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#1 Jason Panella

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 09:49 PM

There isn't a thread solely dedicated to coffee (that I could find, at least), so I had to make one. I'm opening my own coffee shop soon, so I've had coffee on my mind a fair bit.

Let's talk coffee, shall we?

#2 Jason Panella

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:18 PM

QUOTE(Alan Thomas @ Sep 9 2006, 12:06 AM) View Post

Sumatra. Half-and-half. Sugar, but not too much.


Any particular estate/region? It's one good island for coffee, regardless.

#3 Christian

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 04:29 AM

Whatever else you do, Jason, don't overlook Sweet 'n' Low.

We haven't reached a tipping point yet, but I remember, as far back as a few years ago, stopping at a 7-11 for a cup of coffee (a rarity these days, although I used to do that on a regular basis), pouring a cup of joe, and then searching, in vain, for the Sweet 'n' Low. They had Equal, of course -- but I've tried to steer clear of that sweetener over the years; it can give me a headache.

And then there's Splenda. I do like Splenda, and keep a box of the stuff next to the Sweet 'n' Low, for company. It's also my preferred sweetener in tea.

But for coffee, I gotta have Sweet 'n' Low. Yeah, I'll settle for the little yellow packets (I have to have two for every one of Sweet 'n' Low), or even, in a pinch, for the little blue packets. But the pink packets are the best.

I find that most folks my age (35) think of Sweet 'n' Low as an "old people's" sweetener. There's something to that. But you don't want to alienate ANY potential customer group, so I suggest you cater to the bitter Sweet 'n' Low partisans among us (pun intended).

#4 tctruffin

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 02:29 PM

I wish you all the best in your coffee shop venture. Seeing small locally owned coffee shops always makes me smile, and I do my best to stop in and support them. Not living near Pittsburgh, all I can give you is moral support however.

In terms of coffee, my favorite coffee in the world is a signature blend from Peets called Garuda. It features coffees from the Indonesian islands. It is full-bodied with medium to low acidity. From what I see sold in the stores here in northwest Ohio and in my travels, most Americans seem to like rather acidic coffees (or "bright" coffees), especially from the Americas. I'm guessing they've been told that's what coffee is "supposed" to be. However, I like darker, nuttier, choclatier brews with some heft to them. Of course, at home I only use a french press, which helps with the body.

Were I to step into Jason's store, I'd be heading to any coffee from Indonesia or Africa.


As for sweetner, I'm a plain ol' sugar man myself. That turbinado sugar is nice, but not a must.

My wife likes the Splenda (Equal breaks down too fast in hot beverages and turns them bitter). We've also just been introduced to something called Stevia Extract that is calorie-, sodium-, fat-, and aspartame-free. She likes it. Me, I'll just take my sugar.

Oh, and no cream.

Unless I'm getting cafe aulait. Which is wonderful.

#5 Jason Panella

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 04:15 PM

Thanks for the kind words, folks.

I'm also a fan of Indonesian/African coffees, but like ones from the Americas as well. I've gotten into the habit of using my press pot for fuller-bodied ones, and my vacuum brewer for the lighter, more acidic ones. I will say, I haven't had a coffee that I've hated (well, other than some canned grocery store robusta stuff).

I'm not making all of the calls with the shop (I'm one of three people involved, and I'm mainly the "operations" end of things)...but last that I checked, we're using beans from Grounds for Change. As of now, I've tried maybe half of their single-origin and blends, and loved all of them.

As for cream and sugar--I'm so fickle! There isn't any set rule for me, unless I'm getting an Americano (I'll always fill the last 1/6 with cream and add two packs of raw sugar). I'll experiment with cream/sugar to see if they accentuate some of the nicer aspects of the coffees I'm brewing.

If anyone buys coffee from a shop, be it a small privately-owned one or a chain store, tell us about it! What do you like, and what don't you like?

#6 Chashab

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 06:19 PM

I'm with Alan; right now Sumatra (I'm buying a SWP decaf from our organic market in this particular case. I'm not sure if they have an organic regular there; not that I recall.) is my favorite. Great coffee. And I also drink it with cream and sugar . . . and we've become very fond of our french press. The coffee is much smoother, and it's more of a ritual to me as well.

I had a 100% Kona once too that is probably my second favorite.

I worked at a coffee shop for a year and a half; well, in the morning we served coffee and bagels, but we may have made most of our profit on the lunch crowd. I thought in all honesty our coffee was the best in town; we bought it from a local roaster, and our espresso blend in particular was really good.

#7 Jason Panella

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 12:22 PM

Something I want to toss out there:

Lots of people consider (pure) Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain among the best coffees out there. Their prices surely reflect that, at least. I'm skeptical. I've had Kona (100%) before, and it was OK. I haven't had Blue Mountain, so I can't speak from experience. Regardless, I've talked to enough coffee fanatics that say they're overpriced and overrated-- many people have a romantic connection to them due to honeymoons or special visits to the islands.

I'll probably have Blue Mountain soon; some friends got a bundle from Jamaica on their honeymoon. Folks tell me it's very "mild" and "doesn't taste like coffee!" as if that's a good thing.

#8 Chashab

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 12:37 PM

QUOTE(Jason Panella @ Sep 12 2006, 12:22 PM) View Post

Something I want to toss out there:

Lots of people consider (pure) Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain among the best coffees out there. Their prices surely reflect that, at least. I'm skeptical. I've had Kona (100%) before, and it was OK. I haven't had Blue Mountain, so I can't speak from experience. Regardless, I've talked to enough coffee fanatics that say they're overpriced and overrated-- many people have a romantic connection to them due to honeymoons or special visits to the islands.

I'll probably have Blue Mountain soon; some friends got a bundle from Jamaica on their honeymoon. Folks tell me it's very "mild" and "doesn't taste like coffee!" as if that's a good thing.


You're probably right in some respects, but bear in mind that how a bean is roasted affects it's flavor too. Maybe you had a good Kona with a bad roast smile.gif Just a thought . . .

What about Luwak? Not sure I WANT to try this one!


#9 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 12:59 PM

Blue Mountain rocks. I had it as a featured brew at a La Brea Coffeehouse; where it was still only $1.79 a cup. Mmmmm good.

Jason, what's your plan of attack? We had an insurance agent who started his own coffee house (A Coffee Affair) with a roaster (he held open houses during roasting on Wednesday evenings) and a franchising plan. Their website is now defunct--don't know if that means they are, too, or if they have a new site.



#10 Jason Panella

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 01:16 PM

QUOTE(Chashab @ Sep 12 2006, 01:37 PM) View Post

You're probably right in some respects, but bear in mind that how a bean is roasted affects it's flavor too. Maybe you had a good Kona with a bad roast smile.gif Just a thought . . .

What about Luwak? Not sure I WANT to try this one!


No, from what I remember it was a well-roasted Kona. I guess it didn't strike me; I'd rather have several more common single-origin beans (specifically Kenya AA or Guatemala Huehuetenango), because I just think they taste better. Too each their own.

Maybe--and this is a good point Buckeye brought up--I'm just wary of how much some places charge. The (chain) coffee place I work for now charges 30 bucks for a half pound of Blue Mountain. That's a crime, and I actually tell folks not to buy it because of that. My friends (who got the stuff on their honeymoon) saw it for similar prices in Jamaican tourist shops, but found a pound in a native grocery store for a very reasonable price. I think I'd be hip on it if it were more affordable; because it just seems like most of the "special" coffees cost a lot because people are taking advantage of sentiment.

Our plan of attack is fairly simple--it's in my co-founders' house, we're planning on buying a roaster in the near future. We're right next to a college (our alma mater, in fact, for the three of us); the community--the college and surrounding neighborhoods--is extremely excited for the place.

#11 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 01:36 PM

QUOTE(Jason Panella @ Sep 12 2006, 02:16 PM) View Post

. The (chain) coffee place I work for now charges 30 bucks for a half pound of Blue Mountain. That's a crime, and I actually tell folks not to buy it because of that. My friends (who got the stuff on their honeymoon) saw it for similar prices in Jamaican tourist shops, but found a pound in a native grocery store for a very reasonable price. I think I'd be hip on it if it were more affordable; because it just seems like most of the "special" coffees cost a lot because people are taking advantage of sentiment.



Sentimentality + Price = Profit

#12 Thom

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 03:15 PM

I am not a fan of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. It was really good while we were in Jamaica. We liked it enough to buy a couple of pounds to take home. Let me just say, it never tasted as good as it did in Jamaica. Now, I avoid it.

However, one day, when the sentimentality is so overwhelming and we are in a place that serves a fresh cup of the Blue Mountain bean, I may just shell out the dough.

#13 Chashab

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 04:13 PM

QUOTE(Thom(asher) @ Sep 12 2006, 03:15 PM) View Post

I am not a fan of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. It was really good while we were in Jamaica. We liked it enough to buy a couple of pounds to take home. Let me just say, it never tasted as good as it did in Jamaica. Now, I avoid it.

However, one day, when the sentimentality is so overwhelming and we are in a place that serves a fresh cup of the Blue Mountain bean, I may just shell out the dough.


My wife and I have found that we enjoy almost all varieties of coffee better when prepared in our french press, which I mentioned ealier. They aren't always great, but it seems to us that something about this brewing process agrees with us more than that typical drip style coffee machine which we still do use when there are more than two of us in the house. Perhaps that was part of the difference in flavor?

#14 Jason Panella

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 11:28 PM

QUOTE(Chashab @ Sep 12 2006, 05:13 PM) View Post

My wife and I have found that we enjoy almost all varieties of coffee better when prepared in our french press, which I mentioned ealier. They aren't always great, but it seems to us that something about this brewing process agrees with us more than that typical drip style coffee machine which we still do use when there are more than two of us in the house. Perhaps that was part of the difference in flavor?


Press pots really work well with coffees that have a heavy body, since the press accentuates that aspect of that. Another problem with auto-drip makers is that--unless you have a fancy-pants home unit or have access to a commercial one--you're not going to get the water to the correct temperature. Plus, the paper filter holds in the beans' natural oils.

Now, drip makers--auto, or preferably manual drips--do work with lighter body/higher acidity coffees, since they make them taste sharper and more zestful. These also goes for vacuum brewers. I don't know the exact chemical reasoning for this, but it's true.

If you ever have access to a vacuum brewer, Chashab, I'd say get it. Bodum puts out a nice line that is in the $80-or-less range. They might only brew around 25 oz. max, but they're a) faster than an auto-drip, b ) use a filter that actually lets some of the oil through, c) totally fun to watch.

Edited by Jason Panella, 12 September 2006 - 11:28 PM.


#15 Christian

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 12:34 PM

Has anyone ever been to a "cupping"? I haven't, although I once frequented the Clarendon store highlighted in the linked article, when it went by the name "Common Grounds."

So coffee "cupping" is similar to a wine tasting. I could get used to that idea.

What I can't get used to is seeing my two favorite brands of coffee bringing up the rear in the cupping taste challenge.

One participant summarized: "You get what you pay for." But my strategy has been to get the best value for the money -- not really the same thing -- and so I'll continue to buy the lowly Eight O'Clock brand.

#16 Jeff Kolb

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 01:51 PM

I've been to a few cuppings. They've been hit and miss.

I lived one summer with some of the folks from Alliance World Coffees, and had a lot of really good coffee. I've not really found anything since then that compares.

Once you're beyond Folgers, the most important factor in coffee (by far!) is freshness. There's a lot of decent coffee here in the SF Bay Area, from bigger guys like Peet's, to a number of smaller roasters. But finding really good coffee is a little tough. One thing to realize is that some "Roasteries" or "coffee roasting companies" don't actually roast their own beans, meaning that you'll never get that truly fresh cup of coffee there. You'll also have a hard time getting fresh beans at a shop like Peet's, where they have a central roasting facility that ships bags out to the retail locations (although Peet's does a pretty good job of keeping a small, relatively fresh inventory).

Your best bet for a great cup is to find a local roastery and try to get a cup of something roasted just a few hours ago. Roasting technique does make a difference, but it's pretty small compared to the drop-off in flavour that occurs 24-48hrs after roasting. Similarly for bean origin: as long as you're dealing with real Arabica beans that have been decently treated, you'll get a good cup of coffee if it's freshly roasted.

I did once have a small cup of freshly-roasted Jamaican Blue. It was really good. But not that much better that some other favourites like Sumatra Gayo Mt. or any decent Ethiopian Harrar.

(Jeff finishes his cup of oh-so-pedestrian Starbucks)

#17 techne

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 02:49 PM

My votes:

Tanzanian Peaberry
Monsoon Malabar
Celebes Kalossi
Brazil Santos

I prefer Sumatra Mandheling as a medium dark i think most of the indonesians are a little richer a little darker...



#18 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 15 January 2007 - 07:54 PM

QUOTE(Christian @ Jan 10 2007, 02:34 PM) View Post
One participant summarized: "You get what you pay for." But my strategy has been to get the best value for the money -- not really the same thing -- and so I'll continue to buy the lowly Eight O'Clock brand.

I agree. I'm not going to pay $25 a pound for the perfect cup. Enemy of the good. I stick with Costco whole bean coffees. Great price, excellent pot of coffee. Still, if I hear of cuppings around here, I'll certainly try one.

#19 Christian

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Posted 15 January 2007 - 09:06 PM

QUOTE(Rich Kennedy @ Jan 15 2007, 07:54 PM) View Post
QUOTE(Christian @ Jan 10 2007, 02:34 PM) View Post
One participant summarized: "You get what you pay for." But my strategy has been to get the best value for the money -- not really the same thing -- and so I'll continue to buy the lowly Eight O'Clock brand.

I agree. I'm not going to pay $25 a pound for the perfect cup. Enemy of the good. I stick with Costco whole bean coffees. Great price, excellent pot of coffee. Still, if I hear of cuppings around here, I'll certainly try one.


The Kirklands' brand, which is brewed by Starbucks? That's what my wife just bought me, for the second time. It's better than Eight O'Clock, and at Costco prices, not much more expensive.

#20 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:22 AM

Yes. The green label (was "Starbuck's Meridian Blend for Kirkland") is good, so is the red label espresso (but not necessarily good when used as espresso). Right now I am trying to figure out if a newer Kirkland Sumatra French Roast is better than the green. I'm not sure.