Coffee Pests? Fungi? Oh My! (Or Why Shade Grown Coffee Prevents These Terrors and Others)

Hello! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Justina (for those of you that do, thanks for coming back to check out my second post!) My previous blog post, The Case for Sustainable Coffee: Climate Change and Chemicals focused on Climate Change and the ways in which organic and sustainable coffee can make a huge impact on the health and well being of people as well as the planet. Not using pesticides has many advantages but has some disadvantages in terms of producing a lower yield of coffee. As a result, our coffee comes at a bit of a higher price than conventional coffee. This blog post examines the reason for our price premium, mostly focusing on shade grown coffee and the way it differs from clear cutting coffee production (also known as conventional, hybrid or sun grown coffee).

Shade Grown Coffee (source:

Shade Grown Coffee (source:

Shade grown coffee is one of the most sustainable methods of growing coffee. Black River Roasters is proud to roast various different types of shade grown coffee. Even if a coffee that we sell is not labeled as being shade grown, do not lose hope, it still may be shade grown, just ask one of our Baristas! The goal of shade grown is to mimic the way in which plants (and as a result, wildlife) interact and grow as an ecosystem. There are obviously different ways of shade growing coffee (check out the infographic below). However, it is important to take note that any shade grown method is much better for the earth and all of its inhabitants than the sun grown method. “[Hybrid varieties] withstand direct sunlight and at the same time produced a greater yield of beans. It was a farmers dream except for the fact that the hybrids were more vulnerable to disease and required pesticides – for the first time” (Genziuk). Sun grown coffee may produce better yields but as a result of little to no ground cover, the necessary pesticides used for conventional methods run-off into local watersheds. “The more a coffee farm mimics a dense, multi-story canopy forest, the better it functions as a watershed… [and] the sparser the vegetation on a coffee farm, the worse it functions” (Kubota). Shade grown coffee not only protects the watershed but also protects and strengthens the biodiversity of the ecosystem which, consequently, benefits the coffee plants.

Methods of growing coffee (source:

Methods of growing coffee (source:

The shade grown method allows coffee to grow organically and in the midst of existing biodiversity. Clear cutting trees increases prevalence of pests, including the Coffee Berry Borer, a beetle that is a massive threat to coffee production throughout the world (Karp et. al 1, Tejeda-Cruz 173). To further expand, clear cutting forests destroys habitat for wildlife which is debilitating for natural pest control management. Research has shown that “conserving bird populations by maintaining countryside forest elements on farmland may…represent a critical component of borer control strategy. [Borer-consuming] birds increased in abundance and exerted stronger control on borer populations on plantations with higher forest element cover.” (Karp et. al 7). The only downside to shade grown methods are the lower yields produced as a result of conserving forest elements and in turn having less growing space.

The Coffee Berry Borer Beetle (source: Stanford University)

The Coffee Berry Borer Beetle (source: Stanford University)

Though hybrid coffee plants are given more growing space, this method is also more susceptible to changing temperatures; as the temperature increase, the presence of coffee fungi like Coffee Leaf Rust does as well (Iscaro 39). Arabica coffee is being directly targeted by Coffee Leaf Rust seeing as temperatures have been increasing due to climate change, regardless of growing altitude (Iscaro 40). However, shade grown coffee reduces growing temperature due to the presence of the tree (or canopy) layer, making the climate less welcoming for coffee fungi.

Coffee Leaf Rust (source: Locavore Del Mundo blog)

Coffee Leaf Rust (source: Locavore Del Mundo blog)

Despite the positive progress related to pest and plant disease control, lower yields and climate change have forced coffee farmers to increase their prices. As a result, those price increases obviously trickle down to the prices at Black River Roasters (which is totally worth it in my opinion). However, if you have any questions about shade grown, sustainability, or anything involving our coffee, stop in and ask one of our Baristas…we would love to help!

Remember, whether it’s hot or cold, be strong and be bold!




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The Case for Sustainable Coffee: Climate Change and Chemicals

Hey there! My name is Justina. I’m going to be doing blog posts from time to time. Just so you know a little bit about me: I’m a full-time college student and an avid environmentalist and human rights activist, so my blog posts may touch upon some of these passions of mine!

As one of the baristas at Black River Roasters (but a devoted customer and self proclaimed coffee fanatic prior to my employment), I can say, with certainty, that Black River Roasters has some of the best coffee I’ve ever had in my entire life…I’ve become spoiled. There are multiple reasons for our amazing quality and taste…this week, as much as I’d like to overwhelm you with all of the reasons why I love this place, I’m only going to talk about one of them: our organic and sustainable sourcing.

Here is me and my BRR coffee!

Me and my BRR coffee!

Climate change is becoming ever more apparent and every single one of us needs to do our best to reduce our impact on the environment. I am proud to say that Black River Roasters is a certified organic roastery that offers fair trade and rainforest alliance certified coffees (if you’d like to learn more, check out our blog post on certifications and why they’re important).


Pesticides being sprayed on plants in Brazil (Source: Reuters Investigates)

We are consistently working to improve our sustainability efforts. You may be wondering how all of this affects you. Pesticides are extremely prevalent in the conventional coffee industry. Not only is this problematic for the environment and the rapid increase of climate change but for you, the customer, as well. Pesticides have been found to detrimentally impact those that come in direct contact with them. Who are they? They are farmers and the people that deal with pesticide dispersal. In fact, pesticide poisoning accounts for around 1 million deaths every year. Pesticides invoke many health related issues: weakened immune systems, unbalanced hormone production becomes, increased susceptibility of developing gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases and an extreme increase of cancer rates to name a few. Though there is mixed research on pesticides being transferred to a customers’ coffee cup, there is no doubt that pesticides are impacting people’s health as well as perpetuating negative environmental health and degradation, which already has and will continue to impede upon our daily lives.

Climate change is being exacerbated in areas where conventional coffee growing methods and pesticides are being used. Deforestation is a massive problem in the coffee industry and is growing as weather patterns shift. The mass amount of tree clear cutting and irresponsible conventional farming practices leads to an increase of water contamination, air contamination, soil erosion and contamination of soil.


Soil Erosion in Africa (Source: WWF)


Organic shade grown coffee (Source:

Organic shade grown coffee (Source:

Organic and sustainable coffee bean production mitigates all of the environmental damage mentioned above, as well as utilizes very little chemicals or pesticides (if any are used they are environmentally friendly and not synthetic). In addition, farmers at certified coffee farms, are educated regarding proper farming methods, chemical and waste removal. This creates a more healthy environment for workers, wildlife and the earth itself. Unfortunately organic and sustainable coffee farming is more difficult and produces lower yields, which may come at a bit of a higher cost to the customer (I’ll expand on this in my next blog post). However, who wouldn’t want to pay a little more for fantastic coffee that is consciously grown and produced with everyone and everything in mind?! 

Remember, whether it’s hot or cold, be strong and be bold!




Continue with this post…

What’s new at Black River Roasters?

First and foremost, thank you to all who supported us on our grand opening! To those who made it and those who could not, your continued support and love of coffee keeps us going everyday!


The turnout for our grand opening was wonderful and booming. We started the day off with a cupping seminar fronted by Chris and Ashley. Here, coffee lovers were able to learn how to properly cup coffee.  Chris and Ashley guided the attendees on tasting technique, bean identities, and how each region of the world processes their coffee.

Coffee Cupping

Throughout the day, we held roasting and pourover demonstrations. Roastmaster Matt briefed on basic roasting procedures for each type of coffee we serve. He explained why temperatures vary across different beans and how he experiments to find that right temperature. Attendees were able to step past the ‘Employee Only’ line to receive insight on the other half of the cafe and familiarize themselves with the science of roasting.

Coffee Roasting

Rob and Eddie led the pourover demonstration. The two went into detail on the process and how each variable holds its own weight in the brewing procedure. As one outlined the steps of the pourover, the other would demonstrate. This made for a positively interactive seminar and those involved were quite impressed! At the end of the pourover, attendees were able to try a sample of the coffee. We used three single origins for the class: Colombia Geisha, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Rwanda Kivu.

Pour Over


So, you may ask yourself, ‘What does this Grand Opening denote in the business’? I have some changes to address that are all for the better!

1. Menu changes

If you have been to the cafe in the past two weeks, you will have already noticed that our menu is different! Our prices across the board have been adjusted to better accommodate you! You will also notice that our drinks are divided into categories. This is to make ordering easier as some of our drinks are best enjoyed at one size. We are also now providing a ‘Joe-To-Go’ service for those who have a crew that needs their coffee. Call a half hour ahead to reserve your box of coffee and we will set you up with cups, milk, sugar, and stirrers! Come stop by and try everything out.

Cafe Menu

2. Stamp Cards

Are you a frequent espresso-enthusiast? We would now like to reward you for your continued patronage with a stamp card! Buy 9 barista drinks and get your 10th free. Always wanted a mocha but never tried it? This is where your stamp card comes in handy! There are no limits on what you can order (except for the fact that is must be barista made).

Stamp Card

3. The New Cappuccino

Our biggest change happens to be one of our most popular drinks. We have decided to adopt a more traditional cappuccino which, in comparison to our old capps, is scaled down to highlight the espresso. When the punchiness of our espresso meets the velvety milk, it makes for a properly balanced drink on the palette. The new cappuccino is an 8 ounce drink. Still attached to the old one? That is fine. We will make it if it still holds your heart. Just let us know at the bar and we will accommodate you.  Don’t hesitate to try the new cappuccino out in our new 8 ounce mugs!

The BRR Team

That’s all for now. See you at the bar





Join Us for the Grand Opening Event this Saturday the 26th!

The Black River Roaster’s Grand Opening event is finally here! On September 16th, from 8am to 3pm, we will be celebrating this milestone with an event-filled day.

Chris and Ashley will be holding coffee cuppings throughout the day and offering insight in to proper tasting technique. We use cuppings to gauge our freshly-roasted beans and make sure they are up to par. Those coming with an untrained palette need not worry; Chris and Ashley will guide cuppers to identify the tasting notes of the coffee and properly assess the different origins.  One may be surprised at how quickly it takes to start tasting the subtle notes of coffee once the technique is learned. Cuppings are a great way to experience the raw dynamics of individual coffees and learn how different parts of the world process their beans, which attributes to an origin’s trademark flavor.  Sound cool? Make sure to snag a spot for the two cupping seminars Chris and Ashley will be hosting.

We have recently adopted a new pourover technique that has been pleasing our customers with its cleaner taste. Our seasoned barista, Eddie, worked to tweak and perfect this new pourover method that better showcases the flavor profiles of our coffees. He and our new barista, Rob, will be hosting pourover seminars throughout the day. They will be going over the process, from the grind level of the beans to how the weight works in conjunction with the timing of the brewing. Participants will be able to learn the steps while seeing the product finalize, making for an interactive and educational experience.

Matt, our roastmaster, will be letting the public past the barricade and into the roasting facility where all of our coffee is roasted. Ever wondered how a medium-roast is made compared to a dark roast? It is more than just temperature. Matt will be presenting the factors of roasting which can include: the profiles, the ‘cracks’, and the temperatures. Coffee beans start out as grayish-chartreuse green. See how roasting colors them a delicious shade of brown!

The bar will be pushing out drinks all day. If you haven’t had the chance to try our specialty Slow Pour or a flat white, this Saturday is the perfect day. I will be on bar alongside our second newest barista, Jon. We love explaining the technicalities of drinks and the differences between them. You may find that perfect espresso drink you have been searching for! Try a cortado or an espresso macchiato if your a dark cup of coffee person. As you may know, we do not use flavored-syrups in our drinks because we believe in the natural flavors of our coffees. We do, however, provide natural sweeteners like organic agave and honey that can be used to make your latte sweet. If you are craving something spicy now that the fall season is here, try a chai tea latte! We use pure masala chai black tea leaves instead of concentrate in our chai latte. Not a chai person? Try the vanilla almond rooibos tea latte with cinnamon and brown sugar. Whatever is it you are looking for, the baristas at the bar will be more than willing to find your perfect order.

The team here at Black River Roasters thanks everyone, from the bottom of our hearts, for the support during our soft opening and we hope to see you all (and hopefully some new faces) this Saturday!

Peace, love, & espresso,


Coffee Spotlight: Organic ‘Lake Kivu’ Rwanda

Located in Africa’s Western Rift Valley, Rwanda is a small and highly-hilly country. Its elevation and consistent rainfall mean ideal conditions for growing coffee. In the face of a genocide that is one of the most shocking travesties of the 20th Century, Rwandan farmers have used coffee to rebuild their lives and their communities.


During the 1930s, Rwanda’s colonial government mandated coffee farming programs as a way to capitalize on the country’s ideal climate and terrain. Coffee quickly became Rwanda’s largest export commodity.  Well into the 80s, when specialty coffee started to appear on worldwide gastronomic radar, Rwandan coffee was simply not meeting specialty coffee cupping standards. This was due to 1) the lack of coffee culture in most of tropical Africa, so producers didn’t understand what to taste for, and 2)a severely limited coffee processing infrastructure.

In 1994, a coup d’état in Rwanda sparked a conflict between two major ethnic groups in the country. In an unfair attempt at making a long story very short, easily more than 750,000 people were murdered in 90 days and the country was in shambles. It was a genocide of unforeseen intensity, and left an already impoverished nation with heavier financial and social issues.

So in the wake of that tragedy, Rwandan coffee farmers began revising production strategies to not simply produce a lot of coffee, but to produce coffees that meet higher standards and sell for higher prices. COOPAC (Cooperative for the Promotion of Coffee Activities) was founded in 2001 as a collective of 110 farmers who were empowered to improve their financial standings. In 2003 COOPAC came to meet Fair Trade standards, and since then farmers have used those additional funds to improve roads and to rebuild bridges in Rutsiro and Rubavu districts. Over time the co-op has grown to include 2,200 members, and has expanded the scope of their social programs, notably starting a livestock distribution program. Fair Trade funds were used to purchase breeding cattle, and the offspring were raised, in time bred, and their offspring distributed among farmer members for farm labor and dairy production.

rwanda hills

Over the past decade there’s been considerable improvement in the quality of Rwandan coffee, which I’ll hope and wager manifests in our Organic Lake Kivu Rwanda. The beans smell spicy and syrupy; I get some cloves and thick blackberry liqueur. The acid in the brew is an uplifting sweet lime, which is balanced out by a gentle blueberry fruitiness. These aspects coalesce to remind me distinctly of the zing in wild Pine Barrens blueberries. And the sip ends with more cloves, a bit of black pepper, and dutch cocoa.

As far as coffees at Black River go, this one must fall into our ‘dessert’ or ‘coffees-that-don’t-taste-like-coffee’ categories. To that end, I really like this coffee hot with a half-and-half and sugar. Or completely, completely cooled down, since it preserves so much fruitiness that it gets to tasting like a tropical summertime blueberry limeade. Pretty cool, even if that’s not the right way to do it. Break the rules and see what you think!

See you at the bar,


Up Close & Personal with the Trifecta

What sets Black River Roasters apart from most other coffee shops?

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

I would have to point to our Trifecta Brewer. Made by the ever-popular Bunn Corporation, the Trifecta is completely customizable  and allows the barista to control specific aspects of the brewing process. The single-serve brewer produces balanced cups each and every time one hits the button. How can it do that? Let’s dive in:

1. Each Coffee Has a Profile

This is easily the most-convenient pro to the Trifecta. Before our soft opening, Ryan and I brewed and tested the entire Black River Roasters catalog on the brewer. When we both reached an agreement on the settings, we locked them in by programming the origin coffee. One can name a slot and save the settings so that every time a cup is brewed, it is brewed the same way. The settings can be easily changed if one would like to switch up the brew. The water volume can be adjusted as well, which allows for complete control over dosage thus eliminating waste if only a small cup is desired.



2. Turbulence and Extraction are key

Ryan and I toggled with the Turbulence and Extraction settings the most when dialing in a cup of coffee. Turbulence spins and agitates the grounds, allowing more or less sediment to be extracted and end up in the cup. Extraction time would yield how long the grounds were sitting in water. There is a balance between these two settings. When I would detract some of the turbulence power, I would bump up the extraction time more to equalize the brew. Not all coffees agree with this formula but for the most part, turbulence and extraction work in tandem with each other.



3. It’s easy to set up and clean up

This thing is a breeze. There is an accoutrement, which resembles an espresso portafilter, where the ground coffee sits for brewing. The coffee is ground slightly coarser than a regular auto-drip setting (It is essential to use a burr grinder for Trifecta use). Once the coffee is poured into the handle, it locks in under the clear tube and the barista presses the brew button. THAT’S IT! The most involved part of the Trifecta process is dialing in the coffees. Once everything is set, brewing is as easy as grinding, locking, and pressing a button. Once the brew cycle is complete, the lever that locks the tube in place is raised, allowing the handle to be removed and cleaned. The barista pops the handle in once more and initiates the clean cycle, a button located above the lcd screen. This pumps a splash of water to clean the tube from any leftover grinds. Like I said, this machine is a barista’s best friend.



Look at this thing go

Peace and coffee,


Three Coffee-Harvesting Processes and the Effect on Flavor

Why are there so many coffees in the world if it ends up as just a cup of coffee?


A coffee bean is packed with a lot more than just caffeine. A good bean is infused with delicate tasting notes that take the first morning cup to another level. Dependent on the origin the bean was cultivated, flavors can touch upon fruity and bright to deep and smokey notes. Why is that? There is more than one way to pick and process green coffee beans and that attributes to taste. Coffee starts out as cherries and goes through an assembly of actions to become a roasted bean ready for the brewer.

IMG_20150629_140016 - Edited

‘Coffee and fruit in the same cup?’ you may say in disbelief. In fact, my favorite coffee are those that are naturally processed and fruity! Natural processing, or dry processing, is exactly what it sounds like: drying the bean without separating the cherry. It is the oldest method of processing beans (Ethiopia, a country nestled in the Horn of African where coffee was originated, uses this process). The product of this process is a coffee bean that has soaked up the properties of its cherry and yields a fruity taste. Once picked, the coffee cherries are dried out until they are hardened and brown. The green bean is then extracted from this housing. Our Bali coffee is naturally processed which is why it smells comparable to a strawberry and peanut butter sandwich (I am not kidding! This is one coffee you have to try).


Wet processing occurs in about half of all coffees, typically those cultivated in the Americas. The pulp of the coffee is removed with a coffee pulper before drying. This attributes to the coffee’s citrusy acidity because the sweet and fruity pulp is not overriding that taste. The coffee then sits in vats of water where more of the fragments are washed and separated from the bean. For about a week, the beans are lain under the sun to dry. Once the moisture content reaches 10-12%, the beans are hulled from their parchment layer and shipped to roasteries.


Wet-hulled coffee can be best described as a marriage between the two procedures noted above.  The coffee cherry is  partially removed from the bean and usually left to ferment overnight in water in order to break down the mucilage from the parchment layer of the bean. What really sets wet-hulled coffee apart from its sisters is that the beans are dried less, leaving roughly a 50% moisture level when all is said and done. This allows the coffee, once roasted and brewed, to have less body and acidity. Some varietals tend to have a wine-like quality to them.


Ask your barista about the coffee you are being served. We at Black River Roasters keep an open dialogue between the brewers and drinkers. We want you to ask us questions. ‘What is the origin of this coffee’? ‘What is the difference between Peru and Rwanda’? ‘How did this get from Indonesia to Whitehouse Station, New Jersey’? We do this for a living and we love what we do. Our objective is to educate and entertain with a nice, balanced cup of fresh-roasted coffee.


Ciao and I will be prepping the pour-overs-


Time to Talk Cold Brew

I’m one of those weirdos who drinks iced coffee in the dead of winter. I’m happy that soon enough it will feel as though spring has actually arrived and I won’t be drinking alone.

Hot brewing, using whichever method you prefer, is the easiest and quickest way to prepare coffee for yourself. But when the plan is to ice the coffee anyway, we realized that hot brewing may not be the best thing to do. Turns out you end up with something really great when you embrace the chill the whole way through.

And here’s where we get to our Cold Brew.DSC04576

The method is simple: steep coarsely ground coffee in cold water for a day, strain and drink. But the difference over a hot brew iced coffee is something you need to taste to believe.

We’ve probably all had coffee that sat on the burner too long, that turns your stomach the second it hits. This nauseating sensation is due largely to quinic acid, the same substance that’s responsible for the bitterness in tonic water. In coffee, quinic acid forms as chlorogenic acids are heated and then allowed to remain hot. So by keeping our coffee cold the whole way through, we severely reduce the amount of this compound that makes it into your cup. In addition to delivering a sour stomach, quinic acid delivers a powerful bitterness which easily masks other flavors that are worth appreciating in coffee.

Like other acids, and I’m talking here about citric acid and malic acid. Citric acid is responsible for that first burst of lemony brightness when you sip something like our Organic Guatemala. Malic acid is named for its presence in apples, and contributes a concentrated semi-sweet fruitiness to the body of the cup which often reminds me of raisins and other dried fruits. And boy, does the apple buttery sweetness sing in our cold brew!

If we were to brew our iced coffee hot, we’d be missing out on that deep, rich flavor and full caffeination. As our cold brew steeps, it can fully extract compounds from the grounds in ways that can’t be matched otherwise. When I hot brewed one coffee in our blend its prevailing flavor was a forward citrus acidity. And another highlighted a raisiny, chocolaty body. So we’re preserving the ‘right’ acids and thus the right flavors, without getting acrid. The flavors harmonize in this blend, and our cold brew’s full flavor doesn’t come from straight-up coffee strength, but from that whole available range of fruity and chocolaty flavors that you can actually taste! Plus, since it’s steeping for a day at a time, we get a chance to pull out every little bit of caffeine from the beans.

We’ll be serving our iced coffee two ways: plain over ice and nitrogen-infused. We’re not carbonating, which would introduce big bubbles and harsh carbonic acid to the mix, but nitrogenating like how you see Guinness treated. The result is super fine bubbles that impart a velvety mouthfeel and a head like on a beer. It’s wonderfully creamy before you even add cream.

So until we open next month, stop in to the café at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ or in to BEX Kitchen in Califon, NJ to try out some of Black River Roasters’ Cold Brew. And we can’t wait to see you in May.

See you at the bar,


Espresso: How the perfect shot is achieved.


My name is Casey, the newest addition to Black River Roasters as your barista. I spent some time at the shop the other day dialing-in the La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine and the shots are looking (and tasting) wonderful! The process of fine-tuning everything that goes into producing consistently good espresso shots involves a lot of trial-and-error. The miniature cup on the saucer may seem like it holds nothing more than a few drops of small coffee but the making of a traditional espresso is more complex than it’s appearance.

Producing a well-balanced and palatable espresso shot means tweaking and working with numerous variables that include temperature, volume, measurement, and technique. Bringing these to work in tandem with each other will produce a rich and intense treat that is savored on its own or used in a bevy of drink recipes like lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, etc. One has to take into account these factors when pulling a shot:

  1. The amount of ground espresso
  2. The grind quality of the espresso
  3. Pressure at which espresso is compacted, or ‘tamped’
  4. The temperature and pressure of the water ejected from the espresso machine


It is when the sweet spot of these factors is found that a symbiotic union is created and a good espresso shot is born. The extraction should take anywhere from 26-35 seconds. Baristas strive to keep espresso shots around the 30 second mark but time should not be the only determinant for a balanced espresso shot. External conditions like the weather and air quality within the cafe can affect coffee beans so these factors are constantly monitored and adjusted.

The extraction of a single espresso

The extraction of a single espresso

Espresso is ground directly into a steel basket inside what is called the portafilter. The portafilter hosts steel baskets, which vary in size, to dictate the dosage for a single, double, or even triple shot of espresso. Single and double dose baskets are the most common since the barista can still produce a triple shot by combining them. Once the correct dose of ground espresso is in the basket, the barista will tamp the grinds with a tamper, a metal tool that fits into the basket to compress the espresso. Tamping espresso with the perfect grind feels cushiony. Think of the air that sits between every grain being pushed out, leaving a solid brick of espresso. That is exactly what tamping does; tamping with the right amount of pressure is crucial as tamping lightly will make for a fast extraction while tamping too hard will prove the opposite. Once the grounds are tamped, the barista will flush the grouphead (where the water is ejected), lock-in the portafilter, and press the appropriate water dosing button. What follows is the flow of espresso into the demitasse and voila! The fruits of your labor are present and it smells like heaven.


When enjoying espresso, one should take into consideration the joy of the crema. Crema is a layer containing the oils of the coffee. The inviting and aromatic crema is an attribute of a well-prepared espresso and its absence indicates an unbalanced shot (most likely one where too much grind was used, thus trapping the water and not allowing the grind to extract evenly).

The final product: latte

The final product: latte!

Espresso pulls sweet and savory for the first half of extraction and is rounded off by the waters and oils left in the portafilter basket. Some drinkers prefer their shots to be pulled shorter so as to eliminate the bitters of the residual oils and have a sweeter product. The same amount of espresso is used but the barista will stop the water short, producing a smaller but equally as delicious espresso. This is called a ‘ristretto’.

Visually, espresso looks best dressed in clear glass demitasses. My favorite part of pulling shots in clear glass is the fantastic visual created when the oil and water start to separate and cascade into each other. I will sometimes top my espresso with foamed milk (known as the espresso macchiato) or throw it into iced water for an iced americano. There is no wrong way to enjoy your espresso. The only thing one can do wrong is to not enjoy it at all!


See you at the bar this May-


Perfect Cup? You Bet!

This is a sort of challenge I’m proposing for ourselves, and once we’re open, we need to know what you have to say; can Black River Roasters make a perfect cup of coffee?

A lot of coffee out there is strong.  perc ad

Like, super strong. In the US we have a history of percolating and boiling coffee, methods which lead to a robust, bitter brew, its brash aroma alone enough to stir the dead.

Tastes have moved from oppressive percolation to more tame drip filtering, though commercially-brewed coffee is still strong due to a very high coffee-to-water ratio. Dunkin’ Donuts recommends 3 levels of bold – spoon, shovel, and dump. And when I can barely peel myself out of bed in the morning, a hefty pile of grounds dumped in my brewer does the trick. Never the worst thing I’ve drunk, but certainly never the best. A very strong flavor is otherwise due to the use of robusta beans in blends, which have twice the caffeine as arabica beans as well as fewer acids, lots of bitterness, and a flavor that can roast up rather dirty.


What we’re looking for is balance – the range where enough flavor compounds have been extracted and are preserved to present a bright, satisfying combination of aroma, flavor, and body. And if you can find all the below flavors, why not look for them?!


We’re in control of those last two steps, roasting and brewing. When coffee beans are roasted, sugars caramelize, proteins break down, and oils are precipitated. Just as a burnt cake doesn’t taste so good, burnt beans won’t taste good either. We want that sucrose to linger and contribute sweetness to the finished coffee. At Black River Roasters we generally roast on the light side, which caramelizes sugars without incinerating them, and doesn’t bake off the residual cherry sugars and spicy notes that enliven the beans.

Oil is the other crucial point. The oils in coffee go rancid just as any other oil. To understand the detriment of oily beans that were roasted a long time ago, open up a bag of conventionally-produced French roast and take in a big, fishy whiff of spoiled caffeol. Yummy! At Black River Roasters you’ll never encounter this problem since we roast to order. When you get your beans as soon as they’ve been roasted, you’ll taste freshly activated flavor components.

I’m excited about our espresso machine, but since I prefer brewed coffee, I’m even more excited about our Trifecta. With the Trifecta, we can exactly regulate all aspects of coffee brewing, accessing the full flavor range, one serving at a time.

DSC04540Turbulence is what revolutionizes this system because it allows for completely even extraction. By fully wetting and evenly brewing all grounds in the chamber, from each particle we end up with an essentially consistent volume of oils, sugars, and dissolved solids in the cup. And by altering the time and power of each cycle part, we can play up acidity, flavor, and body as appropriate to any of our coffees!

In my first trial I tested an Organic Rwanda, Sulawesi (both coming soon), and our Organic Peru. 18 grams of coffee each, 8 ounces of water each, and 3 completely different tasting cups! A full pre-wet, long brew time, and medium turbulence brought out the Rwanda’s floral aroma and blueberry syrupiness, backed by a gentle Dutch cocoa (I cheated and added a little sugar to end up with blueberry cobbler-in-a-cup). Sulawesi was appropriately peppery with a grassy, coriander aroma and flavor, but shorter brewing with more turbulence filled out the dried cranberry body without stirring up too much bitterness. And in the Peru, short, quick everything pushes the lemony acid right to the the front and keeps the finish clean with just a hint of dark chocolate on the end to solidify its brightness.

I’m excited, and I can’t wait ’til you stop in and try a Trifecta-brewed coffee for yourselves! I wager that we won’t let you down.

See you at the bar,