Espresso Options: Single Origins & Blends

Basic Barista Certification espresso options from stockton grahamEspresso, the product of a preparation process that evolved in Italy over the first half of the 20th century, has experienced tremendous change over the past 100 or so years: from the dark, almost burnt taste of the original espresso, to the lighter touch of café crema in the 1950s and back around to dark, smoky Ye Olde World Italian style made popular in the 1990s.

As a result, it’s not unusual to find many different opinions on espresso and espresso options. You’ll find, for instance, that those who were introduced to it in the 1990s prefer espressos that are dark, deep and bold similar to the traditional Italian style beverage. While today’s younger, mostly urban consumers include brighter single origins with cleaner bodies among their favorites.

What’s Espresso Anyway?

Stockton Graham & Co.’s customers know that espresso is not a type of bean or a roast level, but rather a method of preparing coffee. In essence, espresso is created by forcing hot water under extreme pressure through ground coffee to extract the heart of the coffee’s flavor. To help develop standards, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) defines the beverage as “a 25-35 millilitre beverage prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee through which clean water heated to 195-205 degrees is passed through for 20-30 seconds.”

With that said, virtually any roasted coffee can be prepared as an espresso; although certain varietals, blends and roast levels achieve better results. And the coffee you use as your house espresso will depend to a great extent on your brand, your store concept and your customers’ tastes.

Stockton Graham Coffees Espresso optionsHere at Stockton Graham & Co., we understand that up to 40% of the profits you make at your store will come from milk-based espresso options like lattes, cappuccinos and frappes. And after roasting coffee for over 20 years, we know that no two business owners are alike in their espresso preferences. While some prefer the sweet, bright notes of a Latin America coffee others gravitate to rich, thick-bodied blends of Indonesian varietals.

What’s more, if your store tends to sell more milk-based espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, you’ll want to consider a coffee that is designed to maintain its flavor in large amounts of milk. However, if your customers tend to prefer single shots, then we would recommend a different coffee for your house espresso.

And, of course, if your store is organic, you’ll also want a coffee that is organic certified like our Organic Fair Trade Guatemala San Juan Utapa, our Organic Mexico Chiapas or our Organic Sumatra Mandheling Triple Picked.

That’s why we offer a broad range of espresso options from sustainable single origins to custom blends. Here are just a few of our more popular offerings:

Single-Origin Espresso

Papua New Guinea: This single origin espresso presents upfront flavors of dried plums and apricots, balanced by a syrupy body with a sweet and tangy finish. Papua New Guinea or PNG, as we call it, can be quite versatile allowing for a variety uses.  At a shorter volume this makes for a distinct fruit forward espresso shot, while longer pulls balance the fruity nature with a milk chocolate sweetness to complement in-house cappuccinos and lattes. We recommend you use 18-21 grams of coffee for each 1.5 – 2 ounce extracted shot.

Seda Dulce: A single origin espresso option that utilizes two roast levels of the same Brazilian varietal. Created with the straight shot aficionado in mind, this espresso produces a quick burst of honeyed acidity followed by layers of sweet milk chocolate that give way to a buttery smooth finish. We recommend that you use 18 grams of coffee for each 1 – 1.5 ounce extracted shot.

Espresso Blends

Midnight Lotus: Our flagship espresso. Proven to complement a wide variety of milk based drinks while pleasing even the most discerning straight shot fanatics. This blend balances dried cocoa and fruity tanginess with a creamy body that has been the foundation of many a successful coffee bar. Its versatility is unmatched. We recommend 17 – 19 grams of coffee for each 1.5 – 2.5 ounce extracted shot.

Milano Blend: This is our take on the classic Italian style of espresso. Bittersweet gourmet chocolate finishes with hints of smoke and cedar. It is a smooth and complex blend with plenty of flavor to cut through even the largest to-go milk beverages. We recommend 18 grams of coffee for each 2 – 2.5 ounce extracted shot.

Organic San Remo Blend: An organic option that features ample crema loaded with caramel sweetness and rich dark chocolate flavors are balanced against a creamy smooth body. This coffee performs well in all sizes of milk-based drinks, as well as alone in a demitasse. Tasters comment that this espresso’s sweet and rich flavors linger with layers of sweetness long after the last sip. We recommend 17 grams of coffee for each 1.75 – 2.25 ounce extracted shot.

Your Own Blend

Our roastmaster Brandon Riggs and our sales representatives spend a great deal of time with new and current customers alike to understand your taste preferences and business needs so we can recommend espresso options that best suit your needs.

Cappuccino Latte Art espresso optionsFor most customers, one or two of our coffees will fit the bill. But there are times when a one-of-a-kind house espresso is more appropriate, and we work with customers to meet those unique needs. This often involves several meetings at our Raleigh, NC coffee roasting facility where you can taste multiple coffees prepared using various methods. We also travel to your business location to learn more about your equipment, level of barista training and customer base. This gives us the insight we need to create the best custom espresso option for you.

Of course, when our roastmaster develops a new espresso, he evaluates taste and flavor in accordance with standards developed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), The World Barista Championship (WBC) and The United States Barista Championship (USBC). These standards focus primarily on roast level, brewing procedure and flavor profile; for best results, we strongly encourage our customers to employ these methods of evaluation and brewing in your own store.

To discuss your store’s espresso options, call a Stockton Graham & Co. sales representative at 800 835 5943.




Roaster’s Views on the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel Stockton Graham & Co. Roasted CoffeeIn January, for the first time in 21 years, the original Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel published by the Specialty Coffee Association of America was updated and refined. The new flavor wheel is a groundbreaking tool that is already shifting the way coffee lovers think and talk about coffee.

“The new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a great collaborative tool,” explained Stockton Graham & Co. and Dilworth Coffee roastmaster Brandon Riggs. “Although the original Flavor Wheel was a breakthrough, this new wheel is more approachable to the general public because it describes flavors in a way that is more common and accessible to everyday coffee drinkers.”

For example, Brandon notes that the old flavor wheel identified Nippy and Piquant as subgroups in the Sweet flavor group. The new flavor wheel, instead, uses more common words like Honey, Maple Syrup and Molasses. Brandon points out that industry veterans and coffee patrons alike can more easily recognize the tastes of honey or molasses than nippy or piquant.

In addition to more common language, the new flavor wheel introduced gradients in the outer flavor groupings to accommodate more subtlety of tastes. For example, with the addition of gradients, the flavor of blueberry can range from sugary jam-like blueberry to tangy freshly-picked-off-the-bush blueberry.

“By adding gradients to the flavor group, it provides more possibilities in taste and more ways to explore flavor in coffee,” Brandon said.

New Flavor Wheel Facilitates Collaboration

As an instructor of Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College, Brandon also appreciates that the more accessible flavor wheel makes it easier to communicate about coffee.Improve Customer Service At Your Store

“It facilitates communication at the cupping table, whether the cupping is an internal one among roasters or whether roasters come together at a cupping table with customers to discuss coffee,” Brandon said. “The new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel helps us talk to our customers and others who enjoy coffee about their flavor experience.”

Here at Stockton Graham & Co., the iconic Flavor Wheel is a key discussion tool we use during our internal cupping sessions, as well as when we talk to customers about coffee.

“We’ve spent a few weeks working with the new flavor wheel at our Raleigh coffee roasting facility, and we are speaking with customers about using it to guide the way they talk about coffee,” said Brandon said. “Our customers are finding the wheel to be a very helpful tool, whether they are thinking about adding a new coffee or simply talking to their patrons about the coffees they already serve.”

New Flavor Wheel Improves Training Experience

Coffee College 2016 from Stockton Graham & Co.At Stockton Graham & Co. we have begun incorporating the new tasting wheel into our regular internal training sessions, as we grow the expertise of our junior roasters and customer service teams. We will also begin incorporating it into our monthly Coffee College program designed for coffee customers and operators.

“This new wheel is an opportunity to unite all around the cupping table, and to facilitate learning,” Brandon said. “Whether you are a coffee industry expert or you have never cupped before, the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a valuable contribution to any coffee tasting experience.”

Click here for a copy of the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel and call a customer care associate at 800 835 5943 to explore how you can use the flavor wheel in your store.

The Brewer’s Responsibility

When you stop to think about it, a great cup of coffee is pretty amazing. At least a dozen factors can seriously influence its taste as it traveled thousands of miles over many months from seed to cup. When considering the hours and hours of careful, sometimes backbreaking, work that went into growing and processing a specialty coffee and then roasting and packaging it for distribution, proper brewing can be the most crucial step in ensuring that a customer gets a delicious cup of coffee. That’s because 100% of what a customer tastes in a cup of coffee is extracted through the brewing process.Six Essentials of Brewing from Stockton Graham & Co.

Creating a masterpiece of coffee in a cup is no easy task. So Stockton Graham & Co. works with coffee shop owners, baristas and speciality beverage operators on several training modules designed to help brewers master the art of brewing coffee.

Each of these training modules is based on the six essentials to brewing coffee, created by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA), which address correct water-to-coffee ratio, proper brew method, proper equipment operation and other critical factors that effect coffee quality.

The success of your coffee shop hinges on the brewer’s understanding and mastery of these brewing skills. As an easy reference, Stockton Graham & Co. has created a summary booklet called BEAN Artist: The 6 Essentials of Brewing, which you can view here.BEAN-Booklet

Balancing Extraction and Strength

There are two fundamental characteristics of a brewed cup of coffee that effect its flavor—Extraction and Strength. A barista who understands the six essentials of brewing is well on the way to mastering the fine balance between extraction and strength that will create the perfect cup.

EXTRACTION describes the process of pulling the flavor and essence from coffee. It occurs during the brewing process when water passes over and through coffee grounds, activating gases that have built up during roasting, releasing pleasing aromatics and dissolving all types of compounds that flow into a cup. Some of those elements taste great, but others are not so great. Getting the extraction just right—which means dissolving the right amount of the good-tasting compounds and minimizing the bad-tasting compounds—is as much of a skill as it is an art.

When a coffee is brewing, the first thing to come out of the grounds are gases that we can smell called aromatics. There are well over 800 different aromatics that can be detected by the human nose—some pleasant and some not-so-pleasant. Aromatics make up a very small volume of the total amount of extracted compounds but are responsible for most of the aroma.

The next elements that are extracted are called soluble compounds, meaning they dissolve in water. These include caffeine and soluble fibers like sucrose and pectin, which effect the flavor of the brewed coffee.

When it comes to optimizing a brew, it turns out that almost everyone prefers a cup of coffee brewed by stopping the extraction at around 20% of the total bean weight. This leaves the compounds that taste the worst—tannins that often lead to a bitter or astringent flavor—in the coffee filter with the grounds.
Coffee Extraction Soluable Yield to Percentage

Of course, 20% is just an average. The Specialty Coffee Association recommends extraction rates fall between 18-22% of the total bean weight. Extract over 22% of a bean’s weight, and the coffee tastes bitter or astringent and is considered OVER-EXTRACTED or OVER-DEVELOPED. Extract less than 18% of the bean’s weight, and the coffee tastes watery and grassy to most people. This is referred to as UNDER-EXTRACTED or UNDER-DEVELOPED.

Coffee STRENGTH, which you can roughly determine by observing how much light passes through a cup of brewed coffee in a glass vessel, is a factor of the ratio of coffee to water in a brew. Some mass market coffees, especially those sold in the United Kingdom, use the word strength to describe the darkness of roast, with dark roasts scoring a 4 or 5 on the strength scale. Although roast levels do effect extraction and can impact the perception of a coffee’s strength, Stockton Graham & Co. uses the SCAA definition of strength, which is simply a brew’s concentration of coffee.

Six Essentials to Brewing Coffee - Coffee-to-water ratio - Stockton Graham & Co.More formally, STRENGTH is the ratio of the number of coffee compounds to water molecules in the finished brew. It may seem a little obvious to us now, but in the fifties Dr. Lockhart had to come up with and then document the idea that people have preferences for the strength of their coffee. It turned out that the average person preferred their drip coffee drinks to be about 98.8% water.

More specifically, average Americans prefer about 1.15-1.35% of each brewed cup to be comprised of the compounds from the beans themselves. So a perfectly brewed coffee with an IDEAL BALANCE will fall within the center of the SCAA’s Brew Control Chart shown above, with approximately 20% of a bean’s dry matter diluted to about 1.25% of a brewed cup’s contents. Accomplishing both of these tasks simultaneously takes a combination of knowledge, skill and experience.

For more information about brewing fundamentals or to sign up for our training programs, contact a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943.

Congratulations to Brad Kirby for 10 years with Stockton Graham & Co.!

Brad-kirby-picking-coffeeApril marks the 10 year anniversary of our Head Roaster, Brad Kirby, joining the Stockton Graham & Co. team! We are proud to have such a dedicated, loyal and hardworking employee within our company. Brad is a necessity to what we do every day here at Stockton Graham & Co. – roasting great coffee. He is an integral part of our team, and we could not have grown so much without him.

Brad began working in shipping and receiving in 2003, and the warehouse immediately became more organized and efficient. Brad’s interest soon began to develop more in the coffee industry, and he moved into the roasting area permanently.  Brad’s eye for detail and passion for coffee has made him an excellent roaster and bestowed onto him the title of “Head Roaster”.

Brad-kirkby-smilingHaving a natural knack with machinery, Brad has become a Factory Trained Equipment Tech for La Marzocco, Franke, Astoria, Rancilio and Fetco brand coffee equipment while working at Stockton Graham & Co. He keeps all of our production equipment operating efficiently, and teaches Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College class on Equipment Cleaning & Maintenance. Brad also has developed, implemented and maintains our associate safety program to ensure a safe, secure workplace.

Brad has worked with Brandon to share roasting knowledge with their roasting peers in the southeast and mid-Atlantic. They also discuss the best practices to further the development and use of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) standards through the Southeast Roasters Cult, Gulf Coast Roasters and Mid-Atlantic Roaster groups.

While working at Stockton Graham & Co., Brad has served as a SCAA Workshop Volunteer (for Gold Cup Certification labs and Brewing & Grinding labs), completed both Beginner and Intermediate SCAA Barista Classes and passed the SCAA Sensory Skills Test. Brad has traveled to coffee farms to learn more about the growing process, and he recently enjoyed a visit to the Selva Negra farm, where he got an in-depth look into the facilities there.

Brandon Riggs, Stockton Graham & Co.’s Roastmaster and Green Coffee Buyer works with Brad the closest. They spend every day artisan roasting Stockton Graham Coffees and hand packaging them for our customers. Brandon has only appreciation and praise for the work Brad does here at Stockton Graham:

“Customers should know that the consistency of their coffee is due to Brad’s attention to detail and passion for great coffee. Brad has helped the company grow so much, and was instrumental with the profile software for all the roasters. He has grown in his cupping knowledge, and his espresso and machine knowledge is invaluable. He also provides tremendous insight into the coffees we purchase and the best profile for roasting them.  Brad is great at what he does and is truly appreciated!”

President and Co-Founder of Stockon Graham & Co. Jeff Vojta, sings Brad’s praises as well:

“It has been an honor and pleasure to be able to work alongside Brad for these past 10 years. I have learned a great deal from him, and we have learned a lot together.  He has been an integral part of the company and he has worked hard to ensure that we roast and package the best coffees for our customers.  He and Brandon have worked very hard to ensure that our coffees are exceptional in taste and quality. Brad is also an instrumental member of our overall good manufacturing processes and compliance programs. He is a true asset to our team.”


For 10 years Brad has done so much for Stockton Graham & Co., our staff and our customers. No one can fully express the appreciation we have for our Head Roaster. Brad’s knowledge and gained experience is essential to good roasting, and his hard work is always appreciated. The whole team would like to congratulate and thank you for 10 years of valuable service, Brad!

Understanding Espresso

espressoWhen Jeff Vojta and his partners started their first coffee shop in 1994, he knew espresso preparation and quality would make or break it. Looking to find the perfect espresso for his customers, he began the art of roasting coffee and exploring creating his own. This was the humble beginnings of what we now call Stockton Graham & Co., and espresso quality is still at the forefront of what we strive to offer our customers.

To better understand the importance of espresso in your shop, let’s discuss what it is. Espresso is a drink made from an process that  quickly extracts the essence of the coffee flavor from the grounds by applying pressure. The ground coffee is pressed with steam through an espresso machine. This machine was created in the twentieth century by Italian inventors experimenting with perfecting coffees made with steam.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), the proper espresso brewing ratio is defined as a shot of espresso (25 – 35 ml) prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee. Since the coffee is brewed so intensely, it only takes 20-30 seconds to get it right. There are many factors that go into good espresso besides the coffee. The machine, the grinder and the barista are the main contributors to perfection.

Some believe espresso beans come from a special “espresso” coffee plant, but this is untrue. The coffees used, in general, for espressos are regular coffee beans. Some single origins don’t make great stand-alone espresso, but when they are blended with others to bring out nuances, you can find success. Our most popular espresso blends are our Midnight Lotus, and Milano. Don’t be mistaken, there are a few single origins finding success as espressos, including our Papua New Guinea.

Our Roastmaster, Brandon Riggs, explains what makes Papua New Guinea single origin work, “The balance of sweet and acidic makes this coffee unique. It is wet processed, which is different for Indonesian coffees and makes for a good quality shot of espresso. As with any espresso, balance is key.”

Espressos are constantly evolving, and here at Stockton Graham & Co. we know our pursuit to have great quality is never ending. Our roasters put a lot of time and energy into continuously perfecting our espresso options, and always evaluate them based on SCAA standards. To get the best out of any espresso, you should strive to brew in accordance to these regulations. Our Basic Barista Certification Program teaches you how to prepare espresso within these specifications so you can serve accurate, consistent espresso shots in any specialty coffee shop.

To succeed in the world of specialty coffee, quality espresso is important. At Stockton Graham & Co., we offer the experience and dedication to assist you in finding the espresso and espresso machines best suited to your needs. To learn more, read our espresso philosphy, browse our espresso options and call 800.835.5943 to discuss more with our Customer Care Associates.

Featured Equipment: Nuova Simonelli Aurelia T3

Earlier this month the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) and the Barista Guild of America hosted the Southeast Regional Barista Championship. The winners qualify to compete in the US Barista Championship and are rewarded for their skill and expertise. Behind the skill of the barista is another factor, the machine.  The official machine for the World Barista Championship (and any of its qualifiers) is the Aurelia T3 from Nuova Simonelli.

Nuova Simonelli is a brand you can trust to construct amazing espresso machines and to push the limits of technology. Looking to achieve higher accuracy in every drink, the T3 has abilities to conquer water temperature variables and give the barista supreme control over every aspect of the drink. The computer system inside the machine maintains the temperature of three key points: the water, group head and steam, to the desired specifications of the barista. “T3” refers to the before mentioned three temperature aspects and that is where the name comes from. The T3 also offers more user-friendly controls in terms of maintenance, requiring less outside assistance to solve any maintenance issues.  Cleaning groups individually is very easy, with button to control the cycles for each one.

The Aurelia series itself was already very impressive before the additional T3 technology.  Cool touch steam wands keep burns from happening during a rush and minimize cleaning time (the milk does not adhere to the wand when it isn’t so hot).  However, the new T3 features are even more impressive. The steam nozzles are better lit, offering the baristas better views on the frothing of their milk, and in general the entire work surface has more lighting to assist the barista in drink preparation.  The Aurelia is also very energy efficient and saves users water, as well.

An impressive machine that is well deserving of the honor of World Barista Championship competition machine, the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia T3 is the future of espresso preparation. Consistent, high quality beverage preparation will be attainable to coffee shops willing to purchase and educate on the Aurelia T3 for their shop.  When the masters of their craft meet at the World Barista Championship in 2013 to duel it out for the title, you can be sure they are grateful to have a spectacular machine to showcase their talent.

If you are interested in learning how you can get this machine for your shop, contact the Stockton Graham & Co. team at 800 835 5943!

Click here to learn more about New Energy-Efficient Espresso Equipment Options.