Coffee 101 Bean-to-Cup

By living in Seattle it is assumed that we live and breath coffee and the lingo that surrounds this craft beverage.  It all started over 40 years ago when Starbucks awakened the coffee revolution by opening its first small shop in the Pike Place Market. Over the course of 4 decades we have managed to maintain the highest concentration of coffee shops than any other city.  But what do we really know about these pits that reside in their cherry-like fruits?

coffee fruit

Due to the iconic appeal of Seattle, coffee and its location, Eat Seattle starts its food tour in front of Seattle Coffee Works, located on First and Pike. About a month ago (10 months after founding the company) a tour participant said to me “you should let them know that you start your tour in front of their shop”. It occurred to me that I hadn’t spoken to any SCW staff since I informed them that my Yelp listing uses their address… I reached out immediately to reintroduce myself and check-in. Jesse Fish, General Manager and Barista extraordinaire, carved out some time to meet in person, take me around their facilities and taste coffee!!


The cool thing about Seattle Coffee Works is that they roast on site. Jesse took me back to the roasting area to tell me about their direct trade relationships with farmers and their high quality standards from the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America). By the way, if you ever hear the term “green coffee” it is actually referring to the bean before it’s roasted. At first I assumed that it was some eco-friendly bean sourcing strategy…not the case. Another take-away that I had from this portion of the conversation was that after learning about coffee processing my intuition tells me to stay away from anything that says decaf. That’s not founded on any concrete facts but rather after hearing “chemical solvent method” and a few unnatural trigger terms my brain categorized this as something to avoid and unworthy to expend any further brain power. * See more info and comments from Jesse on decaf below

We then proceeded to the lab where I learned about how serious they are about making coffee and their impressive barista training program. We soon got to tasting three different types of coffee: French press, pour over and AeroPress. Through the tasting process, I learned a few facts that affect flavor and thought these worthy enough to share:

Seattle coffee works


Grind– Did you know that the fragrant aroma that fills the air when coffee is ground is actually the smell of the beans breaking down? It should be used immediately once ground and exposed to air. The fresher the better. Beans lose a significant amount of flavor after 15 minutes of being ground. So for those of you buying ground…FYI.

Ratio– The recommend ratio for brewed, French press or AeroPress is 1/16. So 1 oz of ground coffee to 16 oz of coffee.

*For those of you wondering at this point what this AeroPress thing is….Here’s a link  It was invented in 2005 by inventor Alan Adler who is a coffee enthusiast. Jesse says the device is pretty legit. I also could taste a significant difference in the flavor by using this method.

Temperature– Water temp is VERY important. General rule is to have water between 195-205 degrees F. Boiling water can burn the coffee leading to an unpleasant flavor.

Like most things, coffee is a matter of taste preference. The Aeropress isn’t a better device than the pour-over.  It emphasizes different elements of the coffee’s flavor potential that you may or may not like. Don’t get intimidated by cafes with baristas in fancy flannels sporting the perfectly manicured mustache and their pour-overs…if you like espresso then stick with it! BUT I do encourage you to explore other types and to talk to trusted baristas because there is so much to know and not enough questions being asked.


* Jesse read my comment on decaf and wanted to elaborate as decaf is perfectly safe. His comments:

The most commonly used decaffeination processes widely used in the coffee industry is called the “direct contact” method. This is the process that uses a chemical called methylene chloride. Now, that said, here at SCW we don’t buy coffee which was decaffeinated using the “direct contact” method, and most high-end specialty coffee companies also do not. More common with super-premium coffee roasters is the swiss-water process which simply uses a bit of charcoal, to bond and pull out the caffeine. “Our Best Decaf” is served here at SCW… it is wonderfully flavorful too!






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *