Acaia Coffee Scale: Interview with Aaron Takao Fujiki


 

Nothing excites me more than toys, tech toys to be exact.  And if that tech toy happens to involve coffee in any way, shape, or form.  Well, let's just say that gets my blood pumping.  So when I came across the Acaia Coffee Scale on KickStarter.com, I was pretty excited. So excited, that immediately after committing to buy one, I made contact with Aaron Takao Fujiki, the co-founder, via Twitter to see if he would let us interview him or his partner Rex Tseng.  

Let me tell you a brief bit about this fantastic piece of technology.  It's not just a kitchen scale. It's a scale specifically for brewing the perfect cup of coffee.  Complete with industrial grade internals, ample processing power, and so feature-rich, your head will spin!

 

Here's a few features from Aaron's press kit that will give you better idea of what the Acaia is, and why it's better than anything on the market.

  • Coffee and liquid proof - no nooks or crannies for elements to seep in.
  • Smart auto-off feature - as long as there's weight on the scale, it stays on.  So your brew methods that take 5, 10, 15 minutes… will work perfectly with this scale.  It won't shut off on you.
  • Accuracy to 0.1 grams - I'm not this nerdy with my coffee, but maybe you are?
  • Built-in stopwatch - time your brews for the perfect taste!
  • It's small but not too small - 6in x 6in to be exact.  You can fit your Chemex on it, no problem!
  • Even bottom - on piece of silicone covers the bottom to ensure that it's always level.  Most scales have four legs that can wear or fall off over time, this silicone pad will stick forever well, almost.
  • Lithium-Ion battery and USB charging - if it's good enough for the iPhone, then it's good enough for the Acaia!  Try and find another scale with this battery I dare you!
  • Micro-controller chip - only found in industrial scales (SM59R16G6) - Acaia is the first consumer-grade scale to incorporate this kind of processing power.
  • Bluetooth connectivity - You can go do laundry and check on your brew progress with your iPhone!  Now that's cool!
  • iOS App - remotely view the scale, monitor brews, time brews, take notes on your favorite coffee beans and brew methods for later use!
  • API for Developers - This means more apps can be made by third-party developers, adding additional functionality to your scale!  Check out the interview below, Aaron tells a bit more about the Acaia API.

 

Interview with Aaron Takao Fujiki - Co-founder of Acaia Coffee Scale

SipLocal: How long have you been working on the Acaia?

Acaia: Been working on it for like 2 years. I talked to my friend Rex about coffee brewing, on how to improve the taste of my coffee, then we came up with the idea of a smart coffee scale, and started doing some research and prototypes. 

SipLocal: Many projects on Kickstarter or Indiegogo rarely ship on time, how did you decide on January/February delivery, and do you feel you will still be on time?

Acaia: We decided because we wanted to give backers who loved our product the shortest waiting time. The delivery is a real challenge since we have changed our design during the kickstarter campaign to better our products.  We wanted to build the product better and better, so we improve from the feedbacks of our backers. It took us some time, but we want to keep our promise and work hard on it. So far we are still looking to ship the early birds in January. 

SipLocal: From the photos and video, it looks like you have an operational prototype, how far along is the project?

Acaia: We are very close to completion. The prototypes in the photos and videos are real production parts. We are now tweaking the features and software to make it better for our backers.

SipLocal: Is the app already done?

Acaia: The acaia scale is already in production, and we just released a backer only update of the iOS App this week, the feedbacks are pretty positive, we are going to release a public update on the iOS App and the Android app soon.

SipLocal: The scale obviously has ever tool a coffee lover would want, do you have any plans to add functionality for any other kitchen uses (i.e. foods)?

Acaia: A lot of people is asking this question, right now we want to focus on improving the acaia coffee scale’s user experience for coffee brewing, because we want to make sure the acaia coffee scale can satisfy the need for every coffee lover. After we perfected the acaia coffee scale, we will then proceed on developing a product line for different purposes of the acaia scale, one step at a time, we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the acaia scale, because the acaia is a designer product, a result of the combination of art and science for the coffee community, not just an ordinary piece of consumer electronics. 

SipLocal: Once the Kickstarter project ends, will you be accepting pre-orders through your website?

Acaia: Currently our plan is to make the products for the backers on kickstarter first. We will then gather feedbacks and inputs from these backers, for they are the first to use this product and we really like to know what they think. We are committed to this product, and we want to learn from our users how to make it even better. We are the first to introduce connected APP for the brewing community and we want users to help us build the future products. So at this moment, we will not be doing pre-orders on our website, but if anyone is interested, they can still contact us and we’ll see what we can do.

SipLocal: After the Kickstarter, do you have any retailers lined up to sell the acaia?

Acaia: We have some retailers and shop owners who are interested in selling it, but we have no definite plans yet. We just want to make sure we will deliver a great product to the consumers. I am sure there will be a lot of feedbacks from our backers. Whether it is good or bad, we will listen, learn and improve. I think this is very important in building a great product. That is also why I wanted to make this product on kickstarter, so I can interact with the users.

SipLocal: Can we sell it? haha

Acaia: Sure!

SipLocal: Do you have a post-Kickstarter retail price in mind?  /  What can consumers expect to pay for acaia after the Kickstarter?

Acaia: We are planning the retail price to be around 89, but we still want to gather the feedbacks on the product from the kickstarter backers. Since we are building both the hardware and the software APP, there are a lot of features and functions that we can add/remove from the product.

SipLocal: Tell me about the API.

Acaia: We wanted to build a scale that can have many talented developers make their own APP to work with our scale. We believe that having a connected weighing sensor can do a lot of things. You can build tools for diabetes patients or apps that provide cooking recipes. We want to provide people with a great device that they can create their own applications with it!

SipLocal: Do you have any developers lined up to make apps for the acaia?

Acaia: We have got some developers and companies that shown a lot of interest in the acaia, so we are quite excited about this!

SipLocal: Do you have any plans to release an android or windows mobile/rt/8 app or a web app for those without an iPhone, or would like to use their computers?

Acaia: We are already developing Android APP that works on android 4.3 with bluetooth 4.0 supported devices. We will have a public update on our software status this week. Currently we have no plans on windows mobile yet, we got our hands full with iOS and Android at the moment. 

 

If you want one… you had better act fast!  Only four days left in the KickStarter campaign.  After that, as Aaron said, they're looking to raise the retail price and you'll have to wait a lot longer.  Here are the colors currently available (more have been added to KickStarter) for shipping early 2014:

X
December 15, 2013 by Mark Evans

Should I Buy Coffee Online or at the Store?

When I was kid, people would have thought I was crazy for asking such a thing.  I can imagine the response being something like: "The internet's for email, not buying food.  You crazy kid!"  But times have changed.  Sure, there's some things I won't buy online such, such as milk and eggs.  But less perishable items like hard-to-find candies, alcohol, tea, and coffee... why not?  I already buy everything else online.  It's convenient, I don't have to go anywhere, and a few days later it shows up on my doorstep.  What better way to knock out a to-do [to-buy] list than online?  Think about it... if someone offered to go find a specialty store that offered the specific brand of coffee you wanted, then drop it off on your doorstep or in your mailbox, would you pay $5-10 for that?  Heck, I would. Gas and my time cost more than that.

So way back when I was in sales, you know, the annoying kind of sales, I was taught the Franklin Close.  It goes something like this:  "When Benjamin Franklin was faced with a difficult decision, you know what he would do?  He would draw a line down the center of a sheet of paper.  On one side he would write the pros (or good) of that decision, and on the other he would write the cons (the bad).  So why don't we do that to see just how good of a decision this is?"

Why don't we do that?

 

Pros Cons
Guaranteed fresh, roasted-to-order Left empty on purpose... I did the work for Pros, it's your turn :)
Find many local choices in one place
Learn about different local roasters before buying
Don't have to drive anywhere to find local coffee
Coffee is nearly always weeks and even months fresher than store bought
When you consider time and gas, it may be cheaper than going to a store
Don't have to guess which coffee is good and which is bad
Support local businesses by purchasing from local roasters
In some states, avoid having to pay sales tax
Read other's opinions and share your own before and after trying a coffee
I might add more when I think of them in the future...
November 27, 2013 by Mark Evans

Bonaverde's Roast-Grind-Brew Machine

I'm serial Kickstarter viewer.  There, I admit it.  Every time I go to Kickstarter I start with the search "coffee" to see what new and awesome contraptions are being invented, and today, a pretty neat machine by Bonaverde Coffee Changers caught my eye.  It's definitely a game changer.  It gives people like you and I the ability to roast coffee in our own homes... and it's affordable!  Not only that, in addition to roasting your green coffee beans, it will grind and then brew the coffee in 12-14 minutes!  Is this too good to be true?  My guess is going to be yes... and no.  

Keep in mind, this is purely speculation.  I haven't actually touched one of these machines, though I have pre-purchased one.  The first issue that came to mind was the degassing period nearly every roaster will tell you is *required* after roasting.  If this machine can roast-to-brew in 12 minutes, there's obviously not enough time for the ~2-3 day degassing period.  And most roasters will tell you that freshly roasted coffee typically doesn't taste good, or as good, as it does after it's been allowed to sit for 2-3 days.  Bonaverde made sure to address this concern, in fact, it's the first question on their FAQ's, which should tell you as the consumer that this has likely been a chief concern.  Their response didn't exactly give me a warm and fuzzy.  They essentially side-stepped the issue by saying "Opinions differ... [but] 15,000 people (blind-)tasted our coffee... [and] Their overwhelming feedback gave us the confidence to go viral."  Maybe I'm just a cynic, but I need a little more science and substance than that.  Read for yourself and let me know what  you think.  I'm sure 15,000+ tried a Keurig and said it was awesome before it went to market.  Is it awesome?  Yeah.  Does it make really great coffee?  Not so much.

My next logical thought was: "You know, if they want to appease everyone - the I want it now guy, and those who want to degas before grinding - they should just put a setting on on the machine to allow you to stop the process after the roast.  Then remove your beans and wait a few days before grinding and brewing."  Seems simple enough. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought that because the added a stretch goal of $500k.  If they reach that point, they'll add the ability to stop the machine mid-process and yank your beans out.  Thank god.  The only problem is, they haven't made it to $500k yet, but they're very close!  So it's my hope that they make it so my machine will have that ability.

Now that I've bashed the machine, let's talk about why it's super-cool!  

I meet with roasters all the time.  Roasters that are super small and roasters that make millions (over the course of a year, in gross revenue... lol).  And [almost] all have one thing in common: they started small.  Some started on re-purposed popcorn poppers, while others roasted over a stove.  So as you might assume, this machine could give budding home roasters the ability to launch their craft fairly quickly.  It's a natural evolution in our recent DIY revolution in technology.  That's why I decided to give one a try.  I love the smell of roasting coffee, I love the smell of ground coffee, and I certainly love the smell of freshly brewed coffee!  This machine promises to give you all of that, every morning.  The best part is, it's your own special roast that you created.

Even if this machine doesn't live up to expectations, it will certainly have served its purpose as a trail blazer.  If you were on Kickstarter when all the 3D printers started popping up, you probably noticed that after the first came many others who aimed to improve or add a new spin on it.  I believe this will also happen with coffee machines that roast and brew.  So if you're not sold on this gadget, wait a few months, another will soon follow!  And they'll only get better.

The next reason I think this machine is awesome is because their aiming to connect the farmers directly with us, the consumer.  Essentially taking direct trade to a whole new level.  In theory, this can help to improve the living conditions of coffee farmers and their communities since they will be making much more profit than they do with the current direct trade and fair trade models.  On the flip-side, farmers aren't exactly prepared to package their goods and ship for consumer use.  As of now, nearly all farmers package in bulk, burlap sacks, ship by container load, and deal with importers who buy palates or containers at a time.  Moving to a retail-based business will certainly present its own unique set of challenges.  Challenges that could potentially cause detriment to small farming communities.  How so?  For one, it will require more employees to handle the work.  Sure it creates jobs, but a lot of this will be in preparation for more retail orders.  In other words, they'll be gambling on the hope that more retail orders will come in.  This shift will also require the purchasing of new machinery for retail packaging and shipments.  It's much easier to pack a burlap sack with 50-60kg of beans and load them on a truck, than it is to individually package 1lbs-5lbs packages and individually ship them out.  I don't know exactly how they plan to execute this new supply chain, but I'm sure it will encounter a few growing pains along the way.

Back to the machine.  My next concern was roasting, how much control will I have?  I'm not a roaster, so I can't pretend that I really know how to do it.  But I'd like to learn a little along the way, and I would like a machine that will allow me to take control as I learn.  Unfortunately, this machine seems fairly hands-off.  They say that it will have 6 different roast settings, from light to Italian espresso dark.  This makes me happy.  Even though I won't be able to become the master roaster I dream of being, it will at least give me a place to start.  I'll be able to try varied degrees of roast with the same beans to explore the differences in flavor before moving on to a real roaster.

How much coffee can this machine roast at once?  The short answer: "I don't know."  I've searched both their website and their Kickstarter page and have yet to find a definitive answer.  The closest tid-bit of info I could find is that this machine will make between 2 and 12 cups of coffee.  So if you guess between 7 and 10 grams of coffee per cup, then between 84 and 120 grams of beans can be roasted.  I would definitely like an answer to this.

Anyway, I could talk your ear off about this... but I'd probably only bore you.  For now, check out the Kickstarter page and let us know your thoughts.  I think it's pretty cool, in spite of the issues I mentioned, it will certainly pave the way for innovation in home roasting and possibly the world coffee community as a whole.

 

 

 

 

November 26, 2013 by Mark Evans

What is a Nano and Micro Roaster?

It's a topic of great debate!  That's what it is!  I'll share my view on it, which comes from meeting those who dub themselves nano or micro roasters, reading other people's humble (and not so humble) opinions on the internet, and finally, from my own deductions (which is why I said, "my view...").  

Nano Roasters

What a nano roaster is not, is a small home-based roaster pumping beans out their basement and ventilating warm wonderful coffee exhaust out of their window well, it can be, but that's not necessarily the only way to quantify a nano roaster.  The roasters I've met that call themselves nano roasters are typical very low volume, on the order of zero pounds to say ~15 pounds per week (these figures are highly debatable).  They may run out of their home (like all of my businesses first started out), they may share industrial or commercial space with another company, or they might even have their own boutique coffee shop.  They likely piggy-back their bean purchases with another roaster, buy from a local roaster who's larger, or even have a direct trade agreement with a small coffee plantation far-far-away.  But what they're not doing is importing pallets of green beans on a regular basis.  The equipment the use can vary, from a popcorn popper to a 25lbs San Franciscan Coffee Roaster.  Their distribution model probably consists of friends and family, the local farmers market, maybe some web store sales, and possibly even a local coffee shop (or a couple).  At the end of the day, it's almost guaranteed that the nano roaster has another full-time job and can't support his/herself on the sales they're generating... it's simply a hobby or a part-time company.

 

Nano Roaster Example: Agápē Roasting Project

 

Micro Roasters

This is where the gap widens.  A micro roaster can be a small micro roaster with a handful of coffee shops they supply to tens of coffee shops in a city-wide, state-wide, or small regional area.  These are the guys that run it as a full-time business.  They typically order beans by the palate(s), have trade relationships with importers or direct trade relationships with a few different coffee plantations.  You would be hard pressed to find a micro roaster who operates out their home (maybe a dedicated building on their home's land?).  They might supply nano roasters with green beans. Often times they have their own coffee shops, or a few of them around town.  I didn't mention this with the nano roasters, but both micro and nano roasters usually roast-to-order.  A micro roaster may have distribution deals with supermarkets or niche food marts, but don't often have a warehouse of pre-roasted coffees. 

 

Micro Roaster Example: Corvus Coffee Roasters

 

The benefit of both nano and micro roasters is that they have unparalleled quality control, since they roast in smaller quantities (than say, that ominous company which is yet to be named). 

Anyway, that's just one mans opinion.  Let us know what you think.

November 07, 2013 by Mark Evans

Cold Brew Coffee (Toddy) vs Iced Coffee

Don't confuse the two, because they're not the same!  In fact, they don't even taste the same.  Iced coffee is brewed the same way as hot coffee, heated water is steeped over coffee grounds and dripped into a vessel, then allowed to cool and poured over ice.  Conversely, the cold brew or Toddy method is steeped using cold or room temperature water and can served cold or heated and served hot.  This method takes much longer than the iced coffee method, twelve-plus hours!  

So why would anyone employ a method that takes so much longer?  It's simple really, the taste.  Cold brewed or Toddy coffee ends up being sweeter and less acidic.  I'm not a chemist or even a brewmaster, so I won't pretend to know the nuts and bolts of why this is, but suffice to say, hot water causes different chemical reactions which ultimately alter the taste.  

How can I cold brew?  You can't use your normal drip system.  I have yet to see a normal coffee brewer that allows you to turn off the heating element, or not preheat the water during the steeping process.  In addition, hot brewers drip way too fast!  As I said before, most cold brew methods take twelve hours or more... your Mr. Coffee brews in 10 minutes!  There are some methods that are much shorter, try them both out and let us know your thoughts. 

Below are few links for DIY and ready-made/retail cold brewers.  Before you take the dive and make or buy a Toddy system, go to a local coffee shop and try a Toddy for yourself.  In Denver, I recommend Crema Coffee House, they serve a Toddy made from Huckleberry Roasters beans... and it's fantastic!  That's the cup that made me a believer in cold brew/Toddy.

 

DIY Method:

Cold Brew DIY (YouTube)

 

Ready-made/Retail:

Bruer - Currently pre-order only - fairly inexpensive

 

Not DIY, unless you're a chemist. :)

A cool video of a super-Toddy maker (YouTube)

 

 

November 07, 2013 by Mark Evans

Read Your Labels

In an earlier post, Roast-to-Order: Why it's Important, I talked about how the quality of your coffee can be affected by sitting on store shelves for long periods of time.  So today, I stopped in at a grocer that prides themselves in fresh foods, organic, vegan, gluten-free, yada yada yada.  This particular grocer is generally pretty good about following through with their promises, so I figured I'd grab some whole bean coffee that came from a local roaster.  In fact, I grabbed two bags from the same roaster.  I returned home and prepared to brew a cup... surprisingly, I realized I didn't look at the "Roasted On" date before purchasing it.  To my surprise, one bag was roasted over two months ago, and the other was roasted yesterday!  Both of which are from the same roaster, the same grocer, and bought on the same day.  

Anyway, my only point is that even your most niche markets that pride themselves in fresh (famers markets excluded), end up having products that sit on the shelves for months.  Thereby, no longer being fresh.  This brings me back to Roast-to-Order, when you're buying coffee from our partner roasters, you're buying fresh.  Typically they only roast a couple days a week and immediately ship the following day; nothing sits on a shelf or in a store room.  You won't receive a bag that has a "Roasted On" date two months old.

As a side note, I'm very familiar with this particular roaster's product and can vouch for their superb quality.  It's not the roasters fault their product sat on the shelf for so long, it simply can't be helped in the grocery/retail arena.  Yet another reason SipLocal is so awesome, we'll make sure you get the freshest coffee around!

October 30, 2013 by Mark Evans

Roast-to-Order Coffee: Why it's Important

When you're buying from roasters who boast purchasing only the top two percent of the crop yield, you can bet you're getting quality.  But the green bean quality is only part of the process, from there, in our opinion, it needs to be ethically sourced, shipped and stored correctly, then roasted in a reasonable amount of time (these times change depending on climate... but we'll talk about that some other time).  So providing the roaster has taken care up until this point, the next very important step is to roast the beans, and timing is key!  Not just the time they take to roast it to perfection, but when the beans are roasted.

Your normal big box coffees that you might find in the supermarket are usually roasted en masse, large volume, then packaged, warehoused for an obscene amount of time, then shipped to your grocer where it sits for weeks or possibly even months before making it into your hands.  As with any raw or cooked food product, coffee beans too lose their luster.  

Enter roast-to-order, a method used primarily by micro to medium-sized roasters, mostly because their volume is low enough that they can take pride in every step of the process.  Roast-to-order means exactly what it sounds like, the beans you order are still green (or raw/un-roasted) when you order them.  It isn't until after your order that the coffee beans are roasted and packaged.  So three days later when the coffee arrives on your doorstep, you can enjoy the fact that the coffee is fresh!  Only about three days old!

So that sounds good, right?  But what happens when coffee isn't as fresh?  Well, as you might assume, lack of freshness directly affects taste.  It also adversely affects the aroma, both brewed and un-brewed.  One way to tell how fresh the coffee beans are is to look for signs of aging, like secretion of oil.  A fresh roast should look dry, like a matte finish.  Oily beans can also be a sign of over roasted beans (like a dark roast, gone bad), so be sure to take note of this the next time you buy coffee beans.

Keep this in mind when looking at our roaster's coffees.  Their coffee represents the highest quality raw beans in the world, and their method of roast-to-order ensures that the coffee is as fresh as possible when it reaches you.

While the below picture shows a good roast and an over roast, it also gives a good idea of the oily look old coffee can have when it's been on the shelf too long.

Enjoy your coffee!

October 27, 2013 by Mark Evans

Where's my Coffee?

Hold on to your ugly mugs!  We've just signed our first roaster agreement (like 30 minutes ago... we still have to fax it back), and have more on the way.  When creating a system from scratch, there's inevitably a number of small things that need to be taken care of, so that's what we've been doing.  Keep in mind, it's just two of us woking on this outside of our 'other' professional obligations.  We hope to have the first products listed within the next week or two.  Next step is going out to the roasters and taking pictures of their bean bags (not the kind you sit on), then a bunch of other details.  Anyway... you're coffee is coming soon!  We promise!
October 25, 2013 by Mark Evans
Tags: SipNews

Fair Trade and Direct Trade - Is One Better Than The Other?

For those that are socially and environmentally conscious about their coffee purchases (and any other purchase for that matter), the terms fair trade and direct trade are certain to come up.  While most know that these two terms mean the product is a more socially conscious product, they don’t know exactly what these terms mean, and which, if any, is better.  By the end of this, you should have a better understanding of each, so you can make that determination on your own.

 

Fair Trade

As the name suggests, the idea behind fair trade is to aid developing countries by way of trade, improve working conditions and promote sustainability.  This is done by ensuring that farmers (and other trades) are guaranteed a minimum sale price for their goods, regardless of market demand.  Economic theory dictates that if the supply of coffee is abundant, market prices will fall.  Conversely, if supply is sparse, market prices will rise.  In the past, these prices sometimes fell below what the farmers needed to maintain a sustainable operation, resulting in deteriorated working conditions, lower pay, and poverty.  From a realist perspective, this is a functioning global model; there are winners and there are losers.  But proponents of social democracy (typically First World countries) saw a problem with this model.  So in the 1990’s we began to see a shift in the world marketplace.  Organizations such as Fairtrade International, World Fair Trade Organization, and the Fair Trade Federation began to form with the idea of making trade from Third World to First World countries more fair.

 

Most of these organizations have the same mode of operation, farmers pay a fee to be part of a cooperative, when their goods are are ready they are pooled together with other cooperative members’ goods, such as coffee, and are packed, and sold.  Essentially allowing small famers to enjoy the economies of scale.

 

Much of a fair trade organizations’s expenditures go towards marketing the cooperatives products and getting them into high volume retailers.  In addition, organizations usually pay the cooperatives an additional per pound premium that is intended to help with development projects in their respective communities.  

 

While it may seem that all is well and good with fair trade, there are many arguments to the contrary.  I’ll state a few of them, but it’s up to you to do the research and decide on the validity. 

 

  • Most of the money doesn’t reach the Third World
  • Unethical politics are imposed on farmers and cooperatives
  • Fair trade hurts non-fair trade farmers
  • Evidence to support positive impact is lacking
  • Fees to participate are too high

 

Direct Trade

Direct trade is an alternative to fair trade, often for those who disagree with fair trade’s effectiveness, but is also practiced in conjunction with fair trade.  As of yet, there aren’t any third-party organizations that monitor and govern direct trade like in fair trade.  Direct trade believes that buyers should communicate directly with the farmers to select goods, negotiate prices, and arrange shipment.  Proponents of direct trade believe that by going directly to the farmer, they are able to ensure their trade relationship is helping to improve the lives of those in that particular community.  Also, it allows the buyer to select the highest quality goods, as opposed to fair trades’ mish-mash of goods from multiple farmers.

 

The downside to direct trade is that without the backing of a large, multi-national free trade organization, costs for the buyer are often much more.  For instance, a fair trade organization may have greatly reduced shipping rates because of the large quantities of shipments, or they may have reduced per pound rates of coffee beans, again because of the large quantities purchased.  Meanwhile, a small or medium sized roaster will have to pay much more because they purchase very little in comparison.

 

So what does all this mean to you as the consumer?  Both trade models are good and aim to improve the quality of life and sustainability of trade.  They are both rooted in social responsibility.  But in my personal opinion, direct trade allows for a better quality product and, ideally, more transparency when it comes to how the local community is benefiting.  I say ideally because direct trade is still a new concept and does not yet have the structure required to empirically show this. 

 

This was meant to be a superficial intro to free trade versus direct trade.  If you want to know more, do a little research on Google, talk to a few people, or read a book or two.  Then decide which, if not both, fit you.  

 

Soon we should be adding the function to sort coffees by fair and direct trade.

October 16, 2013 by Mark Evans

What Kind of Coffee do You Buy?

For the longest time I've scoured my local grocers' shelves for the cheapest coffee.  My mission, to save a buck.  To me coffee all tasted the same, the only difference was the amount of grounds I put in the filter - I liked what I deemed as 'motor oil' coffee, thick and strong.  Then I decided I would try a local roaster to see if I could taste the difference.  Having an appreciation for Scotch, I knew that if I tried hard enough, there would surely be certain qualities I could pick out and enjoy.  

One Tuesday afternoon I took a drive to a local roasters coffee shop and spoke with one of the employees who was very knowledgeable about what makes coffees taste different.  He explained the difference between single origin and blends, then told me about what others had said they tasted in particular coffees that they roasted.  I tried the single origin the gentleman had suggested, let it roll around on my tongue for a moment as if I was sipping Scotch, then swallowed.  Sure enough, there were distinct flavors that I had not noticed in my regular cheap grocery bought brand.  I sipped a little more.  Brown sugar, followed by fruits and earthy notes.  This wasn't by any means a sweet coffee, but there were certainly notes of sweetness hidden in the roast.  It was then that I decided coffee was more than just my morning stimulant, it was something to be thoroughly enjoyed and each taste should be pondered.

The origin of the beans, the method by which it was roasted, ground, and brewed has given me a whole new perspective.  No longer do I look at coffee solely as a means to wake up in the morning, but rather something to be enjoyed, something to start the wheels turning in my head.  While I could probably go back to the store and buy a few different flavors of the big brand coffees, I find more enjoyment in seeking out local artisan coffee roasters in my own city.  Each one has their own unique story for each roast.  And by trying their coffees, by really pondering the various flavors, you can taste the story their trying to convey.

So if someone asks me what kind of coffee I buy...  I buy micro-roast, artisan coffees.  Not always from my locale, but I try to sample as many local roasters as possible.

September 28, 2013 by Mark Evans
Tags: SipNews