Corvus Log

I Now Pronounce You Coffee and Brewer Part 2

by Corvus Order Fulfillment |

 

In this follow-up post I will go over the recipe and complete brewing technique I used for both cups tasted for comparison in the last blog entry. Note: If you haven’t already, go read that first!

 

The recipe for both Chemex and Hario V60:

Dose: 18.0 grams of ground coffee

Grind: 4.25(V60) and 4.5(Chemex) on our EK-43

Total Water: 336 grams(mL)

Bloom: 45 grams water and quickly stir*, then wait 30 seconds

The rest: 3 more slow pulses of about 100g water, reheating to boil between each pulse and pouring the last drop of the 336g at the 1 minute 35 second mark.

 

*I omitted the stirring step for the Chemex

 

I’m a proponent of stirring right after the bloom(very first pour of water). This ensures that all the coffee grounds start brewing at the same time and for the same amount of time throughout the brew as opposed to waiting for the slow drip of the water to make its way through the coffee bed, losing temperature and extracting energy. 

 

Something can happen though when you stir the bloom: The smallest dusty bits of the ground coffee or “fines” can migrate down to the bottom of the brew bed. In the case of the Chemex the brew bed is a cone made of a super thick piece of paper which is also folded to be three times as thick on one side of the cone. This fine migration is enough to clog the Chemex filter and slow down the drip of water so much that it takes over ten minutes for a brew to complete (if you can even get all the water to drip out, that is). You might expect the resulting cup to be over-extracted and too strong, but in fact the opposite happens. The water hanging out in the cone for ten minutes cools down so much that it no longer has the energy to dissolve more coffee on its way through it.

 

Here’s my workaround: Use a spoon to spread out the bed of ground coffee up the sides of the cone as thin as possible so the water doesn’t have as far to travel to soak all the way through. Start in the center of the bed with your pour and spiral outward and upward for the bloom. You’ll know you did this properly if you don’t see any big bubbles coming up from the bed while you pour the rest of your brew water. 

 

Once the thick filter was accounted for with enough pre-wetting and the technique described above, the resulting cup of coffee was equally as flavorful and clear as the cup from the V60. The V60, however, finishes dripping about two minutes faster. That’s why you’ll see us using Hario V60 drip cones instead of the Chemex in Corvus.

 
Doug Stone
Director of Training
Corvus Coffee Roasters

I Now Pronounce You Coffee and Brewer

by Corvus Order Fulfillment |

I get this question from customers a lot when they’re in our shop picking out a coffee to take home: Which one works best for ______?(insert your favorite home-brew method) I thought I’d take a minute to lay out my philosophy of coffee brewing to try and answer that question.

 

In short, every type of brew method should be just a slightly different means to achieve the same end. If I had an amazing cup of a particular coffee that was brewed on a Kalita Wave, I should be able to turn around and make the exact same cup on a Hario V60. There are a few obvious differences in brew methods, the biggest one in my opinion being the type of filter used (or lack thereof). But most differences are rather subtle and can be easily accounted for in a couple simple techniques.

 

I also get the feeling that a general lack of good technique has given rise to the notion that the different brew methods produce drastically different cups of the same particular coffee. Example: Regarding the Chemex brewer, I often hear something of the effect that it produces a “sweeter” or “less acidic” or you-name-it type of cup, and the reason given is “because of the filter”. This has never made sense to me conceptually, so the other day I set out to brew two side-by-side cups of the same coffee, one on a Chemex and the other on a Hario V60.

 

The similarities: Both methods are cone-shaped, use paper filters, and have large openings for the brew to drip.

The differences: The chemex is its own decanter, and its paper filter is WAY thicker than the V60. Why does that matter? Some of the most nuanced and unique flavors in great coffee are the first to brew out, and the Chemex filter acts like a giant sponge sucking up those flavors keeping them out of the cup. 

The solution: Pre-wet the Chemex filter. Like a lot. Soak it. Then soak it some more. Just don’t forget to dump out that water before you start brewing! This is is the first bit of technique to keep in mind. It also matters with the V60 filter, but not nearly as much.

 

I used the most recent roast of our Las Lajas Red Honey from Costa Rica as the coffee for this experiment. I brewed using the exact same recipe and pouring technique for both methods with one very small difference, but I’ll talk about the actual brewing for the experiment in a follow-up post. For now, I’m going to skip to the results.

 

After a few test brews, I got both methods dialed-in to produce the exact same cup strength—to within a hundredth of a percent—and extraction percentage, which I checked with a VST refractometer. So, on paper the same cup of coffee. But how did they taste? I took them both to our roaster and resident Q-Grader, Jeremy to taste with me. The consensus between the two of us was that there was no discernible difference in the resulting cups. Clarity? Check. Taste notes? The same. Body and Mouthfeel? Surprisingly the same. 

 

All of that to make this point: Any coffee, if it’s a great coffee, should be amazing on any brew method you have available. And if someone makes a claim about something—coffee brew methods or otherwise—make an effort to see for yourself! You just might be surprised at what you find.

 
Doug Stone
Director of Training
Corvus Coffee Roasters

Opening the Competition Realm: Support and Community is Everything

by Corvus Order Fulfillment |

 

 

As with the world in biking, there is never a set definition of training. Because every day, moment, or experience is all building the foundation for a greater self. So as the months loomed towards heading to Knoxville, the pinnacle skills required are organizing, time management, and confidence for goals. Being the first season for brewers competition creates a truly mystifying door painted in front of the self as opening it could lead anywhere. So what is important out of this experience? For being a barista at Corvus Coffee, it was important to hone in on consistent qualitative customer service for every order. Because every customer is just as much of a judge as the event officials are. 

 

In the beginning months of December, the production team at Corvus began to help with learning how to use the Hukey, sample roaster with the guidance of Morgan, production manager. It was then the awareness expanded on how each minute variable creates so much drastic sensory effects in the final product, a light roasted bean ready for brewing delight. Countless beans were smelled, eaten, grinded, cupped, burnt, loved, and brewed for the sake of objective observation. Air flow, gas pressure, development time after first crack, and visualization are all continual variables always changing which is why every batch roasted is unique.

Seeking out support from the Denver community also played a key role in evolution. Kal from Amethyst lent the Roaster’s Companion Guide from Scott Roas. Jay, Corey and Chris from Little State Coffee and Middle Owl worked on compulsory techniques with the aeropress and overall presentation. Cherry Roast hosted a workshop for all competitors to practice and ask questions to eachother. Being supported means having vulnerability and an open mind. Corvus provided a platform to practice anytime and hugs were always free from every customer and team member.

 

While this was the first brewers competition, Coffee Masters was fresh on the mind in regards to how to pack. Because anyone with 60 pounds of coffee equipment and supplies needs a rolling bag and the possibility is real to carry competition coffee around at the airport. Things get lost, broken or misplaced while traveling so always bring what is needed plus one. And utilizing google to know where the closest grocery or art stores is vital. This was the second time to be competing and traveling alone from Corvus. It is never ideal as the whole weekend is extremely overwhelming meeting new friends, reciting presentation over and over, and dialing in coffee on a nervous palette. When the opportunity can present itself, always bring a support team.

 

The presentation was set to be on the same day at the March for Women on January 21st. Marching and uniting with dear sisters across the world is what waking up for means everyday. However Erica from Variety Coffee put it very well when interviewing her for the Cherry Roast Presents Podcast, “This is our profession and we need to make a stand for being women in a white male industry.” The hours leading up to presentation were blurred with prep dancing to Beyonce with mother in the hotel room, triple checking of everything needed and yet still forgetting vital supplies. On stage the personal intention was set to be shining white light of hope in honor of grandmother, mother and all the women known in life.

 

After blacking out for the entire length of presentation, knowing every line of the poem was recited and the chemex of the Las Lajas Red Honey was brewed within parameters, the rest of the day of relaxation and networking could finally be had. Going to any networking event, always bring business cards, a witty sense of humor, a cliff bar, and the willingness to meet and remember the names of many people. As a representation of the company and city, what should be remembered? 

 

Moments before leaving the convention, after serving some brewed coffee to audience members, and knowing the plane would be departing in a little over an hour, a women stopped to talk about how much the presentation meant to her. She went on to say that her interest in coffee was sparked again and was thankful for confidence and courage to compete. Leaving from Knoxville, as the place (32/36) was not the most expected, there was the realization that the whole reason for that trip was to plant a seed for her and for others. And though the glory and glamour of being announced as top 12 was not in the fates and cards, another success and honor replaced it with the same caliber.

 

There will always be another hill to climb up through constant cadence and dedication. There are times when support and help from others is refreshing water given to refocus and rehydrate. And then there are the unexpected judges encountered in life whether behind the counter or in front of a crowd that sees what we are doing and creates instant change in direction. The next journey through the painted door is decorated with visions of IWCA, Seattle SCA, and fostering Denver community coffee growth with Corvus Coffee.

 

What does your door look like?

 
Kristyn Wade
Corvus Barista

The Big Shot

by Corvus Order Fulfillment |

Espresso culture is a funny thing. It’s heavily rooted in tradition while at the same time being loosely defined and constantly redefined by the industry. Even as late as the time of Mozart, Yemeni royalty was drinking a beverage made of the dried fruit of the coffee plant—what we now refer to as cascara—instead of the roasted seeds or “beans” from inside the cherry which we do today. Even the ritual of standing in the corner and slamming a ristretto back like a RedBull has evolved into slowly sipping and waxing poetic over the nuances of the coffee served with elaborate presentations.

 

Those of you who have been making espresso for a while like me have probably noticed a significant change in the espresso recipe meta in the last couple of years. When the craft coffee industry found me, I was taught to stick to this one recipe: 19 gram dry dose, 29 gram yield, in about 27 seconds. It’s a fairly classic recipe for espresso, but the  coffee being used in my cafe for espresso was not exactly classic or traditional. It was a bright juicy blend of Latin American and Ethiopian coffees by Counter Culture Coffee Roasters. The above recipe was designed to work well with darker roasted coffees. That ratio of dose to yield accentuates acidity (which dark roasts have very little of) and maximizes body so you get a syrupy bittersweet espresso.

 

Apply that same above recipe to modern coffees that are much higher in acidity and have more flavor notes like “citrus and flowers” rather than “nuts and dark chocolate” and you’re going to get something so dreadfully under-extracted and sour that you’ll wonder if you took a sip of espresso or if part of your breakfast just came back up. The reason for this is that lighter modern roasted coffees are less broken down and water soluble so it’s harder to extract all the sweet flavors with the same amount of water(or yield) than with a darker roast. 

 

For this reason, we in the industry began greatly increasing the amount of espresso we brew from the same amount of dry grounds and found that we started achieving delicate, sweet, nuanced and vibrant flavors from the coffees rather than a rip-your-face-off intensity of acidity. When I began at Corvus in 2014 our starting point for espresso looked something like a 23 gram dose and a 29 gram yield. The espresso was…assertive. Today, our starting point is an 18 gram dose to around a 45 gram yield. Sound crazy to any of you? But with that ratio you can get sweet juicy candied berry flavors out of an Ethiopian coffee like our Kayon Mountain for example rather than just a generic sourness. If you had told me in 2012 that I would be pulling 50 or more grams out of 18 grams of coffee I would have probably laughed at you.

 

If you’re that person who tried to pull shots of a single origin coffee you were sold by an enthusiastic barista and it didn’t turn out too well, try something similar to the 18-45 recipe above and see the difference! And who knows, if we find new ways to make bright modern coffees more soluble somehow, the espresso recipe meta could shift right back to ristretto style. So as always, keep an open mind and taste everything!

 
 
Doug Stone
Director of Training
Corvus Coffee Roasters

The Importance of Dosing Your Espresso

by Corvus Order Fulfillment |


The act of making espresso is simple. There is a bit of technique involved, but generally the physical movements required to prepare a shot of espresso can be taught in a matter of a few minutes. What makes an espresso actually taste good has more to do with the recipe you use. Knowing how to effectively adjust your recipe to improve flavor is not always common knowledge among enthusiasts. Eliminating variables wherever possible makes it easier to understand what is actually going on, so I always recommend keeping the dose consistent.

The Dose, sometimes called the “input” is simply the weight of the ground coffee in your portafilter basket. If you don’t know the weight, grab a kitchen scale that can measure in grams. You will want to fill the basket with the amount of ground coffee that the manufacturer recommends, and it is usually printed or etched on the side of the basket somewhere. For example, here at Corvus we have 18-gram portafilter baskets so all of our recipes use that dose. Sticking to this weight within a gram or two is a really good idea.

Funny things start to happen when you play around with the dose. Let’s take a step back and think about what’s actually happening in the portafilter when you brew an espresso (forgive me if this gets a little nerdy!) First, boiling hot clean water hits the top of the coffee bed. Then, it’s forced under pressure to navigate its way through seemingly infinite pathways through the coffee grounds, and we hope it does so as evenly as possible as it grabs and dissolves flavor along the way. As it’s doing this though, that clean boiling water is dropping temperature and turning into espresso so that by the time it reaches the bottom of the coffee bed grounds are being brewed into espresso with espresso! Increasing or decreasing your starting dose changes the depth (and the shape of the coffee bed) that the water has to travel through. This is going to change the time the water takes to get through the coffee bed, increase difference between the temperature at the top and bottom changing the types of flavors extracted along the way and many other things I can’t even think to name! Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the Noyes-Whitney equation…

 

Keeping your starting dose consistent will simplify your life and get you to a delicious, dialed-in shot of espresso much quicker. You’ll also be able to understand and nail down the other more easily controlled variables and how they change the way your shots taste—things like grind size, total brew time, and how much espresso you decide to brew or the yield; more on that later!

 
Doug Stone
Director of Training