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  • Life is Coffee Comics #17

    Good For Making Coffee

    Good for making coffee


    Spaceship - Life is Coffee

    © 2017 Life is Coffee

  • Vietnamese Iced Coffee Brewing Tutorial by Inanimate Objects

    vietnamese02vietnamese03 vietnamese04 vietnamese05vietnamese06 vietnamese07 vietnamese08 vietnamese09 vietnamese10 vietnamese11 vietnamese12 vietnamese13 vietnamese14 vietnamese15


    How to Brew Vietnamese Iced Coffee – INeedCoffee tutorial.

    Vietnamese Coffee Filter Set – Amazon USA

    More Inanimate Objects – By Todd Zapoli

  • Top Coffee Shops in Italy: Only the Best of the Best

    Coffee culture grows strong in Italy. People from all over the world flock there to enjoy the unparalleled bliss of sipping high-grade coffee. After all, real coffee aficionados accept nothing less than the cream of the crop, places where you go to blow away the cobwebs and have your insides screaming with happiness. So, here are some shops that stand out and are sure to satisfy even the most sophisticated coffee lovers.

    Caffé Florian (Venice)

    • Piazza San Marco, 57, 30124 Venezia

    You’ve not properly enjoyed coffee until you’ve visited Caffé Florian. State of the art décor and the orchestra playing in the background is not something you see very often. The coffee may be pricey, but their baristas raise the coffee experience to the level of the art, so it is worth it if you ask me. The food quality is awesome (especially the toasted sandwiches and macaroons) and it helps that the café is situated right at the heart of the fabulous location, Piazza San Marco.

    Caffé Florian, Italy

    Caffé Sant’Eustachio (Rome)

    • Piazza di S. Eustachio, 82, 00186 Roma, Italia

    This coffee shop and roaster dates all the way back to the thirties and still enthralls coffee enthusiasts. Located near Piazza Della Rotonda, it is a true institution, which captures the essence of the eternal city. There is no better spot to have a cup of mouth-watering espresso and observe the world go by. Moreover, shop tempts you with a wide array of coffees as well as the delicious pastries. You can even purchase espresso machines and ground coffee to brew your favorite beverage home.

    Caffé Sant’Eustachio, Italy

    Gran Caffé Gambrinus (Naples)

    • Gradoni di Chiaia 1-2, 80132, Napoli, Italia

    No trip to Napoli would be complete without a coffee at Gran Caffé Gambrinus. A true paragon of Neapolitan coffee tradition, it is also an art gallery and one of the most famous literary cafes in the Pearl of the South Italy. This bar will win you over as soon as you step inside, with its striking decor. More importantly, you can also have a mouth trip that is out of this world. Espresso is served at just the right temperature and with Italian-style coffee beans that have that irresistible slight bitterness.

    Gran Caffé Gambrinus, Italy

    Sciascia Caffé (Rome)

    • Via Fabio Massimo, 80/A, 00192 Roma

    All roads lead to Rome, and those who know where to look can find another pristine coffee sanctuary there. The Gran Cappuccino Excellente is easily the best thing you can order there: With a splash of chocolate, it will make you feel a heavenly symphony of tastes slowly melting inside your mouth. Sciascia Caffé is a fine establishment no doubt and there is a plenty to stare at as well. So, ready to get lost in soothing ambiance and get your energy boost?

    Sciascia Caffé, Italy

    Ditta Artigianale (Florence)

    • Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze

    The majestic city of Florence has something to offer for us as well. Ditta Artigianale is a charming modern coffee shop that takes pride in its top-notch coffee beans and amazing espressos. It is where contemporary edge and Italian coffee tradition meet and blend. Ditta is great for a coffee break, but also breakfast and brunch. Also, it is possible to grab a takeaway coffee for your stroll down the breathtaking streets. As an icing on the cake, you have friendly service at your disposal.

    Ditta Artigianale

    Baratti e Milano (Turin)

    • Piazza Castello, 27/29, 10123 Torino

    This shop and café in Turin is a popular gathering place for all sorts of coffee heads. The interior oozes grandeur and the service is very attentive. Once inside, make sure to try out the iconic bicerin drink. The smell alone is enough to make you go crazy and the flavor is simply sublime. You could try to replicate the taste using top-notch coffee makers with grinders, but it is never exactly the same as that first time in Baratti. Oh, just note gets crowded fast, meaning it is best to pay a visit to it early.

    Baratti e Milano, Italy

    Caffé Terzi (Bologna)

    • Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 10/d, 40126 Bologna

    When in Bologna, one does not miss a chance to show up at Caffé Terzi. A small and elegant place, it is a well-kept secret amongst the locals. Those who discover it, quickly come to know that baristas there go to great lengths in order to prepare cups full of the joys of spring. The beans are from all over the world and espressos and cappuccinos come (if you wish) with chocolate shavings on top. Thus, Terzi is an ideal place to kick off your day with a bang.

    Caffé Terzi, Italy

    Caffé degli Specchi (Trieste)

    • Piazza Unità d’Italia, 7, 34121 Trieste

    Visiting Café degli Specchi, a spot brimming with history and caffeine felicity, is an absolute must when in Trieste. You can sit near all the action at the magnificent Piazza Unita d’ Italia (the main square) and enjoy some people-watching. Food offerings are not overly wide, but hey, if you go there for coffee, you will not be disappointed. Visitors are even served a small glass of hot or cold chocolate, depending on the season.

    Caffé degli Specchi

    Heaven in a cup

    We all know that Italy is a country of rich history and vivid culture. It has a plenty in store for various kinds of tourists, including those who follow the smell of coffee. But, do not take our word for it: Visit any of the aforementioned establishments and enjoy moments of stillness and calmness. Treat yourself with the perfect cup and you will never want to leave your seat, unless if it is to order some more. The world is your oyster.

    Title image by Stefan Kunze

  • The Many Faces of Coffee

    “Coffee Honey” – the first time I saw this, I was exploring the original Akha Ama Cafe in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

    I was doing as I do when checking out a new cafe – tasting their coffees and just letting my eyes wander around the shop.

    I usually ignore the pastry display cases, because well…I’m there for coffee, not undeniably deliciously flaky pastries that I clearly have no need for (temptation is always hiding under those lights). In this case, my eye caught on the tiny 4 oz jars simply labeled ‘Coffee Honey.’

    “Excuse me!” I said with an open smile. Side note: a smile takes you miles further than any other facial expression. I would say ‘especially in Thailand,’ which is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ – but I think this applies anywhere. In Thailand though, it seems you can say anything so long as there is a smile with it. In any case, I was curious about this honey.

    Coffee Honey

    “Is this Honey made for coffee, or made with coffee in it?” I was imaging one of two scenarios. That this was just poor translation / an awkward attempt at marketing (it’s honey we made specifically for coffee!) – in Thailand it is pretty ordinary to see completely false claims about products right out in the open – or they had some strange concoction involving mixing coffee with honey.

    Well, I was straight wrong on all accounts.

    “It’s…Honey from the Coffee Flower,” the Thai girl working there said, after a pause to consider her words. “It’s honey from the coffee flower? You mean, the bees did their business with the flowers from YOUR coffee plants and you harvested THAT honey?” I said, entirely too quickly, with a mixture of incredulity and wonder. “Uh…yes!” She responded, with a smile (that is, she probably didn’t understand what I was saying, but her yes satisfied me and ended the conversation).

    coffee honey flower

    I immediately grabbed a jar, and got the contact information for the owner – I just had to learn what this was all about.

    After returning to my apartment, I opened my new prize and had a taste.

    Immediately my eyes popped open wider, and I started searching for flavors to associate with – just as I would do with a new espresso, for example.

    Right away, it struck me. Hiding on the back of the flavor – strong, sweet, silky smooth honey – was the very distinct floral flavor I had already tasted that same day.

    I had tasted it in the very coffee whose plants originated the flowers which fed the bees that created the honey I was now enjoying.


    Coffee Honey Flower tin

    It’s such a small thing but so very cool to discover this direct flavor, which I had tasted in the coffee itself, again in something so very different, but so well connected.

    I tend to think of the flavors in coffee as being something you simply connect associations with – that is, we say this Ethiopian Yirgacheffe tastes like blueberries because it gives us the same flavor/aroma sensations as walking through a wild blueberry field. It’s easier to attribute the responsibility for this flavor (the coffee seed comes from a berry). In a similar vein, I’ve declared coffees to have floral elements to them, but with no strong understanding of where that element comes from.

    The fact that a bee can extract, transfer, and convert the exact same flavor I find in a coffee, into honey, is wickedly cool.

    It doesn’t stop there.

    I had the pleasure of meeting with the owner of Akha Ama, Lee Ayu Chupa – a young man who has gone beyond all boundaries that one in his position typically faces, and is forging a very impressive company around coffee.

    I asked him about the Coffee Honey, and he explained it quite simply. As his family is the owner of their primary farm, they are able to experiment in a few ways. A couple years ago, they decided to place beehives directly on the coffee farm, so that when harvesting the honey, they could be reasonably certain that the majority of the honey was from the coffee flowers.

    No one else was doing it.

    As we know – bees love coffee – so why not enjoy honey that they make directly from that coffee?

    I asked Lee – well, since you are experimenting, have you thought about Coffee Flower Tea? I had the fortune to try this out at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo in May, as Ninety Plus Coffee brought some of their Geisha Flower Tea.

    coffee shop thailand

    Lee smiled and said, “of course.” There was a bit of trial and error involved. Lee had heard about other people doing coffee flower tea, so one year he decided to give it a shot – shortly before the petals of the flowers were to naturally fall off, he picked a few and tried to make some tea.

    “It was…not right” he said, with a mildly disgusted look on his face. The coffee flower brewed as tea directly was bitter and uninviting.

    So his mother took a handful of the blossoms, tossed them in a pan on the stove, and roasted them ever so delicately to a slight golden brown color.

    He showed me the coffee flower tea – it smells absolutely wonderful. So sweet, savory, and floral…very much like smelling the coffee – but as if you could only smell the floral element.

    5 minutes later, I had my face over a small cup of brewed tea – inhaling I could tell the tea was relatively strong in flavor – much less delicate than the coffee the plants eventually would produce (the Ponlamai). The first sip brings a strong flavor, smooth, and sweet tea.

    When I brought these components back to the states and had a little tasting event with folks in Seattle, the initial reaction of one person was “this tea is flavored, right?”

    It’s a remarkable balance between the honey and the coffee. Compared to the honey, the tea is far lighter and smoother in flavor, like the coffee. Looking at the coffee, the tea clearly illustrates the floral element that is present there.

    This is what tied it all together.

    The coffee flower tea, sweet and simple, presents the exact flavor of that flower.

    This flavor is evident in the Honey, as well as the Coffee.

    Adding Coffee Honey to drink

    Three elements, all connected, but not directly – all displaying flavors of the coffee plant as a whole, which to me just opens up the world of coffee all the more. It isn’t just a roasted seed, and it isn’t even just the seed of a cherry. What you taste in coffee is a distinct representation of the plant as a whole, and I imagine contains elements that are evident throughout the plant.

    The last piece of the puzzle which brought me to that final conclusion – Lee shared with me that he likes to eat the top leaves of the coffee plant, usually in a salad with some tuna (I, unfortunately, didn’t get a chance to try this). He said they are citrusy and sweet.

    Sound familiar? Citrus and sweetness – two elements common amongst coffees.

    I wonder what other parts of the coffee plant could be equally enjoyed…

    Coffee Honey Blossom

    GloryBee Fair Trade Raw Coffee Blossom Honey (Amazon USA) – During the author’s 2014 trip to Thailand no one else was selling Coffee Honey, now GloryBee is selling theirs.

    The Many Faces of Coffee first appeared in Coffee Lovers Magazine #23. To subscribe and get the latest issue during the free subscription trial, visit coffeeloversmag.com/the-magazine.


    Coffee Lovers Radio #7 – Interview with Lee Ayu Chupa.

    Ristr8to Coffee in Chiang Mai, Thailand – Joesph Robertson reporting on the coffee scene in Chiang Mai.

  • Brewing Coffee With the Coffee Sock

    I received what has to be the most simple coffee brewing method I’ve ever seen. It is a sock attached to a wire. Not just any sock though. The Coffee Sock is a tightly knitted sock that is perfect for coffee brewing.

    I don’t go camping, but if I did this would be an ideal brewing method for someone wishing to keep their pack weight down. But you don’t need to step outside to use the brewer. I’ve been brewing with it in my own kitchen.

    I found the coffee tasted closest to the Clever Dripper or a cleaner French press.

    #1 Place Coffee Sock into Mug

    This brewing method is similar to making loose leaf tea with an in mug filter.

    Place sock into mug

    Place the Coffee Sock into the empty mug.

    #2 Add Ground Coffee

    I am getting good results using a drip ground. My baseline brewing ratio is 17 to 1 (17 grams water per 1 gram of coffee). Since you will be making one mug of coffee at a time, figure out how many ounces or grams your mug holds and do some basic math.

    I use a kitchen scale, but you could just follow this basic rule.

    • A 12-ounce mug of coffee is 340 grams.
    • Divide 340 by 17 and you get 20 grams of coffee.
    • That little scoop that comes in a can of coffee holds 10 grams.
    • So 2 scoops per 12-ounce mug.
    • If you have a 16-ounce mug, add another 1/2 a scoop.
    • If you have an 8-ounce mug, subtract 1/2 a scoop.

    coffee scoop

    A coffee can scoop holds about 10 grams of coffee.

    add ground coffee

    Add ground coffee inside the Coffee Sock.

    #3 Add Hot Water

    Bring water to a boil and then let it cool for 10-30 seconds to bring the temperature down a bit. Fill the coffee sock slowly. After adding water, if you notice any clumps of coffee not making contact with water, use a spoon or a chopstick to break them apart. You want all the coffee grounds making contact with water.

    #4 Wait About 3 Minutes

    On the official site, they use a 2 minute brew time. I got better results with a 3 minute brew time. Experiment. Use what works best for you.

    #5 Remove the Sock Filter and Serve

    Remove the filter and the coffee is ready to drink.

    Remove Coffee Sock

    After 3 minutes, lift the Coffee Sock out of the mug. 

    coffee sock coffee is ready

    The coffee is ready!

    #6 Clean Up

    Let the filter cool a bit before emptying the grounds into the trash or compost. Turn it inside out and give it a rinse. Set it aside to dry so it is ready for the next use.

    bonavita kettle

    Bonavita Electric Kettle (Amazon USAAmazon UKAmazon CANADA)


    Coffee Sock Company – Official site with product FAQ.

    Coffee Brewing Guide – INeedCoffee library of coffee brewing tutorials.

    Disclosure: INeedCoffee received a Coffee Sock for this tutorial. 

  • The Coffee Avocado Shake Recipe

    Recently, I was at a potluck and a woman from the Philippines brought a pitcher of full of “avocado shakes”. The shake was made of blended avocados with added coffee. At first, I was skeptical that the combination of avocado and coffee would taste good together. But it did. It tasted really good. It was sweet, creamy and bold all at the same time. In addition to the Philippines, I learned the avocado shake is popular in Vietnam, where it is called Sinh to Bo.

    It tasted so good, I’ve been experimenting with several versions of this drink. Before I share my recipe, I want to say that most recipes that you will find online do not add any coffee. Boy, are they missing out. The added coffee adds a nice boldness and a kick to already sweet and creamy drink.

    Here is how I made the Coffee Avocado Shake.


    • 1 medium-sized avocado (ripe)
    • 1/2 cup of milk (or coconut milk)
    • 1/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/2 cup of ice cubes
    • 2 shots of espresso or about 3 ounces of brewed coffee


    1. Slice the avocado open. Remove the seed and peel.
    2. Place the avocado (minus the seeds and peel) into a jar.
    3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the jar (ice cubes, coffee, sweetened condensed milk, other milk).
    4. Blend everything together. I use an immersion blender, but whatever you have will work fine.
    5. Taste and Adjust. Do you like it or does it need to be improved? If the shake is too thick, add some more milk. If the shake is too sweet, add some more coffee. If the shake is not sweet enough, add a little more sweetened condensed milk. The Coffee Avocado Shake is more art than science.
    6. Serve. I like using a wide straw, which is used for milkshakes or Bubble Tea.

    Slice open a ripe avocado. Remove seed and peel.

    add ice
    Add 1/2 cup of ice cubes.

    condensed milk
    Add sweetened condensed milk. Other options might be regular sugar or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    add in the coffee
    Add coffee or espresso shots.

    avocado coffee shake with wide straw
    Blended and ready to drink.

    Last Words

    This drink is super easy and quick to make. I preferred brewed coffee over the espresso and I used coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. If you do not have sweetened condensed milk, experiment with adding sugar or a scoop of vanilla ice cream to get the sweetness. If you do not have an immersion blender (aka hand blender), get one. Not only will it make this recipe much easier, but they work great for soups and many other recipes.

    hand blender

    Cuisinart Hand Blender (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon CANADA


    The Alkani Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Review and Tutorial – INeedCoffee tutorial on how to make a cold brew coffee, which would work great for the avocado coffee shake recipe.

    How to Brew Vietnamese Iced Coffee – The non-avocado version of this recipe.

    Homemade Coffee Ice Cream – A Delicious and Healthy Alternative to the Store – If you decide to use ice cream, here is our tutorial.

    Title photo by Nur Afni Setiyaningrum.

  • Cowboy Coffee, Backpacker Style

    I love cowboy coffee. If not so much for the taste, as for the setting. I do a lot of backpacking. I used to use those coffee bags and then discovered cowboy coffee out of necessity when I couldn’t find the bags in the podunk town General Store near the trailhead. When you figure out how to make cowboy coffee it usually tastes better than the bags. Additionally, I feel OK dumping coffee grounds though always pack the bags out with me.


    1. Bring one quart of water to a boil in a saucepan.
    2. Add 3/4 cup of ground coffee.
    3. Return to boil.
    4. Immediately remove from heat and cover.
    5. Wait till the grounds sink (approximately 5 minutes).
    6. Serve.

    How Fine to Grind?

    The finer you grind the coffee, the faster the flavor will extract from the coffee. If you brew too long, the coffee could taste bitter. The upside is the finer grounds will sink easier at the end of the brew. If you decide to use a more coarse ground to reduce the risk of bitterness and over-extraction, you will need a spoon or something to scrape off the floating ground coffee.

    My advice is to start with a drip grind and adjust up or down from there based upon whatever tastes best and works best for you. See our Coffee Grind Chart for a visual explanation.

    Cowboy Coffee on campfire

    Cowboy Coffee by Alex Holt

    The Keys to Cowboy Coffee

    The first key to making decent cowboy coffee is process repetition. Measure the water and the coffee to ensure a consistent ratio every time. I use about 50% more coffee grounds than I do for an equivalent amount of water in my home ADC coffee maker. I live in Albuquerque at 5,000 feet elevation when you hike up above 10,000 feet the boiling temp goes way down and you need to add considerably more coffee grounds. If you live at normal altitudes it’s really not much of a consideration. So measure your water and get it boiling, that’s step one.

    Step two is adding the coffee grounds. I like to let it return to a boil for just long enough to get the grounds wet. Be very watchful though as a minute of boiling and the tastes goes downhill. The caveat here is elevation; at 10,000 feet boiling for a minute seems OK bitter wise and necessary to get any flavor at all.

    Don’t Add Cold Water

    I’ve read of adding cold water to sink the grounds. Grounds sink when they cool. Adding cold water makes cold coffee. I never add water. The grounds usually sink in 5 minutes, quicker if the air is cold. If it’s over say, 70° F, after 5 minutes I take the lid off the pan for 5 seconds, put it back on, and in one minute the grounds will be settled. The fresh air cools the grounds and they fall leaving the rest of the brew as warm as possible.

    Keeping The Coffee Warm

    I carefully select where I’m going to set my pan of coffee. I always make numerous cups. After the 5 minutes of brewing the spot on the ground becomes warm and helps keep the remaining coffee warm. Sand or other soft ground works best, gravelly surfaces the worst as they let lots of air flow by the bottom of the pan.

    Always insulate your pot somehow. Usually, I wrap it in a jacket or clothing though in the winter your sleeping bag works the best. The ultimate is sand. I dig a hole, put my pot of coffee in it and push the sand up around the sides. Dribble a wee little bit of water around the outside of the pan and in 5 minutes when you pull the pot out of the hole the heat and moisture will hold the sand in perfect shape.

    cowboy coffee brewing
    Photo of GSI Outdoors Percolator by Sarah Nuehring

    It’s good to set the pot somewhere with a mild slope. This way the grounds settle into the corner of the pan instead of evenly on the bottom. When you pour the coffee handle the pot as gently as possible so as not to disturb the grounds. Best to maintain the slope the pan has been sitting at and pour by tilting in that direction. Hold the cup near the pot, move the pot as little as possible.

    Not “Good to the Last Drop”

    Just like a finely brewed Turkish blend cowboy coffee is not expected to be good to the last drop. It’s a good habit to learn to throw away the last tablespoon or so of each cup so as to avoid consumption of the bitter solids. Grounds and water fly out of the pot nicely with a flick of the wrist. Distribute evenly over the land. Non-immersed grounds like to stick to the pot and each other. I think scattered single grounds qualify as leave no trace while a big pile of grounds does not. I don’t like to spend any more resources cleaning pots than absolutely necessary.

    Percolators on the Trails

    I’ve seen all manner of camping coffee devices for sale. I’ve finished my whole pot of coffee while friends were still waiting for their percolator to perk an ever so slightly tastier cup of joe. My method is somewhat simple, requires zero overhead, and has worked wonderfully for me for five years. I’ve received many compliments on my coffee, normally wow, this is a surprisingly good cup of coffee, usually from the frou-frou coffee making device set.

    Why I Wrote this Article

    A few years ago, Outside magazine did an article on backpacking coffee makers. They began with a diss of cowboy coffee; then proceeded to tout all these heavy and expensive devices. I wrote them a letter of complaint and stated that I felt they were trying to sell coffee makers. I suggested that a how-to article on cowboy coffee creation would have been much more appropriate than saying we’ve all had cold, awful cowboy coffee, straining the ground through our teeth. I requested that my gift subscription be canceled in that letter.

    I suppose this attempt at an article is my attempt to right that wrong. I’ve never seen an article on making cowboy coffee. Once I got it figured out, I taught my Dad (who has been camping his whole life). Now he’s hooked too. An added bonus is that when I spend the night in a non-coffee drinker’s house I only need to bring some grounds to get my early morning fix.


    Camp Kitchen recreation store with Cowboy Coffee gear (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon CANADA)

    Cowboy Coffee: Arbuckles – Cowboy Coffee article with a recipe.

    Preparing a Traditional Turkish Coffee – INeedCoffee brewing tutorial.

    Water Altitude Boiling Point Calculator – Uses barometric pressure and altitude to calculate boiling temperature.

    The Green Verve mug image for this post is by Tim Wright.

  • Hacking Dark Roast – Tips on Brewing a Better Bold Coffee

    There was a time when I used to like the taste of dark roasted coffee, but over the years that roasty bold flavor that I used to enjoy began to taste bitter and ashy. This summer I decided to revisit my old dark roasted friend to see if we could improve our relationship.

    I wanted to solve the riddle on why I used to like dark roasted coffee but now considered it vile. At first, I thought it was that I had developed a better palate. Maybe my flavor expectations for coffee were now much higher? That would explain why I strongly prefer medium and light roasted coffee, but not why I actually grew to dislike dark roasted coffee.

    It was an interesting journey and I discovered a lot. Here are some the tricks I learned on how to hack a better dark roast coffee.

    #1 Freshness is More Important

    One of the most common questions asked in coffee is: How long will these beans stay fresh? You might hear a week, two weeks or more. Coffees roasted dark enough to be labeled French Roast, Italian Roast or Spanish Roast tend to go stale very rapidly. Not weeks, but days.

    When coffee is roasted well into and even beyond the second crack, the structure of the coffee bean is more fragile and porous. This greatly shortens the window of freshness. I talked with one Seattle roaster that told me a dark French roast coffee might start to taste flat in as little as four days. That is four days from roast. You can try and seal the coffee as best as you can to preserve and extend freshness, but a heavily roasted coffee will age faster.

    If you enjoy coffee on the dark side then hack #1 is to buy smaller volumes of coffee more frequently from a local roaster. If you buy from a grocery store, look for a recent roast date on the bag. Grocery stores will put the old bags in front of the fresh ones, so you may need to reach back for the fresh stuff. Never buy a dark roasted coffee without a roast date on the bag. Assume it is stale. If you can’t find super fresh dark roast at the grocery store, go for a medium dark coffee. It will keep longer and still have enough body to please your dark side.

    The time of my life when I most enjoyed dark roasted coffee was when I first started home roasting. I’d roast up something dark, let it sit for one day and then start brewing with that coffee. What I discovered after many years of home coffee roasting was that the darker roasted coffees tasted better on days 2-5. Then I noticed a quality drop off. By day 8, if there was any coffee left, I would throw it away. If you are a true dark roast coffee fan, I highly recommend exploring home coffee roasting. We have many home coffee roasting articles here on INeedCoffee to get you started. By roasting yourself, you can ensure that your coffee is always fresh and that you roast just enough for your needs, so there is little or no waste.

    Dark Roast 2 Face

    From Inanimate Objects Comics #44

    #2 Reduce Brewing Temperature

    The standard advice when it comes to brewing temperatures is to brew just off boil, usually between 195-205 F (or 90.5-96.1 C). The implication with this advice is that as long as you are in the range, your coffee will taste good. But there is more to the story. Lighter roasted coffees do well at the higher end of that range and darker roasted coffees do better at the lower end.

    I performed a few brewing tests using the same dark roasted coffee brewed at 195 F and 205 F. At 205 F, the coffee had every attribute that I dislike about dark roast. It tasted bitter and ashy. At 195 F, the coffee was smoother and was no longer bitter.

    At 195 F, the coffee may taste slightly weaker to you. This problem can be solved by increasing the amount of coffee used in the brew. If you are using a 17-1 ratio (17 parts water to 1 part coffee), experiment with a 16-1 or 15-1 ratio. Another path is to extend the brew time by 30-60 seconds. This works for brewing methods where you can control the brew time, such as a French Press, Clever or Aeropress.

    Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle
    Bonavita Electric Kettle (Amazon USAAmazon UKAmazon CANADA

    With the Bonavita, you can dial in the exact temperature you want to brew your coffee. This is a great tool to have not only for coffee but for tea, which is, even more, temperature sensitive.

    #3 Pour a Smaller Amount of Coffee

    A few years ago I noticed that I drink coffee at different speeds depending upon how the coffee initially tastes. If the coffee is on the lighter roasted end with more delicate flavors, I drink the coffee slower, because I know as the coffee cools, it will continue to evolve and taste great. With the darker roasted coffees that push the body and chocolate notes, I will drink the coffee faster. The reason is those flavor characteristics taste better when the coffee is hotter. As the coffee cools, those notes often get lost.

    I learned that the quality declines if I spend too much time drinking a heavily roasted coffee.

    The solution here is to drink smaller amounts of coffee. Back when I was brewing 16 oz mugs of dark roasted coffee, I would rarely be able to finish the last few ounces as the quality was nowhere near as good as the first few ounces. If you are brewing one cup at a time, brew less. If you are brewing larger amounts and storing in a carafe, pour less.

    Genuine Joe GJO11956 Stainless Steel Everyday Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Carafe, 2L Capacity
    Genuine Joe GJO11956 Stainless Steel Everyday Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Carafe, 2L Capacity – Amazon USA

    #4 Air Roasters vs Drum Roasters

    This next idea is debatable, but I believe it has merit. Roasting dark coffee on a fluid bed air roaster will result in a cleaner less burnt taste than a drum roaster. When coffee roasts, chaff separates from the bean. In an air roaster, the chaff is blown out of the roasting chamber. With a rotating drum roaster, some of the chaff remains on the bean. At a lighter roast this is not an issue, but with darker roasts, the chaff can impart a burnt flavor onto the beans.

    Reduced air flow during roasting may be a cause for some of the bitter notes in darker roasted coffee. Here is a comment by donlp37 regarding air roasting on CoffeeForums:

    Not only is it (air roasting) a more even roast, but I also know that much less smoke is circulated around the roasting beans. This way darker roasts can be achieved without a real charcoal or overly smokey taste.

    I’m not a professional roaster, but I have been home roasting coffee since 1998. The best dark roast coffees I have had all came from air roasters, be it a popcorn popper or the now gone Hearthware line. The drum roasters that I have used did an outstanding job with medium and light roasts but were uneven with darker coffee.

    Putting it All Together

    To hack the best dark roast coffee, I will use fresh coffee beans that are just a few days off roast. I will only buy or roast enough beans that I plan on consuming that week. I will grind my coffee just prior to brewing. I will use a lower brewing temperature and brew/pour just enough for a small or medium-sized mug. If I want more coffee, I will brew/pour again. If I can’t home roast, I will find a local roaster and time my visits for optimal freshness.

    So far I haven’t discussed brewing method. I could do a bunch of tests to determine which is best, but I doubt there will be consensus across all coffee drinkers. For me, the best option is going to be the AeroPress. The Aeropress design allows it to brew great coffee at lower temperatures. This is covered in The Upside Down AeroPress Coffee Brewing Tutorial. Another excellent brewing option would be cold brew coffee.

    Although I don’t consider myself a dark roast coffee fan, I now know a few tricks to use when I want to reach for something darker.


    Making coffee with the Aeropress.  


    Bonavita Electric Kettle (Amazon USAAmazon UKAmazon CANADA

    Coffee Brewing Guide – Our collection of coffee brewing tutorials.

    Roasting Coffee in a Popcorn Popper – A good way to start home coffee roasting is with an older popcorn popper.

    Brewing photos by Joseph Robertson of Coffee Lovers Magazine, a digital coffee magazine published for iOS and Android.

  • Espresso Blending Techniques

    Why just espresso blending? Why not talk about blending in general? Blending for the press pot or filter machine doesn’t need to be as precise. For one it’s a far weaker part of the cup compared to espresso and there are rules that can’t be broken in espresso blending that work really well in the filter blends. Espresso blending is an art.

    What makes me the expert?

    Well, I’ve been blending for espresso in the commercial setting of a coffee shop for four years and have created well over 200 blends from 60 different origins in search of the perfect blend, and drunk many thousands of cups of espresso not just for enjoyment (it’s a tough job) but also in the quest for the better espresso. My Has Bean Espresso blend is one of the best-selling coffees I sell, and has received critical acclaim from people in the trade, but more importantly from customers.

    espresso shot

    So what makes a good blend?

    I’ve got to start off by saying I think I know best and of course this is true, but these are my rules and not yours. Don’t be afraid to break them if you think it’s going to work. One man’s ristretto is another man’s poison.

    Good espresso comes from blends. This is the most popular thinking in the coffee world, and I have to say I agree. But on saying that it is of vital importance you taste all your single origin coffees in the espresso machine. Tasting single origins and cupping them lets you know what they taste like alone. So when you are looking for a little sweetness, you can refer to your experiences of tasting it at origin and think I’ll add some….

    It’s also a good idea to keep detailed notes of cupping experiences and don’t be afraid to go back again and try something else. We all know that one day you try a shot and it’s awful, and the next its perfection, so more than one session is important. Also, a good idea can be to cup like the professionals. Only here can you really get a feeling for the coffee. It’s all well and good trying it in the espresso machine, but it can be a lazy way of finding tastes. Make your palate work and here you can compare. Only with comparisons will you understand the real differences between the coffees.

    Work, work, and work. Your blend will not be done in the first mix. It shouldn’t be done by the 10th attempt. And when it finally is what you’re after, it will change as soon as the next crops rotate in. It’s an ongoing process of cupping, tasting, adapting and repeat. Your blend will never be finished and if anyone tells you theirs is, don’t trust them. With so many variables going into the espresso no shot is ever going to be the same and no blend is going to be the same.

    espresso cooling
    Espresso Cooling

    What makes a bad blend?

    A bad espresso blend is like no other. If the roaster gets this wrong he will be lambasted forever and likely lose his customers. If a filter blend isn’t to someone’s taste he will be forgiven and it will be put down to the palate, or just not their type of coffee. Also, the ratio of coffee to water is much higher so mistakes are highlighted.

    Bad espresso blends are over complicated, under complicated, too smooth, too bitter, too fresh, too stale…. I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. My favourite espresso blend wouldn’t make my catalogue. It is too rich, full-bodied and expensive for me to sell retail. A roaster’s job is to find some middle ground to keep everyone happy, and not to go too far one way or the other.

    One rule I always follow whatever is to avoid acidic coffees like Kenyans. As a young and foolish roaster with my love for Kenyan coffee, I thought this could be carried over to my love for espresso. Alas, it was a waste to see a good Kenyan / Costa Rican blend about to be thrown away until I found it to be the best filter blend I had ever created, which I have sold from this day on and is my most popular filter blend in the catalogue. So even from mistakes, small triumphs can be found.


    A pretty important part of good espresso blending. There are two schools of thought on whether to roast as a blend or separately. For the commercial roaster, it is easier to post blend (and indeed the most popular) as this cuts down on waste. If he has already roasted some Colombian up for an order, it is easy to add the rest of this to the blend. The thinking behind this is that you can treat each bean as an individual.

    However, I prefer to pre-blend and roast it as a whole. All I can tell you is my experience has shown me that I get the best results this way. You get a more even cup, the blend tastes as if it belongs together. You can get very anal about every part of the process of creating espresso, but I go with what works for me.

    I agree or at least can relate to David Schomer on most things in his Espresso Coffee Professional Techniques book (which is a must-read for the espresso enthusiast) but on the roast type, we definitely agree. David Schomer calls it a Northern Italian Roast. I call it medium/dark roast. It’s just at the point where the beans look like they want to shine with oils but don’t. A deep mahogany brown. If you take it any further you get a bitter cup which contrary to what Starbucks is trying to tell us is not what good espresso is about. If you must vary the above roast then go a little lighter, but avoid the charcoal blend.

    Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques
    Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques by David C. Schomer (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon CANADA)

    So come on then, give us your recipe!

    Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

    As a commercial roaster, I stopped stocking Yirgacheffe for a whole year. This was due to (in my opinion, not the industries) a poor Yirg crop that lacked the vibrancy I associate with it. I went to Sidamo (not bad, certainly better than 2002 crop Yirgacheffe), Djimma (a real mistake – it was a good cup, but the bean grade was very poor which meant 20 minutes before roasting were spent fishing out the pebbles). However, nothing gives my espresso the lift it needs like a good Yirgacheffe. So now it’s back, it’s good and it’s in most of my blends for sure. It gives the cup citrus bursts and combines with the other smoother beans to balance the cup.

    Ethiopian Longberry Harrar

    I’m a convert. For years I have refused to stock this bean. Why? Well, I put it down to a bad experience and listening to others in the trade. I cupped this way back at the very start of Has Bean online. It was the most rancid cup of coffee I have ever drunk. It was acidic to the max and worse than some robustas I’d tried. So I stayed away, until 2 months or so ago. When I cupped it I decided to buy some there and then. A great addition to a blend, but only in small amounts; it adds some flavour but avoids overpowering your blend. It has a very distinctive taste similar to that of Yemen coffees.

    Brazil Bourbon Fazenda Cachoeira

    Until only less than 12 months ago the best Brazilian I stocked was a generic Santos. Brazil’s coffee is boring (so I thought), flat and dull so why bother trying to find a single estate that’s going to taste the same as cheap old Santos? Well that was what I thought until I was convinced by a very good friend to try some of this. This sweet smooth little number is perfect in any espresso blend and has definitely improved my blends beyond any other factor.

    Colombian La Manuela

    Smooth again but without the fresh sweetness of F. Cachoeira. It has a more silky sweetness and gives the cup more body. A substantial bean that sits well in the blend.

    Brazil Santa Terezinha

    Its smooth subtlety calms down an over-sweet blend and can add substance to one where otherwise you would have “citrus overkill”. This is also great when you have a blend that you think is there but when in fact there is too much going on in the cup. A calmer.

    Bolivian Organic

    A great bean that gives chocolate hints to the blend and roasts like a dream. It’s a great quality bean that adds to any blend.


    I don’t care what anyone says to me, I’ve never tasted a better espresso blend than one with Robusta. Now small amounts (less than 10%) are rules of thumb, and its got to be good quality robusta (there is some out there. In fact I’ve tasted robustas better than some arabica beans I’ve been sent).

    Don’t be a snob, it adds a little caffeine kick to a blend, and it gives you great crema and balances out the cup. I have blends without robusta in them that are great, but none are better than those blends which do contain Robusta. Don’t let pre-conceptions stop you trying this; with amounts as low as 10% you can’t even taste it, but it gives the cup so much more.

    espresso shot
    Espresso Shot


    This is a brief guide to espresso blending and roasting. I could write a book with recipes and alike in, but I’m wondering how many of you are still awake reading a few pages. It’s all about opinions and taste and of course: mine are right and if you disagree you’re wrong unless of course, you become a customer and then it’s Sorry sir/madam I am a fool.

    For me, the blend is the most important part of good espresso. I can get around a useless machine or no tamp, and I can go buy some bottled water. I can buy a stove-top Moka pot for just over a tenner and I’ve used some unusual tamps in the past. But if the blend is bad: well, you can’t make a doppio out of a sow’s ear!


    Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques by David C. Schomer (Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon CANADA)

    Bialetti Moka Express Espresso Maker, 6 Cup (Amazon USAAmazon UKAmazon CANADA

    Coffee Blending For the Home Roaster – INeedCoffee article

    This article originally appeared on Too Much Coffee. This article and its photos are Copyright 2004 Too Much Coffee and are reproduced with permission.

  • Life is Coffee Comics #16

    A Million Firecrackers

    Coffee Comic - A Million Firecrackers

    Those Three Mugs

    Coffee Comic - Those 3 mugs

    © 2017 Life is Coffee

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