Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Peet's Coffee Cupping

Coffee is one thing I'm pretty snobby about. I find I enact the same philosophy with coffee as I do with bed linens, I'm going to use them every night, so they better be good. Most of the time, I could care less if I'm drinking a $4 or $40 bottle of wine, but I almost always care about what kind of coffee I'm drinking. That's why I was very excited to participate in a coffee cupping with Peet's coffee last week.
Peet's Coffee Cupping 005
Peet's coffee is based on the West coast, and has had a healthy mail order business to supply their excellent coffee to those of us who live too far away to visit one of their retail stores. However, my invite to this particular cupping coincided with the release of Peet's Coffee into ACME supermarkets in the Philadelphia region. I met with a coffee educator named Erica Hess, who taught me how to correctly French press coffee and answered all the questions I could muster about coffee growing, roasting, storage, and brewing technique. Above are samples of the brews I had the pleasure to sample (Colombian, Major Dickason's Blend, Panama Esmeralda (unroasted) and Panama Esmeralda (Roasted). Most importantly, Peet's coffee is obsessed with freshness. Every package that you'll find in a local Genuardi's or ACME is guaranteed to have been shipped to the store within 24 hours of being roasted and to remain there for only 90 days.
Peet's Coffee Cupping 007
When using a French Press to brew coffee, it's important not to grind the roasted beans too finely. If you over-grind, the grounds will pass through the filter and you'll have gritty coffee.
Peet's Coffee Cupping 006
Some things I was surprised to learn:
1. Use 2 heaping tablespoons of ground coffee per 6oz of hot water. For a 32oz French Press such as the one pictured, you should use approximately 10 tablespoons of medium ground coffee.
2. After the your water has come to a boil, let it sit a minute before pouring the hot water over the coffee grounds. Boiling water can actually scorch coffee, so by letting it sit for 30 seconds to a minute off heat will bring the temperature of the water down by just enough to prevent burning.
3. Start timing 3 minutes from when you initially pour the water over the coffee grounds. Less time will give you weak coffee, more time may over-extract from the beans.
4. Pour half the water in the French Press and let the coffee "bloom" as you swirl carefully with your hands or with a spoon. Erica Hess explained that coffee is very gassy and letting it expanded or "bloom" before pouring the full amount of water gives it room to let excess gases to escape.
5. After you've poured in all the hot water, press steadily and evenly, but only half way down with the plunger. Wait for the three minutes to pass, and then press the plunger as far as it will go.

By following these steps you'll be rewarded with a rich and flavorful cup of coffee with just a touch of extra effort.
Peet's Coffee Cupping 012
Prior to this educational experience I could have only told you that I liked certain coffees a great deal and others I was less impressed with. It wasn't until I sat down and tasted numerous coffees side by side could I really piece out distinct flavors and notes. While I'm still no expert, I definitely have a broader understanding of the nuances between beans grown on different continents and roasted to different degrees.
Peet's Coffee Cupping 017
I also had the immense pleasure of meeting Eric Hales, the Four Seasons Executive Pastry Chef, who created some special dessert pairings for the coffees I sampled that afternoon. Starting at the top is a triangular Tiramisu, to the right is an almond cake with pear jelly, in front is a chocolate cake with figs and honey and finally to the left is a croissant bread pudding with white chocolate shavings. All were delicious, but the bread pudding was my favorite and paired very well with the Major Dickason's Blend.

Check out Fork You's video episode of the Peet's coffee tasting.

A local Inquirer writer also covered the cupping. Read about it here.

Look for Peet's coffee in an ACME or Genuardi's near you!


  1. Taylor said...
    Nice tips. I make coffee so infrequently that I can never remember how many tablespoons to put in.
    Anonymous said...
    Of course she'll tell you to use a lot ground coffee. She works for the company and has a vested interest in seeing consumers use it quickly and buy more.

    Peet's is good, but sadly we don't have any locations up here. I'm not sure they extend beyond California. I've never even seen them in extreme southern Oregon.

    E said...
    Tim -

    Prior to this cupping, I was probably using more like 3 Tablespoons per cup, so she's actually advising me to save a little money! My roommate and I love super strong coffee! But with the french press method you wouldn't want to use that much, it would be too thick to drink.
    Megan said...
    Oh there's definitely Peet's in the northwest! We have several honest-to-goodness locations here in Seattle, and the Peet's website lists seven stores in Portland, OR.
    toni said...
    I don't drink coffee as much as I used to, and I miss it so much. For me, good coffee is as important as having a good time drinking it. I'm lucky if I grab some on my way to work once every week or so, and my drinking time consists of sitting at my desk. Ugh. What happened to the days of taking an hour to drink a pot with one, or a few of my great, great friends. And, of course, you can top it all off with the fact that I'm drinking decaf for a while now.
    Thank you for inspiring me to make a bit to enjoy this morning before I start cleaning the house. (and one of these days I'll get a french press now that I can call you with instructions on how to use it)
    love you!
    Anonymous said...
    Yep, five in Portland and several in the Portland suburbs. But, none in the rest of Oregon. None in Eugene, Ashland, Medford, Bend, Corvallis, Salem, etc. Sad.

    Anonymous said...
    Peet's doesn't sell coffee from (the District of) Columbia! They do, however, sell coffee from the country called Colombia. The country's name does not have a letter 'u' in it! Colombia, not Columbia!
    E said...
    Anonymous -

    Thanks for the spelling check. Correction made.

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