Welcome to AJ’s Certified Organic and Fairly Traded Coffee 101!
As we may have mentioned before, we take our beans seriously. So seriously that we’re willing to travel to the ends of the earth for the best certified organic and fairly traded beans anywhere so we can roast them to perfection. This really translates into the best coffee on earth to fuel your adventures.
We asked ourselves, what good is the best raw material in the world if you don’t know what to do with it? So, we’ve compiled these lessons and tidbits about the sources, certifications, history, qualifications and process of great coffee, passed down to us from some of the grand master baristas and coffee-lorists of our time.
We take pride in our beans, our roasting process, our coffees and our products and hope you will, too. There’s a lot here, so take your time…
- Lesson 1- Roasting
- Lesson 2 – Choosing Your Beans
- Lesson 3 – Know Your Origins
- Lesson 4 – The Journey
- Lesson 5 – Certifications
- Lesson 6 – 2% for People and the Environment
- Lesson 7 – Whole Bean vs. Ground
- Lesson 8 – Grinding
- Lesson 9 – A Word on Decaf
- Lesson 10 – Make Coffee
- Lesson 11 – Tips and Ideas
Lesson 1 TOP
If you don’t have a super high quality bean, there is no amount of roasting it that will produce a high quality cup of coffee. This is why we go to the remote, far corners of the planet in search of amazing beans with fabulous taste and aromatic characteristics. We scour remote tropical highlands, visit small coffee farms and throw in a crazy amount of trekking, whitewater kayaking and fly fishing just because it’s the right thing to do!
But yes, the roasting is definitely vital. The art of roasting is all about roasting the beans just right to bring out the unique characteristics of the bean to realize it’s flavor and aroma potential.
We use the latest and most advanced Loring Smart Roast technology to precision roast our beans to perfection in small batches. This computer-controlled roaster is a closed air system that is not only 80% more fuel efficient, but creates 80% fewer emissions. This is the most environmentally sensitive roasting technology available and allows our roast master maximum control over the roasting with very little variance between batches. This results in the highest level of consistency and a clean, smooth cup of Adventurous Joe Coffee.
CHOOSING THE BEANS
How do we evaluate the quality of a coffee bean?
In most cases, we have direct relationships with the small farms from which we purchase coffee. Our green coffee buyer visits the farms and chooses the coffees that interest us. We sample roast the beans to best bring out their unique characteristics and “cup” them to identify the unique qualities of the bean. In the cupping process, for each roasting of a coffee bean we try, we put out five sampling cups. By evaluating five different samples of the same coffee, we have a good opportunity to detect the qualities we like as well as any inconsistencies that could affect the quality of the brewed cup. First, using a whole bean measure, we grind the beans and put equal portions in each of the five cups. Then with purpose, we take in the dry aroma of each. Then we slowly and deliberately add water, taking in the aromas again. Once the water is poured, we allow the coffee to steep and a crust of grounds and foam forms at the surface. Taking a spoon, we “break the crust” and again, take in the aromas. Then we take spoons and skim the surface of each cup to clear away the foam so we can slurp small spoonfuls. Yes, it’s slurping vigorously from a spoon instead of drinking the coffee. By slurping, we spray a small amount of coffee throughout the mouth to allow for a total sensory experience to occur. During every phase of the cupping process, strict attention is given to each cup to detect any inconsistencies and to fully appreciate and identify the unique characteristics of the bean. We assess each bean’s:
– Body or sense of heaviness or richness
– Acidity or sharpness, snap and liveliness
– Aroma or the pleasing fruity or herby or floral smell sensation in freshly brewed coffee
The cupping process provides the overall impression of the coffee’s body, acidity and aroma, taste balance and tactile balance. Cupping is also used to convey specific tastes brought to mind by the coffee such as, nutty, spicy, musty, or notes of fruits or chocolate. This process lets the bean to speak to us enabling us to identify beans that are truly amazing and thus, a good fit for Adventurous Joe!
Single Origin Coffees
As we said before, we believe the bean is paramount. Single Origin Coffees are made from beans that come from a specific cooperative or farm. These coffees have distinct characteristics that reflect the attributes of their origin.
For example, Latin American coffees, like our Costa Rican, tend to have bright, crisp mouth-feel, are moderate to high in acidity, often have a characteristic tartness, and in some, a prominent chocolate, nutty flavor. And, like wine or whiskey or Southern drawls, we find that it’s best to let the natural beauty of the environment come through. Blends are coffees of different origins, or different roasts, blended together to create a brew that is a fusion of characteristics from different origins to create a unique taste and aroma like our Tropical Harmony Blend.
Our Coffee Bean Sources
PERUVIAN :: Cooperative La Florida
Grown on the terraced slopes of the rugged Andes Mountains, the former seat of the ancient Inca. In addition to being fierce warriors, the Inca were excellent astronomers with a keen understanding of the seasons and of the movements of celestial bodies, and they were highly skilled stone workers whose monuments rival the pyramids of Egypt. Most notably, the Inca worshiped nature, which is understandable given the breathtaking beauty of their home in the clouds. Today, descendents of the Inca grow delicious coffees on the same terraced slopes built by their gifted stonemason ancestors. Cooperative La Florida was established in 1966 starting with only 50 members and October of 2009 marked its 43rd Anniversary. This Strictly Hard Bean Arabica coffee is grown between 4800ft and 6000ft, and harvested from May to August. La Florida works to improve the community in many ways. They support local schools by providing pencils, erasers, notebooks and other items. The Cooperative also owns their own tractor and a truck, allowing them to maintain the roads, making sure they are in good condition, making it easier for members to transport coffee with access from their community into town. Credi La Florida was established in 2002 with $320,000, allowing for small loans to members. Currently more than 1,300 producers use this micro-credit program. Their long term goal is to be able to offer small loans to other organizations with low interest rates. Within the Cooperative, CETPROP, is an organization for the members’ families. They currently have a few programs for the kids, including a program on organic agriculture and another on agronomy. The idea is to promote leadership and creativity so students can return to their communities and apply what they’ve learned. 70% of La Florida’s employees are members or member’s sons and daughters. The other 30% that are non-members have quickly become part of the La Florida family! The coffee comes from the slopes of the Andes Mountains in Central Peru. Inga and native forestall trees provide shade. Harvest is April to September.
COSTA RICAN :: Las Lajas Estate La Mirella
Mill: Las Lajas
Producers: Francisca and Oscar (husband and wife)
Altitude: 1280 masl-1450/1500 masl
Region: Sabanilla de Alajuela in the Central Valley
Growing area: 50 hectares
Drying process: Sundried in patio or in beds
Milling process: Natural, honey, semi-honey, fully washed
Varietals: Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Villa Sarchi
Family run Lajas farms have been producing coffee for three generations. Since the beginning, the family has placed an emphasis on sustainable/best farming practices keeping in mind the importance of the health of the individuals working the land in addition to the health of the land itself and all of the creatures inhabiting it.
The family began planting their coffee trees among other plants and trees during the 1980´s to promot the co-existence of the various plants, insects, and other wildlife living in the area. Their farms officially bécame organic between 2000 and 2001.
In 2005 the family began milling their own coffee to have greater control over the processing and overall quality of their coffee in addition to having a greater role in the sales of their own coffee.
Costa Rica Las Lajas: Sweet caramel-like aromas. Tangerine and lemon drop flavors mingle with notes of milk chocolate and burnt sugar. All nicely balanced on a syrupy body and marzipan finish.
Certifications include: USDA Organic
GUATEMALAN :: Finca Ceylan Anexos
Guatemala is one of the most advanced coffee growing countries in the world. ANACAFE, the government coffee authority, has lead the world in defining and encouraging every aspect of how to grow and process great tasting coffee. ANACAFE has identified eight unique coffee growing regions that have distinct micro-climates and flavor profiles. Each of the eight regions has a unique personality forged from the combination of distinct natural and human elements. Varied micro-climates, volcanic soils, consistent rainfall patterns and high altitudes predestine Guatemala for growing seriously great coffee. Over 270,000 hectares of coffee are planted in Guatemala with 98% of all coffee shade grown and 98% high grown washed Arabica species.
Since 1870, Finca Ceylan y Anexos has been a property of the Echeverria Family producing and processing coffee. Originally the farm name was Finca Ceylan y Colima and later other farms became part of it and the name was changed to Ceylan & Anexos. The farm hires mostly local labour, generating jobs for people in town. Banana trees were originally planted as shade trees for the coffee and then became an important alternative crop for the farm.
The farm maintains the river basin and the natural vegetation that grows nearby. The farm has various water sources which been protected. Hunting and fishing are prohibited to conserve natural flora and fauna. The coffee residues for the wet mill are used as organic fertilizer in the coffee plantation, creating a self sufficient system. The farm has a natural forest which has been protected to conserve the different species of trees, plants, and animals in that ecosystem.
Finca Ceylan has contributed to the community by building houses, suppling drinkable water and educating its employees and children.
Mild, bright coffee, roasted to a medium level (unless otherwise requested). Grown at an elevation of 4,000 ft., the coffee varieties from this estate include Typica, Geisha, Maragogype, and Excelsa.
The estate is a true testament to biodiversity: from the river basin to the high mountainous elevations, the Echiverria family has preserved the local vegetation alongside exotic crops of cardamom, bananas, macademia nuts, and, of course, coffee since 1870.
Certifications include Organic and Bird-Friendly.
ETHIOPIAN, Sidamo :: Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union
Known historically as Abyssinia, Ethiopia is hailed as the birthplace of coffee and is filled with rich coffee traditions including the coffee ceremony and the old-style natural, or dry process – where the coffee cherries are picked ripe and allowed to dry in the sun on raised beds. Coffee still grows wild here as it has since before the existence of man. First widely used by monks who needed to keep themselves awake during night long religious ceremonies. This is one of the few places in the world where the people consume almost as much coffee as they export. Families roast their coffee every morning and grind it fresh, followed by triple heat steeping. In some areas the people eat the raw fruit; in others they prepare a drink by boiling the skin and the lightly roasted pulp. Some turn it into porridge. Some a tea from the leaves and some use the leaves and beans for various medicinal purposes. Ethiopia has more than 1.2 million coffee growers and approximately 15 million households dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. Coffee accounts for more than half of Ethiopia’s export earnings. Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union is the largest Fair Trade coffee producer in Ethiopia. Oromia was founded in 1999 when members of 35 small Ethiopian cooperatives came together with the goal of exporting their coffee directly to the specialty market. Oromia’s Highland Coffee is grown by indigenous farmers of the southwestern rainforest of Ethiopia. Cooperative members use revenue from Fair Trade for the following initiatives: Members have purchased washing stations, and Oromia has developed a fund for the repair of de-pulping machines to safeguard the organization’s capacity to produce high quality, washed Arabica coffee. Members have lessened their dependence on imported food by intercropping coffee plants with citrus and bananas. Members have demonstrated a commitment to organic production and the cooperative provides technical assistance to its members, including workshops on composting the by-products of coffee production and utilizing shade trees and natural fertilizers to enrich the soil. Many regard Ethiopia’s large water resources and potential as its “white oil” and its coffee resources as “black gold”. Varietal: Heirloom Indigenous Ethiopian. Tasting notes: Floral, dark berries, sweet, milk chocolate, full body.
Certifications include Organic and Fair Trade.
HONDURAN :: Marcala
In the year 2000, 62 farmers joined together for the purpose of transforming their farms from conventional to organic production and formed COMSA (Caf Organico Marcala, S.A). In 2001, fostered by a foundation called Funder, COMSA achieved their organic certification from Bio Latina which has enabled them to earn higher prices by marketing their coffee to international buyers. In February 2006 COMSA then applied for and was granted Fair Trade certification status. COMSA uses the Fair Trade premium to benefit many social projects including paying teachers’ salaries and buying school supplies. It also finances the construction of kitchens in schools in order to help them in the program called Merienda Escolar that provides meals for children at school.
The coffee region of Marcala is located in the department of La Paz with optimal ecological conditions for the production of fine coffees. Coffee is processed using the washed method followed by both sun and mechanical drying. At 4250 – 5575 feet above sea level, 30% are Boubon and Tipica trees 60% are Catui and the balance are Caturra and Pacas varieties. Taste notes include brightness, citrus and chocolate.
Certifications include Organic and Fair Trade
COLUMBIAN :: Valle De Cauca
Finca Potosi, proud producer of the Organic Colombian Valle de Cauca Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, is located in the municipality of Caidedonia in the Valle De Cauca Department.The farm is owned by the Herrera family which has been producing coffee for the past 40 years, ever since the patriarch of the Herrera family moved to the area.The Valle de Cauca region, also known as the Pacific Door of Colombia, is located in the western half of Colombia. It is well known for its beauty and is one of the country’s most important regions due to its abundance of natural resources. Perfect weather, the right altitude, family dedication and hard work are the ingredients for producing a coffee that exhibits sweet cherry flavor with milk chocolate notes, good balance and great aroma.
Certifications include Organic and Rainforest Alliance.
Lesson 4 TOP
Our coffees are purchased either from farm cooperatives in the coffee growing regions or directly from the small farms where they are grown. Bagged beans are exported to the U.S. and then trucked overland to our roasterie here in Maine.
We then micro-roast small batches to our specific flavor profiles so the beans are fresh when they ship to you and to ensure the best taste and consistency. We prefer our environmentally-friendly precision Loring Smart Roast method to drum roasting so we can avoid scorching the beans and provide consistency between batches.
We want you to know where your coffee comes from and about its journey. We also want you to know that the farmers, communities and environments from which your coffee comes directly benefit from our purchasing Certified Organic and Fair Trade coffees and by our giving-back program, 2% for People & the Environment.
The Responsible Coffee-Drinker’s Field Guide to Certifications and Conservation
We only get to use one planet. So we don’t want to degrade it or use it up, rendering it useless for future generations. From purchasing sustainably produced green coffee beans to sustainably roasting our coffee, at AJC we do everything we can in the business and in our personal lives to lessen our footprint and our impact on the environment.
Third Party Certification
This guarantees that the product is authentic and that best practices are actually being practiced. As people who care about our health, the environment, communities that grow what we use and about doing the right thing, we all need to know what we are purchasing. Our coffees are always certified and often possess more than one certification including, but not limited to Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown and Bird Friendly or Rainforest Alliance
Fair Trade…means that small farmers are treated fairly and get paid fair price for their coffee through cooperatives and no middleman is exploiting the farmers who grow the beans.
Organic…means that no chemicals or fertilizers are used in the production of the coffee. No bad stuff for you. It takes a non-organic coffee farm about three years to become certified organic. During the transitional period, only organic practices are in play.
Shade Grown and Bird-friendly…means that the coffee plants share ground with larger plants and trees that provide shade and also habitat for birds that eat insects harmful to coffee plants. It is a biodiversity strategy for eliminating the need for pesticides to grow coffee. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMGC) certifies this practice. North American songbirds migrate to Central and South America. The destruction of rainforests for industrial coffee plantations has had a direct impact on songbird populations. This certification demonstrates sustainable practices for maintaining forested bird habitat on coffee farms.
Rainforest Alliance…supports coffee farms that are forested and are maintained as refuges for wildlife and for growing coffee.
2 Percent for People and the Environment
In addition to purchasing Certified Fair Trade and Organic coffees, we are committed to promoting sustainable practices by giving back 2% of coffee profits to regions and communities where our coffee originates. This supports the sustainability of indigenous cultures, their economies and the environment in coffee growing regions and gives back to the communities and people that make the AJC business possible.
Whole Bean vs. Ground
We need to address a couple of purely practical matters
First, A Note About Storing Your Coffee: DO NOT FREEZE OR REFRIGERATE COFFEE. Condensation occurs and can make the beans stale. Properly storing your beans in an airtight container and in a dark, cool, dry place protected from light will preserve your coffee’s taste longer. Store your coffee as whole bean versus ground to preserve freshness.
Whole Bean Coffee is your best bet for ensuring the freshest tasting coffee. If you wait until just before brewing to grind your beans, you will unlock the most robust flavors and aromas and make the best possible cup of Joe. The longer the time between grinding and brewing, the more of your coffee’s character is lost. No one wants “unfresh” coffee. We recognize that some of AJ’s coffee lovers enjoy the convenience of ground coffee, so we gladly provide it. And we grind to order, so that your coffee is as fresh as it can be when you get it from us!
Do you own a grinder? Grinders are pretty darn awesome and you should have one.
Do yourself a favor and get a good coffee grinder. Make sure to use a burr grinder and not a blade grinder. Burr grinders ensure that the grounds are the same size for exactly the same extraction. Blade grinders can not only scorch your coffee from the friction of the rotating blade, but they hack the coffee beans into various shapes and sizes, causing under-extraction of the larger particles and over-extraction of the smaller ones. This can make for a more bitter and consistently inconsistent brew. AJ has a great burr grinder in the Store!
Grinding your beans just before brewing gives you the freshest possible coffee and releases all of the aroma and flavor attributes of your coffee. Ground coffee loses these attributes fairly quickly. The longer the time between grinding and brewing, the more of your bean’s essence is lost. Getting the grind right for the type of brewing you will be doing is important. Fine for espresso, medium for drip and coarse for French press.
A Word on Decaf
Decaffeinated Coffee – Royal Select Water Process
Only a small percentage of decaf coffees use this process. Most decaf uses a chemical bath to remove the caffeine. Would you knowingly really want to do this? The water process is 100% natural and uses no chemicals. The Royal Select Water Process extracts the caffeine from green coffee beans by first immersing them in filtered water. The water is passed through charcoal filters to separate the caffeine from the water. This water possesses the soluble flavor compounds of the coffee. These compounds are reintroduced to the beans in the immersing tank. The beans reabsorb the filtered water containing the coffee’s original flavors. This results in coffee that is 100% chemical free and 99.9% caffeine free. This process leaves the coffee’s flavors intact and removes caffeine from the coffee bean without the use of harmful chemicals. The Royal Select Water Process is approved by the USDA National Organic Program to decaffeinate our Organic/Fair Trade Certified coffees.
So…Now you’ve got it, what should you do with it, right? We know that if you’ve ordered or bought a bag of Adventurous Joe Coffee, you probably know how to make a reasonably good cup of joe. But this isn’t about that. This is about making a truly EPIC cup of coffee, every time. This is about making sure that the distinctive character of the beans now in your possession really comes through and you get some sense of the amazingly incredible places they come from and…really… Why be Average Joe when you can be Adventurous Joe?! An ordinary cup of coffee is easy to come by. But a truly amazing cup takes just a bit of education and understanding and no more time to make.
Here are Tips on making amazing coffee
– We generally prefer the pour-over method. For some coffees we prefer the French Press method resulting in a thick body, rich and intense flavor. But with some more delicate coffees, we prefer the pour-over method. No matter what brewing method you use, you can make an amazing cup of coffee by following these basic principles.
The Coffee and Water
– Use Good Water! Coffee is 1.5% and water is 98.5% of a cup of Joe
– Make sure the coffee is fresh and the water pure and without it’s own taste. We recommend cold, filtered spring or tap water.
– We recommend 1 standard coffee measure, or 2 generous tablespoons of freshly ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water. Or, 16 grams for 8 ounces of water. Modify as you please but don’t be afraid to go big!
– Water should be hot but not boiling at 195 to 205 degrees F is recommended, or about about 200 degrees F. Too cool and you under extract, making a weak cup and not realizing the potential of your coffee. Too hot and you will over extract resulting in a bitter taste. We recommend exposing your coffee to hot water for between 4 and 6 minutes for best results.
Makers :: How To Choose the Right Maker & Gear
i. Automatic Coffee Makers for home or office utilize a filter and drip method and are consistent for measuring water and coffee and easy to adjust quantities of brewed coffee as desired. AJ has a terrific Automatic Coffee Maker in the Store! Use a Medium Grind.
ii. K-Cup Machines for making one cup at a time at home or office: If you have one, switch to My K-Cups or the EcoBrew that AJ sells in the Store! We recommend getting the mesh filter that allows you to use freshly ground coffee instead of the pre-packaged K-Cups. This ensures the freshest Adventurous Joe Coffee and eliminates the phenomenal amount of waste created by the disposable K-Cups and saves you a ton of money. Do the math. Last time we looked, buying and using K-Cups has you paying over $29.00 per pound for coffee! Do the right thing and go with the reusable mesh filter if you’re going with a K-Cup Maker. It’s better for the planet and it’s better for your wallet! Use a Medium Grind.
iii. Percolators often used for camping are coffee pots with a clear percolator bubble at the top and a freestanding basket inside for coffee grounds. But there are better methods! Percolators recycle boiling brewed coffee back through the grounds repeatedly to create an over-extracted more bitter brew. But if it’s what you’ve got, here’s what to do… Fill the pot with the desired amount of water and the grounds basket with the desired amount of coffee. Heat the pot until you see water and coffee bubbling up in the clear percolator bubble. Keep percolating for approximately 6 minutes. The color of liquid you see in the bubble should become increasingly dark throughout the process. Use a coarser grind.
iv. Presses for camping or at home are fun and the clear cylinders allow you to watch the coffee interaction with the water and the filtering out of the grounds as you plunge the plunger at the end of the brewing process. We have a variety of these for home and camping in AJ’s Store! Coffee grounds are put in the press and then the hot water is mixed with the grounds. After the appropriate brewing time, 4 to 6 minutes, the plunger pushes the grounds to the bottom of the cylinder removing the grounds from the coffee so the coffee can be poured. Use a coarser grind. This method is one of our favorites because it makes great coffee and there are presses designed for the outdoors. Check out a demo of our favorite, the Aero Press watch?v=ZskwLFKEWT8&feature=youtu.be
v. Manual Drip/Pour-Over Method is favored by many baristas as it provides the most control over the brewing process. Cone-, or square-shaped filters are placed above the coffee vessel, whether a single cup or carafe. Hot water is poured over the grounds that have been put in the filter. Just a bit of water at first is poured, to allow the coffee grounds to “bloom.” Then the balance of the water is slowly poured over the grounds and is allowed to drip into the vessel below. This is a truly pleasant ritual. We have a variety of these available in AJ’s Store! Use a medium grind.
vi. Espresso Makers and Cappuccino Makers utilize much more coffee and less water, 20 grams of coffee to 2 ounces of water, to make for a more concentrated, intense, thicker brew. You are essentially making an extract that is as much fun as it is intense. Cappuccino Makers allow the addition of frothed, steamed milk to make for a truly decadent beverage. For espresso and cappuccino anywhere, yes, ANYWHERE!, use an AeroPress. AeroPress is a lightweight, tubular press that uses forced air to push the hot water through the grounds. Available in AJ’s Store! Unlike a French press, your espresso is no longer in contact with the grounds when the process is completed. Use the lightweight, battery-operated AeroLatte to froth milk for cappuccinos anywhere! Use a fine grind.
vii. Cowboy Coffee-Yes, cowboy coffee. This is a customary method used by cowboys and outfitters on the trail or riverbank over a campfire. A large coffee pot or percolator pot with no basket for the grounds is used. AJ has a Blue Enamel pot in the Store that is terrific! Fill with water and heat until nearly boiling. Then add the desired quantity of coffee grounds into the water. Keep the water just below boiling for 6 minutes and drop in one broken egg, including shell and let sit for a couple of minutes. The egg will consolidate the grounds at the bottom of the pot. Add in just a little cold water to sink the egg to the bottom. Now you can pour and enjoy! Flossing may be required. Use a medium grind.
viii. A Word on Filters-Non-reactive metal filters made of gold mesh or stainless steel need to be kept very clean and are better for the environment and make the best brew. Paper filters work well but may inadvertently add unwanted flavors to your coffee and even filter out some of the flavor. Some brown filters are very guilty of this. On wilderness trips, some outfitters use cloth [organic muslin] drip filters rather than the paper type. This way they just rinse out the filters thoroughly and reuse them, eliminating the waste and need to transport used paper filters throughout a whole trip.
What To Do With Your Grounds
Not everyone has vegetable and flower gardens. But if you do, consider this…Coffee and coffee by-products are useful. You can add coffee grounds to soils around plants before watering or rain for a slow release of nitrogen into the soil. If your pH is off balance and your soils are alkaline, coffee grounds will help. Adding to compost increases nitrogen content and your filters will breakdown in compost, too. You can mix your compost into houseplant soils and flower and vegetable gardens as a fertilizer. Used coffee grounds are said to repel snails and slugs as well as adding nutrients to the soil.