Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend

--Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend brewed brewed into a caffè americano using my Aeropress Coffeemaker--

The Dunkin' Donuts website says this of its signature blend, "Our unique mix of 100% Arabica beans delivers the smooth, delicious flavor that's made Dunkin' Donuts famous."

For 60 years this is the coffee that has reigned as the champion of the daily drinkers. Its smooth taste, refreshingly light acidity, bitter-less aftertaste, and chocolaty flavor have put this coffee on the top shelf in the homes of countless millions. I say that this is one of the most drinkable, and easy to enjoy coffees on the market. If you haven't tried it yet, you've been missing out indeed.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Archer Farms Organic - Fair Trade Nicaraguan

Aeropress Coffeemak
Archer Farms Organic - Fair Trade Nicaraguan brewed into a caffè americano using my very own Aeropress Coffeemaker.

Dark and smooth, with a flavor that resonates across the pallet like a low bass vibrato humming through a concert hall. An aroma of sweet apricots. A sophisticated richness. A slight metallic twinge like that of a battery on the tongue. This well balanced, low toned coffee is sure to delight connoisseurs, and dilettantes alike.

This is truly an amazing coffee; its country of origin and it quality are no coincidence either! Nicaraguan coffees are generally farmed and processed in a very traditional manner, due primarily to Nicaragua's isolation during the cold war, and a poor infrastructure thereafter.This has caused an almost perfect storm situation, where labor is cheap, coffee is plentiful, and the farms are ran traditionally. These are conditions perfect for producing affordable, delectable coffees.

What this has also caused is a situation where farmers can easily be taken advantage of by foreign exporters. That makes it all the more important to support "Fair Trade Certified" coffees, such as this one, when purchasing beans from any area of the globe that might be unstable or exploited.

Try this one out, and you won't be disappointed!

Status: Recommended

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seattle's Best Coffee - Henry's Blend

Today, a review of Seattle's Best Coffee - Henry's Blend brewed into a caffè americano with an Aeropress Coffeemaker.

What Seattle's Best says about their coffee: Henry's Blend is named after the big friendly cat that once lived at the original Seattle's Best Coffee roasting plant on Vashon Island. Henry's Blend is a favorite of those who know Seattle's Best Coffee. It has a great full body, a slightly heavier texture and a deep dark brown color. Whether used for drip or espresso, Henry's is easy to recognize by its full, sweet aroma.
Seattle's Best Coffee - Henry's Blend

What I have to say about Henry's Blend: From the moment I opened the package, I knew from the smell of the grounds that this was going to be a delicious coffee. This is a smooth medium roast that I could drink everyday. It's dark, has a bold aroma, a smooth start, and a clean finish. The flavor is rich and nutty, but has with it other subtle earthy nuances that will peak out as the brew rolls across your palette. I'd recommend this coffee to anyone that enjoys a strong, bold brew; and say that, due to its richness, it would be best enjoyed in the afternoon, by itself.

Status: Recommended

Friday, September 10, 2010

Methods to the Madness: Percolated Coffee

     I have many fond memories of sitting outside with a percolator, and making coffee this way is, for me, very much an act of nostalgia. Unfortunately, this grand machine is losing its foothold in the world, as many people are switching to newer drip coffee makers, and some have never even seen a percolator.

      Originally invented in the late 18th century by American scientist and soldier Count Rumford (Sir Benjamin Thompson), the percolating coffee pot gains its name from the mechanism by which it brews; The word percolate meaning to cause (a solvent) to pass through a permeable substance especially for extracting a soluble constituent. When brewing coffee via this method, the solvent is water, the permeable substance is the coffee grounds, and the soluble constituents are the chemical compounds that give coffee its color, taste, and aroma.

Diagram of a Coffee Percolator by UnknownFerret
     Percolators are easy to use, and as if they couldn't get any better, are also very easy to clean. Almost all percolators will come with their own set of instructions for use, and each one is just a little different from the rest. As such, I won't be including outright directions, but rather some tips for when you're down and dirty percolating.
  • Percolators require the use of coarse ground coffee, and many pre-ground varieties will leave a light sediment in the final brew.
  • Good water makes good coffee, and this is especially true at the high temperatures that percolators can reach. Use bottled or filtered water for the best tasting coffee.
  • The oils that build up inside your percolator can help keep the brew from touching the metal, which could give your coffee a metallic taste. Only clean your percolator with warm water, and never use harsh soaps that could strip the walls of their protective oily coat.
  • Too long on the heat and the coffee will taste burnt, 5 or 6 minutes over medium high heat should be all it takes for a standard sized unit.
  • Remember, brewing coffee is as much an art as it is a science, and you should always try new things to see what might work better!

     The main advantage of using a coffee percolator is that if you would like to boil your coffee, or that if you are forced to boil your coffee due to a lack of electricity or otherwise, you can do so without having a mess of grounds mixed in with the final brew. The water passes through the grounds, but then falls back down into the main chamber meaning:
  • You have all the advantages of boiled coffee, with none of the mess, and;
  • Your coffee and sit for an extended time without the risk of the grounds going rancid and ruining your brew.

        Percolating coffee is not without its pitfalls though. One of  the primary complaints with percolation is that already brewed coffee is sometimes forced back through the grounds, and can cause an over-extraction from the beans giving you coffee that tastes like it's been brewed several times over. Another, slightly less noticeable effect can be that aromatic compounds in the beans are rapidly released during percolation, sometimes leading to a less flavorful end result. Those who swear by the percolator though, claim that these potential encumbrances are a small price to pay for the robust and hearty cup of brew that you are rewarded with.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Methods to the Madness: Boiled Coffee

     For some, making coffee with any method not involving some sort of machine may sound very odd, but in making coffee using nothing but beans, water, and fire, one is truly able to get back to the roots of what coffee is.

     Today I'll be describing a method to to brew coffee that is little more that just boiling it over the stove. What comes of this method though, is a strong, powerful brew, with surprisingly different characteristics when compared to drip brewed coffee. This preparation process is still popular in Norway, and the northern reaches of Scandinavia.

     A quick note before we begin: This is how I make coffee on the stove, but there are as many ways as there are stars in the sky, and really, all of them are right as long as they produce a wonderful cup of coffee.

In a small pot mix 3 cups of water with 1/3 cups coffee.

 Bring mixture to a rolling boil, and let boil for a minute or two.

Once the coffee is done boiling, take it off the heat and let it settle for a few minutes.

Pour yourself a cup, and slowly add a small amount of cold water from the tap, to help settle any remaining grounds.


This coffee will be significantly cloudier than drip brewed coffee, but when prepared properly, shouldn't have an excessive amount of grounds floating around in it. Take care not to let the coffee and grounds sit together in the pot for too long, as the grounds will continue to excrete oils into the water, and your brew will eventually become undrinkable.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kopi Luwak - Coffee From the Civet

Asian Palm Civet
     Kopi luwak translates roughly from Indonesian into civet coffee, and is used as an umbrella term to distinguish any type of coffee bean gathered from the droppings of a civet, weather that bean be aribica, robusta, liberica, or excelsa. This wide spectrum of beans, while all being kopi luwak, will have a wide array of tastes that are associated with them. Nevertheless, kopi luwak coffees have a few common characteristics, most notably their aromas, their flavor, and their overall lack of bitterness.

      This rare coffee is made from the beans of coffee berries that have been eaten and digested by the Asian Palm Civet. Once the berries are fully digested, the civet leaves behind enzyme enhanced, delicious, coffee beans. The coffee farmers then go along behind the civets and gather their droppings, which, after washing, and light roasting, brew some of the most delicious cups of coffee on earth. While the coffee was traditionally harvested spontaneously in the wild, most kopi luwak comes from farms where the civets are fed ripe coffee berries, and kept in pens.

       Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, and often sells for well in excess of $100 per pound. Despite the high premium this coffee commands, it continues to remain in surprisingly high demand, and can be found in many high end coffee shops the world over.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Starbucks' House Blend

Today's coffee is Starbucks' House Blend brewed in a Curtis D500/D60gt Coffeemaker.

Starbucks' House Blend
     What Starbucks' has to say: One sip and you immediately recognize the characteristics that make this coffee so distinctively Starbuckian. An attention to quality in sourcing the finest Latin American beans. A care in the roast that brings forth all of the flavors locked within those beans. And a smile as the cup is handed across the counter to you. Enjoy with: A slice of banana nut bread and an overstuffed chair.

Curtis D500/D60gt Coffeemaker
     What I have to say about it: House blends are usually always a safe bet when you don't know what kind of coffee to get. That being said, this is a good house blend. Its not too bitter, not too vibrant. It's an intentionally mediocre and neutral coffee. It has a woody aroma, like fresh chopped green foliage, and an enjoyably smooth aftertaste. Like freshly overturned topsoil, this coffee's flavor is light and earthy. Enjoy with: Any food with heavy overpowering flavors, anything bold.

Status: Recommended

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Community Coffee Medium Roast

Community Coffee's Medium Roast
     Today I'll be sampling Community Coffee's Medium Roast, brewed in a Curtis D500/D60gt Coffeemaker.

What the Community Coffee website has to say: This extraordinarily aromatic and light-roasted coffee blend produces a fragrant, sweet, and mellow cup of coffee.

Curtis D500/D60gt Coffeemaker
What I have to say: Community Coffee's Medium Roast is a thicker bodied, well-balanced coffee. With an intense floral flavor, and fruity aroma, this coffee seems sure to please even the pickiest of coffee connoisseurs. I definitely recommend this coffee, and suggest it be paired with muffins or toast. I made a whole air-pot of this delectable brew, and I might have to change what I drink at home. Honestly, the way its packaged really says a lot about the quality.

Status: Recommended

     Speaking of packaging and storing coffee, vacuum sealed, opaque containers are undoubtedly the best way. Coffee exposed to air for too long a period will go stale, and the oils that the bean secretes during the roasting process will eventually go rancid. Ground beans are the most susceptible to this, while "green", unroasted beans store quite readily.

Preferably ground coffee should be purchased in quantities that can be killed off within a week of opening the original packaging. Storing ground coffee in the fridge is is a futile attempt at prolonging freshness, as it's just not cold enough to keep your coffee from going stale. Trying to freeze ground coffee in a conventional freezer, also, doesn't work. When ground, the coffee just has too much surface area to freeze correctly.

Whole roasted coffee beans can store nicely for up to two weeks on the shelf, and for around 2 months in the freezer. Green, unroasted coffee beans on the other hand,  can last up to a year on the shelf if stored in a vacuum sealed, opaque container.

Note that these time frames are guidelines to keeping coffee at peak freshness, and that factors such as humidity, and altitude can be a major factor. In general, keeping your coffee away from natural sunlight, air, and moisture will keep it tasting better longer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Starbucks' Caffè Verona

This evening the lineup is Starbucks' Caffè Verona brewed in a Curtis D500/D60gt Coffeemaker.
Starbucks' Caffè Verona
Curtis D500/ D60gt

What the Starbucks website has to say: Starbucks' most popular coffee, Caffè Verona is a versatile, complex blend combining great Latin American and Asia Pacific coffees with a touch of Italian Roast. Great in a coffee press, drip brewer or even as espresso.

What I have to say: I don't like it. It's bitter, weak, and has a pungent aroma that really extinguishes any desire to keep drinking. I can see where they were trying to go with this "bold" blend, but I think they might have gotten lost along the way. I'm sure that stood alone, the main coffees are probably fine. I have a feeling however, that Starbucks' may have mixed some bitter Robusta beans into this coffee as a filler. If you've tried it before in the past and disagree with me, feel free to let me know! I'd very much like to hear why anyone would like this blend.

Status: Not Recommended

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