Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beans in the Green Mountains

My wife and I have been spending a lot of time in Vermont and considering making the state our second home. During our travels, it's been good to see quite a number of Vermont-based roasters. Here are a few I've discovered, in no particular order:
(Note: The day after I originally completed this post, I found an article in Vermont Life Magazine featuring many of these roasters -- and more! The article include a brief summary on the founders of each company.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Small Step for Home Roasting, One Big Step for Taste

I haven't tried every home roasting method available (I haven't yet roasted on a backyard grill or a camp fire or built my own home roaster) but I have tried a number of different roasting methods in my NYC apartment and my favorite roaster continues to be the iRoast. I like this roaster because of it provides a lot of control over the roast. I can input a curve, I can adjust on the fly and I can easily see, hear and smell the beans so I can keep track of their progression. (It's also extremly easy to use, so perhaps I like it because I'm a lazy roaster.)

But the one aspect of the iRoast I've never been happy with is the lack of depth in many of my final roasts. I often get excited over new beans only to taste the roast a day later and find it a little flat. I try different roasting times and curves and I'm not always able to correct the problem.

Lately though I've tried something new and have been pretty successful. I roast the same bean twice, using the same curve but push one of the roasts a little further -- not much, just 30 to 60 seconds more. Then I blend both batches together and voila: I get a deeper, more complex cup. I did this most recently with some Papua New Guinea that I purchased at the Roasting Plant and I've been enjoying the beans all week.

For those not into home roasting this probably sounds really boring. For those who are experienced roasters, this might sound all a bit silly. But for any other amateur roasters out there, I'd be curious to know if you've experimented along these lines.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chicory: Still Just a Coffee Substitute?

Last night the subject of chicory and coffee came up while I was out enjoying drinks with some friends. A New Orleans native brought up Cafe Du Monde, which of course led to the chicory conversation.

I had to admit I knew absolutely nothing about chicory other than Cafe Du Monde's famous coffee blend and chicory's historical use as a coffee substitute -- especially when real coffee was scarce (such as during the Civil War).

So of course, I had to look up chicory today, starting with good ol' Wikipedia. And here, for your reading pleasure are some of the facts that I uncovered:

  • Chicory is the root of the endive plant.
  • The use of chicory in coffee is said to have begun in France where it was first introduced by Napoleon's army.
  • At one time, people believed that the consumption of too much chicory damaged retinal tissue, leading to blurred vision.
  • Chicory is "well known for its toxicity to internal parasites."
  • Sweet Maria's warns that stale roasted chicory is just as bad as stale roasted coffee. If you're going to use it, get the good stuff. And they even offer it on their site.
Outside of Cafe Du Monde, I don't believe I've ever had coffee and chicory. I've certainly never tried blending it with my roasts. Being the purist that I tend to be with my coffee, I've always relegated it to the same category as French Vanilla, Hazelnutt and Snickerdoodle coffee. I'm curious to see if others agree.

If you have any thoughts, insight or opinions on chicory and coffee, please post a comment.