Coffee Notes, by Jay Spencer Seiler

How Coffee is Made.
January 27, 2010, 2:15 am
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: ,

Do you ever wonder how coffee is made? It’s not a simple process. Coffee comes from various regions around the world and doesn’t start as the fragrant bean you are familiar with. In fact, coffee doesn’t start as a bean at all. It is a fruit, a cherry in fact. Inside the cherry are two coffee beans (sometimes it is only one bean and these are called peaberry beans).

Coffee trees take 3-5 years to produce their fruit and they require special attention to soil, light and climate to produce a quality harvest.
The cherries are either picked by hand or machine harvested. Once harvested, the fruit must be removed from the cherry to get to the beans.

Very soon after harvest, the beans have to be processed to avoid the sticky fruit from fermenting and spoiling the beans. There are two ways of processing beans: wet and dry.

Dry processing is a centuries old method in which the harvested beans are laid out in the sun to dry for about 15 days or so. They are periodically turned and spread to dry evenly.

Wet processing is a more modern approach that takes place just hours after the beans have been harvested. It involves a cycle of washing and fermentation. This allows the pulp left on the beans to soften making it easier to rinse the fruit off. This processing method is preferable because it causes less damage to the beans.

After processing, the beans are sorted through and “bad” beans are discarded. The beans that are left are bagged up and shipped.

The final and most important step is the roasting. Roasting beans requires an exact science of time and temperature to arrive at the perfect roast. Roasting is actually cooking the beans to a certain roast (Mild, Medium, and Dark Roasts). During the process, the bean splits and the waxy coating called the “chaff” is released and discarded. The longer the beans are roasted, the more their flavor and fullness are released. This is why lighter beans tend to be milder and darker beans tend have more fullness and flavor.
This great article was from Coffee Illuminated, Another great Coffee Blog.

NOW! Go here and buy some great COFFEE! woohoo!


A little Starbucks History
January 17, 2010, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Coffee

If you like coffee, you probably like Starbucks. Here is a little history of the illustrious company from

In April 1971, Starbucks Coffee opens for business in the Pike Place Market, selling high-quality coffee, dark-roasted in small batches, the European way. Starbucks does not sell or brew coffee by the cup, but sometimes offers brewed samples.

Writer Jerry Baldwin, English teacher Gordon Bowker, and history teacher Zev Siegl had been buying their coffee from as far away as Berkeley, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia, and they saw a business opportunity. Each contributed $1,350 and borrowed another $5,000 to open a store that sold coffee beans, which they ordered from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Berkeley. They wanted to use a nautical theme and looked for names in the nineteenth-century novel Moby Dick. In researching Puget Sound history they discovered a mining camp on Mt. Rainier called Starbo. This evolved to Starbucks, after the ship’s mate in Moby Dick.

At first, Zev Siegl was the only paid employee. Bowker and Baldwin kept their day jobs. Sales exceeded expectations and late in 1972, a second store opened in the University District. Siegl sold his stake in 1980 when Starbucks had four stores.

Howard Schultz (b. 1953) entered the scene in 1981. He was a New York-based vice president for a Swedish housewares manufacturer. He was “bowled over by his first sip of the dark-roasted coffee and urged Baldwin to hire him” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2000). In 1982, Schultz signed on as director of marketing and retail stores.

In 1987, Howard Schultz led a group that bought Starbucks from its founders. By mid-2004, Starbucks had more than 8,000 retail outlets worldwide and was opening new stores at the rate of about three every day.

The company planned to open about 1,500 new stores in 2005, including 425 to be located outside the United States. “I believe that we will double the size of this company at least within the next five years, perhaps within the next three,” Orin Smith, chief executive officer, told a group of Costa Rican coffee-farm owners and political officials in January 2004 (The Seattle Times). Schultz has set an eventual goal of 25,000 Starbucks outlets around the world, putting the company on a par with McDonald’s and its 30,000 locations.

Sweet eh? Well go get your Starbucks here. Starbucks.

Howard Shultz, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, (New York: Hyperion, 1997), 28-35; David Wilma Interview with Patricia Howell, Director of Marketing for Starbucks Coffee International, January 15, 2000; “MetropoList 150: People Who Shaped Seattle,” The Seattle Times, October 14, 2001(; Jake Batsell, “Starbucks Turned a Shot into a Grande,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 4, 2001 (; Christine Frey, “Starbucks’ Profit Jumps 44%,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 22, 2004, p. D-1; Jake Batsell, “A Bean Counter’s Dream,” The Seattle Times, March 28, 2004, p. E-1.

Let’s talk about Cat Crap Coffee…..
January 8, 2010, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Coffee

Kopi Luwak Coffee is that coffee that is collected and roasted from the dung of a weird Indonesian Monkey cat Raccoon hybrid called a Civet cat. The Coffee is sometime called Civet Coffee . This coffee is quite rare and cost around 400 to 600 dollars a pound. Apparently the Civet Cat is very fond of Coffee cherries, those cherries that are typically picked by some Juan Valdez guy. After eating them they pass through the cat’s digestive tract and while making the journey they impart something ‘special’ prior to being excreted. Here is what I want to know, how do they recover these beans? Does someone follow one of these cats around with a baggie? Do they walk through the woods looking for cat crap? And how did someone get the great idea to even try this out? Was somebody really really bored one day and said to themselves, hey I think I will try brewing a pot of this cat crap and see what I get? Those crazy Indonesians! What will they think of next?

All joking aside it seems that the digestive process of the cat breaks down the enzymes that give coffee it’s bitter flavor. Huh, who would have thought of that? I think those dudes in indonesia were hitting the bong one day, got the munchies and got something mixed up with a Nutty Buddy. Anyway believe it or not this Kopi Luwak has been researched a lot, for what I think are obvious reasons. The beans washed thoroughly with a special wash before they are roasted to kill any bacteria before the beans are ground into coffee. Special analysis by labs have surprisingly showed roasted Kopi Luwak beans have lower bacterial levels than normal coffee. Scientific study of the chemical compounds in the cat poop coffee also reveal how completely different Kopi Luwak coffee is. This might account for the incredible taste, isn’t that amazing? hehe.

Before you rush over to Starbucks or your local roaster to get a pound, know this. There are only 1000 pounds produced a year. This rarity and increasing world demand have pushed prices to about $450-$600 a pound or $50 dollars a cup. Holy Crap! (no Pun intended)

Most people if they are going to spend $600 dollars on a pound of Kopi Luwak want the real thing. This is a matter of concern as scam artists have been passing off coffee digested by humans as the real thing. Ewwwwww! Experts (experts? How do you become a cat crap coffee expert?) suggest ordering the beans still unroasted in the cat poop as proof. You mean to tell me you can buy this shit while it’s still in the shit? We live in a strange world. Why not buy a civet cat and feed it yourself with coffee cherries? Then your coffee is really fresh. I mean how can you tell civet cat crap from other crap?

Here is what I think you should do. Go to this website, and order your coffee there. It’s safer that way, and cheaper. Get it here!

Using the Bialetti Style Coffee maker.
December 28, 2009, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , , , ,

Ever wish you could make a cup of espresso or cappuccino at home like you get at a coffee shop? Well now you can by using a stovetop espresso maker known as a Bialetti coffee maker. I bought one of these puppies yesterday and tried it out that afternoon. It was Great!

The Bialetti coffee maker was invented nearly a hundred years ago. The water is put into the bottom compartment and a rubber gasket makes an airtight seal when the bottom is attached to the top section.

The coffee grounds are put into a compartment between the top and bottom sections. It looks similar to a percolator basket. By the same principle when the water in the bottom boils, it is forced up by pressure through the grounds and then through a pipe into the top chamber.
Coffee from a Bialetti coffee maker is a cross between espresso from an espresso machine and coffee from an electric drip coffeemaker. This is by far the best coffee you can make at home without going out and buying an expensive espresso machine. And really who needs that?

Here are step by step instructions
Step 1
Disassemble the coffee maker into its three parts: bottom, filter basket and top.

Step 2
Fill the bottom part of the Bialetti coffee maker with filtered water. DON”T overfill. Fill it to just below the pressure valve on the side.

Step 3
Insert the filter basket into bottom of Bialetti coffee maker. If the bottom of the filter basket gets flooded, You have probably added too much water. Remove it and empty a little water out of the bottom of the coffee maker.

Step 4
Place 1 tbsp. of ground coffee in the filter basket for every espresso-size cup of coffee you’re making.

Step 5
Firm down the coffee grounds very lightly using the back of a spoon.

Step 6
Run your finger along the rim of the filter basket to remove any stray coffee grounds.

Step 7
Screw on the top part of the Bialetti coffee maker.

Step 8
Put coffee maker on the stove burner. If you are using a gas stove, adjust the flame so it is directly underneath the pot and does not crawl up the side of the coffee maker. If you are using an electric stove, place the coffee maker near the edge of the burner so that the handle is not above the heating element. This step is only necessary if you don’t want to melt the handle of your Bialetti coffee maker. And who wants to do that?

Step 9
Open the top of the coffee maker (it will stay up by itself). Stay by the stove and watch your pot. Hey this is the exciting part.

Step 10
When you see the coffee start to come out of the inner spout in the top of the Bialetti coffee maker, close the cover and stand by. We are almost done! It will start to make hissing and gurgling noises.

Step 11
When the coffee maker stops hissing and gurgling, the coffee is done. Remove it from the heat immediately. Now you have espresso! Drink it straight or make a cappucino or latte with it.
REMEMBER the bottom of the coffee make is likely under pressure. WAIT until it is cooled before attempt to open it up and clean it.

Step 12

Best way to brew coffee
December 20, 2009, 2:09 am
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , ,

There really is no best way to brew coffee. Coffee is such a drink that is used all over the world and every region has its own way of making it. Good choice of brewing equipment is essential to have a good flavor and aroma from a cup of coffee. It is essential that this brewing equipment is clean. There are a large number of brewing devices available on the market. Most of them make coffee in one of the seven brewing principles. There is no single correct or best way to brew a cup of coffee. The selection of coffee brewing method depends upon one choice and interest. For brewing coffee, one out of two features are used.
First either, put the coffee in boiling water, wait for at least five minutes, and then filter it, or boiling water is made to flow through ground coffee (and a filter) forcibly either by its own weight, by a little steam pressure, or by high pressure.
The easiest and the most popular in the USA is the drip brewing method. Water at a close to boiling temperature is poured gradually through the grounds at once. The resulting cup is clear and smooth. The hotter the water within the stated range, the brighter the coffee. Medium ground coffee is used. The filtering devices can be wedges or baskets made from paper, cloth, metal, plastic, or coated plastic. Paper filters are also vary widely. Drip makers come either in manual or electric versions.
I personally prefer the Bunn that we use. Though the Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker has got to be the most popular in the US. The drip method makes a great cup of coffee and by using freshly ground coffee and a clean brewing device and fresh water, you can get one helluva good cuppa. So far we discussed percolating, french press, and now the drip process. Next we can spend a little time talking about vacuum coffee makers.
Now all that said go here and take advantage of a chance to buy good coffee at great prices. See you next week.

How to use a French Press.
November 23, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , , ,

I have a french press that I use to make coffee in the office. It brews a nice cup and many people find that it is preferable to other coffee brewing methods. I got this little instruction set from Albert T. on the Wake Up Vibes Coffee blog

French press is a one of the best ways to make coffee, it’s quick and relatively easy to use and makes beverage that has rich and full flavor that is often higher in quality than drip machine can produce. Also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or cafetiere, it is a device that most often has glass carafe, filter plate and a plunger attached to the lid. There are variations to this, but we’ll get to that later.

How to use the French press?

* For a French press use coarsely-ground coffee, it won’t be caught in the filter. If the beans are too finely ground, some of it may not be caught by the filter and will end up in your cup. Also, it can block the filter, so it’s hard to press the plunger down. It’s suggested to use burr grinder for grinding the beans, because it creates equal sized boulders. Blade grinders tend to create dust and boulders are varying in size, so the taste of coffee suffers.

* Lift off the plunger and add coffee grounds to the carafe. In average you can use about one rounded tablespoon per 6 oz. of water.

* Pour in the water. It should be little bit below the boiling temperature. Pour it slowly and evenly, so the water can mix with the grounds. Don’t overfill the press, the water level should be below the edge so it won’t overflow when you insert filter. You have to be careful with this, since the water is very hot.

* Stir with the wooden spoon or chopsticks. Don’t use metal spoon to avoid damaging or breaking the glass.

* Put the top on and don’t press down yet, leave the filter up.

* Let it steep for about 3-4 four minutes. Generally the steeping time is smaller for small presses and longer for bigger presses.

* Now, press the plunger down. Do it slowly and with equal pressure. If you press too fast the water might splash out and burn you.

* Pour the coffee into the cup.

French press coffee is meant for using right after it’s ready. Don’t let it sit out, because the coffee will cool down and the taste will also be affected.

As for the amount of coffee grounds and steeping time you can and should do some experimenting yourself, so you can find the best options to suite your taste.

How to choose a French press?

First of all – capacity. There are various sizes available starting with single serve and going up to 12 cups (maybe there are even bigger ones, but I haven’t come across them yet). So, if you are using it mainly for your personal use the small press will be enough, if you’re using it for making coffee for several people go for a bigger size and for gatherings/parties a 12-cup version is often a good choice.

Stronger glass version is recommended as it doesn’t break so easily. Also I suggest to get one where you can change the glass carafe, so if you happen break it, you can replace it and don’t have to buy whole new press. If you want to take your press along with you on travel pick the one with plastic body or get the travel mug version of a French press which is also available.

There are also French presses that are insulated or have double walled glass so they can keep the coffee warm for a couple hours. This is an option to go for if you need to keep coffee warm for longer time, since the coffee in regular French press cools down rather soon.

Jay here:
A word of warning and an interesting story to boot. If you are using the french press in the office as I do you are probably boiling your water right in the glass carafe using the microwave. This is all well and good BUT make sure that the water boils to the point where the surface tension of the water is broken. I once brought the water to an “almost” boil and when I reached in to grab the carafe it literally exploded in a blast of boiling water. It scalded my arm quite badly. This does happen, see here and here Better yet of course use a teapot or different container to boil your water. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Some examples of French presses:

Bodum Chambord Coffee Press

This is pretty classic French press in 3-cup size (4, 8 and 12 cup versions are also available). It has replaceable glass carafe and chrome-plated brass frame.

Bodum Columbia Thermal 48-Ounce Stainless-Steel Coffee Press

This is stainless steel French press with insulation that holds 12 cups of coffee and keeps it warm for up to two hours.

BonJour 8 Cup Rhone Ribbed French Press, Double Wall Glass

This French press has double walled glass, so it also keeps coffee hot longer and is more resistant to the shock and breakage.

Percolating Coffee. Yes We still do that.
November 16, 2009, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Coffee | Tags: , , , ,

Percolating coffee is basically verboten for those who are coffee snobs, however it is still a very popular way of making coffee for those who like their coffe dark and strong. Plus percolators, both the stove-top and electric kinds, are cheap and easy to use and quickly brew up strong coffee for a caffeine fix. Below I have pasted in some quick instructions on using a percolator for a decent cup of joe.

First you grind the Coffee
If you use a regular ground coffee for an automatic drip coffee maker you will be straining grounds through your teeth. Not really pleasant. The fine grind results in the finer coffee bean bits going through the strainer basket. If you have a grinder at home, set it to a course grind and grind the coffee beans that way. If you don’t have a grinder, then grind the coffee at the store to a course grind that you need to properly make percolated coffee. Basically you want the same grind that you would for a french press.

Now you fill the Percolator
With the percolator taken apart, add water into the base of it up to the fill line. Usually this is just below the bottom of the coffee strainer basket. Put your ground (fresh?) coffee into the strainer basket. After doing some websearches for opinions, it turns out this should be in the ratio of 1 tbsp. ground coffee to each cup of water in the percolator. But tastes may vary. Play with it a little to find what you like. Replace the strainer basket and put the lid on.

Now we Brew the Coffee
If you are using an electric percolator, just plug it in to start the percolator. If you are using a stovetop percolator, set your stove on a medium-high heat and put the percolator on the burner. Every percolator has a little glass “bubble” on the lid that will show the coffee as it bubbles up through. Remember those Maxwell House commercials? That’s right. Now the jingle is going through your head. If this is before your time, search for it on youtube I bet you can find it. As the water inside comes to a boil, it will be pushed up over the coffee grounds and the coffee will strain down into the base of the percolator water-filled reservoir. The process repeats itself and through the little glass bubble you can see how dark and strong the coffee is getting. The process on the stove top should take about 5 minutes. An electric percolator can take a little longer, between 7 to 10 minutes. Once the coffee is ready, or strong enough for your tastes, remove the lid and take out the basket before you pour it. This prevents the used grounds from ending up in your coffee cup.

Sit back and enjoy.
Those of us who are older can remember that this was the way our parents made coffee. Before Joe Dimaggio made the Mr. Coffee drip machine a household item. Those people who are avid outdoors people still brew this way over the campfire or coleman stove. My father in law used to just throw his ground coffee into a sauce pot and boil it up. Now that is old school! It is possible to make a pretty good cup of coffee by percolating it, and it is also really easy to ruin it too. So watch the percolating process carefully and you may find you like it this way better than drip!