popbites

Espresso, music and other bits of pop culture.

Jan 1

Coffee Seasonality

In 2013 I wanted to see how the harvest seasons in different parts of the world is reflected in what is offered at coffee shops in the United States.

This is the result of a sample of 170 single origin espressos from 30 roasters offered in 50 coffee shops.

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My analysis is just a little fun exercise, without professional knowledge or comprehensive data collection.

Panama Esmeralda Gesha was only available in October. Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica seem to be more common towards the end of the year, while Rwanda and South America in the beginning.

Coffees from Ethiopia, Colombia and Guatemala (and even Kenya) are available pretty much the whole year. I believe the first two because of the volume of coffee produced and the third because of easier trade relationships. They are probably imported in large quantity, stored locally and roasted in batches. Unless microlots are produced all over the year in each country without a main harvesting season.

Brazil also produces a large quantity but is rarely offered as single origin.

It would be interesting to compare with the statistics from another year.

For the sake of transparency and education, in 2014 I wish more roasters put the harvest date on their website and bag label and more coffee shops put the roast date in their menus.


Dec 26

The most hated coffee terms of 2013

  1. bean (#SeedNotBean)
  2. varietal (is an adjective, variety is the noun)
  3. craft
  4. 3rd wave
  5. curated
  6. consumer
  7. shot

Sep 7

Spot the difference

Click on the pictures to find the answer.


Aug 29

At the merch table

- Is this a CD you’re selling?

- It’s a 7 inch.

- Do you need a record player to play it?

- Yes.

- I don’t have one.

- Me neither.


Feb 16

WAC 458-20-183


Feb 13

Guernica

The Star Wars The Clone Wars episode The Lawless included this mural as background for the fight between Darth Maul and Darth Sidious.

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I wonder how many people noticed the similarity with Picasso’s Guernica.

Favorite quotes:

"It is unfortunate that you’re trying to deceive me."

"There is no mercy."


Feb 5

Response: Brewers Cup

This is a response to the blog post that can be found here.

Disclaimer: I’m not a coffee professional, not even an amateur, just a fanatic consumer that reads all coffee tweets and blogs possible.

When the discussion about disappointment with the Brewers Cup started, my first thought was that it is a competition to find the best brewer, not a forum for roasters to use as marketing or get acknowledgement from Q-graders.

Now I understand that there is another source of frustration: the feeling that the effort put into preparation by brewers and roasters is wasted if they don’t get a chance to present in the final round.

I have to disagree. The effort put into learning and improving your craft is never wasted. You wouldn’t have worked so hard if it wasn’t for the competition and that alone is a value provided by the Brewers Cup. All that roaster and brewer learned during the preparation can (and will) be used in their daily work and this is already helping advance the industry.

There is also no need to feel guilty. The roaster knew about the risk when he agreed to work with the brewer and if he doesn’t think it’s a good investment next time, that is fine too.

Regarding the several pounds of coffee left unseen and untasted, why not use them in a special event in the cafe or roastery? That would be a great marketing opportunity to showcase roaster, brewer and cafe, and get actual customers (that probably don’t even know about the Brewers Cup) excited!


Jan 20

What would you do if you bought Tully’s?

I can’t imagine someone would buy a failed company unless they had a plan to make it better. But is it even possible to make something good out of Tully’s? What would you do?

Considering that “corporate is evil”, my plan would be to break it down in several independent companies: I would offer a partnership to local entrepreneurs to take over each individual store.

The terms of the agreement would be:

  • They would need to get rid of every corporate material and create an individual personality for the location - including name. They could keep the furniture or replace it at their own cost.
  • They would be free to chose high quality specialty coffee roasters to use in each location and handle orders directly.*
  • Each barista would need to go through the BGA trainings and get a certification (I would pay for it; this would be part of my investment). Each store would need to make a time schedule showing when each of their baristas would go through all certification levels.
  • Each store would made an investment plan to replace the coffee making equipment if needed.
  • Revenue and profit sharing to be agreed individually.
* This was before I read Tim Wendelboe saying that “it is easier to do for bigger roasters than for smaller ones as it is cheaper to ship full containers than containers filled with 10 bags”. A corporate roaster might not be a bad idea after all.

Jan 5

Taster’s Test

Some times I suspect I’m a non-taster, so I wanted to take the Sensory Skills Test to know for sure.

The official test consists in identifying salt, sweet and sour solutions in different combinations and concentrations. I created a simplified version for amateur beginners.

First I decided two use only two concentrations instead of three to make it easier and second I decided to use bitter instead of salt because I think it is more realistic to find bitter flavors in coffee. Although a completely balanced espresso should have equal parts of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami, the 2013 US Barista Championship Sensory Score Sheet only asks for a harmonious balance of sweet / acidic / bitter.

An internet search indicated that quinine is a reference for bitter taste, so I used tonic water for the bitter solution. Unfortunately the tonic water I used contains also citric acid and saccharine, so it was not perfect but good enough for my test because it still has a very distinct flavor.

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The base for the taste samples were:

  • sweet solution: 100 g of water saturated with sugar
  • acidic solution: 30 g of lime juice in 70 g of water
  • bitter solution: tonic water left in a open container for a couple of hours to de-gas

The taste samples were:

  • A (high acidity): 20 g of the acidic solution + 10 g of water
  • a (low acidity): 10 g of the acidic solution + 20 g of water
  • S (high sweetness): 20 g of the sweet solution + 10 g of water
  • s (low sweetness): 10 g of the sweet solution + 20 g of water
  • B (high bitterness): 20 g of the bitter solution + 10 g of water
  • b (low bitterness): 10 g of the bitter solution + 20 g of water

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Part 1: by blindly tasting the samples two by two according to the type, I was able to tell which was the strongest and which was the weakest.

Part 2: taking the 6 samples in random order, I first separated in groups of two according to the type and then repeated part 1. At first I confused the bitter and sweet samples, but after a second sip I was able to identify them all correctly.

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Part 3: There are 24 possible combinations of the 6 samples but I decided to use only six: A+B, A+S, B+S, a+b, a+s, b+s. I dumped the left overs (2 g + 2 g each) in new cups.

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To my own surprise, I was able to identify them all!


Jan 3

Alternative Energy

In the future there will be electrical power plants powered by humans.

It is easy to convert treadmills to generate electricity instead of consuming it and create a schedule to have them operated 24 hours a day.

People will go there in shifts:

  • voluntarily because it is healthy and good for the planet;
  • in exchange for the gym fees;
  • as a job for a salary;
  • forced by a fascist government.


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