Posts in Coffee Rants
Coffee FAQ

Frequently asked questions

Now that I have been in business for a while I thought I would take the time to answer a number of questions that I get asked every week at the market. 

1. What makes your coffee different than the stuff I can get elsewhere?

The major difference with my coffee is freshness. Coffee is at its peak of flavor and aroma for about 2 weeks after it is roasted. The vast majority of coffee available in supermarkets and coffee-shops in this area is past this 2-week mark. Stale coffee, is more bitter, less aromatic, and can develop some strange off flavors. After you have gotten used to my fresh coffee, you should be able to tell stale coffee by smelling it. By roasting coffee every week in small batches and bringing it fresh to the market, I am offering you a product that is very hard to find in our area. 

2. Where do you get your green coffee beans? 

First of all, we don't grow coffee in Houston. In fact they tried that in the 50s and it did terrible. Location and climate is very important for coffee. We get our coffee from two coffee importers located in Houston. I go to their warehouse and pick up the bags of coffee myself. They negotiate with the farmers and cooperatives directly and take care of shipping and storage. What I get is a wide selection of coffees from around the world, and I can sample and choose the best out what they have to offer. The truth is that most coffee companies use importers, even ones that do direct trade. They may fly out to meet the farmer and shake their hand, but the importer takes care of the price negotiation, dealing with customs, and storing the green coffee. They are a very important part of the coffee chain, and I am glad to have two great importers based here in Houston.   

3. Is coffee good for you?

The truth is, based on the latest research, there is no conclusive evidence that coffee is a health beverage like tea. It has tons of antioxidants, but studies have not been done to see how these benefit the body. What has happened in the last 30 years or so is that the majority of claims that coffee is bad for you have been proven to be false. Drinking 2-3 cups a day is a safe habit for most people. Some individuals have an extreme sensitivity to caffeine, and should limit their coffee consumption. Recent studies have shown coffee drinkers are less likely to be depressed and have lower rates of cardiovascular diseases. Happy, healthy people drink coffee, and that is good enough for me. My fresh roasted coffee is smoother and should allow you to reduce the amount of cream and sugar you add. Or you can drink it black, a calorie free treat. Either way, this is far better than getting a sugary, fat-laden frappe (something that is definitely good, but not good for you).

4. Why do you sell 12 oz bags rather than a pound?

My main reason is that I want everyone who buys my coffee to enjoy it while it is at the peak of freshness. I have found 12 oz is about two weeks worth for one coffee drinker. I would rather not have you end up with a bag of stale Fort Bend Coffee sitting on your shelf. Also the smaller size allows me to price my specialty-grade coffee within a range that is reasonable for more people. 

5. Which coffee is best for adding cream, sugar, flavors, and whatever else you think of to throw in your coffee?

I highly recommend our darker roasts such as our Mexican Oaxaca or Marty's Blend. These will stand up well to cream and sugar, just don't overdo it. Also I prefer a couple teaspoons of half and half to a lot of 2% milk. The fat content is pretty similar, but the coffee is much less watered down with the half and half.  If you want to add stuff to a lighter roast, just try adding less than you normally do. Fresh-roasted coffee is a lot smoother than stale coffee and so you don't have to mask that bitter bite.  And if you feel like being a coffee superstar, work your way up to drinking black coffee. Most of the nuanced flavors in coffee disappear when you add cream and sugar, and I find the natural sweetness in coffee to be much more interesting than table sugar or flavored creamers.

6. How should I store my coffee, is the freezer ok?

The short answer is, just buy what you need for the next week or two and you don't have to worry. The best way to store coffee is in an air-tight container away from light and temperature fluctuation. Also keep coffee dry and out of humidity. A mason jar in your cabinet is a great way to store coffee. So what about the fridge or freezer. The fridge is a really bad idea. The coffee will pick up moisture, food aromas, etc. The freezer is not much better. The rapid cooling and then warming of the beans causes moisture to get in which makes the beans go stale much faster. So, even though freezing coffee can stop the staling process, when you pull the coffee out, it goes stale at a greatly accelerated level. If you must put your coffee in the freezer, you probably need a vacuum sealer, and even then, I am not sure how good the results would be.

Tasting the competition

So we have been drinking our own coffee exclusively for a few months now. We have had coffee coming out of our ears while trying to settle on our initial offering list. So today my wife and I decided to try a cup of coffee from a national brand (I am not going to say who it was because I don't want to get into that). We compared a "house blend" side-by-side with a cup of our Espresso Blend

Initial thoughts were pretty funny. First of all the coffee from the shop had the distinct aroma of new tennis ball. No really! I even got out a can of Wilsons to compare. Then there was the slight aftertaste of ammonia (or as my wife said, cat pee). But once you got past these elements, it was an enjoyable cup, though a bit boring. It had some nice roast flavors but the bitterness was overpowering, and there was almost no finish or origin flavor. My best guess is a combination of lower-quality beans, dark roast, and staleness led to this disappointing flavor. As for the tennis ball scent, I have no clue.

Now, I am a bit biased since it is my coffee... but with the side-by-side comparison here are the differences I noticed with our coffee. It first of all had much less bitterness, and in fact the bitterness had a different quality, mixing with sweetness rather than astringency.  The aroma was sweet with caramel and chocolate, maybe some cherry (food smells are a definite improvement). The flavor had a definite progression to it starting with some brightness, building into caramel and a bitter-sweet lingering finish. By contrast the shop coffee hit briefly with roast and bitterness and then quickly dissipated.

If you do get a chance to buy our coffee, try a side-by-side test with your grocery store standard. My hope is that you will find our coffee spectacular enough to be worth your time and money.  

Why fresh roasted coffee?

This is just about the most important question in regards to our business. If fresh, locally roasted coffee is not miles better than the rows of beans sitting in HEB, then you have no reason to make the trek out to a farmer's market to get your coffee. But, I believe it is better. Bean quality is important, the skill of the roaster can take a good bean and make it great. But even the best coffee beans will loose most of their unique qualities about 2 weeks after roasting. 

But this is difficult to convince people of for a number of reasons. 1. Most people have not had the opportunity to have a truly fresh cup of coffee, so they don't know what they are missing. 2. The bigger coffee corporations have worked hard to convince us that fancy packaging and vacuum sealing will keep your coffee fresh. 3. Most small roasters don't offer flavored coffees.

So what is different in a bean for the two weeks after it is roasted? In the roasting process the physical structure of the bean begins to break down and this releases sugars and volatile organic compounds. The goal in roasting is to get the bean to a state where these compounds can be released into your cup of coffee when the bean is ground and brewed. After roasting, the oils, aromas, and origin flavors of a coffee are slowly degassed from the bean. At some point (around 2 weeks) these compounds have left the bean completely. At this point, the coffee will taste pretty similar whether you brew it 3 weeks after roasting or 3 months. The coffee still has some flavor (acidity, bitterness, maybe some nuttiness or cocoa if you are lucky) but it is missing the flavors and aromas that make it unique.

If you do buy a bag of my beans, I encourage you to brew them along with your store-bought bag and see if you notice a difference. I think you will be surprised at the difference.