SCA Cup Scores Explained

David Kemble

You have probably spotted that our Single Origin (SO) coffees have a cup score listed in their description. Cup scores are one of the tools coffee buyers use when deciding what lots to purchase.

Coffees are are tasted and assessed according to very strict criteria set out in this case by the Speciality Coffee Association. In order to assign a coffee a Cup Score individuals must train and be examined to become what is known as a Q Grader. To become a Q Grader requires a vast amount of knowledge and training. Candidates must pass around 22 exams in order to qualify. The program is intended to produce an army of individuals that all assess and grade to the same consistent standards the world over. There are currently around 4000 Q Graders world wide.

Graders must pass exams every 3 years to ensure that their scoring is consistent with other graders. If they fail, they are no longer allowed to grade coffee.

As a coffee's cup score increase then as you would expect so does the market price. Coffees with a cup score of 84+ can be anything up to 30x the price of commodity coffee.

When a coffee is graded it is assigned a score of up to 100.

Coffees are broken down in the following grades -

65 to 80 = Commodity Coffee
This type of coffee usually ends up as instant coffee or in the type of roast and ground coffee you find in the supermarket.

80+ = Speciality Coffee
Now we get in to the interesting stuff. We only sell Speciality coffee at Black Cat. Even our blended coffee is made up from Speciality grade coffee. Our single origins score 84 and up.

90+ = Presidential Award
These are the most special coffees and are VERY rarely seen. We currently have one 90+ coffee on our offer list and we do not expect it to be there for long!

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Coffee packaging and the WICOVALVE

David Kemble

Just when you've recovered from the excitement of reading my blog about water I am coming at you with one about about paper bags.......

In all seriousness though, our packaging is not just there to look pretty and get your coffee to you. We have spent a lot of time selecting the right bags for our coffee.

There is an enormous array of bags on the market these days; paper, plastic, metallised and some that make claims such as easy to recycle and even compostable bags.

Sadly the recyclable offerings are bit like the recyclable coffee cups we see available, whilst technically they can be recycled, they have to be sent to specific facilities of which there are currently less than a handful. You cannot throw these bags in to your curbside recycling. In actual fact throwing them in to you household recycling can actually cause major problems down the line and result in bales of truly recyclable materials being rejected and sent to landfill.

Ok you are thinking, use compostable bags then. The problem with compostable bags is that while they are technically compostable they have to exposed to very specific conditions to compost. This consists of lots of heat, moisture, and even certain bacteria. They chances of this just happening to exist in your garden compost heap are virtually zero so they need to be sent to specialist centres too. These are difficult to find, expensive to get them there and also result in more transportation and therefore more CO2.

At the moment we will be sticking with our traditional kraft paper bags and we will continue to work with our suppliers to find genuinely environmentally sound solutions

WICOVALVES.

When coffee is roasted it produces gas for a number of days after. If coffee is placed in a fully sealed bag eventually they would inflate and pop. To get around this we use a bag with a degas valve built in. We specifically use bags that have WICOVALVES. These valves have been developed to allow coffee to be packed immediately after roasting. This means you get perfectly fresh coffee with its fresh off the roaster aroma and taste.

They are the best valves on the market and that is why we use them, simple as that.

Read more about recycling and compostable bags here -

 

 

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What exactly is a roast profile?

David Kemble

There a lots of terms banded around in the coffee trade, particularly in the speciality coffee trade. I think very often we are guilty of assuming that our customers know just as much as we do.

I have been a coffee lover for as long as I care to remember but had you have asked me what the term 'roast profile' meant before I started roasting for myself I probably would've given you an answer with a fair amount of mumbling

I am going to try and break down the process of roasting today and demystify what we mean by the various terms we roasters band around when talking about roasting.

A coffee roasting cycle is made up of the following stages:

  • Charge - This is what we call the moment when we drop the green coffee in to the roast drum.
  • Turning Point - When we add the cold coffee to the hot roaster, the green coffee reduces the temperature of the roaster. Turning Point is the point at which the roaster and bean mass equalise in temperature and the temperature starts to climb upward.
  • Drying Phase - This is the period after Turning Point when the beans give off lots of moisture and turn from green, to a straw like yellow and then on to browning.
  • First Crack - When the beans reach a certain temperature they suddenly rapidly expand and give off lots of energy and gas. They make a cracking noise much like popcorn.
  • Second Crack - This phase of a roast comes a little after first crack and sounds similar but is of a more high pitch energetic popping sound. We do not roast our coffee this far.
  • Drop - This is when the coffee is dropped from the roasting drum in to the cooling tray and is the end of the roasting cycle. This can be anywhere from the start of first crack to after second crack.

Nowadays most coffee roasters are linked to a computer and some very clever software. This software constantly measures various parameters coming from sensors in the coffee roaster and plots the data to a graph like the one shown in the above picture. What is the point you might say? Well it is for consistency. If we can plot the time and temperature of a coffee during its roast cycle it means we can repeat it and get the same result each time. Equally if we roast some coffee and we are not happy with the outcome or think we can improve, we can look at the graph and decide how and what we may like to change.

This data set is what is referred to as a roast profile. For us it is unique to each coffee we roast and is much like a chefs recipe and enables us to achieve a consistent quality result. It doesn't matter which roast master is in charge that day, so long as they have the profile they are able to produce the same result time and time again.


 

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A (very) brief primer on water for coffee brewing.

David Kemble

So you've got your brewer, grinder and your beans. Now to time to make some coffee. Just before you go rushing for the kettle have a think about what makes up the majority of your brew; water. 

Water has an enormous effect on coffee. With all things equal water can make an enormous difference to your end result. You can really taste the difference between hard and soft water and water with differing mineral constituents. Indeed I would go as far as to say you can ruin good coffee with bad water.

If you want to keep things simple but get a good result without too much fuss then we suggest simply using a water filter jug. This will help to soften your water if it is hard (and protect any electric brewers or espresso machine you have from scale) and at the same time remove chlorine and other unwanted chemicals. This isn't perfect but it is a heck of a lot better than plain tap water.

Want to take things a step further? Read on.

A start up company called Peak has created a very interesting filter jug that is specifically aimed at the home coffee market. We are yet to test it but from what we read from several well respected members of our industry it is a very good solution. It is more expensive than a Brita jug but it is still a very reasonably priced solution.

There are a number of other options too. but this is where the price can start to ratchet up.

Distilled water is available in bottles and can also be made at home using counter top distillers. It cannot however be used without adding back in the precious minerals we need. In fact totally pure water can actually be corrosive to espresso machines and brewers. You can add in various things like bicarbonate of soda and magnesium powders to get the perfect balance or you can buy sachets of minerals from companies like Third Wave Water. 

Finally the best possible solution is what is known as Reverse Osmosis (RO). RO is a process whereby your water is forced through fine meshes and screens to filter our all of the nasty bits we don't want and leave us with perfect water for brewing. The kicker here? Cost. The systems are not cheap if you wish to have a mains feed treated and you will almost certainly have to have your water tested to get the system properly configured. Fear not though, there are now several counter top systems available at a much more sensible price such as the Osmio system. These are a lot more cost effective and even provide hot water on demand.

This is a topic that is hugely complicate and we have barely scratched the surface here. The bottom line is this though, think about your water.

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Coffee Brew Guide

David Kemble

Chemex Brew Guide

You will need:

Chemex Brewer
Filter Paper Coffee
Freshly Ground To Medium Coarseness
Water Just Off The Boil
Weighing Scales
Timer

As with most filter brewing techniques I like to start with 60g of coffee per litre of water. You can always add or reduce the amount if you would like to alter the strength of the brew next time around.

We are going to make a 500 ml batch.

Step 1
Pop your kettle on to boil. Put a paper filter in the top of your Chemex brewer. Make sure the three layer side of the filter is on the side of the pouring spout. Once the kettle has boiled, use plenty of hot water to rinse out your filter. Discard the rinsing water.
Step 2
Place your Chemex on to your scales and add 30g of coffee. Tare the scales so you are back to zero.
Step 3
Start your timer. Then pour in your just off the boil water. At first we will add 100g of water being careful to make sure all the coffee is wet. Allow the coffee to saturate and 'bloom' for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Now pour in the rest of your water in concentric circles to ensure water is evenly distributed on to the coffee bed. Once we are at 500g on a scales we wait for the coffee to filter through to the brewer.
Step 4
Pour and enjoy!

Aeropress Brew Guide

You will need:

Aeropress Coffee Maker
Filter Paper
Coffee Freshly Ground To Medium Coarseness
85C Water
Weighing
Scales
Timer

Step 1
Boil your kettle and allow it to stand for a few minutes. If you have a temperature control kettle, boil it to 85C and get right to it. Place your filter paper in the end cap of the Aeropress and rinse with boiling water. Set this aside.
Step 2
Place the plunger in to the brew chamber of the Aeropress and invert it so it is resting on the plunger handle and the open brew chamber is facing up. Like an upturned syringe. Place it on your scales and add in 17g of coffee.
Step 3
Add 250g of your water and give it a stir around to saturate the grinds.
Step 4
Allow to steep for around 30 seconds and then screw on the cap containing the filter paper. Be careful.
Step 5
Now invert the Aeropress on to the top of your mug and gently press down on the plunger. Take your time and saver the aroma.
Step 6
If you like your coffee strong then go ahead and enjoy, if not you can dilute with 100g of water. Enjoy!

Cafetière Brew Guide

You will need:

Cafetière
Medium/Coarse Ground Fresh Coffee
Water Just Off The Boil
Weighing Scales
Timer
2 Tablespoons

Making good coffee in a Cafetière is not a quick process. You've got to be patient with this method but the results are worth the wait.

Step 1
Place your Cafetière on to your scales and add in 30g of coffee.
Step 2
Add in 500g of just off the boil water and allow it to brew for 4 minutes.
Step 3
With your tablespoons give the coffee a good stir and allow the coffee to gently fall to the bottom of the brewer. Scoop of any foam or residual floating coffee and discard.
Step 4
Wait 5 more minutes. Trust me.
Step 5
Place the plunger in to the brewer but DO NOT plunge. Just push it down to the top of the coffee. We are purely using it as a little extra straining and we do not want to disturb the coffee bed and stir up all the sludge.
Step 6
Pour and enjoy!

V60 Brew Guide

You will need:

V60 Brewer
Filter Paper
Coffee Freshly Ground To Medium Coarseness
Water Just Off The Boil
Weighing Scales
Timer

As with most filter brewing techniques I like to start with 60g of coffee per litre of water. You can always add or reduce the amount if you would like to alter the strength of the brew next time around.
We are going to make a 300 ml batch.

Step 1
Pop your kettle on to boil. Put a paper filter in your V60. Once the kettle has boiled, use plenty of hot water to rinse out your filter. Discard the rinsing water.
Step 2
Place your V60 on to your cup and then on to your scales. Tare your scales and add 18g of coffee. Tare the scales again so you are back to zero.
Step 3
Start your timer. Then pour in your just off the boil water. At first we will add 50g of water being careful to make sure all the coffee is wet. Allow the coffee to saturate and 'bloom' for 45 seconds. Now pour in the rest of your water in concentric circles to ensure water is evenly distributed on to the coffee bed. Once we are at 350g on a scales we wait for the coffee to filter through to the brewer.
Step 4
Enjoy!

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Update on delivery

David Kemble

Please be aware that at the moment couriers are facing unprecedented demand and in some cases staff shortages. Guaranteed deliveries are now stated as delivery aims rather than guarantees and there may well be some delay.

We are working with our usual delivery partners and a number of others to ensure you get your coffee as quickly as possible.

You may find that your coffee is delivered by a different courier but we will still be using a 24 hour service aim with whoever delivers.

Orders placed after 10am will be dispatched the following day as per usual subject to stock.

 

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Covid Update

David Kemble

WE ARE STILL OPEN AS NORMAL

This is a very troubling time for all of us at the moment and we hope it passes swiftly and we can all get back to doing the things we love.

Currently we are still open as normal and we hope this will be the case throughout this situation. We always take our health and hygiene very seriously but we are being extra cautious at the moment of course.

We are lucky enough to operate from buildings situated on our own residential property. This means that we do not need to do ANY travelling whatsoever to get your coffee to you. We are also operating a no contact collection directly from our property with our couriers.

It is only myself and my lovely wife working at this time and as such nobody else is having to visit us at all and no staff are doing any travelling for any purpose.

Good health to all and happy brewing!

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Why your business should offer espresso drinks.

David Kemble
If you have a successful business, now is a great time to think about offering espresso based coffee. It can be a great source of additional revenue.

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A guide to choosing your first grinder.

David Kemble
A guide on how to choose a great grinder.

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Last order dates for Christmas Delivery.

David Kemble
Important dates for Christmas.

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