Yemen Haraaz Fundraiser

A short note about our Yemen Haraaz Coffee Fundraiser.

While our country is snarled in the arguments of security, personal rights, the ethos of America’s welcoming borders and the limits of presidential powers; there are families across the globe struggling for survival. They are trapped in civil wars, insurgencies, natural disasters and religious persecutions. If they are fortunate enough to escape, it has always been through the kindness of strangers that they have been able to restart their lives. In these selfless acts we both fight our tribal human nature and realize the greatest potential in our humanity.

In view of these larger issues of our world, the notion that our work in coffee is of any real importance feels trivial. In part, this is probably a healthy reminder for us all. But truly we can play small but important roles no matter our position. Our work at Deeper Roots affords us a particularly global view. Every day we share a story of someone else’s work from a place far away from our own. Whether we’ve personally built that relationship or feel very distant from them, we are able to connect to people from around the world through coffee everyday.

We’ve never offered a Yemeni coffee in the past and very few have ever landed on our cupping table. We don’t have any direct, long term relationships with growers there. However, what a great opportunity we have now to make a positive impact, small as it may be, to the lives of those both struggling to survive in the country growing coffee, as well as those who have fled their homes to refugee camps. Thus, we’ve chosen to give 100% of the sales of our Yemen Haraaz coffee to assist with the refuge work of International Rescue Committee. We chose IRC as the recipient of our funds because of their history of good work all over the world and their broad reaching impact both abroad and for refugee resettlement here in the US.

If you haven’t read much about the civil war in Yemen or the issues facing refugees in the area check out this and the UN’s info here.  Let’s make it our aim to take the negativity that has caused the issue of refugees to rise to the top of the news and turn it towards positive action to support our fellow humans that are in crisis. 

Thanks for your participation in this project!

Deeper Roots Coffee

How to store coffee at home.

We’re pretty picky about how coffee is stored and honestly it’s pretty easy. There are a few ways people store coffee that we’ve encountered over the years and several of them are big no no’s, so we figured we’d share with you quickly how we do it and why.

The basic fact to know is that roasted coffee has two enemies: oxygen and light. When you by coffee from us you’ll notice that it’s stored in a smaller bag that has a degassing valve and doesn’t allow any light in. The degassing valve allows pressure out of the bag as fresh coffee degasses after being roasted. This makes sure the sealed bag won’t explode but doesn’t allow air back into the bag so the coffee stays fresh. The non-transparent package functions primarily to keep the light out. Using it up quickly will also obviously help keep it fresh. This is primarily why we do twelve-ounce bags for the retail size packages instead of a full pound; it allows you to use it up a little faster thus keeping your coffee supply fresh.

So after you open your fresh bag of coffee the easiest and best way to store it is to just roll down the bag as tight as you can, clip it in some way to keep it closed, use it quickly and you should be good. It’s that easy. Glass jar? No. Freezer? NO WAY. Vacuum seal? That’s up to you. The key is to just seal it up and use it quickly. Now you’re one small step closer to brewing better coffee at home. So go to your friend’s freezer, grab that coffee and throw it out. But make sure to bring them some fresh coffee to ease the blow.

Dark Roast Debunk

Medium Deeper Roots roast on the left. Very dark, unnamed coffee giant roast on the right.  Note oil migration and see some of the coffees have even exploded a bit on the dark roast... no good!

Medium Deeper Roots roast on the left. Very dark, unnamed coffee giant roast on the right. Note oil migration and see some of the bean surfaces have even exploded a bit on the dark roast… no good!

We know. You like “bold”, dark coffees. That’s ok! But we want to give you a little ammo for next time you head out to buy a dark roasted coffee and debunk a common myth about the roast level of coffees.

The main myth we want to debunk is: “Coffee is better when you can see the oils on the bean.”

As coffee is roasted, the cell structure of the bean undergoes significant change. Different chemical reactions occur to bring out or subdue certain flavor compounds depending on what the roaster is trying to accomplish. As coffee is roasted darker and darker, the cell structure of the bean starts to break down and allow those flavor compounds, contained in oils, to migrate to the outside of the bean. So, in medium to light roasts, you wont see these oils on the bean because the cell structure is still mostly in tact and keeping those flavor-containing oils safe inside the bean. The problem with having these oils on the outside of the bean is that they are exposed to air and immediately start to oxidize. Think about the time you left a glass of water on the counter overnight and tried to drink it the next day or even two days after. The water tastes old and stale due to oxidation from exposure to air. The same thing happens to the oils on the outside of the bean and immediately makes them start to taste old and stale. So if you’ve been told that seeing oil on the bean correlates to more flavor, now you know that’s not true! However, the problem still remains that you want to buy a fresh coffee that doesn’t taste oxidized but still gives you the boldness you want. We suggest you investigate what “bold” means to you whether it be dark chocolate, smoky, thick body, etc and try to find a little bit lighter roasted coffees that fit those descriptions. We suggest some African coffee origins such as Malawi and Tanzania and Asian origins such as Sumatra and Sulawesi. Though these origins don’t always display these flavor characteristics, they often do and are a great place to start looking. We know that the answer isn’t always a light roast so we offer a blend called Losantiville. It’s the darkest roast we offer and it’s on the darker side of medium roast allowing the oils to stay in the bean but still allow for a smoky, full body, dark chocolate taste experience. The important part is to find coffees roasted to the point where YOU are the one extracting those oils when you brew and are still able to taste what you like. Now that you know a little bit more, drink up!

Giving decaf some love.

In the specialty coffee industry, we give a lot of attention to the various countries, regions, altitudes, varietals, etc. of different single origin coffees.  We all definitely pride ourselves in showcasing as best we can what each and every coffee has to offer.  However, we have noticed a lack of attention to really great decafs in our region if not the industry as a whole but do understand the barriers as to why decaf does not receive a lot of attention.

99.9% of decaf coffee started out as regular green coffee that undergoes some sort of natural or chemical decaffeination process before the roasting process.  A very small amount of coffee does grow naturally as decaf but it’s so rare that it’s often unseen even in the specialty market.  There are multiple different types of decaffeination methods but most undergo the same basic process where the green coffee is soaked in a solution, the resulting water is then filtered of caffeine and then the green coffee is allowed to absorb the caffeine-less solution back into itself up to a certain point.  This process most often negatively affects the cell structure, chemical composition and thus taste of the final product after roasting.  You may often notice that a decaf coffee is quite oily on the surface even if it is not a dark roast.  This is due to damaged cell structure and takes quite a lot of care in the roasting process to prevent this from happening and keep those delicious oils inside the bean so they can be extracted while brewing and not oxidize on the outside of the bean.

So, we here at DRC have been working with importers to source really great decafs for several years to bring coffees that have undergone the best possible decaffeination process to maintain the integrity of the final cup quality.  Throughout this year we have been dialoguing with one importer in particular, Artisan Coffee Importers, to bring an extra special decaf to your palates.  This new Colombia La Serrania is from 29 small farmers in the state of Huila in Colombia and has undergone a process called “natural ethyl-acetate” process.  In this process a 100% pure sugar cane substance was used to draw the caffeine out of the coffee and not put any added chemicals into the bean.

This beautiful decaf will give you chocolate, creme brûlée and dried strawberries in the cup and hopefully will give you a great experience with a product that usually gets bad street cred.  We hope you enjoy and hope you stay with us on the hunt for quality decaffeinated coffees to add to our arsenal.

Einar Ortiz in his immaculate farm.  Photo courtesy of Virmax Coffee in Colombia.

Einar Ortiz in his immaculate farm. Photo courtesy of Virmax Coffee in Colombia.

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!!

Ripe for the Picking

Why does the variation in coffee processing matter? You drink your morning cup of coffee and wonder how a bright red cherry became a roasted bean that made such a delicious drink. You wonder about the farmers that picked the coffee, processed the coffee, and the roaster who roasted it. Behind every roasted bean is a story about processing, which is the method of removing the cherry and drying the seed to send to roasters as “green” coffee. There are 3 common ways to process newly picked coffee; Washed, Natural, and Pulped Natural. All of which, affect the final taste in the cup.

The first I want to discuss is the Washed processing method. This method is the quickest in time before it reaches the U.S. In all high quality coffee, the farmers are out in the fields every single day picking only the ripe coffee cherries. If the cherries are not ripe, then they are left to ripen. Once they are picked, the processor then hulls the cherry from the seed. After separation, the seeds are left with mucus that is made up of a complex of pectin and sugars. At this point the mucilage needs to come off of the seed, for certain coffees, and there are two different types of fermentation; dry and wet. For dry fermentation, the seeds sit in a large tank for 18-36 hours. For instance, our La Armonia coffee from Guatemala uses this method to ferment. For wet, the seeds sit in a tank with water for the same amount of time. This is mainly found in Kenyan coffees, like our Kenya Ruthagati that we offer. After the fermentation, the coffee is then washed to remove any left over mucilage. Once the seeds are washed, they are dried on raised beds or patios for a few days.

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In a cup of coffee that has been washed, the drinker will find that the cup is cleaner, brighter, and fruitier. This process is very particular and the point of it is to have the seed drying without the mucilage because the pectin and sugars would cause different characteristics than desired. The Washed method is generally preferred for high quality coffees.

The next method is the Natural process. This method is often used in countries where rainfall is scarce and long periods of sunshine are available during the growing season. For example, our Amaro Gayo from Ethiopia is offered in a Natural. During this method, instead of hulling and washing the coffee, the coffee cherries are picked and laid out to dry. The drying period for this processing method is a few weeks because the cherry and the seed inside of it need to be completely dry before it is hulled.

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The Natural process is not labor intensive and there is room for mistake. It becomes easier for fungus and over fermentation to invade the coffee cherries. Since the cherry is still on the seed during the drying process, the seed will inherit characteristics from the skin that make the coffee heavier in body, sweeter, and more complex, much like our Amaro Gayo from Ethiopia.

The last method that I want to mention is called Pulped Natural or Honey Prep. This meets the two disparate methods in the middle, where the processor will hull the cherry from the seed, however, instead of washing the coffee, will dry it with the mucilage still on. This method can only be done in countries where humidity is low and the seeds can be dried rapidly without fermenting. Pulped Natural mainly happens in Brazil, where the coffees are cleaner and have a brighter acidity, which are made from the seed allowing the pectin and sugars from the mucilage to create characteristics.

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The method that is most commonly found in higher quality coffees is the Washed method. Our Ethiopian Amaro Gayo Washed is a great example of this method as it is very clean and transparent tasting with floral, citrus, and orange marmalade flavors and a very nice, bright acidity. The other two methods are not as commonly used, however, they are accepted in Specialty Coffee because they bring something different to the table. For example, our Ethiopian Amaro Gayo Natural, which has the characteristic fuller body, sweetness and fruit notes of a natural processed coffee. We really find it to be full of blueberry, shortbread, and port wine character. They are the same coffees from Ethiopia, just processed differently, which creates a huge difference in flavor profiles. Setting the two coffees side by side at your café for customers, or even at home for your own enjoyment, can be a fun exercise to practice the taste differentiation between the two processes.