Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Sightglass Coffee’s Hunky Dory

Is that the cutest name or what?

We’re already at the fourth entry in the Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series. That’s more than enough beans to start feeling the differences in quality. What caught my eye with this one (aside from the roaster’s adorable naming conventions) was the promise of a bergamot flavor note. For those that don’t know, that’s the tea leaf that gives Earl Grey its distinctive flavor. My tea cabinet is a pretty impressive creation, so this was something I had to check out for myself.

Does Hunky Dory truly live up to its title? Let’s take a look at this charming little bag and what it has to offer to both coffee lovers and tea fanatics. If you’re new to the series, check out my previous posts on Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion or Partners Coffee Roasters’ Ghost Town.

Without further ado!

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How To Get Your Pourover Brew Tasting Perfect

I love learning new techniques. Makes me twice as excited to make a cup of joe in the morning.

The pourover is one of the most user-friendly ways of brewing coffee at home. That doesn’t mean it still can’t be improved! The Perfect Daily Grind has a great five-minute read on how to improve your pourover technique. They go into the scientifics behind blooming, stress the need for filtered water and explore different pour methods. Some of the most common problems facing pourover users are incompatible filters or the wrong water temperature. You don’t want to burn all the flavor out of your beans, right?

I’ve used my pourover dozens of times since I got it a few months back, so I can safely say I’m improving. For instance, I can literally see the difference between using hot water and boiling water. Hot water lifts a delicious, amber crema from the coffee, clinging together even as you keep pouring. Boiling water, on the other hand, results in a more bubbly crema with a weaker color. When I’m spending anywhere between $15 to $22 on a bag of coffee, I’ll be damned if I don’t pull the best possible extraction.

counter culture coffee decaf kuichi

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Counter Culture Coffee’s Decaf Kuichi

I’ve done it! I’ve found the current heavyweight of specialty decaf coffee.

Wisdom grows with options: the more you have to compare, the pickier you get. It’s why I would hesitate to buy yet another cherry red jacket when I already have two in my closet. It’s why I skim past the proverbial flood of cereal boxes for my tried-and-true Honey Bunches Of Oats (at least, the generic version). While I’ve had a lot of coffee in my life, ordering freshly roasted specialty bags is still a newer reality for me. Good decaf coffee is known, sure, but not on the level I would’ve liked.

I’m coming up on five bags now and I can safely say, without a doubt, I’ve found a real winner. If you’re new to this series, I review decaf coffee in all its beautiful complexity: flavor notes, brewing methods, packaging, you name it! If you’re too busy for a five-minute read, check out my Final Verdict at the bottom summarizing my thoughts. You can find my previous decaf coffee reviews on Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion and Partners Coffee Roasters’ Ghost Town.

Let’s get started on why the Decaf Kuichi is my current favorite:

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Is Shortening The Coffee Supply Chain The Answer?

Discussions around sustainability in the coffee industry redefine patience.

When we’re not being faced with the reality of dismal farming wages, heads are spinning on aaall the different intermediaries in the coffee supply chain. Producers, importers, exporters, retailers, roasters…and here we were just figuring out the difference between a macchiato and a latte. It’s an average day slicing apart the noise to get meaningful action that changes lives for the better. The convoluted nature of it all starts to feel intentional after a point.

Knowledge is power. I recently checked out this video by Cedro Alto Coffee on the coffee supply chain — Karl goes into great detail concerning the jobs in-between the producers (farmers) and the consumers (us). He takes a patient and critical look at the understandably frustrated conversations on the supply chain and how many want to snip out a few intermediaries. He notes that there are still many administrative and shipping roles that get coffee into stores in the first place, not all of which can just be squished into one job.

I exist as both a link in the chain and an end consumer. My copywriting niche is coffee (as well as tea and alcohol), helping professionals in the industry reach the right people…and I purchase coffee and coffee equipment. My interest is more than just a good cup of joe on my desk: it’s a deep investment of the veritable knot this industry has tied itself into and all the fingers needed to detangle it. I may not be around in the next fifteen to twenty years, but I do know I want coffee to stick it out.

Change is possible. We can see with our own two eyes that what’s happening in the coffee industry just isn’t working. The only question is what, exactly, can be done…and the only surefire wrong answer is to do nothing at all.

partners coffee roasters

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Partners Coffee Roasters’ Ghost Town

Another day, another decaf. This one caught my eye for a few reasons.

Chocolate is a pretty common flavor note in the coffee world. Why not? Cocoa plants undergo just as complex a cultivation process as coffee cherries, with similar flavors and colors, to boot. One of the most popular cafe drinks — the iconic mocha — blend these two worlds together for an unforgettable combo. American roasters today have some pretty mean competition at the best of times, so they often get more specific when heralding what makes their beans special. Instead of just chocolate (usually) you get milk chocolate, dark chocolate or, in this instance, white chocolate.

What’s a good decaf coffee you can try? That’s what we’re here to find out. Let’s take a look at Partners Coffee Roasters’ Ghost Town decaf beans and see if it lives up to its promise. If you missed the first part of the Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series, check out my review of Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion here. It’s tasty stuff.

Without further ado!

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french press banner

From Part-Time Barista To Making Coffee At Home: My Homebrewing Coffee Journey (Part Two)

The coffee journey never ends. Anyone who pretends to know all there is about this ancient bean is a liar…and an unsuccessful one, at that.

At-home coffee. Homebrew coffee. Making coffee at home. Whatever you happen to call it, this method has taken a front seat for many in the wake of the coronavirus. Myself included! After many a year deprioritizing this beloved fascination in favor of more immediate concerns, I’ve since purchased a manual coffee grinder, a French press and some decaf beans to start my homebrewing coffee journey. Not content with just a few options on the table, I’ve decided to try out the pourover, as well. You can find the first part of the series here.

How are all these different brew methods faring? Let me count the ways.

I recently got my Hario pourover and Malita filters from Seattle Coffee Gear (as you can likely see, they’re my go-to for online coffee supplies). I bought my French Press off of Amazon, however…and let me say, I do not generally recommend this. It’s best to buy your coffee supplies from either a specialty supplier or the original business, as the site is loaded with fake sellers that either sell knock-offs or used versions that slipped quality control. Fortunately for me, my French Press arrived in mint condition.

My very first personal French Press coffee, though…wasn’t great.

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Not Quite A Latte, Not Quite A Cappuccino: What Is A Macchiato, Exactly?

Being a barista meant a lot of explaining.

“Oh, a frappuccino is an iced drink!”

“A mocha frappuccino just means it has chocolate in it.”

“Do you want a dry or a wet cappuccino? …Oh, you wanted a latte?”

Again and again I found myself spending more time hashing out terminology than making the actual drink (and this was essential, as a dissatisfied coffee customer can take up even more time). It was part of the job, and the coffee industry is rather notorious for its mile-long list of exclusive terminology. For those of you out there wanting to brush up on your coffee vocabulary, take a look at the Perfect Daily Grind’s rundown of the macchiato.

A quick overview: the macchiato is a predominantly espresso based drink, with just a little milk to add texture without overwhelming the subtle flavor notes of the coffee. This differentiates it from the milk-dominant latte and the foam-dominant cappuccino. This won’t stop you from seeing unique takes on the drink, however, as each cafe will still have different techniques (and misnomers) to its name. For those that are counting calories, this is also considered a superior drink to add to your diet. A win-win.

decaf coffee beans

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion

Decaf coffee is pretty great. No, really!

It’s a healthy alternative for people with hypertension, high blood pressure or anxiety disorders. It’s useful when you want a cup at night, but need to get to bed at a certain time. For me, it’s the only option: too much caffeine makes me nauseous, gives me a headache and, in one particularly egregious case, gave me a bad panic attack. Fun times. Even caffeine junkies will turn to decaf to wean themselves off their daily limit (which, according to recent studies, shouldn’t be more than three or four cups per day). You name it, there’s a person who benefits from it.

Unfortunately, all these perks don’t stop decaf from being the buttmonkey of modern coffee culture.

When it’s not being denounced as an inferior brew twisting coffee’s good name, it’s being neglected by most American roasters as a side-option with few choices. ‘Death before decaf’ and all that jazz. There are signs, however, that decaf coffee is starting to take priority. More roasters are offering several decaf options in their line-up, with recent decaffeination techniques such as the Swiss Water method finding the perfect balance between effectiveness and quality. Many ongoing health studies are also spreading the good word on the benefits of a less caffeinated lifestyle.

In other words? It’s time to give decaf the shine it deserves.

Which beans are worth a purchase plus shipping? How do they stack up in today’s competitive industry? That’s what we’ll find out together: this is the first review in an ongoing series called Decaf, Decaf Everywhere, exploring the complex origins and flavor notes of all sorts of delicious whole coffee beans. The great equalizer? These are all decaf, without exception.

Let’s take a look at Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion and whether it’s worth a try:

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coffee equipment and coffee supplies

From Part-Time Barista To Making Coffee At Home: My Homebrewing Coffee Journey

A former barista and longtime coffee lover just now starting a homebrewing coffee journey? It’s more likely than you think.

Let’s take a few steps back. My priorities were already being shuffled around long before the pandemic stepped in and shook us for all our loose change. From moving to a new apartment to figuring out a career shift, my desire to have an omnipresent home cafe in the corner of my kitchen was a lovely dream, but just that. A distant dream of making coffee at home, constantly pushed onto the back burner and growing ever loftier with every new excuse. If I wanted to enjoy a good cup, there was always a great cafe (or three) just a walk away. I live in the heart of Washington: throw a stone.

These days it’s too risky to even go to the low-activity cafes or roasteries, on top of everyone’s wallets being burned out. Now that things are both more stable and entirely unstable for me, my love for coffee has been resuscitated beyond said coffeehouse trips (and endless poring through coffee industry reports). It’s time to save money in the long run and create a homebrewing coffee set-up, at my own pace and with my preferences front and center.

While living with my mother I’d bounced between using her little red Keurig and her French Press (buying specialty beans had also been low-priority). After I moved, my roommate also happened to have a Keurig on standby. One collecting dust, at that. I’d proceed to use it a few times a week with grocery store coffee staples like Peet’s and Signature Select, giving me another coveted taste of the homebrewing experience (as well as a reminder of why I don’t want to rely on unsustainable coffee pods in the future).

One day my roommate was cleaning up the place and asked if I wanted to sell her Keurig, flicking on the lightbulb in my head that I have a prime opportunity to finally, at long last, upgrade.

Don’t let my procrastination turn you away: putting together your own coffee corner is a ton of fun. I’m going to share my homebrewing coffee journey in this ongoing series, from the equipment I’ve bought to the beans I’m grinding. I’ll also share recipes I’m trying out, homebrewing coffee resources and my thoughts on coffee culture. If you have a coffee set-up you’ve been thinking of starting, or just enjoy the thrill of the journey, read on.

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coffee filter and grounds

To Filter Or Not To Filter: Why Pourover Might Be Healthier Than French Press

As a passionate French Press user, this breaks my heart. Almost literally, in this case.

There are more coffee health studies than you can shake a stick at these days. You have studies on whether or not coffee’s antioxidant count is significant enough to matter in the long-term (most fingers point to yes, as long as you’re a regular drinker). Studies on the long-term impact of caffeine on your body (an actual addiction that is not taken seriously). Studies on the additional benefits of using coffee for skincare (still need to try this out myself). Throw a penny, you’ll hit a coffee study.

This piece, however, caught my eye. Newspressnow sources a recent Swedish study on the matter of coffee health: while the French Press uses a filtering method, it’s not considered strong enough to keep your cholesterol count low. Pourovers, by comparison, are considered a safer long-term option due to trapping more of the harmful chemicals. Overall, you get the benefits of a fresh brew and a reduction in heart disease, particularly if you’re a daily coffee drinker. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this, and it likely won’t be the last.

I’ve been considering purchasing a pourover as well as a Moka pot (the espresso machine remains a distant dream). There are just so many different ways to brew coffee and explore each origin’s unique flavor notes. Chalk this study up to yet another reason to diversify my coffee drinking efforts.