coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Groundwork

Hey, let’s review some coffee beans, why not?

Groundwork Coffee, Los Angeles/Portland
Light Roast, Organic Colombia
Tasting Notes: Tangerine, Milk Chocolate

Groundwork Coffee began as a shop at Venice Beach, California, but now has two roasteries: one in LA and one here in Portland. So, despite the HQ being a state away, I still feel like I’m buying locally roasted beans, which is nice. The beans come from AMUCC, a woman’s co-op of coffee growers in Popayan. If there’s one thing I love about the coffee scene these days, it’s how hard some roasters are trying to work with local co-ops and growers and not exploit them. If buying these beans helps put decent money into the pockets of women in Colombia, I’m all for it.

First off: I upped my Bean Grams, from 15g to 20g. Groundwork suggests 1tbsp of grounds per 6oz of water. That’s 15g per 177ml, roughly. Doubling that (30g to 354ml) would actually be around the amount of liquid that one of my coffee mugs can hold, but 30g seems like too much for me. A tablespoon holds about 60mg of caffeine, and I only want to hit around 100mg. I ain’t no caffeine fiend.

The increase in grounds did improve the flavor though. It’s a much richer cup. What struck me first was how ashy the first sip was, and how each subsequent sip was more mellow. It was never ashy enough to be gross, but it was pronounced. Then came a floral, almost tangy taste (I guess that’s where the tangerine comes in), bold but not overpowering. That was the dominant flavor for me. I’d say it’s a better cup than the Two Dad’s beans, but as I mentioned in that review, I was measuring my beans incorrectly and generally getting weaker cups as a result. But I would say that I think I prefer light roasts over medium, overall.

That said, I do kind of wish this cup had a little bit more of a roasty flavor to it. The other tasting note, milk chocolate, I didn’t really get, but I’ve said before that I’m not great at tasting notes.

I bought these beans at Market of Choice for like $10.50 (on sale), which is a steal for organic, locally roasted beans. So it was worth it.

Overall: a bright, floral, slightly tangy cup of coffee. I liked it! 8/10

coffee reviews

Bean Juice Review: Two Dads

Hey, let’s review some coffee beans, why not?

Two Dads Coffee Co., Portland, OR
Medium Roast, Guatemala Single Origin
Notes: Caramel, Roasted Almond
Brewing Method: Pour over

I purchased these beans, as I often do, at Market of Choice, a local market in the vein of a Whole Foods or New Seasons. Fancy white people store, in other words. In terms of roasts, I prefer a light roast when available, and I tend to shy away from dark roasts. Mediums I will pick up if there’s nothing lighter within my budget.

Whenever possible, I like to purchase from local roasters, ideally at their place of business, but that doesn’t always work out. Also, this is petty as hell but if I buy beans at a local coffeeshop and they don’t give me a free cup of coffee, I stop buying there. I know! I’ll even buy their beans at a store. Coffeeshops, you gotta give bean buyers a free cup of coffee!

Two Dads is, well, two dads. One from Guatemala, one from the Pacific Northwest. They seem to roast only medium and dark roasts, at least according to their website. I love the bag with all the doodles and I love the story of how these two men started their roasting business. Lovely to read a story of people finding love and passion in their work.

Anyway, I finished off this bag today. They certainly have a roasty flavor typical of darker roasts, which made it difficult for me to figure out a good grounds to water ratio. The bag says 1.5 tbsp (or around 22g) per 5oz (150ml) of water.

I brew a way weaker cup than that–15g to 300ml. At the time, honest to god, I thought I was brewing to their specifications, but again, I am dumb with math. (I even had to remind myself just now, again, that one gram is equal to one milliliter [of water at least].) I don’t have any more beans to redo with the proper ratio, but it’s okay, as I think the cups I brewed were just fine.

The roast of it comes through the most for me. I’ve always been bad at tasting notes, but I can see where one might get a roasted almond flavor. It brewed very much on the line of ashyness, though, something that I was fighting with every morning. It felt like I had to have my pour over game perfect or else it the taste would be a little bitter or ashy. I always drink my coffee black but I think this is the type of coffee you should pair with cream and/or sugar.

Overall, not a bad cup of coffee, but perhaps a bit too dark on the roast for my liking. 7/10


Bigger is Not Always Better

This is another post about coffee. What did you think it was about? Pervert.

In order to really appreciate this post, you’ll first need to watch this video:

As I stated in my last post about coffee, I use pour over. I dabbled a bit in French press and wasn’t im-pressed1kill me now, but that’s mainly because there is a surprising amount of technique involved in brewing French press, including timing and all that nonsense. Pour over is easy: you just put the grounds in the top thingy and swirl hot water around in it and it makes coffee. Easy, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, you can make coffee that way, and if you buy good beans and don’t grind them too fine, you’ve basically made a decent cup of coffee. Which is what I’ve been doing for years now. I’ve been purposely “diluting” my coffee because I don’t want to drink too much caffeine (sort of, keep reading); thus, 15g of coffee in my big Powell’s mug, which holds about a pint of liquid. Every so often I would check websites to see the ideal coffee-to-water ratio, and it seemed more or less like I was spot on, except for doubling the water.

In my mind (which, to be honest, works poorly sometimes), adding double the water just meant that I was extracting more coffee. Perhaps not as much caffeine, but perhaps more than you would get in a typical 8oz mug. Right?

Then I started down the James Hoffman rabbit hole. Lots of intensely noodly nerding out about coffee. Things I hadn’t really considered. Using a scale to measure your water! Testing the best scale! Hell, he even has a video about making coffee soda. The man does it all, coffee-wise.

But this most recent video was sort of an eye opener to me. First, because I use a plastic V60 (or whatever cheap equivalent mine is). In the video, James says to heat up your V60 with hot water beforehand for a more even extraction. What! I had never thought of that. He also says to rinse the paper filter; I know this is in part to get rid of the “paper” taste but I’ve never really tasted paper with a dry filter, but whatever, I’ll do it now anyway.

Moreover, that video has a surprisingly detailed time scale for brewing a good pour over, and I just had to try it out. At first, I thought I would scale it up for my 16oz Powell’s mug, my beautiful, beautiful baby. But the calculations meant using around 30g of coffee, which was too much, both for preferred caffeine content, and for my coffee bean rationing, which I try to keep at around 15g/day because specialty coffee is expensive. So I decided, instead, to scale down to an 8oz mug.

This morning I brewed a cup using James’s2I want to go on a brief tangent here: for most of my life I thought you shouldn’t put an ‘s after a word that ended in s, and that it should just be an apostrophe alone. But that’s not the case! An apostrophe without an s is for plural possessives. The difference between “The whale’s day” (singular possessive) and “The whales’ day” (plural possessive). James is singular (as far as I can tell) so you have to put the ‘s even if it means you are saying Jameses. English: very annoying. method and the results were excellent. A much fuller, richer, and nuanced cup of coffee than I was brewing previously. Yes, a large part of that had to do with water and over-extraction, hence the title of this blog post: bigger is not always better.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Josh, ‘bigger’ usually refers to comparing the size of things, like, say, ‘That elephant is bigger than a bicycle.’ I think what you mean is ‘More is not always better,’ because ‘more’ usually refers to volume, like, ‘There is more water in this mug than in that mug.'” Well listen here, you little shit. “Bigger is better” and it its inverse are time-honored phrases, plus there’s alliteration in there which people like! Okay! Get off my back!

So anyway, if you brew using a pour over technique, I recommend trying out James’s method. His “pulse” method of water introduction I think is what makes the whole thing work. If anything, it feels more … kind to the coffee. I’m getting a little new agey here, but one of the things I genuinely appreciate about making coffee in the morning is how it feels like a little ceremony, one that involves patience and repetition, and one where it honestly feels like being kinder to the beans makes for a better tasting coffee. I like to think that concept can be extrapolated to the world in general.

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    kill me now
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    I want to go on a brief tangent here: for most of my life I thought you shouldn’t put an ‘s after a word that ended in s, and that it should just be an apostrophe alone. But that’s not the case! An apostrophe without an s is for plural possessives. The difference between “The whale’s day” (singular possessive) and “The whales’ day” (plural possessive). James is singular (as far as I can tell) so you have to put the ‘s even if it means you are saying Jameses. English: very annoying.
personal random nonsense

Coffee Talk

Last night I found my lil mini French press, which brews but one cup at a time! and this morning I used it to make coffee. My normal, to-go method is pour over. My reasoning is thus: out of all the methods one can use to make coffee1That don’t include a machine., pour over is the easiest. All you do is grind the beans, heat the water, put the grounds in the cup with the paper strainer, pour the hot water over the grounds, the end. You got coffee.

But recently I’ve been watching James Hoffman‘s coffee videos on YouTube, specifically one that I can’t find right now2Side note: James’s videos are great. He is a very pleasant sounding man and he is rigorous with his research and experiments. Highly recommend if you’re into coffee.. The gist was that the finer the coffee is ground, the better it tastes in immersion brewing (i.e., French press) vs filtration brewing (i.e., pour over). The problem with filtration brewing is that when the coffee grounds are too finely grounded, water makes a channel in the grounds which prevents it from thoroughly steeping in all the grounds. I’m saying grounds a lot. Water is super lazy and once a channel opens up for it to travel through, it just does it. Immersion brewing, on the other hand, means that all the grounds are immersed in the water and thus you get a more even brew.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Josh, buddy, you said that pour overs were super easy, but this immersion brewing sounds even easier!” Well the problem with immersion brewing is time. You have to time the immersion. Too short and the brew is weak. Too long and the brew starts to taste like an ashtray. The latter is not as big a deal if you add things to your coffee, like cream and sugar, but if you’re a black coffee drinker like myself, it makes a huge difference.

Pour over, on the other hand, you just pour and let it strain. There are variables to consider, yes, but none of them are time related. It’s more temperature based, for me at least.

Since I hadn’t had a French press coffee in a long time, I made one this morning. Since my lil guy only makes about 8oz of coffee when done, I ran it twice, using the same grounds both times. I also paid absolutely no attention to any of the rules because, in my mind at the time, it was easy: grind, pour into French press, add hot water, stir for about 30 seconds, let steep for four and a half minutes. But I think I screwed a couple of key factors up.

First, brew time should’ve been a minute less, I think. Also, according to Stumptown’s French press brew guide3I think this would make a decent band name, by the way., you should heat the glass with hot water first to have a more stable extraction temperature. I didn’t do that and I think the brew suffered a bit from it. Nothing that, again, would come through if you added milk and/or sugar, but straight black, it was definitely more on the ashy side.

Somehow, I also had a lot of fine grounds in the bottom of my cup, something that never happens with filters because, well … they’re filters. So that was annoying. That might have also been caused by me brewing twice with the same grounds; something something the grounds disintegrated further into finer bits. Drinking the filtery little fine grounds is kind of gross, so I just had to toss the bottom bit of my coffee. Oh well.

Speaking of lil, I went for a lil run today. Not even with the C25k app, just a 5 minute run followed by a couple of short jogs. Just to test out my legs, you know. Results: still kind of tense. I’m not sure entirely what’s going on. They’ll feel fine before the run, they felt fine for about half of the 5 minute run, and then my shins started to feel tense again. I’m sure it’s something like shin splints caused by that damnable Mt. Tabor run. The fact that it goes away and mostly stays away when I’m not running is a good sign, and I’ll just keep that going by not doing any significant runs until my next 5k in two weeks. Just long walks to keep the circulation going!

That was my running update on running.

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    That don’t include a machine.
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    Side note: James’s videos are great. He is a very pleasant sounding man and he is rigorous with his research and experiments. Highly recommend if you’re into coffee.
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    I think this would make a decent band name, by the way.