TDS and Coffee

What is TDS? To make a great cup of coffee you not only want the best coffee beans available but also the best water. One of the most important aspects to look at when rating the quality of water is the TDS. TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids. A TDS measurement represents the total concentration of dissolved substances in the water, which can include minerals, salts, and other solids (1). The amount and type of solids that are dissolved in the water will affect its flavor. Because coffee is about 96 percent water, the TDS of water used in the brewing process will greatly affect the quality of the finished product. TDS readings vary greatly between different kinds of water. Most distilled water has a TDS of 0 ppm (parts per million). During the distillation process steam is condensed from boiling water and the result is pure water with no dissolved solids. Spring water on the other hand has a relatively high TDS, which can range from 50 to 450 ppm (2). This is because the water picks up different minerals and salts on its journey through underground rock passages and cracks in the earth on its way to the spring. The result is water with a high level of dissolved solids. Tap water is somewhere in between these two. Ideal tap water ranges from 100-150 ppm while average tap water can range from 100-400 ppm (2). So what does this all have to do with coffee? The TDS of water not only can affect the initial flavor of a cup of coffee but it can also affect the...
SCAA Recap with Tim Morris

SCAA Recap with Tim Morris

Welcome back. Little bit of a mash-up of our Tuesday and Friday post this week to help me during finals as well as feature our first interview for the blog. This week I was lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with Tim Morris, owner of Caffé Belleza, and discuss the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual “Event.” Tim has been in coffee 10 years and holds a Barista Guild of America level 1 certification. Since Caffé Belleza’s opening in November, 2013, he has mobilized specialty coffee in the Triangle. So we got a couple of Middle East Cold Brews from Cocoa Cinnamon (slow brewed iced coffee brewed with cardamom, rose petals and vanilla bean) and snagged a seat outside. A couple weeks ago, Tim found his way to Seattle for SCAA’s “Event” where coffee professionals all over the world convened. “Calling it “the Event,” is fair. For coffee professionals, there are so many dimensions of the industry and they’re all represented there,” said Tim. “For me, I just got to enjoy it.” Farmers, roasters, baristas, CEOs, equipment retailers, and enthusiasts just cover the broad spectrum. It’s where innovation and learning come to the forefront of the industry. If there’s something new and exciting, it’s at the Event. “It’s kind of this vibe where people are eager to see who’s got the next big thing, who’s got chops,” said Tim. It was the buzz around Seattle. Greetings were warm but the weather has built them tough in the northwest. Everyone wants to see what you’re made of. Fortunately, the battle for excellence never tasted so good. It...
Quick look at the AeroPress

Quick look at the AeroPress

Today marks one week till I’m finished at UNC at Chapel Hill (excluding finals week). Feels like I’m already there. Wake up, open my laptop, check my emails, check twitter, grab more coffee. Questions raking through my brain. What am I supposed to be doing? Why am I not doing it? How is coffee not helping? What am I doing after college? I’m in the thick of it y’all (it’s okay because we’re in the south). Paper after paper, test after test. I’m in conversational french, but I don’t know a word that the instructor is saying. My motto: Nod your head, say “Oui,” write something in your notebook. French on no sleep is like coffee on empty stomach: not fun. Doesn’t stop me though, off to another coffee shop, maybe that’ll help.   For those that keep up, little “full circle” as I sit in Open Eye Café drinking Carrboro Coffee’s Cup of Excellence: Rwanda (see our Rwanda write-up with Scott Conary). They set me up with a pour-over. First aroma is sweet, like a maple syrup, then follows with a floral note like lavender (disclaimer: I’m no seasoned professional).  The drink is smooth and silky. Overall though, I’m not blown away. I don’t think its the coffee though, something just needs to spice it up (talking of a different brew method, please don’t add anything to this high-profile coffee). First thought: Bring in the AeroPress. This beautiful plastic syringe looks like its straight out of your thanksgiving kit. Overview: A very portable contraption that will save you time in the morning if you’re brewing your coffee manually....
You’re Coffee Landscape: Coffee Rust

You’re Coffee Landscape: Coffee Rust

Welcome to post 7 of our weekly industry thread and second installment of “You’re Coffee Landscape!” (here’s part 1) In our last post of this mini-series, we talked about how coffee is the leading commodity from developing countries (including both Robusta and Arabica). We also worked through some of the big name brands of coffee such as Starbucks, Folgers, Maxwell House, and Keurig Green Mountain Inc. The main idea was looking at the political choice of what coffee you’re going to buy and who it supports. This week we keep that in mind but through a filter: Coffee Rust. The Pathogen is Hemileia vastatrix. The American Phytopathological Society discusses its importance saying it is, “the most economically important coffee disease in the world,” while “in monetary value, coffee is the most important agricultural product in international trade”. Coffee Rust is a fungus and form lesions on the leaves until it causes premature defoliation of the plant where it weakens the plant and hurts the current, and consequential yields of the tree (Coffee Rust). This fungus was first reported in 1861 and has since spread to every country it is produced in, hurting crop yields. The issue though is the current spike in the fungus due to climate change. National Public Radio reported that residents in Olpa, Guatemala, don’t think this issue will be solved easily. They reported that coffee rust in Guatemala now covers 70 percent of crops and has led to the loss of 100,000 jobs. In the report Francisco Anzueto, on the Guatemalan Coffee Board: Anacafe, said, “now that it’s hotter, the rust has spread to higher...
This I Believe

This I Believe

Recently, in my Communication and Leadership class, we had to write a small essay for thisibelive.org. From their about section: “This I Believe, Inc., was founded in 2004 as an independent, not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” Her only criteria was that it relates to leadership and start with a specific quote. She encouraged us to write about our personal lives and incorporate our passions. When I finished, I realized I wanted to share it with you, our blog readers. “The point is not to become a leader.  The point is to become yourself, and to use yourself completely – all your gifts, skills and energies – to make your vision manifest.  You must withhold nothing.  You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”  Warren Bennis (2009), On Becoming a Leader. Basic Books As I read Bennis’ quote and prepare to graduate in May, I think of what will define me in this new period of my life. In thinking about my passion, and myself, I discovered a simple phase: I believe in making a good cup of coffee. It is ironic, right? A college education, professional experience, and it all surmounts into a 12-ounce cup (maybe even less). Yet, I think it represents a mantra for what the coffee industry should be about and a philosophy for a greater good. Let me explain why. I don’t see coffee as just as a diner cup or...
Specialty Coffee’s Need for a Dialogue

Specialty Coffee’s Need for a Dialogue

Some mornings, when I’m sipping my coffee, I think back. I think of what coffees this particular brew reminds me of, perhaps memorable conversations I’ve had the week before. I think of times I worked behind the bar or even back when it was everything was new to me years ago. Now, coffee means so much more. Today marks our first month of blogging and it feels good. It seems like every post gives me a new outlet, a new lens to see coffee through. While Tuesday’s posts make me research and explore coffee, Fridays become this meaningful experience with it. Today I’m reflecting on our Tuesday posts so far: green coffee (how it’s produced), local trends, commercial brands, and real-world economic impacts (Rwanda and Burundi). In my reflection, I notice how they are all coming together, and I’ll explain that in a bit. Rewind a bit and I was strolling through my twitter feed and noticed some movement. Barista Guild of Europe started a new campaign recently called ‘Dialogue’ in which they are producing a free, educational resource to start a conversation amongst European baristas (but I’ll invite myself to the party #Merica). Their first post, “Coffee farm economics – adding context to the ‘c’ price,” came last Friday and brought together so much of what we’ve been talking about: green coffee, livelihoods, and comparing costs of specialty coffee and commercial markets. You can read the entirety of their scientific inquiry, but I’m going to talk about some key points and see if we can expand any. Dale Harris (@acousticcoffee), author, got the help of Salvadoran coffee grower...
5 Ways to Better Drip Coffee

5 Ways to Better Drip Coffee

Today feels like I woke up from hibernation. I can hear the buzz of early-morning commuters and birds too excited about Spring. Every movement feels executed, like a baby in his first steps. One glimmer of hope as I shuffle to the kitchen is the light now coming through my blinds. Never been a fan of the dark, gloomy Winter mornings. Most of us have our morning coffee rituals. For me, the only ritual to coffee is that it’s my first movement of the day. Today’s selection is drip coffee. It’s one I often find myself utilizing because of its practicality in time as well as quantity. There is less guilt in going for a third cup when it’s out of a giant coffee pot. Usually it’s me making the coffee, but I’m a morning person in a house of late-risers. It’s funny how working in coffee has designated me to the job anywhere I go; though it’s no mind to me. I don’t think there’s anything better than making someone’s morning a little brighter. My family and friends always compliment me on my ability to make coffee taste better, even drip coffee with whatever machine they’re using. There’s a myth that drip coffee just sort of provides a basic coffee, but it’s less about the machine than what goes into it. Today’s the day I reveal my secrets, or at least get my lazy friends to get up and make the pot themselves. I’m going to list some tips on how to make drip coffee better and talk about why. In a lot of ways drip coffee is...
Specialty Coffee a Livelihood in Rwanda and Burundi

Specialty Coffee a Livelihood in Rwanda and Burundi

(The Rwanda COE Judges Panel; Image provided by Scott Conary – Carrboro Coffee Roasters) I saw earlier this week that Starbucks has canceled their #RaceTogether campaign. Sprudge posted polls asking if people we’re interested in engaging with race relations with their barista, and, at the time I looked, feedback said “absolutely not” (85% “no”). Perhaps what they needed to do was change the approach. We enjoy the casual certification that says it’s okay to drink this, but most of us aren’t worried about it. Yet, looking back at “Your Coffee Landscape (Part1), I think there may be some space for a conversation. After all, who can say Starbucks had a bad idea? Race is still an issue, especially here, but what I think we can, and should be talking about, is a little different. So originally I promised Tuesdays for coffee news. I want to stay on top of things current and happening in our community and around the globe. Today we start to look a little more globally. Today we take a look at Rwanda and Burundi. Something came across my desk, well it would if I had one. Something came across the bar? (more like my living-room couch) Anyway, someone told me that Rwanda is using coffee to improve their economy. I about returned a lesson in economics: increase in production of specialty coffee does assume improved economies for largely coffee producing countries. (Small scale growth but growth for sure.) I stand corrected though. The story also goes back a bit. Not long ago, you can find that Rwanda’s government actually ran coffee production. Can you imagine...
What Are We Looking For In Coffee?

What Are We Looking For In Coffee?

Through this is a blog series, let me say that if you want to spend money on coffee, I would be pleased to help you. I’m not your guy for deals but I have a wish list a mile long. Hand mill burr grinder, variable temperature gooseneck kettle, Turkish coffee set, and even researched small-scale espresso machines (New La Marzocco Linea Mini!). But, what caught my attention a couple years back is something called “Le Nez Du Café.” I came across this bizarre wooden box when I worked at New World Coffee House, a specialty coffee shop in Raleigh off Glenwood. Mike Zhu, the owner there, had one and he showed it to me. “Le Nez du Café” comes with around 40 glass vials, each containing the essence of something we may experience in our coffee’s aroma, and is accompanied by a booklet explaining where the flavors originate from. For example, there’s aromas of straw that can indicate a type of coffee plant, a note of toast from how the bean was roasted, and even a scent of damp earth that may indicate how the bean was dried. Essentially, it’s $300 to win every cocktail party you will ever go to. EVER.  But, what if we took these smells, these essences of something so familiar, and we didn’t think of coffee but of life. When we begin to open our minds to what we experience, a world of our history, our experiences comes to life. This is something we do already subconsciously. I love sweet and herbal notes in my coffee as it’s something that I enjoy already. I...
Your Coffee Landscape – Part 1

Your Coffee Landscape – Part 1

Your Coffee Landscape Part (1/2…3? 4?) Welcome back, I’m hoping this post gets some traction because I almost want to have a series in our series (meta-series?). “Your Coffee Landscape” is what I’m referring to for the coffee political landscape, and has been a huge point of interest for me. Take a brainstorming second and think about what goes into your coffee? Where does it come from? What may help is this: think about how many hands, or machines, have touched your coffee: roasters, factories or baristas? I want to capture that moment in school where they make you watch the documentary about where food comes from. Food Inc. round 2? Coffee Inc? I want to use this post to talk about the most popular coffee brands, the ones that aren’t what we classify as “specialty.” Where do they come from? What do they look like? Most importantly, where is our money going? Firstly, this isn’t a Come-to-Craft call. As a college student and human of earth, convenience and affordability are great business models. Yet, its helpful to think about what secondary costs come to the table in what we purchase. So putting on the (relative) objectivity hat. I got into this research originally when writing a paper: “The Role of Media on the Coffee Rust Epidemic”. It was my Cultural Politics of Global Media course. Using my passion to write papers, I decided to hone in on popular coffee brands and see how they’re tackling issues like coffee “rust” or coffee shortages. Turns out, it’s predominantly name-brand coffees: Folgers, Green Mountain Keurig, etc. talking about these issues on a...