Welcome: Jon Lewis

I was considering writing a third-person message about how excited Deeper Roots Coffee is to welcome its newest member, Jon Lewis, to the team. But if there’s anything I know about this coffee-oriented group of people, it is that relationships trump formalities and I am welcome to express my own excitement without reservation. It is like a Tarzan yell.

Long story short, I have been watching the evolution of Deeper Roots from afar and many of the same values and coffee experiences – both local and international – that I have had mesh seemlessly with the work that DRC has begun. Although life can sometimes feel like wrestling a lion in the jungle, I am returning to my hometown, Cincinnati, with a peaceful vision of serving good coffee well.

I am happy to wear the hat of Community Engagement, which means I will be involved in communicating the Deeper Roots story to our existing and future customers and fans. This will happen through various media but, most importantly, I look forward to sharing coffee with you and forming new and lasting friendships.

If you are in the Cincinnati area, I would love to see you here:

Deeper Roots Meet & Greet
Wed 27 Aug // 6pm
MadTree Brewing
5164 Kennedy Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45213

And you can reach me at any time here:

jon@deeperrootscoffee.com // 513.285.7585

Good Milk and Latte Art

good_perspectiveHow many times have you heard someone say, “It’s a great coffee shop! They have latte art!”? We hear it all too frequently, and so, here’s our case for the promotion of good milk vs. latte art. The ability to identify “good” milk will progress your journey towards becoming a coffee connoisseur and help you discern a good shop from a great one!

While we are advocates of latte art, good, properly steamed milk is where it all begins. If you are served latte art in your drink at a local shop it usually means that they know what they’re doing, but that’s not the whole story. When milk is steamed it goes through several processes making its way to what we call “micro-foam.” In the hands of the barista there is a period of time where air is introduced into the milk via the steam wand, which can create some larger sized bubbles. The baristas job is to use the steam wand as a tool to whip those larger bubbles down into a silky looking, thick micro-foam. Chemical changes are occurring in the milk as well. The lactose and proteins in the milk are changing into different structures, one being the well-known sucrose, which helps the milk taste sweeter. If the milk gets too hot, about 170F, these changes turn into more sulfuric compounds, causing the milk to taste ‘burnt’. Once the milk is steamed to the perfect temperature and the perfect consistency, the barista can use the foam developed in the steaming process to make something extra appealing on the top of your beverage. However, what you may not know is that if the micro-foam is thin the barista can still pull off some great art. Sometimes it’s even a little easier to make extra pretty designs out of ‘thin milk’ since the foam will be easier to manipulate for the artist pouring it.

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good

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Above: Notice the milk on the left is thinner, has less foam, but still has a good consistency. The milk on the right is what we refer to as good milk, it has a the consistency of micro-foam with the proper thickness. Smooth and sweet!

So now that you’re informed take a deeper look next time you’re at your favorite shop. Does the art look good? Great! The next level to look at is the thickness of the foam. Make sure it’s nice and thick. An easy gauge would be the thickness of your pinky finger. If it’s only as thick as a piece of cardboard they didn’t quite nail it. Did they serve it to you in a glass? That’s even better! They’re offering some transparency for you to delve into the quality yourself. Look through the side of your glass and check the thickness of the foam in addition to the art. Lastly, remember to always be nice to your barista, they’re often trying to perfect their craft. We just wanted you to have a tool to weed out the ‘looks good’ vs. ‘is good’. Now go drink coffee!

Origin Trip: Colombia

IMG_0070Recently Deeper Roots Coffee had the opportunity to visit Colombia as International Expertise for the Expoespeciales this year in Bogota as guests of Castle & Co., coffee importers based in California. We were honored to visit five coffee farms, cup coffees with the farmers who grew these coffees, attend lectures at the expo, and be guests of the FNC (Colombia Coffee Growers Federation) throughout the trip.

While in Tolima, there were two farms that really stuck out as uniquely different experiences. The first farm, owned by Jairo Lopez, was quite small as far as coffee farms are concerned. In Colombia, 95% of all coffee grown is grown on 5 hectares (12.36 acres) or less; Jairo’s farm was one of these. Jairo and his family take great pride in the product they grow and special care to produce specialty grade and even micro-lot quality coffee. Jairo trains his pickers to pick only the ripest cherries, which means visiting a single plant two to three times during peak harvest season. He also keeps a close watch on processing times, equipment cleanliness, and drying times and procedures. Jairo is known in his area for growing high quality coffee, it was truly an honor to meet him, cup coffees with him, and have lunch with him and his family.
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The second farm that peaked our attention was that of Daniel Melendro. Daniel’s farm was purchased by his family in 1896 and has been producing coffee since 1906, with Daniel working to improve the quality since taking over the operations of the farm. Daniel’s farm is 33 hectares (81.5 acres) which is a larger scale farm as far as Colombia is concerned. Daniel’s approach is different from Jairo’s. He produces much more coffee and he’s refining his picking and processing methods to obtain better coffee by the year. He has even been able to invest in satellite imagery of his farm to identify areas of biomass concentrations in order to help them apply fertilizers more strategically. We were able to spend some time with Daniel at his farm as well as at Jairo’s farm where we cupped their coffees side by side. It was humbling to see Daniel take notes on how Jairo was executing his processing in order to make suggestions to his employees to possibly obtain better coffee next season.

While at the expo we were also given the opportunity to meet the coffee farmer who grew the micro-lot we recently purchased through Castle & Co. Elver Guzman is a Tolima farmer who participated in the micro-lot project through the FNC for the first time this year. He purchased his farm in Planadas with his brother several years ago and started paying more attention to coffee processing when his brother placed in the Cup of Excellence competition. It inspired him to produce better coffee since he knew he was working with the same coffee varieties as his brother, on effectively the same land with the same processing equipment. Now, Elver is producing an amazing quality coffee from his four hectares (10 acres) that we’re proud to present in a just few weeks.

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Our host for the week, Henry Martinez from the FNC, taught us a lot about the organizational structure of coffee in Colombia. The FNC is a government affiliated non-profit and is the largest exporter of coffee from Colombia. It controls the quality standards for exportable coffee from the country whether it is exporting it or not. This means that they set the minimum standard for quality and if a coffee doesn’t meet that standard then it doesn’t leave the country and will be used in the internal marketplace. Local coffee committees help the FNC with the dissemination of information for farmers, promotion of the micro-lot project, and cupping the coffees from the surrounding farms. The co-ops in Colombia also serve a different function than ones we’re more familiar with a little north in Central America. The co-ops in Colombia do not process the coffee but serve as a resource for farmers to purchase equipment, fertilizers, etc. as well as act as a drop off point for already processed coffee. Almost every single farmer in Colombia has on-site processing and delivers parchment coffee (dried coffee with parchment still on) to drop off points and to co-ops any day of the year. The co-ops have a 100% purchase guarantee 365 days a year. This means that if a farmer has one bag of coffee to sell or 100 bags the coffee will be purchased. At the co-op when farmers drop off coffee the coffee is visually inspected and put into one of three categories if the coffee is not a specific micro-lot. The farmer is then paid based on the quality of coffee they produce. Micro-lots are different in that they are tracked and kept separate through the whole process and once the lot is purchased the farmer is handed a check for the premium that the coffee was sold for. The FNC is very excited about the micro-lot project, driving the quality of coffee in Colombia higher. The premiums go directly to the farmer with the FNC helping the farmer to get their high quality coffee into market.

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Our team learned a lot on this trip and is encouraged by the increasing quality of coffee in Colombia. We’re keeping an eye on emerging areas in Colombia that aren’t quite as popular as the well known Santa Marta, Huila and Tolima and constantly in contact with our friends there who are trying new and interesting things. Keep an eye out for the release of our Colombia Los Guayabos from Elver Guzman!

Brazil Direct Trade Relationship

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Brazil is huge!! And its easy to be overwhelmed by the shear size of the coffee farms there compared to our usual travels in Central America. That’s what makes Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) such a wonderful place for us. Located in the region of Mococa near the southern border of Sul de Minas, FAF is the sustainably managed farm of the Croce family. We first met the Croce family, Marcos, Silvia and sons Felipe and Daniel on a visit in 2012. The 800 hectare farm is 1/3 organic coffee, 1/3 cattle ranch and 1/3 old growth forest. The Croces inherited the farm when no one else in the family was interested in running it any longer. Not having any experience themselves in farming, Marcos relied greatly on his sense of respecting the environment and listening to the experience of his neighbors. They since have created one of the greatest models of sustainability, from soil and ecosystem to business and community, that the coffee industry has.

IMG_1415Quality drives their business at FAF. While their farm doesn’t grow nearly the yields other farms in Brazil do, their quality and commitment to organic methods mean their coffee fetches very high prices. They don’t keep this model to themselves either. They have been hard a work over the past years to encourage and assist their neighbors in the high, rugged hills of Mococa. A lot of this work has been done through their Bobolink coffee project.

We’re really excited to be working with such great farmers and visionaries in their community. We look forward to supporting their efforts and sharing their coffees with you over many years to come.  This year we are offering a few different micro-lots from FAF.  July 8th we’ll be introducing the FAF Red Bourbon, a natural processed coffee. Then later in the month we’ll be introducing a tasting series of 3 other micro-lots. Stayed tuned…

June 2013 La Marzocco Roaster Showcase

On Thursday, June 13th from 11am to 1pm Deeper Roots Coffee will be at the La Marzocco USA headquarters as guests for LM’s Roaster Showcase.  La Marzocco is an espresso machine manufacturer based in Italy who designs and hand assembles, in our opinion, some of the best espresso machines in the world.  We use and distribute the whole line of La Marzocco machines on a daily basis and have fully integrated their products into how we perceive and teach about quality espresso.  We were invited by LM in the winter of this year to come out and showcase our coffee and story with the Pacific Northwest specialty coffee community and are honored to be able to be out there for the summer.  So we at DRC with some brainstorming help from our friends at LM have decided to make a beach themed party on LM’s parking lot to celebrate the coming of summer and to have one heck of a time sharing coffee and community with our friends in Seattle.  If you’re in the neighborhood come on by, bring a lawn chair, grab a drink from us and stick your feet in the kiddie pool!

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Baristas That Can Swing a Hammer

Don't we all...

Don’t we all…

One of our biggest joys at Deeper Roots Coffee is connecting farmers with the baristas who serve their coffee every day. We get to do this pretty regularly, taking small groups of coffee-pilgrims to Guatemala during harvest. But, from time to time, we also bring whole teams of coffee professionals and coffee lovers to Guatemala to get their hands dirty as well. In May, Greyhouse Coffee in West Lafayette, IN came to Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala with 14 people to meet the La Armonia Hermosa farmers, learn about coffee farming and help build parts of our new processing mill there. Before coming, Greyhouse ran a campaign with their customers to raise funds for a generator for the mill. Through their generosity, together they raised enough to purchase the generator and buy some additional supplies for the mill.

The roof is going up on the new wet mill.

The roof is going up on the new wet mill.

During their trip the baristas, and other students from Purdue University, had the opportunity to help construct the roof for our new wet mill, start seedlings for the new coffee nursery, and work on some small engineering projects. One of those projects was to install and train on a water filtration system so they can collect rain water for drinking from the roof of the mill.

Julio running the new water filteration system.

Julio running the new water filteration system.

The mill has been a dream for many years now and will greatly increase the production capacity for the Santa Marian farmers which means more and even better La Armonia Hermosa coffee for us here in the States! Construction started last summer with another group from Mississippi having come down to pitch in as well.

Greyhouse Coffee baristas

Greyhouse Coffee baristas

The project is the work of many hands, and though we “gringos” may not be the most skilled laborers, the relationships forged while working together with Julio Cuy and the community of Santa Maria has made a great impact on both sides of our coffee chain. You’ll no doubt be seeing many more updates on the progress of the mill and its inaugural use in this coming year’s harvest. In the meantime, fingers crossed, our fresh crop of La Armonia Hermosa will be here in a few weeks!!

Extraction: What’s the Big Deal Anyway?

You can’t get far into the world of coffee without hearing mention of this mysterious phenomenon known as extraction. It’s the secret behind that perfectly balanced cup of coffee or espresso, the “piéce de résistance” that showcases sweetness, body, acidity and the balance between them all. But what is extraction and why does it matter? To put it simply extraction is how we remove the “good stuff” from our coffee. There are several different factors that contribute to extraction:

1. The water to coffee ratio
2. Temperature
3. Water quality
4. Filtration
5. Grind size
6. Pressure.

All these factors combine to affect coffee and it’s ability to produce certain characteristics. Each factor relies on the others, causing taste profiles to morph and change. There is no perfect recipe for extraction, every coffee behaves differently and changing one factor automatically affects the others. Here at Deeper Roots we are about to engage in a series of extraction experiments, focusing on what really matters and how these factors directly affect each other and the extraction profile. Navigating your way through every factor to achieve that “optimum balance” can be difficult. The goal of our experimentation at Deeper Roots is to provide a series of road maps that allow you to reactive optimum extraction and enjoy every cup of coffee you consume! The first factor up for the challenge…PRESSURE! Be on the look out for our findings as we get to play with our new La Marzocco Strada EP!

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