A lot has changed within the specialty coffee industry since I began to take part in it five years ago. The lines between 2nd and 3rd wave have blurred as shops innovate and diversify; specialty roasters started popping up in numbers like never before, making great coffee accessible in remote places; and a new instant coffee was born that has surprised everyone with its quality: Sudden Coffee.
Sudden Coffee is the child of two-time Finland barista champion Kalle Freese, a coffee professional originally from Helsinki, Finland. As the story goes, Kalle was sipping on a cup of stale, dull instant coffee while on an airplane and wondered if there was a better way to provide convenient and tasty coffee.
Personally, I’d say he’s found it.
What Does Sudden Coffee Taste Like?
Lauren, my beautiful wife, bought me a round of Sudden Coffee vials in December of last year. I haven’t noticed a decline in quality over the last two and a half months, but I’ve been drinking the coffee sparingly, so a subtle decline may have slipped past my palate. I haven’t seen anything officially indicating how long the coffee powder can be kept.
The coffee that fills the vials I received in December is from the Biftu Gudina cooperative in Agaro, Ethiopia. I am under the impression that they will be switching the coffee periodically (maybe monthly?), though the product page on the website doesn’t specify how often.
This coffee has a milk chocolate aroma, floral flavor, gentle acidity, and a light caramel sweetness. Texture-wise, this offering features a silky, almost buttery smoothness and a medium body akin to an Americano.
I was sipping on a cup of Sudden Coffee last week and thought to myself, “This coffee is really good. What did I make again?” When I realized it was ‘no-brew coffee’, I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t be ecstatic about this coffee if I were to receive it at a specialty shop, but it’s definitely good enough to satisfy my picky coffee shop manager palate.
How Does ‘No-Brew Coffee’ Work?
Sudden Coffee is extremely easy to use. You unscrew the vial lid, pour the dehydrated coffee powder into your vessel of choice, and dilute. You can dilute with hot water, cold water, milk, or any other liquid that tickles your curiosity.
I’ve only used it with hot water, but I’ve heard of people enjoying it in the form of homemade iced lattes and iced coffee. The company’s blog even features a cocktail recipe: Suddenly Tipsy.
What’s The Verdict?
I’m very fond of Sudden Coffee and believe it is a significant new product that will continue to rock and shape the instant coffee world. I’ll definitely be ordering some more to keep around for when we leave town and don’t want to lug coffee gear around.
This instant coffee is absolutely worth a try. At $2.40 per cup, it’s not the cheapest coffee you can find, but you won’t beat the convenience at this level of quality. All things considered, Sudden Coffee is very upfront about their costs and why $2.40 is appropriate.
I highly suggest you check out the Sudden Coffee website to learn more about their values and product.
Confession time: I get a lot more coffee in the mail than I write about here on Coffee Brew Guides. Most of the coffees are good, but I’d be wasting your time if I told you about every good coffee I had. Máquina Coffee‘s bag of Nyeri, Kenya was different. It was stellar.
Trust me, this is a coffee roaster you want to know about.
Gabriel Boscana has worked in specialty coffee for over 15 years. He’s been a barista, a green coffee buyer, a roaster, and beyond at different points of his career. He’s worked at some of the nation’s most identifiable coffee brands: Gimme! Coffee, Sightlass, Intelligentsia, and Ritual Coffee Roasters, but they weren’t enough to pacify his long-term dream: open up his own coffee roastery.
The bag of coffee I received from Gabe was, like I said, astounding. The first thing that struck me about the Kenyan peaberry coffee was the juicy body and fruity sweetness. No joke, I felt like I was drinking fresh fruit juice. The notes on the bag were blackberry, tangerine, and molasses, which I thought were spot on.
Máquina Coffee is currently a garage operation in West Chester, Pennsylvania, but I’m sure it won’t stay there for long. The coffee is too great and the brand vision is too captivating for Gabe to be able to roast in his garage for much longer.
An Interview With Gabriel Boscana
Itching for a better look behind the delicious coffee, I sent Gabe some questions.
At what point did you know you wanted to roast coffee for your own business? Was it a long-term goal?
I knew I wanted to roast for myself probably pretty early into my roasting career over 10 years ago. As soon as I knew that the process was a mystery of sorts, but in that mystery I could really connect with the coffee I was hooked. It has been a goal of mine for over the last 10 years, so I guess it’s long term. haha. I was a barista for years before starting to roast, and then from roasting went to green buying (via Intelligentsia and Sightglass) and now back mostly to roasting. Green buying is made easy by having some stellar importers to work with these days.
How are you feeling now? How long have you been roasting and selling? How’s it gone so far? (I know… 3 questions…)
I am feeling optimistic. I love roasting more than anything else I do. It’s solitary, mindful and one of the few times I get to really be in my own head to make something wonderful. It’s like a meditation in many ways. I have been roasting and selling since mid-November, so not very long. I have been roasting for 10 years though!
The response has been terrific. Lots of love from people and friends and family and people I have never met but are buying the coffee because someone they trusted vouched for our quality! It’s been all word of mouth which is strangely fulfilling. Plus, we just have no advertising money anyway.
How are your past coffee jobs influencing your own brand? Are there things you are going to implement that you learned elsewhere?
Good question. Yes and no. I always had an idea of what I wanted to brand to look like and feel like. I would say working for Intelligentsia influenced me the most in regards to making sure the brand is clean and professional looking. I learned a lot in that job. I was the national roasting manager and also bought coffees for them. I am implementing things I learned elsewhere all the time.
The best lesson is honesty. Be honest, even if you risk upsetting someone. Do what you say you are going to do and do as you say. Be good. Be kind. People smell bullshit a million miles away and no form of branding is going to erase a burn. Do good work, for the right reasons not for marketing reasons.
What put West Chester, Pa on the map as a possible place to open a coffee roastery?
Family. I never intended on West Chester. LOL. We were really thinking Philadelphia when we moved to PA. But we rented a place out in Chester County for the Spring and Summer while we looked for a house to buy and ended up really falling in love with the rolling hills, historic homes and the obsession with land stewardship out here. Also, there is NO good coffee in West Chester, so I am starting ona blank slate. Let me remind you and your readers, the roastery is my garage!
I’d love to hear more about how you came up with the idea for your logo.
The logo came from wanting an arresting image, something that makes you stop and really look. The combination of humans (the hand) and coffee (the drop). It is an image that marries the two as coffee is impossible without people and labor and love in many ways. I worked with a great designer out of Philadelphia, Caleb Heisey to come up with something a little quirky but whimsical and meaningful. We are super happy with it.
What’s the end goal for Maquina Coffee?
The end goal is to purchase coffees from the same farms every year as much as possible. To be a TRUE partner with the producers we purchase from and to always maintain a stellar delicious line up for our subscribers and select wholesale accounts. We will eventually need to (hopefully) move our roasting operations to a bigger and more commercially accessible place, but for now we are happy to keep it small and simple. A tasting room would be killer.
The REAL end goal is to do as much good as we can while remaining profitable. There are some projects we are already concocting that would help that goal, we just don’t need to shout it from the rooftops as much as we need to MAKE them happen. Do good for good’s sake.
If you’d like to taste coffee roasted by an industry veteran, I highly suggest you go buy a bag from Máquina Coffee!
Cause coffee companies are not new, but ironically, many of them forget to give care to the thing that will keep them in business: the coffee beans. That’s not the case with the men behind Brothers Coffee, a new subscription service that selects coffees based on their effects on the globe and their quality. January was their launch month, and their promise to deliver great coffee with a side of altruism did not disappoint.
I’ve been lucky to get to try some coffee from Trailhead Coffee Roasters, courtesy of Brothers Coffee, over the last two weeks. The Guatemala offering featured a rich chocolate, honey, and caramel flavor that was quite sweet and balanced. The acidity was just strong enough to highlight a bright floral note to end the flavor experience.
Currently, Brothers Coffee is partnered with Grounds For Health, an organization that treats women with cervical cancer in developing countries who could not get treatment otherwise. Brothers Coffee donates $1 for every subscription purchased to this organization of hope.
Impressed with the coffee quality and dedication to selecting coffees that improve the lives of farmers around the world, I reached to Matthew Little, one of the brothers behind Brothers Coffee, for a brief interview.
An Interview With Matthew Little Of Brothers Coffee
Was there a clear moment that you and Bryan knew you had to launch your own coffee subscription?
I had wanted to find a project to start for quite some time, but I wanted it to be something that helped others. My brother, Bryan, and I had a few conversations about coffee and how difficult it was to figure out where your money was going, who it was helping, and – often more importantly – who it wasn’t helping. We thought there must be a market of people just like us, coffee fans that want to discover new coffee and help others. With these thoughts, Brothers Coffee Company was formed in our minds!
How does a bag of Brothers Coffee help alleviate poverty and ecological harm in producer countries?
What’s so exciting about having a Brothers Coffee subscription is that this answer changes every month. We love finding roasters that are developing new and unique ways of dealing with the problems the coffee industry is facing.
For instance, in January we sent out coffee roasted Trailhead Coffee Roasters that they had sourced through Cafe Femenino, a project that helps farms that are completely owned and operated by women, using a portion of the profits to invest in their communities. Larry’s Coffee, our February roaster, delivers their coffee using biodiesel vans, use solar power, store rainwater for use at their site, and so much more! Brothers Coffee subscribers get to participate in these stories and more each month.
How do you find roasters that are as globally-conscious as you?
What started with a lot of Googling has turned into a giant spreadsheet of roasters! I love to talk to roasters themselves about other roasting companies that they love – making delicious coffee and using their platform for good.
As a storyteller, do you have a favorite story about coffee?
My favorite part of this journey has always been the discovery of new roasters. It’s so exciting to find new projects and initiatives that are doing coffee right. I can’t wait to share with our subscribers all the awesome roasters we’ve lined up and tell their amazing stories.
5. Is there anything you’d like the world of coffee lovers to know?
My brother and I really want the coffee community to learn that if you want the best tasting coffee, it will always be ethically sourced coffee. Why?
When a roaster is paying farmers a good price for their coffee, these farmers are able to spend less time on quantity and more on quality; changing how they grow their coffee year-to-year after hearing the roasters notes and eventually bringing the best coffee possible to consumers.
Subscribers are part of a win-win situation with us: they vote for positive change with their hard-earned dollars, and they get the best coffee they’ve ever had. Unfortunately, there have been many gimmicky coffee-roasters that focus on their mission more than great tasting coffee. We will not select these roasters.
If you’d like participate in making the world a better place by buying coffee from people who care, check out Brothers Coffee!
When I learned that Kuissential, the maker of one of my favorite manual burr grinders, was going to release a travel french press, I knew I had to get my hands on one. Luckily, Kuissntial reached to me and sent one my way in exchange for honest feedback. This review is fair, honest, and the words are totally mine.
The Kuissential Versa is a travel french press brewer, but with its own twist. Instead of pushing a plunger and the coffee grounds down, you pull them up and remove them entirely. The idea isn’t a new one, but few brewers have been able to achieve the pulling action without making a mess.
I’ve been using the Versa for about a month. I’ve brewing using a handful of recipes and have played with my own little tricks. After this review, I will lay out my own guide to using the brewer. Let’s dig in.
The Kuissential Versa Review
I opened the Versa with much excitement. Basic instructions covered the box. An insert with brewing information fell on my lap.
The brewing chamber holds the coffee grounds and water. Protruding from the opening is a rod with a fine stainless steel mesh filter at the end. On the opposite side is a pronged based with a little sphere holding the rod. The second chamber (doubled walled – excellent) slides over the first brewing chamber and twists into place. When you’re ready to filter the brew, you flip the whole thing over and pull up on the sphere, separating the grounds from the brewed coffee.
The Versa brews a solid cup of french press coffee. It has the classic heavy body, but there was very little sludge at the bottom of my coffee each time. I found the flavor to be on par with any other french press brewer.
The brewer feels very sturdy in my hands. Built with stainless steel and a durable, dishwasher-safe plastic, it doesn’t feel flimsy or poorly constructed at all.
The attachable travel-lid really is spill-proof, which is a huge plus in my mind. You could throw that coffee in your bag, throw the bag around, and you wouldn’t have to worry about spilling coffee everywhere.
Overall, the build and idea are great, but I noticed some minor quirks that kept me from falling in love with the Versa.
The distance between the brewing chamber wall and the filter is very small. I didn’t have a problem filling it with water because I have a gooseneck kettle, but I can imagine it being difficult without one.
The outer chamber wouldn’t twist and lock in until I began to pull the filter in a little bit. If I pulled the filter in, the sphere would be out further than the pronged base, making the whole thing wobbly. I ended up just waiting to lock it in until I was ready to flip and pull.
I also noticed that the brewing chamber could afford to be bigger. At only 8oz, it seems small compared to the 15oz outer chamber. The extra 7oz of space isn’t being used during the brewing (or after, if you like your coffee black), and it seems Kuissential could have increased its size to allow for larger batches.
My Conclusions On The Kuissential Versa
In general, I found that the Kuissnetial Versa is a solid step towards travel brewing, but I don’t think Kuissential has quite hit the nail on the head just yet. It brews great coffee, but it doesn’t function ideally.
I believe the small entry and exit area for brewing will be a challenge for users without a narrow spout kettle, and the small 8oz batch size seems like an inefficient use of space (since the larger chamber holds 15oz).
The Versa isn’t the travel brewer for me, but it could be exactly what you’re looking for – especially if you like to add cream or sugar to your coffee to use up that extra space. At only $30 on Amazon, it’s worth a try if you find yourself still interested!
Kuissential Versa Brewing Guide
If you’ve pulled the trigger and are enjoying your Kuissential Versa, I hope you’ll find my method to using it enlightening and empowering. Let’s get started!
For this device, I like to use 15g of coffee and 250g of water, which fills up the brewing chamber to the tip-top.
1. Collect your freshly boiled water, freshly ground coffee, and Versa brewer.
2. Slide your coffee grounds into the brewing chamber, then fill the chamber all the way up with water just off the boil.
3. Set a timer for 4 minutes and set the outer chamber over the brewing chamber. Don’t flip just yet.
4. When the timer nears 4 minutes, grab the Versa by the bottom prongs. Using your other hand, pull the stainless steel filter into the brewing chamber by the sphere, locking the ground coffee inside. Then screw the outer chamber in place
5. Flip the Versa and pull up on the filter rod until it is raised as far as it will go.
6. Unscrew the chambers and lift the brewing chamber out slowly. Be careful! It’s hot!
7. Dispose of the coffee grounds by pushing the filter out and rinsing the device.
8. Enjoy your french press coffee!
You can then pour in some cream or flavor and attach the travel lid and take your coffee to go. Excellent!
Happy brewing, folks!
Drug cartels, human trafficking, and extreme poverty. These are some of the challenges the villages of Northern Thailand face on a regular basis. If you could do something to help, would you? I have good new for you.
Lanna Coffee Co is a coffee roaster with an attached humanitarian foundation that seeks to empower the hill tribes of Northern Thailand. Not only do they source coffee from an uncommon origin and roast it well, they offer hope to the hill tribe communities in the form of fair, sustainable economic development.
The Lanna Foundation partners with the Integrated Tribal Development Program to provide clean water, education, agricultural development, and healthcare – all necessary components for a thriving, healthy community.
How’s The Coffee?
Lanna Coffee Co has a few roast level options meant to please a range of coffee lovers, from snobs (like me) to the easy satisfied. All the beans are of the Catimor variety and grown between 3600 and 4200ft in elevation in the northern province of Thailand. Most crops are processed via the wet method, with a couple exceptions.
Artisan Roast – This was the roast I received, which is tailored to those familiar with the specialty coffee market (which is you, I assume). The beans were light in color and featured a bright caramel flavor with a smooth, sweet floral aftertaste. This is an A+ coffee!
House – A roast for the masses who aren’t so fond of lighter roast coffees. Vanilla and caramel are the flavor notes, according to Lanna.
French – The roast for those who truly enjoy a very dark coffee. Roasty and chocolate are the flavor notes.
I enjoyed the Artisan Roast and thought it to be on par with many of the specialty coffee roasters I have on a regular basis. I find it refreshing that Lanna Coffee Co has options for those who aren’t fond of lighter coffees. They are more interested in selling great coffee to many types of drinkers than sticking to a single realm of roasting.
Coffee That Matters
If you’d like to try excellent coffee from Thailand, I highly suggest Lanna Coffee Co’s Artisan Roast. Not only will you receive a bag of great coffee, but you’ll participate in the liberation of the hill tribes from multiple types of economic and cartel oppression.
Interested? Read more about the Lanna Foundation and order a bag of coffee for yourself or a friend!