January 24, 2013

Coffee's Win is Soda's Loss


The Atlantic has a short article that talks about coffee's popularity. Let me break it down for you.

Coffee as a category of drinks is up 50% in the last ten years, while the value of soda sold is down 40%. It's not necessarily the volume of coffee drunk, but the value…. yes, with 14-19 year olds more likely to claim to have had a coffee daily, and the fact that the coffee is espresso based, the cost of that cup adds up.

With coffee bean prices up, consumers are paying more all over the place, while also trading up from a cup o' Joe to en espresso.

ReadMore at the Atlantic

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January 21, 2013

Coffee Rust Fungus Affects Central America

The cost of coffee could be headed up in the near future for higher quality beans as up to 30% of Central American coffee is affected by a coffee fungus. The Rust Fungus (Hemileia vastratrix) infects the leaves of the coffee tree. The infection drops coffee harvest amounts and has been reported in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The effect can ultimately devastate the producers who may have small farms, that if infected could bankrupt them with only one or two years of low production.

The fungus is spread by physical contact as well as wind and rain.


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January 1, 2013

Resolution: 5 Ways to Learn More About Coffee

There are tons of resolutions out there; most made to be broken. One that might stand a better chance is to learn more about coffee, its origins, roasting techniques and how to be a better brewer.

Your odds of keeping this resolution are probably better than let's say losing those twenty pounds….

Here are a few ideas to kickstart the process:

  1. Learn how to cup coffee - cupping is easy, and fun, we've written about the flavor wheel, and if you have a high quality coffee roaster/cafe near you they might even help you learn. We've been to cupping sessions at Gimme Coffee (Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine), where they walk you through the process. If you are a regular at a local coffee shop, they might run a session just for you and a few friends for some kind of consideration.
  2. Read About Coffee - might sound boring, but learning the differences between Robusta, and Arabica is important to understand how to get a great cup of coffee, and why Robusta isn't all bad. You might start with a book like: Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee, or simply a magazine like Roast, an industry zine that talks to roasters and conneseurs alike. They have a few articles available each issue for free at the Roast Magazine website
  3. Find a locally Roasted Coffee - a lot of people are happy to drink pre-packaged coffee from the grocery store, or pre-dosed single serve capsules fro single serve brewers, but tasting locally roasted coffees hours or days after roasting is a vastly different experience. Buy a couple of roasts that are of different origin, brew them up and look for the differences. Learn what you like, and what you don't. If the coffee is really fresh, drink it over a week's time and notice how it changes. We have a local roaster who sells at our local farmer's market. Not always my favorite type of coffee, but always fresh and amazing to taste.
  4. Buy Cup of Excellence Coffee - Cup of Excellence is a program to recognize, and auction off some of the best coffees grown in the world. Several roasters sell these highly regarded coffees, and pay dearly for the micro-lots that are truly some of the best in the world. Search the CoE directory for a Roaster, read up on their available coffee and mail order it.
  5. Brew in a new way - Not all of us can buy a new Marzocco espresso maker, but trying a new brew method might just help you learn more about how the brew method changes the coffee flavor. There is a french press, a pour over cone(not only plain cones, but something like a Chemex Drip Coffee Carafe , a pour over cone with a steep time (Clever Coffee Dripper), Espresso (of course), electric or stove-top percolator (yes, this is worth trying to experience the body that develops in this brew method), a Moka Pot espresso type. or even an Ibrik/Turkish Coffee Pot. Lots of methods, each with its own flavor appeal, and a way to appreciate the art of the brew just a little more.

Happy New Year.

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September 26, 2012

Starbucks Verismo Pods vs. Competition

UPDATE: Posted my Full Review of the Starbucks Verismo 580 Brewer

A lot of readers have been asking about the size of the new Starbucks Verismo pods and how they compare to other various pods on the market. Size matters, especially when you are storing a bunch of these in the cabinet. Remember, these pods, capsules, and cups can only be used in its own machine. You can't use a Verismo in a Nespresso, nor a nespresso in a CBTL. Dolce Gusto looks big, but it won't work in a K-Cup machine. You get it…...

Starbucks Verismo vs. Nespresso, vs. K-Cup, vs Nescafe Dolce Gusto vs. CBTL

As you can see from the picture, the Verismo pod is a little bigger than a CBTL and a little smaller than a Dolce Gusto pod. It looks like the classic K-Cup has a lot more room in it for coffee and filtering. The smallest is definitely the Nespresso capsule that is packed with coffee, and doesn't need to leave room for any other type of mixing/brewing, like tea, milk or hot chocolate.

One of our readers commented that it was most like the CBTL capsule; without actually seeing it in person, I thought it was more like the Dolce Gusto….. wow, was I wrong. The CBTL and the Starbucks Verismo capsules are very similar, and the Dolce Gusto looks gargantuan in comparison. Left to right below are: K-Cup, Dolce Gusto, Starbucks Verismo, CBTL, and Nespresso Capsules.

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September 22, 2012

Starbucks Verismo Coffee and Espresso Pod Varieties


The new Starbucks Verismo has hit the market, and several readers have asked about the varieties available for the new machine line. With the ability to make your own Latte, as well as espresso and coffee, interest is high. While Starbucks has talked about its pressure brewed espresso quite a bit, they are also positioning it as a machine that can create light and lively coffee in a variety of sizes.

Pods for Starbucks Verismo are available in:

  • Caffe Latte - with eight espresso and eight milk pods - $12.95
  • Decaf Latte -with eight decaffeinated espresso and eight milk pods - $12.95
  • Espresso Roast - 12 pods - $11.95
  • Decaf Espresso Pods - 12 pods - $11.95
  • Cafe Verona Brewed Coffee - 12 pods - $11.95
  • House Blend - 12 Pods - $11.95
  • Pike Place - 12 Pods - $11.95
  • Guatemala Antigua - 12 pods - $11.95
  • Veranda Blend  - 12 pods - $11.95
  • Milk Pods - 12 pods - $9.95

With the addition of the milk pods option, a Latte lover can select their own coffee blend and get a little savings by adding a box of milk pods to the batch. At over $1.50 a latte, the pre-boxed Caffe Late option is a little more expensive compared to at-home brewing using your own milk and an espresso shot from something like a Nespresso Lattissima+ ($0.65 for the espresso capsule and about $0.25 for the milk). Compared to stopping in the shop for one, it's cheap.

UPDATE: Check out our Unboxing and First Brew post on the new Verismo 580 Brewer.

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August 23, 2012

Euro Crisis Affecting Coffee Prices


According to the WSJ, the European economic crisis is killing a rich coffee tradition for some in Europe, especially the coffee drenched southern countries. With the economies of Spain and Italy falling off the cliff, spending on coffee is plummeting too, as habits change, and trips to the cafe multiple times a day disappear in an effort to save Euros.

The belt tightening is also having an effect on the coffee markets, as Europe is developing a taste for cheaper coffee blend that include more Robusta, the cheaper cousin of the Arabica variety. Prices have dropped this year for the more expensive Arabica, while stockpiles of Robusta have fallen and prices have climbed.

What's this mean for European single serve espresso machines? It might mean a shift to home made espresso, and a resurgence of the popular brands as people shift to cheaper home-sourced espressos versus the expensive cafes. It might also mean a colossal shift to make your own in the good old Moka style pot for a few pennies versus a few Euros at the cafe.

What's that mean for the US? If the trend continues, expect lower priced coffee in our Main Street cafes as Arabicas continue to slide in price, if they didn't buy ahead with contracts pegged to higher expected prices. Don't expect deep discounts though; those hard fought price increases of the past are hard to give up again once you are pocketing the difference. And if they do come, don't expect huge changes; the price of Arabica is only down 20%, and that is only a tiny fraction of the cost of your Latté.

Pictured - Coffee Bean Charm

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August 15, 2012

Rivo Espresso Machine - the New Kid on the block?


Word is out that Keurig owner, Green Mountain Coffee has trademarked the name "Rivo" - it means stream in Italian. While the world has embraced their K-Cups, the patent expiration is sure to bring a lot of competition to the market. Not content, Keurig brought out the Keurig Vue, a new maker, with new "V-cups" that allow you to compost the grounds and recycle the cup itself. The lack of "Green-ness" has been a call of detractors for a long time.

Rivo Espresso would Join a Crowded Market

Green Mountain is said to be working with famed Lavazza, of Italy, on machine development, which would inject a lot of experience into the project. The market is going to get crowded; not only do you have existing standard espresso machines, but you have Nespresso, Illy's iperEspresso, CBTL's CafeItaly systems, and the forthcoming Verismo machine line from Starbucks.

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July 31, 2012

Starbucks A More Earth Friendly Cup Sleeve


So they used to double cup, then they brought out the brown cardboard sleeve, and now Starbucks has worked to get less material overall, more post-consumer content, and an overall more friendly cup sleeve. They are calling the new sleeve the EarthSleeve, and it was developed by an Illinois company, LBP Manufacturing.

Considering the millions of sleeve that are in use all across the country on a regular basis, this could make a big difference.

I really try to avoid these things- maybe my fingers are numb, but it's not that hard with a cup holder to minimize the "burn time". I tend not to use a reusable cup when out on the road, like a business trip, where it's just not as easy to deal with bringing your own. I know it's the best way to minimize the waste - sometimes it just doesn't happen. I figure if you are going to take a sleeve, something that minimizes waste is a good place to start.

More about EarthSleeve at the Starbucks Site

Via InHabitat

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July 29, 2012

Capsule Holder for CBTL Capsules


If you get into the capsule game, you are going to eventually need a way to store those capsules. I recommend living with the machine a while before figuring out your official solution. This way, you can figure out what you really need and get a storage holder that fits your needs. Do you need a lot of variety? One Version for each drinker in the house? Are you done with experimenting and have found the ONE variety that works for you?

The carousel capsule holder shown here is one option if you want to see more than one variety easily and quickly. It takes a bit of counter space, but the ease of being able to have a few different capsules at your fingertips just works. It's about 6" x 6" x 15" high, rotates and wipes clean.

Available at CBTL and at Amazon - CBTL Capsule Holder

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July 25, 2012

Peet's Coffee Goes Private - $1B sale


Peet's is one of the big names in specialty coffee here in the US, and while some think they may have gotten too big to be cool, they certainly hold true to keeping a reasonably high expectation for quality coffee distributed throughout the country and through their shops.

A private German firm, Joh. A. Benckiser, has bought Peet's for $1Billion. Not bad for a little coffee company that was started by the Dutch born Alfred Peet, in Berkley CA, back in the 1960's.

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