Complexities and Simplicities of Coffee: COMMUNICATION AND UNDERSTANDING

Tuesday December 26, 2017

The big questions many curious people have when asking about purchasing coffee are: 1. " What does the 'natural/washed/semi-washed process' mean?"  2. "Which coffee is least acidic?" and finally when deciding between drip or a pour over, 3. "What is the 'darkest' coffee available?"  There are pretty easy ways of answering these types of questions and being able to not further complicate the questions. From each perspective the best way to clarify is through simplicity on the end of the barista.  There are many complexities that don't necessarily need to be complex to the customer.  

COFFEE PROCESSING

For the Customer:  The three main coffee processes are the natural process, the washed process, and the semi-washed process.  Think of the natural or "dry" process as the process that is done without water.  The coffee cherries are dried in the sun and as a result the coffee is sweeter and more fruity, with usually less acidity.  The washed process is done with water, which means the coffee cherries are washed and then dried which creates a little more complexity and balance in the coffee.  The semi-washed is not a common, but this just basically means that the coffee is washed and then dried without going through the full washed process.  Semi-washed coffee beans are usually very similar in complexity and clarity with a little bit less acidity overall.  

For the Barista: When you are really excited about telling somebody about the coffee you are serving, you have all of this knowledge packed in your brain and you really want to display this knowledge, but always remember that complicated questions for the customer don't need complicated answers.  Whatever you have to say to them, make sure it is clear and concise.  Imagine going to a car dealership and you just want to know which car does better on gas mileage: you really just want to know which car has better gas mileage, but then the mechanic begins telling you all the intricate details of how the motor was built to make the car function that way.  Unless you love cars and want to nerd out, its going to take you down a very confusing path.  Now that being said, when somebody wants to nerd out, you should take advantage of those opportunities and NERD OUT. Its all about recognizing who is who, and what they want.  

ACIDITY IN COFFEE

For the Barista: When somebody wants to know which coffee is least acidic (in terms of bagged coffee or what is being served) just always try to suggest a natural coffee or something a little bit heavier/sweeter like a blend.  Whenever a customer is looking for a coffee without much acidity it is easy to get into the different types of acidity in coffee and flavor profiles/tasting notes, but always go back to setting yourself up to having a small explanation, rather than a long drawn out discussion.  If the customer really wants to go into all of that, then by all means differentiate acidities in coffee and talk about elevation and terroir.  It is important to know these facts about coffee as it is, because the coffee industry is complex, really scientific, and continuously growing.  Understanding these elements in coffee also legitimizes what we do and gives our industry these mysterious intricacies, but these are not for everyone.  

For the Customer:  Acidity is present in all coffees, because coffee by nature creates acids.  Just like grapes, coffee cherries creates acidity.  This all depends on a few key factors in Arabica coffee beans.  1. Elevation- Coffee plants grown at higher elevations will naturally produce more acidity and multiple acids at that.  2.  Terroir-  depending on a coffee's climate and rainfall this will determine the different types of acids formed in the coffee.  3.  The processing-  As noted before the washed process will result in more acidity overall as opposed to naturally processed coffees  which will be more syrupy and sweet.  

WHICH ONE IS DARK?

For the Customer: If you are going into a specialty coffee shop that doesn't have "dark roast" then your best option is most likely going to be a drip coffee or batch brew.  Most of the time, the single origin coffees being served are going to be a little bit lighter due to the way they are brewed or their roast profile.  It never hurts to ask the person working which coffee is a "darker roast" but they sometimes hit you with the "Oh, they are the same, both are medium roasts."  If that is the case then getting a drip usually means it is going to have that grittier, heavier feel which for the most part won't actually be "darker," but will give off the impression of a heavier more dense cup of coffee.  

For the Barista: If somebody happens to ask if you have a dark roast and you know for a fact that you only have light/medium roasts available, don't hesitate to suggest a drip and if you feel like the person is not going to want a pour-over and they just want a quick cup, it easy to tell them that batch brew is the best option.  Let them know that you would suggest a batch brew and that it is the best option available instead of saying, "Oh we don't do dark roast here."  The customer wants something and instead of guiding them away from everything, guide them to what you have.  "Oh our batch brew is a little heavier and really tasty.  I really love it."  Most of the time they will say "Sure, I'll take that." Every once in a while people will be bummed, but you take those people with a grain of salt.  You can't make everyone happy, but you can at least try, Haha!

We still have merch up, the gofundme is still poppin, and be on the lookout soon for BIG NEWS!

Evan Morris

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