Y’all this coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo is so delicious I could weep. It’s sweet and fruity and so delicate. It makes morning better. It makes walking the damn dog at six a.m. better. It’s a revelation paired with Sweet Thai Chili almonds. Shut up! You eat weird stuff for breakfast. Go to Lexington Coffee Roasters right now and order some before they run out. You will thank me in the morning.
All good things must come to an end, and this month marks the end of my Trager Brothers Coffee Coffee of the Month Club subscription, kindly given to us for Christmas by our friend DC Jen, not to be confused with our friend New York Jen (who lives in California) or Fish Jenn or Tennessee Jen. If you were born in the late 60s/early 70s approximately half of the women you know are named Jennifer. As an aside, half of the men you know are named Michael. But that’s another post.
I was sad to see the end of my coffee subscription. Although I haven’t always agreed with Trager Brother’s roasting choices, I have appreciated the quality of their product and the timeliness of their shipping. On the months my coffee post seemed late, it wasn’t their fault, it was mine. With my last bag of beans came a lovely note, hand-written, thanking me and letting me know the subscription was over. These guys are a class act.
This month’s selection was Guatemalan beans, which had me pretty excited until I remembered our roasting issues. As usual, I felt they were heavy handed with this month’s selection, although they didn’t roast them dark they are a shade darker than I feel Guatemalan beans should be, but I quibble. This was a fine cup of coffee far more to my taste than some of the darker roasts they’ve sent me. It’s a happy note to go out on. If you’ve never done a coffee subscription and you’d like to explore more of what coffee has to offer than what can be found in a K-cup, I highly recommend it. Coffee subscriptions are a great way to try new things and an easy way to share what you find. If you are like my sister Joan, and love a dark roast, you should try Trager Brothers Coffee of the Month Club. You will really like it.
This month’s little bundle of joy arrived from Trager Brothers all freshly roasted and ready for drinking. This turned out to be good news for my sister Joan, who was staying with us overnight. Joan loves a rich dark roast, and Blend 90 made her very happy. She said it was delicious and made a lot of happy noises while drinking it.
Not a fan of dark roasts, I was a little less impressed. Blend 90 is a combination of beans from four different coffee regions. Trager Brothers doesn’t tell us which four, and frankly, with dark roast, it probably doesn’t matter. If you like some rich darkness in your cup, check out this Blend 90 so you too can make happy noises while you drink it.
Meanwhile, I decided in the picture with this post to juxtapose a light roast coffee with a dark roast so that people unfamiliar with light roast can really see the difference. On the right side are the Blend 90 beans. On the left side you can see some Kieni beans from Kenya. Lexington Coffee Roasters have given them the lightest of roasts, preserving the unique character of the region and almost all of the caffeine. I make the same happy noises over it that Joan made over the Blend 90.
You should check them both out and let me know what you think.
The third pound of coffee from Trager Brothers arrived today. While the previous two bags were single source beans listed by country of origin, this bag was mysteriously labeled Viennese Roast. Now since you can’t grow coffee in Vienna this bag of beans could be from anywhere, and since a Viennese Roast is the lightest of the dark roasts, it’s hard to tell much about the beans. The problem with dark roasting beans is that, along with lowering the caffeine content, dark roasting disguises a lot about the actual beans. Knowing that, it then becomes clear why companies like Starbucks dark roast most of their beans. It gives them a consistent product that can be shipped all over the place, because the darker the roast, the longer the beans last. That sounds good, except it also leaves them with a fairly bland product, which is why Starbucks is really in the milk business. Most of their drinks rely on milk and syrups to give them distinguishing characteristics.
The whole point of going to small private roasters is to experience the complexities of different types of coffee beans from around the world. Ideally, I don’t like beans roasted any darker than a city roast, and really prefer an American roast or lighter. The lighter roasts preserve the unique characteristics of the different beans, so you can really taste the difference between say beans from Ethiopia as opposed to beans from El Salvador. True coffee experts can tell where a bean comes from simply by taste. I can’t do that, but I do enjoy some of the acidy of lighter roasts and I miss the unique flavors that are lost in darker roasts.
Having said that, the coffee arrived fresh, smelled good, and produced a lovely bloom when hot water was added to the grounds. After that, it’s pretty average, not bad, not great. It’s very fresh regular coffee, which let’s face it, is still pretty good. You’ll note in the picture, this is the first cup of Trager Brothers Coffee I’ve photographed with cream. It needs it. If you love Starbucks, then you’ll really love this Viennese Roast from Trager Brothers. It’s essentially a really fresh, slightly lighter roast than what you get at Starbucks. I’ll drink all of it, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to get.
Coffee is an essential part of my day, and in resent weeks, I’ve taken it a bit more seriously. This all began when Kristin’s coffee maker died. She began looking for a new coffee maker and I suggested my Cuisinart model. It has 2000 four and five star reviews on Amazon, but Kristin, being more thorough than me, also noticed it had 500 one star reviews. So she read those and was disturbed to find that they all said things like “this was a great coffee maker until it caught fire.”
My husband is a firefighter. If you tell me something in my house is prone to catching fire, it’s not going to be in my house for very long. Out went the Cuisinart and thus began my journey to better, safer coffee.
As it turns out, people have strong opinions about coffee. Many people suggested a Keurig, but I quickly realized that wasn’t a good option for me for a variety of reasons. The first is that I drink six, five ounce cups of coffee every morning one right after the other. The second is that I’ve been grinding my own beans for a long time, so I’m used to paying a premium for coffee, but I’m not used to paying double what I pay now for freshly roasted beans just to have prepackaged ground coffee in those little plastic cups. They are too expensive and they produce a lot of landfill waste. As for the reusable Keurig cups, that’s a better option, but grinding beans and filling one of those six times every morning doesn’t sound very convenient.
I looked at French presses, but I don’t like the sludge factor. I like a clean, bright cup of coffee and the French press produces a murky, thick cup of coffee. I know a lot of people who love them, but I don’t.
I considered another drip coffee maker, one that didn’t catch fire, but after doing so much coffee research, I realized that most drip coffee makers don’t get the water hot enough for a really great cup of coffee. Since I was getting high quality, locally roasted beans from places like Beanetics in Annandale and Catoctin Coffee at the Leesburg Farmer’s Market, it seemed like a good time to up my coffee making game.
After much reading about coffee and watching many YouTube videos on how to make coffee, I settled on the Melitta pour over pictured above. It produces a clean, bright cup of coffee just like I like. Using the Melitta, I often drink coffee black now rather than adding cream.
Colin, however, prefers the AeroPress pictured above. He is a big fan of chicory blended coffee and prefers his coffee with a lot of milk, so the espresso-like concentrate that the AeroPress creates is perfect for his morning routine.
Kristin settled on a beautiful Chemex like the one pictured below. Like the Melitta, it produces a clean, bright cup of coffee, but it’s also super pretty.
Whatever your coffee preferences, I encourage you to try some of the methods I’ve mentioned. I was surprised by the difference and I don’t think I have a particularly sensitive sense of taste. There is a lot of wonderful coffee out there to be enjoyed. I want to try it all.