Latest Posts

  1. We Are Not Nuts Over Styrofoam Packing Peanuts

    We Are Not Nuts Over Styrofoam Packing Peanuts

    We hope to protect your breakables with environmentally safe packing material sooner than later.

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  2. Larry Cotton's Dog Bowl Roaster

    Larry Cotton's Dog Bowl Roaster

    Sweet Maria's customer, Larry Cotton's awesome heat gun/dog bowl roaster featured in Make: Magazine

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  3. Bullet R1 Roaster Maintenance: Basic Cleaning

    Bullet R1 Roaster Maintenance: Basic Cleaning

    Tips for keeping your Bullet R1 clean. How often depends on how much you roast per week or month! But a clean roaster is a happy roaster...

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  4. Aeropress Plunger Cleaning

    Aeropress Plunger Cleaning

    If your Aeropress plunger is excreting some sticky stuff. Don't worry, it's harmless but you probably still want to know how to clean it off, right?

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  5. The Bullet R1 Meet Up. Video & Highlights

    The Bullet R1 Meet Up. Video & Highlights

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  6. Sweet Maria's Supports Doctors Without Borders

    Sweet Maria's Supports Doctors Without Borders

    Sweet Maria's is supporting Doctors Without Borders throughout September

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  7. Aillio Bullet R1 Support

    Aillio Bullet R1 Support

    Need a little help with your Bullet R1? We are here for you.

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  8. Intro to Home Roasting Class

    Intro to Home Roasting Class

    Sign up for this roasting basics class. It's going to be a lot of fun.

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  9. Our New Postcards

    Our New Postcards

    Placing an order with us soon? Look in your box for a basic guide to some of the new features on our website

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  10. A few roasting articles to get you started

    A few roasting articles to get you started

    Did you catch our Maker Faire demo? There's more roasting info here...enter if you dare.

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  11. Farm Gate Coffee™

    Farm Gate Coffee™

    Farm Gate Coffee is the name we give to our direct trade coffee buying program. Farm Gate pricing means that we have negotiated a price directly with the farmer "at the farm gate," that is, without any of the confusing export and import fees.

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  12. Storing Your Roasted Coffee

    Storing Your Roasted Coffee

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Diatribe Against Big Coffee Business and Mass-Packaging

Coffee roasters are unabashedly opinionated, and we are no exception. Sometimes we may sound bitter, but our coffee is always sweet. Anyway...

Specialty coffee roasting by a neighborhood shop was revived in response to the poor quality, factory-roasted, pre-ground (stale), instant coffees that were swilled in offices by the gallon. Unfortunately, former "mom and pop" roasters expanded into franchised operations with centralized roasting facilities, and venture capitalists mined the specialty coffee market for potential profits, distorting some of the facts to fit their product descriptions. The Millstone and Brothers brand coffees at a nearby supermarket claim to fresh. And you can buy Cappuccino in a little foil packet, or gurgling out of a machine at a truck stop.

Packaging technology has made possible the return of the corporate coffee empire in new clothing. There's a whole hierarchy of the different foil-wrapped gas packing techniques, but I'm not very knowledgeable in this area. Our opinion is that vacuum-packed whole bean coffees are not fresh. Period!

If anything, vacuum packaging allows big businesses who can afford the equipment (it is very expensive) to treat coffee as any other type of inventory. Packaging prevents financial loss by preventing inventory from becoming unsalable, and allows big roasting plants to keep a large supply of roasted stock on hand to cover any surge in demand.

Of course there are chains who have capped their growth to maintain the quality of their product and respect the integrity of their customers. And there are chains that roast coffee in every location. While false varietal claims have caused recent scandals in the market, we think its scandalous that businesses who make high claims to quality aren't more forward about the freshness of their roasts.

Now the caveat: some vacuum packed coffees are very, very good. Illycafe is wonderfully blended and results in an outstanding cup of coffee. Bad roasting, blending and poor storage conditions can ruin even the freshest roast.  I roasted coffee in a shop that did half their roasting in the morning and half at night. The guy who roasted at night couldn't judge the degree of roast accurately under the dim incandescent lights, but he didn't care much about roasting. (Incidentally, I was the guy who roasted during the day, and I quit soon after.) And among small shop roasters you may encounter a place that offers 15 flavored coffees, 20 varietals, ten blends and 8 decaf; it really can't all be fresh.

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