What Kind of Coffee Do We Have?

June 20, 2010

Green and roasted coffee at Echo CoffeeWhen you visit the shop, you’ll notice that we don’t have a sign board that indicates the types of coffees that we offer.  This is by design, as we would prefer to have a discussion about what coffee flavors you like, and then marry those flavor preferences with the coffees we offer.  I’ve often wondered how useful it is to read, “today’s special brew: Guatemala”, as if every Guatemalan coffee tastes the same and every customer knows exactly what a Guatemalan coffee should taste like.  Certainly neither of those expectations can be true, so we use a different approach.

However, this blog gives us a viable platform to discuss the coffees that we currently offer.  To start, we roast 6 different coffees for sale at Echo Coffee. Each coffee/roast has a drink it was specifically designed and developed for, however, we will gladly alter the default choice for customers seeking a different flavor profile.

For drip coffee drinkers, the default choice is our Titus Blend. For the Titus blend, my #1 goal is drinkability. The coffee should be easy and pleasing to drink, and drinking one cup should make you want to drink a second cup (whether you need a second cup or not…that’s a different story). In developing the blend, I sought a balance between acidity and sweetness, with a slight slant toward sweetness, particularly chocolate notes. Currently, the Titus Blend is composed of beans from Kenya, Brazil, and El Salvador. However, the coffee origins in the blend will change throughout the season (the blend has already changed three times, since it was developed, due to origin coffees that are no longer available). Regardless of seasonality, I will do our very best to maintain a consistent flavor profile for the Titus Blend.

Unroasted (green) Kenyan CoffeeFor iced coffee drinkers, the default choice is a single origin Cameroon Boyo.  This coffee is certified 100% organic, and features a bright, citrus fruity taste, which I find refreshing for an iced coffee.  We brew it hot at double strength, then cool it, so that it isn’t diluted or weak when poured over iced.  Some people prefer this coffee hot, and it is available upon request as a drip coffee.

For straight espresso, macchiato, and cappuccino drinkers, the default choice is a single origin El Salvador Bourbon.  This amazing coffee is so round, complete, and complex it belies the fact that it is a single origin coffee.  The crema is sweet and thick, like chocolate butter, yet it presents a wonderful brightness and berry fruit flavor as well.

For latte drinkers, the default choice is our Titus Blend, roasted for espresso.  The Titus Blend shines in a latte, as the sweet, rich flavors are able to combine with the additional milk in a latte, and create a drink that seems disappear before you realize it.  As an espresso, the Titus Blend does tip more toward a sweet tooth lover’s drink, and for some it may be too sweet.  If you find the Titus Blend is too sweet in your latte, the El Salvador makes an excellent latte, while backing down the sweetness.  Likewise, some straight espresso and/or cappuccino drinkers find the Titus Blend to be their espresso of choice.  Either way, we’ll be happy to make your drink your way.

Roasted Cameroon Boyo CoffeeFor decaf drinkers, we offer a very good decaf from Brazil for both drip and espresso.  The very nature of decaf coffee means that it cannot have as complex and rich a flavor profile as a regular coffee, but we have found a decaf that seems to belie that common expectation.  Most decaf drinkers are amazed that, “it doesn’t taste like decaf.”  The flavor profile is a bit brighter and more acidic than the Titus or El Salvdor, while maintaining good body.  If you are in the mood for coffee, but don’t want the caffeine, it’s a worthy choice.

Finally, we offer the El Salvador Bourbon, in a lighter roast for drip coffee.  For those coffee purists seeking a wonderful single origin coffee, or those drip coffee drinkers that may find the Titus Blend just a little too sweet, this is an excellent choice.

Kona Coffee Special

May 18, 2010

On Arizona Coffee, Chris Tingom posed the question, “Who will be the first AZ shop to charge $12 for a cup of coffee?”  In response, it was found that a few shops have already offered fairly expensive coffees.

At Echo Coffee, we hadn’t planned to do a promotion of this sort so quickly, but Ron Cortez of Cortez Coffee offered us a micro lot of an award winning Ka’u Bourbon 100% Kona coffee from Rusty Hawaiian, which we roasted on Monday.  Reading over the cupper’s comments on Coffee Review you’ll notice phrases like “mind-blowing coffee”, “quintessential Bourbon”, and “a perfect 10”. Sampling it myself last night, I had one thought: “Yum”.

Today I had my chef, Carylann Wootton, whip up something decadent to pair with this amazing coffee.

And so it is that starting Wednesday, May 19, we will offer our Kona Coffee Special for $15.  The pairing includes a 12 oz cup of Ka’u Bourbon, brewed via our pour over drippers.  Alternatively, if you would like it as a double espresso or macchiato, we will gladly prepare it that way as well.  As a special incentive, the coffee will be paired with a 6 oz chocolate mousse with raspberry, crumb, and dark chocolate.  Either the mousse or the coffee alone would be a treat worth stopping in for, but together they shouldn’t be passed up.

Supplies are very limited (we have less than 4 pounds of this coffee available), so if this is something you are interested in, be sure to come by the shop soon.

The latte: Echo Coffee style

April 13, 2010

image Two weeks ago, I promised a look at the latte, Echo Coffee style.  Unfortunately, I feel quite ill the next day, followed by the insane amount of work surrounding all of the construction, hiring, and sourcing suppliers for the shop, it’s taken me far longer than expected to follow up.

At any rate, let’s talk a bit about the latte.  Unlike the cappuccino, the latte doesn’t have as precise a recipe. Ratios of espresso to steamed milk vary from 1:3 to 1:9.  For milk, the Echo Coffee latte will by default use 2% organic milk.  In contrast, a cappuccino will use whole milk as the default.  Since there is such a small quantity of milk, the slight increase in fat can be considered a bit of a reward for the cappuccino drinker.  Whole, skim, and soy milk will all be choices you can have in your latte.

Obviously, as milk is added, the flavor of the coffee dilutes and dilutes. Unless the coffee has a sharp taste, designed to power through a high volume of milk, most of what you will taste in a high ratio latte is milk.  To combat that flavor loss, a few options present themselves to the coffee roaster and/or barista to bring a suitable coffee flavor through a high volume of milk.

One approach to providing a strong espresso flavor suitable for powering through high volumes of milk, is to incorporate green coffee beans within the espresso blend with a naturally bitter flavor to them. Bitter flavors are stronger than the sweet, creamy flavor in milk, so excessive bitterness will indeed work.

Another approach is to introduce roasting flavors (smoke/burnt flavor) to the blend. French roast and darker roasts are indeed performed to do just this (as well as reducing some bitterness).  The darker the bean is roasted, the more origin flavor is removed from the coffee bean, and replaced by roasting flavors.  Care can be taken with darker roasts to limit the harsh burnt taste (if desired), but the result is still essentially the same.  Darker roasts produce a stronger flavor profile, which is strong enough to power through a large quantity of milk.

At Echo Coffee, what we will do is two fold.  Our espresso for latte will be roasted a little darker.  It won’t be burnt, but it will be roasted into the second crack.  Secondly, we won’t offer a 20 ounce latte.  Our largest latte will be 16 ounces.  The majority of coffee shops that offer a 20 ounce size put just 2 shots of espresso into that size, the same as a 20 ounce size.  Therefore, the only difference between the two sizes is the amount of milk, which further dilutes the coffee flavor.  We believe most customers are misguided by the larger size, and naturally assume there must be more coffee in the larger size.  Since the only thing in the larger size is more milk (and thus more calories), one could ask, why bother?

So we simply won’t offer anything larger than 16 ounces.  It saves you money and calories, and you get a better tasting coffee drink.  Looking at the ratios for a 12 ounce and 16 ounce latte, with a 2 ounce shot of espresso, the ratios are 5:1 and 7:1.

Lattes are frequently flavored, with the possible range of flavors is very extensive.  Chocolate, vanilla, nuts, berries, etc. are all possible flavors found in lattes.  At Echo Coffee, we will offer a limited but we think comprehensive list of flavors:  Guittard chocolate, Monin vanilla and sugar free vanilla, Monin hazelnut, Ghirardelli Caramel, and Ghirardelli White Chocolate.

Photo Credit: ewitsoe

What Size Cappuccino Would You Like?

March 30, 2010

image During my market research phase of developing Echo Coffee, I explored many of the various coffee shops throughout the greater Phoenix area.  In my travels, I invariably ordered a cappuccino as my “test” drink of choice.  The cappuccino is such a wonderful drink (my personal favorite coffee drink), and how it is made tells a great deal about the shop, the quality of the barista, and the quality of the espresso used within the cappuccino.

A traditional cappuccino has a very exacting recipe composed of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foam.  Variations of the cappuccino are typically described as wet or dry, which helps to convey whether you want more or less foam than the traditional recipe calls for.  Accordingly, a 2 ounce double shot of espresso, plus 2 ounces of steamed milk, plus 2 ounces of foam results in a 6 oz cappuccino.  Wet or dry, the total volume is still 6 ounces, but the wet cappuccino has perhaps 3 ounces of milk, with 1 ounce or less of foam (most cappuccinos with latte art would accurately be described as wet).

The good coffee shops in town almost all serve a cappuccino in a ceramic or porcelain cup, and the best shops do so without asking.  Those shops simply assume a cappuccino drinker will want their drink in a “real” cup, fitting with this traditional drink.

So, when I enter a coffee shop to order a cappuccino, and get as a response, “What size would you like?”, I’m immediately confused.  Other than 6 ounces, what size could there possibly be?  Do they serve 3 oz cappuccinos?  Do they serve 9 ounce cappuccinos?  Both would be very odd.  As I stand with a puzzled look on my face, I’m often shown 8 oz, 12 oz, and 16 oz paper cups.  At this point I become reasonably sure that what the barista is planning on making is a latte, and perhaps planning to add some extra foam to the top.  (Thinking about the recipe, contemplate for a moment a 16 oz cappuccino…that’s over 5 ounces of espresso, or a quintuple shot!)

Invariably, I start looking around the shop for real cups, and if I see them, point and say, “the size that comes in that small cup”.  Hopefully I see 6 or 8 ounce cups on top of the espresso machine, which I’m pointing to.  Sadly, those cups are rarely used, but these baristas do seem to perk up a bit when you point them out and they realize they get a chance to use something they almost forget they have in the store.

Getting to the point, I highlight this particular question to provide a bit more insight into Echo Coffee’s trend toward traditionalism.  A cappuccino at Echo Coffee will come in only one size: 6 ounces.  We will be happy to make it wet or dry, although dry will be the standard. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the Echo Coffee latte.

Great Coffee Needs Great Water

March 25, 2010

SpectraPureIn Arizona, we are fortunate to have had great leaders in our past, like Barry Goldwater, with the vision to assure us of the water we need to grow and prosper.  Unfortunately, the Central Arizona Project (CAP) system results in water quality that is safe to drink, if not enjoyable to drink. In some parts of the valley, the sulfur smell coming from tap water is almost intolerable. Scottsdale has better than average water, but it still contains a great deal of Sulfur and Chlorine, along with other undesirable flavors.

Accordingly, it is very important that the water we use at Echo Coffee be as good as we can possibly make it. Enter SpectraPure. SpectraPure is literally a world leader in developing quality water systems for use in aquariums, laboratories, and fortunately for us, coffee shops.

Getting to know Charles Mitsis, the President of SpectraPure, his passion for quality coffee started in 1979, when he drank his first truly good tasting cup of coffee from a shop in Palo Alto. Charles knew good water was important, and has been working on his systems ever since. For Echo Coffee, the fact that SpectraPure is based right here in Tempe fits perfectly with our desire to support locally, first.

Echo Coffee will be using a 1000 gallon per day, “Commercial Coffee Lovers”, reverse osmosis water system from SpectraPure that has been designed to supply the water volume we need, be great tasting, safe for our brewing equipment, and limit waste water inherent in the RO process. We are pleased to be working with SpectraPure, and think you will be pleased with the water.  If the mood strikes, ask for a plain glass of water and taste it for yourself. We think you will also be pleased.

Echo Coffee Philosophy: Fresh

March 22, 2010

image With opening day around the corner, it’s time we started to describe just what is Echo Coffee, other than the undoubtedly obvious: a coffee shop.  The tag line reads, “Fresh. Local. Organic” and so today starts a short series describing what those three words mean to us, starting today with Fresh.

Plain and simple, the word fresh means that everything we serve is made fresh to order.  The word fresh gets used a great deal in the coffee industry, but today we’ll get very specific about what we mean by fresh.

For the best tasting coffee, it all starts with fresh roasted beans.  With a relatively small roaster, we will be forced to roast almost every day to keep adequate supply, yet never worry that beans are sitting around, getting stale.  For espresso, it tastes best about 3 days after roasting, and by 10 days after roasting has lost significant flavor.  For drip coffee a 4 day rest is best, but again, by 10 days out of the roaster, flavor has degraded substantially.  This contrasts strongly with super market coffees, which are often labeled with a freshness date of one year from roasting.  The resting period for fresh roasted coffee is needed to allow carbon dioxide, generated during the roasting process and trapped inside the hard shell of the bean, to escape the bean.  That carbon dioxide adds a significant “brightness” to the taste that relaxes after it has had a chance to rest.  It’s interesting that for coffee, it is possible for something to be too fresh.

A shot of espresso is very rarely pulled before it was ordered, but when were the beans ground that were used for that shot?  If you don’t hear a grinder turning after your order is placed, it’s likely the beans were ground a while back.  Ground coffee beans sitting for just 5 minutes have lost a substantial amount of their flavor potential due to the oils within the bean evaporating rapidly once the beans are ground.  Before grinding, the hard shell of the coffee bean protects the oils from evaporating, but after grinding, they are free to release into the air.  So, grinding fresh is a significant step toward pulling a great tasting shot of espresso.

Likewise, we won’t brew drip coffee before you order it.  All of our drip coffee served in the shop will be made to order, either as a pour over, french press, or Americano.  And once again, the beans for each cup will be ground fresh for that cup.  Drip coffee that was brewed into an air pot is reasonably fresh for about 30 minutes, if the air pot uses all stainless steel construction.  But brewing into air pots often yields significant waste, which leads many shops to let the coffee sit longer than 30 minutes (most often timers are set for an hour).  The best way to avoid the temptation to let coffee sit longer than it should, is to never brew into an air pot to begin with.  So we won’t.

Along with coffee, we will also offer pastries, sandwiches, and salads.  These items will all be made fresh, right in the shop.  When they are in season, we’ll source the freshest fruits and vegetables we possibly can and adjust the menu throughout the year to take advantage of seasonal freshness.  Sourcing fresh means we will need additional suppliers, which will create greater supply chain challenges and increase production costs, but that won’t deter us from making every item on the menu as fresh as possible.

Photo credit: S.Su

More Than Fair Coffee

January 30, 2010

MoreThanFairOn Friday, January 29, 2010, Ron Cortez of Cortez Coffee and Steve Belt of Echo Coffee agreed that Echo Coffee would feature coffees from the More Than Fair Program.

What is More than Fair?  It is a direct trade program between select coffee growers, coffee roasters, and retailers, similar to Sweet Maria’s Farm Gate Coffee Program and Intelligentsia’s Direct Trade Program.  But More than Fair is more than just a direct trade program.  The program’s transparent goal is to provide a solution for sustainability and continuing quality for the growers, roasters, and retailers of specialty coffee.  Sustainability starts with price paid to the farmer that is, quite frankly, more than fair (the comparison pricing being that paid by the Fair Trade Program).  In exchange for this higher price, the farmer is supported by the Program to maintain the highest quality coffee they can produce.

Price paid to the farmer and the quality control that those farms maintain are actually just the start of the More than Fair Program, however.  It’s a transparency to the entire process of producing excellent coffee in the cup.  It’s a fairness in the way employees are treated, the safety and working conditions of employees, support within the community, and of course, environmental sustainability.

We think the More than Fair Program fits perfectly within the goals of Echo Coffee to produce excellent coffee for our customers and we are thrilled to be able share those coffees with you.