Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending April 17th

An espresso cup sits atop a magazine on a table, seen from above. Via PxHere

An espresso cup sits atop a magazine on a table, seen from above. Via PxHere

It’s the end of yet another week of Michigan’s stay-at-home order, which has been extended until at least May (something not everyone is happy about).

In the midst of all this, I decided to try making a French press for the first time in a long time—inspired mostly by this great Twitter thread. I’ve never liked the French press, mostly because it’s annoying to clean and also because I don’t enjoy silt in my coffee.

What I, and almost every other person I know (as well as most specialty coffee shops), have been doing wrong is the most satisfying part of brewing a French press: the press.

A French press is silhouetted against a light background. Via Unsplash

A French press is silhouetted against a light background. Via Unsplash

James Hoffmann addresses this in his 2016 video on the French press, and the other key is patience. It takes a while to brew a French press correctly. So, here is what I did, in case you’d like to try it yourself:

  1. Pre-heat the carafe—not essential, but because the brewing time is longer it’s going to lose heat, so doing this helps fight that battle.
  2. Grind coarse—Hoffmann says medium, mine ended up medium-coarse—and use a 1:15 ratio (1 gram of coffee to 15 grams of water; 30g of coffee gives you 450g of water etc). I chose this ratio after some light googling and it seemed to work—a gram scale is helpful here and in all other coffee brewing.
  3. Dump pre-heating water (save for watering plants), add coffee, add brewing water straight away, start timer, wait. Hoffmann says four minutes; that sounds about right.
  4. Give the crust atop the brewing coffee a gentle stir. This lets coffee sediment and grinds fall to the bottom of the press—Hoffmann recommends scooping any residual stuff off the top but I forgot this step.
  5. After another few minutes, lower the plunger until it sits just on top of the coffee, but don’t plunge (no matter how satisfying it would be).
  6. Pour your coffee into cups using the plunger as a filter or sieve. Ta da! My coffee was pretty good, and the whole thing was straightforward—until the cleanup. I hate cleaning these things.

If you’ve already been using this technique then good for you, but for many people (and far too many coffee shops) this is not how they brew French press. Hopefully this helps someone—and if not then it’s at least an excuse to watch some other James Hoffmann YouTube videos, which we should all be doing more of.

Right, to the news.

COVID-19 Updates - Via Various

Another week of lockdown, another week of stasis. A few new bits and pieces:

  • Coffee shops continue to permanently close due to the pandemic, with cafes in Oakland and North Carolina (and probably elsewhere) deciding to call it a day. Meanwhile, Starbucks has announced that it plans to reopen its US stores on May 4, even though many of them never closed in the first place. Video footage of huge tailbacks outside drive-through Starbucks and stories from unhappy baristas about a lack of protection contrasts with executive talk of “best in class safety protocols” and using “the strongest data available to help us assess a store’s readiness, considering things like the trajectory of the virus, local mandates, operational capabilities and customer and partner sentiment.”
  • In California, Temple Coffee Roasters is receiving flak after a company-wide email told staff that wearing masks at work would violate company dress code. The email “included misinformation” and “was not approved” by Temple higher-ups according to a later statement, which clarified that the company would provide employees with masks.
  • More coffee companies are stepping up to help during this unprecedented time: Melitta says it has started producing face masks at its factory in Germany, announcing that “it had on short notice begun production of masks that are shaped like the classic Melitta cone filter while using different and more effective filtering materials” according to Daily Coffee News. Lavazza, meanwhile, has donated 50,000 bags of coffee (and brewing machines to go with them) to first responders in New York and Los Angeles (they also pledged $11 million to the coronavirus response in Northern Italy last month).
  • The International Coffee Organization has outlined what it thinks will be the effects of a global coronavirus-caused recession on the coffee industry. While it’s analysis is pretty straightforward—a 1% drop in global GDP growth equals a 0.95% drop in coffee consumption growth—it doesn’t bode well for an already ailing worldwide industry: in terms of volume, this demand reduction would equal 1.6 million 60kg bags of green coffee.

Right, what else has been going on?

The Sky is The Limit for Brugh Coffee’s Delivery by Drone in Virginia - via Daily Coffee News

Oh no, no thank you.

This story is framed as a new way to follow social distancing guidelines (topical!) and as a way to reduce car pollution, but it all just feels far too dystopian for my liking. In many countries drones are used to spy on, and drop bombs on, citizens. This will only help to normalize drones buzzing around our skies until we don’t notice them anymore. Then what?

It also feels pointless—won’t the coffee be cold? And if it’s still hot, that implies that you live close enough to the coffee shop to just walk over there.

Read the full story here.

Scientists Have Created Bio-Degradable Plastic Out Of Coffee Grounds - via Sprudge

Researchers have been looking for ways to reuse spent coffee grounds for ages now—possibly because there’s just so much of it lying about. Coffee waste has been turned into furniture, printer ink, clothes, and even coffee cups.

A glass full of ground coffee and beans sits on a wooden table. Via Unsplash

A glass full of ground coffee and beans sits on a wooden table. Via Unsplash

Now Japanese scientists have figured out how to “mine used coffee grounds for cellulose used to make cellulose nanofiber, a key component in the bio-degradable plastics” according to Sprudge.

According to the source article in New Atlas, coffee grounds are a good candidate for this sort of product because “approximately half of their weight and volume is made up of cellulose.”

The researchers are even looking to turn the coffee plastic into plastic that can be used to hold more coffee:  “We aim to make a transparent disposal coffee cup and straw with an additive comprising cellulose nanofibers from spent coffee grounds,” said the lead scientist Izuru Kawamura from Yokohama National University.

Read the full story here.

The week in corporate greenwashing

Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) is partnering with fellow acronyms IDH and USAID to “measure the impact of the organisations’ joint sustainable coffee activities in Vietnam.”

Says Do Ngoc Sy, JDE Sustainability Manager in Asia and the Pacific: “This collaboration is one more step in JDE’s commitment to work continuously toward 100 per cent responsibly sourced coffee and tea by 2025.”

No idea what “100 per cent responsibly sourced coffee and tea” means. Who is responsible for what? According to a previous press release about a similar project, “JDE co-creates sustainability solutions with select suppliers and partners who contribute at least 30 percent of their total costs toward sustainable production and improved processing.”

That clears things up.

Is coffee good for you?

Apparently people are putting lemon into their coffee and claiming it can help with weight loss and other health benefits.

It… can’t.

Well, not more than coffee and lemon separately can.

I mostly enjoyed the article because it helpfully explains what coffee is: ”The brewed drink, made from roasted coffee beans, contains a stimulant called caffeine.”

Thanks, Harper’s Bazaar.

Of course squeezing lemon into your coffee sounds terrible, but it’s probably not going to hurt. However, it’s also not any better for you health-wise than chasing your espresso with a shot of lemon juice.

A person sits on the floor reading a book. via Unsplash

A person sits on the floor reading a book. via Unsplash

What to read

The USPS Collapse Would Be A Disaster For Coffee by Sprudge Staff

The Coffee Scientist’s Guide To Making Better Coffee At Home by Jacob Grier

Until next week, drink good coffee. Stay at home, support your local coffee roaster, and wash your hands.

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