What is the difference between a French roast, Italian Roast, espresso roast, full city roast, American roast, Viennese roast, cinnamon roast, Spanish roast, city roast, half city roast, full roast, full flavor roast, and a European roast?
Coffee snob answer: Each name represents a specific roast degree. Roast degree ,you know, how dark the beans are roasted. (perhaps followed by a duh)
Muggswigz answer : There may be no difference at all. The terms are not standardized and one company's European roast can be another company's American roast, or a French roast from different companies can be a totally different roast degree. Muggswigz uses the simpler (although less romantic) terms very light, light, light-medium, medium-light, medium, medium-dark, dark-medium, dark, and very dark.
Why doesn't Muggswigz Coffee & Tea co. sell any fair-trade coffee?
We do, we just don't attach it to the name. We feel that while the general idea behind these certifications is good, the fees & politics behind many of the certifications make the current system unfair. For example, there are coffee estates that meet certification criteria but cannot afford certification. Much of our coffee happens to meet requirements to be fair-trade and/or certified in another way, but it is not publicized as such because we feel it gives an unfair marketing advantage to the estates that can afford the certification over the estates that cannot, and encourages coffee estates to spend their money on certification fees and annual dues (marketing expenses) instead of using the money to pay their workers more or to produce better coffee. We feel being a socially responsible company is more important than just appearing to be a socially responsible company.
What does fresh-roasted mean?
Coffee snob answer: That the coffee has been roasted recently
Muggswigz answer: That the coffee has been roasted recently, though recently being defined by the company selling the coffee. Muggswigz defines fresh as 10 days or less out of the roaster and labels each bag of coffee with its roast date.
Why is it important that my coffee is fresh-roasted?
Coffee snob answer: Because old coffee tastes like trash
Muggswigz answer: Unfortunately, coffee goes bad. Once coffee is roasted it becomes rapidly perishable. Coffee generally goes bad in two ways
1) Loss of the more volatile enzymatic high notes of the coffee aroma by simple diffusion and binding to degassing CO2
2) Lifelessness and creation of unpleasant flavors due to oxidation. The oils and proteins of the coffee react with an electron donor with an affinity equal to or less then the subject lipids (generally oxygen or sometimes water via hydrolysis) gradually turning the coffee first insipid then rancid. Once oxidation renders many of the oils vapid, the oxidation of linoleic triglyceride is accelerated, changing it from pleasant to unpleasant. Eventually the more saturated lipids in the coffee will succumb to oxidation and give a rancid tinge to the coffee.
Doesn't vacuum packing and nitrogen flushing keep the coffee good longer?
Coffee snob answer: Of course, coffee goes bad because of oxygen. Take away the oxygen and the problem is solved.
Muggswigz answer: Not really, though is does keep the coffee not bad longer. Vacuum packing does not create an actual complete vacuum in the bag, there is still enough oxygen left to turn all the coffee rancid. Nitrogen flushing is vacuum packing, then pumping in gaseous diatomic nitrogen and then vacuuming that out, effectively diluting the remaining oxygen. Unfortunately all the oxygen cannot be removed and thus the coffee will still gradually go stale. Vacuum packing and nitrogen flushing do slow the problem of oxidation and possibly enough to have little effect on taste from oxidation after a month. However, 1) Many professional roasters believe that once the package is opened the coffee undergoes oxidation more rapidly then if not nitrogen flushed, and more importantly 2) neither vacuum packing nor nitrogen flushing effectively slow the loss of the enzymatic flavors (herby, fruity, and floral flavors). In fact, the decreases in atmospheric pressure around the beans involved when vacuum packing and nitrogen flushing actually encourage more of the aromatic volatiles to diffuse out of the bean and to diffuse out more rapidly.
Should I refrigerate or freeze my coffee beans?
Coffee snob answer:At colder temperatures staling slows so you want to keep the coffee as cold as possible
Muggswigz answer: Chemical reactions progress slower the colder it is, so it would make sense to keep coffee in as cold of place as possible. However, after considering some factors, it becomes evident that it may not be best to follow this rule. For starters, keep in mind that coffee is hydrophilic and very good at absorbing flavors so if it is kept in the freezer or refrigerator your cup of coffee will tend to taste like whatever that area of your freezer or refrigerator smells like, which can have some unpleasant results. Also, taking coffee out of a refrigerator or freezer will cause water to condense onto the inside of the container and onto the coffee (remember that water causes coffee lipids to oxidize via hydrolysis). That would happen unless the coffee was kept in an airtight container and every time it was removed from the freezer or refrigerator it was set out at room temperature for long enough for the temperatures inside the bag and outside the bag to equalize (which would take a while). The freezer can be an especially harsh place to store coffee not just because of freezer burn, but also because there is some residual water in roasted coffee (upto 5% by mass) that can expand and cause little fractures in the bean so that when the coffee is taken out of the freezer it goes stale faster. We recommend you keep it in the package it comes in placed in a cool dry place.
How is coffee decaffeinated?
Coffee snob answer: It's too complex for me to explain to you right now.
Muggswigz answer: There are three main decaffeination processes: the European Process (EP), the Natural Processes (NP), and the Swiss Water Process (SWP). The first two are quite simple and account for the vast majority of decaf coffee. In the European process, the unroasted green beans are steamed and then washed with methylene chloride, rinsed and dried. The methylene chloride removes most of the caffeine and some of the other flavor compounds. The same process using ethyl acetate is sometimes referred to as a "Natural Process" because ethyl acetate can be acquired from some fruits and is thus "natural". Other Natural processes are the CO2 method and the Sparkling Water Process. In the CO2 method, the beans are soaked in highly compressed carbon dioxide, removing the caffeine. The CO2 is then passed through activated carbon filters which remove the caffeine from the CO2. The sparkling water process is similar, but instead of using carbon filters to remove the caffeine from the CO2, the CO2 is washed free of caffeine with water in a separate tank. The Swiss water process is a little more difficult to understand. Beans are soaked in hot water to remove all compounds in the coffee. These beans (which are little more than cellulose walls) are discarded. The flavor-charged water is then passed through activated carbon filters to remove the caffeine, then a new batch of green beans are soaked in this caffeineless flavor-charged water. Because all the compounds in the bean except caffeine are in equilibrium with the caffeineless flavor-charged water, there is no concentration difference and they stay in the bean. For the caffeine, however, there is a concentration difference, and thus (to achieve equilibrium) the caffeine diffuses out of the bean into the water. The beans have thus been decaffeinated. Consumers generally consider SWP coffee the highest quality decaf.
What water should I use to brew coffee?
Coffee snob answer: Use only distilled water or still Perrier®
Muggswigz answer: If your water is contaminated with any organic compounds or is not pleasant to drink, don't brew coffee with it. If you have unpleasant water, either filter it, use spring water, or save yourself some money and use cheap coffee. To achieve the optimum cup of coffee, these are the water characteristics we believe you need:
1. The water should not be contaminated with any organic compounds (organisms, pesticides, etc.), copper, or lead. This safety guideline is for any water you drink.
2. Don't use soft water; the water should contain less than 10ppm of sodium. If all the water in your home is softened, you might want to try the water from your outdoor hose hookup.
3. Don't use water that is too hard. Water that is too hard tends to mute acidity (brightness). This can somewhat be compensated for by using more acidic coffee beans eg. Kenya AA. Water with 20ppm (parts per million) to 120ppm of calcium is good. Calcium is essential for good extraction.
4. The water should be clear. This normally is not a problem, but if it is, running the water through about any type of filter should remove such impurities.
5. The water should have no chlorine. Water in some larger cities has a noticeable chlorine taste. So, unless you have a well that you chlorinate, you shouldn't have to worry about it. If you do have a chlorine taste, boiling the water for a while, letting it sit out for a couple days, or running it through a reverse osmosis system or activated carbon filters should solve, or at least mitigate, the problem.
6. Iron and manganese should be less than 0.02ppm. These contaminants don't pose a health risk, but too high a concentration of either can taste unpleasant. For most people, 0.3ppm of iron and 0.05ppm of manganese in water is objectionable.
7. Use water with a neutral pH. Between pH 6.8 and pH 7.3 is acceptable.
8. The water should be well oxygenated. Water with little dissolved oxygen results in a flat tasting cup. If using bottled water, it's a good idea to incorporate oxygen by vigorously shaking your water before brewing. If you manually heat your water (ie. don't use autodrip machine) then take care not to over boil the water because as the water boils, it releases its dissolved oxygen.
9. The water should have total dissolved solids (TDS) of 150ppm ideally, 60 to 250 is good, any higher and there may be some loss in flavor. A TDS meter is needed to determine the TDS of water.
The most common, easiest solved, and quite critical issues we find are that people are using their regular soft water, or using distilled water. Switching from soft water to hard water for brewing coffee makes a very noticeable improvement; and while using distilled water is very benevolent, its logic is misguided as can be discerned from the above guidelines. We will test your water to determine what, if any, changes are needed before using our coffee, because if you have great beans, but horrible water, you are wasting the beans, if you have great water and bad beans you are wasting your water, and either way you are wasting your time.
Why won't Muggswigz sell their coffee to me pre-ground?
Coffee snob answer: Because they are coffee snobs.
Muggswigz answer: To appreciate our coffee it is necessary that the coffee is ground immediately before brewing. When coffee is ground, its surface area to volume ratio increases dramatically, thus increasing the rate of staling. Ground coffee can go stale in minutes because of this dramatic increase in surface area.
Why should I heed what Muggswigz says over what my current coffee guy says? Coffee snob answer: They have received the Golden Cup Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America, their employees are judges and competitors in the SCAA barista competitions, and they have several of the highest ranked baristas in Ohio and the have earned the highest score of any Ohio coffee company on Kenneth Davids Coffee Review.
Muggswigz answer: Proof is in the cup.