Coffee Brewers

Erica and I love our coffee and we frequently get asked what type of coffee equipment to get, so here are a few good ones. A few recommendations if you will.

Pour Over (~$15 on Amazon, retail ~$20)

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a coffee brewer to make good coffee. This is my defacto recommendation for most people: Get a pour over! They make great coffee, are inexpensive, and you are in total control.

Amazon: An example pour over

Bonavita 8 cup coffee brewer with thermal carafe (~$135 on Amazon, retail $180)

Certified by the Special Coffee Association of America (SCAA), quick to start, brews at just the right temperature, and so simple to even my four year old daughter can use it. It is more expensive than a Black and Decker, but if your looking in that price range stick with a pour over. This has been our trusty brewer for two years now and we love it. Highly recommended.

Amazon: Bonavita 8 cup coffee brewer with thermal carafe

They sell another model without the thermal carafe, but I absolutely recommend the thermal carafe! A good insulated carafe (like this one) allows you to brew the coffee and keep it warm without burning it on a hot plate. Granted, if you immediately brew and serve it right away this feature may be of little benefit and you can save a few bucks on the glass carafe, but I’ll stand by my recommendation of the thermal carafe for most folks.

 

Technivorm Moccamaster (~$300 on Amazon, retail $320)

The Technivorm is a great unit certified by the SCAA. When we are in the market two years ago it was a top contender. It was one of the first quality brewers in the US market and from personal experience it brews a solid cup of coffee. Just like the Bonavita, it also brews at just the right temperature and starts up quickly. I didn’t find the Technivorm terribly intuitive, however, as it had a number of parts and pieces that had to be aligned just right. It was cool, don’t get me wrong, it made me feel like I was making something extra special, but I wouldn’t trust my four year old barista in training with it just yet. You are reading this blog post, so I assume you are older than four and therefore feel confident that if you prefer the Technivorm you will find this a minor drawback.

Amazon: Technivorm Moccamaster with Thermo Carafe

Brazen Plus ($200 retail)

This is a brand new brewer certified by the SCAA’s home brewer program. I read an article about it here recently, but haven’t gotten a chance to try one (anyone want buy us one!?). The specs look great, but what really caught my attention was the ability to customize the water temperature, add a pre-soak cycle for the grounds, calibration for higher altitudes, and more tweaks. Brew wise I am confident that this will product a great cup of coffee along the lines of the Technivorm and the Bonavita, but with the added benefit of being able to customize things to your taste for that geeky-coffee-artistic-touch. It is more expensive than the Bonavita, but it is less expensive than the Technivorm. Did I mention it has a thermal carafe?

Amazon: Brazen Plus

Conclusion / Suggestions

Until you are ready to invest in a coffee maker, go with a pour over. Even after you invest in a coffee maker, buy a pour over if you don’t already have one. Never get rid of your pour over, he will be your stalwart companion until one of your children knocks him off a shelf and you hold a funeral and maybe have a little cry.

Still reading? OK. If you are ready to invest in a brewer because *maybe* you need something to handle the dangerous aspects of handling near-boiling water in the morning before that first cup of coffee has fully awaken you to the danger of second degree burns… What then?… What would we recommend for your health, safety, and sanity?

If I was in the shoes that I imagine many of you wearing, first I would hope they were at least size 10 and 1/2 or I would be uncomfortable, second I would lean heavily toward the Bonavita for its simplicity, price, and ability to make a great cup of coffee. If was in my shoes, the shoes of a coffee geek, I would seriously consider the new Brazen Plus for those same features and it’s tweakability (thats a word right?).

Opportunities

Opportunities. There are so many to be had. What do you do with an opportunity that presents itself? Well, recently for us we made a big leap of faith! We jumped on an opportunity to grow our coffee business!

Well, this cat has been out of the bag for a while now, but as normal, I am just getting around to updating the blog. We bought a larger coffee roaster! It is not our dream coffee roaster, but it is a step towards it! With our smaller home roaster we were just not able to keep up with the demands for coffee and really wanted to expand our business. We found this roaster and for the price, we just couldn’t pass it up. We are now able to much better accommodate our personal needs for coffee, our church coffee ministry and also friends and family!

So what does this mean for YOU? Opportunity! It means you should put an order in for some coffee. We are working (even if slowly) to get this coffee business off the ground. We have lots of hopes and dreams. But we need your help! Spread the word and share the bean love.

For us, coffee is more than just a quick cup of morning wake-me-up Joe. I mean, thats a good bit part of it (come on-mom of three littles can’t lie here)…Coffee is a passion of ours. For something so humble as a cup of black liquid, the significance it has on so many lives is incredible. Unfortunately, like many things we eat or drink, we have lost the personal aspect of it. We have lost the heart and soul of the cup. Most coffee on the market has no traceable origins. I will not name call here, but we all know the popular brands, and there is no way that you will ever know where those beans came from. It would be like trying to find out what farm the wheat was grown on to make our beloved American boxed treats. But it is this way with most things isn’t it? Even the clothing on your back has no name or face attached to it. It’s really a sad reality. Someone, somewhere, is working (and probably highly underpaid) to grow the crops that are needed to make OUR clothing (I can take blame here too). I can never say thank you.

I love the Spring and Summer time when the farmers markets are in full abundance. Not only am I gifted with the loveliness of fresh produce, but I am given opportunity. Opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for growing these for me to enjoy. Even my own garden provides opportunity. I can partake in one of life’s greatest miracles…the ability to watch a seed grow into something magnificent that nourishes my body. Thank you. Now if only I could grow a coffee plant…

Back to coffee. Lest I make you feel guilty for drinking the unmentionable named coffee, I’d like to offer you our alternative. We make the changes where we can. We move ever so progressively as we are given knowledge and resources. Buying local allows you to make those connections and meet a face associated with a product. It’s unbeatable. We do our best to order coffee from suppliers that give us a face. We want to know about the farm where these precious living plants are growing. Who is tending these for me? How are those persons being treated? Thankfully, we have found a few suppliers of green coffee beans that can tell us a little bit about the farms where the coffee is grown. This information is very comforting. I know that I am buying a raw product from someone who can verify that the farmers are being paid fairly. We are not in a position at this point yet to import our own coffee (as import costs are very very high and you have to order in mega quantities), but it is great to have connections to those who share our same conviction-that is to treat every individual with integrity. We also feel strongly that coffee should be grown without the use of chemicals. The land that we have been given to tend deserves to be treated with respect as well. Many organic coffee farmers are very skilled in their trade and put in countless hours tending to their crops to ensure a safe and incredible tasting bean. That being said, some farmers choose not to label organic since it is such a rigorous process and costs so much. Nevertheless, they use the same principals and we don’t mind supporting those farms either.

Green coffee beans
Green coffee beans

So. That’s a lot of blab to digest. The point of all of this is to hopefully encourage you to want to buy some coffee that you can feel safe about drinking. You can know families in other countries are being given a fair wage and are being encouraged to continue in growing coffee in a way that nourishes the land and in return gives you and me a healthier cup. AND you are supporting a local roaster which helps fund our little homestead. Seems like a win, win, win to me. Haha. Ok. Enough of my shameless plug.

Oh you want the details?

We sell by the green/unroasted pound (which comes out to 12-14oz roasted) for $10-12 depending on the variety. Our current stock will be listed in the Coffee page…Or if you want to check now, click here.

Opportunities are plenty. We hope you decide to share in some of ours!

Thank you. 

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"It's Begining to Smell a lot Like Coffee"

Everywhere you go…

Ok, so I might have a little too much Christmas spirit in me at the moment. Never a bad thing right? Unless it happens to be 75 degrees outside on December 6th. Which is what it is. December 6th, and 75 degrees. Does make for a little damper on your Christmas moods. I mean, I’m reaching for the iced sweet tea and indulging in my bad dental addiction-chewing on ice. Don’t spank me.

What I SHOULD be reaching for in these supposed cold winter months is Coffee. Ah yes. Freshly roasted, freshly brewed, dark, hot, belly warming goodness. I may or may not also have a bad addiction to hot black beverages as well. Funny. Ice and coffee. Like total opposites. Unless of course you combine the two. The iced coffee inventor should be kissed. He probably is. AND he probably hates coffee AND ice. Cuz ya know….have you ever been into a coffee shop and asked the opinion of the barista on a good cup and they are like “well I don’t actually drink coffee.” Say what?  Its like the skinny chicks (sorry, I’m not trying to stereotype) who work at like Five Guys hamburger joint and when you ask them about the burger they are like “I’m actually a vegetarian and have never tried our sandwiches.” Right. “Double cheeseburger with bacon” I’d say. Not that I eat there very often. Maybe once a year. Don’t want ya’ll thinking I’m addicted to cheeseburgers too. Just cheese and bacon.

So what was this post about again? Oh right coffeeeeee. (It’s getting late so it’s been a while since I’ve had some…ya know?)

So we’re making the plunge! We are going to start (very small I shall say) roasting coffee for family and friends to see how it goes. As most of you know, our dream and goal is to get a larger commercial sized roaster, plug that baby in and roast us some big time orders. You know, get all technically a business and stuff. It’s a hard process and will take a significant amount of investment…but we are excited that it might happen someday! I’m excited. Can you tell?

If you’d like us to roast something for you and are looking for a specific variety of coffee…let us know! We have lots of connections to get lots of different origins! We try very diligently to order the green coffee beans from trust worthy companies who can give us information about the farm that it came from. We make it a point to buy Fair Trade or Socially Sustainable coffee as well as organic. I feel that I can get behind what I offer to others because I know that I am treating everyone in the line with integrity and dignity. For me, that’s worth the extra few bucks! Know where your food comes from!

Alright. So that’s that.

December 6, 2012. One year ago! On a COLD day.

And in case you needed (which of course you don’t) any further convincing that you should try out some coffee…our customer support central answering system is excellent.

(Also taken one year ago)

Ethiopian Roast

Roasted up some Ethiopian from Dean’s Beans this morning. Ethiopian beans have a very delicate flavor that can get quickly roasted away (this way with many African coffees), so Alex suggested I roast it at a City+ level.  I am usually a bit uncomfortable doing lighter roasts for some reason- I usually leave those to Alex! Nevertheless, I gave it a try. Ah now for the waiting period!

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There is something about roasting your own coffee that gives such a deep down, soul, satisfaction. Seeing it transform before your eyes. Hearing the different sounds it makes throughout the process (from popcorn-like sounds to like rice crispy “snap, crackle, pop”). I think however, that my favorite part of the process is the smells. It is not like any smell that you have experienced before. One might expect it to smell like a fresh brewed pot of coffee but it is far from that. There are numerous different smells throughout the roasting starting with a very “bready” smell. Kinda like a fresh loaf of bread baking- but a bit more sour than that. Then when the beans start to smoke, unlike regular smoke, this has a very very sweet smell. It definitely has some distinct “coffee” characteristics to it but it is so different. I love this smell. I especially love after Alex has been roasting coffee and comes in the house, he smells like it! Ahh. I love fanning the first wisps of smoke in my direction just so I can inhale their sweet smokey uniqueness. It’s lovely. Then comes the smell of it cooling and it releasing its final cracks as it is ejected from the roaster. We usually like to comb our fingers through the beans and just smell them.

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It is an accomplishment every time. Every time the beans are rotating around in the drying pan, I stand back in awe and amazement of what I just did. Like I said, deep soul satisfaction. The kind that puts a smile on your face. The kind that never gets old. The kind that you don’t take for granted. The kind that gives back in a few days when you brew the first pot of your fresh roast. I love it.

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Cup of Peru

I can’t help but to think of a famous commercial line every morning “the best part of waking up is ________ in your cup.” I would have to agree that coffee is pretty much the best part of waking up. I would have to disagree that the unnamed brand is best. Far from it. Now, what I look forward to and would consider the best part of waking up is to taste a fresh batch of coffee that I have roasted. You see, after roasting green coffee beans they need to “rest” for a couple of days before grinding and brewing. There is a unique flavor profile that emerges when you give the freshly roasted beans a day or two to chill. If you tried to drink freshly roasted coffee, while it isn’t horrible, it has a lot of acidic and off balanced flavors. The rest time also lets you build a nice bit of anticipation so that when the day is finally here when you can brew it up, you are fully appreciative of the effort it took to get that coffee to your cup (and I am not just talking roasting here). As Alex mentioned in the previous post, there is a lot of farmer abuse in the coffee industry. I hate to say it, but that unnamed brand above is not innocent by any stretch of the imagination. I am not here to bash though. That is not my goal. As with any food that we eat, we appreciate knowing the origins, relationships, etc that are involved. How was the person who grew this food treated? Same goes with coffee. The best part of waking up is knowing that you are supporting family farmers and in exchange you get a delicious cup of hot unique coffee.

This morning we are enjoying a cup of Peruvian coffee. I roasted this on Wednesday at a nice medium to dark roast. This is one of my favorite coffee origins. Peru coffee is very smooth and rich with low acidity. I love “chocolatey” coffee and this definitely fits the bill. We appreciate the integrity of this coffee and I know that I honestly look forward to my pot of coffee love every morning.

If you cannot access freshly roasted coffee, we have recently started ordering from a guy online (Alex mentioned in previous post) Deans Beans. We just ordered a big batch of green coffee from him to try, but like Alex said, he sells roasted as well-at an extremely good price. This would be a great resource for all your coffee needs (until we get our big roaster of course-then you should buy from us!)

 

 

 

Latest Coffee Order

For Christmas, Erica bought Dean Cycon’s book Javatrekker. I still have a few chapters to finish, but it was a very eye-opening look into the world of coffee trading. And while I still have a good deal to learn exactly what it “Fair Trade” means, we decided to be very intentional in our coffee purchases moving forward.

As a way of thanks for opening our eyes we looked up Dean’s Beans (run by the same fellow above) online. He roasts all Fair Trade and Organic beans, and for crazy home roasters like us, he also sells green beans. We ordered a bit (we typically order enough for about three months to cut down on shipping costs) and we just got it all in yesterday!

Here is what we got:

  • 2 lb. Organic Green Timor
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Peruvian
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Peruvian (Decaf – Swiss water processed)
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Nicaraguan
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Indonesian (Java)
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Guatemalan
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Ethiopian
  • 2 lb. Organic Green Colombian

I’m looking forward to the Ethiopian as it has been some time since we’ve had some coffee from Africa. Erica, however, is pretty excited about trying the coffee from Timor. We have tried a number of coffees from the area including Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Papua New Guinea, but coffee from Timor will be a new one to add to that list.