Specialty Coffee is the synthesis of many things: the combination of the species and variety of coffee bean used, the method of processing and roasting these beans, and the care and manner of handling and selling the beans.
Of the three species of coffee used for making beverages, only two, Arabian or Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) and Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora), are grown on a large scale. Arabica coffee plants are grown at mid elevations between 3000 and 6000 feet above sea level and are considered to produce seeds that yield a more complex and smoother coffee than that made from Robusta beans. Robusta coffee grows at lower altitudes, and is, as the name implies, more robust than Arabica. It has a higher caffeine content than Arabica coffee and is typically used for instant coffee or coffees that are made using severe heat that destroys the delicate flavors of Arabica coffee.
Specialty coffees are varieties that are grown specifically for the connoisseur market. Only about 5% of coffee produced qualifies as specialty coffee. Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar uses only the finest high altitude, hand-picked Arabica beans from the best plantations in the world.
Coffee beans are actually the seeds (two per fruit) inside accessory "berries" which are produced in clusters on tropical, evergreen shrubs. Coffee berries are hand picked by expert farmers who know precisely when it is time to harvest. Once harvested, the berries must be processed to remove the coffee beans from the fruit. There are two processing methods to accomplish this: the wet method and the dry method. In the wet method, most of the fleshy part of the fruit is removed and the seeds are placed in large tanks of water to ferment for 1-3 days. Wet-processed coffees have a cleaner, more complex flavor than dry-processed beans because the enzymatic fermentation breaks down large molecules into smaller aromatic compounds. After fermenting, the beans are washed and dried. This is the method typically used to process the highest quality Arabica beans.
The dry method is the process of drying the entire fruit in the sun and then removing the dried pulp surrounding the beans. This method is usually used in countries that lack an adequate water supply. The dry method yields coffee with reduced flavor and a heavy body.
After drying, both methods yield hard, odorless green beans that are ready for roasting.
Once we obtain the finest Arabica beans, we must perform a crucial step: roasting. Roasting is the process which turns the green coffee bean into the dark, aromatic, flavorful product we know as coffee beans. Roasting is the process that brings the oils to the surface of the coffee bean and brings the flavor out.
Using a roasting drum heated by gas burners, green beans are slowly heated, and through this process the beans change color. The beans are heated until they reach the color desired by the master roaster. Commercial blends or supermarket coffees are roasted to a light cinnamon color where about 12-14% of the green coffee's moisture (weight) is lost. The cinnamon roast is more economical for the seller because they can get more pounds out of each shipment, but the consumer suffers by receiving a lackluster product. At Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar we roast our beans until they are a rich, dark brown color in which roughly 17-25% of the beans moisture is lost. We consider this our roast.
The Five Fundamentals of Specialty Coffee
Achieving the perfect cup is dependent on these five things:
1. Fresh Beans
At Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar we use only 100% high-mountain grown Arabica beans, grown on plantations throughout the world. However, even the best beans can provide an unsatisfying cup of coffee if not properly handled. Oxygen, odors, light and moisture are coffee's natural enemies. Since coffee is very porous, the odors can infiltrate the beans and be noticeable in the brewed cup (This is why some people use beans instead of baking soda in their refrigerators, because beans soak up other smells). Oxygen and light will dry the natural oils in the bean and affect extraction. We vacuum pack our coffee in specially designed opaque one-way valve bags right after roasting. This lets the coffee give off its natural gases while not subjecting the coffee to any of its natural enemies.
2. Fresh Water
Since coffee is 98-99% water, we need to start with fresh water if we want to brew the perfect cup. Tap water contains particles and other substances that contaminate the oils which flavor the coffee. At Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar we use a four-stage water filtration system to supply our brewers and espresso machines with the freshest water possible. This fresh water must then be heated to between 195-205 degrees (proper temperature for Arabica beans) to assure maximum extraction of the bean's characteristics. If the water is not hot enough, the oils containing the flavor will not dissolve during brewing.
The grind is the most important of the Five Fundamentals of Specialty Coffee. This is because the size of the particles of coffee after it has been ground (coarse or fine grind) determines the amount of time the fresh water will be in contact with the coffee. This in turn will determine whether the good or bad characteristics are extracted from the beans. The coffee must be ground properly to maximize this contact. Too fine a grind (particles too small) and the water will stay in contact with the coffee for too long causing over-extraction and a bitter flavor. Too coarse a grind (particles too large) and the coffee will rush through the grounds, causing under-extraction which will produce a weak, lifeless brew. For espresso, the grind may need to be adjusted several times throughout the course of a day to maintain the correct contact time.
As with the grind, we must have the proper amount of coffee grounds in the brew basket to ensure precise surface contact. Too much coffee or too little coffee will greatly affect the finished product. In general, the proper proportion of ground coffee to water is 2 tablespoons of coffee to 6 oz of water.
Our coffee can withstand the time and heat factors applied to it for no longer than one hour. The quality and flavor standards begin to break down at this point and the product is not something we would be proud to serve. A small timer is located at each brewer/holder, to emphasize the importance of the one-hour hold time.
The four key coffee tasting terms
Brightness is a positive term used to describe the sharpness or liveliness of Arabica bean coffees. For those who are unfamiliar with specialty coffee, brightness is often confused with bitterness. Brightness is tasted near the front of the mouth and gives coffee its edge. Central American and East African (Kenya AA) coffees are generally very bright, while Pacific Rim coffees are smooth. Terms often used to describe brightness and its characteristics are liveliness, brightness or sharpness.
Body is generally derived from the coffee oils and bean fibers, which form sediment deposited in the cup during the brewing process. Body is perceived as the texture or weight of the coffee on the back of the tongue. The type of bean will dictate the body of the coffee such that it can be either heavy and thick (Muhammad Ali Blend), light and smooth (Bruce Lee Brew) or medium-bodied (Chuck Norris).
Like wines, fresh coffee gives off a wonderful aroma, which is intensified upon grinding. A coffee's aroma in the cup should be the first indication of the coffee's quality or intensity.
This is the most important term because it encompasses all the rest. Flavor refers to the total impression one gets from the coffee. It can be general (as in "the coffee is very flavorful") or specific (as in "the coffee has a flavor reminiscent of blackberries"). Flavor also can be described in degrees of intensity. There is no wrong term for describing the flavor of a coffee.
Flavored beans are often associated with gourmet coffee, but they are really the opposite of what we sell, which are specialty coffees. The term “specialty coffee” denotes the finest 100% Arabica beans, grown in ideal conditions and hand picked at the peak of ripeness. Once picked, the beans are roasted and specially packaged to provide the best possible beverage.
At Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar we offer a wide selection of flavored coffees through the use of flavored syrups. We flavored the brewed coffee, not the beans, to ensure a quality and consistent product. We do not use flavored beans because:
1. Flavors are generally added to cheap/inferior beans to hide their poor quality. Retailers/wholesalers who use flavored beans care more for the flavor then the quality of the coffee.
2. The mixture/chemicals used to flavor the beans can be harmful. The packages containing the flavors often come with warning labels.
3. Flavored beans will eventually ruin commercial and home brewing equipment. The thick syrups adhere to the equipment (i.e. grinders and brewers) and taint the flavor of any subsequent coffee brewed in them (i.e. your house blend will taste like hazelnut). Additionally, the thick syrups will eventually damage the mechanical/moving parts of the machines.
4. Coffee beans are porous and absorb odors. Flavored beans emit a very strong odor which will overpower and taint other smells in the establishment, such as the wonderful smell of freshly ground Arabica bean coffee.
5. Flavored syrups will allow the customer a wider variety. At Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar we use wonderful varieties of coffee and add well-known syrups for flavor. In this way we are able to ensure that we serve only the freshest, most flavorful cup of coffee available. When a customer orders a flavored coffee it is incorrect to tell them that we do not have flavored coffees. The fact is we have the best-flavored coffees in town. When someone asks for a flavored coffee, simply offer him or her flavor options (such as hazelnut, vanilla, raspberry, etc.) and make the drink per the recipe (check the syrup chart for help). If they want to know why we use syrups you should explain the reasons outlined above.
All coffees must have 97% of their caffeine removed in order to be considered decaffeinated.
Around the year 1908, a coffee merchant in Bremen, Germany patented his method for producing Decaf coffee. Keeping his process a secret, he described his product as “Sans Caffeine”, later condensed to coin the trade name, “Sanka”. The method remained a secret until 1932 when General Foods acquired Sanka, introducing it into every household in the U.S.
This first method used to decaffeinate coffee used the element benzene to extract the caffeine from the bean. Unfortunately, the powerful odor from the benzene interfered with the coffee's own aroma.
Out of our willingness to provide for the general public a choice, we offer regular and decaffeinated coffee. Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar uses the Direct Contact Methylene Chloride Process (most popular). Methylene chloride has one advantage over other solvents in that it matches caffeine perfectly, latching onto and removing just that compound and little else. For this reason, some feel that Decaf coffee treated with methylene chloride yields a brew that tastes richer and more authentic than alternative methods.
When we talk about espresso, not Expresso, we mean the tantalizing, romantic beverage which has become the building block of the specialty coffee industry. However, when learning about espresso we need to discuss it as four different entities, all combining to produce the more tangible fifth thing, the espresso beverage. The following are the five different things we mean when we talk about espresso:
I. Blend of Varietal Coffees
There is no country called Espresso and therefore the beans used to make a shot of espresso are not a single bean from a single country. Espresso is derived from a blend of varietal beans from different countries and regions. A single varietal bean does not possess the complexity of characteristics needed to produce the proper shot of espresso. You need a blend of different beans to maximize the extraction process. There is some debate in the industry regarding whether or not you need “Robusta” beans to produce the wonderful tan crema that layers the top of the espresso shot. At Kick Butt Coffee & Live Music Cocktail Bar we believe “Robusta” beans are wholly unnecessary to producing the crema (grind, tamp, etc. are the important ingredients) and use only 100% “Arabica” beans for our espresso blend and other coffees.
II. A Roast Color
In order to extract the perfect shot we roast the unique espresso blend of beans to what is called an “Espresso Roast.” This is a darker roast color than regular brewed or drip coffee.
III. A Grind Setting
Espresso (the very dark roasted blend of varietal beans) is ground on different machines than regular drip/brewed coffee. The espresso extraction process requires a finer, more uniform grind than drip/brewed coffee because of the speed and intensity of the process. The espresso grind should resemble the consistency of powdered sugar. This is a consistency you cannot truly achieve on home (blade) grinders. Additionally, the grind must usually be adjusted throughout the day. You will have to make it either more coarse (larger particles) or more fine (smaller particles).
IV. A Method of Extraction
Brewing espresso requires a much different method of extraction than regular drip/brewed coffee. The espresso brewing process relies on a very expensive machine to force water at 9 atmospheres (130 lbs) of pressure through 14 grams of finely ground espresso blend at 198 degrees within 18-24 seconds to produce two 1-ounce shots.
The four previously discussed concepts all work in combination to form the extraordinary beverage we know as espresso. The resulting 1-ounce “shot” of espresso is the basis for all of our espresso based drinks such as the latte, cappuccino, mocha, americano, doppio, espresso con panna, etc. Making espresso is an extremely complex process that must be monitored during all steps. If any one of the critical elements listed above is off, then the usually wonderful shot of espresso will be nothing but a bitter, unsavory experience.
Chai literally means "tea" in India. It is derived from brewing an assortment of black teas and mixing them with honey, fresh ginger, vanilla, and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon and clove. Chai is a wonderful beverage substitute for coffee, espresso and latte drinkers and a flavorful choice for non-coffee drinkers and tea lovers.
Our Chai can be prepared fat-free if you use skim milk, however, our standard recipe calls for whole milk. The Chai comes in concentrated form in aseptic packaging. You can either steam the Chai like a latte or make it with ice for an iced Chai beverage.
For a hot Chai drink, you combine the Chai mixture with equal parts of milk, soy or skim milk. When measuring the milk/Chai ratio before steaming, it is important to note that the mixture will expand after steaming and thus the pre-measured amounts required are approximately 2 ounces less per size cup, i.e. a 12 oz. Cup requires 10 ounces of product.
The calming spices teamed with black tea antioxidants in Chai tea are widely believed to provide a variety of health benefits:
1. Aids in digestion
2. Reduces cholesterol and the incidence of heart attacks
3. Contains fluoride for strong teeth and bones
4. Increases alertness and reduces fatigue
5. Improves concentration
6. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure
7. Ginger is said to be good for the stomach and chest
8. Cloves are said to cure nausea