Category Archives: Coffee

First Crack 121. Drink Beer from a Cat’s Butt: Tasting of Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch


Now that Surly’s Coffee Bender has become the pinnacle of Coffee Stouts I’m on a quest for interesting and unique coffee beers. I picked up bottle of Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch – an oatmeal stout with civet coffee.

After the civet coffee review with Sam Buchanan how could I not take this beer home.

10.9% alcohol in a 1 Pint 0.9 oz. bottle.

My tasting notes:

Short version: “It doesn’t want to be drunk.”

Long version: Listen to Drink Beer from a Cat’s Butt: A Tasting of Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch [11 min].


Some quick reviews of the handful of books I savored during my recent trip in Mexico.

The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy–If We Let It Happen

I found this month’s Economics book club selection (my first Kindle purchase) an extra-ordinarily frustrating read mainly due to the Fox News-esque partisanship. Despite that, the sections on the incentives and implications of the Laffer Curve, Flat tax, Fair tax were thought-provoking and highly recommended.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

The most inspiring cook book I’ve ever read – all about improvising in the kitchen and embracing the microorganisms around you. The recipes for Persimmon Cider Mead and fruit Kimchi sound pretty delicious.

Belgian Ale

Great book (like all the books in the Classic Beer Style Series) on the history and definition of Belgian ale. The key – don’t be afraid to use 20+% sugar and focus on flavor rather than strict tradition.

Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them

A deep dive into the history, brewing process, and recipes for some of my favorite Belgian beers – Afflighem Blond, Westmalle Trippel – and some of the American beers brewed in the same style. Stan Hieronymus makes a pretty good argument that it’s the Americans that are moving the style forward.

194X: Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front (Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture)

Fifty years ago, the Great Depression and WWII destroyed the careers of American architects – they switched from building to planning. Planning the new American cities, planning suburbia, planning for the war to be over and their careers to return.

Coffee Cupper’s Handbook

THE vocabulary book on describing coffee’s taste. The biggest ‘a-ha’ for me: cooling removes the sweet and bitter aspects of coffee – but has no impact on the sour tastes. Big thanks to Sam Buchanan for loaning me his copy.

The Roastery and Kopplin's Offering Coffee Subscriptions

If you’re still looking for something delicious to give the fanatic coffee drinker in your life – I’m super excited to share that both Jeremy Raths, of The Roastery, and Andrew Kopplin, of Kopplin’s Coffee, are offering coffee subscriptions.

The Roastery Regulars subscription, is $144, delivers 1 pound of coffee to your door every other week for 26 weeks (yes, 2 lbs /mn for 6 months + a bonus pound).

Kopplin’s Coffee of the Month Club subscription ($180) offers 1/2 lb. per month for 12 months of some of the most amazing coffees you’ve (I’ve) ever tasted. I’ve been ‘beta tasting’ Kopplin’s subscription this year and I’ve been blown away month after month (I’ve even recorded a few of my tastings). The only downside – it’s only a 1/2 lb. per month. :)

In both cases, I’d recommend picking up a good press pot or a Chemex, your regular drip coffee maker probably isn’t up to the task.

Jon Gordon's Twin Cities Coffee WiFi Google Map Started

Jon Gordon‘s going to be in the Twin Cities for a while and he thought it’d be fun to review the local selection of independent coffee + wifi shops.

As part of that effort, I’ve started a Google Map for listing and pin-pointing these places. There’s also a handful of invites floating around to for those that want to help.

Want one?

View Larger Map

Update 07 July 2008
I just cracked open a PBWiki for this project:

First Crack 108. Coffee Review – Honduras, El Filo – 49th Parallel Roasters

This is the third in the monthly coffee review series at the First Crack Podcast.

This month, I’m reviewing Miguel Moreno Leiva – El Filo as roasted by 49th Parallel Roasters.

It’s a very subtle and floral cup with powerful aroma off the grind. Andrew described it to me as, “technically good.” I quite agree. It’s a perfect example of a good cup of coffee.

As always, special thanks to Andrew Kopplin at Kopplin’s Coffee for putting this Cup of Excellence on my table and resetting my coffee judgement scale.

Listen to Coffee Review – Honduras: El Filo [9 min].

First Crack 106. Coffee Review РEl Salvador: Finca La Monta̱a

This is the second in the monthly coffee review series at the First Crack Podcast.

This month, I’m reviewing George Howell’s Terroir Coffee: El Salvador: Finca La Montaña

The 2007 Cup of Excellence winner that was completely devastated by near hurricane-strength winds in January. Pushing the next harvest out to 2010. In response to this tragedy, George Howell doubled the price of his last 70lbs and sent all the proceeds to aid the farms recovery:

“This is a farm which won 5th place, then 4th place, then 1st place in succession over the last three years in Cup of Excellence. Preliminary estimates indicate he will not have a crop until 2010! How does a farmer with less than 14 acres survive? The 3rd place and 4th place winners of last year’s Cup of Excellence are his neighbors, and all three use the same mill to strip their fruit and dry their beans. We have yet to hear about them. We want to help in a meaningful manner.”

“La Montaña is scheduled to be roasted on Monday, January 28. We will be offering this coffee, which in my opinion is the purest coffee expression we have, bar none, at $50 for eight ounces (versus the usual $27.95). Terroir Coffee will donate the entire price to Mr. Ochoa primarily and to the mill, his critical support, which may also be facing very bad times from these events. Not a penny will be spent on any bureaucracy. We have approximately 70 pounds of his coffee left. $50 dollars per half-pound would result in $7,700, if all is sold.”

Special thanks to Andrew Kopplin at Kopplin’s Coffee for putting this Cup of Excellence on my table and connecting the world economy.

Listen to Coffee Review РEl Salvador: Finca La Monta̱a [9 min].

Cup of Excellence Winning Farm 2007: Raúl Ochoa Hernández – La Montaña El Salvador La Monta̱a Р93 points

First Crack 105. Coffee Review – Grand Cru Kenya: Mamuto, Kirinyaga

This podcast kicks off a new monthly coffee review series at the First Crack Podcast.

This month, I’m reviewing: George Howell’s Terroir Coffee: Kenya Mamuto Kirinyaga

First, it took me a while to tweak the grinder back for a good press pot. In that time, the time was ticking on the coffee itself. Lesson learned for February.

This is a great bean, Andrew called it his favorite bean in the past 3 months. In the press pot I tasted heavy blueberry and banana notes with a trace of cherry and just a whiff of cocoa.

In the Mocha Brew, the cup was sharp and thin, very little flavor or mouthfeel. So, while I had two cups in front of me, I avoided that one.

Special thanks to my wife and Andrew Kopplin at Kopplin’s Coffee for inspiring this series and selecting this month’s coffee.

Listen to Coffee Review – Grand Cru Kenya: Mamuto, Kirinyaga [7 min].

Elsewhere: Kenya Mamuto Kirinyaga – 96 points

RE: Starbucks Might Be Helping, Not Hurting, Independent Coffee Shops

“‘Anyone who complains about having a Starbucks put in next to you is crazy. You want to welcome the manager, give them flowers. It should be the best news that any local coffeehouse ever had.’” – Martin Diedrich, coffeehouse owner in Orange County, CA.

Competition increases demand and you can succeed by outsourcing your marketing to your competition?

What a wonderful world we live in.

Minneapolis / St. Paul Roasters Meetup

via Jared on the Sweet Marias mailing list:

Minneapolis area roasters. We have a date, June 30 a time 2pm and a location Black Sheep Coffee Cafe (705 Southview Blvd., South Saint Paul, MN (651) 554-0155)

For those of you who missed the early posts Peter Middlecamp the owner of Black Sheep is both a new shop owner and Barista competitor yet still placed 6th this year at the US championships. He is also a very nice guy. Here is the email Peter sent me today:
“Sounds great Jared. I’ll have some cupping samples and maybe some signature
beverage ideas for next year for you to try…

I’ll be there. Should be fun.

First Crack 99. Jeremy Raths and the Search for Extraordinary Coffee

We catch up with Twin Cities coffee legend Jeremy Raths and talk about:

  1. Moving The Roastery from a coffee shop in the middle of St. Paul to delivering coffee from an abandon convent.
  2. The history of the speciality coffee market – nationally and locally.
  3. How the coffee market is changing to benefit the small, local, coffee farmer.
  4. The flexibility to choose just the coffees he finds interesting.

Listen to Jeremy Raths and the Search for Extraordinary Coffee [28 min].

First Crack 100. How to Cup Coffee with Jeremy Raths

Jeremy Raths, from The Roastery, teaches us how to cup – the traditional process for tasting and choosing coffee. He walks through:

  • The cupping process
  • How he teaches others how to cup
  • The need to be emotionally self-aware when cupping
  • How to get the cupping experience at home
  • The responsibility and integrity of a good cup of coffee

Listen to How to Cup Coffee with Jeremy Raths [14 min].

First Crack 98. I Drink Coffee From a Cat’s Butt

“It really does taste different: musty, heavy, rich, strangely complex. Hints of chocolate, old wood, hazelnut. Fresh out of the roaster, it smelled a bit like a newborn baby’s urine.” – Sam Buchanan

On the first nice Saturday of the year, Sam Buchanan and I met at Coffee and Tea Ltd for a $10 cup of coffee that came from the backside of the Asian Palm Civet (not something that happens in the wine world).

Listen to Sam and I taste the Kopi Luwak coffee [8 min].

Starbucks Tomorrow: McDonalds or Neighborhood Roaster?

When I’m on the road, Starbucks is where I get my internet access.

My taste for their coffee has gone from dislike to barely tolerable. These days, I spend $1.57 there on a small decaf that I sip for my 2 hours of laptop battery life.

“Put another way, there are two markets for coffee drinkers: those who love coffee, and everyone else. Can Starbucks really continue to try to serve both” – Peter Meehan

That’s the question. Doc says they should go back to their roots.

4) Give your employees better training around what makes great espressos and cappuchinos. (Lattes are too milked-down to serve as a reference point.) Don’t hire them if they don’t grok the basics.

5) Get more involved in local communities. Peets puts on workshops that educate customers on great coffee drinks. That’s a good model. Do the same.

Home Roasting Hack Method #2


There are three problems I’ve run into since roasting with the Poppery

  1. Small batch sizes (a maximum of 1/2 cup at a time)
  2. Inconsistent roast times (the Poppery continually gets hotter – shorting roasts, burning beans)
  3. The ambient temperature needs to be warm. So, no roasting in the Minnesota winters

Looks like a new roasting technique solves all three problems at once.

Like podcasting, I’m pretty sure I’ve got all the necessary gear in the basement. More later.

Coffee Snobs Move on to Homemade Roasts

I’m finally making my home office more comfortable, so I can spend more focused and productive time without getting distracted by the rest of the house.

One of the things that crossed my mind was installing a small batch coffee roaster. Then friend of the show Pete T. points me to the NYTimes article on home roasting.

“At the end of a meal at a restaurant I’d like a cup of coffee. But it’s pretty rare that I’ll order it anymore,” he said. It just won’t taste right.” – Chris Becker

I’m with Chris, pretty particular about my coffee. But you know that.

First Crack 72. Cleaning House and Moving Forward

Listen to Cleaning House and Moving Forward [15 min]

First Crack 63. Coffee Technology with Timothy Tulloch of

Timoth Tulloch, CEO and Roastmaster at Minnesota-based European Roasterie (, and I talk coffee technology, from brewing to packaging, and why he’s aggressively moving into the single-serve coffee pod program (declaring the Black & Decker Home Cafe the best pod brewer). We wrap up with the culture of specialty coffee and how independent coffee shops can win against Starbucks.

I’ve been really enjoying their Mulawi and the new theme song is by Jeremy Piller.

Listen to Coffee Technology with Timothy Tulloch of [27 min]

Second Melitta Mill & Brew Broken

Back in episode 4 I proclaimed my love for the Melitta Mill & Brew. Even then I knew this day would come.

The little plastic hook holding the grinder lid down snapped and fell into the grinder basin. Without this hook, the grinder doesn’t grind and the water doesn’t get near the grinds. Basically, this fragile 1/4″ piece of plastic is the key to the coffee maker. Without it, no coffee.

After 3 years of daily use, this is my second Melitta and the second time this hook has snapped. Not an atypical problem, a handful of complaints about his issue in the Amazon reviews.

In the short term, I’m weighing it down with a bag of stale, ground coffee. In the long term, I’m looking for a new machine. Any recommendations?

First Crack 37. From Betty’s Bikes & Buns

A big thanks to everyone that helped keep Betty’s open. Betty’s is a great independent coffee shop and I’m happy to see the community pull together and keep it open.

Tom Roe owner of Betty’s Bikes and Buns and I talk motorcycles, community, and the best coffee in Minneapolis.

The First Crack podcast website has been recently redesigned. It now has episode voting courtesy of the Votio plugin from I want to thank First Crack subscriber Jonas Rullo for identifying and resolving a CSS issue with the new site. Thanks Jonas and good luck on your quest for a West Bend Poppery I.

Listen to From Betty’s Bikes & Buns [18 min]

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

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First Crack 36. The First Home Roast of the Spring

Toddy Maker Cold Brew Coffee Maker Coffee by Kenneth Davids

In celebration of the first great day of spring, I dust off the West Bend Poppery and roast up some Aged Sumatra. Then brew up some iced coffee in my Toddy Maker Cold Brew Coffee Maker.

Things mentioned:

Listen to the First Home Roast of the Spring [12 min]

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

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Coffee Goes Stale in a Week

Sam over at reminded me of something extremely important – How Long to Store Coffee:

“There is a marked decline in coffee’s flavor over the course of a week after roasting. If memory serves me correctly, something like 70% of the compounds responsible for coffee’s flavor are gone in that time, transformed into something far less pleasant.”

Here at First Crack central, we have 2 air-tight, light-proof containers. One for caff, one for decaf. Stored on the counter-top, never in the fridge.

This evening marks a week since I came down with that nasty something, and those containers haven’t been cracked open since. I’m a 100% – and a little nervous about the state of the beans.

Looks like I’m due for a trip to White Rock.

UPDATE: Yes, I can confirm the coffee in those containers is awful. Sour and sharp, Not refreshing and eye-opening.

First Crack 20. The One True Barista with Sam Buchanan

Sam Buchanan from the weblog and I checkout the newest Dunn Bros on east Lake (just blocks away from the Blue Moon), and discuss his history from barista, to roaster, to Java programmer.

Other things to listen for:

  • The history of afong
  • Why Guatemalan coffee is the best
  • Sam’s quest for the One True Barista in a world of bad espresso

Listen to the One True Barista, Sam Buchanan [28 min]

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

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First Crack 19. Coffee and Community at the Blue Moon

Cindy, owner of Minneapolis’ Blue Moon and Second Moon, and I discuss the community value of independent, neighborhood coffee shops.

Listen for a patron-thwarted robbery and why coffee should come in small cups.

I end the show with “Don’t Tell a Soul” by the Revamps. For more on them, drop lead man Darren Harff a line or catch them at their show on Jan 14th at the Terminal Bar – they go on around 11:45pm.

Listen to Coffee and Community at the Blue Moon [29 min]

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

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First Crack 17. Belgian Coffee, Beer, and Chocolate with Lewis Dijkstra

The best places for coffee, beer, and chocolate in Brussels, Belgium from Lewis Dijkstra.

Things discussed:

Listen to Belgian Coffee, Beer and Chocolate with Lewis Dijkstra [28 min]

Intro: Tod Maffin & Sean from I Love Radio.

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

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First Crack 16. Interview with a Roastmaster: Greg Beale

Greg Beale, a Dunn Bros. Coffee roastmaster, and I roast 8 pounds of Colombian beans, discuss holiday brewing tips, and the local flavors of the Dunn Bros shops.

Intro: PodCat from PodCat’s Daily Best of Podcasting.

Listen to Interview with a Roastmaster: Greg Beale [38 min]

Got questions about coffee or comments about the show? Call: 206-20-BEAN-1

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