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The Captain’s Coffee News
Volume 6, Number 1
Welcome to the “Reborn” Captain’s Coffee News
You know the ordeal we’ve just gone through when our former web host involuntarily “migrated” us to a new platform that they knew for a fact did not work properly. We tried to work with them to get it fixed, but they were unable, or unwilling, to make the changes that we had to have. So, with the help of Greensboro web designer Joseph Cotten from Trend Setting Design, we rebuilt our website from scratch. We are still working on it and adding articles and features as we can, and in the long run it will be a much better, more flexible, more user-friendly site. Thanks to all of you who gave us feed back on it. Those notes and comments have really helped us to focus on building a site that you find useful and easy to use.
Now that’s not to say that there are not occasional problems with the new site. If you encounter a problem, or just have a question, please drop Denny a note at the Contact page, or call him, toll free, at 1-877-505-4083.
The worst part of all this was that when we launched our new site, we were unable to bring over any of the account registrations or Captain’s Coffee News subscriptions. Thanks again to all of you for putting up with that and signing up again.
Our Flat Rate Shipping Special Continues
We’re all watching for some good news on the economic front. Pretty dismal. Well, we decided, to paraphrase Captain John Parker, “If they mean to have a recovery, let it begin here!” so we are continuing to offer our flat rate shipping (via UPS Ground) special. The details are available on our home page, but basically it is a tiered system. The cost of shipping your package depends on the weight of your order. Although most of you save considerably with our special, in some cases standard UPS Ground (not our flat rate) may be less expensive. Those options are displayed on the shipping page that you’ll see during checkout. Just take a good look and pick the option that is best for you.
Hearthware iRoast 2 Tip
We’ve had a few calls from iRoast 2 owners who told us about their roasters shutting down in the middle of a roast. While this can be caused by a number of problems, one of the most common and easiest to check is the fine mess chaff screen on the top of the roaster. It seems to be essential for that screen to be kept clean. The oily smoke that passes through the screen carries very fine chaff particles with it, and the oil and chaff can get baked on to those screen wires. Over time, this can greatly reduce the open area between the mesh that allows the air to pass. If that screen becomes clogged (and it can be very insidious), the air can’t pass freely, and “back pressures” your roaster. This can play havoc with the thermostat, causing it to shutdown prematurely. Just washing the screen or running it through the dishwasher won’t clean off that baked on oil. You need to use some oven cleaner. A brass brush can help also.
If that doesn’t do it, then your roaster may have other issues. You might want to call Hearthware Customer Service (toll free at 1-888-689-2831, ext. 6743). They can put you in touch with there tech support who might can solve your problem over the phone, or can tell you if your roaster needs to be sent in for repair.
Fresh Roast Plus 8 Fan Speed
This is a repeat (again!), but if you have one of these roasters and it’s not getting the beans to a medium dark brown in the 6-7 minute range, the problem might be that your fan speed is set too high, allowing too much air to pass through your roaster too quickly. This prevents it from reaching the right roasting temperature. It’s an easy adjustment. If that sounds like you, drop us a note at
Back to the Future
Many of you have joined us along the way since we first started sending out The Captain’s Coffee News. Most of you missed the beginning of the Coffee and Health and the History of Coffee series, so you sort of came in on the middle of the story. Well, we decided to start over. We are going back to the beginning and revising and updating those sections. For a while, these sections will be a repeat. If you’re like Denny, you won’t remember them anyway, so we hope you enjoy them. Eventually we’ll continue from where we dropped off.
We are going to start off this section with a LARGE statement. Here it is:
Coffee is a healthy beverage, and may well be one of the healthiest foods in your entire diet. Actually, it may be THE healthiest thing you consume. Don’t believe us? Over the next several issues, we’ll be citing credible research to back up that statement. A lot of why we think coffee is NOT healthy comes from an unabashed huckster named C. W. Post—he of Post Toasties fame. But more on him later on in the History of Coffee section.
A discussion on heath issues surrounding coffee almost has to begin with caffeine. So just what is caffeine? The full chemical name for caffeine is 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine. Its chemical formula is C8H10N4O2. If you’d like to see that in a chemist’s diagram (and who wouldn’t!) here it is:
Caffeine was first isolated from coffee in 1820, by Friedrich Ferdinand Runge, a German chemist. In its pure state, caffeine is a crystalline white powder and can be found in 60 different plants.
So how does it work? When you get sleepy, a chemical called adenosine is created in the brain, and it binds to adenosine receptors. To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine. When caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor, it doesn't slow down the cell's activity like adenosine would. The cell can no longer identify adenosine because caffeine is taking up all the receptors, so instead of slowing down because of the adenosine's effect, the nerve cells speed up. This means you have increased neuron firing in the brain. The pituitary gland sees all of this activity and thinks some sort of emergency must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone, and now several things happen:
Before you start thinking that coffee is going to turn you into The Incredible Hulk, we need to tell you that caffeine also causes your brain to release a chemical called dopamine. And that’s where we’ll pick up the story next time.
By the way, 10g of caffeine is considered a lethal dose.
In the Beginning…
The truth is this: No one really knows who discovered coffee, or exactly where or when it was found. Okay, there you have it. That is the last time we will let truth stand in the way of a good story.
Since no one knows, we have to rely on legend for the discovery tale, and our favorite involves a young Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. His real name? Probably not, but this is legend, so you can’t question it. Anyway, some time in the sixth century Kaldi was wandering around with his goats looking for greener pastures. A lot of Ethiopia is pretty dry and rugged, so Kaldi and his goats were getting tired and hungry. They had come a long way and had entered a hilly area where the famished goats began to eat the red berries of some scrubby bushes. Pretty soon some fairly strange things started happening. Old billy goats who were long past their prime began to dance and cavort (nice word; cavort—I like it) and that, of course, attracted the attention of the nannies. Well, the goats are having a pretty high old time, and Kaldi, who was feeling pretty pooped too, decided to try some of those strange berries. He very quickly noticed a pleasant tingling on his tongue and felt his whole body and general frame of mind (pretty dull work, herding goats day after day, you know) perk up. He started dancing around himself.
Ethiopia back in the sixth century was not exactly the hot bed of wild behavior and cavorting (there’s my word again), so Kaldi and his goats attracted the attention of a Muslim monk from a nearby monastery. The monk wasn’t shy about calling Kaldi on the carpet to explain this strangeness, so Kaldi told him about the red berries. Well, the monk decided he’d better try some, too, just in case. Now exactly why a monk needs to cavort is not something I fully understand, but it’s part of the legend, so it has to be retold.
The monk was pretty sharp and knew a good thing when he found it. Those mid-night prayer sessions were taking a toll on some of the brothers, and this monk passed along some of the berries to help them stay awake. On the whole, these berries, great as they were, didn’t taste all that good, so the monks began to experiment. They tried boiling them. Made a really gooey mess, so they tried just drinking the soup from the kettle. Better, but still not great. To make that soup, they most likely extracted the seeds from the berries beforehand, just like we’d take the seeds out of an apple or a peach before making the pie.
Now comes one of those “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” sorts of moments. One of the monks took those seeds and roasted them. Not a big step—nut roasting was common. Sure smelled better. Crunchy too, instead of those really hard little seeds they started with. Here comes the leap part—next someone decided to make a soup out of the roasted seeds.
Coffee had arrived in the world.
That is our story, and we’re sticking with it.
Since our last edition, we’ve added several new coffees. Generally, when a new coffee arrives, we post it in the upper right corner of our home page, with a link prompt there to go directly to that coffee’s description. Although all the coffees we sell are Specialty Grade (the highest), some of our new coffees are a “step up”. We’ve added two Cup of Excellence winners from El Salvador, two novelty coffees from Nicaragua, and an organic Java coffee. We switched to an Organic, Fair Trade version of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and we just added another Sulawesi coffee that we like a lot. We’ve also been able to acquire new crop Organic Costa Rica La Amistad Estate, and Organic Fair Trade Timor Maubesse—a couple of favorites that have been missing for a while.
We’re happy to tell you that the Tanzania Hope Project Peaberry we offer has finally earned “Organic” certification. Which brings up a point—most specialty coffees, even those not certified as organic, are grown with little or no artificial pesticides, fertilizer, or fungicides. Often it’s because the farmer simply can’t afford the chemicals. More often it is because the growing conditions for these fine coffees simply don’t require the use of the artificial aides. Certification for “organic” is lengthy and expensive—again, something many farmers just can’t afford to do, even if in the long run it would help their sales and boost their prices.
Basically, our offerings are wider ranging than before. Maybe it’s because our own tastes are expanding, and maybe we’re getting a little bolder in our old age. Andrew Blyth at Royal Coffee New York and Jordan Hooper at Zephyr Green Coffee have both been in touch with us recently concerning the soon to arrive spring crop of East African and Central American Coffees. Their initial assessment of the pre-shipment samples promises good things for this season. From our end, we are really looking forward to our Spring Cupping Retreat when we’ll be sniffing, slurping and spitting away to find those really great coffees to offer you.
Until next time…
Blessings & Happy Roasting!
Denny and Priscilla
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