Sweet Pairings: Our Favorite Gourmet Coffee Snacks

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Coffee’s a treat by itself, especially when you’re sipping specialty brews like Silver Bridge’s Salted Caramel, Highlander Grogg or Pumpkin Spice. But coffee this distinctive also makes a great pairing with gourmet chocolate, gourmet flavored popcorn, or a slice of pumpkin pie. Naturally, coffee that tastes good enough to be dessert goes perfectly with dessert. Afterall, you only live once. It might as well be sweet.

That’s why many of our Christmas gifts for coffee lovers feature more than just coffee. We like to include flavorings that will pair great with the coffee, such as gourmet chocolates, popcorn, or even hot cocoa. Here’s our favorite selective pairings and the companies we partner with.

Sprinkle & Pop Gourmet Popcorn

Our Crowd Pleaser gourmet coffee gift basket features Sprinkle & Pop gourmet popcorn (formerly Pip & Hud). You can choose from caramel, oreo, or cupcake, though cheddar is also available through their website. You wouldn’t think popcorn would be good for breakfast, but you’d be flat out wrong. Give it a try. Gourmet popcorn makes for a nice munching snack to share with morning guests or during the afternoon.

Lake Champlain Gourmet Chocolates

Coffee pairs beautifully with chocolate, especially high quality chocolate like the gourmet bars from Lake Champlain. Our Coffee Essentials gift basket features an almond and sea salt chocolate bar, a perfect sweet and salty combination. Our Chocolate Lovers Trio gourmet coffee gift basket comes with a Creamy Coconut chocolate bar, a taste of sweet tropical deliciousness you’ll just die for.

Hot Chocolate from Lake Champlain

No, we’re not recommending you doublefist, but then again, nobody’s stopping you! We feature Lake Champlain Gourmet Hot Chocolate in a number of our gourmet coffee gift baskets. It mainly makes a nice crowd pleaser for the people who don’t like coffee. (We love them, but let’s be honest. We’ll never understand them). But for the coffee lovers who also love chocolate, here’s a tip. Sprinkle a spoonful of this delicious hot chocolate in with your coffee. It turns any cup into some serious chocolatey goodness.

The Flavors of the World’s Best Coffee Regions

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Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries across the globe, mostly between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South, an area along the Equatorial zone known as “the Bean Belt.” What region and country a bean was grown is usually its most defining characteristic. The quality of dirt, climate, altitude, the amount of rainfall and sunshine, all have profound affects on what you taste in your cup.

Defining a coffee by the region it was grown tells you a lot of what to expect in aroma and flavor. Like fine wines and the grapes they are made from, a coffee bean can greatly be defined by the region that gave it birth. Let’s explore some of the more well known coffee regions around the world and what to expect from each when you plunge your French press.

Mexico and Central America

Beans grown in Mexico and Central America tend to be mild, fragrant, but have subtle complexities and undertones. Expect moderate acidity, medium body, and an approachable flavor that lacks the intensity of other coffees. Most coffees grown in this region are wet processed, says John Giuliano at the Brewing Coffee Manually blog. These beans are mild, easy drinking with a likability that is not overwhelming.

South America

Beans grown in South America typically come from two of the region’s biggest coffee producers: Columbia and Brazil, which make up 43% of the global coffee market combined. But these two countries produce vastly different coffees. Columbia produces coffees similar to Central America – mild, wet processed, and subtle. Brazil tends to produce dry processed coffees that tend to have more robust flavors.

East Africa

Legend has it that coffee first originated in Ethiopia and wild coffee tree forests are still the primary harvesting source, according to the National Coffee Association. Ethiopian coffees are generally wet processed but feature a full bodied, down to earth flavor. Kenyan coffee, grown in the foothills of Mount Kenya, tends to be sharp with a fruity acidity and a rich, fragrant full bodied flavor.

Asia

Indonesian coffees tend to be grown on several of the larger Indonesian islands, Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi, and are valued for their high quality, full flavor, richness and mild acidity. Indonesia is also famous for fine aged coffees, where the bean sits for a period of time to fetch not only a stronger, richer flavor but a higher price.

In Vietnam, coffee farming has been recently reintroduced to the region and it has quickly become one of the largest sources in the world for beans, according to the National Coffee Association. Small plantations, typically in southern Vietnam grow mostly Robusta coffee with light acidity, and a well balanced mild body. It’s an ideal coffee for blending.

How to Make Cold Brew on Facebook Live

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Well, that was fun. We just did a Facebook Live video, demonstrating how to make cold brew coffee in your kitchen.

Now normally, the idea of live television gives us more jitters than downing an entire pot of Sumatra Coffee in the middle of the afternoon. But this was easy, relaxed, like having a friend over and discussing what we all love: organic coffee and new ways to make it.

Cold brew coffee is often referred to as iced coffee in the coffee shop. But it’s different from what your grandmother made. Her iced coffee was probably taking old coffee leftovers that had been sitting in the pot for hours and putting it in the fridge, drowning it in cream, ice and plenty of sugar.

The Cold Refreshing Difference of Cold Brew

Cold brew is a whole different world. With cold brew, the coffee is never heated or boiled. As Silver Bridge Coffee’s Founder and Owner Lorraine Walker explains, it creates a completely different flavor of coffee.

Make it with a French press and save on gadgets. A French press is also great for making a richer, fuller hot coffee in the winter.

Room temperature water is mixed with coffee grounds, stirred with a spoon for total immersion. Attach the lid, but don’t plunge. Then put it in the fridge and wait 12 hours, which Walker jokingly calls the hardest part.

After 12 hours, don’t stir again. Simply plunge and you’ve made a cold brew concentrate that can last for a few days in your fridge.

The result? A sweeter tasting coffee, perfect for sipping on hot summer days. Cold brew coffee lacks the bitterness typically associated with traditional hot coffee. Cool it down further with some coffee ice cubes (take the ends of a pot and pour it over an ice cube tray reserved for this purpose, then freeze). It’s a refreshing and alternative way to enjoy organic coffee. It’s perfect especially for enjoying later in the day when you need a refreshing way to caffeinate your afternoon.

So enjoy the video. Like it if you love it. Stop by the Worthington Farmers Market, the Clintonville Farmers Market, the Grove City Farmers Market, or the Athens Farmers Market, and tell us how it worked. We’d love to talk coffee with you.

Elevation and the Coffee Bean: How Altitude Affects Flavor

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There are lots of subtle flavors you can taste in an organic coffee bean. That flavor comes from the land where it was grown. All coffee is grown in tropical regions, but elevation plays a big role in taste. In general, higher elevations produce harder denser beans. Harder beans are greatly prized because they contain a higher concentration of sugars, which produces a more desirable, nuttier flavor.

Ideal elevations for coffee range between 3,000 to 6,000 feet. An ideal climate is sunny, frost-free, 60 to 70 degree F year-round with a moderate rainfall of about 80 inches.

Higher Elevation = Distinctive Flavor

In Central America, elevations of 3,000 feet produce a hard bean, and coffees grown at 4,500 are considered “very hard.” Coffee grown on the highest quality farms in Papua New Guinea is known as “Mile High” coffee. In general, the higher the elevation, the more pronounced and distinctive the flavor of organic coffee. Here’s how elevation and flavor breaks down, roughly:

  • Coffee grown at about 3,000 feet produces a smooth and sweet flavor.
  • Coffee grown at 4,000 feet often has nutty or chocolate overtones
  • Coffee grown at 5,000 feet has hints of fruit and spice.

High elevation coffees tend to have a lower yield per plant, but a higher market value. There’s a reason elevation is often noted on the bag. The higher the mountain, the stronger the flavor and the richer the sip. The best java is grown close to the sky.

4 Coffee Gadgets to Take Your Coffee Craze to the Next Level

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What do we love even better than coffee? Gadgets that improve the art of coffee. You thought that Mr. Coffee machine was enough? Yeah right. Your kitchen needs these coffee accessories now to take your coffee hobby to a whole different level.

Microwave Espresso

No, you don’t need an expensive espresso machine wasting valuable counter space to enjoy espresso. With Piamo, you can enjoy espresso fresh from the microwave. The cup comes with a water chamber and a filter. You fill the chamber with water, insert a pad or the grounds of your favorite organic espresso, flip it around and place in the microwave. The heating causes pressure to vent the water through the coffee creating a great tasting espresso in about 30 seconds.

Burning Cup

Iced coffee you drink, cold coffee you put in the microwave. Thanks to the Burning Cup, you’ll never have to worry about cold coffee again. Just push a button to activate its heating system, and it heats your coffee for you, no microwave required.

The Coffee Alarm Clock

Can’t face the morning without your coffee? Now you don’t have to. The Barisieur takes the forces of good and evil- great coffee and an alarm clock- and brings them together for an absolute utopia. Who needs to hit the snooze when you can immediately hit the brew?

A Handheld Espresso Machine

A handheld espresso machine? We’ll take it. The Handpresso lets you make espresso on the go. As the name implies, it’s handheld and about the size of an 1980s era flashlight. It plugs into a car outlet. Finally, an espresso machine for your wallet, briefcase, or pocket. Never leave the house without it.

3 Creative Coffee Cups to Inspire Your Kitchen

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Coffee, coffee everywhere, so many cups to drink. That pretty much describes my kitchen. On any given morning, I’ve got at least six or seven blends of coffee in jars on the counter, ranging from Sumatra to Highlander Grogg to Southern Pecan and Pumpkin Spice. We live and breathe coffee in our house. In fact, our mornings depend on it.

Which is why my other passion is coffee mugs. I can’t drink coffee out of just any mug. It’s got to be a little unusual, a piece of art in itself. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered quite a few coffee cups that practically reinvent the concept.

The Coffee Mug that Never Needs a Coaster

This coffee mug comes with a handle that makes the cup hover over its own coaster, so you can confidently set that cup on your Steinway piano and not worry about leaving a stain. Its dishwasher and microwave safe.

The Nordic Wooden Cup

Perfect for camping, this Nordic wooden cup comes on a string and can be hung from your belt for camping convenience. You never know when you’ll find a surprise cup of coffee, so it’s always a good idea to have a cup handy. The minimalist design will appeal to your inner Viking.

The Ninja Mug

Channel your inner Ninja on a Saturday morning. The Ninja Mug features all the accouterments for coffee stealth: a throwing star coaster, and katana spoon along with the ninja mask coffee coozie. Only a true master stirs his coffee with a Ninja sword spoon. Deadly and delicious.

Long Live the Cold Brew Coffee: A Refreshing Brew for Hot Summer Weather

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Summertime’s hot. You love a great cup of strong Ohio roasted coffee, but the heat leaves your kitchen feeling like the South American jungles where the beans were grown. How do you enjoy a great tasting cup of coffee that’s delicious yet refreshing?

You’ve got two options: iced coffee or cold brew.

Iced Coffee

With iced coffee, you start with regularly brewed coffee, whether it’s a flavored roast like Southern pecan or Sumatra, and you cool it down in the fridge and with ice cubes. To avoid a watered down coffee, always use coffee ice cubes. The trick is to take the end of a pot you’d probably just pour down the drain anyway and pour it into an ice cube tray. Still, some people think iced coffee still has a more acidic flavor. They prefer cold brew.

Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee is made without the heat. You simply grind the beans as fine as you can, mix them with cold water and let them sit for 12 hours so the grinds enfuse with the water. Generally, you want about one cup of coffee beans for every four ounces of water.

Here’s a great recipe for cold brew from Simply Recipes. **We have a cold brew recipe. You can link to the recipe on our website (look under recipes and grab the link)

I make a bunch over the weekend so it’s ready to go in the morning. It’s especially refreshing and satisfying on hot summer mornings. It saves me time and I’m not trying to slug a hot liquid in the heat of the day.

It’s still a good idea to further chill the coffee with ice cubes, ideally using coffee ice cubes. I really enjoy the taste of Highlander Grogg flavored coffee as a cold brew. I make sure the ice cubes are also Highlander Grogg for a truly exquisite, refreshing drink that tastes great all day long!

Happy brewing!

**Also, we use our medium roast (614) Blend for our cold brew – we make and sell this at the farmers markets. It’s unflavored. We offer syrups if customers want to add flavor to their cold brew.

The Steel French Press: The Solution to All of Life’s Problems

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The best coffee is made by a French press, no more argument to be made. Grind those organic coffee beans down, let it steep for 10 minutes, and you’ve got a great coffee as rich as the earth. Do it right, and you’ve practically got yourself a whole pot of espresso.

But let’s face it. Any French press’s days are numbered. And inevitably yours will come up, quite possibly on an otherwise gorgeous Saturday morning when you’ve got a houseful of guests.

Absolutely tragic is what it is. Shakespeare likely wept rivers of ink over the death of his first French press. I wouldn’t be surprised if King Lear was first inspired by a shattered French press in the sink. It’s enough to make any classic playwright’s day a living hell.

No matter how careful you are, glass shatters eventually.

The Unbreakable Steel French Press

The answer is a stainless steel French press. At $60 without the sale, this on Amazon costs a bit more than your average glass French press. But you buy it once and you’re set for life. There’s also this insulated steel French press available for about $45.

Plastic French Presses for Lightweight Camping

There are also plastic French presses available that are ideal for camping and backpacking. We do like their lightweight appeal, but could do without that plastic flavor for kitchen Ohio coffee. In the woods, however, plastic is light and fabulous.

Coffee Grinds 101: How Grain Coarseness Affects Flavor

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Does your significant other wonder why you grind the coffee for what seems like an eternity in the wee hours of the morning? Now you can answer, “Flavor, baby, flavor.” Yes, grinding organic coffee beans down to a fine powder does significantly affect its flavor, but powder vs. crystals ultimately comes down to taste preference and brewing duration.

The Big 3: Contact, Flow, Extraction

When it comes to choosing a grind size, consider these 3 factors: contact time, flow rate, and extraction rate. The fact is you’ll get an increased extraction rate with a larger surface area, which requires a finer grind. And the higher the extraction rate, the less contact time you’ll need. Finer grinds reduce flow rate, increasing the contact time.

So in other words, a finer grain is better in an electric coffee pot, whereas as crystals are ideal for steeping.

As coffee head and tech writer Taylor Martin explains in CNet.com:

“Knowing this, if you have a brew method with a short contact time, the grind should be finer. In an immersion brewer, which steeps coffee grounds in water for several minutes, the contact time is much higher and, thus, requires a more coarse grind than most other brew methods.

If the contact time is too high or the grind is too fine, it will result in an over-extracted brew which can be bitter. If the grind is too coarse or the contact time is too short, the coffee will turn out weak.”

Coffee Styles and Grain Density

And the type of grind you want also differs according to the type of coffee you are making. Turkish coffee requires extra fine grains. Pour over brews call for a medium to medium-fine grind. French press ideally uses a more coarse setting.

So to get the best flavor for your private label blend, grind according to the type of coffee and the duration of your brewing method. Coffee not only powers the daily grind, but actually requires its own special grind to achieve absolute perfection. Happy brewing!

How Does Water Quality Affect Coffee Flavor?

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You’ve got a French press, the finest fresh locally Ohio roasted coffee beans, even specialty coffee syrups, but did you know the quality of your tap water can also affect its flavor? And not necessarily in the way you think. Harder water can actually produce a stronger tasting more flavorful coffee.

So say Maxwell Colonna Dashwood and Christopher H Hendon, who recently co-wrote a book, “Water for Coffee” that scientifically breaks down just why tap water can absolutely ruin even the best coffee. The book is a more readable compilation of the discoveries Hendon made in his 2014 paper, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry on how the effect of water hardness on coffee flavor.

Hendon discovered that the compounds in hard water tend to attach to the flavorful elements in roasted coffee beans during brewing. Water with higher levels of magnesium will likely extract more flavor from a coffee bean.

Soft or distilled water, conversely, does the opposite and has a harder time pulling the flavor.

Hendon is currently working on a paper to determine how brewing temperature affects flavor. “I’m trying to build a picture to show people that every aspect of coffee can be explored if you want,” Hendon told the Atlantic.

Coffee as Science

Hendon is quickly becoming the residential scientist of the specialty coffee industry, a field that is still on the frontier stage of science.

“Over time, we’ve struggled to achieve the same scientific rigor behind our industry that others, like wine and beer, have,” says Emma Sage, the science manager at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), told the Atlantic. “Now we’re changing that.”

Want to learn more about how water affects your organic java? Check out the book on Amazon!