Posted by: windwardcoffee | July 17, 2012

At Grady’s, It’s All About Good Taste

Meet Manny Nieves, owner of Grady’s Fine Wines and Market in Rocky River, OH. An accomplished sommelier, chef, caterer, wine merchant and good friend of Windward, he’s making a big mark in our already red hot local food scene.

Manny Nieves, owner, Grady's Fine Wines

Manny Nieves

Manny and I were introduced by a mutual friend. After finding we share a similar philosophies on food, drink and service, we soon found ourselves assembling a selection of beans, equipment and recipes for the French Press coffee service he introduced in June. At the center of the program are beans from Puerto Rico, chosen because they’re loaded with the flavors, aroma and memories he has of growing up on the island. They are the flavors of home and a taste experience he enjoys sharing with customers.

High quality Puerto Rican coffee, such as the beans we chose for Grady’s, delivers a mild and creamy yet rich and well-balanced drink, facets it shares with other “island coffees,” such as those from Hawaii and Jamaica.

We’re roasting these beans exclusively for Grady’s and I urge you to stop and enjoy a cup or two on the patio or inside. Come by in the morning and pair it up with fresh baked, addictively tasty pastries and confections prepared by the other chef-in-residence,  Jen Nieves, Manny’s wife.

For lunch, team your cup with one of Manny’s custom sandwich selections. I like it alongside his “2X BLT” – a French baguette stuffed full with applewood smoked bacon, heirloom ‘maters, fresh greens ‘n herbed mayo, but why limit yourself?

Of course wine is the main focus here, so be sure to catch a regular Saturday afternoon wine tasting (they rock!), and Manny’s very special Tuesday Happy Hour. Oh, and did I mention the double-wide cooler packed with craft beers? You can’t help but enjoy yourself.

There’s a lot more to find at Grady’s than our coffee, but you don’t have to take my word for it. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out this recent story in Scene Magazine. Bon appetite!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | April 12, 2011

Coffee Prices – How Far Is “Up”?

Record high prices challenge consumers and roasters alike, but what’s behind the run-up?

By now I’m sure many have seen stories on how far and fast the price of green coffee has shot up. Similar to other commodities (crude oil, soybeans, etc.), coffee prices are always in flux, but during the past year they’ve reached the highest levels seen in more than a generation.

The base price for green coffee is determined on commodity exchanges in the U.S. and Europe. Called the “C” price, it is the reference point from which the minimum selling prices of all grades of green coffee are hinged.

Last June, the C hovered in the vicinity of $1.30/lb. By last month it had more than doubled, to $2.96 a pound.

In part, the run up is the result of poor weather and reduced harvests in Central America, Colombia and Africa. Yields from Brazil, the world’s largest producer, are also down this year. Add in the declining value of the dollar and it’s little wonder prices are up.

At the same time, consumer demand remains strong everywhere, especially in China, India and Japan where it is growing rapidly. All of this puts upward pressure on prices as buyers compete for a shrinking number of beans. It’s supply and demand at work, and that’s OK. But other players are in the game now, and their presence distorts any chance we have of buying in a balanced market.

ENTER THE SPECULATORS
In recent years, deregulation efforts have allowed financial speculators to enter commodity markets, and their purely profit-driven actions are distorting whatever chance we might have of returning to a more rational marketplace. The impact is increasingly apparent in all commodities, from food to oil. I know it’s easy to pick on the investment community these days, but the fact is that their continued meddling in the commodity markets is bad news for today’s prices, and bodes little good for tomorrow.

In the case of coffee, speculators buy and sell coffee futures with no intention of ever physically owning the beans they trade in. The goal is to make money in short term paper trades and to be out of the market before the contracts come due and they have to take physical possession. They never intend to actually own any coffee, so the impact of their actions is of little concern. So long as profits can be made along the way and the real world costs get passed along to the rest of us, speculators are happy to make their money and run.

Last month, in an interview for CNBC’s Wall Street Journal Report, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told Maria Bartiromo: “I’ve been in this business for 30 years. I can tell you unequivocally with every coffee farmer and resource that we talk to in which we have decades of relationships, we cannot identify a supply problem in the world where we’re buying coffee. So one question is, ‘why are coffee prices going up?’ and in addition to that, ‘why is every commodity price going up at the same time?’ Why is cotton, corn, wheat, why? And I think what’s going on is financial engineering; that financial speculators have come into the commodity markets and drove these prices up to historic levels and as a result of that the consumer is suffering.”

While the exact impact of speculation in the coffee market is difficult to gauge, it’s clear that a good deal of the recent run-up has little or nothing at all to do with real world supply and demand, and a whole lot to do with speculators’ desire to make money. As a result, price has become uncoupled from the historic checks and balances of the marketplace as a portion of what we pay for every cup is funneled off to Wall Street.

THE ADDED COST OF QUALITY
Specialty beans, the superior quality raw coffees we buy, have traded at a premium to the C price since the the specialty market began in the 1980s. Certified beans, such as organic and fair trade, incur additional price premiums. As a result, specialty market green beans now easily cost from $3.50 to six dollars a pound and up, plus shipping and other related charges.

Big chains, independent cafes and roasters of all sizes have been forced to raise prices on everything from roasted beans to brewed and espresso beverages, and we’re certainly not immune. We’re committed to keeping our prices competitive and affordable, and we have to be realistic about the effects these hikes have on our ability to stay in business.

As a result, any increases you see in our prices will only be on beans we’ve had to purchase at these crazy and hopefully short-lived levels – not on those we were able to buy on more favorable terms or those we hope to be able to buy at lower prices in the future. As always, we’ll absorb all the increases we reasonably can while we continue to search out new coffees for your enjoyment. It’s a promise.

Posted by: windwardcoffee | February 2, 2011

Four Coffees Debut At Bargain Prices

Special Introductory Prices: $2 Off Every Bag!
It’s a crazy week here on America’s North Coast. In the midst of ringing in a brand spankin’ new February with a crippling ice and snow storm, we’ve loaded in and started roasting four new coffees, including great tasting fair trade, organic beans grown high in the Andes of Northern Peru. We’ve seen a lot of average and below average beans come out of Peru in recent years, but this one really stood out in our testing.  This excellent coffee starts out sweet and just a little bit lemony then finishes with the taste of mellow milk chocolate.

Another new bean we’re pleased to offer comes not just from the other side of the planet, it originated in the wilds of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. This region is so remote that it is difficult to get any information about its coffee, but what we do know is this big, full-bodied, fruited and mouth-coating cup of goodness simply sings in both drip machines and French presses.

With this looking like the perfect time to hunker down and try some new coffees, we’ve also got some new arrivals from Africa. We’re very happy to have found two great coffees to offer you from the continent: one a fair trade, organic Ethiopia Harrar; the other a very flavorful and well rounded Tanzania Peaberry that really lives up to our expectations for classic flavors.

I’ve been test roasting and sampling these for a few days, and now I think everyone should have a chance to get acquainted with these new arrivals. So, for a limited time, we’re cutting $2 off the price of every bag! With our bean costs up more than 60 percent in recent months I don’t know how long I can keep this deal running so don’t wait too long to claim your savings! Stay warm!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | October 17, 2010

The Forecast Calls For Flavor!

With 80 flavored coffees to choose from you’re sure to find a favorite.

Summer is officially over, so I am unofficially declaring the vast gray expanse of downtime between Mid-October and May 1 to be (drumroll. . . ) Flavored Coffee Season!

Of course it’s always regular coffee season too, but these cool days and even cooler nights just beg for a body and soul warming cup of joe with a little extra flavor. . . hazelnut, for example. And those wet, half-frozen fingers, blistered by leaf raking, long to be wrapped around a big warm mug, even if the steam does fog your glasses. Now I think that’s a job best left to a real Fall favorite — Pumpkin Spice!

And for those special nights when it’s strictly “coffee for two” to go with a romantic fire? Let’s just say the coffee, maybe a decaf French Vanilla or something a bit more spicy for the occasion, perhaps Cinnamon or its more sporting friend, Cinn-A-Nut, won’t be the only thing in the room that gets all steamy. It all depends on how adventurous you choose to be.

Perhaps most reassuring is that fact that you can rest easy knowing that at the very least your coffee will be still there for you in the morning. You can check our list of Fall favorites right here!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | July 6, 2010

Does Hot Weather Bring Out The Worst In Your Water?

Beat The Heat With Natural Spring Water, Or Filter Your Own

The Summer season is in full swing here on the North Coast and along with my favorite sailing weather comes a growing number of inquiries from folks wondering if we’ve done something to change the taste of our coffees.

We haven’t changed a thing, but if you notice a change in how your coffee and other foods taste as the temperatures rise, what likely has changed is how your local water company treats your water. That’s because along with the hot weather comes an increase in algae, bacterial growth and other nasties, many of them bad tasting contaminants that water departments must treat to ensure your tap water remains clean, healthy and a least somewhat palatable. Unfortunately, these unwelcome intruders, and the chemistry to deal with them, mess up the taste and smell of your water, as well as everything you make with it.

A cup of coffee is more than 98 percent liquid so it makes sense to use the cleanest, best tasting water you can. It’s also very important to be sure your water isn’t purified to death. By that I mean don’t use distilled water, reverse osmosis (RO) or any kind of filtered bottled water to make your coffee or to cook with. In addition to adding to the plastic waste stream, the processing these receive removes all of the trace minerals critical to bringing out flavor. Brew with them and you’ll likely be greeted with a flat, flavorless cup of warm brown water.

If you must buy water at a store, be sure to choose natural spring water for brewing and cooking because unlike nearly every other kind of bottled water, it hasn’t been stripped of the minerals needed for great flavor. If you must use RO, be sure to buy and add the correct amount of re-mineralizer to replace the missing elements. Sink-top and under-sink filters are also fine. Simply choose a quality system that meets your needs and be sure to  change filters according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

From our location on the South shore of the Great Lakes, the planet’s largest source of fresh water, we’re fortunate to be able to enjoy great tasting water, pretty much year-round. That said, Summer still brings the occasional bad taste from the tap, so we installed an affordable, top-rated under-sink filter and use it for all our brewing and cooking needs. It’s made a significant improvement in the flavors we enjoy from our food and drinks, and saves a significant amount of money when compared to buying it at the store — even after factoring in the cost of replacing filters every six months.

Posted by: windwardcoffee | July 6, 2010

Ethiopia Sidamo On Sale!

Save $2 on every bag of Ethiopia Sidamo through the end of July! From the Gerbichu Lela co-op in the area of Aleto Wendo, our mid-Summer Coffee of the Month is a great summer coffee since it tastes great hot or iced. Regularly $11.98, now just $9.98. Heartily recommended by your humble roaster!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | June 1, 2010

Save $2 On Sumatra Lintong, June’s Coffee of the Month

In honor of the start of iced coffee season, we’ve chosen Sumatra Lintong as our latest Coffee of the Month. It’s wonderful hot and iced and now through the end of June you’ll save $2 on every bag!

We’ve also got some great recipes for iced coffees in our Brewing & Recipe pages. They’re easy to make, taste great and make for great summertime treats. Try them all and enjoy!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | April 20, 2010

Guatemala Finca Ceylan Is Sold Out

We bid a fond farewell to another customer favorite, but what will take its place?

I do hope you had a chance to try this wonderful example of Guatemalan coffee because the very last of it was roasted and shipped today.

I sampled a number of new, great tasting Guats during my recent trip to the coffee show in LA, but I’m going to be evaluating a few more before we make a final call on its replacement. Please stay tuned for more news of fresh arrivals!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | April 9, 2010

Upcoming Changes To Our Schedule

We’re temporarily shortening our work week next week to attend the annual Specialty Coffee Assoc. of America and Roasters Guild meetings in Anaheim, CA. We will be closed Thursday through Monday, April 15 – 19. As a result, all local deliveries will made on Wednesday next week so if your stock is running low, please let us know by Tuesday to ensure delivery before we leave.

Online orders received through Tuesday, 4/13, will ship Wednesday, 4/14. Orders placed during this short hiatus will be roasted and shipped beginning Tuesday, April 20.

We’ll also be closed May 1 — 9 to visit with customers in Pennsylvania, mainland North Carolina and on the Outer Banks. Regular roastery operations will restart Monday, May 10, with shipments resuming 5/11.

If you have any questions about ordering or deliveries, please call or email us at dave@windwardcoffee.com. Thanks!

Posted by: windwardcoffee | April 7, 2010

Understanding Coffee Jargon

What does it mean when we describe a coffee’s aroma, and just what is the difference between that and fragrance? And what’s with all this talk about acidity? Won’t that upset Aunt Alice’s tender tummy?

Spend some time reading coffee descriptions, including our own, and you’re likely to find many references to these and other terms, including flavor, body, balance and bitterness. They read a bit like wine descriptions, and I admit they sometimes run the risk of seeming overblown and pretentious, but like wine, coffee is much more than just the sum of its parts.

To better help folks understand what’s going on, many specialty coffee roasters, ourselves included, have borrowed and adapted the idea from the wine industry. It seems to be a reasonable way to distinguish among the many unique characteristics our favorite beverage can offer up.

Wait a minute here. It’s only coffee, right? Shouldn’t it taste like, well, coffee?

Of course it should, but that’s only one aspect of the complex chemical dynamic at work in your morning cup. Almost everything that touches the beans, from the soil and climate they’re grown in to how and when they’re picked, processed, shipped, roasted, packaged and prepared, affects what we ultimately taste and experience. When all these stars align the result should be much more than just a cup of coffee-flavored water.

Of all the descriptors used, flavor is probably the most self-descriptive and the easiest to wrap your lips around. The first step is to understand that what we think of “coffee flavor” can actually be a combination of many individual flavors and sensations. Some, like the much sought-after blueberry and other fruited flavors of some dry processed Ethiopian coffees, can hit you over the head with their intensity. Others, such as the chocolate tones in wet processed Central American beans and the nutty flavors from Brazil, can be more mellow and less pronounced.

Flavors also become more discernable, and changeable, as coffee cools. In fact the hotter the coffee is when you drink it, the less flavor you’ll taste. For example, our current La Minita roast offers up sweet berry and chocolate flavors, but as it cools to room temperature it turns to a smooth milk chocolate.

It is true that many people don’t pick up on some of the more subtle flavors that coffees from different parts of the world can present, but you don’t have to be an expert taster to enjoy them. Identifying subtleties is a skill that can be developed if you wish, it just takes some practice. To enjoy them you need only drink.

What follows are my own interpretations of the most common terms used to describe coffee. It’s certainly not an official be-all and end-all guide, just my own simplified way of approaching a complex and often very subjective topic.

So with that caveat in mind. . .

Acidity: I think it’s somewhat unfortunate that the flavor and coffee industries rely so much on this term because it has nothing to do with sour, astringent flavors or that pain in your belly. In fact, acidity is a good thing because without it, our favorite foods and beverages would taste dull, flat and uninteresting.

In coffee, acidity is often described in such terms as clear, bright and winey, but the descriptions tend to vary depending on where the coffee is from. For example, the acidity of Kenyan and other East African coffees is often said to be winey or wine-like, while the acidity in high-grown Central American beans, such as those from Costa Rica, tend to be described as “crisp” or something similar. There are real differences between the two, hence the differences in how they’re described.

You can also get some idea of the amount of acidity you might expect from a bean based on the post harvest processing it receives, as well as its roast level. Washed coffees, such as many from Africa and Central America, generally have higher levels of acidity than do those that are dry processed — Ethiopians for example. As for the effect roast levels can have, a lighter roast tends to emphasize acidity, while darker roasts generally mute it. (See previous posts)

Aroma: This refers to the smell of hot, freshly brewed coffee. Since most of what we taste is defined by what we smell, aroma plays a huge part in how we perceive the flavor of everything we eat and drink.

Geeky Science Fact! Coffee is comprised of more than 1,600 compounds and more than half of them are aromatic in nature. Just a few aroma descriptors include floral, fruity, citrusy and spicy.

Fragrance: Fragrance descriptors attempt to define the smell of freshly ground coffee before it is brewed. It is often the strongest, most powerful characteristic of any coffee and, in my opinion, the fragrance that can fill the room after grinding is one of the major benefits of grinding your own beans. For coffee lovers of all stripes, from geeks to casual drinkers, fragrance is often the first thing to grab our attention. Think about it. If the first thing you do when you get a bag of fresh roasted coffee is to stick your nose in it, inhale deeply and sigh, you know how important fragrance is to your enjoyment.

Descriptors tend to be the same as those used to describe aroma.

Balance: In general, coffees that are said to be balanced are simply mellow, good-tasting and without defects. They don’t have any particular aroma, acidity, body, flavor or other characteristics that override everything else. Many fine coffees, such as Costa Rica’s La Minita, Hawaii’s Konas and Jamaica’s Blue Mountain, are highly prized (and priced) because they exhibit high levels of balance. Each is different from another, but all of them just do everything right in their own way.

Bitterness: Coffee can taste bitter for a number of reasons. If you buy fresh roasted specialty grade beans and your coffee still tastes bitter, the fault is probably not with the beans. Just a few of the things that can cause bitterness include how dark the coffee is roasted, the mineral content and brewing temperature of the water used to brew it, how long the water is in contact with the grinds, the grind size and the brewing style you use.

In general, the “stronger” you brew, the more grinds you use in relation to the amount of water, the more bitterness you are likely to wind up with in your cup. Similarly, brewing with water cooler than 195°F, a fatal design flaw in all too many drip brewers, can also increase bitterness. So does leaving a brewed pot on a warming plate (Don’t do it! Use a carafe). Still another culprit can be the Robusta beans used in some blends. These contain higher levels of both caffeine and chlorogenic acids, both of which contribute to bitterness and astringency.

Body: Also called mouthfeel, this is all about how the coffee feels in your mouth — its’ perceived heaviness and texture. To get a handle on body don’t swallow right away — swish it around in your mouth to sense how it feels. Does it have a thick, satisfying feel that lingers a little, or does it dissipate quickly?  Think of the differences between a weak, tea-like beverage and a stronger brew, or a light beer versus a dark beer or stout. The weak stuff would be described as having light body while the strong stuff would be heavy.

The goal is to find simple ways to communicate the often complex and interrelated sensations you can expect to find in a cup of coffee, encourage you to expand your coffee horizons and ultimately help you find beans you’re likely to enjoy.

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