Forums Expat Q&A Coffee and the Gringo

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    • #11079
      Mark Shaheen

      Your miles will vary. This is just my thoughts.
      Hi all,
      I wanted to address the coffee needs and best practices I found to work for me here at 8,000 foot altitude in Cuenca, Ecuador.

      I love my coffee and moved from Minnesota at around 1,000 foot altitude. A friend of mine was very nice enough to explain the issues I was going to have here moving up so high. A major part of the issue is water boiling;
      Feet Meters oF oC
      1,000 305 210.1 98.9
      8,000 2438 196.9 91.6
      9,000 2743 195.0 90.6

      For our beloved coffee bean, this is a major difference. Coffee makers for the most part are cheap and will not correctly boil and serve the water on the bean. We lose a lot of taste and/or crema. Ecuadorians seem to drink a lot of cheap instant coffee. Tastes horrible compared to what we are used to. If you go to Starbucks or Espresso shops in the USA, Europe, Canada etc, you will quickly learn what I mean.
      Water can go from boiling and being consistent to literally vaporizing and destroying the bean if you use your normal $30 maker you bought in the states or here.

      Point one, I use whole bean rather than ground. Typically once you grind you have around 45 seconds to get it in the pot and making coffee with it. That will maximize the taste and give the most benefit. Pre-ground and the bean has been processed. Still get ok taste but you lose a lot.

      1. Storage
      Coffee Storage Canister – Airtight Container Preserves Food Freshness – AirScape Steel – 64 fl. oz – Mocha

      Do a quick search on Amazon and they are around $24. This canister will seal the bean and protect it. I freeze all my bags and keep one In this canister at all times. It will safely hold a little more than one bag at a time. Freeze all your bags of coffee, only open one to put it in this container. I also keep the canister in my freezer.
      2. Grinding
      Cheap grinders will not always give you a consistent grind quality. You want it to always be the same to extract your flavor. The goal is to find that setting that always delivers a fresh full body taste. There are a lot of grinders out there. I found this one to be consistent and work plus not break the bank. They run $95-110. I use the Steel model, a little quieter than the one with the plastic body. When I make a pot, I use 55 grams of beans.
      Capresso 565.04 Infinity Burr Grinder, Brushed Chrome

      For regular coffee I use the FINE setting right 3rd on the right. Seems to work just fine. In Minnesota I was much closer to Extra Fine to get the same basic taste.

      3. Coffee makers
      Makers do matter, cheap and they vaporize the water, deliver less water to the bean. Deliver the water way too fast and ruin the taste.
      I found this coffee maker made in Europe to do an excellent job. When I reached out to them, I was told they have makers all over the world with no issues or complaints. From the alps to the desert.
      Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Coffee Brewer with Thermal Carafe, Polished Silver
      $300-$330 on Amazon.

      This one will deliver the water in measured amounts to the bean and not burn it. The carafe keeps it hot for hours. When you make your coffee, preheat the carafe as hot as you can. When the coffee goes in it, it will not “stress” the bean extract. This model does not have a filter, use filtered water for the best taste.

      4. Espresso machines
      Want to extract the most flavor, these machines will do it. You are pushing anywhere from $800-$5,000 for a machine. I use Jura only because it was a machine a local company carried. I have had 3. The model I use has 2 Thermoblock heating systems instead of one. The first 2 machines I had, only had one heating system in them. The difference is a lot. 2 heaters give consistent milk froth and espresso taste. One heat system works great for that first shot. After that it seems to strain to deliver the same quality. Plus if you want milk frothing…. Plan to wait to switch between the milk and coffee.
      The factory serviced machines come at a nice discount. I got a machine for a 72% discount. Still had a 1-year warranty. There is also a local Cuenca company that will sell supplies and service the machine if an issue happens.
      If you plan on spending the money, can afford it, make sure it has 2 thermoblock heaters. Also get the automatic. Easy and a heck of a lot faster.

      Milk, Jura also makes a milk chiller. Hook this up to your Espresso machine and always get the best froth for your cappuccino. They make a 20oz and 34 ounce model. I thought this was a joke to buy but gave it a shot. After using it for a few months, easy to use and keeps the milk chilled to use. Done with coffee for the day, pull the steel container out and put it in the refrigerator. I find the milk stays good for at least 3 days, after that I clean the system and re-fill it.

      5. Coffee beans
      10 local types are available and I’m sure a lot more. These are from the distributor I use. My wife and I love the Loja brand. It has a smooth taste and a hint of chocolate. I did ask for 1 bag of each to do a taste test with a few friends. Looking forward to that.
      Pot of coffee
      Rate and document the results.

      IMBABURA BLEND $5,12
      AMAZONAS BLEND $5,05
      ZARUMA BLEND $4,99
      ORGANICO BLEND $4,85
      MANABI BLEND $4,79
      LOJA BLEND $4,65
      ECUADOR BLEND $4,60
      The local stores do carry a lot of this but it can be months old and cost $1-2 more a bag.
      Lot more to add but a good start.

    • #11081
      sandy pascale

      Thank you for your input. I have used Costco 100% Columbian and ground a few days needs at a time. Can I get it locally or should I bring some with me? I will be bringing an induction plate to boil water and a french press. Will this give me my robust mug of morning java?
      Thanks again,

    • #11085
      Mark Shaheen

      Ecuadorian beans are very good. There really is no reason to bring any with. I grind as I make my coffee, that keeps it fresh and improves the quality of the brew.

      I have heard an induction plate will allow you to control the temperature but I have not tried a press here. My friend has and said it didn’t make a quality cup for him.

      He uses a Chemex, pre heats the water and pours it directly on the ground coffee. I would say this is a pretty good system, but the taste did vary a lot more than what I get with my grinder and Moccamaster.
      I also use a gold filter.
      Frieling/Cilio #4 Cone Coffee Filter, 24 Karat Gold Plated
      No clue why the prices is so high right now. I think I paid $50-80 for mine.

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