suggestions could be made to help guide that person to coffees they should try based on their preferences.
Think about the coffees you’ve really enjoyed. Did they have the smoky flavor of a dark roast? Or the brightness and variety of a lighter roast? If you’re not sure, start in the middle. You can always take the Coffee Quiz over again.
Acidity is tricky and misunderstood. Don’t think of acid as in pH content of coffee, or acid reflux (heartburn). Think of it this way…a banana and a raspberry both have unique flavors, but which one has more “pop”? If you answered raspberry, it’s the same concept behind acidity. How much “pop” would you like in your coffee? A lot can be too much, but not enough can be boring.
Go for it! Try the Coffee Quiz and find the coffee match that’s right for you.
This image of the “coffee pyramid” is something I first saw online last year. Everything below the Specialty line is the coffee you’ll typically find, stale and kind of flavorless. As I wondered whether or not the world needed another coffee roaster, this picture motivated me.
One of the challenges with roasting coffee, as with anything perishable, is roasting enough so that I have it nice and fresh for you when you order; while not roasting too much. My commitment to you is that when purchase from Make Good Coffee Co., the coffee will have been roasted within 3 weeks of shipping it to you. You can verify this when you receive your coffee, because I personally hand-write the Roast Date on each label.
If I roast too much coffee, I reach a point where I simply can’t charge full price for all of it because I’ve missed my own standard of only shipping coffee roasted within the last 3 weeks. It’s meant harassing friends to take it, putting some in my freezer, or worst of all, throwing it away!
Don’t make me put more coffee in my freezer or throw it away! I’m now offering Slightly Aged Coffee.
Here’s how it works. When you order Slightly Aged Coffee, I’ll send you coffee that I’ve roasted within the last 3-5 weeks. Does it mean it’s not good? Absolute not! Let’s go back to the pyramid image above. Imagine that Slightly Aged Coffee is sitting just beneath the Specialty line. In other words, coffee that I’ve roasted in the last 3-5 weeks is still fresh and MUCH better than most of what you’ll find. It’s CERTAINLY better than anything you’ll find at a grocery store, Costco, or restaurant. It’s just that I didn’t roast it within the last 3 weeks, and for that reason, can’t charge full price for it.
When you order Slightly Aged Coffee, specify in the comments section if there is a particular coffee in my line-up that you’ve tried and like, or one that you think you’d prefer. If I have that particular coffee roasted within the last 3-5 weeks, that’s what I’ll ship you. Otherwise, I’ll ship you something similar roasted in that timeframe. Bottom line: you’ll get a great coffee at a great price.
We ship using the USPS Flat Rate Padded Envelope. I encourage you to order two bags at a time, to split that flat rate cost over the two bags.
My father had once crossed at the same border crossing on foot years ago, and had warned me about how people in uniforms will try to fleece you for money, claiming that you need to pay certain “charges” and “premiums”. It’s all a scam, and in the case of actual officials that do this, extortion.
I warned Matt not to make eye contact with anybody as we crossed this border for the first time. Nothing could have prepared us for the procedure that followed…
In Central American countries, you do not simply enter a new country – you must formally exit the country that you were in. The office to leave Costa Rica is about a quarter-mile from the office through which you enter Panama. In between these two offices is bedlam. People moving in all directions, mainly migrant workers and those visiting family on the other side of the border.
Panama customs officer: “You cannot enter Panama until you exit Costa Rica.”
Costa Rica customs officer: “You must pay to exit Costa Rica at the machine in that room.”
Panama officer: “This receipt that shows you paid to exit Costa Rica is not enough. They must stamp your passport.”
Costa Rica officer: “Don’t wait in this line. Wait in that line.” (30 minutes later)
Fortunately for us, there is only one instance of an official trying to fleece us. As we walked one of the many times to the Panama customs office, I looked up just in time to make eye contact with a man in the uniform. I immediately dropped my eyes and picked up the pace. I could hear him yelling after us about having to give him so many dollars to get by. The irony is that he was just sitting on steps with another person who was not in uniform, before we came along. Despite the uniform, we pushed forward waiting for the giant hand of the law to grab our shoulders. But of course, this was no formal fee and we were under no obligation to pay it, despite all his yelling after us.
After crossing into Panama, we stayed in the city of David and from there, traveled into Boquete and the coffee country that surrounds it. We toured coffee farms, and even had the opportunity to interact with farmers and their employees at work in the fields and in the processing facilities. For the coffee lover, it was a phenomenal experience. We even met locals in David who became fast friends and invited us to their family reunion. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life!
When I began sourcing coffees to roast at the Make Good Coffee Co., I was so excited to get my hands on coffee that came from the very same region that my friend and I toured.
Central American coffees are prized for their brightness, and I was excited to perfect a medium roast of this coffee. If it is roasted too dark, much of that brightness is lost, replaced with the smoky flavor that characterizes dark roasts. I roast my Panama Boquete coffee lighter than any other coffee. The result is a strong flavor of berry and other natural fruit flavors, coupled with some chocolate and caramel. The aftertaste is sweet and clean. The body smooth and creamy, and not too heavy.
Of all the coffees that I currently roast, this one is easily one of my favorites. It was an incredible experience to make our way to coffee country in Boquete Panama, without guides or the experience of having done it before. I truly think of this adventure each time I roast this coffee, and I know you will taste the difference that care puts into each cup. This is a coffee drinker’s coffee!
I was excited to make the Holiday Blend because coffee is a big part of the holidays and my family tradition. Every year that I spend the holidays with my parents, the day starts with a coffee. And just as ritually when dinner is done, somebody puts on some coffee. It’s always such a happy time in my life, that the coffee should also be good.
Coffee blending is about bringing different coffees together that create a balanced flavor that none of the individual coffees have on their own.
But it doesn’t stop with deciding what coffees will be in the blend. It’s about experimenting with different ratios of those coffees until you’ve produced something unique that meets your goal. My goal was to capture all the qualities I associate with the holidays, and create a coffee blend with those flavors.
After much trial and some error, I finally made the coffee that I dreamed of making…the Holiday Blend!
What can you expect?
First of all, I wanted a coffee that would appeal to a lot of people. A Holiday Blend should be shared with others over the holidays, so I gave careful consideration to what would appeal to more people. For example, I don’t mind a strong acidity but not everybody likes it. I don’t mind a “dirty” aftertaste, but not everybody feels that way. If a characteristic came up that I thought would divide coffee drinkers, then I removed that coffee from consideration and kept blending.
This blend of Central American and East African coffees captures the flavors I wanted, including an overall sweet and rich flavor, a chocolate and caramel aroma and flavor, a short but sweet aftertaste, and full but smooth body. I didn’t stop blending until I found it!
The Holiday Blend from the Make Good Coffee Co. is ready for you to share with your fellow coffee lovers over the holidays, or to give as a gift to the coffee lover in your life. I ship with the US Post Flat Rate Envelope, so for a flat rate $5.70, two bags of coffee will fit in the envelope. Buy two bags of the Holiday Blend, or mix and match the Holiday Blend with another coffee from our line-up. The coffee is not delivered with any visible pricing, so you can give it as a gift to that special coffee lover.
Happy holidays from the Make Good Coffee Co. to you and your family!