Vice Squad
Thursday, March 13, 2008
How to End a Coffee Drought

On Tuesday I had no coffee, but survived. On Wednesday, I broke my 24-hour coffee drought -- and thanks to living in Chicago, I could easily do so with Intelligentsia coffee. It is really terrific stuff.

I mention it today because of a pointer from the Alcohol and Drugs History Society to a local news story/video concerning Intelligentsia. Did you know that one bad coffee bean can spoil the brew? Here's how Intelligentsia samples its coffees:
After the coffee is roasted and ground, cups are laid out for each bean on a rotating table, 12 grams of ground coffee are placed directly into the cups, which are topped with water just below boiling. Since a single bad bean can change the flavor profile of a cup, 3 separate samples of each coffee are cupped simultaneously; this also allows tasters to get a feel for the consistency of the beans. Some coffee grounds float to the top of the steaming cups, and after 3 minutes, the taster takes a spoon and gives the brew a gentle stir while getting his nose as close as possible and inhaling deeply. This is called “breaking the crust”. After each cup, spoons are rinsed, notes are jotted down and the table is turned. Any remaining grounds are then skimmed off, and the tasting begins.

Cuppers slurp coffee quickly from the edge of a spoon, allowing some air to combine with the brew, coating the entire mouth and giving an intense impression of the coffee’s flavor. The tasters may also “chew” the coffee, evaluating the body or perceived weight of the liquid in the mouth. Indonesian beans typically have low acidity and very heavy body, where a wet-processed Central American will be lighter bodied and bright with higher acidity. Sometimes a cupper will linger for a while comparing the different samples of the same bean, or return to an interesting coffee, experiencing it at different stages as it cools down.
Coffee prices are near a ten-year high.

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