How Does Uniform Particle Size Affect Extraction? by Ana Mallozzi

Have you ever baked cookies or roasted vegetables but had uneven pieces?  The small pieces cook fast and start to burn, while the large pieces are left raw in the middle.  We can think of this analogy when we talk about grind uniformity and coffee brewing.

Brewed coffee is made up of soluble material that we extract from the roasted beans using water. These solubles are things like aromatic compounds, acids, fats, melanoidins and carbohydrates, all of which contribute to the aroma, taste and texture of coffee.  These solubles make up around 30% of a coffee bean. The rest of the bean is made up of insoluble carbohydrates, cellulose, and general plant material which will not dissolve.

Brewing a delicious cup of coffee requires a game plan. This is because the soluble material in coffee extracts from the grounds at different rates and not all those solubles taste good.  That is one reason why there are recommended grind sizes and recipes for each brewing method: it’s to help extract just the right amount. Through research dating back to the 1960s by E. E. Lockhart, extracting around 18%-22% of the soluble material from the coffee is usually ideal. We still use Lockhart's Coffee Brewing Control Chart today as a tool to dial in brewing recipies:

  Extraction  refers to how much soluble material was extracted from the grounds, and  Strength  refers to the amount of that soluble material present in the coffee sample, expressed by total dissolved solids, or “TDS.”

Extraction refers to how much soluble material was extracted from the grounds, and Strength refers to the amount of that soluble material present in the coffee sample, expressed by total dissolved solids, or “TDS.”

Back to our cooking analogy: having uniform pieces that will cook evenly is similar to having uniform particle sizes that will extract evenly.  However, because roasted coffee is brittle, it essentially fractures as it's being ground.  This causes some variance in particle sizes, resulting in some larger pieces, called boulders, and tiny coffee particles that almost look like coffee dust, called fines.  The cheaper the grinder is, the more it crushes the coffee beans into random size pieces, which will cause an uneven extraction.  The fines will extract faster, causing bitter flavors we associate with over-extraction.  The boulders will extract slower, causing sour and sharp flavors we associate with under-extraction.  

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The best way to curb uneven extraction is to use a high quality burr grinder, which skillfully grinds the coffee into a more uniform particle size, reducing the amount of boulders and fines.*  Many times, the grinder is overlooked, as people spend more attention on the brewing device.  Let’s just say you could have the most expensive espresso machine on the market, but if you have a cheap grinder, it will be basically impossible to pull a balanced shot. 

The Kruve Sifter

We wanted to experiment with how particle size affects the final beverage.  For this experiment, we used the Kruve coffee sifter. The Kruve has 2 screens that separate 3 chambers.  You can change the screen sizes depending on what grind size you want. The screens are a measured in microns (µ)

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Place all your ground coffee in the top chamber, shake the Kruve for 1:30 minutes, and boom: the boulders stay in the top chamber, your ideal grind size remains the second chamber, and the fines fall through to the bottom chamber.

 Boulders on the right, our ideal grind in the center, and the fines on the left. 

Boulders on the right, our ideal grind in the center, and the fines on the left. 

 Our nice uniform particle size post sifting! 

Our nice uniform particle size post sifting! 

Although sifting coffee grounds to separate particle sizes existed before, the Kruve is the first on the market with a reasonable price tag that is intended for coffee shops and home enthusiasts.  The Kruve can not only be used to create a uniform grind size, but it is also helpful in calibrating multiple grinders, as well as finding the right grind size for a brew method (they give recommendations for different brew methods!)


For our brewing experiment, we chose a medium roast of Guatemala SHB El Injertal.**  For both brews we used a 1:16 ratio of 20 grams of coffee and 320 grams of water.  We did a 25 gram bloom for 30 seconds, and then did a slow, continuous pour until we hit 320 grams. Here were the results:

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The largest difference between the two brews was the sweetness and body.  We tasted Brew 1 first and thought it was balanced, but the coffee seemed to open up when we tasted Brew 2.  The apple note in Brew 1 changed to candy apple in Brew 2. The dark chocolate and heavy mouthfeel in Brew 1 mellowed out in Brew 2, which showcased more of the white sugar sweetness.  Overall, Brew 2 had more structured sweetness and flavor clarity.  

Conclusion: By removing the fines and boulders and creating a uniform particle size, we were able to achieve a more even extraction.  This is evident by our SCA score, tasting notes, our TDS reading, and our calculated extraction percentage.*** However, we still enjoyed Brew 1, and we're sure individual coffee drinkers would have their own preferences between the two!

We will be using the Kruve more in the future, so stay tuned!  If you are interested in the Kruve for your shop or for yourself, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions : Education@royalny.com. 

Lastly, we partnered with Kruve so we could offer our customers a 10% discount on the Sifter Six, Twelve, or Twelve + XL.  Just use the code royalny at checkout: www.kruveinc.com


NOTES:

* There are deeper conversations being had about particle sizes contribution to a beverage in the coffee industry which we are not addressing in this blog post.  This blog post is an introduction into why general uniform particle size is important for extraction.

** Guatemala SHB HHT El Injertal Rainforest certified.  NJ : 101 bags, Ref#33095

***we got our TDS reading and extraction percentage by using a refractometer and VST Coffee Tools software

 

 

 

Las Lomas Project: Exclusive High-end Macro Lots from Costa Rica by Joe Borg

By Joe Borg and Dan Loughrey

Royal Coffee New York and Costa Rica

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Royal Coffee New York has sourced coffee from three main regions in Costa Rica for years; Tarrazu, the Central Valley, and the West Valley. There have been large lots and small lots, from full containers to very small single-producer micro lots. We’ve been very happy to work directly with producers, and consider them not only partners, but friends as well. Overall, this year we've been very happy with our arrivals from Costa Rica. The challenge over the last few years that we've run into has been bridging the gap between larger macro lots and the micros, and finding a quality level that everyone in the supply chain is happy with. The Las Lomas project was started to address that issue.

Behind the Scenes of Las Lomas

To put together such a project, we needed to work closely with a local partner we knew could deliver a traceable, high-scoring “macro” lot. Coop Naranjo was the logical choice. The Coop has been around since the 1960’s, has a large network of producers, and is well-situated to guide the production of superior-quality coffee. In addition, Royal NY has a long history with Coop Naranjo dating back more than eight years. Through close cooperation with Coop Naranjo, we were able to design a program to source traceable, high-end lots of coffee from the West Valley in a way that was inclusive to all members of the coop and paid a price premium for superior harvesting and preparation. 

Traceability was key. Given the increasing demand to know where coffee comes from down to the individual producer in many cases, there needed to be constant, consistent conversations between the individual producers and the Coop that would allow for important information to be relayed and assure the best possible deliveries of fully ripe cherries for this project.

To ensure quality, inspections would be done at every point in the production process. Agronomists would be sent to the individual farms to check maturation levels of the coffee trees at each participating farm, guaranteeing that cherries would only be harvested at the peak of ripeness. Further inspections would happen at the mill throughout processing, with feedback given to the producers as needed.

Of course, if you produce great coffee, you should be paid fairly for it. Since the standards (and labor costs) for this coffee are higher than what’s normally expected, a price premium was placed on the Las Lomas lots to encourage the highest possible quality. The project was open to all members of Coop Naranjo with farms between 1,300 and 1,700 meters above sea level, and offers an excellent opportunity for new producers to access new markets. Allowing all members of the Coop to join the project incentivizes the production of excellent coffee now, and into the future.

Arrivals

We've cupped through six different washed offerings from a specific Loma or mountain range that was identified by the coop to produce higher quality coffee in Naranjo. We've selected three specific areas within that mountain range. Each of these lots are named below for their location; Canuela, Lourdes, and San Juanillo. Despite all of these coffees being from one specific mountain range in the West Valley, they each bring something a little different to the final cup. 

Please note that these coffees are offered in less than full container loads, and are in short supply. Please be sure to contact your trader if you're interested in carrying any of these coffee or want more information.

Preshipment cupping notes include:

Tips to Hosting Your Own Coffee Event by Ana Mallozzi

Hosting a coffee event is a fun way to engage your local community, whether it’s for coffee professionals or coffee fans.  However, even a simple coffee event can be a lot of work with many  moving parts. With The Lab: Road Trip happening on May 12th, we thought it would be fun to give some tips about running your own event!
 

 This simple graphic was made using a free online program called Canva.  More on that below! 

This simple graphic was made using a free online program called Canva.  More on that below! 

Tips for Planning Your Event

Time

Give yourself plenty of time for planning and advertising.  It’s a good idea to have your event live 90 days before the date.  It seems like a lot of time, but it’s worth it to make sure you are able to get the word out to as many people as you can.

Intended audience

Who do you want to attend your event?  Is it other industry folks, your customers who might not know a lot about coffee, or a mix of both?  Depending on your answer, make sure the event caters to the audience.

Type of Event

You could go traditional with a latte art throwdown, a little out of the box with a signature beverage competition, or something completely different that may not involve coffee at all, like a social event for local baristas and roasters to just hang out and get to know each other (bowling, anyone?)  The possibilities are endless, but just make sure you have the space and supplies for more intricate events!  If you've never run an event before, the classic throwdown or just a general meetup is a great place to start. 

 

Sponsors

Industry sponsors are a great resource. It could be your coffee or equipment providers, or other coffee companies that are in your region. They will usually donate some prizes and swag, which is fun for your attendees and also great advertising for the companies themselves!

Your event can also be a great opportunity for local businesses to get some publicity. Introduce yourself to your local dairy, bakery, brewery or non alcoholic beverage company, and see if they would like to participate.  Make sure to give them lots of attention in all your marketing and on the night of your event. You not only want to thank them for donating, but you also want to support them, one local business to another,  so make sure they get some great exposure!

 

 

Charity

The point of a coffee event isn't necessarily to make a profit.  It's to bring the community together and bring in potential new customers to your shop.  With that in mind, many coffee events incorporate donating to charity.  It's easy to utilize sponsors and prizes to raise money.  I've noticed that events that raise money for popular causes, like relief organizations after a natural disaster, animal rescues, or local community organizations, tend to be better attended because people want to donate to the cause.

 This latte art throwdown in Providence, R.I. asked for donations at the door, as well as hosting a raffle of awesome, high priced prizes from favorite local businesses.  

This latte art throwdown in Providence, R.I. asked for donations at the door, as well as hosting a raffle of awesome, high priced prizes from favorite local businesses.  

 

Tips for Marketing Your Event

 

Community groups

Check to see if your city or town has local coffee groups.  For instance, in New Jersey we have instagram accounts like @NJ.Coffee.Events and @newjerseytnt who will re-post your event to the local coffee community.  This is the same with larger companies. Publications like Barista Magazine will gladly post about your event for free. If your town doesn’t have a coffee community group, you could start one!

Flyers, postcards

Flyers, postcards, and general social media marketing is crucial to get the word out for your event, but not everyone has a marketing person on their team to create visual masterpieces.  That’s okay! You can really do anything, including drawings and collages! Also check out free programs like www.canva.com or the “Studio” app to create professional looking designs.


Similar industries

You don’t have to stick to just coffee places to advertise your events.  Any food industries, especially bakeries and breweries, would probably have a similar customer base, or employees who would be interested in attending.  Invite the staff and ask if you could leave a flyer or some postcards for people to grab.  Also consider local universities!
 

Tips to Ensure a Smooth Event

 

Some of these items can fall under the radar, but they are super important not only for the people attending the event, but also for your company and you, the organizer!  

First, make sure you have a timeline and overall plan for the event, including who is in charge of what.  Also, think about the overall layout of your space and how you can make sure everyone, even the people way in the back, are having a good time.  Projector screens and a camera can help with this: projecting the lattes in a throwdown, for example, can ensure everyone can participate. 

Make sure you are up to date of your companies insurance policy for things like maximum occupancy, damages, and serving alcohol (if choosing to do so.)

Lastly, although it's rare that something negative will happen during your event, you do want to be prepared just in case.  It's a good idea to have a plan in case of an emergency, including if someone gets hurt, if your establishment becomes too crowded, or if someone is acting disorderly.  I've never encountered any of these things at an event, but I have been to events where the police have shown up.... for noise complaints!  The last thing to remember for a smooth event is to be courteous of your neighbors, especially if you are in a residential part of town.  Make sure your event doesn't go to late.  If people want to keep hanging out, have a recommendation of a restaurant or bar nearby that people can move on to!

Overall, giving yourself enough time, getting the word out, and being as organized as possible will practically ensure a successful and fun event! 

 A photo from one of Royal New York's regular Micro Lot Cupping events.  These events can involve 3 to 4 cupping flights and 30+ attendees.  It takes multiple people to make this event happen smoothly, but it gets easier every time and is always a success! 

A photo from one of Royal New York's regular Micro Lot Cupping events.  These events can involve 3 to 4 cupping flights and 30+ attendees.  It takes multiple people to make this event happen smoothly, but it gets easier every time and is always a success! 


About the author:

Ana Mallozzi is the Education and Quality Specialist at The Lab.  Throughout her coffee career, she's organized and executed coffee events big and small.  She was the assistant director for the Mid Atlantic Northeast Coffee Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as a member of the Providence Coffee Society, which ran smaller quarterly coffee events.  She currently runs the instagram account @NJ.Coffee.Events. 

Please feel free reach out to her with any questions or if you'd like for a coffee event to be featured on @NJ.Coffee.Events.  A.Mallozzi@royalny.com

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