Tag Archives: roasting

An Interview with Colton Rempel

There is no doubt that the coffee scene in Manitoba is experiencing a growth spurt.Colton_Jonnys_Java
There are a good handful of great shops already supporting the ever-growing specialty coffee customer and more popping up all the time. 

It was a real pleasure to host the Prairie Regional Barista Championships (PRBC) in Winnipeg this year and is another way Jonny’s Java has proved to be a mover in the Canadian coffee scene.
Andy Wiebe and Megan Hiebert of Jonny’s, as well as Vanessa Stachiw of Little Sister Coffee are to thank for bringing the PRBC to Manitoba this year. 

We’ve had staff at Jonny’s representing at the PRBC for a few years now but we’ve never had a competitor as our own until this year. We are very excited and so so proud of Colton for stepping up and taking on the challenge to compete at this years competition. 
Colton and I are thousands of kilometres away from each other at the moment but we were able to align a phone meeting this week and I wanted to ask him a bit of how he felt the competition went as well as advice for people who are looking to compete for the first time. 

Enter Colton

So Colton, what was the progression from working bar at the cafe to competing this year at PRBC?
Well as you know I’ve been following coffee for a while and last year I volunteered at the National Barista Championships to get a bit more hands on and experience of that area and this year I decided to throw my hat in and try it out.

What do you think was the biggest surprise going from spectator to competitor?
It is a lot more demanding than I could have imagined. There are so many things to learn and the more time you can take to prepare the better. You’ll encounter a lot of hiccups. 

Can you tell us some hiccups you experienced in prep and in comp?
Learning the rules and structure is time-consuming and coming up with a theme and a fluid flow was very difficult to do. I was pretty sure of the coffee I wanted to use, but to build a signature drink and theme around it was tough. As far as in competition goes; I’ve never competed before so there were so many things I did not know! haha. I didn’t understand what the prep time and was for before my routine, so I didn’t pull any practice shots or anything, then when actual performance time came, my dose was a little off and had to do some purging, put they worked out after that haha. That messed my routine up a bit though. I also got a little freaked out that I was running out of time, so I called “time” with about a minute left and hadn’t cleaned my work station or properly served my signature beverage. 

What was your routine about?
My routine was about showcasing the up-and-coming coffee scene in Mexico and how it related to Manitoba. Manitoba’s coffee scene is booming uncontrollably and Mexican coffees are getting better and better all the time, it is really impressive how far their attention to quality has come. 

What was your favourite part about the weekend aside from competing?
Probably the tasting session that was facilitated by Josh Hockin from Transcend Coffee in Edmonton.  He talked about tasting coffee varietals and regions. This kind of has to do with competing but my most favourite part was reprising Other Brother Coffee Roasters (OBR). OBR is a fairly new coffee roasters in Manitoba and in all honesty I had my doubts about using their coffee but it was amazing! Not only was the coffee great but the support from them was equally as incredible. Sam, one of the owners, would text me almost daily to see how the coffee was settling and how they could improve it for next batch. Getting to work with Sam was really humbling and all the support I got from OBR was overwhelming. 

So what’s next in coffee for you?
I just took on a management position and will be helping to open a new cafe in Winnipeg called Brothers Doughnuts. I’ll be running their coffee program there and I’m really excited about learning more about the business side of coffee. In the future I’d like to get into roasting as well. 

What’s next for you unrelated to coffee?
Well finding a place to live in Winnipeg is next. Adjusting to new life, work and circle of friends is a transition that will take some time. Being able to work in coffee is a safe place for me, it’s a comfortable place, because even if I’m hundred miles from home, I’m still at home making coffee. 

Any last words?
I can’t stress enough how much Andy and Megan’s support meant to me, they were so valuable. They are the reason I believe I did as well as I did, pretty much everything that I could have done better was my fault. Andy and Megan are both great judges and teachers, so every time I’d have a bar shift with Andy, he’d be watching my tamping, grooming and fall times, constantly encouraging me and pointing out things I could improve on.

Also… Andreas Adams is a great beatboxer! Colton_Jonnys_Java




Marketing You Your Coffee.

Witty marketers in the mid-tier coffee sector have done a great job of combining roast style, grocery store coffeegeography and brew method into coffee bag descriptions.

Certainly by doing this you create emotional and situational buy in, as well as the freedom to ride the line between blends that consist of both premium and consumer grade coffee.

Some you may be familiar with are:

–       Breakfast Bend.
Code for medium roast, pleasantly acidic.

–       House Blend
Slightly darker, you’re probably going to put cream and sugar in it. 

–       Espresso Roast
Referring more to a “bold” and even “punchier” blend rather than the brew method. (This probably is the most confusing of all.)

–       French Roast
Darker than the rest, also referring to it’s punchiness more so than it’s brew method.

Then you’ve got the full on deceptive origin descriptors that sell on the romance of geography. These include:

–       Kona Blend.
Currently you need only 10% of your coffee to be from Kona to call it that. The rest of the 90% is from anywhere but.

–      Colombian.

So rather than naming your coffee a “situational” blend, you can just give it a fake geographical association that might appear exotic.

When Adding Salt To Your Coffee Is A Good Idea.

I remember my grandma putting salt in her coffee bed before brewing. This was many years 

This is not my grandma. :)

This is not my grandma.

before I drank or even thought about coffee. I never knew why she did that but it turns out that many people add salt to their coffee to reduce bitterness.

Since being in the coffee business, from time to time I still hear about people putting salt in their coffee.

So when should you add salt to your coffee? 

People add salt to their coffee to reduce bitterness. The sodium ion interferes with the transduction mechanism of bitter taste. But interestingly enough, the reasons behind this are not fully understood.

A study done at the University of Munich revealed that bitterness is extracted at the end of a brewing cycle. Over extracted coffee will comprise of more bitter compounds. Also, coffees that are brewed at really high temperatures or high pressure (like espresso.) This is because bitter tasting compounds are less soluble than others.

Caffeine it self is a bitter compound but not the main bitter compound in coffee.

As a blurb on our last blog, the darker the roast of the coffee the more bitter it will become.

Chlorogenic acids are highly present in light to medium roasted coffees, as you roast longer and darker higher levels of phenylindanes emerge by breaking down the chlorogenic acids. These phenylindanes cause a more lingering harsh taste in your mouth.

So the longer you roast the coffee the harsher it seems to get. But getting rid of bitterness in your cup is not isolated to the roast profile.

Some experiments done by a wine connoisseur revealed positive results in reducing bitterness in his coffee and espresso when putting a pinch of salt into the basket. It did however alter the taste of the coffee, it did not taste salty, but it lost some desirable qualities he was getting from the coffee on the brews done before salt was added. Adding salt to coffee is done differently in different cultures. For instance:

–       In northern Sweden there is a tradition of serving cured ham and other meats with their coffee this is believed to produce the same outcome of reducing the bitterness of the coffee.

–       In costal areas where fresh water mixes with salt sea, people are known to simply use that water for brewing coffee.

–       In Ethiopia it is common to serve salted popcorn with coffee.

A study done by P.A.S. Breslin and G.K. Beauchamp in the Oxford Journals showed that there was no consistent degree of bitterness suppression from salt in coffee. Which means that adding more salt won’t necessarily convert into less bitterness.

Salt can do a lot for poor coffee beans, poor roasting and poor brewing.

If you happen to get and consume good coffee, you’ll be doing yourself a big disservice by adding salt to your coffee. (Tweet This!)

 As my chef friend would say – “Ketchup is used to cover up bad cooking.”

On the left we have specialty grade coffee. On the right, your "bargain" coffee brand.

On the left we have specialty grade coffee. On the right, your “bargain” coffee brand.

If you’d like to read up on a few other experiments about molecular gastronomy,  check out, Tasting Salt With Coffee by Tim Windelboe and Martin Lersch.

Alchemy – Inner secrets of coffee.

Coffee goes through many changes from seedling to the displaced gasses that you’re drinking in

Chlorogenic Acid

Chlorogenic Acid

your cup, but according to thermodynamics, “matter is neither created or destroyed, but simply changes form.” Today we want to touch on alchemy as one of coffees top secrets. 

Side note: I’m currently drinking coffee from kong  (near Yirga Cheffe) Ethiopia. Yum.    

Coffee plants produce lots of organic acids and other compounds in their lifetime. (“Organic acids” are any acids that contain carbon in their molecular structure.) (Check out the Calvin CycleAll of which remain trapped inside the bean at harvest.

As we know, altitude plays a big role in physical characteristics such as bean size and density but it also alters the chemical composition. Higher altitudes tend to produce higher perceived acidity.

For every 100 meters gained in altitude we can expect 0.60 degrees Celsius drop in temperature and for every 300 meters – 10 percent increase in sugar production (sucrose.) Which equals higher acidity.

For countries that lack the elevation necessary to maximize the beans potential they rely heavily on shade to slow down the speed in which it takes the plant to reach ripeness, increasing sugar production and ultimately cup quality.

Arabica contains almost twice the amount of sucrose as Robusta.

Roasting plays a very important role and is responsible for the amount of perceived acidity and sweetness that you experience in the cup.

Chlorogenic acids amount for the majority of organic acid found in coffee. Making up about seven percent for Arabica and ten percent for Robusta. Although it might not appear to be much, the relative content to caffeine is about eight times higher.

During a Medium roast, almost half of the chlorogenic acid is decomposed, where as in a Dark roast we experience about an 80 percent loss. The chlorogenic acid that is decomposed is used in the production of quinic acid. The acid that is responsible for giving you a bigger mouth feel and higher astringency (dry mouth.)

So the darker you take your roast, the more sweetness and perceived acidity you will lose and the higher mouth feel and astringency you will gain.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Are you looking to taste more, or feel more? Your preference will guide you.



3 common misconceptions on espresso.

What is espresso? Is it some bitter jolt of caffeine, or something new and trendy?

In this article we will cover 3 of the most common misconceptions with espresso.

1)   Espresso is a type of bean.
2)   Espresso is a type of blend.
3)   Espresso is a type of roast.

The finger could be pointed in many directions, inaccurate marketing by coffee chains and grocery stores, or in word of mouth terminology as those ever popular “chocolate covered espresso beans.”

If you ever get the privilege to travel to a coffee farm and experience the beauty of the coffee farming process you’ll quickly discover that the trees look quite similar. Sure, there may be some different varietals on the farm but one thing you will not notice are trees labeled, “drip”, “aeropress”, “syphon pot”, “espresso”… and so on.

This may sound slightly ridiculous. You may think this is obvious information, but it is humorous how many people would rather choose a large cup of coffee rather than an espresso based drink assuming that it is from a different bean and has different chemical composition.

There is some truth in that some companies choose to make some espresso blends. These blends are often used to try to “tame” the coffee and are often easier to work with that single origin espressos (SOE). The problem doesn’t lie in that so much, as in the belief that you can’t use anything than an espresso blend to brew espresso with, or espresso beans.

Espresso roast, this unfortunately would be poor marketing on behalf of coffee companies. I have a strong belief that many coffee companies thrive on keeping the general public uneducated. The less they know, the less they’ll question us. Unfortunately this causes us to dumb down one of the worlds most complex products.

You can use any roast profile you desire to brew espresso with. You might find that you’ll need to adjust your brewing parameters to compensate for the roast, but if you’re using a good coffee, you should be getting a good result. Contrary to popular belief, a dark oily bean is not a good sign. This is a sign that the coffee bean is over roasted or past it’s prime and the cell walls have begun to be compromised and they are starting to release the oils (the aroma and flavor) that you’re trying to get out of it while brewing.

Take away; If you’re fortunate enough to have an espresso machine at home, try to use the same coffee through it as you would use for your drip brewer and think about the differences in taste that each brew method brings to the table.

Coffee Cupping. Are We Doing Our Part?

Do you ever find yourself looking at coffee scores and feeling lost as to where they came from?Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 10.10.02 PM Perhaps you have cupped an 87 point coffee but you can’t seem to find out how they ever came to that conclusion.

How much time are we spending at our shops with our employees or customers cupping and evaluating coffees?    

How can we assure accurate cupping scores?
Can we be that consistent and calibrated to each other?
How can we assure our cupping scores are valid?

Well unless you cup frequently. We’re talking like 3 times a week, there is a very good chance that your cupping scores are not going to be all that valid.

 There are 3 things to work on to get your sensory skill set sharpened;

1) Ability.
2) Repeatability.
3) Calibration.

Can you be at least 85% accurate on a triangulation test? To practice or test yourself, select 4 similar coffees and have a friend set up a triangulation table with 6 stations of 3 cups.  Two cups in each set should be the same coffee. Go around and do your cupping and see how you fair.

Like a thermometer, can you read accurate results consistently?
A good test for this is to blindly cup the same roast sample twice in the same day and compare notes. It is expected that your total point score with the blind same day cupping shouldn’t vary more than 1.5 points, and our descriptors should be fairly similar as well.

You could then go through the same triangulation process as in the “ability” section and see if you get consistent readings from the same coffees.
This is a great way to reassure accuracy between your cuppings.

How do we assure that what I’m cupping and scoring a coffee is going to be similar to the café down the street or a city over?

After a cupper can prove that they are consistent, a calibrated cupper can be defined as one who has the repeated ability to match the results of an established group of cuppers. So how close is close enough? Every cupper should be within one or two point maximum deviation. It is suggested that you calibrate to the coffee roaster. If you are going to become a coffee buyer, they are after all the ones that are going to be purchasing from you, if they like the coffees your selling. If you work at a café they are the ones you trust with the purchasing decisions and roast profiles they decide to go with.

Professional cuppers should be cupping at least 3 times a week to keep their skills up. Much like practicing a musical instrument, you lose your touch after two weeks. You might not have forgotten the notes, but it takes a bit longer for your fingers to get into position.

Roaster, Barista and Customer; Deciphering The Code

Coffee roasting profiles can often be confusing and the tasting notes on bags misleading. As Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 2.53.50 PMyou develop your coffee pallet you’ll depend less on written descriptions and trust your own sense of taste.

The most common way I hear customers describe a coffee roasts profile are light, medium and dark; Only 3 descriptions for an enormous amount of possibilities.

What do these mean, and how can we help customers find what they are actually looking for?

In the roasting world there are many ways that we attempt to capture the roast more accurately and consistently; The SCAA has color tiles with numerical correspondents, lots of roasters use Agtron (a device that uses infrared light to analyze color and gives out a roast score with a numerical value.) Other still, go by measuring the bean temperature at the termination of roast. (or all 3.)

All this to help us recreate a great roast and deliver a consistent product.

This is just a little peak behind the veil on the science and intuition that goes into roasting. Keep in mind we’re not even touching on the subject of profiling.

As baristas (baristi) we want to provide the customer with exactly what they’re looking for, and sometimes that means trying to read between the lines.

More often than not, someone looking for dark roast is looking for “quality” and that’s what they associate with it. Sometimes they just want something with a heavier mouth feel, but rarely are they looking for a charred and mystical third crack.

So trust your barista intuition and always give your customers the best experience you can, while propelling our industry forward.