Latest Posts

  1. Oct. 27th. Two Bay Area Coffee Demos in One Day.

    Oct. 27th. Two Bay Area Coffee Demos in One Day.

    Join us in Oakland or Berkeley on 10/27.

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  2. Another kind of coffee filter

    Another kind of coffee filter

    We are talking about our website filter that will help you select the best green coffee.

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  3. Our 5 Year Partnership with Girls Gotta Run

    Our 5 Year Partnership with Girls Gotta Run

    5 Years of Change with GGR

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  4. Video: Our Probat B3 Sample Roaster

    Video: Our Probat B3 Sample Roaster

    Cleaning Our Sample Roaster

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  5. Video: Coffee Leaf Tea - ቁጢ , Kuti, Keti, Koti

    Video: Coffee Leaf Tea - ቁጢ , Kuti, Keti, Koti

    Brewing coffee leaf tea

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  6. The Flores Factor

    The Flores Factor

    Crowd pleasing coffee from a promising origin.

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  7. New Products from Flair, Fresh Roast, Bonmac and Airscape

    New Products from Flair, Fresh Roast, Bonmac and Airscape

    If coffee products were movies, these would be great sequels

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  8. Video: Guatemala 2019 Coffee Clips

    Video: Guatemala 2019 Coffee Clips

    A few fairly low tech clips and some thoughts on coffee processing and coffee buying in Guatemala.

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  9. Aillio Bullet Roasters. Sold Out...Again. Why!?!?!

    Aillio Bullet Roasters. Sold Out...Again. Why!?!?!

    Sometimes you don't want to dodge a Bullet

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  10. A Symbol Of Sweet Maria's Past

    A Symbol Of Sweet Maria's Past

    The original sign from our original storefront.

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  11. Sweet Maria's Emailer 12/13/2018

    Sweet Maria's Emailer 12/13/2018

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  12. All About The Clever Coffee Dripper

    All About The Clever Coffee Dripper

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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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