True confession: I have a major coffee buzz as I am writing this blog post. That's because we have been working on our survival plan for keeping ourselves in fresh-roasted coffee, even in the face of a climate catastrophe. You see, I am such a coffee hound that I consider coffee to be one of life's real essentials. Even when I was living in a tent rescuing animals from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I always managed to start my day with fresh-roasted, organic coffee.
Until recently, I have gotten by with buying some of the gourmet organic Fair Trade coffees available in the neighborhood. Some of them are reasonably good, some are superb, though none of them can hold a candle to the fresh roasted coffees I've had in, say, Italy. The reasons for this are many. I'll mention a few of them in a minute. But, the important thing is that they have been good enough for me to have purchased them and enjoyed them. One thing always nagged at me, though: What if social collapse really came and good coffee became hard to come by? The thought of it was a bit frightening for a hard-core coffee drinker like me. So, I decided I better do something about that: I began researching growing, harvesting and roasting coffee.
The growing part of that equation is particularly challenging in a cold climate. I now have several varieties of coffee seeds germinating in our solarium. Coffee has very poor germination rates and when successful it takes up to 6 months just to get seedlings. I do have one little plant that is growing quite happily so far, though. Fortunately, the roasting challenge is easier to resolve, in part because dried, unroasted coffee seed have a very long shelf life. That means that, it is possible to stock up on quantities of raw, green coffee beans and store them. Once roasted, they lose their freshness quickly, keeping their peak flavor for just a handful of days.
It turns out that roasting great coffee is also very much an art, as most really great things are. Throughout the roasting process different temperatures at different times bring out different flavors. The slower the roast, generally, the smoother and more mellow the flavor. A hot, shorter roast can make a coffee more bitter. On the other hand, an initial burst of heat at the onset of roasting (often called the "charging" temperature) can bring out richness without bitterness, so long as the temperature drops and then slowly climbs again to create the long, slow roast.
The reason most coffees in the USA are not as good as those in other parts of the world is partly because our coffee roasters are maximizing profit by mass-processing coffees quickly to get the most through-put. That is why even the good coffee isn't really all that great. At Our Urban Farm, we have decided to do things the old, slow way. Instead of 10 - 14 minutes per roast, we are roasting for 30 - 35 minutes, bringing out the warm, chocolaty flavors in the beans, with little or no bitter/acid taste. The result is a coffee that is as good or even better than the best coffees we had in Italy. It is so smooth that you can make it as strong as you want without any bitterness.
To make a long story short, now that we are roasting our own coffee, we now buy our green coffee beans in bulk, meaning we are steadily making fresh-roasted coffee here, while keeping a backup supply around in case of emergency. We start with organic, Fair Trade, heritage-certified Guatemalan coffee and slow roast it on the stove in small batches. For those who would like to see the difference, we now offer coffee shares and sample packs for pick up or delivery! Check it out!
The best part for me is that now I know that even in an emergency, no matter how bad things may get, we will be able to start the day with some fresh roasted coffee!