Cupping Coffee with Intelligentsia

Intelligencia Coffee
There is no scent warmer and more inviting than that of coffee beans roasting. The moment we stepped through Intelligentsia’s front door, all traffic woes were forgotten in favor of a good mood. We knew the afternoon would only get better. We walked past huge bags of newly roasted coffee beans and paused a moment before an enormous roasting machine with its large paddles for stirring the beans as they roast.

Large roaster machineHave you ever experienced cupping coffee? During our visit to Intelligentsia Coffee’s San Francisco facility, we learned how to perform this delightful ritual used by coffee roasters to determine the quality of their newly roasted coffee beans. There are elements each bean is rated upon with regards to types of aromas and initial flavor profiles. We discovered that each roaster has their own proprietary checklist they work from.

Cupping coffee — a tasting system that involves a significant amount of protocol — isn’t quick and there’s a specific way to sip the coffee from the spoon. Loud slurp noises are acceptable! However, it is worth the time because fine beverages meant to be savored — including coffee.

For cupping, the first thing you do is lean over the cup to take in the aromas. You can use your hand to wave the scents toward your face. Aromas range from floral to leguminous; the goal is to identify additional scents, such as botanicals, floral, or citrus.

Next you sip the coffee and determine the following factors:

  • Taste – There are sixteen types of taste descriptors, ranging from acrid to delicate; then from soft to creosol. Elements like saltiness and bitterness levels are notated on a checklist.
  • Sweetness – How prevalent or how missing sweet notes are present in the brew. The type of sweetness can vary as well; honey-like or sugary or syrupy if overdone.
  • Acidity – Varying types of acidity can enhance a coffee’s flavor or add to bitterness. Acidity ranges from lactic to acerbic with the harshest being kerosene like.
  • Complexity – Complexity involves the balance of the flavors present in a cup and whether elements in the flavor profile complement one another or compete, creating odd or negative tastes.
  • Aftertaste – This is typically used to describe negative tastes at the end of a beverage. While it is often a sign of something wrong with the bean or during the roasting, it can be a pleasant association as well.

A Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel put out by the Specialty Coffee Association shows all the common elements to look for.

Our host, Mark Cunningham explained how any coffee is at its finest during the cupping and that it will never be better than at that moment. He told us that a good coffee will still taste good after it’s gone cold, but lesser quality coffees get bitter and harsh.

Our cupping completed, we came back to our coffee after touring the roasting floor to discover the truth in his statement. The cups of varying roasts tasted just as amazing as when we first sipped from the spoon. The big chain coffees’ burnt-tasting dark roasts are no longer palpable. Strong doesn’t need to be bitter or charred; in fact, it is much better when it isn’t.

Cupping RitualIntelligentsia also offers a variety of artisan teas called tisanes. We sampled two of them at the cupping. Both were wonderful blends of tea, spices, and botanicals such as cardamom, rose hips, and turmeric. They are expanding in the tea area by continuing to produce new blends.

Just how does Intelligentsia obtain their high quality coffees? By working with small, family owned coffee bean farmers around the world. Their buyers are very hands-on in their search for the best beans to purchase, taking the time necessary to visit the farms and sample the raw product. With the climate and soil compositions determining the flavors of the coffee after roasting, this is an important step. It makes sense when you realize that beans mature at different times of the year, depending upon where in the world the plants are growing. One thing Intelligentsia insists on are beans properly matured on the plant before harvesting. We liken that to the taste difference between garden grown tomatoes and those picked early and expected to ripen on the way to the grocery store. Most fruits and vegetables stop ripening once harvested so their flavors aren’t robust as those garden grown. Coffee beans wouldn’t be any different.

Just recently opened to the public (previously their clients were bars and restaurants), Intelligentsia has red coffee trucks which make appearances around town in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Follow them on Twitter to find out where you can catch them. They also recently opened a monthly coffee subscription service. Additionally, Intelligentsia offers classes on brewing for barista training.

In closing, we learned that Two Sisters Bar and Books in San Francisco created a couple of cocktails featuring Intelligentsia coffee. They were kind enough to share those recipes with us. We made them with the Intelligentsia coffees and found them both to be amazing cocktails. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

The Bluegrass BuzzThe Bluegrass Buzz
created by Mikha Diaz for Two Sisters Bar and Books
3 oz. Intelligensia Cold Brew from cold brew concentrate (diluted at a 6:1 ratio)
1 1/2 oz. Old Forester 86 bourbon
1/2 oz. brown sugar simple syrup (equal parts brown sugar, gently packed, and boiling water; stir to combine)
lightly whipped heavy cream

Combine cold brew, bourbon and brown sugar simple syrup in a small tin or pint glass. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a small rocks glass. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of lightly whipped cream.

The Sharp Shooter
created by Kathryn Kulczyk for Two Sisters Bar and Books
1 1/2 oz. Cold Brew Cognac (4 oz. El Diablo blend, ground for cone drip filter, infused into 750 ml. Maison Rouge 100 proof cognac)
3/4 oz. Ancho Reyes liqueur
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica vermouth
3 hard dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

Combine cognac, liqueur, and vermouth in a small tin or pint glass. Fill with ice and shake. Strain into a small rocks glass. Top with three whole coffee beans.

intelligentsiacoffee.com

Review and Recipes: Sunup Green Coffee

Sunup Green Coffee

What’s green coffee? It’s coffee made using green, unroasted coffee beans in the brewing process. Sunup, which makes this beverage, says green coffee is good for your stomach, rich in antioxidants, gluten free, and organic. Sunup (generally consumed cold) comes lightly sweetened with sugar, though it still boasts to be only 80 calories. The natural caffeine present is about the same as drinking a normal iced coffee.

If you expect it to taste like a regular cup of coffee, you’ll be surprised. The coffee comes through only as a slight aftertaste; up front, it is more reminiscent of a tea. Chilled, it makes a great beverage to take on an afternoon in the park or to drink with lunch.

B+ / $23 per six pack of 9.5 oz. bottles / sunupgreencoffee.com

We couldn’t resist making a few cocktails with it. Give these a try!

Sunup Long Island Iced Coffee
1 Tbsp. dark rum
1 Tbsp. vodka
1 Tbsp. gin
1 Tbsp. gold tequila
1 Tbsp. Tia Maria
2 Tbsp. ginger beer
1 Tbsp. simple syrup
1-2 Tbsp. lime juice
cold Sunup green coffee
lime wedges to serve

Fill a shaker with ice and all the spirits plus the lime juice. Shake briefly. Strain over a tall glass with ice. Add the ginger beer and top off with the Sunup.Sunup RumChata Cocktail

Sunup Rumchata
3 oz. room temperature Sunup green coffee
1 oz. RumChata
1 oz. white rum

Combine RumChata and Sunup in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a tall glass with ice. If you prefer, substitute Frangelico and 1 Tbsp. simple syrup instead of the RumChata.

6 Recipes for National Irish Coffee Day 2017

Tillamore Dew Irish Coffee

Why doesn’t National Irish Coffee Day (January 25) coincide with Saint Patrick’s Day? That’s because Irish coffee originated in San Francisco, not Ireland.

Want to try your hand at this classic cocktail? You can go with the traditional recipe or try out some yummy variations we’ve dug up for you, such as the Chocolate Irish Coffee which tastes like a mocha dream. Of course we tried them all out first! Consider all of these Drinkhacker approved!

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Coffee
1 ½ parts Tullamore D.E.W. original Irish whiskey
1 ½ parts strong brewed coffee
½ parts white sugar
lightly whipped heavy cream
ground cinnamon or nutmeg

Pre-heat a clear-stemmed glass with very hot water. Add the sugar and brewed coffee and stir well. Once the sugar has melted, stir in the Irish whiskey. Gently whip the heavy cream by shaking it in a protein shaker with a blender ball—you want a still somewhat loose, not stiff, consistency. Pour the cream over the back of a hot teaspoon to top the drink (and prevent the cream from penetrating the top of the drink). Finally, garnish with grated nutmeg or cinnamon for a spicy finish.

Traditional Irish Coffee
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp Irish Cream liqueur
1/2 cup Irish whiskey
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 cups strong hot coffee

With an electric mixer, whip cream and Irish cream together until stiff. Set aside.

Into each of four large coffee mugs, add 2 tablespoons whiskey, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 cup coffee. Top with a very generous layer of the Irish cream whipped cream. (Almost a third of the cup should be taken up by the whipped cream.)

To Make Irish Cream Whipped Cream
In a mixer bowl, add heavy cream, a splash of Irish cream, Whip until light and fluffy. In a mug, add strong coffee, 2-3 tablespoons whiskey, and a tablespoon of brown sugar.

Mint Irish Coffee
(from the Dutch Kills bar)
2 tbsp Demerara or turbinado sugar
3 oz. Irish whiskey
4 oz. freshly made espresso
4 oz. water
3 oz. heavy cream
2 fresh mint leaves for garnish

Place 4 teaspoons of the sugar, the whiskey, espresso, and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Set over low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot but not boiling, about 5 minutes.

Place the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and the cream in a medium bowl and whisk until the cream thickens and the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Transfer the hot coffee mixture to two 8-ounce heatproof glasses or mugs, top with a heaping spoonful of the whipped cream, and garnish with the mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Irish Coffee
2 oz. heavy creamChocolate Irish Coffee
1 1/2 oz. chocolate syrup, divided
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey
6 oz. hot coffee

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Whisk in 1/2 ounce chocolate syrup until completely combined. Set aside. In an Irish coffee glass, combine remaining chocolate syrup, sugar, whiskey, and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a 3/4″ collar of chocolate whipped cream.

Maple Irish Coffee
2 oz. heavy cream
1 oz. maple syrup, divided
1 1/2 oz. Irish whisky
6 oz. hot coffee

In a medium bowl, whisk cream vigorously until it begins to thicken. Cream should be thick, but still pourable. Whisk in 1/4 ounce of the maple syrup. Set aside.

In a coffee glass, combine remaining maple syrup, whiskey and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Top with a ¾ inch collar of thickened whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Irish Coffee with Grand Marnier
4 oz. coffee
2 oz. Irish whiskey
1 oz. Grand Marnier
1 Demerara sugar cube

Mix all ingredients. Top with unsweetened whipped cream.
Note: Substitute hazelnut liqueur or amaretto for another variation.

Recipe: Lavazza Coffeetail No. 51

Lavazza Coffetail No 51

Lavazza is an Italian coffee, and its producer came up with this concoction — which makes an unlikely pairing of cold brew coffee concentrate and ginger ale. Let’s give it a spin!

Lavazza Coffeetail No. 51
3 parts ginger ale
2 parts cold brew coffee concentrate
2/3 part vodka
Lavazza Coffeetail No 51 ingredientssplash of Grand Marnier
splash of simple syrup
sliced lemon or orange and cucumber
Maraschino cherries
fresh mint if desired

Fill a 12 oz. glass with ice. In a shaker, combine cold brew, Grand Marnier, vodka and syrup; pour over the ice. Top with ginger ale. Decorate with wheel or slices of orange and/or a lemon. Skewer cherries and cucumber wedge. Garnish with mint.

This cocktail is light and refreshing with an immediate coolness from the ginger ale fizziness and cucumber. It tastes similar to a sweetened iced tea, though the coffee notes from the espresso we used came through in the middle. While perfect for an evening of glitz and glamour (it was designed for the recent Golden Globes), it would make an equally lovely cocktail for a summertime outdoor barbecue.

Recipe: Two Cocktails with Patron XO Café Liqueur

Patron Tequila is a favorite of many drinkers, so we whipped up a pair of their recommended cocktails featuring two tequilas from the Patron XO Café collection:  Patron XO Café Coffee and Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa. Both are luscious and would fit in as an after dinner drink or served with dessert.

The first is called Baby Stout. It is a very simple drink but packs in the flavor. The coffee flavors are sweet and strong like dark coffee, tasting like a creamy Irish cream espresso. Take a sip, roll it across your tongue to warm up the mouth and you’ll be ready for more.

Baby Stout
1 oz. Patron XO Café Coffee Tequila
.5 oz. Irish cream liqueur

Pour the Patron XO Café Coffee into a shot glass and chill. (You can also chill the Patron on its own first.) Top off with Irish cream so that it resembles a miniature glass of stout beer and serve.

The second recipe is Jalisco Coffee Swizzle. It calls for the Patron XO Café Coffee. Instead, we used Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa. Wonderfully sweet, the coffee tones blend through to the finish as the underlying chocolate joins in the pleasure. This one is recommended for the mocha lovers of the world.

Jalisco Coffee Swizzle
1.75 oz. Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa Tequila
1 oz. spiced sugar syrup  (We made our own with equal parts of sugar and water, then added cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg before boiling to dissolve the sugar. Be sure to let it cool before using.)

Add both ingredients to an old fashioned glass, add crushed ice, and stir with a cinnamon stick. You can also garnish it with orange peel before serving.

Recipe: Two Tequila Cocktails for National Hot Toddy Day


The typical Hot Toddy is made with whiskey. In honor of National Hot Toddy Day, here’s a spin on the formula. The following two recipes have a nice tequila twist to them and are brought to us from 1800 Tequila.

The first is Miner’s Cough, which will delight coffee lovers around the world. The tequila enhances the bitters just enough to bring out an underlying chocolate note. Boldly sweet, the dark roast coffee intensifies towards the end of the sip. The lager whipped cream is not as sweet, which makes it an airy compliment to the entire cocktail.

Miner’s Cough
2 oz. 1800 Añejo Tequila
1 oz. dark roast coffee
3 dashes chocolate bitters
1/2 oz. agave nectar
top with lager whipped cream

Combine all ingredients into shaker. Shake for 10 seconds and strain into a rocks glass. Top with Lager Whipped Cream and garnish with shaved chocolate.

To make the lager whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp lager beer (We used Sam Adams Boston Lager)

Add the cream and powdered sugar to a stand mixer. Beat on high until soft peaks form. While mixer is running, add the lager and vanilla, beat until soft peaks return. (A stout beer may also be substituted if preferred.)

For a more traditional Hot Toddy, except for the alcohol base, try a Jalisco’s Toddy. It is lightly sweetened by the honey which is punctuated by the ginger and lemon. The chamomile and cinnamon mix with the cider and tequila for a belly-warming drink. Be warned though—drink this while it’s hot. Once tepid, it’s taste resembles a cough drop. Then again, if you have a cold, that might be just what you need.

Jalisco’s Toddy
2 oz. 1800 Añejo Tequila
2 oz. chamomile tea
3/4 oz. apple cider
1/2 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water, simmered for five minutes)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
2 slices ginger root (ground ginger can also be used but it will not be as prevalent in the overall drink taste)
pinch of ground cinnamon

In a pot, combine the apple cider, ginger root, lemon juice, and cinnamon.  Allow to heat up to a rolling boil. Next brew the tea. Add more than one tea bag, so flavor is heightened. In a glass, add the tequila and honey syrup. Stir and combine heated tea, cider, and tequila mixture. Garnish with lemon peel and a cinnamon stick.