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Direct Trade – Costa Rica, Dota

The term “Direct trade” is thrown around quite a bit in the coffee world but doesn’t speak very specifically about the relationship between roaster and source. We’d like to share the story of how we connected with Dota so you can continue on this journey with us.

This photo was taken on my brother's trip to Costa Rica. Our friend Jose is the furthest Left.
This photo was taken on my brother’s trip to Costa Rica. Our friend Jose is the furthest Left.

This is our friend Jose Hidalgo.

Jose is from Costa Rica, but attended John Brown University in Arkansas with my brother Joel. They became very close and my brother visited Jose in Costa Rica after graduating. But the first time I had true contact with Jose was after my brother’s funeral last year. This deep loss connected us. When tragedy strikes, it can leave you grasping for any remnant of your lost loved one. Jose was one of those remnants.

I’ve shared quite a bit about my brother’s death in previous blog posts. Jose connected with each of these, as Joel was his close friend. And as he followed our journey of healing he noticed that we source and roast coffee. Since then he’s been working with us to form a relationship with one of the coffee farms near his home in Costa Rica.

Jose now acts as translator and helps us navigate the overwhelming nationalization process involved with importing coffee. It’s been an amazing learning experience and we look forward to visiting Coopedota (the processing co-op used by the farm that grows our coffee) and the farm in the near future! We hope to experience everything from harvesting the fruit to touring the processing facility.

We want to assure you that this will be a long-lasting relationship

…and our goal is to provide you with as much information and involvement as possible. It has always amazed us how many hands are involved in making each cup of coffee, so bringing awareness to the consumer is something we’re excited about. And the more we are exposed to the people and processes from which our coffee originates, the more we are challenged to uphold a standard of quality when this incredible product finally arrives in Brooksville.

Not only is this an incredible opportunity for us as a coffee roaster, but I love the connection we now have with one of Joel’s closest friends. I still have so much to learn about the loss of my brother and it weighs heavily on me everyday, but I can’t help but think he would be happy to know this is all happening because of him. We want to honor his life, his sense of adventure, his role as a devoted friend, and the support he showed as a brother.

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A Coffee Addict’s Grocery Budget

budget shopping quality food

We’ve all experienced a time when money is tight. However, if you’re like me you don’t want to sacrifice quality (or your specialty coffee addiction). And let’s face it, once you’ve experienced quality ingredients it’s so hard to go back, especially when it comes to feeding your family.

So I’m going to share with you how we’ve managed to keep freshness and quality at the top of our priority list (except when Daniel is craving McDonald’s… sorry) while sticking to a tight budget.

1) Do It Yourself

This is actually my only point. But it’s HUGE.

When money is tight it’s actually easier to stick to this concept because the box of frozen corndogs that calls my name from across the store is easier to resist when I only have $15 in my grocery budget.

“But Darby, we’re so delicious and you don’t have to cook.”

SHUT UP CORNDOG, YOU DON’T KNOW ME.

I have a serious junk food problem, obviously.

My favorite thing to do is just walk around the store with no plan. I know that drives some of you crazy, but it works for me. I start with produce and meat. Whatever is on sale, I grab.

Not having a specific list allows me to buy higher quality ingredients because I can choose what’s in-season and on sale.

Once I get close to the register I decide what probably won’t work based on the type of cooking I usually do. Then I ditch those ingredients and head for the checkout.

This method has made me crazy-creative in the kitchen and it’s been awesome!

Some of my favorite dinners were born out of a lack of normal ingredients in the house.

One night I only had sweet potatoes, an onion, and a couple bell peppers. I cooked them down in a skillet with some chili powder and a few other seasonings then I served it with a fried egg on top. Cheap. Easy. And probably one of the best dinners I’ve ever made. Ask Daniel if you don’t believe me. He requests this meal OFTEN.

Last week I was even able to snag a pork tenderloin for almost 50% off. Pears were also on sale and I made a killer herb-crusted tenderloin with pear chutney. I would pay a million dollars for that dinner. Dramatic? Maybe. But I love pork. And I’m so happy that we can feed our family delicious food without leaving our kitchen. Because have you ever taken babies to a restaurant? People hate you. And you have to sell their toys to pay the bill.

Now, when it comes to coffee (I know I’m not supposed to say this as a coffee shop owner, but..)

…a latte a day gets expensive FAST. Don’t get me wrong, I think treating yourself to a hand crafted beverage from your favorite coffee shop is awesome. And we love seeing your good-lookin’ face. But if money is tight, it might be time to hone your brewing skills at home. That’s where we can help! You don’t have to drink bad coffee. Please. Don’t drink it. Especially if it’s old.

Once you’ve tasted a fresh roasted, quality product it’s so easy to acknowledge the difference, and so difficult to go back to drinking stale coffee.

The good news is, even buying high quality coffee can save you money if you’re brewing it at home. Check out our home brewing post here for tips and recipes. And find a coffee to fall in love with here . We also have a cold brew recipe so you can make amazingly smooth iced coffee. Brewing at home will cost you around 60 cents per cup. Compare that to your $4 coffee shop drink of choice and you just freed up some serious grocery money. You should definitely reward yourself for saving so much money… probably with a trip to the coffee shop. Life is about balance, right?

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Cold Brewed Iced Coffee (at Home)

cold brew iced coffee recipe

Have you ever made iced coffee at home?

I used to a very long time ago. I’ll spare you the details because it’s shameful and involves returning to a sad little pot of coffee after it was neglected for several hours. Yuck.

However, I’ve discovered the magic of cold brewing and I want to share the recipe with you because I think you’re excellent so you should drink excellent coffee.

The great thing about cold brew is you can make a large batch and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks. This means having awesome iced coffee every single day if you want.

In addition to being ridiculously easy, cold brewed coffee is very low in acidity but highly caffeinated! The cold brew method subdues the natural acidity of some coffees. This makes for an incredibly smooth iced coffee. But I also recommend using a coffee that is not very acidic to start with, like our Single Origin Brazil.

First…

start with fresh roasted coffee that is ground course. Combine 5 ounces of ground coffee with 3 1/2 cups of cold water in a container. Use filtered water for a better end result.

Place the mixture in your refrigerator and let that sucker brew for 12 hours (It can go longer than 12 hours if you can’t drain it right away. It won’t affect the flavor to leave it a bit longer).

Next…

strain the coffee through a paper coffee filter or very fine mesh strainer.

Put it back in the fridge, it’s ready to use! This ratio makes concentrated coffee so when you’re ready to use, dilute by half with either water or milk.

 

Side note:

You CAN make Decaf cold brew. If you have to drink decaf, I respect you. Most of us only drink coffee BECAUSE it has caffeine. You drink it because it’s coffee. That’s awesome. We offer a Brazilian coffee that is decaffeinated using pure glacier water. It’s about as heavenly as Decaf gets, and you deserve good coffee just like the rest of us. Here’s a link, you beautiful soul.

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Home Brewing Tips From A Coffee Roaster’s Wife

I love coffee. My first college essay was about the coffee shop I would one day own and all the wonderful people I would meet. I might post a copy of that later as proof that Daniel and I are soulmates.

DSC_3120-703.5

But I have a disability.

It’s called my-parents-are-addicted-to-coffee-so-I-never-had-to-make-my-own. And then I married a barista who has since become a roaster. I’m a spoiled coffee brat. For the first two years of our marriage I worked almost full time at the shop and had unlimited access to an espresso machine.

So now that Mable joined our little family I’ve been staying home quite a bit, and that means I have to make my own coffee. I don’t know about you, but I need things to be EASY in the morning. I actually like mornings but I have a toddler and a 6 month old who need some serious snuggles in the morning or they turn into crabby (but cute) monsters.

First, I recommend using fresh roasted coffee (within two weeks after roast date if possible) and grinding your beans directly before use. It’s just so much better. More flavorful and fresh. Remember, coffee is a food. So what I do is pre-dose my coffee the night before. I put the correct dose in my grinder, then all I have to do in the morning is press “start”.

My grinder isn't fancy or expensive, but I do recommend a burr grinder as opposed to a chopper.
My grinder isn’t fancy or expensive, but I do recommend a burr grinder as opposed to a chopper.

Find a similar burr coffee grinder here.

Here are my favorite ways to brew, starting with the easiest:

French Press

We use a ratio of 2 grams of coffee per ounce of water and a coarse grind. Using that as a guide, you can adjust for your preference.

Once you figure out the dose and grind, follow these ridiculously simple steps:

DSC_0151

DUMP IT: Place ground coffee and hot water in your French Press

LEAVE IT: Allow coffee to brew for 3-4 minutes

PUSH IT: Using the weight of your hand, push the mesh filter down to trap the grounds at the bottom

POUR IT: Pour into your favorite mug or directly into your mouth (that would hurt but I’m not judging.. Sometimes you just NEED coffee)

I inherited my French Press from my dad’s stockpile of coffee accessories, but you can find one here or at Target… because I always love an excuse to visit Target.

Chemex

My family visited recently and I needed to make several cups of coffee at a time, in this case a Chemex comes in very handy. Also, you’ll note that using a pour over method results in a cleaner, almost tea-like cup of coffee. (Tea-like does NOT mean weak).

Normally in a pour over method we prefer a finer grind, but a chemex brews very slowly using a fine grind. This is due to the filter’s thickness and full contact against the glass. And again, 2 grams per ounce of water is a great reference point but adjust according to your taste preference! (If you grind coarse, you may want to up the dose)

First, rinse the filter using hot water. This removes any paper taste and warms the glass.

Then dump out the papery water and put the grounds in the filter.

Next, pour the hot water using a circular motion. A nice kettle allows more control. Make sure to keep the grounds saturated throughout the brewing process.

Give it a swirl and serve! My favorite coffee to use in the Chemex is our Kenya AA , super flavorful and awesomely fruity.

These are just my favorite ways to brew. My brother uses an Aeropress for hot coffee and a Yama cold drip tower for some AMAZING cold brewed iced coffee. It really doesn’t matter how you choose to brew, as long as you’re using fresh roasted, freshly ground, quality coffee. Let me know your favorite way to brew!

My sister is the greatest. I tell her my vision and she whips up something fantastic every time.
My sister is the greatest. I tell her my vision and she whips up something fantastic every time.

 

I love visiting my family, especially when snow is involved.
I love visiting my family, especially when snow is involved.
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4 Reasons Not to Buy Coffee from the Grocery Store

 

Let me preface this by saying I shop at grocery stores of all kinds. Most of the time I buy in bulk at the big box, cheap-o stores. Sometimes I spend more for quality ingredients at smaller, more specialized grocers. And I’m gluten intolerant so the local health food store is my best friend. But when it comes to coffee, nothing beats having a relationship with small batch roasters.

Here’s why:

  1. Quality. Take a look at our post about why you should buy small batch roasted coffee where we explain the potential for higher quality that your local roaster is able to provide. Many health food stores and even Whole Foods carry coffees from local roasters, but this brings me to my second point which is..
  2.  Freshness. Health Food stores may carry local coffee, but we still recommend checking the “Roast Date”. Coffee is a food. And like any other food, freshness affects taste. Coffee goes on a flavor journey from the moment it’s roasted. The first 24 hours after being roasted, the beans must “de-gas”, and until they’re allowed to do so, all the flavors have not fully developed. They continue to lose gasses after the first day but it drastically reduces after that time. We recommend using coffee within 2 weeks of being roasted. After this time there is a noticeable decline in flavor. A good way to test the freshness is by brewing the coffee using a pour over method. By slightly wetting the grounds you can allow them to bloom. Fresh coffee will expand and let off even more gasses; stale coffee will fall flat and the water will immediately drip through. Don’t drink stale coffee. You deserve better. (We roast your coffee to-order when you buy online, to ensure you’re able to enjoy in peak freshness!)Hario Kettle Pour Over

  3. Resources. Sadly, your grocery store probably doesn’t have a knowledgeable sales rep. wandering the coffee aisle. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone who could tell you the benefits of grinding your own coffee directly before use? Or someone who knew a great cold brew recipe so you can make iced coffee at home? Wow. I want to be friends with that person. Even better: you can tell us your preferences and we will take the time to chat with you about how we can better meet your coffee needs! Because we all know your day is only as good as your morning cup of coffee (or three).
  4. Mail! Who doesn’t love getting packages? Christmas all the time. Make sure to check our Instagram frequently because we’re always posting promo codes! Sometimes just 10% off because we love you, sometimes Free Shipping because we’re crazy.

    Happy mail
    Happy mail

This does not mean all coffee in groceries stores is *bad*. In fact, we have a relationship with our local health food store (Get Healthy Brooksville and Spring Hill) in which we replace all our retail bags of coffee before they become stale! If you know what you’re looking for, good coffee is easy to find.

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Why small batch roasted coffee is better for all of us

Let’s talk about small batch roasting.

It’s fantastic. It makes a difference. It matters. But the best part? There’s lots of best parts. Not just because as a small batch roaster we’re able to live our dream. You get to be part of our dream. And we like you.

Our roaster is not some automated megatron robot. Your coffee is roasted by Daniel. He roasts using his SENSES. He loves the coffee. He talks to the coffee. He is a little bit out of his mind. Just kidding. But he does spend a lot of alone time with that machine. He tastes his coffee to ensure consistency and quality. Daniel cares. A LOT.

Our trusty U.S. Roaster Corp.
Our trusty U.S. Roaster Corp.

We sample tons of different origins to find our favorites. We only want the best for you! But we also have a price range. Specialty coffee comes at a price. The question is: what are you willing to pay? Our coffee costs more than some large, commercial roasters. But that’s because we pay more to source better beans. However, we have a budget. Some roasters have offerings for around $35 per pound. That coffee is probably dang good. But honestly, it’s a little unrealistic for an everyday brew. Find a roaster that not only offers origins and roast levels that you prefer, but also pricing that works for your budget.

Some roasters even have direct relationships with coffee farmers! We’re not there yet but we have goals, baby.

We listen. Actually, I can’t speak for all local, small batch roasters. But generally speaking, we roasters love your feedback! We want to know if our latest offering blew your mind and tickled your taste buds. It makes us feel awesome and is what drives us. But we also want to know what you don’t like. Your feedback lets us know what we need to do to improve. Our ultimate goal is to provide you with delicious, fresh coffee.Mountaineer Coffee

And nothing beats fresh-roasted. Large roasters slap expiration dates on their bags that are up to a YEAR after the roast date. Please don’t drink that. Please.

Supporting your local roaster also means you’re supporting your local economy! That means your tax dollars stay in your ‘hood.

Small businesses need your support. Not only can we provide a standard of quality, but you become part of our family’s journey. Best Friends Forever, through coffee. That sounds magical.

Green coffee delivery. What is even happening here?