Coffee Travels: Axum Coffee & Roastery

If you’ve read My Coffee History, you might already be aware of Axum Coffee and the role they played introducing me to pour-over. Until I discovered their shop in downtown Winter Garden, I only drank lattes and other espresso-based drinks. Axum was my gateway into brewed coffee.

Where my journey into brewed coffee bloomed…

This was many years ago, and I had stopped visiting Winter Garden for coffee, favoring shorter drives to Tampa instead. Since then, Axum has grown to three cafes and a roastery. They’ve been roasting for two years now on a beautiful Probat, and I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to check it out.

One of my goals with Coffee Travels is to spend time in cafes with friends and family, enjoy a good fika together with excellent coffee and conversation. My wife’s cousin was in Orlando for one day, so we used that as an excuse to cart her over to Winter Garden for lunch and coffee.

We started our visit at the main cafe on Plant Street, catching a relatively quiet moment after the lunch rush. I tried their cold brew, opting for still coffee over ice, and it was just what I needed after a hot lunch on a hot day. My wife’s cousin went for an iced americano, while my wife sipped one of their sweet lattes.

The pastry case was stocked with all sorts of delicious goodies, and we picked out a couple mini-cheesecake bites to share. No photos, however, since they didn’t last long enough for me to get out the camera!

Spending quality time in a coffee shop can be challenging when you have two young boys. I spent half the time playing with our 3-year-old in the cute kid’s area: a small table with a toy espresso machine and other cafe-related toys.

The other half of our visit had me carrying our 10-month-old in and out of the shop trying to keep him occupied so that my wife could have a nice visit with her cousin. That’s life with little ones, of course, and all you can do is take turns.

I didn’t mind giving up my time in the cafe, knowing that I would soon get my time at the roastery…

Axum Roastery, 426 W. Plant St. Winter Garden, FL 34787

Axum Coffee‘s roastery is a few blocks down the street from their main cafe, tucked inside the Plant Street Market, an indoor market filled with artisan vendors. Imagine an indoor farmers market featuring all the best local, organic and craft businesses, with a coffee roaster on one end and a brewery on the other.

I love the smart use of limited space, a compact cafe built around the roaster itself. If I didn’t have family waiting, I could easily spend an hour hanging out at the bar, talking coffee and watching the Probat crank out batch after batch.

For old times sake, I ordered a pour-over of their Ethiopia Guji (along with a bag of beans to take home) and enjoyed the tea-like aroma of apricot and white grape. It was a nice coffee, a bit lighter in flavor than most of the Ethiopian coffees I brew at home.

It was nice getting back to Axum after so many years away, and it gave me a great place to start this revamped Coffee Travels series. I’m looking forward to many more cafe visits in the near future, wondering where I’ll go next…

Focusing on What Brings Joy, part 2: Results

Last week I wrote about the process of tidying my coffee gear, using the KonMari method from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Since then, I’ve been using my coffee bar every morning, moving things to the sink immediately after use and putting them away once they’re clean and dry.

Every piece of gear has a specific home, and the process of finding and keeping only those which spark joy has inspired me to maintain a beautiful space. I feel more joy when looking at my coffee bar, more joy when using it, and I smile more even when putting things away at the end of the day.

Of course, this makes me want to follow the KonMari method for everything in the house, put my whole life in order! It’s a challenge with young children, but every day when I look at my coffee bar and smile, I wish that every room in the house had the same feeling.

More importantly, this exercise brought renewed focus to my daily coffee habit. The energy I get from our coffee bar every day is eye-opening, and it’s not just the caffeine.

This new energy has inspired me to figure out where I want this blog to go, the answer to the question I’ve been asking over the past couple months: What is The Coffee Minimalist?

The Coffee Minimalist is a look into my personal coffee journey with focus and determination. It’s about seeking out a better palate and better understanding of specialty coffee. And it’s also about minimalism and focus, the drive to fill my life with things I love, things that spark joy.

So what should you expect to find here from this point on?

I will continue posting every Monday, but now I will focus on a series of recurring themes to help keep me on track.

What We’re Drinking will cover a monthly review of coffee (and eventually tea) that we enjoyed recently. Coffee Travels with follow us to a new coffee shop, cafe, roastery or other coffee destination, encouraging me to get out and fika more often.

I’m going to get back to cupping at least once a month with Cupping Corner, either joining in public cupping events or inviting friends to my own tasting. Finally, I’m starting Minimalist Moments. This will be a look at something special that brings joy, a report of my KonMari practice, or deeper thoughts on focus and intention.

This month, of course, skips the usual What We’re Drinking in order to wrap up this initial KonMari series, but starting in August I’ll do a better job of sharing the excellent coffees that pass through our coffee bar. After all, I appreciate each one a bit more now that all the clutter is out of the way.

Focusing on What Brings Joy, part 1: The Process

It’s been a month since I first mentioned my intentions of following the KonMari method to remove clutter from my coffee bar. Having finally finished Marie Kondo‘s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and with a little extra free time last week, I was finally ready to dive in and identify which elements of our coffee bar spark joy.

Next week I’ll present my new, thoroughly tidied coffee and tea setup, but today I’m letting you peek in on the process itself. What did it look like, putting all my coffee gear out in one place?

That’s not everything. I couldn’t actually fit all my coffee-related gear in one spot, the floor being out of the question since our 10-month-old is all over the house, so I broke it into stages. First I focused on brewing devices and tools, then on cupping and espresso supplies, followed by a counter full of coffee mugs. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have caught these messy photos already:

And that’s still not everything! This doesn’t include my collection of coffee books and dvds, my coffee journals, stacks of magazines, several cold brew growlers, Toddy brewers (both home and commercial size), cleaners, teapots, Hario kettle, and of course the V60, glass server, and to-go mugs I used that day.

This is even after selling my big espresso machine late last year, and pulling out our kegerator just this week since we’re no longer kegging our cold brew. I obviously have too much stuff, too much gear for a simple home-brewing bar, so how did the Konmari method help me decide what to keep?

Items that Spark Joy vs. Items with a Specific Function

There is a reason that Ms. Kondo recommends following a specific order when tidying your home. Clothing is first, and since all clothing serves the same basic function, it’s easy to discard anything that doesn’t spark joy. But how do you handle tools with a specific purpose?

My process started slowly, maybe because I haven’t followed her program from the start and thus haven’t developed my ability to discern what brings joy in the most mundane of items. I stood looking at my coffee gear, fighting with my brain which was busy pointing out what each brewing device was designed for, and which had some sentimental value (my first V60, for example), so it took several minutes to really get to work.

There was a noticeable difference in items that brought immediate joy and others with very specific uses. I had to admit that there are brew methods that I just don’t enjoy using. For example, no matter how beautiful the Aeropress looks during an inverted brew, it does not bring me joy and I was only holding onto it because it had a specific design.

While I let go of many such items, with others I am still unsure. I have two sizes of the Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Pot, and I’ve used them on vacation as well as for the occasional last-minute “we need fresh cold brew tomorrow morning” panic. It’s easy to rationalize keeping something when it has such a unique purpose. I put both in the keep pile, but I have a nagging feeling that when I held them in my hands, I knew they were ready to go.

Just some of the gear I let go…

Identifying Goals

This exercise, especially looking at the pile of quality gear that I’m dumping, helped me to evaluate my goals, both with the coffee bar itself and in the big picture.

Why did I have cupping supplies for an entire crew when I only ever cupped alone?

How much of this stuff did I buy in hopes of finding something to blog about?

It comes back to the lingering question: what is The Coffee Minimalist?

By reviewing every piece of coffee gear I’ve collected and narrowing my coffee bar to just that which sparks joy, I’m getting closer to an answer. Check back next week to see the results of this exercise, and perhaps then I’ll have some clear direction on where this blog is heading.

The Best Coffee Maker
by Reviews.com

When I cranked this blog up again last month, I pondered the question: What is The Coffee Minimalist? I had no answers then, just as I had no clear definition for those I met at Coffee Fest when asked what I write about. But as I continue to explore the role that specialty coffee plays in my life, it’s easier to figure out what this blog is not.

And I know this: The Coffee Minimalist is not an expert review site.

Although the early days of this blog included explorations of various brew methods, I think that was just an excuse to collect as much coffee gear as possible. Now I am in the process of slimming down my brewing equipment, focusing on what brings the most joy, and I’ll leave the gear reviews to professionals.

For example, this article on Reviews.com goes into great detail on the best drip coffee makers. It’s an interesting read, even for someone with fair coffee knowledge, and their approach to testing and comparing coffee makers is almost scientific. (I would argue that although many home brewers might use a cheap blade grinder, the inconsistency in particle size would prevent a truly accurate side-by-side comparison.)

While they give top marks to the OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System (and it’s smaller 9-cup sibling), my inner coffee-nerd was more excited to read about the performance of the Behmor Brazen and the newer model from Bonavita. I wrote about our own Bonavita two and a half years ago, and that machine is still going strong, currently setup at my office so I can brew good coffee where it’s most needed.

Since I started curbing my unnecessary spending, I never bothered to look into the newer models from Bonavita, but this article pointed out a few interesting changes. The current Bonavita Brewer has a flat bottom filter basket, as opposed to the Melita-shaped cone of my older model. While it maintains a single button for operation, there is now a pre-infusion cycle which can be activated by holding down the button until it blinks.

I’ve been handling pre-infusion manually on our Bonavita, turning the machine off after enough water is dispersed over the grounds, then turning it back on after it’s had time to bloom. I also use another trick late in the brew cycle, giving it a little “Rao Spin” to shake up the grounds, which helps dislodge anything stuck to the sides of the cone to create an even bed during the latter half of the extraction.

So I won’t be upgrading our Bonavita anytime soon, but there are certainly more highly-capable brewers available today than there were three years ago. Thanks to the crew at Reviews.com for stumbling across my blog and reaching out with their coffee maker article, and I hope it proves useful to anyone shopping for a better automatic coffee brewer.

Catching up on Cold Brew

Before I begin examing my coffee gear piece by piece, following the KonMari method mentioned last week, I need to share what’s been going on with cold brew in this house.

Long time readers know that we drink a LOT of cold brew in our family. For my mom, iced coffee is the only coffee she likes, and for the rest of us, it’s a welcome refreshment in a climate that’s often too hot and sticky for brewed coffee. Two years ago I bought a kegerator and setup a cold brew tap, making 10 gallons of coffee almost every month.

Since then, we’ve never stopped enjoying cold brew, though we’ve had some ups and downs with equipment and brew methods.

Our fridge proved unreliable, and the safety of our kegged coffee was uncertain. One day it became a freezer, covering the kegs with frost and freezing the coffee in the line. The temperature setting was never changed, so I tried using a thermometer to monitor the inside of the unit and adjust as needed.

There was so much fluctuation that I finally gave up. I didn’t feel safe drinking cold brew from a fridge that hovered above 40º F even when it was set for 33º, so for several months our kegerator and commercial Toddy have sat dormant.

With our cold brew fridge on the fritz, I switched back to the home Toddy brewer for awhile. Because we drink so much, I was making a full batch every weekend, filling up four 32oz growlers and hoping it lasted the week. Eventually, it became a chore to process a batch week after week, and there was still the question of health, not knowing if our brewing process was safe enough. Doubt took over when our last batch looked suspicious.

Fortunately, we have a variety of other cold brew gear, so I’ve been brewing very small batches a few times a week. On weekends it’s the Yama tower, weekdays I use the Hario Mizudashi brewer overnight in the fridge, and sometimes we run out and I make an iced pour-over with our V60 iced coffee brewer.

It’s put a lot of variety in my mom’s daily cold brew, since each method has its own unique process and creates a different extraction. Because there is more work involved, compared to the large batches that filled our kegerator, the rest of us opt for hot coffee so that each cold brew lasts at least a couple days.

Needless to say, we miss our cold brew tap.

Which is why I’m headed to Chicago in a couple weeks for Coffee Fest! It will be my first visit to a trade show in over two years, and my main focus is their Cold Brew U program, an in-depth look at everything related to cold brew.

I want to get back to brewing large batches, having cold brew on tap whenever we want it, but I want to learn more about preparation, sanitation, and hopefully get some ideas of what equipment will be more reliable to keep our kegs at a safe temperature.

We will get the cold brew flowing again soon enough, but I’m thankful that I had this excuse to try each of my other brewing devices. I don’t know which brewers will truly spark joy when I begin working through my collection, but at least they are no longer forgotten in the back of the cabinet.

Coffee Travels:
Foundation Coffee Co. – Tampa

During my periodic absences from the coffee scene, the growth of specialty coffee has been astounding. The list of shops I want to visit continues to grow, yet I have less and less time to go coffee-touring.

Well a few months ago, before my most recent blog-departure, my wife and I spent a weekend in Tampa, and I finally made it to Foundation Coffee Co.

I had been to Foundation’s original Riverview shop nearly two years ago for a throwdown, back when I was trying to build my latte art skills. They opened their second location in Tampa last year, and I’ve been drooling over their photos ever since.

Foundation’s Tampa Heights shop is a coffee nerd’s dream, from the retail shelf full of high-end coffee gear, to the beautiful black Linea PB, to the rack of Yama towers rigged on a pully that travels up and down the 2-story interior brick wall.

The menu is fantastic, of course, just what you’d expect from a third-wave shop fueled by passionate people. I enjoyed a generous pour-over (Colombia, brewed in a GINO dripper) along with a gluten-free chocolate donut that didn’t last long enough for a photo, and we took some cold brew back to our hotel to enjoy the next morning.

Although I had seen many Instagram shots of their interior (and exterior) design, spending some time in that space made me appreciate it even more. Natural elements such as plants, rocks, and water features encourage a feeling more akin to a Japanese garden than a big city coffee shop.

The best part of our visit, however, was time spent with our friend Marie, whom we hadn’t caught up with since she and Dawn sold The Library Coffeehouse a few months earlier. I enjoyed spending an hour or more just sitting and talking about life and coffee, and it left me wishing I could spend more time drinking coffee outside the house, sharing it with friends and experiencing more of the unique atmosphere that every good coffee shop creates.

I may give that some more thought soon, and hopefully I’ll get back to Tampa for another stop at Foundation.

Coffee Travels: New Year 2017 I-10 Road Trip

It’s a long way from central Florida to the far west side of Houston, Texas, even longer when you have a 5-month-old and a 2.5 year old along for the journey. So when it came time to plan our Lunar New Year trip to visit my wife’s family, I split the drive into as many stops as possible.

Or maybe it was just an excuse to visit coffee shops that weren’t right off the interstate…

New Orleans, Louisiana

On the way out, we spent two nights in New Orleans so that we could spend a full day exploring. Our hotel was just a few blocks down from Revelator, and Stumptown was also in walking distance. We didn’t get to any of the more unique New Orleans cafes, sadly, due to the logistical challenges of pushing a stroller around a busy city, but it was nice to visit a couple big names we don’t have back home.

Revelator Coffee Company was our first and easiest stop, thanks to a sleepy infant content in his stroller. The interior was sleek and industrial/modern, typical of other Revelator shops I’ve seen (Atlanta being the only other one I’ve visited in person), and I was able to take a few photos since the kids didn’t demand much attention.

A delicious hot chocolate kept our toddler happy while I sipped a pour-over, though at this point I’ve forgotten which coffee I had. This was our second visit to a Revelator cafe, and I always go in with really high expectations thanks to that one amazing coffee I picked up during my visit to Coffee Fest Atlanta a couple years ago.

Our other New Orleans stop was several blocks in a different direction, Stumptown Coffee Roasters. By that point in the day, the kids were tired, so I barely snapped a photo of the sign and didn’t take the camera out once inside. It was a bit late for hot coffee, but I got a free batch brew with the beans we purchased to take to family, and we indulged in a RTD (ready-to-drink) cold brew we hadn’t previously seen: coconut milk!

The interior was typical Stumptown, all warm and inviting, part of the ground floor of the Ace Hotel. Their pastry case had some delicious homemade granola bars and other savory goodies, and I wish I could have tried more of their cold brew options, as it is a cold brew focused cafe. One more reason to return to New Orleans for a proper coffee tour once the kids are a bit older.

Slidell, Louisiana

On our return trip, we skipped New Orleans and spent our first night in Slidell. Starbucks was our interstate coffee of choice (breakfast, too, most of the time) and I spotted this beauty in this otherwise unknown corner of Louisiana. I knew that Starbucks bought the Clover, but I had never seen one in a cafe. I had already ordered prior to noticing the single origin menu, but I learned to pay more attention in the future. (More on the Clover later, as I did get to try one in Tampa after this trip.)

Fortunately there was good coffee waiting for us at our next stop…

Tallahassee, Florida

Another brief stop on our way out of town, this was our second visit to Journeyman Coffee, but the first in which I took photos. Jason has a great setup, sharing space with the Miccosukee Root Cellar, and it’s worth a visit for good coffee and conversation. They were slammed when I popped in that Saturday, so I grabbed a Chemex to go and an iced mocha for Jamie.

I always enjoy seeing a tight bar setup, and the Journeyman crew brew some excellent Counter Culture coffee in an efficient space. One of my favorite things on their menu, is the friendly invitation to discuss your coffee wants and needs:

That wraps up our New Year road trip. It’s really just a small bit of coffee thrown in an otherwise crazy family travel schedule, but it was fun nonetheless. Despite my lackluster photography and total lack of notes (did I get the Nicaragua or the Colombia? Hm…) this exercise got me excited to go coffee touring again. There’s so much good coffee out there, we just have to find it.

Introducing Handground
Precision Coffee Grinder

As I mentioned last week in what I hope will be the final “re-launch” of this blog, one of the cool coffee things to happen during my absence was the arrival of my Handground Precision Coffee Grinder. This much-anticipated manual coffee grinder is the end result of a long development process involving coffee professionals and enthusiasts from all corners of the globe (read their full story here), and it is becoming my go-to grinder for rather unexpected reasons.

First things first… If you haven’t heard about Handground yet, here are the basic points:

• Ceramic burrs
• Side-mounted handle
• Full range of grind size with easy adjustment
• Large 100g capacity
• Tight burr tolerance for more consistent grind
• Elegant finish and iconic shape

I’m a big fan of the large capacity and 40mm burrs. In the past, I had traveled with a smaller grinder and it did ok for the occasional Aeropress, but this can handle enough for a full pot of coffee in our Bonavita. And I haven’t tried this yet, but traveling with the Handground could mean better coffee while still using a hotel coffee pot. (Need to carry filters, though, as most hospitality coffee is now filter-packed.)

Like any other hand coffee grinder, portability and travel are potential highlights for most users, and Handground has excellent features to make travel brewing more minimalist than ever. Hash marks on the side can be used for measuring coffee in place of a scale, with each mark representing around 10g on average. The included recipe magnet gives common weights for popular brew methods, showing how many hash marks get you in the ballpark. It might not be geeky enough for some, but it’s as I like to say, close enough for jazz.

The recipe guide is arranged in a circle, with the inner track representing grind size, from 1 to 8 with additional steps in-between for a full 15 settings. Cute icons highlight six of the most common brew methods, from espresso to french press, and right out of the box I’ve found their suggestions to be solid.

The best part about the adjustment ring is the ability to adjust without taking the grinder apart. My previous hand grinder required me to turn a small knob hidden on the bottom end of the burrs, and there was no indication of where I was in the range so it was nearly impossible to dial in. Handground solves that problem perfectly.

Now, one of their biggest claims is more consistent particle size. They even have testing data posted on their website, and the graphs show a pretty strong peak, with most of the coffee falling within a narrow range. I’d say that’s really good for a hand grinder, though my initial impression was skeptical when I saw the few large particles among the rest. It’s not really fair to compare with my primary grinder, of course, since it’s a commercial machine with legendary consistency, and the proof is in the pour.

While the larger particles are easy to spot, the fines are less fine than that of my big grinder, so a large 50-60g Chemex doesn’t get clogged so easily. The results are good, though I’m still learning to adjust, since I am more likely to under extract than to watch the timer continue to climb while coffee struggles to escape the bottom of the cone.

My only point of contention is the difficulty of grinding, which is the same as I’ve experienced with any other manual grinder. Sometimes you’re going to hit a bean that is harder, or at a certain angle in the burrs perhaps, and it’s just going to require more oomph to get through it. This requires holding the grinder still with your other hand, and in this case the grinder is so large that keeping it steady has proven more difficult than I anticipated. The rubber gripper on the bottom doesn’t really help on my butcher block coffee bar, so grinding is a bit of a workout.

But, this is one of the reasons I enjoy it, and one of the reasons it is becoming my everyday grinder.

Grinding by hand requires focus and patience. Trying to grind too quickly, or doing so without paying attention, makes it more of a struggle in the end. So for me, grinding my morning coffee has become a moment of mindfulness, something we desperately need in a world of distractions.

So despite the occasional challenge, I recommend the Handground Precision Coffee Grinder for anyone who wants more focus and mindful practice in their daily coffee routine. I have challenged myself to use it exclusively for all pour-overs at home this year. I’ll share more experience later, including a look at the cleaning process, which is supposed to be quite simple.

Readers: do you use a hand grinder? If so, is it only for travel, or do you also use it at home?

What I’m Drinking:
October Coffee Highlights

“If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.”

This pearl of wisdom was spoken by Joe Marrocco during the first cupping class my wife and I attended at Coffee Fest in New York, now almost three years ago. Back then I was just getting into specialty coffee, learning everything I possibly could, and although we weren’t taking notes during our introductory class, those words stuck with me.

Yet, here I am… no notes, no journals, nothing… just vague memories of a month filled with excellent coffee, which I can in no way hope to describe. That photo up top, the Kenya Mugaya from Kuma Coffee? That was over a month ago and I couldn’t tell you anything about it. I remember enjoying it, and that was around the time I started to move away from French Press and back to my favored pour-overs, but what did the coffee actually taste like? I don’t remember.

oct2016-3

The same goes for this Ethiopia Guji from Square One, my most recent delivery from Mistobox. One of many Ethiopian coffees we tried last month, it was used up after a handful of batch brews in the Bonavita, and anything truly special was lost on my continually declining palate. Nice design on the bag, though, and one of my favorite things about Mistobox: trying new roasters for the first time.

oct2016-2

My other full-bag monthly subscription, Crema.co, delivered this excellent selection from Onyx Coffee Lab. Probably the one coffee that stood out the most, this Ethiopia Hambela Buku was bright and fruity, brought memories of previous Onyx roasts that blew me away and left me wanting more.

But even a coffee that stuck in my head is now left to the most generic descriptors, and I know there was more going on in the cup. Remember when I used to taste coffee? Remember when I got out the cupping gear and slurped my way to more specific flavor notes? Family life grew too busy for such an extensive coffee hobby, but I need to find a better way to enjoy the beautiful beans that allows time for focus.

oct2016-5

I know, we really did drink almost nothing but Ethiopia last month… But this Yirgacheffe Banko Dhadhato from Vashon Coffee Company really shined in my October Bean Box, so I brought in a full bag to get a second (and third, etc.) taste. It was beautiful, what you might expect from any good Yirg, and it may have been my wife’s favorite among our morning batch brews.

oct2016-6

Last time I shared the very first Box Set from The Department of Brewology, and this was the second edition, featuring The Barn Coffee Roasters from Berlin. It may be the first time I’ve had coffee roasted outside the US, and I loved the information cards included with the bag, English on one side, German on the other.

The coffee was a special microlot from Guatemala, a washed Caturra produced by Misael Rodriguez. It was interesting, very clean and crisp, but complex such that I could not pick out any specific flavor notes. I found it highly enjoyable, but it was a perfect example of how badly I need to practice tasting coffee. After all, I’m competing once again in the Flight of Fancy contest from Populace Coffee, and that starts this week! (more on that later…)

So it’s time to start writing stuff down.

I need to get back to my daily coffee journal, and I need to taste more coffee with other people and calibrate. There is hardly any point in sharing these bags of coffee with you, dear reader, when I have almost nothing to say about them due to my own lack of care in preparation and taste. If I’m going to continue writing about coffee, which I do enjoy, I need to record my thoughts and impressions daily.

Perhaps by next year I will have a new system in place for taking notes, but for now I’m going to make it as simple as possible and just start. Readers: do any of you take notes about your coffee experiences? If so, I’d love to hear what details you choose to include and what you focus on the most.

Sudden Coffee:
Instant Specialty Coffee

Instant coffee… did you ever think you’d see those words on this blog? I didn’t, at least not until I listened to a recent episode of the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast where they interviewed two-time Finnish Barista Champion Kalle Freese about his breakthrough product: Sudden Coffee.

Suddenly (ha!) instant coffee became quite interesting. I had to try it out, so within a week I was greeted with a simple satchel holding eight tubes of instant specialty coffee.

sudden-1

I won’t go into the full story behind Kalle’s coffee journey (listen to the podcast for more details) but I love his breakdown of instant coffee and why it is traditionally horrible. You take the absolute worst beans, the ones nobody else wants, roast them, then brew it for maximum extraction. It’s all about the numbers, creating a product with the lowest possible cost, and there’s no room for quality in the recipe.

Specialty coffee can’t compete at that price level (nor can farmers, pickers, anyone at origin make enough to improve their lives) and it’s easy to write it off as a market not suited to quality. Nobody buying a can of instant crystals from the store is going to accept or even understand the price of a great cup of coffee, but that’s not what Sudden is about.

sudden-2

Sudden Coffee is about making specialty coffee accessible even in situations where it would otherwise be impossible to brew a quality beverage. For Kalle, it’s his grandmother’s house in the middle of the forest. For others it may be at the office, at a hotel, or even at home when the baby is finally sleeping and I don’t want to crank up the grinder, just in case.

Sometimes it’s a coffee emergency, as happened with one of our tubes last week. Our cold brew tap had just run out, and my mom needed her morning iced coffee. I poured a tube of Sudden Coffee into her cup, added 8oz. of cold water, some ice, and she was good to go. There were no grounds to clean up, and my mom was able to rush out the door without waiting several minutes for me to brew a quick iced pour-over. Best of all, the coffee was excellent!

sudden-4

Our first shipment of Sudden Coffee featured my favorite coffee origin, Ethiopia, roasted by 49th Parallel in Vancouver. This Biftu Gudina was bright and floral, balanced, with a certain roundness that I can’t quite describe. I tried multiple hot brews at home, finally settling on the lowest temperature of 140º on our Bonavita Electric Kettle once I realized that I’m not extracting anything, just diluting and reheating the already brewed coffee.

The experience in the cup is somewhere between a full-immersion and a pour-over. It has the heavier body of a French Press, but without the lingering sediment, and I was consistently met with an unexpectedly clean finish. I had high expectations after listening to the podcast, and I’m happy those expectations were met.

Sudden Coffee definitely has a place in our lives, especially with the unpredictability of raising two kids, so I jumped on their subscription service so that we’ll always have some on hand when needed. This will be my go-to when traveling, and I look forward to having a quick solution anytime I get an unexpected coffee craving.

You know, when I want some coffee… all of a sudden! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

If you’re curious and want to see how instant specialty coffee can taste, any of the Sudden Coffee links in this post are referrals which offer you $10 off your first order! Check it out.