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Episode Three: Fermenting Coffee

For thousands of years humans have used fermentation to preserve food, leaven bread, and brew alcohol. In 19th century Belgium lambic beers were brewed using the yeasts and bacteria naturally found in the air. Fermentation is an integral part of the way we process coffee as well, but because of function – not taste. What can history teach us about fermentation, and how can we use that to create even better tasting coffee?

This week’s episode relied heavily on the article, “Looking beyond Origin for flavor diversity” by Lucia Solis. Read the article here. Also, here’s a link to the BuzzFeed video referenced at the beginning of the show. Links to the rest of the sources for this episode are below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Coffee Canon email list. A special gift is going out this week to those on the list! You can sign up here.


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Hario v60 Brew Method

The v60 is a staple in specialty coffee; it’s used at home, in coffee shops, at brewing competitions, and just about anywhere else that you find great coffee. It’s a fickle beast, not nearly as forgiving as the Chemex, and deceptively simple when you first try it out.

Brewing in the v60 takes time and practice, but once you get it down it’s really not difficult to throw together your morning cup of coffee. I talk about the highlights in the below video, but here are a few other things to keep in mind.

  • Use fresh beans – There’s nothing worse than going through the trouble of manually brewing coffee only to remember that you’re using month old stale beans. Freshly roasted coffee beans have a shelf life of about 2-3 weeks before they start losing the tastes that make them unique (read: go stale).
  • Grind your beans properly – You’re going to want to use a burr grinder set to a medium grind (also often called a drip grind). Too course and the water will fall straight through, too fine and you’ll be left wondering why it’s taking so long to brew while the water pools. To hit that sweet spot, try a few different grind settings hovering around medium to find what works best for you.
  • Bloom – Let your coffee breath. The bloom is critical and essential when doing any manual pour-over brew method, but I can’t stress its importance enough with the v60. I start with 60g of water and let the coffee bloom for 30-45sec. What’s a bloom? Basically, you’re letting the coffee grounds release the unwanted CO2 that’s trapped inside.
  • Coffee-to-water ratio – The brew method I use is 415g of water to 28g of coffee. There is an endless supply of brew methods online (here are a couple from Intelligentsia and Stumptown).
  • Don’t be afraid to play – Figure out what works for you, then run with it. If you don’t like the product that my recipe turns out for you, change the coffee-to-water ratio or the bloom time. Play with it until you get something you enjoy drinking.

Get brewing!

The Coffee Guy

You can buy the Hario v60 for about $16 on Amazon as of this writing. Now you have no excuse.

Tell Market – The best way to find new coffee is in an iPhone app

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 7.59.36 PMSpecialty coffee has an intrinsic problem. The best coffee is often from local, small batch roasters who get their beans from small farms in unknown corners around the globe. The issue is that terms like “small” and “local” don’t translate well to having a large advertising budget. And while hipsters might love the idea of drinking coffee before it’s been discovered by people on the other side of the country, it doesn’t give these roasters the kind of attention they deserve for putting out a great product.

There is no shortage of coffee services that deliver quality beans straight to your front door. For a long time, my favorite service has been Tonx (now partnered with Blue Bottle). These days, nearly every specialty coffee roaster has some service that allows you to get fresh beans delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or whenever you feel like it.

The problem with these services is that you are always getting beans from the same company – which may not be an actual problem if you really really like that roaster. However, this poses a dilemma for people like me that want to try coffee from everywhere, not just one roaster. Variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?

If, for example, a roaster from California wants to get their beans to a consumer from New York, how might they do that? They could take out an ad in Facebook, become active on Twitter and try to amass followers from NY, or they could simply put up their online marketplace and hope for the best. The truth is, there is no centralized location for smaller roasters to become discovered by people not in their local community. Or, at least, there hasn’t been one until now.

Enter Tell Market – a centralized marketplace for the everyday joe to find products from local companies from across the United States (they promise international expansion forthcoming). The best part? Tell market is an app (iOS link), which means access from anywhere, anytime.

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Tell Market isn’t just for coffee – though that is a particular focus of theirs right now. They have all kinds of categories from Fashion & Art to Hot Sauce. The thing that sets Tell Market apart from other online marketplaces is two-fold.

  1. Companies use short-form videos to communicate with their consumers about their company and individual products. For example, if you find a type of coffee that you are interested in, the accompanying video (usually 30 seconds to 2 minutes long) is from a barista telling you why this coffee is great for home brewing, and what methods they prefer to use to brew that particular bean or blend. It’s amazing.
  2. Tell Market includes coffee shops and roasters (as well as merchants in their other categories) that are local to their community, and not very well known otherwise. You can bet that you’re getting coffee from a company that cares deeply about their product. The best part? You can actually speak to the company directly from the app using an integrated chat. That way, you can have any questions answered before you place your order.

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I just ordered a Guatemalan Hunapu from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters out of San Diego. I will write a follow-up post about my experience with the delivery and communication integration in the app, so stay tuned!

The Coffee Guy

To download Tell Market for your iPhone or iPad, click here.