Verona St Julien’s Breakfast Blend

  • Beans: Julien’s Breakfast Blend from Verona Street Coffee (Dubuque, IA)
    • Origin: Central America / Indonesia
    • Roast level: medium to medium/dark (3/5 per web site)
    • Purchase date: 3/20/24 at Hy-Vee Grocery Store in Omaha, NE
  • AeroPress in hotel room:
    • 1 heaping AeroPress-sized scoop beans plus “a little more” (18-20g)
    • JX Grind Setting 20 (60 clicks)
    • Prismo with 1 paper filter and metal filter
    • Heat water to boiling in microwave
    • Start timer and pour enough to wet grounds
    • Stir and let sit for 45 seconds
    • Top up to about 1/2″ below top of AeroPress chamber
    • Stir front to back 5 or 6 times
    • Steep until 3:00
    • Stir front to back 5 or 6 times
    • Press slowly
  • AeroPress with measurements:
    • 18g coffee
    • 250g water at 95°C (ratio 1:13.9)
    • 50g initial pour
    • Everything else same as above
  • Tasting notes: roasty, smooth, full-bodied

I bought a 12oz bag of these beans at the beginning of our NCAA Tournament trip to Omaha. There was no roast date listed on the bag. The web site lists the origins as Central America and Indonesia, and the roast level as 3 out of 5. I’d definitely call this a medium/dark roast, based on the appearance of the beans (dark and oily), as well as the aroma and taste. My first cup at grind setting 15 was bitter, so I backed off a half turn to 20, and the subsequent cups have been pretty smooth and tasty, in spite of inexact brewing parameters and hotel room tap water. It will be interesting to compare when I get home and try them with the V60.

3/26: I brewed an AeroPress cup at home today, using the same technique I used at the hotel, with more precise measurements (see above). The flavor and strength were similar to the hotel room cups, but I think it was slightly better overall, probably due to higher brewing temperature and/or better water quality (filtered vs straight from the tap). I may end up just brewing all of these beans with the AeroPress, as I like how the cups are turning out, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

3/31: For the past 2 or 3 days, I’ve been brewing 300g cups with grind setting 20, 21-22g coffee, and 250g brew water at 95C (about the max that will fit in the AeroPress) and then diluting with 50g of bypass water. The cups have tasted similar to the earlier ones I’ve brewed, so this seems like a good way to get a larger cup.

4/8: I brewed my last 12g of beans with 120g water (1:10) using the same AeroPress recipe I’ve used all along, except I skipped the bloom step and just poured all of the water at once. I really liked the result — it was strong, rich, and smooth, and just about the right amount. I think a larger cup would have worn out its welcome — kind of like an imperial stout, a little bit of really strong coffee goes a long way. I’m not sure how widely available this brand is at retail outside of Nebraska/Iowa, but I’d certainly buy it again.

LnB Organic Fair Trade Peruvian

  • Beans: “Organic Fair Trade Peruvian” from Leaves ‘n Beans Coffee (Peoria Heights, IL)
    • Roast level: medium
    • Purchase date: 3/9/24
  • V60:

Started these off at grind setting 29, only because that setting had been working well with the beans I just used up. It wasn’t bad, but had a very slight hint of acidity. I tried it a little bit finer at 28, and got a really good, smooth cup. I then tried 27, and it wasn’t quite as good, so I went back to 28, and I think I’ll stay there for the time being. Compared to my past few bags of Zeke’s, these beans are similar in that they grind pretty cleanly and don’t leave much residue in the grinder, but they take several seconds longer to draw down.

3/17 (Happy St. Patrick’s Day): acidity creeping in at 28 this morning, so this afternoon, I tried 26, which is the finest I’ve ground these so far. It was very good at this setting, so maybe finer is the right idea after all. I definitely felt the caffeine in this cup, so maybe 1:14.3 is a little too strong, though. FWIW, the draw-down finished at around 2:45-2:50 at this setting.

3/19: After 2 days of really good cups at setting 26, both cups today tasted weak and watery. I don’t think anything changed WRT water temperature, ratio or my brewing technique, so I’m not sure what happened. I guess I’ll try it finer tomorrow morning.

3/20: Adjusted grind to 24 this morning, and I think it was a little bit too fine, as it was starting to taste bitter. It will be another 6 days before I brew these beans again, but when I do, I’ll try 25. Could be that 25-26 is good, and I just need to adjust the ratio as the beans age, but I won’t know for sure until next week.

3/26: Setting 25 was not an improvement today. The cup tasted weak and lifeless. I haven’t changed anything WRT technique or recipe vs 10 days or so when I was getting fantastic cups, so my only conclusion is that the beans must be getting past their prime. I think I’m going to switch to AeroPress and see if I can get better results with immersion.

3/27: My usual AeroPress technique at 1:14 (ish) and grind setting 20 yielded a thin-bodied cup, which makes me suspect even more that the beans have degraded. I’ve been storing them in a Fellow vacuum canister, but haven’t been terribly impressed with these canisters, as they seem to slowly lose their seal over several days. I’ve moved the beans to a mason jar, because at least I can be confident it’s airtight. I tried pourover again today with grind setting 25 and a stronger ratio of 1:12.5 (24g coffee / 300g water) and it was better, but still tasted a little bit acidic/under-extracted. I’ll probably keep the strong ratio and start slowly adjusting the grind finer to see if I can get any improvement, or if it just starts getting bitter.

3/28: V60 at grind setting 24, 24g coffee and 300g water was a huge improvement over the past few days. The only thing of note is that I pre-wet the filter with water from the insta-hot tap, which I hadn’t been doing recently, but I doubt that made a huge difference. I could probably go a little bit finer still with the grind, but this was a good start. I don’t have many of the beans left, though.

4/2: Brewed the last of these (all except for about 7-8g) at grind setting 25 and 24g/300g. I didn’t check these notes ahead of time, and forgot that I had most recently been using grind setting 24. Probably not much of a difference either way. Today, I made a point of trying to slow down the water flow rate by pouring as slowly as the kettle would allow. The result was a pretty good cup.

4/7: I had 7-8g of beans to use up, so as an experiment, I ground it really fine (JX setting 10) and brewed it with 90g water (roughly 1:12) at 95C using my go-to AeroPress method (bloom with around 15g water until 0:45, top up to 90g, stir 5-6x, steep until 3:00, stir 5-6x again, press slowly) and although the cup cooled off quickly due to the low volume of water, it had pretty good flavor and body. I was surprised that it wasn’t bitter. So, these beans seem to like a really fine grind, at least after they age for a few weeks. There’s at least an outside chance I’ll try them again the next time I’m in the Peoria area, though I’d say more likely I’ll try something else from the same roaster, just for the sake of variety.

Travel Brewing

Last week, I took my first stab at brewing decent coffee while traveling. Here’s what I packed:

  • AeroPress, plus:
    • scoop
    • stirring paddle
    • several paper filters
    • Prismo accessory with metal filter
  • 1Zpresso JX hand grinder
  • Zeke’s Snow Day Blend beans (in a mason jar)

I put all of this into my checked bag. TBD is whether I’ll be able to fit all of this into carry-on bags. Glaringly absent: a scale, a mug, and a way to heat water. I measured beans by volume using the scoop. To heat the water, I used drip coffee machines at three different hotels, and a Keurig at the house where I stayed the final two nights. I used bottled water in the hotel rooms, and tap water with the Keurig. I was a little bit worried that the typical paper hotel room coffee cups wouldn’t hold up to brewing with the AeroPress, but they worked just fine (granted, I didn’t press very hard).

Figuring that the coffee machines wouldn’t get the water quite up to full boil, I went with a medium roast. I could probably have used a darker roast as well. For a light roast, I’d probably want access to a stove or microwave to bring the water to full boil.

To brew, I used a medium/fine setting of 15 on the JX, which is 1.5 turns. I used 1 heaping scoop of beans plus “a little more”, depending on how strong I wanted the coffee. I used a paper filter in addition to the metal Prismo filter. I then added the grounds, heated 1 paper coffee cup full of water in the machine, and filled the AeroPress up enough to cover the beans, stirred, and bloomed for 45 seconds. I then filled the AP up to near the top. No need to use two cups for this, as the Prismo keeps the water from leaking out (lacking a Prismo, I could probably also have inverted the AP). Then I stirred back-to-front a few times, steeped until around 3:00 (using my phone as a timer), stirred again, and pressed slowly. The resulting coffee was not bad. It was not quite as good as a perfect pour-over cup, but it was well-flavored and well-bodied, and fairly consistent from day to day. I’ll likely try this again the next time I travel.

Zeke’s Snow Day Blend

  • Beans: “Snow Day Blend” from Zeke’s Coffee (Baltimore, MD)
    • Source: Bali Blue Krishna (Indonesia) / Tanzania Peaberry
    • Roast level: medium (4/8)
    • Roast date: 2/19/24
    • Purchase date: 2/27/24
  • V60:

Similar story to pretty much everything I’ve been brewing with my plastic size 2 V60 lately: I started too fine, and am slowly adjusting coarser in an attempt to make the coffee not taste bitter. This was starting to taste pretty good at 28 today, but could maybe go a couple more clicks. I think that my rule of thumb for light to medium roasts is going to be to wait until 10 days to 2 weeks past roast date, and then start with a grind setting of 28 to 30.

3/11: I brewed my first pourover with these in 9 days, using grind setting 29, and it was quite good. I’ll keep this setting for the next few cups, and see how it goes.

3/14: Used these up today. This has been one of my favorite blends from Zeke’s. Once I got the grind setting dialed in at 29, every cup was very consistently good. I also brewed several cups with the AeroPress while out of town, and those cups were good too (if not quite as good as the pourovers) in spite of inconsistent water temperatures and bean/water ratios.