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coffee adventuring amongst the medium roasts
children of dune - leto 1
Visited Central Market, as I tend to do to get out my shopping vibes and not break my credit rating. As theoretically, there's really only so much food you can buy. I was okay through most of the fruit (fine, the pluots spoke to me--they had three different types!), and two types of apples since Child is a junkie and who am I to get him clean. So far so good--escaped the figs (I love figs, but not like, love-love), and these huge Washington blackberries (they were shiny and flawless and terrifying; I wasn't certain if I should eat them or use them for some kind of fruit-related performance art project about the fall of western civilization), and made it past the Table of Unrecognizables (I have a weakness for things I can't pronounce with shapes I would swear aren't found in nature).

I got through the bread (just one! I was strong!), the cheese (fell, of course), the delicious horror that is the crackers and olives and various chicken salads (tarragon chicken, apricot chicken, I ran), and managed to only stop in the chocolate of many variations area and bravely got away with two. I was golden. I was a fool.

However, I always (never) forget the coffee section.

Adventures in Coffee Consumption

So I'm weak.

Note for Coffee People: I'm a fan of medium and breakfast roasts and at thirty-two, my stomach no longer wishes to deal with high acidity, so take that as your warning on my taste. I prefer milk (whole or 1%) to any of the creams and I like the final color to be within two shades darker than my skin color (three darker with the lighter blends). I like sweet. I am not a good judge for the general coffee drinking population. I am not a coffee snob. I am a coffee slave. There is a difference.

(I still cannot find any that mix in chicory. This is Not Happiness.)

A.) Organic Galapados - medium roast, chocolate undertones, very slightly spicy, light sweet aftertaste. I bought this specifically because it said Galapados and thought of turtles (all roads lead back to Due South) and was lucky the description was in my coffee range. The price is another story.

I'm thinking I misjudged grind and strength. It's delicious, but slightly too light. The fact that it is still delicious is a huge point in its favor. Slightly sweet aftertaste, not too heavy, no acidity worth speaking of, which means I can have two cups, unlike that last time at work that suffice to say turned me off drinking coffee at work unless I made it myself.

I'm not getting chocolate undertones at all (so I could be wrong about that part from the description) nor particularly spicy, but I am getting a definite complex set of flavors, one of which is very like vanilla. I am not opposed to this for company coffee if I up the strength a bit and find people who want to be company for coffee.

(I think I need a more customized grinder; mine is single speed so it's all guesswork and while I usually get it right, with some coffees its an experimental process that takes time and panic to get right. There's a fairly good chance I could extend to the dark roasts somewhat if I could get the grind right instead of causing unfortunate digestion reactions. The mediums give me a lot of leeway, while the darks are kind of get it right or be very sick.

Recommendations for grinders, anyone?)

It's going to take several exposures to work out if this is in the Kona school of coffee drinking--ie, very nice, but not something I can deal with on a daily basis without burnout. I'm pretty sure it's going into a weekly type, not daily type. Definitely not reliving the horror of Blue Mountain, thank God. This is why I wantto try the Coffee Whose Processing Scares Me but haven't. I don't know if it's that I can't deal with the disappointment if I have the same reaction, or the price if it's *not* a disappointment.

B.) Cup of Excellence, Honduras - medium roast, very classic coffee smell. Specifically chosen because the description sounded good, being very light acid and spicy flavor. Also, the smell didn't scare me.

Not yet rated.

c.) Sumatran Mandheling - medium roast, chocolate and spice undertones, sweet aftertaste.

I am so looking forward to this one, though I think I'll try it in a French press first instead of drip to give me a little more flexibility. It's either a new incarnation or a cousin to an organic Sumatran I burned myself out on last year because I'd liked it so much that I drank it until I couldn't stand the sight of it.

So far, I'm not sure. I need to practice the grinding--it was unpleasant-bitter and not rich-bitter, so I think I overground it.

D.) Costa Rica Tres Volcanos - medium roast, low acid, spicy. One of the employee recommendations. This is not a point in its favor--the Red Sea mix is one of those where my initial reaction I still can't discuss--but I'm feeling very risky and it had a very nice smell.

Not yet rated.

E.) La Vida Dulce - medium roast, light flavor, mix of cinnamon, chocolate, and various other tastiness.

You will not need as much sugar as you usually use. I love sugar and I cut my usual in half with this one. Also less cream or milk. If I remember correctly, I could actually drink this almost black or one shade lighter than black.

I love this one so much but burn out on it so fast because it's almost like candy. Luckily, it's fast to get over that too. Not daily drinkable, but totally weekly drinkable if I can restrain myself.

Question--how long can you keep beans refrigerated before they are useless?

ETA 9/17/2008: Added review of Sumatran coffee under cut

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According to Alton Brown, you don't. The inside of your fridge and freezer tend to be very dry, and dehydrated beans are more bitter. Keep them at rooom temp, in the original packaging. :-)

Alton Brown (my god) recommends not refrigerating beans, but storing them in an air-tight container at room temperature. If you're taking them in and out of the fridge or freezer, moisture can affect them (I believe that was his reasoning).

I think I just bought a coffee similar to La Vida Dulce - mine specifically has caramel flavors. So good!, but I can only drink it once in a while.

Fellow worshipper! *joins you at the altar of Alton*

God, I love Central Market. We don't have them here, but every time I visit my folks I shop there and I think, "if we had Central Market where I lived, I would be SO BROKE. But we would eat really well."


Honey, when I read the line that you like coffee to be two/three shades darker than your skin, I started laughing. >.< I'm sorry, but my one thought was, "But, damn, you are REALLY pale." Since I like my coffee to be dark/black...not a surprise, I guess.

I like my coffee with milk and really sweet too. My family despairs of me somewhat, but considering I used to really dislike coffee entirely, I feel I am making strides to meet them in the middle. Have you ever considered cold-brewing your coffee? The ubiquitous 'they' claims that it has 2/3rds less acid that regular brewed coffee. Might be easier on your stomach. I don't really have issues with acidity, so I can't speak from personal experience.

You have to plan ahead because it brews for 12 hours, but then you have coffee concentrate that lasts for up to two weeks, depending on how much you drink and how strong you like your coffee. They make cold-brew coffee systems, but I just used this set up, because it's DIY and free: http://www.ineedcoffee.com/06/coldhome/

oh this is great - I had a coworker that bought some fancy expensive cold brew system and I really don't want to do that. I really like the cold brew - it s definitely some of the 'smoothest' coffee I've ever had, and I will be trying this. Thanks

No problem! One thing I didn't mention before - I am kind of picky and don't like any coffee ground sediment at all, so I filter the drained coffee through a coffee filter as I pour it into the bottles to keep in the fridge, but if you can pour that last bit of concentrate more carefully than I do or aren't as picky, that step is not really necessary. I hope it works well for you.

I was going to suggest this as well - it particularly brings out the chocolatey undertones.

Mm, yes, I've noticed that too. And I think there isn't as much that bitter aftertaste that regular brewed coffee can sometimes have.

As Brits we haven't come across cold brewing but I just showed my coffee addict hubby and he is even now gettign all over excited at the thought of giving it a go. Thanks.

I've recently re-discovered my own coffee maker. I forgot that I can produce coffee that I'm willing to drink black.

I've been buying organic Yuban, because I'm lazy and poor, but if I wasn't, then I could tell you that there's a different granularity for beans used in cone filters vs. basket filters vs. expresso vs. French Press.

Sumatran coffee is processed differently than most South American coffees because coffees in dry areas are dried with the cherry part still on the beans, while coffee in South America is generally immediately immersed in water to soak the pith of the (edible) cherry off of the bean. This results in a richer flavor with more chocolate tones.

And yeah, once they're ground - rule of thumb, no more than a week, and not in the fridge. Purists detest freezers, but I've seen good results for unground beans placed in freezers.

it sounds like our tastes are pretty close, as far as milk use, roast, and acid go (i don't use sugar, i'd just fall asleep again) - and sumatra mandheling is very nice. i also once had a nice mexican breakfast roast that sounds right up your alley, but i'm damned if i can remember the details.

I keep a small container (pint sized) on the counter with the beans I'm going to use over the next few days; the rest of the pound goes in the freezer. All due respect to the Alton Brown worshipers, but I've never noticed any degradation in quality. My beans are just as oily and pretty once they're defrosted as they were before they went in. Granted, I make coffee every day without fail, so it's not sitting around forever.

You can keep well-sealed coffee in the freezer for a while; my father kept a can of ground decaf for guests there and it was good forever.

If you're going to be trying the frou-frou stuff, do try the cold-brewing at least once. I thought it was overrated, but I like my coffee strong enough to clean silver and simple, so methods that mellow it out aren't going to be my thing. But it's easy and forgiving and perfect for summer.

Actually storing the beans the way you do makes sense in that the beans in the freezer are not subject to temperature fluctuation and condensation from being taken out of the freezer everyday. That's one of the reasons why Alton says not to store them in the freezer.

do you have Caribou Coffee down there? It has some wonderfully smooth light blends that I love. It is pricey yes, but that is one area where I will indulge - better to pay $17/lb then spend $10-$20 a week buying cups of coffee!

We worship at the temple of Sumatra, here. Both my husband & I are of the opinion that the extremely low acidity of Sumatran means the caffeine hits extra hard, which means we don't drink (quite) as much of it.

We get our coffee from Dean's Beans, because it's politically clean and comparatively cheap. We buy about 5lb a month, pre-ground because I CANNOT take the noise in the morning.

I mix Sumatra and Kona beans together. Sumatra for the wonder smell and Kona for the flavor. It's a cup of coffee-flavored heaven.

I don't refrigerate my beans. I keep them in an airtight container and store away from light. (Yes, Alton Brown *is* my god, although I still disagree with him on how to crack open an egg.)

Coffee - others love it, while can't even stand to smell the stuff.

And it isn't fair, really, since the descriptions always sound SO GOOD - but no matter how much yummy stuff like cinnamon, chocolate, or milk, I can't stand the smell or the taste.

Oh well, just one of those things I shall have to resign myself to.


Since you are posting about a market trip and coffee, I can assume you survived Ike relatively unscathed. Saw the pics on The Weather Channel and it looked pretty scary for a while there, and since I have the geographic sense of John Sheppard, I can't remember how close you were to the landfall.

Glad you are well!


Back when I worked at a coffee roasting company ('88-'96), we told people to keep the beans in an airtight container at room temp. The trick with that is to only keep them a few days for optimum flavor...like, no more than a week. So some people would only buy as much as they could use in that time, keep the beans at room temp, and would come back for more freshly roasted coffee later.

For the people who couldn't or wouldn't do that, the next best option is the freezer, in an airtight container. The trick there was to take out only as much of the beans as you were going to grind and let them come to room temp before grinding and brewing. The flavor of the coffee will be affected but it would also be affected by being left at room temp for a really long time.

If I recall correctly, the Indonesian coffees were less acidic than the African coffees. I don't remember where Central American coffees fell on that scale. The way you brew the coffee will also affect the acidity; as people mentioned above, cold-brewing methods make a much smoother cup o'joe.

I've only come across coffee with chicory in a few forms: brands like French Market coffee, Cafe Du Monde coffee, etc. I just did a quick google and found a couple of places that will sell you pure chicory to blend in with your coffee to your own taste.

Sometimes I really miss working there. There's nothing like brewing a french press of still-warm-from-the-roaster beans. The smell of freshly roasted beans is sublime (the roasting process is a different story - that smells like tuna fish and burnt toast).


*takes a deep breath* Sorry, sorry. That question triggered by barista instincts.

Just an airtight container and out of direct light, and high temperatures should do the trick.

I'd buy low amounts at a time if you can. A week is about the best time for the coffee after being opened and 30 minutes after being ground.

Unless it is preground stuff.

I've been avoiding Central Market for a while. It's just too easy to go crazy the Bakery Section of Doom. Plus, bison sausage! I mean, I can barely get out of a generic HEB for less than $50 these days; I'd hate to think what my bill at CM would be like.





*ahem* Sorry. Seriously. I love CM chicken salads. I haven't been to CM in a while, and I kind of need to go see what's what. And buy way too much expensive food.

Reading this made my stomach growl.

The La Vida Dulce sounds like it'd make a pretty decent dessert all by itself - as long as it's not actually flavored. Acidity doesn't bother me, but any kind of flavoring in coffee = blecchh.

Have you ever tried Raven's Brew coffee? I've no idea about the acidity of it, but I'm responsible for getting several people addicted to their Wicked Wolf blend.

(And I didn't know ground coffee's only supposed to keep for a week. I've kept a bag around for over a month before. No wonder it started tasting weird.)

I am not a coffee junkie of any description (recent coffee addiction while in Switzerland notwithstanding)
Pluots (which I wish I knew where to find over here) and *apricot chicken*


Also, only 2 types of apple? That's nowhere near enough...

I have a friend who recommends a Capresso coffee maker -- she's had hers for over ten years. It has a built-in grinder and can be set for mild, medium, or bold brewing. You can get the strongest blend of coffee and set it for very mild brewing. She orders her coffee from Gevalia. They have a wide variety of coffees and list the sources, strength, and types. They also sell teas from around the world. Their signature blend of coffee is a mild, morning blend that is excellent. I had it while I was staying with her and didn't even need to put cream or sugar in it. If I was a regular coffee drinker, I'd buy from them but I drink it so rarely, it's just not worth the investment.

For very good teas at a more than reasonable price, check out your local Chinese grocery store. Another friend buys loose tea online for upwards of $30 a pound while I can get 100 bags of the same tea for $2.69.

Oooh, I just got back from Central Market, where alas, I did not buy coffee because I am currently broke, but I just wanted to say that I'm taking notes on everything you've reviewed to try at a later date when I actually have money. Mmmmmm....coffee. :)

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