Brewing with Brendan: A Journey

This blog post is brought to us by our very own Brendan O’Brien. Look for him every Thursday at Diesel from 12:30pm-2:30pm and every Friday at Bloc 11 from 9am-11am, then later at Forge from 12:30pm-2:30pm, where he will be serving up new and exciting coffee from Intelligentsia.

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The first sip that we take of a cup of coffee may be the beginning of our experience, but it is the end of a long journey for the coffee within. The flavors that we experience in each cup of coffee can tell us many things – where the coffee was grown, the terroir of that region and which coffee cultivar was used. Coffee farmers devote years to creating an ideal environment for good coffee to grow. The Arabica coffee plant is native to the highlands of Ethiopia and South Sudan, so in order for it to be grown well today, coffee farms must emulate the environment of its origin. This is why good coffee is only grown at high elevations in the tropics across the globe, and why so much care and cultivation goes into their environment.

When tasting coffee, we can also taste how it was processed. Methods vary on how the seed is removed from the coffee cherry. The method used affects the final product in a unique way. Most of the coffee we receive from Intelligentsia is “fully washed coffee.” In this process, the seeds are completely removed from the skin and fruit by machines and are then placed in fermentation tanks. In these water tanks, the remaining mucilage is completely washed off and a clean acidity profile is produced through naturally occurring fermentation.

Have you ever opened a bag of coffee and enjoyed that great aroma? Smelling freshly ground coffee is often as satisfying as drinking the finished brew. If we were to try and do this with coffee beans before they were roasted, we would get a disappointing, starchy smell. It is during the roasting process that coffee beans attain their brown color that we as consumers know them to look like. As the beans are roasted, they caramelize and take on a porous, less dense quality that makes them easier to grind and be dissolved in water. Thus, when we drink a delicious cup of coffee, we are also tasting and experiencing the skill of the roasting process. Lighter roasted coffees will have a higher caffeine content and will showcase more of the qualities that the terroir, cultivar and processing has given the beans.

There are many steps a coffee must take to get from seed to cup, and many different people and skill sets are required to send it on its way. When we consider how much dedication goes into every bean, each cup of coffee can feel like a new conversation. To quote Jackie Chan: “Coffee is a language in itself.”

And now for some Intelligentsia coffee highlights!

Journey Photo 2Bwayi, Burundi: This coffee is such an amazing treat. Last week was the first time I was able to try this African bourbon, and it instantly became my favorite. I was immediately reminded of a sweet and salty dark chocolate. If you are a dark chocolate lover, treat yourself to this bag. I have brewed these beans as hot coffee and as iced coffee, and it works incredibly well both ways. This coffee has a clean finish and a crisp, sweet malic acidity that balances very well with its chocolaty notes. This is a coffee that should be ground immediately before brewing and I recommend drinking it black. There is so much going on in this brew, and it is so sweet and delicious. You won’t want to miss a thing!


Journey Photo 1House Blend: A blend of coffees from El Salvador, Tanzania, and Rwanda, this coffee is intended to be the “perfect introduction” to Intelligentsia Coffee. Here is another crowd-pleasing, versatile coffee that can go well with any brewing method or anything you might like to add to your cup of coffee. Coffee drinkers who are looking for a classic cup of coffee profile should gravitate towards this blend. Its sweet milk chocolate tones balanced with mild fruit notes and smooth mouthfeel make this delicious coffee very approachable.


Home Brew Tip of the Week: Got a pour over setup at home? Use it to make fantastic iced coffee!

Don’t put your pour over away on the shelf during the hot summer months; you can use it to quickly brew iced coffee that is smooth, aromatic, and of course, delicious. Pour over iced coffee recipes rely heavily on a scale, because the ratio of coffee to water to ice is important.

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Set up your pour over the way you would normally to make hot coffee. The only difference is that you are going to use less hot water to brew it. Your recipe should roughly be:

1 part coffee

7 parts hot water

4 parts ice

Weigh out how much coffee you want to use and then use the ratio above to determine how much hot water and ice you will end up using. Brew the coffee the way you normally would, except make sure that it is brewing directly onto the ice (for the Chemex, this will require removing the pre-wetted filter to add your ice). The ice helps retain the aromatics produced by the hot brewing coffee in this process.

Once you are finished brewing, swirl the coffee around until the remaining ice cubes are completely dissolved, then serve over ice and enjoy!

If you have any questions about this recipe, please leave a comment below or swing by one of our weekly coffee tastings.

Happy brewing!