Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Camp Coffee

In partnership with Need Supply Co.--a Richmond, Virginia based specialty clothing company that is world renowned for its selection of vintage and rare denim and its consistent ability to be at the forefront of new urban trends--we have created a very unique coffee to offer to offer to customers at their Carytown location and in their webstore.

As you can see by the custom label to the left, Camp Coffee is Dark Roast blend of Indian Monsoon Malabar and Ethiopian Harrar--two very unique coffees that are full of character and flavor.

Often coffee blends are kept a secret as proprietary information but we felt like these two beans had such a fascinating story that it would be a shame not to highlight them in the description.

Together, these beans create a rich, hearty and balanced cup that almost begs for a seat by the fire on a chilly winter evening.

Camp coffee is only available through Need Supply Co. so visit them on Cary Street or pick up a bag from the webstore--you'll be glad you did!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coffee of the Month News


Dear Coffee of the Month Customers
We hope you are having a lovely holiday season! This is always an exciting time at Blanchard’s Coffee Co. because we’re always extra busy filling orders for gifts, stocking the shelves at all of our retail locations, keeping our restaurants and coffee houses stocked with beans and, of course, staying wired on this year’s Holiday Blend!
This year, in addition to the seasonal sprint to the New Year, we’ve been putting a lot of thought into the Coffee of the Month program. As you may know, Coffee of the Month has been around since the very beginning of Blanchard’s Coffee Co. and many customers have been receiving their monthly special coffee since day one. From a logistical perspective, however, it has become difficult to give the program all it needs to be successful. In short, our wholesale business is growing rapidly and the pressure from that growth has led to COM getting short shrift—some of you have experienced this first hand in the form of order and billing problems and for that, we are terribly sorry.
We decided that we wanted to keep the BCC Coffee of the Month program around but it needed a new, more manageable format to ensure you get your coffee the way you want it, billed correctly and we don’t annoy our loyal customers with clumsy mistakes.
As of the end of 2011, Coffee of the Month customers will no longer be automatically billed and shipped coffee. We will, however, continue to feature a special coffee each month—January’s Coffee of the Month will be a Southern Coast Indian Estate coffee, which is a very interesting cup! We will feature the coffee of the month on our website, our blog and in an email newsletter. Existing COM customers will receive a 10% discount on purchases of the coffee and can order as much or as little as they like. This keeps our offering list fresh and interesting, rewards our loyal customers and takes away a lot of room for error on our part.
I understand this may be sad, annoying or even angering news for some of you and, if that is the case, I encourage you to please call me directly to discuss. Obviously, our number one goal is to make our customers happy and get them great coffee, so we will do everything in our power to make that happen. Please direct all questions, comments or hate-mail (I hope not…) to me at the following contact information:

Stephen T Robertson
Sales & Marketing, Blanchard’s Coffee Co.
804-516-5213
Stephen@blanchardscoffee.com

Thank you again for your continued patronage and support of Blanchard’s Coffee Co.—we truly couldn’t have gotten to where we are without it.
We wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year—and stay in contact with us at all of these places:


Best wishes

Blanchard's Coffee Co.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holidays, Camp Fire, Beer and Boxing Day!

If you guys hadn't noticed, the Holiday Season is fully upon us!
It is hard to believe the year is almost over--especially since we're looking at yet another week of California-esque weather--but according to my calendar, it is definitely December 20th.

First things first--Blanchard's Coffee Co. will be CLOSED on Monday December 26th 2011 in celebration of Boxing Day! Oh wait--we're not British...must've gotten caught up in all the hype about the Margaret Thatcher movie... Nonetheless, we will be closed on Monday the 26th of December to take a little breather (we've roasted a LOT of coffee in the past few weeks), but we will be back in action, albeit gorged on starch and gluten, on Tuesday to fill all of your coffee needs!

Speaking of coffee needs, here's an exciting piece of news: Need Supply Co. and Blanchard's Coffee Co. have partnered to create Camp Coffee--a truly unique coffee blend created to bring the essence of campfire or fireplace to your cup. If you're not familiar with Need Supply Co., it is a Richmond, Virginia based clothing company that is one of the top rated sources of designer and vintage denim (among many other things) in the world. We are extremely honored to be able to work with them to produce Camp Coffee. It is available exclusively at Need Supply Co. in Carytown or on their website.

In other exciting news, we'll be working with Hardywood Park Brewery today to brew a Coffee Stout using Blanchard's Cold Brew Coffee--this Coffee Stout will go up against similar stouts made with coffee from other local roasters and the winner will be the roaster used for a full run of the ale!
So... this is a call to all BCC fans who are also beer drinkers--head down to the downtown Capital Ale House on Wednesday at 5:30 and vote for Blanchard's! For more information, check out the Hardywood Facebook post.

It might seem hard to believe, but there is even more big BCC news on the horizon so stay tuned for that--in the meantime, have a lovely holiday and safe travels!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Hullabaloo!

Hello Coffee Lovers!

A few pounds heavier and still confused about what day we're actually on and what in tarnation is going on with the weather, we have survived Thanksgiving, only to be thrust head first into the always startling waters of the pre-holiday season.

Whether we're talking about coffee, shopping, decorating or frantically trying to wind down the year at work, this is a time of year when most of us are charging at full tilt towards the finish line--we at Blanchard's are no exception.

There is SO MUCH happening at Blanchard's Coffee Co.--most of it really awesome. Here is a little update on everything we can tell you so far, and I promise there is even bigger news in the works so keep checking in on us for updates.

Holiday Blend
It is here and it is delicious! A blend of African and Latin American Beans that fits the bill for a great coffee to enjoy leading up to your celebrations. This year, it happens to benefit a great organization here in Richmond called the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence--be sure to click on their link and read about all they do here in town.  We'll be donating a portion of proceeds from Holiday Blend to their organization which will hopefully continue in a lasting relationship after the holidays.

You can buy Holiday Blend at Ellwood Thompson Market, Taza Coffee & Creames, several area Martin's Food Stores, Crossroads Coffee (both locations), Libbie Market, The Blanchard's Coffee Co. website and hopefully more to come! Also, if you find yourself down in the Outer Banks for the holidays, you can pick up Holiday Blend at Waverider's Coffee in Nags Head.

Microlot
We were sad to see the Nicaraguan Maragogype Peaberry go so hopefully we'll be able to buy that entire crop again next year. We are, however, excited to announce we have bought the entire crop of another small farm in Nicaragua. The Las Nubes Cooperative is owned and operated solely by women of the community and they produced a crop of a little over 300 pounds of a special Caturra varietal. The coffee is a delicious full bodied, light roasted single origin with notes of butter and ripe cherry. This coffee will be available on our website, at Ellwood Thompson Market and several coffee shops including Taza Coffee & Creames, Crossroads Coffee (both locations) and Para Coffee.

Gift Boxes
Every year we offer holiday gift boxes for your gift giving pleasure--a nice, clean cut, black Blanchard's gift box snugly stuffed with three signature BCC coffees--this year we're featuring Dark as Dark, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and of course, Holiday Blend. You can order on our website or we are always willing to take your orders over the phone, in person, via email or even smoke signals, but be warned, sometimes its hard to read smoke signals because of all the smoke we make when roasting Dark as Dark!

We're already getting a ton of requests for custom gift box orders and this is Totally welcomed--if you have special requests, needs or large quantity orders please contact Stephen directly (804-516-5213 or stephen@blanchardscoffee.com) and he'll help you get exactly what you need for your holiday gift giving needs.

We hope to post again soon with even bigger, more exciting news (if you can believe thats possible!) but until then, enjoy the holiday season, stay warm, or cool, whatever we're on today, and don't drink too much egg nog!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nicaraguan Maragogype Peaberry: Pre-Roast

Nicaraguan
Maragogype
Peaberry
(mara-go-hee-pay)

A Blanchard's Coffee Co. Exclusive Limited Offering

Nicaraguan Maragogype Peaberry: Post Roast
At Blanchard's Coffee Co. we are proud of every single coffee we offer, but sometimes we are fortunate enough to come across a coffee that is extra special and exciting. Our latest microlot offering is a perfect example of this. We caught wind of the Nicaraguan Maragogype Peaberry from our primary broker when we were snooping around for a new bean to feature.

As coffee geeks, we immediately got excited because we're already fond of Nicaraguan beans, but a Maragogype? Rare, delicious, unique--of course that made our ears perk up. And a Peaberry to boot? Hand picked, making up less than 3% of the overall crop--this is awesome! And could it be true? There are only 300 pounds of this coffee in the world? Surely we won't be able to get our hands on this prize, right? Wrong. We got our hands on it; all of it in fact, and we're roasting it for you until its gone.

So, what is so special about Nicaraguan Maragogype Peaberry you ask? Wait, back up, you're probably just wondering how to pronounce Maragogype. Well, the Maragogype coffee is a mutation of the Typica variety of Arabica coffee. The mutation was first discovered in Bahia, Brazil, so when you think pronunciation, think Portuguese. It goes something like this: mara-go-hee-pay and, if you can, you sort of roll the "R" in the first syllable.
Now that you can pronounce it, lets dig further into what this coffee is. So we know the Maragogype is a mutation of the common Typica bean--a mutation that creates a soft, more palatable, delicate coffee. The Maragogype trees are considerably more fickle and produce a much lower yield, thus making the coffee harder to farm and more rare. The Maragogype bean is often also called "Elephant Bean" because it is commonly much larger than its Typica relative.
Peaberries are another type of mutation that occur in many coffee varietals. The Peaberry occurs when a coffee cherry only produces one seed instead of two. This seed is rounded and takes up the entire seed chamber. They are most often found on the farthest reaching branches of the coffee tree and, as previously mentioned, make up less than 3% of the tree's yield. Add that to the fact that farmers must hand separate them from the rest of the crop and you get an incredibly rare and prized bean.
So, we've got a rare mutation of a rare mutation of an already lovely coffee; what does that mean in your cup?
Well, for this particular coffee it means you get a highly complex, delicate coffee that balances crisp lemony acidity with soft buttery texture. Your cup of coffee takes on characteristics of lemon preserves spread over brioche... wow, that makes me hungry!

This is a truly special coffee and I hope you get a chance to try it out. You can always find our coffees on our website but if you're out and about town, you can buy this coffee in bags or in bulk form at Ellwood Thompson Market. A few choice locations will be brewing the coffee as well--right now you might find a cup at Crossroads Coffee VCU and The Empress.

If you'd like to learn more about this or any coffee please feel free to come chat with us or send a quick email--we'd love to hear from you!




Monday, August 29, 2011

Blanchard's Coffee Co. is Hiring!

Guess what folks, its that time again!
In the past few months we've been growing fast and seeing lots of changes in the BCC team, beginning with Tom Thorogood moving on to bigger things and leaving us with his delicious Swan Song. Next we said bon voyage to Jonathan Lesko as he sailed off to an island off of West Africa with the Peace Corps. We were joined during the summer by Seth Bauserman whose steady pace, good tunes and expertise on the roaster gave us the time we needed to get our new Roast Master, Josh Taylor, fully acclimated to the complex art/science of coffee roasting.
Now that Josh has his sea-legs, so to speak, its time to get the Blanchard's ship running at full steam. We are producing a LOT of coffee so we need some more hands. We're posting the job description for a Production Assistant below, so if you're interested, give us a shout.

A few notes to preface: Working in the Roasting Lab is often dirty, hard work. There is a lot of lifting overhead and in awkward spaces. There is a good amount of smoke, a lot of heat and you will, more often than not, be covered in coffee. This is not to scare you away because the job is a heck of a lot of fun and you get to drink coffee all day, we just want everyone to understand that if you're not into getting some dirt under your nails, this probably isn't your ideal gig.



Blanchard’s Coffee Co. is seeking applicants for the position of Production Assistant.
The Production Assistant position carries a 25-35 hour per week schedule, depending on production volume.

The Production Assistant’s schedule is Monday-Friday beginning at 9:00am and ending when daily production is completed.

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

--Able to lift 60lbs over their head
--Reliable transportation to and from work
--Efficient and hard-working
--Clean driving record
--Punctual
--Coffee Lover
--Respectful of coworkers, superiors and company property
--Respectful of clients and other members of the community

Preferred qualifications:

--Coffee experience (coffee shop, restaurant, retailer etc)
--Interest in coffee education (roasting, brewing, cupping, barista training etc)
--Customer service experience
--Basic computer skills

The Production Assistant works directly with the Roast Master on a daily basis assisting with all tasks involved in producing and packaging coffee for wholesale accounts. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to inventory, labeling bags, batching and blending both green and roasted coffee, operating a weigh-and-fill machine, operating a belt and manual heat sealing machine, grinding coffee, packaging whole bean and ground coffee, answering the phone, delivering coffee, brewing coffee, Roast Lab cleanliness, equipment cleanliness, complying with USDA, VA Department of Agriculture, CCOF and Transfair guidelines for organic certification and quality control.

Blanchard’s Coffee Co. is growing and always hopes to give employees opportunities to grow as well. The Production Assistant will have the opportunity to learn coffee roasting techniques to support the Roast Master as well as overall coffee knowledge.

To apply, please email a resume and cover letter to Stephen@blanchardscoffee.com.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

News!

Sometimes it is hard to keep this blog new and interesting because, quite frankly, we've got so much new and exciting stuff going on it usually gets swept by the wayside.
So what is keeping us so busy you ask? Well, here's a little update on what we're up to and some exciting news from the Blanchard's Coffee camp.

We've been growing as fast as we can, getting great new clients and helping some others grow.
Locally, we're providing coffee for the new localvore restaurant Selba which opened recently. It is absolutely gorgeous in there and Chef Abe has created an excellent menu.
We're excited that UofR is getting fired up again soon where we provide coffee for the Passport Cafe and Lou's. UofR is also launching a retail coffee program soon that will be roasted by Blanchards and sold on campus and in the up and coming downtown location.
Speaking of retail coffee, both Mamma Zu and Acacia offer their signature BCC blends in private-labeled retail bags so you can take some home after dinner!

Outside of Richmond we're really excited to be working with Para Coffee in Charlottesville and Java Shack in Arlington. Para Coffee is one of the most charming coffee shops we've seen in a while and it is chock full of talented baristas. Java Shack is an awesome location right in the thick of Clarendon that has been in business for over 15 years!

On a larger scale, we're very happy to be working with the nation's largest foodservice provider, Sysco Foods, to offer our coffees to high end restaurants and cafes outside of the Richmond area that might otherwise not have access to Fair Trade and Organically roasted, fresh, small-batch coffees. Despite the stigma of large, corporate goliath food companies, Sysco is a great, quality and service oriented company and we've been impressed by their excitement about our coffee, our brand, and getting us to more outlying areas.

Finally, we are very pleased to announce that our trial period at Kroger Willow Lawn in the Natural Foods section has come to an end and the corporate folks were impressed that our sales met and exceeded expectations, even while the store was under renovation. Because our 8 Fair Trade Organic coffees were so popular, they have decided to place us in 6 additional Richmond area Kroger locations! As soon as we have confirmation of the exact stores we'll announce them officially.

Obviously, we owe all of you a big Thank You because our growth and popularity is a direct result of you all drinking our coffee, talking us up to your friends and family and visiting all of the awesome restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, churches, salons and schools that proudly brew Blanchard's Coffee--we raise our mugs to you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Testamonial

Mocha Java is the classic coffee blend--one of the first known. Every roaster should have a Mocha Java out of respect to the craft. We're super proud of ours and even more proud that it is a featured coffee at the VMFA Best Cafe every single day.

Just like everyone, we always like to hear compliments. Here's one from Brenda who worked at VMFA and has this to say about the Blanchard's Coffee Co. Mocha Java:

 I was so glad that you still have Mocha Java and as soon as I am out of what I have, I shall order two bags. Best coffee ever and when I worked in the cafe at the Museum as a barista, I became a great fan as did many others. We could not keep the carafe filled.
Be ordering soon.

Brenda


Thanks Brenda!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart

The title might imply that this post has something to do with coffee being heart-healthy and there might be some factual substantive data proving as much; I can assure you it doesn't.
Coffee is good for you, thats proven, for now--it helps with blood flow, digestion, mental function, its full of antioxidents and all kinds of other great things but I didn't feel like researching all that stuff right now because I'm writing about something completely different.

We take for granted, I think, the fact that we're roasting coffee every day. The process of roasting coffee is a pretty awesome thing but when you're cranking out hundreds of pounds a day, sometimes you forget how fascinating it can be to folks who've never seen it happen.

My favorite part about roasting coffee is the reason for the "heart" part of the title; I love the smell of roasting coffee. I remember the very first batch of coffee I ever roasted years ago; I was floored when the beans came out of the roaster because the smell took me instantly back to my childhood. Nostalgia attached to smell is a very powerful thing. Coffee right out of the roaster smells just like the old time dark tobacco curing barns my father still used back then. The barns were wooden structures with dirt floors and open rafters all the way to the roof. The tobacco was hung from the rafters several stories up and then hickory fires were set below the tobacco to smoke cure it over the course of several weeks.

Still, after six years of roasting coffee, every time I swing the drum hatch open and drop the beans into the cooling tray I am reminded of how much I loved the smell of the dark tobacco barns, the crisp autumn nights tending the fires, the first year I was tall enough to climb the rafters, the community coming together to fill barns, the feel of worn tobacco sticks in your hand, the distinct sound of a stalk splitting over the spear, the soft and cool texture of the tying leaf... These are memories of a tradition exists only in museums; a set of agriculture practices that will never be used again. There are fewer and fewer people left on this earth who share these memories and understand these old-time practices. I feel fortunate to be one of those people and it makes my heart happy that every time I drop a batch of beans I get to re-live it as it all flashes through my mind's eye.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What the Heck is Chicory?

Yesterday someone asked me if Blanchard's Coffee Co. offered chicory coffee.
The answer is no, we do not offer chicory coffee.
The reason is that chicory is an additive and one of our philosophies at Blanchard's is to do our best to honor the natural, inherent characteristics of each coffee we roast. This is why we shy away from any flavor additives in general--if you like hazelnut flavors with your coffee that is perfectly fine, just add it in your cup!

That is my personal form answer to the additive and flavor question that inevitably pops up at least once or twice a day. I've been saying it for the past ten years that I've called coffee my career so I hardly even think about it anymore. That is, until yesterday when this person followed the chicory question with another: "what, exactly, is chicory anyway?"
I noted again that it was an additive, blah blah blah, but this obviously didn't answer the question with any substance so I admitted I had no earthly clue what chicory really was and I promised I would do some research and find out.

I was surprised by what my research turned up and I think many of you will be too.

Chicory is a root--I knew this much--and that root is baked slowly until it is completely dry, then it is ground and added to coffee. Originally this practice was to basically dilute the amount of coffee used because chicory root was cheaper than coffee at the time so, without drastically altering the flavor of the coffee, a good deal of money was saved. Over time, as with chicken feet and chitterlings, the folks brewing chicory coffee became attached to the flavor and thus a tradition is born.

So if chicory is a root, what is the plant that grows from it? I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two of my favorite vegetables are actually products of the chicory root: Radicchio and Endive, as well as another leafy plant called Sugarloaf are all sprouts of the chicory root. Admittedly, I don't particularly care for chicory coffee but I now have a much greater appreciation for it just knowing the plant's whole story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coffee Oddities from Abroad

As you know, we're purists when it comes to coffee; at Blanchard's we want our coffee fresh and delicious, and that pretty much sums it up.

With that said, its always fun to stumble across oddities of the vast and diverse coffee world--even if they don't meet our simple criteria for good coffee.

Our good friends Carly and Melissa, owners of The Empress on Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia recently closed down their restaurant for a much deserved summer vacation to Italy.




We were flattered when we heard they had gotten us a tiny gift--a fascinating coffee oddity from the espresso capital of the world--Pocket Espresso!

Thats right, this is a plastic cup with a foil lid similar to what holds your chicken nugget dipping sauce. Yes, that is a target dot that says "pierce here" as in with a straw--a very tiny straw that is included with the cup!




Carly and Melissa told us these little guys were everywhere and though the urge was strong to hold on to such a strange product, curiosity won us over.

Last night while out with several friends (some coffee lovers some not) we decided to taste test the Pocket Espresso.

The espresso juice-box was assembled and we were ready to taste--some one called it a ketchup tub.

First sip? Lets go with intense...

Whatever concoction is held in that little cup tastes like sucking Hersey's Syrup with the faintest hint of coffee through a straw.

Everyone had the same reaction, that of wide eyed startle!


I'm not sure I'd call Pocket Espresso "coffee"      per se, but it certainly was a great conversation starter, an interesting product and a thoughtful gift from great friends; so if you look at it that way, its just as good as any coffee.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Loss to Our Community

We were very sad to hear of the loss of one of the brightest and most talented members of the Richmond coffee community today.

As reported by Progress-Index.com, Robert Fisher, 26, was killed in a car crash early Saturday morning.

Robert was one the most talented baristas this city has ever produced. He had a passion for coffee that was evident in every drink he created.

Most recently, he exhibited his skill and creativity at Demolition Coffee in Petersburg, Virginia.

Our thoughts go out to Robert's family and friends during this time of certain shock and sadness.

--Blanchard's Coffee Co.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Road Trip

We're taking Blanchard's on the road!
Step one has been finding some out-of-towners who were willing to give Blanchard's Coffee a shot. We've found some great folks like Para Coffee in Charlottesville, VA, The Java Shack in Arlington, VA, and Waveriders in Nags Head, NC to start representing our brand and now, we're heading to the Shenandoah Valley for a huge presentation in front of hundreds of folks eager to learn about Blanchard's.

We put together this little video to go along with part of our talk and thought it'd be nice to share it with al of you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Espresso Works at Para Coffee in Charlottesville, Virginia

We're really happy to be able to roast some coffees for Para Coffee in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Para is a beautiful, successful shop on The Corner near UVA and they've made a name for themselves as a proper espresso bar serving up real, professional drinks in a great environment.

We try to spend a day or so each week at the shop working on coffee offerings, giving tastings and working with the custom espresso Para and Blanchard's designed together.

Here is a little footage from our Tuesday session; enjoy!





Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Swan Song

When I first met David Blanchard back in 2007, we were introduced by Chris Barras, current leader of the A10 faith community and the man behind Cartwheels & Coffee in Carytown. Chris was a regular of mine at Can Can, and  thought that, given my enthusiasm for coffee, I would benefit from seeing the actual roasting process. Chris picked me up in a parking lot on a Sunday evening and drove me to the Other Land known as the South Side, where we had to call David to unlock the door to let us in.

I thought, "What the Hell is going on here?" David didn't seem nearly as eccentric as the man I had pictured when I pictured someone who had a hole-in-the-wall roastery-slash-coffee-shop-that-wasn't-really-a-coffee-shop. Nor did the shop seem nearly as hole-in-the-wall once you actually got all the passwords right to get in and traverse the dark and narrow staircase leading up to it.

I guess my point is that my first Blanchard's experience was pretty mythic. So much so that I even wrote a short story about a man and his relationship with his bright red Ambex (though thankfully the real David has more integrity than that guy). I hung out in that retail space on my days off and learned to roast out of pure interest. When David & Kelly went on their annual trip to Daufuskie, he asked me to step in and roast in his absence.

Six more months passed and I ended my relationship with Can Can, seeking something not front-of-the-house oriented.  David came to me and asked me to sign on with him in preparation for Ukrop's distributing our coffee to all of their stores.

Ukrop's. Remember when?

Over the past three years, my time with Blanchard's has afforded me opportunities not only to learn about the coffee world (at one point landing me at the top of a cliff in Puerto Rico plucking my first wild coffee cherry and ripping it apart while my best friend hungrily wished I would just find our destination so she could use the bathroom and get out of the car, and another time sneaking into the Altria offices at 9pm to make sure someone got their coffee order in time), but the professional world in general. Because of these opportunities and the freedom provided by David and our many associates, I learned about all the things I really want to be doing, and most of them involve creating if-then statements encased in curly brackets.

Sadly, you can't program coffee beans. My focus on the roasting process has waned while my interests in organizing workable systems (whatever that means outside of my head) has grown. But Blanchard's Coffee Company is still a coffee company, and still churns out some of the finest coffee you've ever tasted. It's still growing and going strong, and needs strong dedication behind it to continue in that fashion.

So in June, Coffee-of-the-Monthers, you'll be drinking my Swan Song. My two favorite coffees combined. The first blend I ever designed was the FTO VoilĂ , and this, for a time anyway, is the last. It has taken three years to find these beans and recognize them as everything I want in a cup of coffee, and I hope that somehow my warm fuzzies regarding the past three years are passed on in the cup.

Next week, Jonathan's heading out to Cape Verde for two years with the Peace Corps. Our new roastmaster will start training, and I'll be slowly exiting stage left (though I still have some tricks up my sleeve which will keep me buzzing about for awhile).

Change is good, and keeps things fresh. The Swan Song is really just the start of the next chapter in the story of Blanchard's Coffee Company.

So drink up and keep brewing. It's on sale starting Monday.

-Tom

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blanchard's Coffee Co. is Hiring!

Blanchard's Coffee Co. is hiring!
Take a look at the job description and if you're interested please submit a resume and cover letter to Stephen Robertson at stephen@blanchardscoffee.com.

Big News

If you are kind enough to check our blog often, you've probably noticed that we've slacked when it comes to posting with any frequency. There are a million excuses but it all boils down to the fact that we've been very, very busy at the often awkward and always challenging art of growth.

A lot has happened in the past few months. We've worked very hard to expand our influence in the Richmond coffee world with prominent new clients like Kroger, Mamma Zu, Edo's Squid, The Empress, Crossroad's Coffee & Ice Cream and many more. We've also been working very hard on our sustainability practices, not to mention finding interesting new ways to grow with our faithful existing clients.

This has certainly been a journey and, though it has been tough at times, I think we can all agree it has been a positive experience overall. Change, somehow, always begets more change, and the Blanchard's Coffee Co. world is no exception.

Blanchard's is both saddened and elated to share the news that two gentlemen at the core of everything we do and stand for will be leaving us shortly.
Tom Thorogood, Blanchard's Roastmaster, is moving on to bigger and better things in the non-profit world. Tom was integral to Blanchard's moving from a cool, quirky small business to a highly organized, well-oiled machine. If you drink a cup of Blanchard's coffee, chances are, Tom was responsible for it; but a career is a funny thing. Gone are the days of a life-long job. Tom helped Blanchard's grow, and at the same time he grew his own ability and potential and now it is time for him to break out and do bigger, better things with the skills and experience he has developed.

Bon chance Tom!

Assistant Roastmaster, Jonathan Lesko is also parting ways with the Blanchard's Coffee Co. operations team as he just received his assignment for the Peace Corps. If Tom didn't get your coffee into your cup, it was certainly Jonathan or some combination of the two of them. Heavy on philosophy and light on stress, Jonathan has been a rock of thoughtful and focused coffee production and while we are sad to see him go, we are proud of what he's about to do (and a little jealous). For the next two years you can find him on a tiny island off the coast of West Africa earning his keep with the Peace Corps. I'm sure some day he'll be running the Fed or something, so we intend to keep him in good graces!

Change is often tough, and change is often good--for everyone. We are going to make the best of the changes we're having and turn it into something great for our company and all of our loyal customers. Get ready for great things folks, we're only getting started!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pairing Up

So often I find myself equating coffee tasting to wine tasting. This often earns me a funny look at first but after some quick explanation, most folks come to see the similarities.
Both coffee and wine engage the palate with mouth-feel, acidity, sweetness, saltiness, bouquet and aroma. The key to a great cup of coffee comes down to the same basic element as a great glass of wine: structure.

With so many similarities, it stands to reason that just like wine, coffee is at its best when paired with food.
Everyone knows that coffee and donuts (or pastry in general) is a natural pairing--this is the same principal behind adding cream and sugar to your brew. The natural fats and sugars of cream or pastry blend well with the natural oils and sugars in the coffee. There is certainly nothing wrong with the classic coffee pairings but allow me to challenge you to be more adventurous.

Here are some slightly off the cuff coffee and food pairings to try the next time you're feeling a bit daring!

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Nectarines
Ethiopian coffees, in general, are full of bright acidity that lends to flavors and aromas of citrus. The Yirgacheffe, especially, had lots of tangerine and floral notes. The next time you're enjoying a cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, peel yourself a sweet nectarine, take a bite and then wash it down with a sip of your coffee. In this case, the acidity and natural citrus notes of the coffee are enhanced by the sweet citrus of the nectarine creating a flavor burst that almost transcends the coffee flavor completely.

Brazilian Cerrado and Strawberry Ice Cream
Ok, admittedly, it is nearly impossible for coffee and ice cream to pair poorly, but usually you find coffee paired with vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Brazillian coffees, though, have a distinct natural berry characteristic. The Cerrado has hints of sweet cherry on its own, but if you pair it with sweet, creamy strawberry ice cream it becomes a decadent strawberry coffee cake sensation and the flavors just fly!

Indian Monsoon Malabar and Mushrooms
For the truly adventurous coffee drinker, break out the fungus. The Indian Monsoon Malabar is an earthy, low acidity coffee that would likely be overpowered by an acidic pairing. Indian coffees and Indonesian coffees are notably earthy so it makes sense to pair them with other earthy flavors. Though mushrooms don't naturally come to mind when thinking of your coffee break, a plain, uncooked button mushroom is the perfect pairing for the Malabar. The slightly musky and earthy flavors of the mushroom capture and enhance the natural earthiness of the coffee and they work together to create a soft, palate washing effect that will have you coming back for another try.

The world of coffee and food pairings is limited only to your imagination and willingness to try something off the wall. Take a look in your pantry or your refrigerator and pick a few uncommon items to try. Brew up a pot of your favorite coffee and let us know what hidden tasting gems you find!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Impending Web Site Outage

Hello, Blanchophiles!

In order to start developing a more dynamic web site, we're going to have to switch a couple things around. We'll be transferring our domain and setting up new hosting this weekend, so you may find that our site is down for a few hours late Friday night/early Saturday morning.

Please don't worry. Everything is fine. Nothing is ruined.

-Tom

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coffee Quote of the Day

Yesterday I spent the entire day writing a piece for another venue that focused on the importance of freshness when it comes to coffee.

Today a friend sent me a message that summed up my entire days work in one short sentence; I'll share it with you now.

Think of coffee like tuna, would you like it fresh or out of a can?


Thanks @RVAFoodie

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Of Garages and Crossroads

Our first batch of coffee was roasted in January 2005. I often joke that a child never fully moves out of their parents’ house. This fact will forever be written in stone for me. One week before our first coffee roaster was delivered, our lease fell apart. In true form, I now had a new business without a home. So, I did what I always did…I called my Dad! One week later, an eighteen wheeler stopped in front of my childhood home where my brother-in-law and I lifted a 1,000 lb crate with a pallet jack and wheeled it down the driveway to the garage. Two hours and 10 propane fittings later, we had fire!   

The last six years have been incredible. What was started as a passion and hobby has become an actual business! Blanchard’s Coffee Co. did end up moving from my father’s garage, but we are still a family business. I am grateful to have employees who are friends, believe in Blanchard’s and love coffee as much as I do. You really can’t teach passion; you either have it or you don’t.

Today marks a big day for the Richmond coffee world. Six years ago when I was roasting in the garage, I decided to go on my first sales call and I picked Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream. I would like to say that my relentless pursuit sealed the deal, but it didn’t. Today is not about pursuit, it is about coffee and passion. Today is about two Richmond coffee companies realizing that the sum of their two businesses creates something greater than what they are apart. Passion is an interesting energy, isn’t it? Passion needs fuel and unfortunately doesn't generate its own inertia. It needs ideas, creatively, affirmation, and support. Passion needs continual reinvention. Blanchard’s and Crossroads: coffee passion.

Contributed by David Blanchard

Monday, February 28, 2011

Warm Weather Coffee

If you're like me, the weather drastically affects your eating and drinking habits; once the mercury tops the 80 degree mark I find myself living on fresh vegetables, the occasional piece of grilled meat, chilled white wine and, of course, cold-brew iced coffee.
Today, in Richmond, we're not going to top 80 degrees (thank goodness, because it is still February) but we'll get pretty darn close. The unseasonably warm forecast has gotten me thinking about interim climate coffee; those days in the early spring and autumn when a cool damp morning lends to a hot cup of coffee but warm afternoons might discourage that three o'clock booster.
During these climate-confused months I generally tend to lean towards sticking with hot coffee; though I'm not sure exactly why, I think it comes down to the more ritualistic nature of preparing hot coffee, not to mention the steam and aroma factor. Still, I find my deep-winter obsession with full bodied brews and dark roasts ends up leaving me wishing I had gone the way of the Oscars and opted for afternoon tea instead of weighing down with heavy coffee.

The answer? I certainly have no desire to give up on coffee while waiting for South of the James Farmer's Market iced coffee season to begin, so I turn to my roster of light-bodied, brightly acidic coffees to keep the hot, but not heavy java flowing. I am an unabashed lover of all coffees African but though most African beans share a floral, fruity character, they don't all fit the mold of "light". For this, I turn to a perennial Blanchard's favorite, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The Blanchard's Yirgacheffe is the perfect spring-time coffee with a bright, almost sparkling acidity and notes of sweet flowers and tangerine. The Yirg is one of the most aromatic coffees readily available and simply begs you to have another cup--something you probably won't regret! I also fall back on another, sometimes less touted, Blanchard's favorite, the Fair-trade Organic Peruvian. The FTO Peru is, as Blanchard's own Joe O'Hallaron says, "just a great cup of coffee". I agree with Joe, this is the kind of coffee anyone can love just about any time of day. Why is it so enjoyable? Peruvian coffee is extremely balanced in acidity, sweetness and the nutty character so many South American coffees exhibit. The effervescent acidity sparkles off the tongue and I always end up not only satisfied, but refreshed.

So when you're nodding off at your desk this afternoon wishing you were outside enjoying the warm pre-spring day (considering we're not amidst forecasted tornados and deluge), don't let overbearing palate busting coffees discourage you from your afternoon cup; branch out and discover the world of light bodied, brightly acidic coffees--you'll be glad you've discovered these gems once we're in the throes of Richmond heat.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coffee & Technology

We don't use a ton of cutting edge technology when producing fresh Blanchard's coffee for you; it really comes down to fire and air. We are, however, very eager to find cool new ways to do what we love to do the most: talk to anyone and everyone about our great, fresh roasted coffee.

We really like the idea of using tons of different types of media to reach folks who might want to learn more about our coffees or follow what we're doing in the social media worlds of Facebook, Twitter & more. With that in mind, we're starting to play with QR Codes.
Here is an example of the first one we created:



Here's how it works: If you have a smartphone you can download a free app that will read bar codes and QR codes; I personally like ShopSavvy because it is also an interactive shopping tool that helps me find the lowest prices on items I scan. Once you have the app you simply scan this code and it redirects you to a page we associate with the code. This one, as you'll see when you scan it, takes you to a generic page we created that allows you to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, view a short video of our roaster in action and visit our website.

Eventually you'll start to see these on coffee bags and signage in all the places you find our coffee. Each type of coffee will have its own code that will tell you about the coffee you've chosen, give you ways to interact with us and that product like tasting notes or brewing tips, and perhaps offer special deals with the product and the location you've scanned it. It is sort of like a coffee education adventure!

Keep you eye out for codes popping up anywhere you find Blanchard's coffee, and happy scanning!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blanchard's Coffee Co. News!

We've been very busy at Blanchard's Coffee Co. for the past few weeks and lots of exciting things are on the horizon. We really appreciate all of our loyal fans and followers and we want to keep you informed about all the neat stuff we're getting into... well maybe not all of it, just the PG-13 stuff!

First up, we're super excited to roll out this year's first RVA Barista Jam this Wednesday, February 23rd from 6-8:00pm at Ellwood's Cafe in Carytown. If you've never been to an RVA Barista Jam event you should definitely check it out. Baristas compete in the skills of their trade while we watch, drink good coffee and wine, and hob-nob with other coffee loving folks. Get all the details at the RVA Barista Jam website or email rvabaristajam@gmail.com with specific questions.

Blanchard's is showing up in some new spots, places we're VERY excited to partner with on various coffee projects. Some of the new places to enjoy a cup of fresh roasted Blanchard's coffee are still top secret but we'll tell you what we can for now. Mamma Zu's and Edo's Squid are now proudly brewing their own Mamma Zu's blend roasted here at Blanchard's; amazing food and awesome coffee, what a pair! You can buy our retail coffee beans at Tom Leonard's Market in the West End now, go check out our brand new coffee display front and center as you walk through the door; we're beside the beautiful pineapples! We are also providing retail coffee for Longhorn and Lager in Midlothian and Farm to Family wherever the bus goes! We're also happy to be brewing coffee at The Lounge Bar & Grill and Addis Ethiopian Restaurant in the Bottom. There are a lot more exciting places to have a cup of Blanchard's Coffee coming soon; we'll keep you posted.

Finally, we're hosting a silent auction benefitting the River City Cycling Collective that features wares of local artisans the evening of March 4th. We're also having a gathering with live music, coffee and good friends of coffee, get all the details at the Blanchard's Coffee Community Site.

We're looking forward to seeing you at all of these neat places and events. Come out, say hi and find out why we're the coolest coffee company in Richmond!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Coffee Tip::Getting Green

At Blanchard's Coffee Co. we pride ourselves in being fairly kind to the environment even though our daily roasting does crank out some smoke on to Forest Hill Avenue. Is that causing harm? Likely a little bit but we work hard to make up for that in other ways. People say the movement towards greening businesses is a toothless fad that doesn't hold a lot of true meaning or value; this may be true for oil giants and manufacturing companies but in small business a little bit of effort can go a long way. We're already doing a lot but we can do a lot more.

Current Efforts
We recycle everything we can. As much as we'd love to be a paperless business, we end up having to print out orders to keep everything straight, so we make sure those print-outs get to a recycling facility.

We are huge proponents of the re-use strategy; here are some things we currently re-use until they're completely destroyed: boxes, coffee bags, cups, java jackets and containers of all sorts.

We also love to repurpose a lot of our waste. Burlap bags that are used to ship green coffee, make excellent display material for many of our clients who creatively merchandise our products. We also end up with a lot of bio-mass from roasting and brewing coffee which we offer for free to home gardeners and farmers.

Plans to do Better
Our first order of business is to switch all of our disposable paper products to Green Duck Compostables so our paper footprint isn't as extensive.
One of our biggest initiatives this year is the idea of bringing together local businesses, crafts-people and community members to promote and support local happenings and causes. This is sort of a far reaching project that includes a ton of different avenues. For example, we will be sponsoring and hosting events such as our upcoming Community Night in the Roastery that brings folks into the Blanchard's roastery for a fun evening with coffee, other beverages, food and a silent auction featuring local crafts-people benefiting a local organization. We are also ramping up for a great 2011 RVA Barista Jam season beginning with our first event on 23 February 2011 at Ellwood's Cafe from 6:00-8:00pm. This year we're kicking up the event with raffle prizes and a slightly different format but it still promises to be great coffee-social fun!
We're also working on creative ways to bring the coffee community of Richmond together to support more sustainable business practices. Collectively, all of the coffee businesses in town put a lot of coffee related bio-mass in the garbage. At the same time, many local farmers are paying for similar bio-mass to aerate their soil or feed their composts. We aim to organize as many coffee houses and roasters in town as possible to set their bio-waste aside to be picked up and donated to local farmers. Heck, if we're lucky we might even get a few vegetables out of the deal!

We're probably just at the tip of the iceberg of what we could do to make our operation more sustainable and green, so our ears and eyes are always open to ideas and suggestions to make our community and our world a little better.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sneak Peak

What do coffee people do while riding shotgun from Richmond to Rockville, MD? Make coffee videos of course! Here's a little look at what we do at Blanchard's every day. That happy looking guy dropping the beans is Jonathan; say hi to him sometime soon.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Music & Coffee, a Perfect Pair

For those of you who are not twitter active, much of this post will seem strange to you.

A few weeks ago I was panning through my personal twitter feed and I noticed a tweet from @rvafoodie mentioning that a well known indie band, The Mates of State ( @thematesofstate ) were lovers of great coffee and they had thrown out a twitter all-points-bulletin for fresh roasted coffee.
To be honest, I could never be considered a "super-fan" of the band; not because they don't deserve it, I just feel that after a certain number of years, it is hard to get obsessed over new bands because there are so many great acts out there. All of this, of course, is beside the point; I do love interacting with musicians because they take me back to my college days on stage--so on a whim, I shot @thematesofstate a message telling them that @drinkblanchards fresh roasts coffee daily, we love music, and... well, lets talk.

I spent the next few minutes brushing up on my The Mates of State knowledge and catalog. It seems they're a talented duo from San Francisco currently living in the north east making records and, seemingly, drinking coffee. On their website they have a few songs available for free download. My favorite is a cover from an album of covers called "True Love Will Find You in the End" by Daniel Johnston. Their website was nice and led to Youtube videos to find that this duo is absolutely beautiful and charming; just the kind of folks you want drinking your awesome coffee and writing catchy tunes right? I think so. I went ahead and downloaded their album of covers, called "Crushes" from iTunes because I'm obsessive like that, and then I started contacting other twitter friends to find out if they'd ever heard of @thematesofstate so I could brag that I was going to send them coffee.

Many of my friends knew and loved the band so my ego was thoroughly satisfied until, to my surprise, @thematesofstate contacted me on twitter! Wow! A real band member from a real famous band talking to a coffee nerd from Richmond, Virginia! I felt cooler than cool, minus the fact that I couldn't claim this good fortune as a singular act on my part... I owed the idea and the contact information to @rvafoodie (he gets all the great press, that guy). Still, I was pretty smug because @thematesofstate were TOTALLY in to the idea of getting some fresh roasted coffee from a craft-roastery in Richmond, Virginia.

The Deal: The Mates of State and I struck up a little deal; we decided that the members of Blanchard's Coffee Co. needed a care package just like the Mates needed one too, so we orchestrated a trade. I would send them some fresh roasted coffee, they would send us some swag; they would talk us up to their fans, I would talk them up to our fans--brilliant!

The trade was made and we received some great, colorful tee shirts, and a gaggle of CDs while they got a lovely gift box of assorted fresh roasted Blanchard's Coffee. I listened to @thematesofstate all the way to Delaware not long ago and the "Crushes" CD is still in my car's CD player. I was delighted to see that @thematesofstate had posted on their twitter feed that they were enjoying some @drinkblanchards Dark as Dark, one of our most popular coffees. What a great trade!

Some might ask, what was actually gained here? Will @thematesofstate or @drinkblanchards get any new loyal followers because of this short partnership? Maybe, maybe not; but one thing is certain, we've all made a long distance connection over two of my favorite things--music and coffee. Music and coffee are both social ignitors, sparking the flame of conversation, dialog and interaction. This is part of the reason I left music to live in the world of coffee; it is a natural progression (to chance a pun). I'm so very happy that painfully attractive duo up north enjoyed a few cups of our @drinkblanchards coffee because it was roasted, bagged and delivered with love; and I know they feel the same about their music.

The moral of the story? Thats simple, if you haven't listened to @thematesofstate or had a cup of @drinkblanchards coffee, get on the ball; we're all cool, passionate, interesting people and you'll be glad you gave us a shot.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Filters

Coffee filters are one of those ubiquitous kitchen items that every single person in the world (who has a kitchen) can most likely identify. Cone shaped, traditional flat bottom, it doesn't matter; close your eye and I bet you'll picture one right away.

I was talking coffee with some folks recently and an old-timer said "I hate drinking drip coffee because I always taste the paper first." I thought this was a funny thing to say but it got me thinking... and then it got me experimenting, and now its gotten me writing.

Maybe this is a bit picky, but when you spend as much time drinking coffee as I do, picky is a necessity; that old-timer was right--I could taste the filter. I brewed the same coffee with several different methods, some with a standard white filter and some with no filter. White paper filters definitely have a flavor; its not necessarily a bad or offensive flavor, but its there. I realized that once I could pick out the flavor of the filter, it began to annoy the heck out of me.

What to do? It isn't always practical to use filterless brewing methods and my home coffee maker doesn't have one of those nifty metal filters; I'm sure some of you are in the same boat? This led to further experimentation and I found that that paper flavor wasn't as much paper as it was white paper. I find that the bleached white paper has a much more noticeable flavor that isn't nearly as prevalent with unbleached, natural fiber filters. So that is the coffee tip today, try your own experiment--use a filterless system as the control and then brew with bleached versus unbleached filters; taste the difference and let me know what you find!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::If not Mr. Coffee, then what?

After posting about how to make the best of your glass-pot, Mr. Coffee style coffee brewer without burning your brew I received a lot of questions about what brewer you should buy if you're planning to upgrade. Personally, I always lean towards manual brewing methods such as the Chemex, a Bodum Press or a siphon pot, but admittedly, I don't brew coffee at home every morning because we always have coffee at the roastery. Manual brew methods tend to present the very best flavors in the cup but they tend to be messy and time consuming--two factors most folks don't want to have to navigate before work while getting the kids ready for school and ensuring the recycling gets to the curb. For those of you living that section of the American dream, it makes sense to have an automatic coffee brewer so I've put together a few options to give you the best cup of coffee at home with the least amount of cost.


My favorite home coffee maker is the Cuisinart 12 Cup Digital Brewer sold at most retail establishments with kitchen products. This brewer is at the top of my list because is simple and highly functional. The water temperature gets up to around 195F (most home brewers don't), it uses a thermal carafe instead of glass+burner, the digital timer functions are easy to use and the design is unobtrusive and compact. At an average price of $100-120, it is on the more expensive side for a home brewer but my personal experience is that this machine lasts for many years and brews consistently as long as you keep it clean and use filtered water for each brew.

Of course, no one likes to purchase a product without having options so here are a couple more home brewers that get the job done consistently and embody most of the same features and benefits as the Cuisinart. The Melitta 10 cup thermal brewer is a good option at a slightly lower price. Melitta is a well respected company in the coffee world but at this point, the Melitta coffee equipment company that garnered such respect is not actually making these machines; the company has expanded so rapidly over the past several years that they outsource all of these small machines to some large manufacturer. The machine works well but I find it doesn't have the long-term life span of the Cuisinart.
I happen to love the BUNN BTX-B thermal coffee maker because it is the closest you can get to a commercial pour-over brewer without actually buying one. This brewer is about the same price as the Cuisinart but boasts a notable advantage; a standing water reservoir which provides much more stable and consistent brew temperatures. Unfortunately, it is ugly as sin and most folks wouldn't want it in their garage, much less on their granite counter tops!

The most important thing to consider when choosing a home coffee maker is to treat the purchase as an investment; not only in the equipment that you hope will last several years, but in the quality of the coffee you brew. Sub-par equipment is ok if you're brewing Folgers out of the can, but when you're investing your hard earned money in high quality coffee it only makes sense to ensure it is being brewed correctly so every cup is as good as it can be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another Great Use for Coffee Bags

Coffee sacks are great things. We've used them for everything from wrapping paper to floor mats in our car. Sometimes people send us other uses they've crafted for them. This one just came our way:



I was also going to impress you all with my knowledge to let you know that the bag in the photo is in fact one that contained coffee from Brasil, but they show you that later in their blog entry.

If you're interested in making this or other things  from coffee sacks, you can grab them from us M-F between 8am and 1:30pm. (HINT: They're free)

-tom


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Mr. Coffee

I could write an entire series of coffee tips on the best coffee brewing method to give you a great, flavorful cup, but the truth is, most of us already have a coffee brewer of some type. More than likely the coffee brewer that is at your house cost you at least $30-40, some of you a whole lot more. Unless you're totally obsessed with coffee extraction and the gadgetry that produces it, you're probably not eager to upgrade (or downgrade) your equipment until there is a true need, i.e. breakage. With that in mind, I think it is more relevant to help you get the best cup of coffee out of the equipment you already have.

Today, lets talk about the Mr. Coffee. Now Mr. Coffee is obviously a brand of coffee maker but it is an easy way to describe the style; you've all seen it--plastic body, flip top lid, basket in the front, water hole in the back, glass pot and burner. Most folks either own one of these brewers or they did at one time whether made by Mr. Coffee or one of the other myriad coffee maker brands. This brewer does a fine job of brewing coffee--sure there are better methods out there but for a $30 piece of equipment that will last for years under steady use, it really can't be beat.

The problem with this brewer arises after the coffee is brewed; the burner. Just say the name: burner; that is exactly what it does--it burns coffee. I hate the idea of coffee sitting in a glass pot on a burner. Coffee is delicate, even after it is brewed, and it needs to be babied a bit to keep it fresh and delicious. When I brew coffee in the glass pot brewer I try to brew in small batches. First of all, those little brewers perform better at about a half a pot or less; they don't really have the capacity to consistently brew twelve cups of coffee as the manual would have you believe. I would much rather brew a second small pot of coffee than have half a pot sit on the eye, burning and getting stale waiting to ruin my cup. If brewing several smaller batches doesn't suit your routine, however, another great solution for keeping your coffee fresh, hot and delicious is probably sitting in your ice-cold car right now. Just about every coffee drinker in the country has at least one or two thermal travel mugs these days; I have a whole cabinet devoted to them. If you have the double-walled stainless steel type you're in great shape because this type of thermal container is designed to keep coffee hot for hours without subjecting it to any heat source. Pour your cup of coffee and then transfer the rest of the pot to your travel mug and close the lid; when you're ready to refill your cup your coffee will taste fresh and delicious, not burnt and stale.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Dark or Light?

It seems there is a fair amount of misconception out there in the coffee drinking world about the differences between dark and light roasted coffees so lets explore the myths and the facts.
First of all, what is the difference between light and dark roast? Of course, a lot depends on the type of bean but in general, a dark roast is roasted longer than a light roast.
Now, what does that mean for our cup of coffee?

Most people associate a dark roasted coffee to a strong cup of coffee and it is assumed that the strong cup of coffee will wake you up and get you going because it is obviously chock full of caffeine. This is myth number one. The longer a coffee bean spends in the roaster, the more natural caffeine burns off and the less is left in your cup. I like to compare dark coffee to dark beer like Guinness; it has a huge flavor and a relatively weak punch. On the other side of that coin, however, is the notion that mentally, a big, dark and flavorful cup of coffee is such a burst that it still tends to wake you up by shear force.

Another misconception is that dark roasted coffee is higher in acid. Though this is a sweeping generalization and depends heavily on the natural acid content of each coffee bean, it is most often the case that darker roasted coffee has less acidity than lighter roasted coffee for the same reason as above; a longer roast burns away more acid. Still, people often notice that dark roasted coffee is hard on their stomach; this is likely due the type of bean or higher levels of carbon, not acidity due to roasting process.

Lighter roasted coffee often highlights more of the natural flavor nuances of the specific coffee bean which come from the oils, acids and fibers inside. Each variety of coffee bean can be best highlighted with different roast levels but in general, the darker the roast-the less nuance and the more "smokiness". Choosing coffee strictly by dark or light roast leaves out a lot of important characteristics that might lead to a more enjoyable cup. Ask your barista or your roaster to help guide you to a coffee that fits all of your coffee needs--for my cup, I like a medium roast, full bodied, medium acidity coffee with fruit forward flavors and a cocoa mouth-feel; this usually ends up being a central or eastern African bean such as the Blanchard's Ethiopian Harrar.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Travel

There was no Daily Coffee Tip yesterday because I was traveling; driving, in fact, for the larger part of the day. With a total of around ten hours of highway time logged this weekend, I had plenty of time to think about coffee on the road; a subject fresh in my mind as I threw loathing glances at the 32oz Diet Coke that sat in place of a delicious cup of fresh roasted coffee. Though my companion and I certainly tried, we couldn't find a decent cup that met our needs (close to the travel route and easily accessible), despite the fact that we traversed three states and several major metropolitan areas. My contemplation led me to this conclusion: If you insist on drinking great, fresh roasted coffee even when you're traveling, you will have to plan ahead and take matters into your own hands.

The first order of business is packing enough ground coffee to last your trip. If you follow my advice you're going to be doing a lot of press pot coffee so if you're used to brewing in a home coffee brewer you'll find you use a bit more ground coffee in the press.
I like to hit the road with a full cup of coffee in my travel mug; in this case use whatever is most convenient at home to fill up before you leave. If your trip is like mine and you'll be on the highway for five hours, you're probably going to want a refresher a few hours into the trip. Without a long, out of the way sojourn to find quality local coffee houses, your choices are basically Starbucks or convenience store--not good. This is where I advocate this little gem, the Bodum travel press. This press acts like your travel mug except it has a press pot stem built in. I preload mine with ground coffee before I leave the house so when I'm ready for a new cup of coffee I can pull over to a gas station and fill my press with hot water (for free) and in four minutes, I've got hot, fresh, french press coffee. I do recommend pouring your coffee into your other travel mug when you're done brewing, otherwise the coffee can over extract. If you need another cup you can repeat the process though this leads to some awkward public restroom press pot cleaning, but then, no price is too high for good coffee right?

Hopefully your ending destination has normal coffee brewing capabilities so you can mirror your pre-trip routine. If not I recommend another neat Bodum product, the Young Press. This press pot still uses the standard Bodum glass beaker but it has a durable protective shell unlike all the other models. This shell is perfect for traveling because it drastically reduces the risk of breakage. If you're stuck at a hotel with bad coffee and in-room brewers designed to only brew paper pods of sad stale coffee, just throw some fresh roasted coffee you brought from home into your Young Press, scurry downstairs to the "continental breakfast" and ask nicely to fill your pot with hot water. You might get a funny look or two but what you won't get is a let-down in your cup.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Grind

A coffee-crazed Blanchard's fan just asked, "what grind setting do I need and why?"
Good question, lots of answers.

Grinding is very important and often gets overlooked; this begins with the fact that many of us end up buying pre-ground coffee. How do we know if that coffee was ground specifically for our brewing method? We don't. Most of the time, a coffee producer will grind the pre-packaged stuff at a medium, middle of the road setting, likely giving you a medium, middle of the road result--bor-ring!

The best case scenario is to buy your coffee in whole bean form at your favorite coffee house and ask them to grind at your preferred setting. If you buy your coffee at a place that doesn't offer that service you can always take it to a coffee shop and if you buy a cup of coffee and ask nicely, they'll probably grind your beans for you. Notice I didn't say grind at home; I know, I know, grinding at home makes you a coffee-pro and generally amazing--but for my unorthodox opinion on this subject, read this.

So how does grind matter and what grind should you get?
Simply, grind controls the speed at which water passes over coffee pieces; thus, grind controls extraction. The smaller the pieces, the slower water can pass through it--more water spends more time in contact with more coffee surface. Too high of a surface to water to time ratio gives you over extracted coffee (astringent, acidic, bitter, unpalatable); too low of the same ratio gives you under extracted coffee (weak, sharp, under-flavored, lacking in complexity and structure).

Here are some basic settings:
If you have a plain old flat bottomed filter brewer you need the generic "drip coffee" setting. Most American made grinders put this around a number 7 and generally label it "drip coffee". The grind should look like the consistency of coarse sand or grits (if you know what that looks like).

Cone shaped filters are more efficient at letting water pass over and through coffee grinds and the process must be slowed in this situation--I will note that cone filters tend to make a better extraction than flat filters because more water touches all of the coffee and the ratio mentioned above is closer to ideal. To slow down the cone extraction process you need a slightly finer grind; once again it will be labeled "cone filter" or around number 5.

French press and other manual, filterless brewing systems need a coarser grind, mainly because you want to reduce sludge in the brew pot but also because the coffee stays in contact with the water and you quickly run the risk of over extraction--coarser grind slows this process. This grind should look the consistency of rock salt that you would throw on your walk way.

Espresso machines and Bialetti pots require a fine grind because you are drawing an extraction from a very small amount of coffee in a short period of time, therefore you need to maximize the surface to water to time ratio. There is a difference between Turkish grind and fine espresso grind. Turkish grind is pure powder--about the consistency of cornstarch--and it will basically liquify giving you Turkish coffee (or what I call sludge). This is does NOT espresso make says I. Espresso grind has the consistency of fine corn meal and is still allowing a pass-through extraction. Ideally, if you dropped the cash to buy a real espresso machine, you sprung for a grinder as well and in that case, you just need to find a coffee pro to teach you how to adjust it. If you have a "toy" espresso machine, good luck and best wishes to you.

This may all seem a bit ridiculous, I know, its just ground coffee right? Wrong; but as the venerable Lavar Burton would say, "you don't have to take my word for it!" Get enough coffee to brew a batch in whatever you use and have it ground on the other end of the spectrum from what you need. Brew the coffee and then compare to the correct method. I guarantee you'll see a pretty drastic difference--from there it is, as always, all up to your tastes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Honey

I am a coffee purest--some have even said I'm a fundamentalist (but that just gives me the willies). It is all true though; you'll find that most seasoned coffee industry folks prefer to keep the milk and sugar out of their coffee unless they're working on latte craft, inventing some complicated elixir with an arduous ingredient list that still, somehow, evokes the nature of the foundational coffee. Yes, outside of those circumstances, I like a nice ristretto espresso or a well-extracted cup of drip coffee with no frills or additions. I do not, however, criticize those of you who do like to add cream and sugar (because I'm a purest, not a snob). You're drinking coffee, however you like to do it, and when someone loves coffee they're on my team, no matter what they do with it.

I will admit, every once in a while, I get a craving for some sweetness in my coffee; I think it goes back to my college days when I became obsessed with Thai coffee. I was finding that when I got these cravings and started dosing my brew with regular sugar or raw sugar it never got to the sweetness or flavor I was looking for. I would then end up disappointed and annoyed, wondering why I gave in to a craving I knew would end badly. Because of this, I figured out a different way to sweeten my coffee that met my craving and turns out to be much more healthy, in many ways, than plain old sugar; honey.

People always associate honey with tea, like when you have a sore throat, but not as often with coffee. Well, I'm here to tell you honey and coffee go together swimmingly. Honey has the ability to be very sweet without being cloyingly sweet. Honey has lots of vitamins, enzymes, antioxidents and the like that help with allergies, hangovers, digestion and all sorts of other things; plus, honey is natural and sustainable and especially good if you get some that is locally produced. So if you're a sweetened coffee addict or just an occasional dabbler like me, try it with honey in your next cup and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::How to Store Coffee

Even in this era of rise of coffee culture I constantly run across folks who are ruining their coffee by how and where they store it. There are a lot of myths out there about what is best to keep coffee beans fresh so lets get it straight right here, right now.

Do NOT store coffee in the refrigerator.

Do NOT store coffee in the freezer.

I know you've been taught the opposite but think about this critically for a moment. Coffee flavor comes from delicate oils and other bio-matter. Oil has one definite enemy--water--and your cold storage boxes are FULL of moisture. Every time you open the door, you ruin your coffee. Coffee is also super absorbent and it likes to replace the delicate oils you're drawing out with fun air-born molecules like the vapor we know as onion smell. Thats right, keep your coffee in the fridge, toss in a funky onion and BAM, you have onion flavored coffee--gross.

Store your coffee much like you might store a potato--in a cool, dark, dry place; I prefer to use the cabinet where I keep weird orphan dishes. I do NOT recommend the spice cabinet which makes organization sense, but remember that whole absorbent thing? It works the same way with Old Bay seasoning. As far as containers go, you can usually just the bag the coffee comes in but an air-tight Tupperware is always good, especially if you will have the beans for more than a week.

Now go to the kitchen and take your onion coffee out of the box and keep it out! You can take the batteries out as well, the cold air is drastically shortening their lifespan.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why Do You Love coffee?

Have you ever noticed that almost everyone has a story about how they came to love coffee? Like wine, fois gras and lox with capers; coffee is one of those flavors most folks dislike at first blush. It usually takes some sort of odd childhood moment of happenstance to set the hook of obsession and, oddly enough, it is almost always a social catalyst and has nothing to do with caffeine.

Here is my story.
As is often the case, my parents worked when I was a little kid. My grandmother lived next door to our house so my parents had a free babysitter and I got to hang out with Gwaw (a family "grandma" name). Like any little kid I played outside a lot and played with my toys a lot too; but my favorite part of the days with Gwaw started around 10:00am when she sat down for her mid-morning snack and the beginning of the day's soap opera. The snack was usually buttered toast, percolated coffee and fruit. I was in love with this snack. The smell of coffee and toast as the narrator, under dramatic strings, said "...and like sands through the hour glass...", was intoxicating. Every single day I was as excited as any kid would be over gobstoppers and matchbox cars, but my obsession was the way Gwaw taught me to eat my buttered toast--dipped in coffee. There was, and still is something indescribable about that mixture of coffee, butter, toasted Wonder Bread and the textures of crispy and soft. From time to time I still sneak a dip of toast in my coffee when no one is looking. I know I have my grandmother to thank for many things, but my favorite legacy of hers is the passion for coffee she inadvertently instilled in me.

When we're working with new coffee houses or teaching community coffee classes we often start the session with a little ice-breaker, asking everyone to introduce themselves and tell everyone about their first coffee experience. Lets do that in the internet world--tell us about your first cup of coffee!