Author Archives: Landon Porter
Brewing coffee at home can often be a challenge for people; a challenge that leaves them wondering why they can’t get it to be as good as the coffee shop. A lot of that is due to the tools (equipment) the specialty coffee shops are using and we’re going to talk about a way that you can make a great cup of coffee with a pretty simple method.
Grinding fresh and using an accurate amount of specialty coffee and water makes a huge difference! However, there is a final step you may choose to take if you wish to greatly elevate your personal coffee experience. This final step is the manual brew method, such as the French press or pour over. The reason most people switch to the manual methods is that you have more control over water temperature and water flow; a few of the manageable variables that make great coffee.
Let’s focus on temperature for now. Water acts as a solvent to coffee by “washing” the flavor out of the coffee grounds and happens to be a better solvent at near-boiling temperatures. Brewing with water that is between 195 – 205 degrees has been found to work best, so as to not burn the coffee while still extracting the best flavors from the coffee grounds (lower temperatures will not extract the full flavor). The problem is that most home brewers cannot reach this temperature and the ones that can cost $100 or more. This is a huge factor in coffee quality that can easily be controlled through manual brewing.
Next, we have water flow. A lot of brewers just spit the hot water onto the bed of coffee sporadically, leaving some parts of the coffee bed completely dry! As you can imagine, this results in a very poor pot of coffee, a problem easily corrected by manually pouring the hot water over the coffee bed yourself.
One simple solution to all this is to brew with a pour over filter cone. Using water just off the boil (about 200 degrees F), add a small amount of water to wet all the grounds and let the coffee “bloom” or rise. Wait 30 seconds, then start to pour the rest of the water slowly from the center of the grounds outward, in a circular motion. As the coffee begins to filter downward, a slow, even pour helps draw out infusion time to maintain the thermal mass of the coffee/water mixture. Total brew time should be about two and a half minutes. We sell the Chemex 8-cup Pour Over pot in our shop. Drink deeply…and enjoy!
Decaf. Usually this word is associated with poor tasting coffee. But despite its reputation I have good news for the coffee lovers who are unable to have caffeine or the coffee addicts (like me) who desire a fresh brew at 1 a.m. We here at UTOPIAN roast up some tasty decaf! Whenever I brew some of our decaf for friends or family who cannot have caffeine they immediately ask me after the first sip, “Are you sure this is decaf? Because it doesn’t taste like decaf!” As they enjoy their delicious coffee I briefly explain to them what I’d like to share with you.
Here at UTOPIAN COFFEE CO. we buy decaf coffee that has been decaffeinated using a natural water process. By using a water-based solution, it is ensured that no chemicals come in contact with the coffee and this help maintain the coffee’s natural taste.
Once we receive the raw decaf coffee, we roast it and preform quality checks to make sure it’s perfect. I’m actually drinking a cup of our decaf Colombia as I’m writing this, and to be honest, it’s hard to tell the difference between this and regular! So I encourage you to try out a bag of one of our current decaf offerings. Even if you normally drink regular I find it’s nice to have a bag on hand for those late-night coffee cravings.
With the hot months of Summer coming up, I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts on how to make some great iced coffee. I’ll offer two different recipes: A quick and easy recipe and then a more technical one for my fellow coffee nerds.
The easiest way to make some great iced coffee is to simply double the amount of coffee grounds you are using for the given amount of water. The extra coffee gounds will ensure you brew a strong coffee concentrate that won’t be diluted when it melts with the with ice.
Once you have your grounds and water ready to go, add some ice to your coffee pot’s carafe. I fill the ice to the same line on the carafe that I used to measure water. So if I did 8 cups of water I would fill ice to the 8 cup line. Make sure to brew directly on to the ice! This is a little trick that I promise will make your coffee taste better.
After that, simply brew, pour the coffee into a glass full of ice, and enjoy!
However, if you wish to get more technical with your brew and you use a scale to weigh out your ratios, I’ve got something for you.
Instead of the normal 50/50 water to coffee ratio for iced coffee, I personally prefer a 40/60 coffee to water ratio. I find this yields a slightly better brew. So for brewing 12 ounces of hot coffee I’d normally use 25 grams of coffee and 12 ounces (354 milliliters) of water. Our default iced coffee ratio of 50/50 would have me double my coffee to 50 grams, but our new 40/60 water to coffee ratio would have me use 35 grams of coffee. My water amount would remain the same at 12 ounces (or 354 milliliters). For my ice ratio, I use roughly 2/3 of my water ratio. So I’d use 8 ounces (236 grams) of ice. Always brew directly onto ice. This ensures the natural sweetness of the coffee is preserved and helps keep away bitterness. When you brew hot and add ice afterwards, you’ll most likely notice you end up with a more bitter brew.
This is just my personal iced coffee recipe. Please experiment, tweak it, and use whatever works best for your brewing setup!
We are excited to release our Direct Trade Colombia Pitalito! This offering is from the Huila region of Colombia, which happens to be my favorite region due to the amazing coffee that comes out of there. The name Pitalito refers to the town right next to where this coffee is grown.
The Pitalito is an exceptional coffee with notes of caramel, molasses, and red fruit. It has a medium body and a muted brightness…very smooth. There is a pleasant dryness to the finish, and the overall experience reminds us of enjoying a fruit preserve. This offering had a higher price at origin, so it will just be $2 more than our regular coffees. However, for our coffee subscription members, we will be including this coffee at no extra cost!
The French press, or simply a press pot, is probably one of the most popular manual brewing methods. It’s a great way to highlight all that UTOPIAN coffee has to offer. I have some simple French press tips and tricks I use when brewing with the French press that I believe can elevate your gourmet coffee experience and I’d like to share them with you.
The “Before You Brew” French Press Tips:
1. Make sure you use the correct grind–the coffee particles should resemble breadcrumbs or coarse sea salt. If you find it difficult to plunge the plunger, then you need a coarser grind. If you follow all the normal brewing steps correctly but your coffee taste weak, then you may need a finer grind.
2. Preheat your press. Fill your press with hot water and then discard the water after a few seconds. This will help maintain a constant brew temperature which is important for delicious coffee.
3. Have a solid coffee-to-water ratio. I personally use 56 grams of coffee (about 8 Tablespoons of ground coffee) for the 8-cup French press. Adjust to your taste, but this should give you a starting point.
How-To-Brew French Press Tips:
1. Use water that is between 195 – 205 degrees. Water between these temps will do the best job at fully extracting the flavor. But be careful! Boiling water (at 212 degrees) will actually burn the coffee. I pull my water off the stove just as it’s about to boil and let it set for 30 seconds. That’s a good gauge if you don’t have a random thermometer laying around.
2. After adding your water to the coffee start your timer! You’ll probably notice that the coffee forms a dome at the top of your press. What I do is after 30 seconds I gently stir the grounds into the water with a large spoon. 4 – 5 gentle stirs should do the trick. This will help integrate all the coffee and water so you get an even brew. Gently set the plunger on top to seal in the heat and wait.
3. My total brew time is roughly 3 minutes and 45 seconds. After this time elapses I’ll take off the plunger and use my spoon to remove and discard as much of the grounds from the press pot as I can. Don’t spend too long doing this as the coffee is still brewing in a sense. Just take about 15 seconds scoop out the grounds that you can. After scooping, place the plunger back on top and plunge. I prefer not to brew over 4 minutes so if you finish right around that time you should be good.
This previous step is probably one of the most noticeable things you can do to enjoy the most from your fresh roasted coffee. By scooping the grounds out you won’t get as much coffee grit in your cup and this can make a huge difference! I know some people love a bit of the coffee grit in their cup so to each their own!
If any of these French press tips help you in your daily coffee ritual as you enjoy fresh roasted coffee–or if you have a question (or have your own French press tips)–please feel free to let us know via Twitter or Facebook.
UTOPIAN COFFEE CO. is proud to be a supporter of a project called “Women For Women International“, which works with socially excluded women in eight countries where war and conflict have devastated lives and communities. Women who enroll in their one-year program learn job skills and receive business training so they can earn a living. They come to understand their rights and how to fight for those rights in their homes, their communities and their nations.
Here at UTOPIAN we have been able to help five ladies from the Democratic Republic of Congo go through the various classes that Women For Women has available. We are currently assisting Aimerance, also from the DRC, in completing the 12 month program. We just received an update on her progress and we would like to share that with you so you have a better understanding of how your support of UTOPIAN is making a difference across the globe.
During my time in the coffee world I have witnessed the battle of the roast preference. I have heard about every debate out there, from light roast coffee is acidic to dark roast coffee is burnt. Everyone has their favorite place on the roast spectrum, and with a patriotic spirit they will rise up to defend their roast preference if anyone dares to attack it. We are creatures of habit and if we came into the gourmet coffee world liking one roast over the other, then that’s probably where we have remained. I hope to challenge your favorite roast preference and shed some light on why you may appreciate that roast you happen to look down upon.
I will take on the light roast first since this is all the rage in the specialty coffee industry. Light roasted coffee is often praised because you can taste more of the coffee’s true characteristics. It offers sweet, juicy, and vibrant flavors with a clean finish! Sounds tasty, right? While some of us sip our lightly roasted coffees and proclaim how magnificently sweet it is, others are simply noticing that the liquid in their cup is acidic and makes their tongue tingle. We cannot convince people they should drink a coffee that they obviously do not enjoy, but many a coffee drinker miss out on some really nice flavors that come about as a result of the lighter roast.
Now for Dark roast…and I can already see the coffee nerds cringing. The biggest complaint I hear about dark coffee is that it’s “burnt”. While this may be true in some cases, most of the time, it is not burnt if you’re dealing with quality, small-batch roasted specialty coffee. Dark roasts usually have prominent flavor notes like dark chocolate, and caramel hints with a heavy, lingering finish. Sounds like a delicious dessert to me! As a roaster, there are some coffees that simply lends themselves better to a darker roast and some work better as a lighter roast. I like to experiment and test to find the right roast balance and make a coffee taste as good as it possibly can.
Let me sum it all up by saying I believe most of our taste for a particular coffee roast profile developed as we made our respective journeys to the world of specialty coffee. Going from that “stuff” in a tin can that was ground 18 months ago, all the way to where we are now, we have developed our likes and dislikes. So why should we base our roast preference off of the sludge that we all used to drink years ago? There are actually some light roasted coffees that are smooth and lingering that I have let “dark roasters” try and they thoroughly enjoyed them! On the flip side, there are sweet and complex dark roasts that a light roast drinker will definitely appreciate.
The point of all this is that we have access to some of the finest fresh roasted coffees in the world, so why should we limit ourselves to what we consider to be a “better” roast? I know this because I was one of those people who stuck by their roast with pride! Our palates change over time and we could be missing out on the best coffee we have ever experienced, so don’t be afraid to get outside of your roast profile comfort zone. Drink deeply…and enjoy!
I have come to notice that one of the biggest factors in getting great tasting gourmet coffee is the water to coffee ratio. Previously, I was satisfied people were simply brewing with Utopian Coffee regardless of the ratios they were using, but now I am more focused on proper water to coffee ratios. I hope this doesn’t come off as snobby, but I have started to see that people enjoy their coffee so much more when brewing with the correct proportions.
The most common mistake in brewing is over-extraction, mainly caused by using way too little coffee compared to water. This produces a very bitter cup, which most of the world has come to recognize as the normal taste for coffee. That’s also why cream and sugar are so popular! We describe coffee in terms of “strong” or “weak” as opposed to the natural flavor of coffee because we came into the coffee world only knowing those two options. I believe all this stems from using incorrect brewing ratios, so together we can start to solve the world’s specialty coffee quality problems!
You may have heard or read about people tasting anything from blueberries to cedar in their coffee without having added any flavored cream. For the most part, those of us who taste these seemingly odd flavors in our coffee are not crazy…we just use proper brewing ratios so that all the potential flavor of that coffee is in our cup. The way I explain it is that coffee only has so much “good” flavor it can give, and it takes so much water to extract all the “good” flavor. Altering the coffee and/or water ratio means that potentially the coffee can produce “bad” flavors.
I urge you to try it for yourself: Brew gourmet coffee using 10 g (2 tbsp) for every 6 oz of water. If you have a small scale, you are awesome! Brewing by weight is much more accurate than volume, but that is another topic for another time. For most of us who don’t have a scale, I will just give you a quick ratio; use 4 cups of water and 10 tablespoons of coffee. The resulting brew may taste “stronger” than what you are used to, but it should also be much more flavorful!
Carefully measuring out your fresh roasted coffee and water may seem like more work than you are used to, but the results are worth it! Drink deeply…and enjoy!
The best way to improve your coffee experience at home other than using fresh roasted coffee and proper water to coffee ratios is to use a quality burr grinder. If you are are not already using a burr grinder, hopefully I can win you over! Coffee loses most of it’s aromatics within 10 minutes of being ground. By the time you brew pre-ground coffee, most of the olfactory components have escaped and the result is a flat, but still fairly decent, brew.
If you’re like me, you have decided you need something to simply chop up the beans. Easy enough, right? Once I was told that my coffee would taste much better if I ground it fresh, so I did what anyone would do and immediately got one of the $15 Mr. Coffee blade grinders. The problem with this, as I later found out, is that the blade grinders will “chop” beans into extremely inconsistent particles. This in turn results in inconsistent extraction (*see more detailed (“coffee nerd”) section below, as well as the Brewing Ratio blog for further explanation).
As a new customer to Utopian Coffee, I was still just discovering how to brew great coffee. Thankfully the Utopian crew was able to help me get a quality burr grinder, which is when my coffee experience completely changed. I was brewing with fresh roasted coffee, using a proper water to coffee ratio and finally had a serious burr grinder. Could one piece of equipment actually make that big of a difference? At the time I was a total novice in the new world of gourmet coffee and even I could tell a very significant difference in the way my coffee tasted! There was so much more aroma as it was brewing and the flavor in the cup was just outstanding!
The difference between the burr and blade grinders is that the burr grinders crunch the beans which results in very even, consistent particle size as opposed to chopping it into random, inconsistent bits like the blade grinders do. Blade grinders also operate at high speeds which can transfer heat into the grounds, resulting in additional decrease in quality due to the degradation of the coffee before water even touches it.
Our personal recommendation if you are interested in getting a burr grinder for your home or office is Baratza. They make absolutely fantastic burr grinders and I have been using one for more than two years at my home and we’ve been selling them to our customers and they couldn’t be any more pleased. Baratza has a variety of models and we sell some through our site, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions or to request help in getting a certain Baratza model. As a disclaimer, we do not get paid or receive any benefit from promoting them. We just think that they are a stellar product, we use them at home, and want you to know.
*We grind coffee to expose surface area so that the soluble solids can be extracted. Basically we grind it to get the tasty flavor out of the coffee. By having different sized particles what happens is that when the water comes into contact with the grounds it is not able to efficiently extract the flavor since there are a variety of particle sizes.