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Why our blind selection process means better coffee in your cup

It takes less than 5 minutes to make a delicious cup of Craft Coffee. But did you know the time our tasting panel spends deliberating over each pick in your subscription box adds up to nearly 2 hours? That’s a serious chunk of time when you consider we taste more than 60 coffees each month! It all comes down to our blind evaluation process, which is more rigorous and selective than you’ll find anywhere else. It’s certainly not the easiest or quickest way to find coffees, but it’s the best way to make sure that you get the most incredible coffee experience, month after month. Keep reading to learn more about our selection process and the Craft Coffee difference.

craft coffee, coffee tasting, baristasAshley is one of our all-star baristas who works hard to find the best coffees each month so you don’t have to!

Why do we go through all the trouble?

Some people might say we go to extreme lengths with our blind evaluations. But we feel like it can’t be done any other way. We have a dedicated team of baristas who spend all these hours tasting and evaluating and deliberating so that you don’t have to worry about any of it. The biggest thing you have to worry about is which coffee to drink first! It’s kind of like having a personal assistant who makes all the right choices for you. All for as low as $20 a month. 

craft coffee, coffee tasting, baristasSteven is the newest member of our tasting panel, but he’s an expert at understanding what different people look for in their coffee experience

How It Works

As soon as we receive a coffee sample, we pour the beans into a clean mason jar. It’s not just because it looks cool - the mason jars keep the beans fresh without contributing any unwanted flavors or aromas. We label each jar with only the most essential information: where the coffee is from, how it was processed, and when it was roasted.

 coffee tasting, craft coffee, mason jar coffeeThis is what our baristas see in our blind tastings. No fancy packaging or labels, no unnecessary information. Just coffee.

Our blind selection process is carefully designed to bring you amazing coffee experiences without any guesswork. To do this, we have to make sure that our baristas aren’t distracted or influenced in any way that might affect how they feel about any given coffee. Here’s what it comes down to:

1. Roasters

When you go shopping at the supermarket, you’re more likely to pick brands that you know and love over brands that you haven’t tried before. A lot of people have the same sort of connection with coffee roasters. But when it comes to truly finding the best coffees each month, there’s no room on the cupping table for any pre-existing opinions. With our blind evaluation process there’s no preferential treatment, no underdogs or top contenders - just a level playing field for every single coffee we receive. Sometimes our tasting panel falls in love with a coffee from a small upstart roaster we’ve never heard of, or a roaster that hasn’t really impressed us in the past. Other times, a roaster that has blown us away before sends us a sample that doesn’t quite meet the Craft Coffee standards.

craft coffee, coffee tasting, mason jar coffeeThe tasting shelf at our office in Brooklyn. Suffice it to say, we drink a lot of coffee.

2. Packaging

We’d like to think that pretty packaging is nothing more than icing on the cake, but in reality we know it makes us want to like a coffee before we’ve even tasted it. This can give well established roasters an edge over new or smaller roasters who may not have the time and money to develop perfectly designed, eye-catching coffee bags. By keeping all of our coffee samples in identical mason jars, we make sure that none stand out as more “cool” or “boring” than the rest.

3. Tasting notes

Most of the samples we receive come with tasting notes from the roaster on the label. And why shouldn’t they? Tasting notes are like a roadmap for having the best experience possible out of a new coffee. The problem is, when you see the tasting notes, it can be hard to look for anything different in your cup. We give our tasting panel a blank canvas to work with so they can find unique qualities in each coffee based on their own experience with it.

Discover the Craft Coffee difference for yourself! Save 10% on any new coffee subscription box by entering the coupon code WeTasteBlind10 at checkout.

Epic Tasting Note of the Week

Papua New Guinea probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of coffee-growing countries. It’s certainly not the first name that we think of. It makes sense, though, as Indonesian coffees have historically dominated the region. But the increasing number of fantastic coffees from Papua New Guinea in recent years, like the one in the Epic Tasting Note below, has proven that the island nation deserves a seat at the table of world-class origins.

craft coffee, coffee tasting, tasting notes

Coffees from Papua New Guinea typically have a lot of the qualities that people love about Indonesian coffees: mild acidity, full body, robust earth tones. Where they stand out from their neighbors, though, is that they tend to have some brighter, fruitier notes that give the cup a nice balance between high and low.

Want to learn more about lesser-known coffee countries like Papua New Guinea? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

9 ways to get the most out of your coffee maker

The trusty automatic coffee maker has secured a permanent place on millions of kitchen counters around the country, and rightly so: it’s hard to beat the “set it and forget it” convenience. But when it comes to taste, there’s a lot that can go wrong and leave you with bitter, sour, flat, or otherwise bad tasting coffee. Keep reading below to find out the 9 biggest mistakes you may be making and how to fix them to get the best coffee possible from your coffee maker:

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1. Dirty coffee maker

We’re all familiar with that bitter, dirty taste that builds up when you haven’t cleaned your coffee maker in a while. Keeping your coffee maker clean is one of the most obvious steps in brewing good coffee at home, but it’s also one of the easiest to overlook. A little bit of regular maintenance will pay off in the long run with better tasting coffee! Here’s all you have to do:

  • Every time you make coffee: Wash your coffee pot with soap and water. Don’t just rinse it with some water and call it clean. If you have a thermal pot, be careful to avoid scratching or cracking the inner lining.
  • Once a week to once a month, depending on how frequently you make coffee: Mix equal parts water and white vinegar - enough to fill your coffee pot. Run two “blank” brew cycles (with nothing in the basket) with this solution, then wash the pot thoroughly with soap and water. Finally, run another blank brew cycle with the maximum amount of water your coffee maker will hold - this will rinse away any lingering vinegar smell. There are all sorts of cleaning products on the market, but the water and vinegar combination is by far the cheapest and just as effective.

2. Old beans

In general, starting with fresh, high quality coffee beans is the most important step you can take to make a delicious cup of coffee. So if you buy your beans from a supermarket bulk bin or off the shelf from a corporate coffee brand, the best you can hope for is a mediocre pot of coffee. Your coffee will taste the best if you use it as close to the roast date as possible. This is because all the flavorful and aromatic compounds inside the coffee beans start to break down immediately after roasting. At Craft Coffee, we work extensively with artisan roasters around the country to ensure that the beans in your coffee subscription box aren’t roasted until the last possible minute before shipping them to you.

imageAvoid the beans from the supermarket bulk bin. Image courtesy of Flickr user lgkiii

3. Your beans were ground too soon

You know what we said above, about the compounds breaking down inside the coffee beans? Grinding your beans before you’re ready to use them speeds up this process exponentially.

We know it’s tempting to set up your coffee maker before you go to bed. But trust us when we say you’ll notice a profound difference if you grind your beans right before brewing. And there’s something about an amazing cup of coffee in the morning that changes your whole outlook on the day ahead of you. If you’re a zombie in the mornings, opt for a coffee maker that has a high quality burr grinder built in.

4. Wrong grind size

Choosing the right grind size for your coffee maker comes down to the shape of the filter you use. For flat-bottom filters you should use a medium grind. If your grinder has a setting for “automatic,” “drip,” or something similar, chances are it’s geared towards flat-bottom filters. For cone-shaped filters, you should grind your beans on a medium-fine setting. See our grind guide below for reference.

craft coffee grind guide, how to grind coffee

craft coffee grind guide, how to grind coffeeTop: Medium grind for flat-bottom filters. Bottom: Medium-fine grind for cone-shaped filters.

5. Bad water

Water makes up over 98% of brewed coffee, so it makes sense that you need to start with good water to make good coffee. The question is, what makes your water “good” or “bad” for coffee?

Essentially it comes down to the mineral content. If you live in an area with good tap water that isn’t too soft or too hard, it’s probably perfect for making coffee. However, if your tap water is hard (has a high mineral content), it may leave you with coffee that tastes flat and boring. On the flip side, soft tap water (low mineral content) can lead to coffee that tastes overwhelmingly bitter. If you think your water is the problem, we suggest using bottled water for your morning brew. Don’t use distilled water though! Its mineral content is far too low to make a delicious cup of coffee.

imageIf your tap water is too soft or too hard, using bottled water may be your key to better coffee. Image courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo.

6. Too much/too little coffee

Regardless of how you make your coffee, there’s a “golden ratio” of water to coffee that will give you the best results: 16 parts water to 1 part coffee. An easy way to remember this is for every 16 ounces (2 cups of water) you should use about 1 ounce of coffee. You can adjust this ratio a little bit in either direction depending on how strong you like your coffee, but don’t venture too far or you’ll end up with a bad pot of coffee. See our coffee maker brew guide for the right amounts of water and coffee to use for different batch sizes.

7. You’re eyeballing it

Making coffee is more like baking than cooking - precision is important, and small changes can make a huge difference. There’s almost no way to hit the right amount of coffee if you’re eyeballing it. We highly recommend you measure your coffee using a scale. This may seem kind of crazy at first, but we think it’s actually one of the easiest ways to remove guesswork from the coffee making equation. We guarantee you’ll notice a huge improvement in the quality of your coffee if you use a scale every time you brew.

imageUse a scale to weigh your coffee before brewing - you won’t turn back!

8. Water isn’t hot enough

The #1 problem with most automatic coffee makers is that they can’t heat the water to the right temperature for making coffee. There’s a pretty narrow temperature range, between 195-205, that produces the best results - any higher and the coffee will taste burned and bitter, any lower and the coffee will taste weak and sour. Most automatic coffee makers don’t even get anywhere close to 195. And a lot of the ones that do are unable keep the water consistently in that temperature range during the brew cycle. 

You can check the water temperature in your coffee maker pretty easily by placing a kitchen thermometer in the brew basket and running a brew cycle without any coffee grounds. If the temperature is coming up short of the 195 mark, here’s what you can do: run a full pot of water through your coffee maker before brewing to “prime” the machine, then use the pre-heated water for the actual brew cycle.

9. Leaving the pot on the hot plate

While it’s a convenient way to keep your coffee hot until you’re ready for a second cup, leaving the pot on the heating plate after brewing will quickly make the coffee taste burnt and bitter. If you’re brewing a batch of coffee to serve over a period of time, we recommend transferring it to a clean, insulated thermos or vacuum pot immediately after brewing.

What did we miss?

Do you have any good tips for getting the most out of your coffee maker that didn’t show up on our list? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

 

Learn how to make the best coffee at home with Craft Coffee’s all-new brew guides!

craft coffee, french press

You’re already receiving the world’s best coffees each month in your Craft Coffee subscription box - but are you sure you’re getting the most delicious cup possible? We’re proud to introduce the "How To Make Coffee" section of our website, featuring instructions for the six methods we use to brew and evaluate coffees in our office: automatic coffee makers, French press, Hario V60, Chemex, Aeropress, and Kalita Wave. Our detailed, easy-to-follow brew guides are perfect for trying out a new brew method or even just brushing up on your skills! Continue reading below for a breakdown of all the information you’ll find on our all new brew guide pages.

craft coffeeShort on time? Making coffee for a group? Want a bolder brew? “At A Glance” covers the basics: how long it will take, how much coffee you’ll end up with, and what qualities you can expect in your cup. You can also find out how long each Craft Coffee bag will last you. All of our guides are fine-tuned to work perfectly with the specific amount of coffee you receive in your bags, meaning less wasted coffee more caffeinated bang for your buck!

craft coffee

Have you ever made it halfway through a recipe before realizing you don’t have that one vital piece of equipment? We made sure to include every little thing you’ll need to make a perfect mug in this section - even the mug itself! - to avoid any surprises that would keep you from enjoying your delicious brew.

craft coffee, french press measurements

Some brew methods - namely single cup pour over - work best with specific amounts of coffee and water. With automatic coffee makers and French presses, though, you can make anywhere from a single serving to a large batch for a group. The “Measurements” section on the coffee maker and French press pages makes it easy to scale up or down as the occasion demands.

craft coffee, coffee making tips

"Before You Brew" has tips on how to achieve the best cup possible at home with each brew method, as well as more general suggestions that will help you step up your coffee game overall. 

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craft coffee, french press instructions

All of our instructions are based on the tried and true methods that our tasting team uses to evaluate the world’s best coffees each month. We’ve broken them down into easy-to-follow steps accompanied by detailed photos, making it simple to check whether you’re following each step properly.

We’d love to see our new brew guides in action. Show off your skills and your favorite Craft Coffee on our Facebook or Twitter!

Happy brewing!