This week, we introduced a coffee that is the latest in our experiments that had been sitting on the back burner for quite some time. While I’d read about people aging coffee in anything from whiskey to beer to wine barrels, I knew that the practice was not that wide spread nor something that there was a lot of documentation on either. I also didn’t know whether this was gimmick or reality in how aging coffee in a barrel previously used for aging spirits would really affect the coffee as the roasting process it seemed could negate any of the effects of the aging.
So, after procuring a small whiskey barrel, began the process. we decided on a specific coffee, Brazil Cerrado. We let the very wet barrel dry for several days, then loaded it up with the green coffee and began the process of aging which requires moving the barrel around consistently for days to ensure that all the beans have the opportunity to absorb the moisture and aromatics from the barrel evenly. Finally, after several weeks, the coffee had softened, swelled and reached a water stable water content that was not likely to increase further. However, roasting beans this wet would not result in an even or predictable roast. A process of drum and air drying took yet another two days before roasting could begin.
Finally, the time had arrived to test a batch in the roaster. The computer logging software I use would carefully track each second and tenth of a degree in roast temperature. Adjusting the flame to get a gentle rise in bean temperature was required to carefully being the roast without damaging beans that were more damp than the usual. Imagine a marshmallow on a stick over an open fire and you’ll get the picture.
As the roast progressed, we used not only the data being logged through the computer to judge the coffee, but sense of smell, sound and sight to make the final judgement on the roast level. Roasted coffee has a certain point where the smell starts to subtly change to a sweetness indicating the caramelization of the sugars. It’s our job as roasters to determine the balance of that sweetness and not go beyond the point where the sugars become darker and eventually start to brown or even burn. In the case of our barrel aged coffee, maintaining a light roast was important so as not to burn off any of the effects from the barrel.
And then… We had to wait a full 24 hours for the coffee to rest before tasting is. Hard to go given the empoyees excitement all around the cafe after waiting more than two weeks to try this coffee. The result? Wow is all we can say. As an espresso, the flavor of the whiskey is apparent in both the aroma and flavor. Notes of fresh baked banana bread also come to mind in all our staff tastings. Even when blended with milk in a cappuccino, the flavor still comes through. We’re still in the process of discovery too. Different brew methods are yielding different flavors. So far, the staff favorite for this coffee is the Aeropress with Chemex running a close second. We’ve even started packing this coffee in mason jars so you can take the beans home and experiment yourself.
This week, we procured a second barrel to ensure a steady flow of this latest coffee treasure throughout the holiday season this year. What will be next? Stay tuned.
This is why I love the coffee! The local barista community gathered on this past Thursday night at Mighty Good Coffee for a latte art throwdown, otherwise known as a TNT. In head to head competition, baristas made their best lattes with a panel of judges deciding who would move to the next round and eventually into the finals.
This particular TNT was held as a fundraiser for Ozone House, a local teen shelter in Ann Arbor that has been young people lead safe and productive lives since 1969.
Shops represented were Mighty Good, Comet, Ugly Mug, Argus Farm Stop, Common Cup, Commonwealth, Café Verde and Zingerman’s. Heather Steenrod from Ozone House was the guest judge who sat through 26 rounds of competition until the winner, Rachel Duchene from The Ugly Mug was declared the winner. All entrants and guests paid a fee at the door with 100% of the $340 raised going to Ozone House. That amount represents the cost of housing an at risk teen for 7 full days, which includes not only shelter and meals, but counseling services as well.
Prizes, food and drink were all donated by the participating shops and The Corner Brewery provided craft beer as well.
If you’re on the MGC site right now, you’ve probably noticed that it’s undergoing some design changes. It’s been almost 3 years since our last major update and it’s also the start of our 5th year on Main St., so why not make some changes now.
In addition, we’ll be moving the shopping cart into this site instead of hosting that portion of our business on a secondary site. We’ll keep you informed of that as that transition is closer to reality.
For now, take a look and stop in to visit us on N. Main or on Jackson Rd. inside the Two Wheel Tango bike shop.
I could just as easily title this post We Love Kenya as that’s what we’ve been drinking a lot of this past few weeks at the Cafe. I happened upon this Nyeri Rukira a few weeks ago when searching for something that we hadn’t roasted for a few years. And while I love all the coffees roasted, this one is truly unique. Hailing from the Nyeri county in the eastern slopes of the Aberdares mountain range, the Rukira processing facility mills coffee from small family farms that are part of the Othaya Farming Cooperative Society. With notes of ruby red grapefruit, tart cherry and jam, this is a really delightful, and we think, exceptional cup.
In other news for the fall, we’ll be adding some spread options to our toast bar including Creme Nut peanut butter from Koeze in Grand Rapids, ricotta and honey spread using Dixboro Pure honey from just up the road, and shortly, we’ll be introducing our own granola and a few other treats that will enhance our food offerings throughout the day.
We’ve also got some great new staff perfecting their latte art and studying the intricacies of the specialty coffee world. And in a few weeks, I’ll be heading to the Specialty Coffee Leadership Summit to work on the curriculum of roasting classes that will be offered at events in 2015 and beyond.
Enjoy your coffee-
We have some great additions to our coffee line up this month and one new summer brew method too.
Our first new offering is a Panama from Estate La Camiseta in the Bouquete District which is known for the finest coffees in the region. The Suarez family has been growing coffee on their farms since 1920. The farms are now run by the grandchildren, brothers Norberto, Domingo and Carlos Ivan Suarez,. In 1989, they began processing coffee at their own mill and established a direct export business as well. This coffee is sweet, smooth and has an exceptional clarity on the palate.
The second offering comes from the Caja Bamba farm run by Jojoa Weyman in the Consaca region of Colombia. This coffee has a limited production of only 60 bags per season and is Rainforest Alliance certified. Jojoa’s farm has been recently renovated to incorporate many new sustainable practices. This coffee is slightly nutty and bold.
For brewing, our cafe manager Nick has been perfecting the art of Japanese cold brewing using the Panama coffee. This will be added to the menu after Memorial Day and is a real treat!
We also want to welcome our newest cafe and restaurant brewing partners, Arbor Brewing and Cafe Felix, both long time downtown restaurant establishments.
Stop by and visit us and enjoy all we have to offer you! We’re open on Main St., Mark’s Carts and our newest full cafe inside Two Wheel Tango at 4765 Jackson Rd. on the west side of Ann Arbor.