COFFEE NEWS ROUNDUP: WEEK ENDING NOVEMBER 9TH

A cup of coffee and a croissant sit on top of two magazines on a wooden table.

The first snowfall of another impending winter happened here in Michigan this week, just as the clocks went back and the temperature plummeted. All good signs, surely, for someone raised in Scotland with a serious aversion to hot weather.

Unfortunately, this positive wintry omen occurred in a week with little to no coffee news, so this roundup is going to be another quick one. If someone could have a word with the powers that be and ask for the coffee news to be disseminated a little more evenly going forward, that’d be great.

Anyway, let’s get into it, what little there is.

Bellwether’s Emissions-Free, Ventless Roaster Makes Its Way into Cafés - via Barista Magazine

The act of cafe owners deciding to roast their own coffee is nothing new. Lots of cafes start out either with one supplier, or as a multi-roaster, but then either want more control over the process or like the idea of being a cafe that roasts its own.

[An aside: there’s something endlessly baffling to me, as a former coffee roaster, how many people think the job is glamorous and, basically, easy, instead of a stressful and boring marathon of repetition. It’s incredibly rewarding and can be a lot of fun, but the seductive impression so many people have is so very wrong.]

The cooling tray of a coffee roaster, with freshly roasted coffee, seen from above

Bellwether, a start-up in, where else, San Francisco, has begun selling an electric, ventless coffee roaster to enable cafes to roast their own coffee at the push of a button. No more the months and years of learning and hard-won respect—now there’s an app.

About the size of a fridge, Bellwether’s machine plugs into an outlet and is, according to them, emissions-free. It bills itself as “the lowest carbon footprint roaster ever built,” according to Barista Magazine, which honestly isn’t much of a brag. Have you seen a coffee roaster? Even the fanciest high-end Lorings still emit a bunch of bad stuff.

Tech startups disrupting (ugh) the coffee industry should really be expected—after all, coffee is a “cool” industry with low barriers to entry and relatively old-fashioned ideas about how things should be done. Robot baristas are already here—in, where else, San Francisco—so it was only a matter of time before someone tried their hand at a tech-y coffee roaster.

But is the coffee good? Bellwether sources through Royal Coffee and Sustainable Harvest (you order green coffee right from the app) and aims to give back to farmers via a tipping system (always a healthy system).

As for the real test: how does this fancy roaster make the coffee taste? The article doesn’t say.

Read the full story here.

Ordinary North Koreans join elite in acquiring taste for coffee - via The Korea Herald

You would think the last place on earth specialty coffee would gain a foothold would be North Korea. A repressive regime, minimal trade with the rest of the world, and ongoing problems with malnutrition and food insecurity mean that coffee has for a long time been a luxury out of the reach of all but a very small elite.

That is beginning to change, however, if this article from the Korea Herald is to be believed. The slow introduction of market forces and close ties to China, which itself has seen an enormous surge in coffee consumption in recent years, means that more cafes can open and the demand is apparently growing.

The article doesn’t specify if this trend is specialty coffee-focused or not, but a Clever Dripper is visible in one photo so I’m going to pretend like it is for the purposes of this sentence. You’re still unlikely to find a Starbucks (the line in all these articles is that Pyongyang is the only major city left on earth without one) but maybe that just leaves more space for local coffee shops to grow.

Read the full story here.

Ice-T Claims He's Never Had A Bagel Or Coffee - via Gothamist

If you believe Twitter (and you probably shouldn’t) then the rapper and actor Ice-T has been missing out on the good things in life. Bagels, sure whatever, but more importantly coffee.

The man has, by his own admission, never tried coffee.

What does this mean? What are the ramifications? Does it even matter? We may never know.

Read the full story here.

Is coffee good for you?

Well, dark roasted coffee may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,so I would say yes.

A new study found that a group of compounds known as phenylindanes, which are formed in the roasting process, inhibited two protein fragments often found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.

A cup of black coffee, seen from above

"Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Donald Weaver, Co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute and who led the study.

The longer you roast coffee, the more phenylindanes are formed, so dark roasted coffee is more effective in this than light roasted. (Caffeine was not found to be an issue either way, so decaf drinkers are included—huzzah.)

However the scientists, probably with good reason, are hedging their bets. Dr. Weaver: "What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline. It's interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not."

Well said, doc.

An old man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper