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What’s Brewing: Blog & News

Coffee Analysts Welcomes Burundi Coffee Representative

Mr. Denis Karera and Dan Cox

Mr. Denis Karera and Dan Cox

Mr. Denis Karera, the General Manager of ARFIC, The Regulatory authority of Burundi Coffee Sector, along with Nicholas Rehmus and Elias Gilman from Cottage International visited Coffee Analysts today.  Cottage International is a socially responsible company that provides consulting services to clients in developing countries. Working with all stakeholders in the farm-to-cup supply chain provides an exciting perspective to the global coffee industry, especially when specialty coffee quality and consistency is a priority for the producers.

Jaime Fortuno of Café Zumbador visits Coffee Analysts

Coffee Analysts welcomed Mr. Jaime Fortuno Co-Founder of Café Zumbador to our laboratory.  Café Zumbador selects coffee from farms in the high mountain areas of Cordillera Central on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.  This specialty coffee is from old-style varietals including Bourbon and Porto Rico (Typica 401), as well as other modern varietals in the volcanic soil.

Mr. Jaime Fortuno Co-Founder of Café Zumbador

Mr. Jaime Fortuno Co-Founder of Café Zumbador

Thoughts on Safety for Handling Hot Beverages at Coffee Drive-Thrus

I was reading with interest an article by Jon Delano on CBS Pittsburgh’s website about the increase in the number of drive-thru coffee shops in the Pittsburg area. (Read Here)

Ed Arvidson, of Expresso & Coffee Consulting in Oregon, consults nationwide with anyone who wants to open up drive-thru coffee kiosks, and his take on the uptick in drive-thrus is that, as usual, convenience trumps all; we are a nation on the move, in cars, and  “it only makes sense that people rushing to work would like to grab their cup of joe or latte or cappuccino out of a drive-through window and not have to leave their car.” After doing a little research on the most recent information on drive-thrus, only briefly distracted by all the kinds of businesses providing these services – “Famous Drive Thru Wedding Super Sized! Las Vegas, Starting From $349.00!” (who knew?) I came away armed with all kinds of information about drive-thru performance studies. Interesting information was presented about what is considered the gold standard in time spent in line for optimum customer service satisfaction. This year has seen an increase in the amount of time spent in line – hovering over 200 seconds per customer at several fast-food restaurants – and finds the recent slowdown in service time is a result of menu bloat. (more…)

Coffee Analysts Prediction: Higher Coffee Prices Not Likely to Last

  Capture Dan Cox of Coffee Analysts was recently asked by Nicole Krug of The Washington Times to comment on the current price hikes that have been implemented by Smuckers, Folgers, Kraft, and most recently, Starbucks. These coffee brands and other specialty roasters have pushed up prices for bagged coffee and some drinks as the replacement costs of their Arabica bean supply have increased relevant to current inventory values.  READ HERE

The coffee market was below 120 usc/lb for much of the second half of 2013 (when inventory was secured for 2014 and 2015), but from January to March of 2014 the coffee market increased rapidly to over 200.00 usc/lb and has only recently weakened below 200 usc/lb since early May.  So, even though the coffee market is slightly weaker than earlier in the year, the cost to buy fresh coffee for the remainder of 2014 and 2015 is greater than before. J.M. Smucker Co. has increased the cost of its Folgers and Dunkin’ Donuts brands of packaged coffee sold in grocery stores by about 9 percent, while Kraft raised prices on Maxwell House and Yuban coffees by 10 percent. After recently stating they would not be raising prices, Starbucks coffee customers have started paying 5 to 20 cents more for a cup of coffee in-store and will see a $1 price boost on packaged coffees sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets July 21st. The recent price jump is the result of several factors, including lack of rain in Brazil, too much rain in Central America, rising fuel costs and the beginning of the slower drinking season, said Mr. Cox.  After looking at the coffee market over the last 5 years, we see a lot of similarities to the 2011 coffee pricing spike, described below:

  • 2011: Increased demand in emerging economies. China + India’s emerging markets were used as examples. At that point, by year 2015 Brazil was expected to be keeping more than half of its own formidable annual coffee crop for internal consumption. 2014: This year, Russia is also a major player in the emerging economies demand, and Brazil’s expected interior consumption impact on availability has been pushed off until 2020.
  • 2011: Sustained high demand in traditional major coffee markets (e.g., U.S., Europe.) 2014: This factor also applies to our situation this year.
  • 2011: Supply disruptions due to inclement weather. 2014: This also holds true, with the added problem of coffee tree rust (roya) that has caused a production decline in Central America and Mexico for the past two years. An aggressive tree renovation program has improved some of the production area this year.
  •  2011: Avoidance of increased production investment due to fear of boom-bust cycle and the three to five years required for coffee plants to mature. The Brazilian government in particular had stated this general theory in regard to their country’s coffee market and had refused to incentivize increased production. The country had also withheld coffee stocks from sale in anticipation of high future prices, and this act in and of itself helped to drive prices upward. 2014: As of late 2013, the Brazilian government still had not offered help to growers months after the government recognized a need for it.
  • 2011: Speculative trading in coffee futures markets with large infusions of money from hedge funds, driving up commodity prices based in macro-economic supply side concerns across the board. 2014: The change here is that the players that are investing in smaller businesses are not really impacting supply side concerns, although hedge funds and private equity firms are still interested in coffee. Within the last year, San Francisco Bay Area coffee chain Philz Coffee recently raised eight figures (reportedly between $15 million and $25 million) from growth equity firm Summit Partners. Blue Bottle Coffee has garnered $20 million in a round led by True Ventures with participation from Index Ventures and Google Ventures. In late January, Blue Bottle won another $25.75 million in a round led by Morgan Stanley Investment Management.  And technology celebrity Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square fame made an angel investment in up-and-coming Sightglass Coffee, a local California Bay Area business.

Historically, coffee has been at the mercy of external forces affecting the global commodity prices, and this occurrence will continue into the future. Because of the ever-changing nature of agricultural crops, we see coffee commodity prices remaining volatile do to unforeseen weather, financial and political issues, as well as variations in crop quantity and quality.  Global demand continues to increase for both total quantity and per capita consumption, including the increased demand for specialty quality coffee served in café’s and coffeehouses around the world.  Coffee growers face many challenges in delivering coffee into the farm-to-cup supply chain and continue to persevere to provide coffee for consumption while providing income for their families. So just hang onto your coffee cups and hope for the market to smooth out!      

Dan Cox speaks to the Voice of Russia US about boycotting Starbucks


Fair Trade Coffee

Boycotting Starbucks:will fair trade debate bring down coffee giant?

WASHINGTON (VR) – There’s growing calls for Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, to switch over to fair trade coffee. “The fair trade movement, which has gotten a lot of traction, wants consumers to pay a minimum price of buying coffee from small, collective farmers- not privately held farmers- and in return, the farmers will be guaranteed a minimum price, which should help them in lean times,” says Dan Cox, President of Coffee Enterprises.


Water Quality for Coffee Beverages

Water Quality for Coffee Beverages


Recently a study was published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (see here) regarding water quality for brewing the perfect cup of coffee.  The study and subsequent media articles are based on research conducted in the UK by Christopher Hendon, a PhD student from the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, owner of Colonna and Small’s coffee shop in Bath, UK, who is also the current UK Barista Champion.  Mr. Colonna- Dashwood is a finalist in the World Barista Championship competition being held in Rimini, Italy.

The research used computational chemistry to determine the relationship between water quality and specific parameters of roasted coffee to produce the highest quality beverage and to manage variations in coffee taste.

Spencer Turer, Coffee Analysts’ Vice President, was interviewed by Outside Online (see here)  to help explain this research and the relevancy for specialty coffee retailers.  Since the articles posted on this important topic have been brief, below is more information which coffee professionals may find useful.

Coffee beverages are made up of about 98%-99% water. The remaining 1%-2% are brew solids that are extracted from the ground coffee.  At these rates, it is very important to use high quality water along with fresh, high quality coffee to produce coffee beverages.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America has established the following water quality guidelines:

Characteristic Target Acceptable Range
Odor Clean / Fresh, Odor free
Color Clean color
Total Chlorine 0 mg/L
Total Dissolved Solids 150 mg/L 75 – 250 mg / L
Calcium Hardness 4 grains or 68 mg / L 1-5 grains or 17mg/L – 85 mg/L
Total Alkalinity 40 mg/L At or near 40 mg/L
pH 7.0 6.5 -7.5
Sodium 10 mg/L At or near 10 mg/L

SCAA Standard | Water for Brewing Specialty Coffee (SCAA Water Standards)

The research conducted by Mr. Hendon and Mr. Colonna-Dashwood is accurate stating that different ions in the water will effect extraction differently.  SCAA water quality standards do not specifically address individual dissolved solids, only the total dissolved solids.  The research determined that different proportions of various dissolved solids affect the extraction and will affect that flavor of the coffee beverage. Mr. Hendon explains, “Hard water is generally considered to be bad for coffee, but we found it was the type of hardness that mattered – while high bicarbonate levels are bad, high magnesium levels increase the extraction of coffee into water and improve the taste.”  The study also determined that water softeners commonly increase the sodium content in water which does not help the flavor of coffee.

In addition to water quality, there are many aspects of the roasted and ground coffee product that are under the control of the coffee roasters and baristas that will also affect the rate of extraction and the flavor of the coffee beverage.  The coffee variables are:

Variable Effect
Bean origin Not all beans have the same chemical composition.
Bean roast The chemical composition of the coffee bean changes throughout the roasting process.
Size of coffee grindings A consistent particle size is important, as the higher the surface area, the faster the extraction.
Dry mass of coffee grindings A different extraction composition.
Temperature of extraction The temperature dictates both the rate and composition of the extraction.
Pressure of extraction Has a similar effect as temperature.
Time of extraction Increasing extraction time allows for greater extraction.
The water The variable is less obvious, but it is clear that the chemical composition of water (i.e. dissolved ions) play a very important role.

Schrödinger’s water for perfect cup of Coffee, Chemistry World Blog 6/11/2014 (credits)

In a café or foodservice environment it is highly recommended to utilize a water treatment system to manage the water quality used for coffee brewing.  Municipal water may vary in quality and should not be uncontrolled when preparing coffee beverages. It is not feasible for every specialty coffee café or foodservice location to thoroughly test their water quality as one would in a food science laboratory using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry equipment, especially considering the variability of water quality.

Mr. Colonna-Dashwood is using his expertise as a professional coffee roaster and champion barista to specifically design a coffee to be used in the World Barista Championship competition.  He started by evaluating the local water to be used for the competition.

It is unknown if the level of detail used by Mr. Colonna-Dashwood in his preparations for the World Barista Championship, and the level of chemical details researched by Mr. Christopher Hendon will be detectable by a consumer of coffee beverages.  As of the writing of this article it is evident that the expert sensory judges have appreciated the flavor or Mr. Colonna-Dashwood’s espresso, cappuccino and signature drinks, thus earning him a place in the finals amongst the top 6 Baristas in the world for 2014.

After a café or foodservice location is able to control the water quality, the next step as illustrated above is to design a specific roasted coffee product to maximize the extraction and produce a high quality, great tasting beverage.  However, since café’s generally serve more than one coffee product, and very often utilize a variety of brewing techniques, including automatic drip, manual pour, aeropress, siphon, French press, and espresso it is unknown if the pairing of a specific coffee to the individual ions found in the water will produce the same high quality beverages in all equipment.  It is also unknown if the financial investment and time required for research and development of these specific coffee products as well as management of individual ions in the water will be recognizable and appreciated by the consumer, especially after steamed milk is incorporated into the beverage or after sweeteners are added to modify the flavor to the consumers own preference.

Mr. Colonna-Dashwood is asking all the right questions and helping to conduct relevant and important chemical research into water quality that will ultimately help all baristas prepare higher quality coffee beverages, and I applaud his efforts.

Support the Grounds for Health Online Auction


Grounds for Health             Online Auction

We are supporting Grounds for Health’s online auction by offering Complete Physical and Sensory Evaluation of Two Coffee Products (Green Coffee / Roasted Coffee)

Please put your bids in here to support the important work that improves lives for all families in our coffee growing communities.


 Value: $375.00

Description from Coffee Analysts:

Coffee Analysts is a private, independent, SCAA certified coffee laboratory that specializes in quality assurance, product development, and specification creation of coffee and coffee-related products.

Coffee Analysts does not sell coffee; we conduct unbiased scientific analysis of coffee and coffee-related products and work with producers, traders, roasters, foodservice and restaurant operators and private-label brands. Our experience enables us to provide insights that assist our clients in making informed decisions in managing their coffee quality by addressing practical issues from a scientific perspective.

Green Coffee Analysis – (550 gram sample)

  • Visual Color Inspection
  • Moisture Content
  • Water Activity
  • Defect Count / Grading (SCAA & ICE)
  • Screen Size
  • Density
  • Sample Roasting (SCAA Protocol)
  • Cupping by Sensory Panel
  • Complete Analytical Report


Roasted Coffee Analysis – (5 packages)

  • Net Weight, Oxygen and CO2
  • Moisture Content & Water Activity
  • Degree of Roast (Agtron)
  • Grind Analysis (Ro-Tap)
  • Bean Breakage & Roasted Defect Count
  • Brewing to Clients’ Recipe
  • Brewed Solids and Extraction Rate %
  • pH, Brix and Refractive Index
  • Tasting by Sensory Panel
  • Complete Analytical Report

Contact Person:

Spencer Turer
Director of Coffee Operations
Licensed Q Grader

(800) 375-3398