Coffee Bean to Cup - BG Trike Fort Worth
Few months ago, I had coffee with Stuart from Buon Giorno Trike [the only pedal-powered coffee shop in Texas] to learn about coffee, a beverage I enjoy pretty regularly. There are lots of resources on coffee online but sitting down with a coffee expert and hearing about the basics of coffee and understanding what it really takes to get coffee bean into our cup every single day was very refreshing + educational. Stuart, who has been in the industry for more than a decade was generous to share his knowledge, tell me about different espresso drinks and helpful tips on making coffee at home. Please note that this is not a comprehensive post on “coffee” - it’s simply an except of our conversation I thought was personally interesting to write and share about.
COFFEE & IT’S TYPES : Coffee cultivation began in Ethiopia around the 9th-century but the beans were chewed as a stimulant for centuries before they were made into a beverage. Coffee is not a bean - it’s actually a fruit that contains two seeds surrounded by a soft layer of mucilage and a thin skin known as the parchment. There are mainly two types of coffee bean species : Coffea Arabica (more popular, around 60% world production) and Coffea Canephora (commonly known as Robusta).
Even though they are both coffee beans, there are few differences. Arabica grows in higher altitude in Africa, Papa New Guinea while Robusta grows at lower altitudes exclusively in the Eastern Hemisphere, primarily in Africa and Indonesia. Robusta is easier to grow, they are less vulnerable to pests and weather conditions, and produce fruit much more quickly than the Arabicas. Because of these reasons, Arabica is generally pricier than Robusta and is also considered higher quality coffee. Arabica tend to have a sweeter, softer taste, with tones of sugar, fruit, and berries. Robusta has a harsher taste with almost a grain-like overtone and used in old-school Italian coffee, especially in espressos and instant coffee.
COFFEE HARVESTING & PROCESSING : The cup of coffee we enjoy goes through a series of process starting from a seed. Depending on the type, it takes 3-4 years for a newly planted coffee trees to bear fruit. The fruit is called the coffee cherry which turns bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested. When ready, coffee beans are harvested by hand (selective picking), stripped from the tree with both unripe and overripe beans (stripping), or the beans are collected using a harvesting machine (mechanical harvesting).
After the coffee beans are picked, processing begins quickly in order to prevent the coffee cherry from spoiling. Two methods are commonly utilized :
Dry Method is more traditional, natural method of processing coffee where the freshly picked cherries are spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. Coffee cherries are periodically raked and turned throughout the day, then covered at night or during rain to prevent them from getting wet. The process continues until the moisture content of the cherries drops to 11%, which could take several weeks depending on the weather. Dry method is used widely in areas where water resources are limited such as Ethiopia & Yemen. Once the drying process is complete, the green seed is removed from the fermented, dried cherry. It is popular method used by coffee producers around the world and is comparatively an easier process.
Wet Method involves removing the skin and pulp from the fruit before it is dried. The red pulp is utilized as a compost, fertilizer, tea (Cascara), or coffee flour while the beans are transported to a large, water-filled fermentation tanks to remove the sticky mucilage (called the parenchyma). The enzymes in the water naturally causes the sticky layer to dissolve, which can take anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. At lower elevations it only takes about 12 hours in the fermentation tank, but at higher elevations it may take up to 24 hours. When the fermentation is complete, the beans are rinsed again with water and will be ready for drying. Wet method requires a lot of skill and water for the process to work correctly, which is why it produces consistent coffee with bright notes compared to other methods. Some of the world’s finest and often most expensive coffees are created using wet method process.
The washed beans are then dried either out in the open (sun dry) or in large, heated rotating cylinders in mechanical dryers. The dried beans called “parchment coffee” - the beans are still inside the parchment envelope (the endocarp) are then sent for hulling, polishing, and quality checks before it gets shipped off to roasters.
Roasting the coffee involves heat which turns coffee beans from green to brown, a color we all love. It’s a pretty dramatic chemical reaction that develops the aroma and flavor profile of coffee. Essentially, there are two main phases in roasting - first and second crack. First crack is audible and coffee beans physically cracks as they expand and begin to release its moisture. The pressure from the steam causes a “popping” noise and the aroma changes to a caramelized sugar, giving off carbon dioxide and water. If you continue roasting long enough, coffee will undergo a second crack. It’s softer than the 1st crack and oils will oil starts to appear on the surface of the beans. If you continue roasting the beans past the 2nd crack, the coffee will turn into carbon (think burnt coffee). Coffee beans that are not roasted (too light) will have a grassy taste and higher acidity while coffee beans that are roasted too long will have a “burnt” taste. Also, the darker the coffee bean, the less acidity will be present in the coffee.
The temperature at which the roasting occurs varies depending on the roast you are aiming for such as light roast, dark roast etc although it’s not very standardized. Roasters play around with the temperature to suit the characteristics of coffee beans such as the density, moisture content, processing method, coffee variety, and batch size of beans. An experienced roaster knows how to manipulate how the final cup will taste, highlighting certain characteristics and muting others and developing the mouthfeel and body of the final brew.
Degassing : Roasted coffee is allowed to sit for a few days to let excess carbon dioxide seep out slowly. If the coffee is to too fresh, the extraction will be uneven due to the overwhelming amount of CO2 escaping and it will affect the taste negatively. It is best to ask your roaster or barista on when it’s best to start grinding and brewing.
When it comes to a labor intensive industry like coffee farming, we cannot not talk about some of the labor-related concerns + progress related to it. Many workers are seasonal, they receive low wages, have no or limited legal protection, live in a poor housing condition during harvest season, receive no proper pension or insurance, and exploitation of children. It’s not a new issue but within the past couple of decades, there has been a huge movement with fair-trade, direct-trade, and other third party certifications. Each of these certifications have a set of standards to address environmental sustainability, fair treatment and compensation to farmers, and other social/ethical issues. Which certification is best really depends on who you ask but if you really care about where you coffee comes from - do your own research on the coffee company, from where/how they source their beans, or talk to your local roaster/barista.
If you are a coffee lover, take notes on how to brew your perfect coffee at home :
Coffee bean: Find a local roaster that does roast in house, which means the coffee will taste supremely better. Coffee beans roasted anywhere between 4 days - 2 weeks is ideal. In Fort Worth, Buon Giornio and Avoca roasts there coffee in house.
Grinder : Pre-ground coffee quickly loses it’s aromatic qualities and becomes dull, which is why grinding on demand is highly recommended. For entry level, Stuart suggests Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder ~ $150 and really the goal is to pick a grinder that will grinds beans uniformly.
Brew method : There are so many ways to brew coffee : pour over, French press, aero-press, moka pot and it really comes to a personal preference. In general, it is best to use the waste you like, the temperature of hot water (just off boil 205F or 96C). the ratio of coffee to water (1:16 or 1:18 is pretty popular which means for every gram of coffee, you use 16 or 18 grams of water.
COFFEE DRINKS EXPLAINED: This is probably my favorite + most confusing topic because every barista makes espresso-based drinks little differently. Unless you have a fancy espresso machine + skills, it is hard to make a great cuppa at home but here’s a quick rundown of some common espresso-based drinks :
Espresso is the foundation of many coffee drinks we commonly see and the main difference between them is the ratio of espresso, steamed milk and foam in the drink. A standard espresso (short black) is 1 shot ~ 1 oz of espresso which has about 65 mg of caffeine.
Cafe Latte : espresso + steamed milk + micro-foam on top; has a sweeter taste
Cappuccino : similar to latte but has more foam and chocolate sprinkled on top. It is traditionally made in a cup rather than a tumbler glass.
Macchiato : espresso with a dollop of steamed milk and foam which mellows the taste of an espresso.
Flat White : same as a cappuccino but without any foam or chocolate on top.
Mocha : mix of cappuccino + hot chocolate. Chocolate powder is mixed with with an espresso shot then steamed milk & micro-foam is added on top.
At BG Trike, you will find a variety of espresso-drinks listed by most caffeine to least caffeine & Stuart carries both dairy & non-dairy milk. His macchiato is my absolute favorite in this town! I really appreciate and commend his efforts on being sustainable and encouraging everyone around him about zero waste system - the man pedals to grind our coffee & has either compostable or recyclable materials!
Fast Facts on Coffee :
Depending on how ground coffee is measured, there is a minimal variance in caffeine content with dark and light roasts of coffee. If you measure your coffee by scoops, light roasted coffee will have more caffeine because light roast beans are denser than a darker roast. However, if you weigh out your scoops, darker roasts will have more caffeine, because there is less mass. Essentially, its caffeine content by weight increases while its caffeine content by volume decreases.
Finland drinks most coffee in the world followed by Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. Finnish people drink about 26.5 lbs coffee per year which is 2.2 lbs per month!
Cat-poop coffee - Kopi luwak, is the the world's most expensive coffee which can can go for up to $100 a cup. A cat-like animal called civet digests coffee beans, where the coffee cherry and pulp are digested but the coffee beans remain intact and undergo a unique fermentation process that is said to give coffee it’s distinct flavor.
Coffee has come a long way starting from 1st Wave: growing coffee consumption exponentially (think commodity coffee), 2nd Wave: the defining and enjoyment of specialty coffee (think Starbucks), and 3rd Wave: purchasing coffee based on its origin and artisan methods of production (the holistic process from bean to cup, people, and service).
The first record of a public place serving coffee dates back to 1475. Kiva Han was the name of the first coffee shop in the Turkish city of Constantinople, now Istanbul.
Stuart, besides being an expert in coffee & espresso-based drinks is seriously a kind and generous human being. If you are in DFW, you can find him on his trike at The Clearfork Farmer’s Market every Saturday or you can book him for private events/parties. You can find more information about him here Buon Giorno Trike or follow his coffee adventure on instagram https://www.instagram.com/bgtrike/ .
Some great articles + sites for further reading: