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)


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!

Daily Coffee Tip::Re-Use

There can potentially be a lot of waste surrounding coffee. There are coffee bags, cups, lids, creamer packaging filters and even used coffee itself. Its sort of staggering to think how much trash we create just to brew our morning coffee. Luckily, with a very little bit of effort, we can drastically reduce the amount of coffee waste that goes in the garbage can--it can even save us some cash!

  • The coffee bag is one of the worst culprits of the waste problem. Think about it, you're probably trashing upwards of 50 or more bags per year, that is a lot! Usually there is nothing wrong with the bag when you throw it away so why not keep it and re-use? Most stores sell bulk coffee now so you can take your old bag and refill. Some shops like TaZa Coffee and Creams even offer you a discount on your purchase when you bring your own bag!
  • When the earth dies, it will probably have choked on Starbucks cups; just take a look at how many paper cups they contribute to landfills every day! Go out to Target and pick up a few fun thermal mugs and refuse to use paper cups. You will often get a discount at your favorite cafe and you will have the comfort of knowing there is one less cup in the dump.
  • Gardens love coffee! Never throw your spent coffee grounds in the trash--you don't even need a compost heap to reap the benefits of spent coffee--just sprinkle it in the flower bed with your acid loving plants. If you don't have plants then start a little container full of grinds on your porch and offer it to that crazy neighbor with the jungle on the patio; you might make a new friend!
  • Getting spent coffee out of that wet paper filter is a messy hassle right? make sure to buy compostable filters such as hemp filters. There isn't a drastic price increase and you'll have better tasting coffee (most white paper filters are bleached and bleach is not very tasty).
  • Condiments are tricky, they always come in some sort of plastic container so the best thing to do is buy bulk containers when possible. Stay away from individual serving sugars or creamers to reduce the number of things you toss in the trash.
We could keep coffee to almost a zero-waste product but for the most part, we're lazy. The best way to fight laziness is to offer financial incentive. If you follow all the steps above you will save $50 to $60 per year on your coffee expenditures. Sure, that isn't a staggering amount of cash, but I guarantee if someone gave you a $50 bill you wouldn't turn it down; so go out there, save the environment and dream of what you'll do with all those extra dollars!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Don't Stock Up

As you probably know, at Blanchard's Coffee Co. we believe that fresh coffee is the best coffee. We use all the resources at our disposal to ensure you get the freshest coffee possible when you buy a bag of Blanchard's and then it is in your hands. One of the ways you can be sure you're drinking fresh, delicious coffee is to buy your beans in small quantities.
Unless you live in some remote wilderness cabin only accessible by snowmobile or pack dogs, there is no real reason to bulk-buy your coffee--sure, I know you don't want to run out and be left coffee-less on a Wednesday morning so a little simple planning is in order. Lets be honest, chances are you're visiting your coffee shop or grocery store at least twice a week so it isn't out of your way to pick up a small amount of coffee at least twice a week.
Buying small quantities of your favorite beans means you will likely use them before air, moisture and light  begin to destroy the oils that give your coffee flavor. The longer your coffee sits waiting to be brewed the less it will taste like the fresh roasted bean you purchased, and no one wants flat, boring coffee right?
So the next time you find yourself holding five pounds of Dark as Dark in the line at Ellwood Thompson Market, take pause; try going with one pound, or maybe even a half pound. When you're back in a couple days to pick up some kombucha or Legend Barleywine, pick up another bag; I think you'll see an improvement in the flavor of each cup. Besides, we really like seeing you around more often!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Try It Naked

Stop right there!
Go ahead and pull your mind out of the gutter and button that shirt-button back up; I am in no way advocating the production or consumption of your morning coffee in the nude (unless you are a seasoned nudist that is, then you're on your own). More appropriately, I am challenging everyone who doctors up their coffee to taste their brew "naked" before adding the Splenda and hazelnut-fat-free-cream-substitute-product. I know you like your coffee that way and I'm not really suggesting you make any major changes, yet. On the contrary, I'd like you to alter the way you think about tasting coffee, just for a moment.

Lets go crazy and pretend that instead of a hot cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, you're face to face with a couple ounces of nice Bordeaux. Now, even if you weren't a wine drinker and you were just tasting it to find out what its all about you certainly wouldn't pour Sprite in the glass to make it taste closer to the Boone's Farm you're used to (ok, maybe that was harsh, I apologize). You would give this classy glass of fine wine a good sniff, swish and swallow and at least humor the idea that you might find interesting fruit flavors, acidic undertones and fascinating palate textures. You still might not care for the wine enough to drudge through a whole glass without the Sprite, but you'd give it the fair shake it is due.

Coffee deserves the exact same tasting love as a fine wine. Many of the characteristics that can be pulled by an expertly roasted quality coffee bean are identical to those of a fine wine. Coffee and wine both share acids, sugars, oils, tannins and other dissolved solids; the only true differences are coffee is hot and wine is alcohol. Even the method of tasting is the same (sniff, swirl, sip, slurp, swish, swallow & savor). So I encourage you to take a chance tasting your coffee "naked" before you spruce it up. You may be surprised to find that different coffees have totally different characteristics without cream and sugar. You'll also find that some coffees blend with the cream and sugar in totally different ways. Who knows, you may discover that there are a few coffees out there that you like better without all the fixin's!

A Perfect Match

As you probably know, Blanchard's Coffee Co. is a certified organic coffee roaster. This means that not only are many of our coffees certified as organic at the farm level, but we, as a roaster, have a certified organic production. We feel this is important in demonstrating our commitment to natural and sustainable production of great, fresh coffee.

We pride ourselves in partnering with companies and organizations that share this commitment and vision as often as possible. With that in mind we are extremely excited to announce the beginning of what we hope will be a long and successful partnership with Farm to Family, an organization for which we've always had the utmost respect. If you are not familiar with what Farm to Family does I suggest you visit their website, though the scope of their work and influence might make for a long read so it is best to go out to their retail space in Mechanicsville or find them on one of their Farm to Family busses and strike up a conversation with owners Mark and Suzi Lilly.

The Farm to Family folks will be offering Blanchard's fresh roasted coffee for sale on the busses and at the retail location. Coffee will also soon be available as a part of the CSA program. We are also proud to share the coffee space with another local coffee roaster, Lamplighter Roasting Company, who are great friends and talented roasters.

Moving forward, we plan to work together on some fun cool projects like "Coffee Pop-Ups" where we will piggy-back on the Farm to Family bus and offer coffee tastings and short classes on tasting coffee and the agriculture behind the brew we love so much.
If you haven't had the pleasure to see what Farm to Family has to offer, consider this your invitation. Don't forget to let Mark and Suzi know we sent you!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Daily Coffee Tip::Love Your Mug

You have a favorite coffee mug right? Mine is a little worse for wear but it has the perfect handle with a thin lip and I swear the coffee tastes better in my mug than any other. What a lot of people don't realize is that your favorite mug might just be hurting your coffee without you even realizing it. To avoid this you have to understand how to love your mug so it returns the favor to you and your precious brew.

Here are a few tips for getting the best out of your favorite coffee mug:

  • Shock Your Mug:  Most mugs are made from porcelain (at least they should be) which is an insulator. What people don't always remember is that insulators work the same way for cold as they do for heat so if your mug is sitting in the cool dark cabinet it is going to be a much lower temperature than your fresh hot coffee. When you pour the coffee in the porcelain will draw that heat away and your coffee will instantly drop in temperature--yuck! To avoid this catastrophe, simply turn on the hot water faucet and run piping hot water in the mug for a few seconds (enough time to fill it two or three times). Now your mug is shocked and ready to insulate your hot coffee and preserve its temperature longer.
  • Smaller is Better:  A lot of people have giant mugs--I blame that coffee shop on Friends for this mess. Mammoth mugs are neat I guess but they certainly don't do anything for your coffee. First of all you can't really drink a huge mug of coffee before it cools down. In addition, the coffee cools down quicker because there is a larger surface to air ratio allowing more heat to escape. That same surface to air ratio also allows something far more sinister to happen: oxidation. Oxidation is the enemy to most things (coffee, wine, iron etc) so we try to avoid it at all costs. Cut down on the size of your mug and just refill more often giving you fresh, hot coffee to the bottom of every cup.
  • No Dishwashers:  This one is going to seem crazy, but keep your mug out of the dishwasher. In fact, keep it out of the dish sink in general. Most dish soaps contain fairly harsh chemicals and fragrances. Even all natural dish soaps use citric acid which, like the chemical versions, get soaked into the porous surface of the mug. It is a subtle effect but these residues affect the taste of your coffee and I don't know about you, but I like my coffee to taste like, well, coffee. The best way to wash your coffee mug is with a simple hot water rinse right after you're done drinking. Every week or so you'll start to see some staining and at that point you might use some mild soap to scrub it out.
Follow these simple suggestions and you'll be drinking hot, delicious coffee like the pros, or at least like the eccentric coffee nuts here at Blanchard's Coffee Co. Feel free to share your coffee mug tips and we'll add them to the list!