What Does it Mean For Your Coffee to be Certified? Should You Care?

Now a days coffee certifications are everywhere. As we progress as a society we all have started to become conscious about where our food comes from, how it was produced, and how those workers were treated in the process. Transparency has now become a crucial trait consumers look to before supporting a brand. What are these coffee certificates? Should you be looking for these certificates before purchasing your next bag of coffee? It is important to remember that because a brand doesn’t display a certificate on their bag, it doesn’t always mean they are unethical in their practices. Although, a certified bag of coffee can be a fantastic piece of mind for the ethical minded consumer. It is important for you to understand what these numerous certificates displayed actually mean. Check out the graphics below to further understand these certificates. Thanks to Quill.com for the infographics. Click here for more information on the subject by Quill.

Coffee label terms

Coffee Grinders 101: The Guide to Buying The Right Grinder

If your reading this I would like to personally thank you! It means you are playing your part in eliminating poorly brewed coffee in this world. Grinders play a crucial role in the quality of your brew. When in the market for a new grinder you will notice a few options you have to choose from. Do you want an electric vs manual grinder? Burr vs blade grinder? Flat vs conical burrs? Ceramic vs steel burrs? What does all this mean and what makes the most sense for you?

Electric vs Manual Grinder

If your someone like myself who’s on a budget the manual grinder might be for you. Manual grinders can be an affordable option and grind for a wide variety of brew methods. Although many people don’t recommend using a hand grinder for the finer methods like espresso. Manual grinders are very small and portable making them great to take along when on the road. Not only that they are also portable and simple to maintain. That being said it takes a fair amount of time to grind and the manual grinders can only handle a small quantity at a time. One final pro I don’t think enough people mention is the forearm workout that comes with grinding manually, especially if you decided to invite your coffee buddies over.

An electric grinder will allow you to grind higher quantities much faster. They can provide a more customized grind fineness paired with a consistent grind. Plus if your not in the mood for a 5-minute forearm workout first thing in the morning and instead prefer to spend 60 seconds checking Instagram an electric is for you. If your brewing non-espresso methods like french press or pour over the Baratza Encore is the staple entry-level grinder. (Shameless link here: https://espressodolce.ca/product/baratza-encore-grinder/ ) If you’re looking for a grinder that grinds good espresso you will have to be prepared to stretch that budget. A great entry-level grinder for espresso would be the Baratza Sette 30. ( https://espressodolce.ca/product/baratza-sette-30-ap-burr-grinder/ ).

Burr vs Blade

I’m sure on your grinder shopping journey you have seen burr grinder thrown into descriptions and told to avoid blade grinders. But what’s the difference? Blade grinders tend to be lower quality and more affordable. But blade grinders create a non-consistent grind and uneven particle sizes. Whereas burr grinders can create a consistent grind with easy control over the fineness. Burr grinders also tend to be more durable and last longer. Where the burr grinder makes up for quality it shows in its price. An entry-level burr grinder will at least be $180 whereas you can pick up a blade grinder for $20. In all reality, if you’re brewing drip coffee and aren’t obsessed with your coffee you could get away with a blade and not notice. Although, if you love coffee and are interested in the highest quality as possible or brewing espresso a blade grinder won’t make the cut.

Flat vs Conical Burrs

Okay, so you’ve decided you care about your coffee quality and want full control over your grinds. You choose to shop for a burr grinder but now you face another dilemma flat vs conical burrs?? I should start off by saying at this point you’re going to get consistent and fully controlled grinds with either option. We are now entering coffee nerd territory (Not offensive if I am one right?). Flat burrs have two rings that sit on top of each other and the grinds drop into the middle, get pushed out through the middle and drop again. Conical burrs have a cone shape sitting inside of a ring. The beans have a verticle path through the conical burr. There are coffee people who claim these two grinders have different effects on the notes you’ll taste in your coffee. But to be honest I don’t buy that theory and haven’t read any hard proof for it. The biggest factor to consider is the flat burrs are known to trap more coffee grinds than the conical burrs. That could be a consideration but both options grind great coffee.

So I hope this will help you navigate grinder pages with a little bit more clarity. My one piece of advice is to not cheap out on the grinder. Your grind plays a huge factor in the quality of your coffee. If your making espresso keeps in mind the more grind options you have the more of an ability you’ll have to brew espresso that matches your preference.

Taking Your Coffee From Good To Great

A good cup of coffee in the morning can be the difference between your commute being wide-eyed and joyful or miserable. Not to mention a professional tasting cup of coffee at home brings fulfillment and saves you money over the alternative of relying on a barista day after day. It’s time to ditch that automatic drip machine or Keurig and start brewing manually or with an espresso machine.

1. Understand What Makes a Good and Bad Tasting Coffee

Understanding when coffee tastes bad or good is typically an easy task. But understanding what made your coffee taste the way it did, isn’t so simple. This takes experimentation with the grind, type of coffee, purity of the water, etc. When making your coffee it’s best to only adjust one variable at a time. This allows you to play around with the flavour of your coffee until you find what is optimal for you. This goes for any brew method from espresso shots to pour-overs, drip, french press, etc.

2. Properly Steaming The Milk

If you’re drinking lattes or cappuccinos the milk can make or break your drink. Taking the time to watch a few youtube tutorials and practice your milk steaming can get you to a place where you’re truly drinking cafe-quality lattes in your own home. If you’re looking to improve on your milk frothing skills take a look at this tutorial by Chris Baca. https://youtu.be/6YMgB61WyvE 

3. Coffee Beans

There will come a day when you’re ready to put down the Maxwell House and look for a specialty coffee. Be careful because once you make this leap you will never be able to go back. Let’s be honest at this level, the differences in the coffee come down to detail. Specialty coffee is just that. When a commercial coffee brand farms for beans they are doing so at huge quantities. The reason why they are so cheap is that they can pay for massive quantities of lower-tier crops. Often the picking process is done through machines, leaving room for defective and unripe beans to make the batch. This will drastically downgrade the coffee. In comparison, most specialty coffees are handpicked from one farm or area. You will see specialty coffee brands advertise the origin of that coffee. This is because the location of the coffee can actually drastically impact the flavour of the coffee. As you can imagine there are coffee connoisseurs out there who fall in love with coffee grown in certain origins.

4. Precision

Instilling precision into your brewing process can improve the quality and consistency of your coffee. A scale is a good place to start. Your brew will be tastier and reliably delicious every morning. A gram scale will allow you to experiment with the amount that tastes best to you and allow you to keep it that way. No longer will you have to guess with varied scoops of coffee. The standard amount of coffee is 1g to 15-17g of water. With a scale, achieving this balance is easy. Depending on your previous scoops it might even allow you to save on the number of beans you use on a daily basis. For all you know you might be adding 2-3g of coffee when you should be only using 1g. That means getting up to 3x more out of your bag of coffee.

What separates a cup of coffee that will just get you through the day compared to a cup of coffee that will light a smile onto your face? It’s all in the details. Which coffee you buy, where that coffee was grown, how the coffee was stored, how that coffee was ground, the length of the brew, and a lot more. But with so many details to pay attention to, they can add up fast. Ignore them and your coffee will suffer. Obsess over them and you’ll have a cup of coffee that no cafe can beat.

How to Pull a Perfect Espresso Shot

Making espresso can feel like a steep learning curve when you first get into it. With so many detailed moving parts most beginners don’t even understand the difference between a well made espresso and a poor one. But falling in love with the process and the journey of improving can be an addictive and exciting hobby. Here’s a few steps and a quick overview that hopefully will send you on your way to pulling a beautiful, and tasty cup of espresso.

1. The Grind

Always grind fresh whole beans directly before brewing. The texture of the grind will largely impact the quality of the shot. If it’s to fine and it will cause a slow, over extracted shot that will taste bitter. You will be able to tell because the shot will have a dark brown crema on the top. If it’s to course and the shot will be weak, watery and sour. This will result in a light tan coloured crema. To find the perfect grind, takes practice and experimentation.

2. Dose

The dose is the amount you use for a shot. The most common portion is a double shot. This can be unique to your coffee set up. Typically it’s around 14-18 grams.

3. Tamp

The tamping is responsible for uniformity of the extraction. Rest your portafilter on an even surface while keeping your elbow at 90 degrees.
Apply pressure until the grounds have an even polished look. If your shot is pouring unevenly on one side it is most likely due to your tamp.

4. Brew

If you had a good tamp and grind the first portion of the shot should be dark before turning into a golden brown. The volume of each shot should
be around 1 oz per shot. If your pulling a double shot, continue to run the shot until you have about 2 oz in the cup. This should take about 20-30 seconds. If it’s running to long or short you may want to go back and check the previous steps. The final product should have a nice golden crema on the top.

Time to get tamping. Brewing espresso takes practice and attention to detail. Take pride in it and have fun!

Our Favorite Coffee Bloggers

My earliest memories are living in a tiny town and every Sunday it seemed like the whole town would get together at Tim Horton’s for a “coffee”. If it wasn’t Tim Horton’s then it was all my uncles and aunts getting together at my Grandma’s house. The first thing Grandma would and still does is head to that old coffee brewer and make a pot of coffee. To me coffee seemed to be what brought people together. It was an excuse to connect. To this day it would seem weird to me if someone invited me over just to talk. But a simple invitation to go out for coffee is so normal. Of course were not getting together just to try a beverage it’s to connect with one another. What I absolutely love about coffee isn’t the addictive substance in itself, but rather the culture and community that’s formed around it. That being said until working at Starbucks and now Espresso Dolce I wasn’t introduced to the massive, trendy, cult like culture that coffee has. So I’ve been doing some research and looking for blogs, vlogs, and just influential people in the coffee space to help me get up to speed with what’s going on in the coffee world.
I want to share with you a few blogs, and vlogs who I’ve really enjoyed so far.

1. Real Chris Baca

Chris Baca is a cafe owner, skater, and coffee lover. He seems really down to earth and has videos that just feel watchable. He does lifestyle videos and coffee videos. Stuff like machine reviews, how to’s, and just other coffee based videos. If the skater vibe isn’t your thing don’t let it turn you off because his coffee videos are very informational.https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvHTmlCbEhgDvC5VdpVAG2A/videos

2. Dear Coffee I Love You

Dear Coffee I love You is one of the first blogs I came across. Creating posts on coffee product designs, coffee events, and more. I’ve found this is a great blog to keep me up to date on the new things going on in the industry.http://www.dearcoffeeiloveyou.com/

3. Manual Coffee Brewing

Since I work for a store that sells espresso machines I might get in trouble for sharing this one. This is a really great blog by an enthusiast who loves manual brewing methods at home. He has really great tips for methods like pour overs, french press, etc. Even providing new methods and products that allow you to brew manually in your home.http://www.manualcoffeebrewing.com/

4. Sprudge

The Sprudge is the industry leader in the coffee blog space. They cover almost everything going on in the coffee world and should be a staple in your weekly readings. Sprudge writes the most unique coffee based articles I have seen yet. https://sprudge.com/

I hope you enjoyed these recommendations. I also should mention I am keeping the Espresso Dolce blog and instagram active from here on out. Follow us on instagram @weareespressodolce. https://www.instagram.com/weareespressodolce/

Automatic vs Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

You’re ready to retire the old coffee brewer and invest in an espresso machine. The first question you’ll most likely face is the decision between an automatic vs semi automatic espresso machine. In reality when looking for the right machine you have three choices, manual, semi auto, and auto. For this article I’ll be focusing on semi auto, and fully auto. Manual machines (also called lever machines) require you to manually pull the shot with a lever. These machines require a steep learning curve and are often left to the enthusiast looking for satisfaction in the reminiscence and class of the process. If that’s you great! But most likely you want a great tasting latte in the comfort of your own home before heading out for your day.

Elektra Micro Casa Leva S1 Copper and Brass Lever Espresso Machine

Let’s start at the automatic espresso machine. You have two types to choose from. An automatic or a super automatic. With an automatic you will most likely have to grind and tamp your beans but from there at a push of a button the machine will pull a consistent shot for you. A fully automatic machines are a step up from that. At a push of a button the machine will grind, tamp, as well as pull your shot. They also have a lot of programable options to allow further control in the process. Automatics lack the control and ultra convenience but make up for it in being more affordable. If you can afford it a super automatic will be the most convenient and user friendly option with the most control. With all those pros comes a higher price tag.

Jura E8 Super Automatic ($2695)

With the convenience of an automatic you might ask what’s the point of considering a semi automatic? In my opinion the semi auto is fantastic for the person who loves the benefits of coffee but also sees coffee as a hobby. The semi automatic is the perfect blend between the automatic and manual machine. You have the control of pulling your own shot for your preferred duration, steam your own milk to your liking, and grind/tamp your beans to your liking. But unlike the manual you won’t have to put your whole body into pulling a lever to pull your shot. At a turn of a handle the machine will automatically pull the shot until you return that handle to it’s original position. This gives you a satisfaction and flexibility you just don’t have when using an automatic machine. These machines also tend to be an affordable option compared to automatics. But there is a learning curve to perfecting the semi auto method. Not as steep of a curve as a manual machine but not as user friendly as pushing a button.

Casa V Semi Auto ($1279)

Which ever machine you choose will be specific to your personal needs. If your someone who has the extra cash and is looking to get your hit of caffeine before you head out, an automatic might be for you. But if you love the small things about coffee, the blends, latte art, certain grinds, and the origin of your coffee beans. The semi automatic could be the way to go. Now if you love all of the above and want to prove to your coffee friends your a “true” coffee connoisseur a manual (lever) machine will be your best friend.

Where Can You Find the World’s Best Coffee?

The latest figures show that “4.9 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee are expected to be consumed in Canada in the 12-month marketing year ending on October 2020.” In addition to the many health benefits of coffee, so many individuals consume the beverage each day due to its incredible flavor profile. In order to find the varietals that taste the best, you must first explore the characteristics of some of the top growing regions. Learn more about where to find the world’s highest quality beans to help make your coffee and espresso taste their best.

Beans from Ethiopia

To find some of the globe’s most exceptional coffee beans, look no further than the spot in which coffee is believed to have originated: Ethiopia. Although the timing varies depending on the source, most experts agree that the history of coffee dates back to this country in the 9th century. It is thought that the Arabica coffee bean was the first to be grown and turned into drinkable coffee. Since that time, Ethiopia has become a world leader in coffee production. Not only does it produce high quantities, but it also grows some of the best quality beans that can be found anywhere. Overall, coffee from the region has floral and bright fruit notes, with higher acidity. One of the most popular types of coffee from the country is Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (which refers to the Yirgacheffe region in which the beans are grown).

Beans from Brazil

As the world’s top grower of coffee beans, Brazil produces 5,714,381,000 pounds of coffee beans each year. These beans are used to create everything from instant coffee to some of the most top-tier quality selections available. The two most common types of beans grown within the country are Arabica and robusta. Throughout Brazil, there are 14 unique regions where coffee is produced. The highest quality beans from the country yield coffee that is low in acidity and that has roasted, nutty, and sometimes chocolate notes. In addition to the amazing flavor profile, you can also find a significant amount of coffee that is fair trade. This means that workers who are involved with the coffee growing and production process are guaranteed to be paid fair wages for their labor.

Beans from Colombia

Coffee that is produced from beans grown in Colombia yields soft tasting notes, with low acidity and lower caffeine content. Because of the incredible balance that the beans have, many industry experts regard Colombian coffee as the best in the world. It comes as no surprise, then, that the latest figures show that the country produces a whopping 11.5 million bags of beans each year. For fans of Arabica coffee, Colombia is said to produce some of the world’s best of this variety. Also, beans from the country make some of the most outstanding espressos because of their unique flavor profile.

Whether you prefer visiting your local coffee shop or making your coffee at home, be sure to look for the regions listed above. Aside from selecting beans from a region that matches your individual tastes, purchase your beans from sellers that offer freshly roasted selections (rather than ones that have sat on a shelf for months).