Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending October 9th

A diner mug rests on a newspaper atop a wooden table.

A diner mug rests on a newspaper atop a wooden table.

The leaves are turning golden, yellow, and red here in Michigan. However, they’re also starting to fall, which means I have to go rake them up.

So let’s have a look at the coffee news before I go do that.

The 2020 Glasgow Coffee Festival Can’t Be Held Indoors. The Solution? Take To The Streets

The (ongoing, worsening) COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the specialty coffee industry: laid-off employees, shuttered businesses, uneven demand. One sector that has been hit particularly hard, due to the nature of gathering lots of people from all over the world in an enclosed space, is the coffee festival.

While some have been able to go ahead semi-normally in countries with functioning governments (oh hi, South Korea) the rest of us have had to watch as event after event postpones until next year or gives up altogether.

In Scotland, having already postponed once, Lisa Lawson—founder of both the Glasgow Coffee Festival and influential roaster Dear Green—decided on a different route.

“We’d already sold 500 tickets for the festival,” Lawson said in an interview with the Pourover. “Could we find a way to still offer an experience?”

The solution, it turns out, was to spread the festival across the whole city, over ten days from October 16-25, to highlight the myriad independent cafes and roasters that make Glasgow’s coffee scene so special.

Attendees will receive a series of offers and discounts from 50 businesses around the city, with the aim of encouraging people to get out and support their local coffee shops.

Says Lawson: “We’re focusing on supporting the local economy, local businesses; collaboration over competition; and bringing cafes together to promote what we do, almost like one big chain.”

Read my interview with Lisa Lawson here.

Is Fresh Roasted Coffee Better? The Truth Might Shock You - via Sprudge

Goofy title aside, this is an interesting article that looks at several myths surrounding coffee and freshness—the main one being that fresher is always better.

What the story concludes, from interviewing a selection of roasters, is that freshness is important, up to a point, but it’s not the only variable to consider.

The rest period between roast and brewing is a vital time, allowing CO2 and other elements to escape, and it can be longer than widely supposed: “Many of us will find we enjoy our coffee better—that it will have more flavor, complexity, and dimension—if we have allowed the coffee to significantly rest and undergo the degassing process.”

This is good news for someone who is truly terrible at keeping coffee stocked consistently, forgetting to order a new bag until the last moment and then panic-buying several bags at once, only to repeat the process over and over without ever learning.

Read the full story here.

New Coffee Brewing Study Challenges Water Temp Norms - via Daily Coffee News

Let’s continue on the theme of “things we all assumed were true but that might not actually be correct or important”. A new study from the UC Davis Coffee Center has found that water temperature doesn’t impact coffee’s flavor as much as had previously been thought.

The research “shows that when brew strength and extraction yield remain constant, changes in the water temperature of brewed hot coffee do not result in perceptible sensory changes,” according to Daily Coffee News.

“Our original hypothesis was that the brew temperature would matter a lot,” said UC Davis Coffee Center Director and Professor William Ristenpart. “We were surprised to find it matters very little, provided you control the brew strength and extraction yield.”

This research will be of interest to brewer manufacturers, who are always looking to improve their brew temperature consistency. For the rest of us, it’s probably useful to know that if you happen to leave your kettle off the boil a little longer than usual, it’s not going make a huge difference to the final cup.

Read the full story here.

Say Goodbye to Your Local Coffee Shop in America’s Cafe Shakeup - via Bloomberg

Grim stuff here.

The number of coffee shops in the United States is falling for the first time in nine years, amid the ongoing (and worsening) COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Starbucks and Dunkin’ are taking advantage.

“Closures have happened already and we believe the winter could bring another wave, especially for coffee shops depending on outdoor seating or even walk-up foot traffic,” said Rabobank analyst James Watson.

At the same time, “Larger chains have the resources to handle short- and medium-term losses while also pivoting with conveniences such as online ordering and drive-thru service, Rabobank’s Watson said.”

Starbucks and Dunkin’ have the power to lean on landlords to lower and defer rent on their stores, something independent cafes obviously can’t do.

In fact, Dunkin’ has been quite open about its plans to “cash in on” the demise of smaller businesses.

Yep, grim stuff.

Read the full story here.

Coffee cherries ripening on the branch

Coffee cherries ripening on the branch

More Headlines

Millennials Embrace Baby Boom Icon Folgers Coffee (says the CEO of Folgers’ parent company with zero evidence)

Department of Brewology Launches Coffee Line with Direction from Producers

Is Coffee Good For You?

Coffee could help protect against Parkinson’s, even if you have genetic risk factors for the disease.

Research had previously shown the possibility of protection for those without genetic risk factors, but this new study shows an association between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing the movement disease in people who carry the LRRK2 gene mutation.

“These results are promising and encourage future research exploring caffeine and caffeine-related therapies to lessen the chance that people with this gene develop Parkinson’s,” said study author Grace Crotty, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“It's also possible that caffeine levels in the blood could be used as a biomarker to help identify which people with this gene will develop the disease, assuming caffeine levels remain relatively stable.”

Put this one in the “good for you” column.

What I’m Drinking This Week

As mentioned above, I’m very bad at consistently ordering coffee (if someone knows of a Midwest-specific subscription service I could sign up for that would be great).

Luckily the folks at Hyperion Coffee in nearby Ypsilanti are extremely quick at sending out orders, so I have this delicious natural Ethiopia Guji Layyoo to savor until the rest of my orders show up.

What To Read

At Inglewood’s Sip & Sonder, Community And Personal Well-Being Take Focus by Michelle Johnson

A Sip of Magic: The Ancient Art Of Coffee Readings by Emily Joy Meneses

Until next week, drink good coffee. Support your local roaster/cafe. And wear your mask!

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