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Coffee beans


jaybee
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I'm sure this group have some informed opinions of where to get the best tasting beans to brew coffee at home.  I'm referring to morning coffee, not expresso.  I prefer a rich, "winey" coffee with some acidic sharpness.  I use either a French press or the new Bodum Santos coffee maker (which can make an excellent brew, almost as good as the press).  I am tempted by the site offering Fresh Kona I found somewhere in this forum.  I can get to most Manhattan retailers easily.  Awaiting you, java mavens.

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If you want to treat yourself definitely order the Kona Fancy or Peaberry from Bay View Farms. They also have special estate coffees that they contract roast from other plantations on the island.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Dean and DeLuca carries a Puerto Rico Yauco Selecto that has similar qualities to a good Kona, but costs less. Turnover (consequently, freshness of beans) at D and D is excellent for the most popular coffees, including this one.  BTW, D and D's best seller is Yrgacheffe, which makes a relatively low-acid, heavy bodied brew with chocolately overtones that may not be your cup of tea, but is the favorite of many.  You may also be pleasantly surprised by the regular house blend, which is a combination of Mexican Altura and Guatamala Antigua, if memory serves.

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Re. Bodum Santos--Thanks DStone.  I have the newer and much more expensive model!  It is some contraption.  It does make delicious coffee when you get the proportions right.  It is hard to clean and quite awkward.  But then, driving a five speed 1960s vintage Ferrari is hard too. Hopefully this will be worth the effort and won't join the coffee maker graveyard in the hall closet. . Just bought two pounds of Sandra's recommended coffees from D&D.  Can't wait 'till morning.

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I've heard very good things about Peet's, but since I like to buy very small quantities for optimum freshness, I am reluctant to mail order.  Somehow, I don't mind paying a premium for the coffee, but I do mind shipping charges.  I wish Peet's were available in New York; I would love to try some of their beans.

I know that some people buy green beans and roast them themselves, but I have neither the time nor inclination to take that route.  

(Edited'>http://www.sweetmarias.com/prod.greencoffee.shtml

(Edited

by Sandra Levine at 8:21 am on Jan. 23, 2002)
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I purchased a "freshsaver" device that allows me to vacuum seal coffee beans after each use.  It takes a few seconds to use. Beans keep their taste much longer when stored in a vacuum.  I've had "fresh taste" from beans stored this way for up to two months! This method also allows me to keep a variety of beans on hand. Question, how many scoops of beans equal how many scoops of ground coffee?  Is there a ratio?  I use a Braun burr grinder set for medium grind.

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Someone told me once that whole beans stored at home and used within a reasonably brief amount of time don't need to be vacuum packed or stored in a freezer.  I through them in the freezer anyway, but i'm running out of room.  Will it affect the beans if I leave them in the cabinet?

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The freezer does nothing to keep whole beans fresh.  That is a myth.  Coffee beans contain volitile oils that carry much of the flavor.  These oils turn to gas which floats away in the air. That's why coffee loses its taste over time.  The strong aroma you smell from fresh beans is that gas escaping.  Ground beans lose flavor more quickly than whole beans, but within 7-10 days, whole beans will have lost more than 50% of their oils. The only way to prevent this is to keep the beans in a vacuum.  Putting them in an airtight cannister helps, but a vacuum is best for long shelf life.  Of course if you use your beans within a few days of buying them fresh, you have nothing to worry about.  I'm not sure how long beans keep their flavor in a vacuum.  In my experience it can be more than two months if the container is not opened and reclosed more than a few times.

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I can see your point.  Except that there is both air circulation and humidity (albeit freezing) there, both of which hasten the loss of volatile gases and alter the flavor.  The oils do not freeze, they get a little sluggish (more viscous) but they still convert to gas over time.  None of the people I know in the coffee bean business (growers, roasters and retailers) endorse the freezer as a method of preserving freshness.  They all say vacuum or at the least, an airtight cannister or package.  

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Although Peet's is only two blocks from my house, since I hate to stand in line to buy beans, I usually buy several pounds at a time, keep them in their twist-tab package in the freezer.  We go through these within a couple of weeks, and I don't notice the difference in strength or richness of frozen beans from new beans.

eGullet member #80.

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Jaybee--isn't there a two way gas thing going on with freshly roasted coffee in a package--that the roasting process starts something chemical that can't be stopped--and hence the reason why we see those funky valves on packaged coffee?  does your vacuuming process affect this--ignore this--circumvent this?  are we being sold a bill of goods by coffee manufacturers that by using these special valves we are buying coffee in the best condition?

I've been told by a few coffee manufacturing friends of mine, and seem to have verified myself, that the most important things about maintaining coffee beans are a) preventing their exposure to air and b) using the beans quickly, so that means buying fresh in small amounts--as you and others have addressed.  

My question is--if frozen in an airtight container--and then allowed to thaw unopened--where does the negative effect of humidity come in to play?  And are you also saying that the volatile oils are in some way irredeemably altered--in the freezer--in some way?

The reason I ask is--as a professional pastry chef--we're asked to use the freezer skillfully in the performance of our job.  I've written elsewhere about this.  Is it anecdotal or proven--and where are the sources--that properly freezing coffee beans and proper thawing of said beans--is demonstrably worse than other storage methods?  I can see where constantly removing, opening and returning a container of beans to the freezer is bad--and would attract humidity and be deleterious--but isn't this "poor freezing" of beans what the experts are talking about?

Is it also your sense that vacuum-packed beans at room temp--is always preferable to vacuum-packed beans, frozen and then removed to thaw?

Isn't it true that the issue of bean storage is possibly more diverse opinion-wise than the seeming agreement of your sources?  Sorry to start to go off on this Jaybee but I seem to have found a kindred spirit in you and possibly others here that care about their beans--and hope we can flesh this out a bit more and share our personal observations.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Freshly roasted beans do gas off for a day or two after the roasting. So, if you were roasting, you shouldn't store freshly roasted coffee in a tightly closed glass container. But, I think the valves are there for vacuuming excess air volume out of the package in the vacuum-sealing process.

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To Jaybee,  “some informed opinions of where to get the best tasting beans to brew coffee at home”

Well, I don’t know how well I qualify, and my humble (un)informed opinion is quite simple. I lived in Germany for the last 15 years and always enjoyed good coffee, and it was easy get. The coffee “stores”, very city has them, of large roasters like Tschibo or Eduscho, who are now one, sold well tasting high quality freshly roasted coffees. Super market coffees like “Jakob’s” or “Dallmayr” where just as good. Another brand was “Melitta.”

And that brings me to the every day morning brew. “Melitta” brand coffee is available in the US in super markets, even here in Maine. Come in 23 ounce/652gr cans. We pay currently $ 6.45 per unit or $ 4.50 a pound.

Being pampered from Europe about coffee – this brand is the closest to that taste. Not burned taste, sufficient acidity and full body.

The amount to use for me is important. Don’t pay attention to scoops, spoons, measures or the phrase per cup. #1, what is a scoop, spoon, measure or whatever? Weigh your ground coffee by the amount you like for a particular amount of water in ounces. I am using 50-gram/1.75 oz. Per 700-ml/48 oz. Water. When you have that down pat, see how many of ‘your” scoops that is. And see how much that water amount will fill “your” pot/carafe. I use an ordinary โ drip coffee maker. I once checked the temp; it has been constant at 198F when brewing. When finished, I immediately remove my pot from the heated pad to a “tea-candle” type table stove “Stoevchen”.

This pot of coffee gets drunk by us every Morning within about 45 min. Five “our size”cups for me and three for Karen. Prefer cups over mugs, the thinner the china the better the taste. (Imagining?)

Another thing, we often, up to three times a week have also coffee in the afternoon (not with crumpets – but some type of cake), and we both sleep always well. Neither coffee nor Tea ever had the so-called effect on my wife or me. Any coffee that is! Has anyone experienced that also?

Peter
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Sandra--I haven't been in D & D in the city in a while, but at least in the D & D by me they still have coffee sitting out in big Third-world looking bags, exposed to the air for who knows how long.  Nice display but don't you think that coffee is just a pale version of what it might have been if stored better?  Plus, I'm always afraid someone might have just spit or spilled something in those bags.  Not that I am one of those bacteria phobes, but you know what I mean.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Yes, I agree that the coffee could be stored better, but they are careful about rotating the stock and at the  flagship store in NYC,  many of the coffees, e.g. Yrgacheffe, Yauco Selecto, Kona, sell very fast.   I don't know about the other branches.   The house blend is also available in the familiar one-way valve 1-lb. bag and it also sells incredibly fast.  

(The burlap bags are plastic-lined and at the close of business, the staff does fold the top of the bags over the beans, in an attempt to keep some air out overnight.)

(Edited by Sandra Levine at 11:01 pm on Jan. 27, 2002)

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Thanks for sharing those observations Sandra.  Still, I can't help but think this is one of those raised awareness issues--and in DC and in NYC, at least when it comes to coffee and espresso awareness, we still lag behind the West coast, Seattle and San Francisco in particular.  There is no incentive for a dean & deluca to      change their methods--and go to a more expensive and more labor intensive system--in essence, to care more--unless its customers demand better.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Steve,  You ask good questions. I admit that my "evidence" on bean storage is purely personally anecdotal and my opinions are based on hearsay.  But the hearsay comes from Mark Zuckerman, founder and former chairman of Pasqua Coffee Bars, a now defunct chain that started at the same time as Starbucks, was not a clone, but was swamped by Schultz' tidal wave.  Mark is a real coffee man so I take his point of view very literally.  I found Pasqua's coffee beans to be the best I've ever had.  It's hard to disagree that the best method for bean freshness is to buy small qualtities and use them within a few days or a week, storing them in an airtight container.  For best taste, frozen beans should thaw before use, shouldn't they?

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Yes, when I freeze beans, I do allow them to thaw completely before opening the package and refilling my grinder.  When I buy locally in small amounts, there's no need for freezing, but lately I'm dissatisfied with local sources and with the quality and care the beans get at my local Whole Foods Markets.  Infrequently I buy Illy but more often I'm buying two pounds of dark roast from my favorite California roaster, Graffeo, and having it shipped two-day.  One pound goes in the hopper, the other gets frozen.

As Bux and I have written extensively about here on eGullet, we both have the same Rancilio semi-commercial espresso machine, Sylvia, so I don't drink too much coffee anymore, just espresso. (When I travel, I bring a French press and miss my Sylvia.) My query about the freezing of beans has to do with some coffee pundits (Corby Kummer possibly?) who have written about storing and freezing beans--and I seem to recall one in particular who intoned that freezing was ok as long as it wasn't beans for espresso--that the delicate oils of the more darkly roasted beans would be irredeemably altered if done so.  I haven't been able to verify this scientifically, however, nor on my palate, and am now 6 months into a rather dedicated daily exploration of espresso and crema.

It wouldn't be the first time a pundit let me down writing without deep, personal knowledge of a subject.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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