Here we are with another Coffee 101 post! Our subject today is espresso.
You may have scrolled past our espresso blends in the past, on the hunt for the newest single origin to try. We don’t blame you, we also search out the best in limited edition and micro lot single origins. But while we love these excellent coffees, this post is about something different. We want to tell you why we love espresso blends, brewed at home without the use of an espresso machine.
What is a Coffee Blend?
Need a quick overview on the coffee blend? It’s simple: two or more origins, mixed together. Creating a coffee blend is an art form. You have to understand and appreciate the nuances in different coffees, and bring the flavors together to be transformed into a more complex cup of coffee. With 46 years of history sourcing coffee from all over the planet, we have a unique relationship with the coffees arriving at our roastery, and can create some truly spectacular blends with the coffees we receive.
One thing that’s special about a blend is the subtle shifts in flavor that we create to maintain freshness. We regularly modify the recipes for our blends, adding in our latest arrivals of coffee, while keeping a consistent flavor profile.
Now let’s talk espresso. What makes an espresso blend different from any other coffee blend?
Our four espresso blends have certain characteristics: softened acidity, a smooth experience throughout the cup, and a heavy body with a really spectacular aftertaste. These traits are specifically built into the blend for the purpose of pulling a superb espresso shot, but using our espresso blends in your home brewer also makes an equally excellent cup of coffee.
One of our favorite things to do at Thanksgiving Coffee, is to encourage you to try new things. The world of coffee is vast, and there is no way any one person would be able to try all the amazing coffees out there. What we do have is the opportunity to experience and taste more than ever before as our world becomes better connected, and we love bringing these alternative coffee options to you.
Every sip of coffee is a new experience, and we are honored to be a part of your coffee rituals.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company
2017 Roaster of the Year
Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup
We have a new Coffee 101 post for you today! Buckle up, because you’re going to get to know more about the world of specialty coffee, by diving into single origins and roast colors in one blog post. We are examining how origin and roast color work together to create your Thanksgiving Coffee experience.
Roast Color in Specialty Coffee
You can dig in deep about roast colors and what they mean here, or get the annotated version below. From light to medium to dark to french, slight adjustments in the temperature during roasting make up 80% of a coffee’s flavor. Your personal preference–whether it’s smoky or sweet or somewhere inbetween—is largely based on the temperature to which your coffee was roasted.
If you spend any time chatting with people who work in the specialty coffee industry, you’ll notice a lot of love for the light roast. Light roasts tend to be the favorite of coffee aficionados because they truly showcase the flavors unique to origin. Despite this, it’s important to remember that every coffee drinker is different, and if light roasts aren’t your favorite, that is totally okay. There are so many ways to experience coffee, and it all helps to refine your palate.
Side by Side Coffee Comparison
In day to day coffee drinking, most people don’t have the chance to compare how the different roast colors taste. The average consumer has their go-to coffee, and typically won’t vary their purchasing by much. Getting the chance to taste two roast colors from the same origin is an excellent way to compare and contrast the flavors you get from darker and lighter roasts, to truly experience an origin and learn more about what you prefer in a coffee.
Ready to try it? We have a few coffees that allow you to do a side by side comparison between different roast colors of the same origin. These coffees are grown in the same region, processed using the same method, put into the same burlap sack, but roasted in two different ways. Take a look at our flavor profiles for these coffees below, and pick the origin that interests you.
Congo Coffee: Medium and Dark
Dark: Rich notes of chocolate and spice with a syrupy mouthfeel
Medium: Milk chocolate, balanced richness, lasting finish
Uganda Coffee: Light and Dark
Dark: Smoky, with notes of chocolate and sweet pecans
Light: Sweet, nutty coffee with notes of pecan and nutmeg
Guatemala Coffee: Light and Dark
Dark: Sweet cherry tartness, with notes of semi-sweet chocolate
Light: Rich with cherry sweetness, floral notes, and a wine-like body
Sumatra Coffee: Medium and Very Dark
French: Full-bodied, smoky, earthy
Medium: Earthy body, butterscotch, cedar
What we want you to do, is experience these side by side. Gather the family around, invite a couple friends over, and prepare the coffee in your favorite way – whether it’s Chemex, French Press or even cowboy style. Take the time to make a batch from both roast colors, and taste them both. Let the coffee linger in your mouth, and swish it around to hit all your taste buds. Try it without your usual sweeteners or dairy products… and then try it with! You’re getting to know the characteristics unique to the coffee’s origin, while spending time understanding the difference between the darker and lighter roasts.
BONUS: Decaf Tasting!
Thanksgiving Coffee also has an option for those of you that prefer a little less caffeination. Our Decaf Nighthawks’ lineup is sourced from an organic coffee farm in Mexico, and water-processed to remove caffeine at a nearby facility. While our Light and our French are roasted separately, our Medium Roast (which we call the ‘Royal’) is actually a blend of the two. After we’ve roasted our French and Light versions of this Mexican coffee, we mix those two together to create a unique blend that becomes our Royal Decaf. Taste all three side by side to experience the variety you can get in a truly spectacular decaf.
Light: A smooth light roast with hints of milk chocolate and cinnamon
Medium: Complex and sweet enough to enjoy straight, yet bold enough to punch through milk
French: Bold and rich with intense notes of dark chocolate and toasted marshmallows
Thanksgiving Coffee Company
2017 Roaster of the Year
Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup
At the end of 2017, Kim Westerman of CoffeeReview.com published an excellent report of the state of Nicaraguan coffees, comparing a few of the Nicaraguans that she’d had the opportunity to cup and score, including our Songbird Nicaraguan.
That article was recently published in the latest edition of Roast Magazine, and we’ve included the final paragraph from that review here on our blog.
From Roast Magazine and CoffeeReview.com:
“Perhaps the only coffee presenting a classic Nicaragua profile among the nine highest scorers is Thanksgiving Coffee’s Organic Shade-Grown Nicaragua (reviewed online at 92), a blend of the respected maracaturra, caturra and catuai varieties, meticulously processed by the traditional wet method. It is also the only coffee we reviewed that is certified Bird Friendly by the Smithsonian Institution, hands-down the most uncompromising and rigorous of environmentally focused certifications. The idealism and passion that drove the growing and farm management that produced this coffee clearly went into its processing as well: It is an impressively pure coffee. Of all nine coffees we reviewed this month, it most clearly represents the classic Nicaragua cup of tradition, with its inherent balance, quietly juicy acidity and buoyant, satiny mouthfeel.”
We want to say thank you to Kim for writing this article and featuring the country of Nicaragua as an origin. We also want to thank Roast Magazine for publishing it in their most recent magazine. You can find this entire article on pages 78 and 79 of the March/April edition of Roast Magazine, and online at CoffeeReview.com.
Our Songbird Nicaraguan is a Medium Roast that is part of our partnership with the American Birding Association. You can find this coffee at a number of supermarkets and Wild Birds Unlimited outlets across the United States (see our Store Locator), as well as online on the Thanksgiving Coffee store.
Benefiting the American Birding Association
$16 • 12oz
Nutty, Smooth, Milk Chocolate
Thanksgiving Coffee Company
2017 Roaster of the Year
Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup
If you’ve ordered our classic Mocha Java in the past few days, you may have spotted a difference in our packaging. Our new label design features a map that illustrates the story behind Mocha Java. In this blog post, we’re going to give you a little history lesson—so pour a cup of java (or grab yourself a mocha?) and have a seat.
While the word “mocha” may also refer to your favorite chocolate-y drink, that is not what we’re referring to in today’s post. Mocha Java is a historic blend of two origins an ocean away from each other: Indonesia and Yemen.
The History of Mocha Java
Back in the 1400s to 1600s, the majority of Europe’s coffee intake came out of the Red Sea, from the Port of Mocha [Makha or Mokha]. This coffee was grown in the country of Yemen, but was referred to by the name of the port from which it came. In the Pacific Islands, it was the same story. Most Indonesian coffee was coming out of a port on the island of Java, controlled by the Dutch East India Trading Company. This led to the term “java”, which has remained as slang for coffee to this day.
These two ports caffeinated most of the coffee-drinking world in those days, and trading ships passed through both on the same trip. Although 5,000 miles separated them, coffee from Java and Yemen lived together on the sailing vessels that made their way across the Indian Ocean and back to Europe. These two origins came together as the very first blend in the world of coffee, and it’s a combination that roasters continue to emulate.
The above pictures are a few examples of historic Mocha Java blends.
Mocha Java Today
These days, your typical Mocha Java has a few slight variations. Most roasters (and coffee enthusiasts) prefer Indonesian coffee to be sourced from Sumatra, the next island over from Java. On the Middle Eastern side, buyers will often source their “mocha” from the African country of Ethiopia, across the Red Sea from Yemen.
This is the case for our own homage to Mocha Java. For the Thanksgiving Coffee Mocha Java blend, we source our “java” from farmers in the the Takengon region of Sumatra, Indonesia. Our “mocha” is a natural-processed coffee that comes from farmer cooperatives in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. Our Mocha Java is a coffee that we’ve perfected over decades of roasting, and we strive to maintain its consistency.
The history of Mocha Java is a history of the coffee world as a whole. The coffee industry has changed significantly over the past five centuries, and we love looking back and researching where it all came from. Next time you brew up a cup of our Mocha Java, take your time drinking it, because you are sipping a truly historic coffee.
Mocha Java, Deconstructed
Now that you know the background of the Mocha Java, you have the opportunity to create your own. Our organic Sumatran Coffee is available in two roast colors, and we have three different organic Ethiopian coffees that you can choose from online. You can mix up the “mocha” and “java” to create your own perfect blend.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company
• Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup •
2017 Roaster of the Year
In the cold months of the early 1940s, a cocktail we know and love was created in Limerick, Ireland. A local chef combined the cozy warmth of a cup of coffee with the strong kick of Irish whiskey, and the Irish Coffee was born. The Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco was the first recorded American bar to serve this drink, and these days you can order it in just about any pub you wander into.
By Marler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
January 25 is National Irish Coffee Day, and there’s only one way to celebrate—by making yourself a drink! The Irish Coffee is a simple cocktail, but we did our research to find the classic way to brew and imbibe. There are four main ingredients in just about every recipe researched, so be sure you’re stocked up on these:
- Irish Whiskey
- Brown Sugar
- Hot Coffee
- Heavy Cream
Irish Coffee Recipe
Follow this recipe to celebrate National Irish Coffee Day:
- First off, brew some coffee! You’ll want a strong and dark brew, and the Mendocino Vienna is the perfect addition to any Irish Coffee cocktail. While you’re at it, boil some water to warm up the inside of your cup.
- Next, whip that heavy cream. Mix it so that’s it’s still creamy, not quite stiff, so it can sit smoothly, right on top of your drink.
- Warm up the bottom of your glass with that hot water, and dump it out.
- Toss in a teaspoon to a tablespoon of brown sugar. It’s up to you how much sweetness you want!
- Pour in a jigger of Irish Whiskey, while mixing it with a small spoon. You’ll want to combine the whiskey with the sugar already in the cup.
- Slowly pour in your brewed coffee, while mixing it with the sugar and whiskey mixture already there. Leave some room at the top of your cup for the cream!
- What you’ll want to do with the cream is VERY slowly pour it on top. We’re not doing any mixing here, just setting down a layer of cream to sit right on top of your drink.
- Need a little garnish? A sprinkle of nutmeg, a dash of caramel or even a little extra brown sugar on top make for a fancy looking cup of Irish Coffee.
Looking for a non-alcoholic version of an Irish Coffee? Use a splash of brandy or rum flavoring instead of the whiskey. If you’re worried about an evening drink containing caffeine, we have a solution: decaf! We would suggest our Nighthawks’ Royal, but you can peruse our full list of Decaf Coffees for yourself.
Did you make yourself a cocktail using our coffee? Share a picture and your review on our social media channels! FACEBOOK • TWITTER • INSTAGRAM • TUMBLR
It’s time to get educated.
Whether or not you have a go-to coffee, you probably have an idea of what you like. Something with a smoky taste, so you can add a splash of milk; or perhaps something on the sweeter side for your cold brew. We want to help you dig in a little deeper and learn more about every one of the roast colors, and what you’re tasting in your cup of coffee!
For each roast color, we’re highlighting a coffee that is really standing out right now. These recommendations come straight from our Roastmaster and Roastmaster Emeritus on what coffee they’re drinking these days. However, we DO want to encourage you to go outside the box, and take a look through all the coffees and roast colors on our website–try a variety to find that perfect cup!
Ready to dive in? Let’s start with the light roasts, and make our way to the dark side…
Light Roast Coffee
Nuanced • Bright • Lively
In the lighter roasts (both light and medium), you can taste the nuance and impact of terroir. If you’re a single origin lover, these coffees are your go-to. With a light roast especially, the specific qualities unique to the coffee’s origin stand out. If you’re sticking with Vienna and French roasts (the darker beans), you have to work harder to tell the differences between origins. With light, it’s all there in the first sip.
For those of you that cup your coffee and take the time to taste every flavor, the lights and mediums are probably the roasts for you. When purchasing a single origin coffee, the great ones are best at this roast color.
Light Roast Recommendation
Our Nicaraguan Flor de Jinotega is really making an impact right now. We received a fresh crop as of the beginning of June, and it’s tasting nutty, chocolaty, smooth and sweet. A really pleasing cup!
Medium Roast Coffee
Nutty • Spicy • Balanced • Fruity
Roasted about 20 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the light, the color on a medium roast coffee bean shifts into a chocolate brown. As you move from the light roast to the medium, the bright and lively acidity morphs into a smoother, deeper, and more balanced mouth feel. In every sip of a medium roast, you’ll find that a certain mellowness and maturity prevails.
Medium Roast Recommendation
Thanksgiving Coffee has many medium roasts that stand out, but our Fairtrade and Organic Mocha Java is a classic that we love more and more every time we brew it. This coffee has that balanced and nuanced flavor we referenced above, and was described as having a “delicately sweet aroma” by CoffeeReview.com, where it scored 90 points.
Dark Roast Coffee
Bold • Spicy • Chocolaty
The coffee bean color on our dark roast (sometimes called the Vienna roast) is still more brown than black. You could compare it to the color of baker’s chocolate. When this coffee is freshly roasted, the beans will have a shiny coat of coffee oils on their surface. The greatest dark roast coffees will have hints of carbonization, but shouldn’t be described as smoky or toasty — we’ll leave those descriptors to the very dark roast.
Dark Roast Recommendation
The preferred dark roast of the Thanksgiving Coffee Roastery right now is our Congo Coffee. Just launched earlier this year, this single origin is changing the way we think of dark roasts. As you sip this coffee, you’ll notice rich notes of chocolate and spice, with a syrupy mouthfeel.
(Bonus Points: every purchase of our Congo Coffee benefits the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International!)
Very Dark Roast Coffee
Toasty • Smoky • Caramelized Sugars
Ah, the “French Roast.” This is the coffee that goes great with a splash of milk. The coffee bean color on our very dark roast is more black than brown, with rich and copious levels of surface oil. Roasted long and hot to produce deep carbony, smoky flavor notes. A well-made French roast will have caramelized sugar notes, licorice and roasted chestnut flavors, and a long wet (not ashy) finish.
Very Dark Roast Recommendation
We recommend the Sumatra as our very dark roast selection for a very good reason: you don’t find many single origin coffees that are roasted to this color. It takes some work to create a French roast that still has the flavors and nuances of origin, and this coffee does that well.
As we sign off on our roast color education, we want to remind you of something: if you aren’t sure you’ll like it, give it a try! Are you regularly a French roast lover? Give medium a go. Religiously purchase the Bolivia Light Roast? Add the Rwanda Medium to your order this month for something new. The best way to develop your taste preferences is to get outside your box and liven up your selection.
Enjoy your roast color adventure!
Oh yes, you CAN blend different roast colors! Paul Katzeff created an app for all you iPhone users to explain this even more. It’s called Smart Coffee, and it was designed to help you blend roast colors, and create a flavor profile that is specific to YOU. Check it out!
From Lawrence Bullock
Here’s a cold brew marinade for those foggy summer weekends (or anytime, actually) when company’s coming, and you have a bit of prep time. You will need a full two days for prep, and another ten hours for the slow cooker.
I started by making the marinade, which was cold brewed Kona Blend Coffee.
Cold Brew Recipe:
One 12oz package of Thanksgiving Coffee Kona Blend, cold brewed for 24 hours. I used our Cold Brew Kit. Once the cold brewing was complete (24 hours) I filtered the coffee using a mesh filter. If you don’t have one of those, simply pour off the cold brew into a second container until you see the sludge. Set the strained cold brew aside. Discard any solids left at the bottom of the cold brew kit, and you’re left with roughly 50 to 56 ounces of cold brew coffee.
I bought two chuck roasts. Chuck roasts are an inexpensive cut, but flavorful.
I put the cold brew into a container that I knew could contain the roasts and the cold brew. A lidded container is preferable, but if you don’t have one, use cling wrap to seal it off. Use enough cold brew to completely cover the meat.
I then placed the meat, covered in cold brew, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Once the cold brew marinade process was over, I poured the leftover cold brew coffee into a container and set it aside.
As you can see, planning ahead is essential as two 24 periods are involved, and THEN a ten hour cook time.
But it’s worth it.
I then used the directions on a product called Johnny’s French Dip Au Jus. This product can be found in most grocery stores, or online, these days. You only need one little bottle, but I usually buy two and keep one in the pantry. Johnny’s French Dip Au Jus contains: Water, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn, Soy, Wheat), Red Wine Vinegar, Tomato Paste, Worcestershire Sauce. The basic recipe for the au jus, according to the label on the little bottle is two parts water to one part au jus. Instead of the recommended water, I used the cold brew that I had marinated the roasts in. Using those directions, I ended up with 3 cups of au jus liquid. It pretty much covered the roasts. You can make more of the au jus if you wish. Make enough to cover the roast (or roasts) completely.
I refrigerated any remaining cold brew to save in case it was needed. Any product that has touched raw meat should be refrigerated.
Cooking the Pot Roast
I set the slow cooker to ten hours and let it cook. For ten hours.
A coffee-saturated roast beef was the result. The coffee flavor was evident but not overwhelming and taste tests went well. A wide rage of ages (15 to 67) tasted the roast at completion and enjoyed it.
I didn’t really need the extra cold brew marinade so I discarded it. For health and safety reasons, I didn’t freeze it, or save it for later. Any product that has touched raw meat should be discarded if not used in a timely fashion.
You can add carrots, potatoes and any number of vegetables associated with standard pot roast recipes, but I chose to not include them in this recipe because I wanted to taste what a strict coffee au jus and meat only combination tasted like. I’m sure adding the vegetables would be just fine, and I’ll probably do that next time!
From Lawrence Bullock
Biologists have only recently started understanding how and why temperature affects the taste of food and beverages. No research has been conducted specifically regarding coffee. But there are three main theories; the first holds that lukewarm coffee tastes bad because cavemen didn’t have refrigerators.
Karel Talavera of the Laboratory of Ion Channel Research in Cuba has studied the way that taste receptors inside our taste buds respond to molecules at different temperatures. He and his colleagues found that certain taste receptors are most sensitive to food molecules in the 20 to 35 degree Celsius (68 to 95 degree Fahrenheit) range — in other words, molecules at or just above room temperature. The taste receptors in question don’t always register molecules much hotter or colder than this range, so we don’t taste them.
“This is still an obscure phenomenon that we cannot explain, but that could fit to the fact that taste perception does decrease above a certain temperature,” Talavera says. In short, hot coffee (around 170 degrees F) may seem less bitter than room-temperature coffee (73 degree F) because our bitter taste receptors aren’t as sensitive to bitter molecules in the coffee when those molecules are hot.
According to Talavera, our sensory systems tend to be designed by evolution to perform most effectively at the temperatures we are typically exposed to. “Our ancestors did not eat food at extreme temperatures,” he said. Their meals consisted of mostly foraged berries and freshly hunted meat in the 20 to 37 degree Celsius range — almost exactly the window in which our taste buds are most sensitive. Because piping hot or ice-cold coffee falls outside this realm of maximum taste, our taste buds don’t sense the drink’s true bitterness.
However, the temperature-dependence effect observed by Talavera and colleagues is more pronounced for sweet taste receptors than bitter ones, and so it may not be the only factor at work. Some researchers think tepid coffee’s bitterness has more to do with smell than taste. “Odors influence coffee flavor very strongly, and it is easy to go from sublime to horrible,” Paul Breslin, an experimental psychologist who studies taste perception at Rutgers University, wrote in an email. Even very bitter coffee, such as espresso, tastes great when hot because of its pleasant aroma, he pointed out.
According to Barry Green, a taste perception scientist at Yale University, hot coffee releases more aromatic compounds than room-temperature coffee, so it has a greater chance of impacting taste. He also said that milk, coffee’s frequent companion, tastes worse at room temperature, and a combination of these factors probably explains the nearly universal opinion that lukewarm coffee leaves something to be desired.
One last theory holds that hot coffee’s heat could be distracting us from its strong flavor. As Breslin put it, “It is possible that an attentional mechanism is at work. You do not think about how bitter or sweet [coffee] is when it is hot or cold. Hot coffee may force you to think about temperature, which is a bit of a distraction from its bitterness.”
None of the researchers profess to fully understand coffee’s temperature-dependent deliciousness, but it seems to be at least slightly, only a matter of opinion.
Below: A photo featuring both hot coffee and cold coffee from one of our cafes, The Good Earth Coffee and Tea House in Oroville, California!
From Lawrence Bullock
In order to make coffee infused vodka, you will need the Primula Cold Brew Maker to begin. I’ve used it, and for this recipe, it’s essential. If you use another type, you’re on your own. Now that you’ve got your Primula cold brew coffee maker, you will also need:
One bottle of vodka
Inexpensive vodka will be fine. You don’t have buy a huge bottle, the standard size is fine.
One 12 oz package of ground coffee
Any kind is fine, but don’t use a rare Yirgacheffe or some such, as the subtle flavors will be lost in the alcohol. The percolator grind works best for the Primula, so PERC grind it should be.
Place the inner filter of the Primula in its carafe and fill it with the ground coffee. Perhaps to about a half inch from the top. Pour the vodka slowly through the filter until it is gone, or until you’ve filled the container.
Put the lid on the Primula and set it aside for at least 24 hours, but no longer than 48. After that, pull out the filter and set it aside. Pour your coffee flavored vodka back into the bottle if you wish, or any other container you elect to. If you wish to flavor the vodka with vanilla or any other syrup (like a Torani syrup) start with a teaspoon first and then add to taste.
Make sure you wash out the filter and the Primula, so it’s ready for the next use!
Have fun experimenting! Oh, and now that you have a cold brew maker, try making some cold brew coffee too.
Here are some of my favorite uses for coffee vodka:
- Drink with cola
- Drink with cream soda
- Add to a cafe latte
- Add a little to your favorite cake recipe
Summer has arrived, and that means it’s time to brew your coffee COLD. In honor of the first week of summer, we’re going to be posting one cold brew article every day for the next week: recipes, brewing methods, brewer reviews and the science behind cold brew.
Check back every day on the Thanksgiving Coffee Blog for more information on cold brew! We’ll continue to update this page with all the new items being added.
What is Cold Brew
Cold Brew is very simply explained, because the entirety of its explanation is in the name: it’s simply coffee that has been brewed with cold water, instead of hot. While your typical french press or pour over method uses boiling water, the cold brew method simply requires water at room temperature.
There are many methods of brewing your coffee cold, and that’s something we’ll discuss a little more as the week goes on.
Why Drink Cold Brew Coffee
Why!? It’s hot outside. But there are a lot of other reasons to drink cold brew too: caffeine content, acidity levels and versatility in uses. We’ll continue to explore each of these options in the coming days, right here on the Thanksgiving Coffee Blog. Keep checking back for more information!
LINKS: Cold Brew Kit | Cold Brew Versatility | Cold Brew in a Mason Jar | Cold Brew Steak Marinade
For now, let’s celebrate summer with a glass of cold brew!