Iced Coffee for Summer

Iced coffeeWith the rising temperatures, it’s that time of year to start offering iced coffee and iced specialty drinks. Iced drinks can be an integral part of coffee sales during the warm summer seasons, allowing customers to have an opportunity to escape intense heat and cool off while getting caffeinated, especially in the South!

There are several different ways to offer iced coffee these days, and many cafes have decided to utilize the “toddy” method of cold-brewing coffee.  However, there are other methods available that can be utilized using equipment you already own in your shop.

Making concentrates is a popular way of offering iced coffee, having ultimately a concoction that is twice as potent as you would normally brew, then adding ice. Keep in mind that dark roasted coffee tends to yield a smoother and more enjoyable flavor than lightly roasted coffee.

The Toddy brewing process creates a concentrate that you can add to frappes, iced lattes, iced mochas, or just create iced coffee. In this method, which features reusable filters, you add cold water to coarsely ground coffee and allow it to steep for 12-24 hours. Watch our video on the Toddy method here.

The Japanese method is rapidly gaining popularity throughout cafes as the way to serve iced coffee.  This consists of any pour over device (Chemex, Hario V60, etc.) or batch brewers in a shop and takes only a couple of minutes to prepare. This process produces an extremely smooth and flavorful cup of iced coffee, brewing right onto ice so it is only hot for a couple of seconds.  You can also incorporate your drip brewer to produce larger quantities of iced coffee by using the amount of coffee that yields a full pot but only running the half-pot water cycle. Of course, you will still brew on top of a container that has the correct proportion of ice (the same ratio as for the pour-over method).

Iced Vietnamese-style coffee is another great method which requires a Phin filter and condensed milk. Start by pouring a small amount of condensed milk into the vessel you wish to brew into and add coffee (1 rounded tablespoon per 6 ounces at a coarse grind) to the Phin filter. Brew on top of the condensed milk, stir, and add ice. The later two methods are not concentrations, so it is important to get the right proportions every time so you do not water down the coffee.

Iced Americanos will also help increase coffee sales during the warmer months by adding a cool refreshing version of a classic coffee beverage. Simply pull the shots of espresso directly into cool water and then add ice.

From a cost perspective, Toddy produces a larger quantity of iced coffee, running at about .21 cents an ounce. The Japanese method is brewed by the cup which requires a little bit more time and skill, but runs at only about .04 cents per ounce. While the Japanese-method costs less, it does call for more time per cup whereas the toddy is already made and ready to be used.

Iced signature or specialty beverages can also help increase your profit margins during the warmer seasons while standard coffee sales tend to slow down, and also increase efficiency by adding profitable and sought after items. The best way to prepare iced lattes or signature drinks involving milk is to add the ingredients and milk into a cup and pull the shots on top of the milk, leaving room for ice. This keeps the espresso shots from melting the ice and becoming watery, thereby diminishing the full flavor of the espresso. Then all that is left is to stir, add ice and serve.

Here at Stockton Graham & Company we are always happy to share our knowledge about everything coffee related. To learn more about ways to succeed in your store or coffee shop, call 800 835 5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

 

Store it Properly and Say Yes to Fresh Coffee

Fresh Coffee is the Beast CoffeeHave you ever wondered how fresh coffee can go stale? It is actually a complex process that involves a fair amount of science. It all begins when heat is introduced to the green beans. Inside the roaster the sugars and amino acids in the beans combine to begin what is known as the Maillard Reaction. This is what gives browned or toasted food its distinctive flavor and it was first described in 1912 by French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard. Many types of foods, such as cookies, breads, caramel and chocolate undergo this reaction. And, of course, it is what leads to the wonderful smell, taste, and color of coffee.

During roasting, carbon dioxide also forms inside the beans. As soon as the beans are dumped into the cooling of tray of the roaster, however, the release of this gas begins. In this process, which is called degassing and can last over a week, the carbon dioxide is slowly replaced by oxygen. Though oxygen is a very good thing in many situations, it can also be one of nature’s most destructive forces. When it comes into contact with some materials, such as organic matter and some metals, oxygen alters their molecular makeup. Known as oxidation, it is a process in which oxygen actually pulls electrons away from another molecule, making it unstable. The results are things like rusting, browning or staling. So, the processes that make a bright copper penny turn dark, a cut apple become brown or–yes–coffee become stale, are all related. In coffee, oxygen reacts with the oils and solubles that give the coffee its unique taste. As time passes, flavors become less pronounced, resulting coffee that tastes flat and stale. There is no getting around this natural process but it can be slowed; if at all possible, store your fresh coffee in an airtight container to prolong its taste. It will remain fresh until your next order arrives and allow you to serve customers the best beverage possible.

To learn more about the best ways to store your coffee, call 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

Three Easy (and Cheap) Ways to Increase Sales

Three Easy (and Cheap) Ways to Increase Sales

Even if you don’t have extra cash to advertise, there are always other things you can do inside your café’s walls to make things happen for your business. In addition to old fashioned elbow grease, try these simple (and cheap) ways to increase sales.

Be there

Equate your business to a child needing a parent. It can’t grow and thrive without your steady hand to guide it. Being there behind the counter also lets you build instant relationships with regular customers. They will feel connected with you (and dedicated) in a way they would never feel in a more corporate store.

But while being there is very important, a good owner will also know when not to be there. If you need a break, take one. If you need a day off, take one. A stressed-out owner is not going to provide the incredible customer service that is needed. The staff will thank you, too. Trust them to handle things. A mental health day will go a long way in keeping the head clear and can actually benefit the business.

easy way to increase sales in your cafeBus the tables

You can learn an amazing amount while cleaning up. Getting out in the store is a great way to start conversations with customers but it can also be a way to get vital feedback. Find a couple full cups? Maybe there is a problem with the coffee or equipment you were not aware of. If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to ask the customer, have the barista make the same drink especially for you and pinpoint what might be wrong.

Chatting up customers as you clean is the key. Have a guest set up a small office and not buy a single thing? Go over and make a sale. Start the dialogue: “Can I get you anything? We have a great new mocha.”

Sample, sample, sample

Want to increase sales on higher ticket drinks? Sampling is the most effective method, by far. In almost every instance, if you give away samples and make one sale from your efforts, you’ve covered the cost of the sample and possibly made an exclusive drip coffee customer an occasional $4.50 smoothie customer.

Diversifying your menu is almost always a good idea, but many times after new additions are made, owners wonder why new drinks don’t move. Chances are, the customer hasn’t been made to want the drink at all, much less know that it has been added to the menu. New products, no matter how appealing in both concept and flavor, must be sampled to prospective customers if a business expects to sell them in higher volumes.

For more information about successfully running your café, call us at 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

 

If You Want Good Coffee, Start With Good Water

good water for good coffeeWhen one thinks about a cup of coffee, the roasted bean is the first thing that comes to mind. Quality beans are certainly crucial, but equally important is the good water used because hot H2O is the solvent that leaches the flavors and oils out of those beans. A cup of regular coffee is about 98.75 percent water, leaving only 1.25 percent for the soluble plant matter, so it goes without saying poor water quality can ruin even the tastiest coffee beans. All the countless hours of work by farmers, roasters and numerous others involved in getting coffee to market are for naught if, in the end, the consumer brews their beverage with bad water.

It sounds simple to say water is just two hydrogen molecules for every one of oxygen, but the chemistry of water is actually very complex. Its makeup can change seasonally and because of other factors such as city water treatments, variable sources, nearby construction, etc. Water also has many gases and minerals dissolved in it, in addition to floating bacteria and dirt. A simple charcoal filter will remove things like dirt and odor but is not much help when it comes to mineral content. Much the same way it pulls flavors from coffee, water extracts minerals as it moves through the ground or in pipes. Some of those minerals, such as iron, can produce bad coffee tastes or colors. Some, on the other hand, can be good; coffee just tastes better when brewed with good water that has a fair amount of calcium dissolved in it. One measurement the Specialty Coffee Association of America uses to count the number of minerals dissolved in water is by measuring the total dissolved solids (TDS). calciumThe total dissolved solids are measured in parts dissolved solids, per million parts water (ppm). A TDS reading is partially a measure of whether water is what is considered soft or hard. The ideal range for TDS is between 125 and 175 ppm. Water with a very high TDS reading (hard) extracts coffee flavor less readily. The ideal range for calcium hardness is between 17 to 120 ppm. Things such as iron, chlorine and chlorinates should not be present in a reading. If your water does not fall into the desired range, the solution may be a water softening or filtration system.

Personal taste is always the most important factor when evaluating the quality of brewed coffee, but don’t forget tools can be used to help measure strength and extraction and allow for more taste control. Also, all water filtration systems have parts that must be replaced on a regular basis to ensure optimum performance. In general, replace carbon filters for in-line water filtration systems every three to six months. For reverse osmosis systems, the filters and membranes should be changed once every year. But these are just guidelines; anytime you notice debris or scale on your equipment, or detect odors or off-flavors, replace your filtering elements immediately.

waterAlways remember that with its thousands of different flavors and chemicals (such as caffeine), coffee is an extremely complex beverage. No good extraction of those desirable tastes is possible without good water. Do great coffee justice and make sure your water is held to the same high standard as your beans. For more information about using good water and proper filtration, call 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

It All Begins With a Good Espresso Machine

1920s espresso machine

A 1920s espresso machine in action.

The SCAA gives the definition of espresso as “a 25-35mL (.85-1.2oz [x2 for double]) beverage prepared from 7-9 grams (14-18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195-205 degrees F has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20-30 seconds.”

Espresso is the name used for all components of this beverage: From the beans to the brewing process, equipment, cups, accessories and served beverage. Heavily bodied coffee served in small cups has been around for centuries. There is evidence that it was served in Cairo as far back as the early fifteenth century. As the popularity of drinking coffee spread across cultures and throughout the world, new brewing methods and equipment began to spring up. French and Italian inventors began first experimenting with steam powered coffee brewing in the nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the twentieth century, however, that Italian inventors developed machines that could produce the drinks we today call espresso.

Espresso has become the foundation for numerous kinds of drinks. Some of these drinks include milk, such as lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. More recently, espresso has become the foundation for carbonated beverages and mixed drinks including alcohol. Regardless of the finished beverage, the espresso component should always be made according to Specialty Coffee Association of America preparation guidelines.

espresso pouringPulling the Perfect Shot
Baristas refer to the extraction process as “pulling” a shot. Most baristas primarily pull 2 oz. double espressos, which is what we recommend. Pulling the perfect shot will require an adequate espresso machine, quality coffee used, a proper grind, and a well-trained barista.

The Machine
Choose an espresso machine that can maintain a constant brewing temperature of 195° to 205ºF. Your machine should also be capable of delivering water to the ground espresso at a pressure of 9-10 atmospheres.

The Coffee
Any coffee can be used to make espresso, but for best results use a coffee that was selected or blended specifically for espresso.

The Dose
The dose refers to the amount of ground beans that are dispensed into the portafilter. The word “dosing” refers to the process of grinding coffee into the portafilter basket.  Be sure your dose uses the correct amount of ground beans.  There is no hard-and fast rule for dosing, but consistency is key to maintaining shot time and flavor.  The SCAA recommends these dosing weights:

Singles: 7-9 grams ground espresso
Doubles: 14-18 grams ground espresso
Triples: 21-24 grams ground espresso (usually only used for certain size milk-based drinks)

The Grinder
Coffee must be ground just before use for best freshness and flavor. The grinder should be adjusted by the barista as needed in order to maintain the timing of their espresso shots.

The Time
Extraction begins the moment your ground coffee comes in contact with water. The SCAA
recommends a brewing time of 20-30 seconds as a general guideline. This applies whether pulling one or two shots. We recommend grind adjustment if you find your shots are pulling too slowly or quickly.

The 20-30 second guideline should be used as a starting point, since different coffees taste best at different times.  The ultimate test is in the taste. Let the taste and appearance be your markers for a good espresso.

Tamping espressoProper Tamping

  • Elbow at 90° angle
  • 30-40 lbs. of pressure (Use a floor scale to practice pressure application)
  • To ensure proper extraction of entire dose, tamp coffee in the portafilter so it is even and level.

These are just a few words of advice and we can happily provide more. For exceptional espresso, it is essential to maintain correct and consistent preparation cup after cup, customer after customer. The ultimate test is in the taste so the real secret is a simple one: practice!

Towels
Your espresso machine area should be equipped with at least three clean cloths. Each cloth should only be used for its intended purpose in order to avoid cross-contamination:

  1. Steamwand cloth: a damp cloth used only to clean the steamwand. Change several times per shift. Check local health department requirements regarding use of sanitizer.
  2. Portafilter cloth: a dry cloth used only to clean and dry portafilter baskets and spouts before dosing freshly ground coffee.
  3. Bench cloth: a damp cloth or bar mop used for cleaning up spills and ground coffee from the countertop. Change often. Check local health department requirements regarding use of sanitizer.

From more information about proper methods for making espresso, just call 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

A Visit to Nicaragua and Sustainable Coffee Growing at Selva Negra

Located in the highlands of Nicaragua, between the cities of Matagalpa and Jinotega, Selva Negra leads the way when it comes to sustainable coffee production.

The beginnings of Selva Negra stretch back to 1891, when German immigrants settled in the area. They recognized the potential of the land so planted coffee on what they named La Hammonia farm. More than three quarters of a century later, the farm was sold in 1974 to the current owners, Eddy and Mausi Kühl. Both descendants of German farmers, the Kühls refurbished the La Hammonia farm and made it totally diversified and sustainable in less than a decade. They have preserved a third of the property–renamed Selva Negra Ecolodge–as virgin forest, another third as shade sustainable coffee forest, and the last third as intensive rotational pastures for cattle and organic farming. The Kühls also built a hotel and complex of cabins for eco-tourists.

Sustainable Coffee in NicaraguaOver the last 30 years, alternative sources of production have been developed, whether for in-house consumption or income generation. These include organic meat and milk products (including cheese, sausages, eggs, etc.) as well as vegetables and fruit crops. Environmental projects are carried out each year always seeking for new, better, and more efficient systems. Some of these projects include having earth tubs decontaminate coffee wastewater, improved systems for treating sewage, reforestation, methane gas production, microorganism production to improve soil quality, etc.

Sustainable Coffee in NicaraguaFor all of their hard work and dedication, Selva Negra won the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Sustainability Award in both 2007 and 2008, the Sempervirens Award from the Environmental Protection Information Center, and has received many other sustainability accolades.

Stockton Graham coffee roster Chris Bennett was able to visit Selva Negra in January on a tour with a small group of other coffee industry professionals. He shared a few thoughts about his experiences:

“My first impression was that it was beautiful. The ecolodge part that helped sustain the whole business in general was beautiful but they do an amazing job of making everything look nice. They have a lake, beautiful orchids everywhere, banana trees and orange trees. There are some coffee trees grown close to the lodge but the main lots are a walk away. Coffee isn’t the only crop; they had a lot of sheltered growing areas for all the food they produced on the farm for the hotel as well as the workers.

Sustainable Coffee in Nicaragua

Chris Bennett tries his hand at coffee picking.

It’s a big property so they drove us around to different areas where people were picking the coffee. They let us pick coffee cherries for about an hour but we were all really bad at it. Then they had someone come show us how to do it properly and he was much faster. It’s definitely hard work.

“The sustainable coffee operation was amazing. I want to say they estimate four million coffee plants on the property, grown in the shade of larger trees. They also had a couple of greenhouses where they showed us the seedlings and small plants that they were getting ready to plant for the next season. Selva Negra wasn’t the only coffee plantation in that part of Nicaragua; when we were driving down the main road, towards Managua, we would see these massive farms and mills with coffee laid out on tarps to dry.

“I’d never been to an origin country before so it was an overall awesome experience. I’d love to go back.”

If you’re not familiar with the coffee of Selva Negra, call 800-835-5943 to find out more or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

Sustainable coffee form Nicaragua

Discover the Long History and Unique Flavors of Sumatra Coffee

Sumatra Coffee map

The source of our Organic Sumatra coffee.

Most of us are familiar with Sumatra coffee today but it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the plant appeared in Indonesia. The Dutch East India Company, seeking to break a monopoly on the coffee trade held at that time by Arab merchants, first brought coffee plants to the islands in a search for suitable habitats for commercial crops. The Dutch Colonial Government, which ruled much of the region, began to experiment with plantings near Batavia (now Jakarta) and several other locations. Some of the plants took hold and in 1711 the first green coffee exports were sent home to Europe. Successes came rapidly and within ten years, exports of coffee had risen to 60 tons per year. Indonesia became the largest producer of coffee after Ethiopia and Arabia and trade in the commodity there was controlled by the Dutch East India Company until the 1790s.

By the mid 1870’s, large coffee plantations had been created around the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. As the demand for coffee grew, roads and railroads were created to transport the coffee beans from rural mountainous growing areas to ports for export. During World War Two, however, the growth of Sumatra coffee came to a standstill as many coffee plantations were taken over by the occupying Japanese. Even after Indonesian independence in the late 1940s, several plantations throughout the country were abandoned or taken over by the new government when original colonial plantation owners left the country.

Near the end of the 19th century, a leaf rust disease epidemic hit coffee plants in Indonesia.  Many plantations were wiped out, leaving farmers to turn to other crops such as rubber trees and tea. The Dutch Government responded by importing and planting Liberica coffee, however this strain of coffee plants was also soon affected by leaf rust. They next turned to Robusta coffee, hoping it would be more resistant to the disease. It proved successful and today Robusta makes up over 75% of Indonesia’s coffee exports, much of it from the southern end of Sumatra.

Sumatra coffee

The source of our Karo Highlands Sumatra Coffee

Coffees from Sumatra, the western-most island in Indonesia, have a distinctive bluish color at the green bean stage which is attributed to lack of iron in the soil. Their taste can often be considered smooth, with a sweet body that is balanced and intense. Depending on the region, or blend of regions, the flavors of the land and processing can also be very pronounced. Part of this is due to the unique wet hulling technique used during processing. Another factor in the diverse and intriguing nature of Sumatra coffee is the large number of small producers; even today close to 92% of production is in the hands of small farmers or cooperatives. In 2016, Indonesia ranked fourth in the world with an estimated export total of 400,000 tons of coffee. Less than 14% of that is Arabica from northern Sumatra, which makes it a very desirable and often hard-to-find coffee.

We have tried numerous samples of Sumatra coffee and are excited to offer the ones we feel best represent the island. Try our Karo Highlands, Tunas Indah Organic or even our Sumatra Decaf and discover their unique flavors.