Even the very best, fresh-roasted coffee beans can be spoiled by improper storage and brewing. Welcome to the SOJO Coffee School! We hope these tips help you to brew the best cup of coffee possible!
How do I order SOJO Coffee? Obviously, you found the website! This is the best way to communicate with us and ensure your coffee order is received and prioritized for roasting. We certainly welcome other orders too! Such as in person, by phone, text, email, Facebook and other ways; but the best way to make sure you get your SOJO Coffee fresh roasted and on time...order online! Also, don't forget to like us on Facebook and sign up for SOJO news and events (located at the bottom of our web pages)! This will keep you up to date with what's going on, new roast offerings and all the mischief we are getting into!
Why does SOJO Coffee smell so good? Easy Answer: It's just so darn fresh! More Complicated Answer: It's how we roast it. Every roaster intends to roast coffee and maintain the natural sweetness found in the bean.....it's not really a "bean" at all by the way, coffee is actually the seed of a coffee cherry...it's FRUIT! So it seems, like other fruits, coffee beans generally carry a natural sweetness; sugars found and developed in the bean while roasting. However, it is a bit of a challenge to maintain that sweetness until the end of the roast and many roasters miss the mark. All roasters try to save the sweetness...few succeed. SOJO strives to create the sweetest roast possible and much of that sweetness carries through to the aromatics of the coffee. Even the hardiest, most robust ZZ-Top bearded, truck stop road-tar coffee gulper will appreciate a bit of sweetness in the cup. More sweet...less bitter. That's SOJO Coffee!
Whole Bean or Ground? To grind or not to grind....that is the question. SOJO recommends “whole bean” coffee! We believe that the best coffee is ground just prior to brewing. You will need a coffee grinder! But what kind of grinder is best? “Burr” grinders produce the most uniform grind for the optimal cup of coffee (SOJO recommended); however, the “rotating blade-type” grinders will work too in a pinch. Remember, once you grind those beans, oxygen immediately begins to breakdown your coffee and it will soon become stale…..our recommendation? Grind...then brew immediately! A few other reasons to save the grinding for the moment before brewing:
1. Ground coffee is susceptible to contamination! The delicate oils in the ground coffee will pick up whatever odors happen to be in the air. A good thing to keep in mind....coffee and oxygen hate each other.
2. Oxygen kills coffee. Fresh roasted coffee contains over 1,000 volatile aromas and flavors. After grinding, oxygen attacks and reacts with the coffee. After only 15 minutes, ground coffee will lose 60% of its aroma. Bummer.
3. Moisture. Coffee oils are water-soluble....which is good, otherwise we couldn't brew it! But...moisture and humidity are a big problem for ground coffee. When exposed to moisture, the oils begin to dilute and break down making a great coffee just so-so....or worse.
4. Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Roasting produces CO2. Much of this important gas is retained within the cells of the bean and CO2 plays a critical role in the brewing and extraction process. When ground, coffee loses CO2 quickly. Within 60 seconds, 80% of the internal CO2 is released into the air. Wait too long after grinding and your coffee loses an essential component needed to make the best darn cup of Joe you've had since....ever.
We say; bite the bullet and buy a grinder.
....However, some of us prefer the convenience of purchasing coffee already ground and we don't judge. If that's your thing, no problem, SOJO has you covered! Our premium bags are re-sealable to keep that ground coffee fresh! Select "Whole Bean" or "Ground" at checkout....and we will be happy to grind it for you! We use a premium commercial burr grinder providing a uniform, perfect medium-grind every time. Like it ground finer or more course? Just drop us a message and tell us how you like it!
SOJO coffee bags. SOJO coffee is fresh roasted, allowed to rest for approximately 24 hours or longer, then bagged. Our bags are made with a re-sealable zipper and a 5-layer construction with foil lining that locks in all the freshness and aromatics of freshly roasted coffee! These premium bags ensure you get the best coffee...every time. They are the best coffee bags available and provide excellent storage of our coffee. The one-way valve allows the coffee to degas (see "Does my coffee have gas") below.
We always recommend that your fresh coffee is stored in an air-tight container. Remember....coffee and oxygen hate each other. The re-sealable zipper built into our bags work great as a sealed container, just be sure to keep that zipper tightly closed!
Resting coffee? It is a bit of a misconception that coffee can be brewed directly from the roaster. You can actually drink coffee that is that too fresh. In fact, coffee is somewhat dull after roasting with very little aromatics. Coffee beans require some time exposed to oxygen in order to “degas” and develop. Fresh roasted beans emit a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) after roasting, thus the need for that one-way valve mentioned above and found on our sealed coffee bags. Also, by resting the coffee, the aromatics and the overall depth and body of the coffee will develop to its peak. So the question is, how long should fresh roasted coffee be rested? This is certainly a matter of serious debate among roasters and opinions differ. Generally, this period is 1-4 days with others insisting that some roasts do not hit their peak until at least 7 days....or longer. It simply depends on many factors; the specific bean, roast degree, environmental conditions, etc. SOJO generally allows 12 to 24 hours for resting and development in our shop. Also, our bags utilize a one-way degassing valve allowing CO2 to escape a sealed bag while not letting oxygen in, so the degassing and development process continues until the coffee reaches your doorstep and is well within the general time that is needed for good development and a perfect first cup! However, once you receive your coffee, you will want to store it correctly…..read on.
How do I store my whole bean or ground coffee? Store your SOJO coffee in an air-tight, sealed container in a cool, dark place. If you prefer to store your coffee in the bag, be sure the zipper is tightly closed. Never place your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer! Remember, once those beans have been allowed time for degassing and development; moisture and oxygen become coffee’s enemies….keep your coffee sealed! But grandma kept her coffee in the freezer..? Grandma never attended Coffee School.
Does my coffee have gas? It may be a little embarrassing to talk about , but yes, your fresh roasted coffee has gas. Lots of it. As mentioned earlier, coffee as it develops releases a lot of CO2. Its a natural process and nothing to be ashamed of. When you place your fresh roasted coffee into a sealed container, you may notice that "Psssshhh" sound as you open it the next day. That's just escaping gas (CO2) from that fresh coffee. Its OK.....gas is good. But...too much gas is bad. Coffee needs to degas, so be sure to open that container from time-to-time and let the gas out. If you store your coffee in its sealed bag, the degassing valve will remove the gas and keep your coffee at peak freshness.
How long will my coffee last? Keep in mind, coffee is food. It’s best to think of your fresh coffee as bread. Properly stored, your fresh coffee will maintain its taste and quality for 2 or maybe 3 weeks max. Maintain about a two week supply of fresh roasted coffee to ensure you are always enjoying the best coffee….don’t settle for less! Most coffee beans you purchase from your grocery store are at least months old…or older! Some people become so accustomed to drinking old, stale coffee they simply do not realize what they are missing. Fresh roasted coffee is an experience that will be hard to forget…..you WILL want more!
Water? Using the right brewing water is also important as coffee is mostly…water. Water is critical. Defects in your water will carry through to your cup. Avoid these water “types”:
• Chlorinated water, if you can smell chlorine….pass on that water. Chlorine is for swimming pools, not making coffee.
• Salt-softened water. I’ve found that softened water, as passed through my home water softener, to make really bad coffee. I would avoid it and stick with a naturally semi-soft filtered tap water or water treated by Reverse Osmosis (RO) if possible.
• Water that has a smell or taste that is heavily noticeable. It will carry over into the final taste and aromatics of your coffee. Your water should be “tasteless and odorless” to all extents possible.
• Water heavy in minerals (calcium or other hardness). Hardness strongly influences the way water and ground coffee interact. Naturally softer is better….
• Distilled water. For some reason, distilled water destroys the extraction process and your coffee will taste like a wet cardboard box.
Filtered tap water (if naturally soft to moderately hard), or RO water (water treated by Reverse Osmosis) I have found works great. Bottled drinking water or water that is well filtered is definitely a plus.
For all you chemistry geeks out there, here are the acceptable ranges of water chemistry for a great cup:
• Odor: none
• Color: none
• Total Chlorine: 0 mg/l
• Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) at 365 deg. F: 75-250 mg/l
• Calcium Hardness: 1-5 grains or 17-85 mg/l
• Total Alkalinity: At or near 40 mg/l
• pH: 6.5 – 7.5
• Sodium: At or near 10 mg/l
Coffee Makers. Yes, they make a difference. I hate to name certain brands, so I will speak in generalities here. If you pride yourself on being the neighborhood coffee snob, you will want to purchase a coffee maker certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), www.scaa.org. With a SCAA Certified brewer, you are absolutely justified bragging to your friends about it while sipping your coffee pinkie-out! On the SCAA website, you can find guidance to selecting a certified brewer and be the envy of your coffee drinking acquaintances! SCAA certified coffee makers generally allow for the coffee to “bloom” prior to brewing, this process is also referred to as “pre-infusing”. This is one positive thing I will say about spending the extra cash. Fresh coffee “blooms” or expands and rises like bread dough. This allows the coffee to open and expand prior to the brew process getting the best possible extraction from your fresh grounds. Old coffee does not boom. Add hot water and it acts like sand, does not rise, just gets wet. However, should your budget not agree and your reputation as the neighborhood coffee snob not important, I would recommend following these few tips in basic brewer section:
Brew Temperature. Many lesser-expensive brewers simply brew coffee too cold. 92 Deg. C (or about 198 Deg. F) is your optimal brew temperature target.
Blooming. More and more brewers are starting to offer a "blooming" feature. This is important, especially for very fresh roasted coffees. By wetting the grounds precisely and allowing them to expand of "bloom", they are better prepared for the brew cycle. Consider brewers with this feature...its worth it.
Pass on the glass. Does the brewer you’re considering have a glass carafe with the hot plate below it? Fresh brewed coffee that sits on a hot plate lasts only minutes before the taste changes and becomes bitter. The coffee sits and cooks and its chemistry changes quickly. Select a brewer with a thermal-insulated carafe.
Easy to clean? Coffee residue left on your brewer causes a bitter and unpleasant taste in your fresh brewed coffee. Be sure to clean you brewer to avoid tainting your next pot.
Brew time. How long does your brewer take to make a full pot? Once water hits those grounds, your target brew time is 4-8 minutes. Many of the coffee makers that store hot water on demand also brew very quickly, be cautious of the fast brew machines, they simply do not allow enough extraction time and you will be left with a flat tasting and disappointing cup of coffee.
The Great Filter Debate. Coffee enthusiasts will argue between using paper filters or metal mesh. Some methods, such as pour-over coffee, calls for the use of cloth filters. I was a metal mesh filter guy for many years, but my opinion changes. I have found some coffees to be “better” when using a paper filter. "Better" being a relative term. Others seem to shine when using metal mesh. I find myself switching back-and-forth as an attempt to seek perfection. I believe paper may allow a combination of increased extraction time and the oils found in the coffee naturally interacting, or not, with the filter. Maybe it's my wild imagination? Because I have found little agreement on this subject, I will ask you be the ultimate judge. I can recommend, however, should you choose the paper filter, keep this in mind:
- Bargain-priced paper filters yield inferior coffee. Look for "oxygen-bleached" or "dioxin-free" paper filters. I also recommend the natural "brown" filters over pure bleached white.
Back to the Grind. The grind matters. Uniformly ground coffee is key. The issue with the blade-type grinders I mentioned earlier is the grind size is not uniform. Instead, the grind size varies from small to larger and the extraction will suffer. The smaller sized grounds will over-extract causing bitterness, and the larger sizes may not fully extract causing your coffee to not reach its full flavor potential. Turkish and espresso methods require a very fine grind while a French Press relies on the grind being course. Drip coffee makers fall somewhere in the middle, a medium grind. A few minutes on the internet will give you all the information you need on what grind size is right for your method.
So, how much coffee should I use when brewing? This is the number one question I get asked. I attempted to research a solid and definite answer, but everywhere I looked, opinions on this varied. I've seen charts on this that look like they were developed by engineers with a lot of time on their hands.....but why complicate things? My answer: The ratio that you think is right, is....right. Should you just happen to be an engineer, this is the best advice I can give....
Start with about 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water, or if you prefer to be precise - this is equivalent to about 1 gram of coffee for every 16 milliliters of water.
...or add more, or a little less. Perfect!
Have you been accused of being a perfectionist? If so, join the club! If perfection is what you seek, measure your coffee by weight, not volume. For the most consistent brew time after time, measuring by weight is the key. Measure the beans before you grind them. Invest in a simple inexpensive kitchen scale, nothing fancy required.
How does the roasting process work? Green coffee is hard, tasteless and generally worthless in its unroasted form. It's amazing anyone ever thought to roast and drink the stuff. A misconception is that coffee is "baked" like a pie. Add heat, turn the bean brown and you have coffee. This couldn't be a more inaccurate way to describe the roasting process. Roasting is actually the fostering of a chemical process within the bean. Heat and time, perfectly placed and managed, makes a great roasted coffee. Should that process stall or if heat is applied to quickly or erratically, the chemical process slows or stops and the coffee begins to bake, not roast. Baked coffee tastes like grass or cardboard and is severely flawed to the point it is no longer drinkable. Ruining coffee during the roasting process can happen quickly and attention to every detail is critical. Roasting is a head-on collision of art and chemistry.
Do you own a percolator? Brewing coffee with a percolator is acceptable if you find yourself on a deserted island with no other option. Otherwise, it becomes a perfect way to destroy good coffee. If you happen to have one of these medieval devices, do yourself a favor; fill it full of dirt and put a nice house plant in it. UPDATE: I recently had a very nice lady scold me for talking down on her percolator apparently quite offended I suggested it be used to hold dirt. She swears by this method and that it makes some darn good coffee. I felt compelled to give her the following advice:
- Take the coffee off the heart immediately when you believe it is done....don't allow it to simmer
- Use very coarsely ground coffee
- Allow the coffee a time to rest, or cool just slightly, before the first cup
I was obliged to provide her fresh roasted coffee ground like gravel and I have to admit, it wasn't half bad. We are now friends and she continues to brew her SOJO coffee the old-fashioned way....and she has graciously forgiven me for making fun of her percolator!
Try the Decaf. Alright, I'm about to come clean. I drink decaffeinated coffee. Yes, it pains me to admit, but I absolutely love having a cup of coffee later in the evening or even at night. My caffeine-purist friends tell me I should be ashamed of myself. The problem?......I couldn't sleep. Just one cup and I'm starring out the window at 2 am wondering who's cat that is on my deck. I never liked decaf., and ventured through the green cans and bags trying desperately to find a roast that resembled "real" coffee; one that I could enjoy. I never found it. Then I tried roasting my own. It changed everything. Fresh roasted decaf is surprisingly good and is far superior than anything you can buy shelved in a store. We currently offer a premium 100% Colombian Decaf that is worthy of the SOJO label. So whether it due to lack of sleep or the need to cut the caffeine, give fresh roasted decaffeinated a shot.....you won't be disappointed!
How do I learn more about coffee? There are many online sources of information regarding the art of coffee....just Google it! However, the many different nuances of single-origin coffee can be confusing. Knowing the basics of where coffee comes from and why it matters will serve you well on your journey to become a true coffee connoisseur. One site I would recommend checking out is this one: www.espressocoffeeguide.com
In Closing. A few last recommendations I can provide:
Never re-heat old coffee. It's terrible and you're not that desperate. Start a fresh pot!
Never put new grounds over old grounds and make a second pot. I’ve seen this happen and I’m still traumatized. The old grounds are spent and have nothing but bitterness left to offer, dump them and start over!
Strength is a matter of personal taste and bravery. Don’t pay attention to the charts you see online with the “optimal” water/coffee ratio. Besides, that ratio will differ with coffees. Use that as a starting point if you wish then find your own ratio, that’s the right one!
Coffee is coffee.....right? Nope. Coffee is common....great coffee is rare! Treat yourself to fresh roasted, I guarantee you won't go back to "common" coffee.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you to make a great cup of SOJO coffee at home! Although there are many basic principles you will be well served to follow, coffee brewing, like roasting, is certainly an art to be experimented with. Enjoy the journey and don’t be afraid to try something new, like brewing with a French Press, Aeropress, or vacuum pot.....alright, even a percolator! If you have time and like the intriguing art of coffee, try an old Japanese method; brewing a cup by pour over. Have fun and find your SOJO MoJo!.
Stay caffeinated my friends and brew on! Class Dismissed.