February 2019 - Shipping cutoff now earlier, The rise and rise of Filter Roasts
Date Posted:1 February 2019
“When the weather is hot, keep a cool mind. When the weather is cold, keep a warm heart” — unknown
Wow, it's been a sizzling hot summer and reminiscent of 2014 and 2009 which kind of looks remarkably like 5 year cycles. Our coolers have been running flat out since early December and it's adding to our workload having to manage our production around uncomfortable weather conditions. I'm waking up earlier and earlier every morning to beat the heat - it's got so ridiculous I'm awake at 3am getting ready to head into work.
An important message for our customers - Freight companies are collecting from us earlier in the afternoons and unfortunately, we can't change this or ask them to go away and come back later. It's the sheer volume of parcels in the Australian network and traffic congestion on the roads that's forcing couriers to get their collection finished earlier. Please, please, please get your orders in before 2pm on Sendle and 3:15pm for AusPost, otherwise it may miss the collection and spill into the next day.
The December nightmares of freight problems seemed to right themselves a bit in January, except for the fateful 9th when a large, line-haul semi carrying 1000's of Sendle parcels caught fire between Melbourne and Sydney. For those customers affected, we graciously helped them out but it was a rather long delay of 15 days after the incident occurred until we became aware of the problem and it's impact.
Our feature article this month helps explain some of the mysteries behind "Filter Roast" style coffees. We look into how and why these are popular for enthusiasts of alternative brewing methods.
February's Secret Label is a stunner and we are quietly confident of trying to topple December's mammoth haul. We decided to engineer February's Secret Label as a blend but this time a far simpler construction with intensity and lush layers of intersecting rich flavours. Think ripe cherry, pecan, Car-A-Mello, sticky date pudding and gob-stopping dark chocolate wrapped in the sweetest, velvety body.
February Secret Label
For February's Secret Label, we have designed a classy blend.......including a bean that's rarely used these days in coffees due to it's scarce availability.
This month's Secret Label reminds us of Sticky Date pudding - ripe cherries, pecan, Car-A-Mello and chocolate in the sweetest, smoothest body we have tasted in a long time.
Delicious as a black or with milk - we loved the versatility.
Acids are well tamed and superbly balanced.
Roasted daily until the campaign allocation runs out - it will not last the entire month.
*** ALL SOLD OUT ***
The rise and rise of Filter-Style Roasts
They dress like lab technicians or wear aprons with military-school neatness hunched over coffee apparatus, deep in concentration with a laser-like focus on the task at hand.
Just like a science experiment, they carefully brew tiny batches of aromatic coffee particles with expert precision - measuring grinds and dose, controlling the temperature with split-second time management, it's more than just a brew for these hard-core enthusiasts who are fully committed to honing their filter-style techniques.
Alternative brewing of coffee (e.g. which generally excludes traditional methods such espresso, moka pot or French Press/plunger) is a big "thing" in a surprising number of areas around the world.
Scandinavian countries where coffee consumption is higher per capita compared to the rest of the world go nuts for their lighter roasted coffee beans - it's not a recent fad but a serious coffee religion for these filter-style devotees.
Other regions like the US and Asia are seeing higher growth rates on the rising popularity of Ready-To-Drink (RTD) cold-brew beverages, e.g. brewed coffee in a can (or bottle) and in places like Japan easily accessible from vending machines.
Mostly, expansion of the RTD segment has been about convenience (point of sale) and displacing the rather unappetising legacy of over-roasted, over-brewed, mediocre quality bulk-batch drip systems - you know the stuff in diners sitting on the warmer for hours poured from jugs or carafes like tar sealing a road.
Coffee equipment markets, particularly the portability segment with devices such as the hugely popular Aeropress, etc. are fuelling the growth of alternative brewing and busting open many rigidly held views that all coffees need to be roasted the same way.
Some of this gear is geeky and enthusiasts fall in love with the simplicity, it's potential for achieving cleaner flavours on the go and muted acids compared to pump-based espresso machines.
Modern brew devices have a tendency to respond well with lighter styles of roasting - although that's probably not entirely correct and more of a broad generalisation as coffee is only ever suitable based upon whatever the individual prefers - some like it light, others medium and surprisingly many still love it dark.
A reason why lighter roast depths may be more appealing for these contemporary brew methods is due to the reduction of "roasty" notes from the brew that can dominate the cup and detract from the natural fruits, acids and flavours of the coffee.
The coffee industry sort of fell into a name for these lighter styles of roasting by calling it a "filter" roast which by default implies the roasting profile is shorter in duration with the beans dumped at a lower finish temperature compared to traditional methods like espresso.
The filter roast coffee beans are not as "developed" and may lack the fuller body, intensity of flavour and other desirable attributes if used for a milk-based espresso beverage, so caveat-emptor to anyone wanting to use filter roasts on espresso gear.
But the road to filter roast nirvana has not been smooth or easy for the entire industry and it's taken almost a decade of optimization and a bunch of intelligent roasting tools to achieve decent results.
For a large part of the "filter roast" journey, the market has endured some shocking and horrendous failures - in the early days it was common to experience sour, woody, grassy, astringent, excessively acidic examples that may have been more suited to cleaning the toilet bowl than consuming with joy.
You see it all came down to interpretation and skill. Early adopters were pushing the boundaries - trying to get away with roasting lighter and lighter to extract more sweetness of the fruity acids, but unfortunately the roasted coffees were under-developed and would therefore introduce side-effects and unpleasant taints into the unbalanced brews to accompany the fruit.
There are also areas in the cafe espresso segment where both roasters and baristas targeted lighter and lighter roasts to extract on high-end equipment - hunting for the intense sweetness and purity of fruits that espresso enthusiasts desire, however, it comes with a double-edged sword as the predominant cafe orders for milk-based espresso beverages like latte, cappuccino and flat white tasted terrible - sour, weak and with sometimes milk or soy curdling consequences.
Unfortunately, this practice continues today in many premium cafes where experimentation and selfish pursuits of baristas come at the expense of pleasing the average coffee consumer that just wants a smooth, rich and creamy beverage with a chocolate aftertaste.
Filter Roast coffees can be incredibly challenging to work with for espresso extraction. The grind needs to be highly consistent (even particle size typically only available on the top grinders) and often it becomes rather frustrating to dial-in or achieve consistency from one day to the next.
As filter roast coffees are lighter, the de-gas period can also take longer, sometimes (depending upon the weather) up to 12+ days post-roast before they reach a stable and optimal stage and consuming the filter roast coffee before it's properly developed may yield some disappointment (also depending upon the brew method and the roasting).
Not all coffee beans are suitable for filter roast styles. It's fair to say that Ethiopian Naturals tend to be more popular for use as Filter Roasts due to the higher levels of inherent fruits and complexity, however, they can be difficult to work with for both roasting and brewing if everything is no perfectly executed. Washed coffees can be cleaner in the cup but some examples may lack the complexity and produce one-dimensional or boring cups.
Coffees that might work well for espresso (in the context of milk-based espresso) may not work for Filter Roast styles - it all comes down to the individual bean and the execution. Filter Roast styles also tend to be single origin lots rather than blends - it's really quite difficult to produce a balanced blend from Filter Roasting profiles as often coffees develop their peak attributes at different stages in the roast profile.
We have two(2) roasting platforms designed for Filter Styles, but our focus in the Filter Roast segment is deliberately kept to a minimum - we offer a limited choice of between 1 and 3 products which may come as a surprise given our large portfolio, but we mostly concentrate on a single offering and execute it as best we possibly can.
We have the skills and expertise to generate exceptional Filter Style coffees, but we believe the demand remains relatively low in the home consumer market that's still largely dominated by a heritage of milk-based espresso.
Our promise has always been to provide a broad portfolio of roasted coffees that are fresher than our competitors, hence trying to add multiple Filter Roast alternatives would mean we simply don't have the hours in the day to roast, pack and send with lightning speed, already a big challenge that spans long days.