Monthly Archives: July 2015

Resting time

I am not talking about our coming vacations 🙂 but about letting the coffee rest between roasting and brewing. How fresh is fresh and should we brew immediately after roasting? These are common questions that I get from my costumers. The first question I answered in a previous blog:

http://www.engrano.nl/blog/2014/08/03/fresh-for-longer-time/

I always recommend my costumers to use fresh roasted coffee and so I sell coffee that is roasted-on-demand which implies that I don’t have a storage of roasted coffee. However, sometimes it happens that i get a coffee order accompanied by an email with subject: urgent. In these cases it takes a bit of explanation to the customer that I really cannot ship that coffee first thing in the morning since I actually first have to roast it.

But to return to the topic: should you brew the coffee immediately after roasting? Personally, I think coffees taste the best not shortly after finishing the roast but after another 2 to 4 days.
During roasting the coffee beans undergo physical and chemical changes. Due to the chemical reactions taking place during roasting CO2 (carbon-dioxide) is produced which is initially retained in the beans. This CO2 will be released over a period of weeks after roasting, the so-called degassing. The speed of degassing is inversely related to time after roasting: fast degassing takes place during the first hours after roasting and slowing down gradually. Adding hot water to coffee will release some of the CO2 that is still bounded to the bean structure and we can “see” this CO2 in the crema formed while brewing the coffee.

If you brew your coffee with an espresso machine then this fact is very important for you. Espresso brewing takes places under high temperature and pressure, so if there is alot of carbon-dioxide left in the coffee beans it would make the brewing process more difficult and can prevent the proper extraction of the coffee flavours. It will also lead to an excessive amount of crema and sometimes the espresso cup may have more crema than actual espresso which is a clear indication that the coffee has not rested long enough.
For other brewing techniques as for instance filter-coffee this can still be an issue since the coffee will swell-up from the release of CO2. In an open-drip filter this wont be a problem but in closed-dripping as a common electrical filter machine it may lead to the machine to overflow.

You can also use the release of CO2 as a freshness factor! If you prepare an espresso and the crema is too thin and even shows holes through which the espresso liquid underneath is visible then you know the beans are no longer fresh, since most of the CO2 has been released already. The same counts for filter coffee: if the coffee remains flat during the brew cycle, the coffee is old.

Old coffee leads to thin, light crema
Old coffee leads to thin, light crema

The coffee I roast and send always mentions the roasting date, which is typically 2-3 days earlier than the day you receive your package. Though it is tempting to immediately open the package and prepare some coffee, it may actually be better to wait a few days more to get the best flavour. Therefore it’s recommended to not wait with your new coffee order until you really run out of coffee, because otherwise you may find yourself in the antagonizing situation that you can’t make your favourite cup of coffee since you run out of the previous coffee while the new coffee you just received is actually still too fresh to use.

Italy, the coffee paradise

As a coffee roaster and coffee passionate I had to visit Italy, and finally last November I did so.
I have a dear Italian friend and visiting him gave me the perfect excuse for a short yet super fun holiday in Italy. He lives and works in the North, in the Emilia-Romagna region. Since I arrived on Thursday evening my coffee cravings had to wait until next morning.
In Italy your day begins with a coffee, most likely at home, together with something sweet: a cookie or a piece of fruit tarte. And so we did. Then we headed to our first tourist destination: Florence! At a caffetteria at the Piazza del Duomo with a great view over the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Fiore we had to sit down for our second coffee of the day. I love that in Italy coffee is coffee, meaning coffee is an espresso. Life as it should be. At this point I have to confess a small sin, I asked for a macchiato as I like to start my day with coffee and some milk. My preferred morning drink is cappuccino or cortado but since I was in Italy I was going to have something Italian, hence a macchiato. The look from my friend when I ordered it was priceless. He asked me: are you sure you want something with milk after 10 am?
Ah, then I remembered reading about Italian coffee habits. The tradition is to have just one cappuccino, or any other coffee-with-milk drink: in the morning, and then drink only espressos for the rest of the day. I don’t really know the exact reason for this habit and probably neither do they. I read once that it could be related to lactose-intolerance which is more common in southern Europe. Someone intolerant can indeed drink a small amount of milk in the morning as in that one daily cappuccino, but only one. So, it has become a small cultural taboo to keep drinking milk with your coffee through the day and after 10 am is already a disgrace, apparently. Since the girl in the counter is used to funny tourists she didn’t find it a problem. My friend, though, was a bit ashamed.
The rest of the day I behaved and only drank espressos.

My shameful macchiato after 10 am
My shameful macchiato after 10 am

The fact that espresso is called coffee and thus not considered anything special should already be enough to love Italy. But I am also crazy about the fact that you can be sure to get a good beverage everywhere. Coffee quality is assured, no matter how small or modest the place looks like or how cheap the coffee is. I was blown away, espressos for 1 Euro!! But please note that you will pay more money if you want to enjoy your coffee while sitting outside in the nice terrace that if you have it inside in the bar.

It is surprising for some people to find out that Italy is not the bigger coffee consumer in the world; three Nordic countries are in the lead, followed by the Netherlands. The year consumption in Italy was estimated to be 3.4 kg per capita (in 2013) which places Italy at number 18. The number one consumer is Finland with 9.6 kg per capita per year (in 2013). However, according to Datahero.com Italy is after Japan the second country to pay the most money for their coffee. So clearly Italy is into quality and not quantity. It is a paradise for coffee lovers.