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Barista at Home: Start with Good Coffee

good coffee

To brew good coffee, many things need to go right.

Most of those are little things: minor nuances in technique, minute details that make good gear work well. All are details that should be kept in focus without losing sight of the full picture:

In order to brew good coffee, one must start with good coffee.

Brewing coffee is like photography. The camera doesn’t create, the sunset, mountains, or that unsightly cell tower. Instead, the skilled photographer use it to carefully compose their shot, finding and emphasizing the beauty of their subject.

In previous installments of “Barista at Home”, we discussed the brewing process and how to choose and use tools to manage the extraction. Today, we’ll focus on the idea that we’re not making a good coffee. Like skilled photographers, we’re finding and celebrating the distinctive beauty already in the coffee bean.

The first step in brewing a good cup of coffee? Start with good coffee beans.

As followers of Dilworth Coffee’s Beanology blog know, the flavors of coffee trace back to both the local roaster and origin country. This makes for a diverse landscape of delicious and distinctive flavors which are the definition of specialty coffee for many people.

While distinctive flavor is prized in coffees, that means that not every coffee drinker will enjoy every coffee. With so many unique coffee experiences are available, it’s important to choose your coffee carefully.

One oft-overlooked source for coffee beans is your neighborhood coffeehouse. This is an excellent place to buy fresh coffee, since they offer the chance to taste some of their options. Even if you don’t enjoy today’s brew, you’ll have a starting point for discussion with your friendly barista about coffees you might prefer.

Like photographing a beautiful sunset, timing is critical with roasted coffee.

From the moment those coffee beans leave the roasting machine, the clock is ticking. With each passing day, irreversible chemical reactions are changing the flavors inside.

This is helpful at first. In the hours right after roasting, too much trapped Carbon Dioxide gas can ruin your extraction like the glare from the sun hovering above the horizon. Gas levels drop quickly, though, and most coffees are ready for drip brewing after 1-2 days of rest, twice that for espresso. From this point forward time is no longer on our side as vibrant flavors begin to fade and change.

Fresh coffees will continue to have trapped CO2, even after initial rest. That’s why skilled baristas begin brewing by first wetting the grounds with a small amount of brewing water, then pausing. Letting the coffee “bloom” for 30-45 seconds gives gasses time to dissipate, helping the rest of the extraction be more effective.

How long is a delicious and distinctive coffee still considered fresh?

The answer is: “as long as they still taste delicious and distinctive”. Like every sunset is unique, every coffee ages differently. Some fade quickly into grey, while others’ seem to glow forever. So “how long?” depends on the coffee. That said, most of what makes fresh coffee so good will have faded noticeably after 3-4 weeks. Could you drink it? Sure. But that blah purgatory is best avoided if you’re looking for delicious brews.

It’s worth noting the difference between “faded” and “stale”. The processes responsible for the negative flavors we call stale are much slower moving, and a coffee will cease to be fresh weeks or months before it begins to be truly stale.

We can delay the inevitable.

While the loss of good coffee flavor is unavoidable, careful storage can slow down the chemical reactions responsible.

Oxygen is great for life, but it’s presence means death for fresh coffee. That’s because one of the reactions linked to flavor loss is oxidation. Since “air” is 21% Oxygen, it’s best to buy coffee in sealed bags, leave them sealed until you’re ready to brew, then roll down and re-close the bag between brews.

That’s another great reason to buy coffee in whole-bean form and grind it immediately before brewing. Increased surface area speeds up oxidation and the other freshness-robbing reactions.

Flavors also fade due to loss of volatile aromatic compounds. Those reactions occur faster at higher temperatures and humidity levels. That’s why we recommend storing your (tightly sealed) coffee bags at cooler room temperature.

Why not the refrigerator and freezer?

While those do provide better storage temperatures, there’s an increased risk of humidity-related problems. We don’t generally recommend storing coffee in the freezer or refrigerator.

Picture perfect results

Want a great cup? Choose a good coffee you enjoy, buy it fresh, store it properly, and brew it well. Then bask in the glow of your coffee’s distinctive beauty.

For even more tips on brewing good coffee at home, call Dilworth Coffee at 866-849-1682. Or join us for an upcoming Specialty Coffee Association Brewing class.

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Barista at Home: Coffee Brewing Gear

coffee brewing gear

The gift-giving season is upon us. Need some ideas for your friendly neighborhood coffee geek?

Here’s a hint: home baristas love toys.

Make no mistake, professional baristas can MacGuyver rigs to brew great coffee out of some pretty random household items when needed. Having the right tools can make achieving good coffee easier, more consistent, and much more fun though.

In this second installment of our Barista at Home series, we’ll check out some of our favorite coffee brewing gear. We’ll also pinpoint which brewing essentials these tools use to help you make great coffee at home too.

Turn up the volume with Coffee-to-Water Ratio

A delicious cup of coffee has balance: excellent flavor and enjoyable strength. Strength in this case does not mean a “bold” or bitter flavor, it’s the intensity of the flavor. If coffee were music, strength would be the volume. Our goal is to turn that volume up to create an enjoyable experience without changing the sound, err… flavor quality.

This is pretty straightforward to do: the more ground coffee you use for a given amount of water, the stronger and more concentrated the resulting brew will be. Baristas refer to this recipe as the coffee-to-water ratio.

How strong? Dilworth Coffee recommends using 1 part coffee to 17 parts water (that’s 3.75oz coffee per half gallon, or about 55 grams per liter). With that ratio, and a proper extraction your finished brew should be a crowd-pleasing strength.

How can good coffee brewing gear help?

Most professional baristas count on a scale to weigh out the exact amount of coffee. They’ll also brew on a scale to make sure their water measurements are equally precise.

An accurate kitchen scale works (and is useful for other tasks). That said, I like the built-in timer feature on the Hario v60 Drip Scale. Those looking to splurge might upgrade to the Acai Pearl scale with its Bluetooth functionality.

Fine-tune with Temperature and Turbulence

Unless coldbrew is your thing, you need HOT water for proper brewing. How hot? We recommend 195-205 degree F water for best results. No precision digital thermometer handy? Just bring your water to a boil right before brewing.

While you could boil that water in your microwave, most pros’ coffee brewing gear includes a purpose-built kettle instead.

My go-to electric kettle is from Bonavita. It heats water quickly and features a long pouring spout to help control turbulence (more on that shortly). It’s digital sibling is a nice upgrade, giving you more precise control of the brewing water temperature.

Did I say turbulence? Buckle up, little coffee grounds! For a tasty extraction, we need to keep everything moving and interacting with the water. We describe that movement as turbulence.

The long “gooseneck” spouts on coffee pouring kettles enable the barista to pour with precision. Directing the water so it reaches all of the grounds makes turbulence more uniform.

Those spouts also limit water flow, which helps to control the magnitude of the turbulence. That’s important, since too bumpy of a ride can shake unpleasant flavors loose.

Have some fun with Brewing Devices

Scales and kettles may be useful tools, but brewing devices are where the fun really happens.

Most professional brew bars feature some kind of pourover brewing device, with popular choices including the Hario v60, Kalita Wave, and Beehouse or Bonmac drippers. I’ve enjoyed delicious coffee from all of these, though the Kalita Wave is my go-to method.

What makes the coffee from each of these methods unique? Variations in filter shape are responsible for some of the differences in the cup. Many pro baristas prefer the pointier cone shape of the v60, though flat-bottom or truncated-cone-shaped filters make it easier to consistently brew good coffee.

The number and size of the holes in the bottom of the device also make a difference. This can vary from the single small hole in a Bonmac to the wide-open v60. Like to tinker? Check out the adjustable December Dripper – it’s the hot new brewer of the year and sure to be on your favorite barista’s letter to Santa (hint hint).

No matter which brewer you choose, be sure to select the size that’s appropriate for you. I usually pick the two cup version, which performs equally well whether I’m brewing a single mug for myself or sharing with a friend.

Make your list, check it twice.

Good coffee brewing gear: it’s a good gift idea for the barista at home AND a great way to make better coffee. Want more information on brewing great coffee? Continue with Part 3 of our Barista at Home series, “Start with Good Coffee”. Also check out Dilworth Coffee’s Brewology resources or call Brady at 866 849 1682.

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Barista at Home: Brewing Essentials

brewing essentials

The Holiday Season is upon us. For many of us, that means traveling to visit family and friends. For baristas, chances are good we’ll be waking up early and brewing them coffee once we get there.

What do baristas do differently that makes our coffee taste so good?

Better yet, what can we all do to make better coffee at home too?

Read on, dear friends…

What makes coffee taste so good?

A roasted coffee bean is a treasure chest full of flavorful sugars, aromatics, acids and oils. The goal of brewing is to unlock the best of those flavors and dissolve them into a delicious and drinkable form.

Baristas know that brewing good coffee at home requires good ingredients, the right tools, and an understanding of the brewing essentials.

What are the brewing essentials?

When we brew coffee, we’re putting the process of extraction to work. Water does the heavy lifting. It dissolves flavoring solids, breaking the bigger molecules down, and then helping them diffuse out of the coffee grounds and into our mugs. A good barista fine tunes the flavor of their brew by controlling this extraction.

The coffee bean may be a treasure chest, but not all the flavors inside are treasures. Fortunately, different flavors extract at different rates and less desirable flavors tend to extract more slowly. Our goal is to pull out as many of the tasty flavors as possible before things start to go wrong.

How do we control the extraction to accomplish this?

Seven elements of the brewing process, the brewing essentials, can help us achieve that deliciousness. Today, we’ll consider two important and closely-linked elements: grind setting and brewing time.

The Grind and why it’s so important.

Imagine we’re flavoring solids enjoying a concert at The Grind Auditorium with thousands of our closest friends. As the show finishes, everyone’s nicely dissolved and ready to head to the afterparty. First, though, we need to diffuse our way out of the venue (preferably leaving some of the more obnoxious flavors in the room behind).

Who will make it to the afterparty before the Mug Club reaches capacity?

That depends largely on two factors: our distance to the nearest exit and the time we have to get there. If The Grind has opened an exit in our section, we can exit quickly. If only the more distant main doors are open, though, it will take a while for all of us to make our way outside.

Extraction is similar. The smaller the ground coffee particle, the closer the exits and the faster the extraction occurs. Conversely, the larger the particle, the longer it takes for extraction to happen.

Fortunately, managing grind particle size is easy if you use a high-quality burr grinder.

What about time?

A given particle size has an ideal contact time; the amount of time water is in contact with the ground coffee determines the amount and quality of coffee flavoring solids extracted. Too short for the particle size and you leave flavor behind yielding a sour, underextracted cup. Too long and those unpleasant flavors start to show up, turning our party harsh, bitter, and overextracted.

Understanding these two brewing essentials can help us control the extraction by matching grind setting and brewing time.

While drip brewers do let you control how quickly water is being poured over the coffee grounds, the coffee bed’s resistance determines how quickly that water drains out. This means your total brewing time can’t be directly controlled.

What to do?

An encore at The Grind.

Water drains more quickly through coarser ground coffee and more slowly through finer ground. That means changing grind setting affects the results in two ways: by changing the speed of the extraction process AND influencing the total brew time.

That’s why controlling grind is the easiest and most effective way to fine tune your drip brewing process.

I usually start with the grinder setting recommended by the Dilworth Coffee Brewing Guides, brew a batch, and taste the results. If the coffee tastes bitter and brewing took longer than recommended, I’ll try again with a slightly coarser grind. If it tastes thin and sour and the time was too fast, I’ll use a slightly finer grind.

Let those barista guests sleep in!

With the right combination of grind setting and brewing time, you can manage your extraction like a professional and unlock those tasty flavors for yourself. Just make sure to save them a cup, I hear that show at The Grind went pretty late.

To learn even more about the brewing essentials check out next week’s edition of Barista at Home: Coffee Brewing Gear. Can’t wait that long? Contact Brady Butler at 866-849-1682.

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Great Coffee Takes Quality Water

quality water

At Dilworth Coffee, everyone knows we focus on serving you an outstanding cup of coffee. Sure, that begins with the highest quality beans, but equally important in making great coffee is the quality water that is used to brew it.

That’s because hot H2O is the solvent that extracts the flavors and oils out of coffee beans. A cup of coffee is about 98.75 percent water, leaving only 1.25 percent for the soluble plant matter; so, it’s easy to see why great coffee takes quality water. All the countless hours of work by farmers, roasters and numerous others involved in getting coffee to market are for naught if, in the end, you end up with a beverage brewed with bad water.

It sounds simple to say water is just two hydrogen molecules for every one of oxygen, but the chemistry of water is actually very complex. Its makeup can change seasonally and because of other factors such as variable water sources, treatments and environmental variables.

Water also has many gases and minerals dissolved in it, in addition to floating bacteria and dirt. A simple charcoal filter will remove things like dirt and odor but is not much help when it comes to mineral content.

Much the same way it pulls flavors from coffee, water extracts minerals as it moves through the ground or in pipes. Some of those minerals, such as iron, can produce bad coffee tastes or colors. Some, on the other hand, can be good; coffee just tastes better when brewed with water that has a fair amount of calcium dissolved in it.

One measurement the Specialty Coffee Association uses to count the number of minerals dissolved in water is by measuring the total dissolved solids (TDS). A TDS reading is partially a measure of whether water is what is considered soft or hard. Things such as iron, chlorine and chlorinates should not be present in a reading. If water does not fall into the desired range, the solution may be a water softening or filtration system. So we are very careful about making sure all Dilworth Coffee stores have high quality water. Filtering systems are put in place to make sure it always meets the highest standards.

With its thousands of different flavors and chemicals (such as caffeine), coffee is an extremely complex beverage. No good extraction of those desirable tastes is possible without quality water. That’s why we always do coffee justice and make sure our water is held to the same high standard as our outstanding beans. Visit your local Dilworth Coffee to enjoy beverages made with both.

For more useful information about properly brewing coffee, please call 866 849 1682 or email customerservice@dilworthcoffee.com.

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Opening a Coffee Shop

Pyramid of Profitability

Opening a coffee shop. Even if it is your dream, it may seem complicated. And in a world where coffee lines die out as frequently as Billboard one-hit wonders (remember Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” or James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”?), building a coffee business that’s built to last takes more than inspiration.

Building a successful coffee business — whether you are just opening a coffee shop or you’ve been in business for decades— is all about blending the art and business of coffee. Whether you’re a celebrated musician or a professional accountant looking to start your own coffee business, Dilworth Coffee and our parent company Stockton Graham & Co. will take you on a 5-step process that can help ensure your profitability. We call this process our Pyramid of Profitability.

  1. Plan

One of the first serious steps you’ll take toward opening your coffee shop is creating a business plan. Take some time to think about your business strategy: what’s unique to your vision, what do you do best and what do you enjoy? Think about what you want to sell and what type of people you want as customers. Then write this down.

The business plan document sounds daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Simply write down in bullet format the answers to these questions:

  1. What do I love doing?
  2. What can I be really good at?
  3. What can I make money doing?
  4. Who are my potential customers?
  5. Where do those people shop now?
  6. How can I be better than the place those people shop now?

To formalize your plan, ask us for our Marketing Area Profile (MAP). This free tool can help you document your current situation, competition, target market and areas for growth, as well as marketing opportunities you may be underutilizing.

If you’re eager to open a coffee shop but are daunted by starting one on your own, you should consider partnering with an established coffee shop brand like Dilworth Coffee. Dilworth Coffee is a quintessential southern coffee shop with an excellent brand reputation started in Charlotte, NC in 1989. Stockton Graham & Co., based in Raleigh, began managing the Dilworth Coffee licensed concept in 2016. We believe life is better with great coffee so we are committed to making great coffee experiences accessible to both coffee shop owners and profitable, high-end coffee consumers.

In joining the Dillworth brand you will have access to our coffee, a top 3 regional specialty coffee product.* You will also benefit from our deep expertise in multi-unit coffee businesses. Partnership with our brand is less expensive than a franchise with similar support and those who do join us enjoy owner flexibility within a profitable structure.

  1. People

No enterprise is successful without the right people. From your baristas and other staff to promoters of your shop and vendors, all the people in your circle should be committed to your vision. People who are committed to your vision are naturally committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve the skills and competencies to make that vision successful.

With more than three decades of experience running coffee businesses, the team at Stockton Graham & Co. can help you identify experts both in and out of your company. We also offer a series of coffee educational courses, including our popular Coffee College 101, to help you and your staff become experts at preparing and serving specialty coffee and operating a specialty coffee business.

  1. Place

Whether you are opening a new store or have an existing store you want to grow, so many aspects of your location, layout and atmosphere are keys to repeat business and overall success. We can offer ideas and feedback on real estate and traffic flow, counter and work area design, back of the house layout, seating, store design and branding, merchandising and point-of-sale display, as well as creating a sensory atmosphere that guests will want to return to time and again. More importantly, you can draw on our expertise on how to position your espresso and coffee brewing stations within your space to create an extraordinary experience for your customers.

  1. Products

When you have a good idea of characteristics of the customers you seek for your business, we can help you understand how to serve that customer segment. That’s because each customer segment has different ordering preferences and menu requirements. The team at Stockton Graham & Co. can help you understand your costs for different menu items and source everything you need from craft-roasted coffees and other specialty beverage items to the right equipment and supplies. With extensive knowledge in logistics and inventory control, our team can help you better understand how they affect your product costs, as well. We can even connect you with companies that specialize in financing for coffee businesses.

  1. Promotions

Having operated coffee shops ourselves, we understand that building strong promotional programs can seem overwhelming. That’s why we simplify it using our F.A.T Philosophy. We start with your Marketing Area Profile (MAP) and help you set goals designed to convince your guests to visit more often (Frequency), sell them more during each visit (Average Ticket) and get new customers in the door (Trial), or “F.A.T.”, resulting in a FAT bottom line! Other promotional tools including point of sale materials.

Our internationally award-winning in-house creative team brings a wealth of talent and experience to projects from package design to logo creation. We help customers build private brand coffee awareness and trial through development of public relations, social, digital and print media campaigns, eye-catching point-of-sale and innovative in-store displays.

If you are thinking about opening a coffee shop or already have a specialty coffee business, feel free to contact us. We can provide more detail and explore how we can help you succeed. For initial discussions, reach out to our Director of Business Development Thom Swain at swain@stocktongraham.com or 866 849 1682.

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Fresh Coffee is the Best Coffee

Fresh Coffee

At Dilworth, we want you to know about the coffee that goes into your cup. Because processes that degrade beans begin soon after roasting, fresh coffee that is stored properly has the best flavor.

To understand the importance of fresh coffee, let’s start with the process of roasting. Roasting coffee begins when heat is introduced to the green coffee beans. Inside the roaster, the sugars and amino acids in green coffee beans combine to start what is known as the Maillard Reaction.

Simply put, the Maillard Reaction is chemical reaction that was first described in 1912 by French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard. This chemical reaction is what gives browned or toasted food its distinctive flavor. Many types of foods, such as cookies, breads, caramel and chocolate undergo this reaction. And, of course, it is what leads to the wonderful smell, taste, and color of coffee.

During roasting, carbon dioxide also forms inside the beans. As soon as the beans are dumped into the roasting machine’s cooling tray, the gas is released. In this process, which is called degassing, the carbon dioxide is slowly replaced by oxygen.

Though oxygen is a very good thing in many situations (such as breathing), it can also be one of nature’s most destructive forces. When oxygen comes into contact with some compounds, such as organic matter and some metals, it alters the compound’s molecular composition. Oxidation happens.

Oxidation is a process in which oxygen pulls electrons away from another molecule, making the compound unstable. Sparing you a really deep scientific explanation, the results are things like rusting, browning or staling. So, the processes that make a bright copper penny turn dark, a cut apple become brown or–yes–coffee become stale, are all related.

In coffee, oxygen reacts with the oils and solubles that give the coffee its unique taste. As time passes, flavors become less pronounced, resulting coffee that tastes flat and stale. There is no getting around this natural process but it can be slowed; after you open a bag of Dilworth Coffee at home, store it in an airtight container to prolong its taste. We want the beverages you make at home taste as good as the ones you get in your local Dilworth Coffee shop!

To find out more about all of the types of fresh coffee available from Dilworth Coffee, visit your local Dilworth Coffee shop. If you are seeking wholesale coffee, call us at 866 849 1862.