• Category Archives Coffee
  • This category is for any and all coffee related articles.

  • The perfect cup of coffee

    This post is going to be a little different than the normal format. Why? Because I’m not stating a well thought out opinion, I’m asking for one! It has come to my attention that I am out of the good coffee loop! Oh, so what do I do? What do I do? Where will I go? Well, that’s why I’m coming to YOU, dear faithful readers. What are your favorite coffee roasters and why? What coffee makes you excited? And heck, are there coffees I should totally stay away from? What coffees are like drinking sulfuric acid? What coffees are, well, you get my drift.

    Before everyone lists the shops and roasters everyone I already know about, let me list a few that I know about:

    • Starbucks – they used to be excellent. It’s OK if there’s nothing else around.
    • Stumptown Coffee Roasters – again, they used to be good, and they still are I guess. But I’ve noticed a major slip in quality recently. I think they’re on the Starbucks path.
    • Dutch Brothers – worst. coffee. ever.
    • Pete’s – not the best, not the worst. I do have to say they’ve stayed consistent at least.
    • Portland Coffee Roasters – Pretty decent. I would rate them somewhere in between Pete’s and Stumptown.
    • Blue Gardenia – They very well might be the best coffee out there right now, but there’s only a few places one can get their coffees.
    • Folgers, Maxwell House, et al -coffees that use robusta beans are worst than Dutch Brothers!
    • Trader Joe’s – Decent coffee, limited selection though. And not used at any coffee shops
    • Panache – Let’s just say they’re a half point above Dutch Brothers.
    • Illy – a little too mass-produced. But it’s decent espresso.
    • Longbottom – ew. Ick. Gross.
    • Seattle’s Best Worst – I think you can guess my opinion here.

    There’s a few others I know, but trying to think of every name of every coffee is a bit of a daunting task. So have at it! Give me your opinion, dear readers! What are your favorite coffees and where do I get them?

  • Coffee common sense…

    It happened again yesterday….I wandered into the kitchen at work for a caffeine fix. I poured a cup of coffee, tasted it, and almost spewed a mouthful of hot liquid all over the floor! Now, no offense to my coworkers, they’re generally brilliant people who do their jobs well, but they would make the worst baristas ever. Seriously, it’s not all that difficult to make decent coffee, but there are some basic rules they really need to learn and follow.

    So what are these rules? Well, I’m sure if you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I’ll tell you anyways. Number one. CLEAN YOUR FREAKING EQUIPMENT AND CLEAN IT THOROUGHLY!!! The coffee at work is usually made with a coffee press. Said press is washed several times a week with soap and water, but it never gets clean. Why? Well, it’s because the press is never taken apart. The whole thing is dipped in the soap, rinsed, and called good. WTF! And even IF they did clean the press properly, they haven’t actually replaced the filter in the year and a half I’ve been working there. Those filters don’t last forever!

    Ahhh but clean equipment is only one part of the equation. It is only the first stone in a long trail of stones leading you across a sea of burning hot lava  that will surely kill you if you fall in. Wait, where wast I? How did I get on that tangent? Oh yeah, number two: the beans. Ok, dear beloved co-workers if you are reading this, please know that you do usually buy decent beans. They are almost always fair trade, and they are almost always roasted to match their natural flavors. Kudos in that department. But…….THEY ARE ALMOST ALWAYS GROUND FOR AN AUTOMATIC DRIP! Not cool, not cool at all! So what’s the big deal? It has to do with the amount of contact the beans have with the water. In an auto drip, the beans need to be ground finely because the water drips from above and travels through the beans. Gravity is pulling the water away from the beans, so the beans don’t have a lot of contact with the water. It is why espresso is ground so finely too – the water is forced rapidly through the grounds, thus making the contact with the beans minimal. But, with a coffee press, you have the water and the beans mingling in a stew for FOUR, count them FOUR, MINUTES! More exposure to the water means more bitterness! Oh, it also means more caffeine – so if you’re trying to cut back on the caffeine, that’s an added bonus to having the right grind.

    Number three is closely related to number two, because it ALSO has to do with the beans. I’m half tempted to show pictures of what I found in the cupboard. Five, yes five, bags of coffee dating back to the end of last year! Last year! That’s six months people! In a cupboard! Exposed to air and everything! Ewww! Just ewww! They don’t put expiration dates on coffee, because technically the stuff could last almost forever, but maybe they should, because while coffee  won’t spoil, it will loose it’s flavor! Think about it this way: you leave a half empty bottle of soda on the counter for six months. What’s it going to taste like? If you leave an open bag of chips out for six months, they are going to go stale. Technically, the chips or the soda are going to cause you to get sick, but they are not going to taste good at all! The same thing goes with coffee. If you leave it out, exposed to air, it is going to loose it’s flavor! At the very least, keep it in the freezer. The freezer isn’t perfect, but it will keep the coffee from going totally stale.

    Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, don’t just let the grounds sit in the water. Plunge the pot after FOUR minutes! This goes right back to the grinds people. The more exposure the grounds have to the water, the more bitterness is going to seep out of said beans! So leaving the grounds in the water for an hour? EWWWWWWWWW! I know people who drink folgers who wouldn’t even drink that swill!  The recommended time for brewing in a coffee press is FOUR minutes. This is a time frame that has been tested for hundreds of years!

    If any of my coworkers find this, especially those that happen to be those that make coffee, please don’t take these comments personally. See it as constructive criticism. You’re all brilliant people who I respect very much, but you just don’t know how to make coffee! Heck, if you want, I’ll teach you how to make coffee. We’ll have an office wide seminar on the subject! Ok, ok, maybe that’s taking things a little too far. And maybe I need to mellow out a bit. Maybe I need to just go quietly back to my office with my mini one cup press and perfectly brewed coffee. Or maybe I should cut back on the caffeine altogether. But regardless of my need to chill out, coffee is something that should be enjoyed. So please don’t take this article to be mean spirited and/or back stabbing. Think of this article as a way to help you enjoy life more.

  • Coffee and convenience: why I drink Starbucks.

    I look at my coffee drinking habits, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the key factor in where I go for coffee boils down to one thing: convenience. On my way to work, I can usually be found getting coffee at one of three places: Sharrif’s at the Rose Quarter Transit Center, Coffee Max at the Gateway Transit Center, or Starbucks in the US Bank Tower. All three coffee places have excellent service. They’re all expedient. As far as coffee goes, Sharrif’s leaves a little to be desired, Starbucks is, well, Starbucks. and Coffee Max is excellent. The deciding factor in where I get my coffee is always about where am I transferring buses and/or trains. If I’m transferring downtown, its Starbucks. If its at the Rose Quarter, its Sharrif’s. If its at Gateway, its Coffee Max. Simple enough, considering I really don’t have any choice. But then again, I do have choices.

    As I mentioned, the coffee at Sharrif’s is the worst of the three and Coffee Max is the best. If I’m going to Sharrif’s, I’m usually riding a blue line, and nine times out of ten, I can just as easily catch a red or green line to Gateway, get better coffee, and still make it to work on time – and yet I don’t. I don’t want to take the extra train, I don’t want to get off and get back on, I don’t want to find another seat. It wouldn’t even cost me any more time –  but it is still more convenient for me to get my coffee at Sharrif’s.

    I consider myself a coffee snob. If you put a cup of single origin coffee in front of me, I could probably tell you what part of the globe said coffee comes from. I’ve actually imported coffee from Indonesia (though only a small amount and only for my own use). I’m determined to, when I have the time, roast my own beans. And yet so much of my coffee intake is based on convenience, not taste. Even in the times when I seemingly have no other options, there are options. Like I said before – I could hop a second train to get to Coffee Max. If I left my house a little beforehand, I could walk the four blocks to Albina Press and get coffee there! Heck, there’s several options – all better than either Sharrif’s or Starbucks. And yet, these two options are at times the most convenient and thus what I go for. My reputation as a coffee snob is at stake here!

    But its more than my coffee snobbery at stake – there’s also the fact that I believe in fair trade coffees. When I go for second rate coffee, its usually not fair trade. So,  when I go to Starbucks – I am a hypocrite! Sure, they offer some fair trade blends, but not too many. In all likelihood what they have as their bold coffee of the day (which is what I order) is not one of their fair trade offerings. Its starting to become a matter of conscience to me. If I truly believe in buying fair trade coffees, then I need to start looking past the convenience factor!

    Today is Friday. On Fridays after work, I usually go grab a bowl of curry, and then go to a certain Starbucks and watch last night’s “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” viaHulu . Today, I am going to alter that course of action. Just across the street is a coffee shop that serves fair trade coffees. I can watch my shows there instead, adn my pallete will no doubt thank me for my decision.

  • What happened to Starbucks?

    I’ve been thinking about how back in the day Starbucks was the best coffee one could buy. I lived on the stuff myself. Now its a bit substandard compared to a myriad of less bitter, less over roasted coffees. So what the hell happened? Well, it was a combination of two things:
    1) Starbucks has expanded dramatically! According to seattlepi.com, starbucks has grown from just over a thousand stores in 1997 to over 16,000 stores in 2007. With all mass-produced products, there is always a drop in quality control, and Starbucks is no exception. Point in case, the automated coffee makers they installed circa 2000. As someone who was, at the point of the implementation of said machines, a loyal Starbucks customer, I have to say that the quality drop of there brewed espresso on my palette was significant! I realize they did this to “standardize” but there is nothing standard about coffee. Humidity, temperature, storage, and a myriad of other factors will affect the taste of each shot of espresso. Which brings me to the next reason…
    2) Starbucks was never that good! Yes, there, I said it. Starbucks tasted awful, even in the early 90’s. And the reason was partly due to standardization. Asides from Espresso, French, and Italian roasts (and maybe one or two others), Starbucks insisted on roasting their coffees the same roast. But anyone who knows ANYTHING about coffee roasting, knows that one cannot roast say, Sumatra as say, Ethiopian Haraar. The Hararr requires a lighter roast in order not to contrast the chocolaty blueberry taste, where as the Sumatran coffee requires a darker roast to accent its heady flavor. But why didn’t we notice this at the time? Why didn’t we know that Starbucks didn’t make a decent cup of coffee? Well, because we didn’t know any better? Why didn’t we know Folgers tasted like crap before we started drinking Starbucks? Our palettes were simply not refined enough to know.

    In the last few months, Starbucks has recognized they’re going astray. They’ve taken one or two steps in the right direction, one or two in the wrong direction. They’ve closed 600 stores and said they would start to eliminate the breakfast foods in order to focus more on coffee. Still, they have the breakfast foods, and they’ve failed to embrace that standardization is not the answer. With the addition of Pike’s Place Blend, they’ve given us yet another substandard coffee – one that’s a one size fits all solution, and a miserable one at that. Its sad that a company who consider themselves a dealer in gourmet coffees sells a coffee that is no better than McDonald’s or 7-11.