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?
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.
Turbulence 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,