5 Reasons Why You Should Carry Retail Coffee Bags in Your Cafe

If you’re not already selling retail coffee in your coffee shop, there are lots of great reasons to start. Fresh retail coffee bags are the perfect item to fill your shelves with. Offering them increases your average transaction to your current clients, and helps that customer who just remembered they’re down to their last few beans at home.

Retail Coffee Display

If you haven’t been offering retail coffee bags, it can be a little daunting to start. You might stop short of offering retail coffee bags at your shop for fear that people will stop coming to you for drinks. In fact, the opposite is true. Going out for coffee and making coffee at home both have their own allure. Customers will continue to want both experiences. 

You might also worry that the inventory won’t move, and the beans will go stale on the shelf. The reality is that you can make a lot more business if you sell retail coffee bags–if you do it right.

Irish barista champion and industry veteran Colin Harmon talks about this in his book What I Know About Running Coffee Shops. He encourages coffee professionals to think about the retail shelf as passive income. Harmon is famous for touting a full, plentiful retail shelf, complete with coffee gear, merch, and of course, retail coffee bags. He’s even famous for training his staff to immediately refill the retail shelf as soon as a customer buys something.

The look of abundance can have a profound psychological effect on customers and make them want to buy. You’ll be surprised at how much it can increase your café’s revenue. 

coffee beans display

In this article, we’ll go over our top five reasons to put retail coffee bags on your shelf and address common objections. But first, let’s talk about the logistics of retail coffee. 

How do I find a good coffee roaster?

When looking to offer high-quality retail coffee in your shop, it’s important to look for a local roaster with good sourcing standards. The roasters should have a direct trade relationship with their producers and pay them what their work is worth. If not, they should be able to prove that there’s an ethical supply chain that ensures the well-being of their producers. 

Dedication to good farming and processing practises should also be high-up on your priorities. 

retail coffee beans for sale

 

What type of coffee should I offer?

Figure out what audience you’re serving. Are they the type of drinkers who don’t know much about coffee, but prefer specialty coffee to grocery store coffee? Offer a great blend. Our Godfather Espresso is a total crowd pleaser with milk chocolate and caramel notes. It’s a medium roast, perfect for espresso drinks, drip coffee, and pour over style coffee.

Maybe you have a more coffee-aware audience with decent coffee knowledge. Do they order straight espresso or drink their Americanos black? In this case, offer single origin beans. Here are our latest offerings.

If your audience is a mix of both types of customers, you can offer blends and origins.

Now that you understand the “how,” it’s time to explore the “why.” Without further ado, here are our top 5 reasons why you should offer retail coffee at your coffee shop.

5 reasons to fill your shelf with retail coffee bags

1) It makes it easy for people to drink great coffee. 

People tend to not be very on-top of their coffee game. They generally do their grocery shopping at the supermarket, which doesn’t always have the best coffee options. They either settle for mediocre coffee, or they don’t buy it at all. When they step into your shop and see specialty coffee on your retail shelf, you’ll be a life-saver to them.

2) It helps support the local economy. 

Supporting local specialty coffee roasters is a great way to support the local economy. One of the best ways to do that is to offer coffee from local roasters on your retail shelf. When you support local companies, you’re putting money back into your community. Your money maintains local infrastructure and supports programs, reduces transportation emissions, and keeps your neighbours employed.

3) ‘Tis the season for gift giving. 

This time of year, people are already in preparation for the holiday season. Your customers may not have been in gift shopping mode when they entered your cafe. Offering high-quality retail coffee makes it easy for them. 

Coffee is the perfect gift because it’s inexpensive, yet high-quality. If you’re afraid that your customers won’t buy them until closer to Christmas, think again. Lots of people send early Christmas gifts, mailing packages to friends and family all over the world. It’s not too early to start stocking your shelves with retail coffee.

coffee sales

4) People are making coffee at home more than ever. 

Thanks to the pandemic, many people’s jobs have become remote, and many are working from home. As a result, more people are making their coffee at home as opposed to grabbing it on the way to work. People are still going out for coffee, but it’s more often to catch up with friends or as a weekend excursion. Offering retail coffee helps people make delicious coffee from the comfort of their own homes.

The average consumer in Canada consumes 1 x 12oz bag of coffee per week at their home.  This will really begin to add up over time as you create new purchasing habits with your customers. 

5) It can drastically increase your revenue. 

According to the aforementioned Colin Harmon, offering retail coffee bags can increase your revenue by 10-30%.

Do you ever stop and wonder why you always see cases of soda pop piled high near the grocery checkout? That’s because people are attracted to the look of abundance. According to American psychologist Barry Schwartz, plentiful retail displays can make us feel optimistic and happy. On the other hand, scarcity can make us feel defensive and frugal. If there were only one case of pop left on the shelf, it would make us feel guilty about taking the last one.

Retail displays that employ abundance perform much better than scare, dwindling displays.  We encourage our customers to stock as much of their cafes inventory of coffee in the front of their cafes as possible.  You will be surprised at how many larger bags you will sell as well. 

busy cafe

What happens if people don’t buy the coffee bags?

You might be afraid to offer retail beans for fear that they’ll go stale on the shelf. After all, roasted beans only have a shelf life of 2-4 weeks from the roast date. But don’t let this stop you.

You can always brew the coffee in your coffee shop if it’s not selling. Toss the beans into your espresso grinder hopper or brew it as drip before it goes stale. Alternatively, you can discount the bags to make them sell faster. 

You might have trouble selling the retail coffee at first. But if you’re employing abundance and moving your inventory, it won’t be long before the beans start flying off the shelf.

What else can I offer on my retail shelf?

You can also offer teas from our Idle Tea collection. Our tea line includes favourites like green tea, herbal tisanes, and black teas like Earl Grey, Assam, and chai. We also offer ceremonial-grade matcha powder and alternative lattes powder, like beetroot, turmeric, and rooibos matcha.

This will be delightful for the tea drinkers who visit you.  Very few cafe owners put much attention into this demographic, and like coffee drinkers, they like to brew high quality beverages at home.

Retail tea bags

Beans aplenty

Though it may sound counterintuitive to stock your retail shelf with coffee bags, especially if your business isn’t thriving, you’ll be surprised at what it does for your revenue. Of course, every market is different, and this might not work for every business. But how can you rule it out until you give it a shot?

Stick a nice percentage on your revenue, make holiday gift shopping easier, and be the lifesaver for that person who just ran out of coffee. Win, win, win.

Looking to sell retail coffee and tea at your coffee shop? Get in touch with us by dropping us a line at . We’d love to fill your retail shelves!

Idle Tea Spiced Chai Latte : Our Family Recipe

Chai tea lattes are the perfect warm drink for this time of year when the temperature starts to drop. With its warm spice blend of cardamom, ginger, peppercorn, cinnamon, and other spices, chai lattes are a fall and winter favourite.

Idle Spice Chai Latte

Masala chai tea has been around for millennia. While the recipe that’s loved and enjoyed today is a little different, the foundation remains the same. Black tea, an array of warm spices, and a sweetener are still the building blocks.

As a coffee shop, it’s essential that you carry a good quality chai blend, something that’s easy to make and delicious. Our Idle Tea Chai Latte concentrate makes a perfectly sweet, aromatic chai latte. 

Let’s take a look at the origin of masala chai, what makes our blend so special, and how to prepare it using our blend. Then, we’ll finish off with a few fun variations on the chai latte. 

Idle Tea Spiced Chai Latte

Where did chai originate?

Chai originated in India somewhere between 5000-9000 years ago. Indian royalty figures drank chai, both for medicinal purposes and as a delicacy. Closer to the 19th century, it became a drink that royals and commoners alike could enjoy.

Traditionally, the Indian chai recipe is prepared by steeping black tea and whole spices in hot milk, and sweetening it with sugar or honey. The spices include (but are not limited to) cardamom, cinnamon, whole peppercorn, ginger, and aniseed.

In Indian, the word “chai” actually means “tea.” The term “masala chai” refers to the chai that we know and love, with “masala” denoting the spice blend. 

Chai culture is still hugely popular in India, and is made at home in large kettles and enjoyed in a celebratory context. It’s also popular on the streets, and street vendors, called “chai wallahs,” make hot masala chai on demand. 

Chai lattes as we know them in North America are prepared much differently, though the ingredients remain the same. Milk, black tea, a warm spice blend, and some form of sweetener are crucial for a perfect chai latte. 

For more content about tea origins, check out our previous blog post about matcha green tea powder

Spiced Chai Tea mix

What makes the Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix special?

Our Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix aims to replicate the authentic recipe as closely as possible. Our blend brews black assam tea with an array of warm signature spices. Those spices include Guatemalan cardamom, Asian ginger, Indonesian cinnamon, Madagascar cloves and Indonesian Lampong black peppercorn. Once the tea and spices have been steeped, we add just the right amount of beetroot sugar for the perfect sweetness.

The chai latte blend is a liquid blend that is conveniently brewed already, with the perfect level of sweetness and spice. All you have to do is combine it with milk in a pitcher, steam it, and top it with some cinnamon or nutmeg.

Our chai latte blend is the same recipe that we developed in the early 2000’s, over 20 years ago when we started making our own line of chai, syrups and smoothies. It used to be called Flavors of Eden, followed by Valleta Flavors. But now it’s under the Idle Tea line, and it now comes in a recyclable bottle. It’s the same great blend with a new look and label.

Idle Tea Chai Mix

How to make a chai latte

Our chai latte blend makes it incredibly easy to make the perfect chai latte. Pour 1 part Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix into a pitcher, followed by two parts milk or a non-dairy substitute. Steam it in the pitcher until it reaches 140 degrees F. Pour it into a cup and top with cinnamon or nutmeg.  The same ratio can also be served cold over ice.

If you want to serve our chai latte concentrate for your coffee shop, reach out to us at .

Chai latte variations

The flavours of masala chai pair wonderfully with other flavours, so you’re not just limited to chai lattes alone. Here are 3 popular takes on the classic drink.

Dirty chai latte

A dirty chai latte is simply a chai latte with an espresso shot added. With familiar warm spices like ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon, it’s almost reminiscent of a gingerbread latte or a pumpkin spice latte. 

To make it, just steam the correct ratio of milk and chai mix until it reaches 140 degrees F. Then, pull an espresso shot into a cup. Pour the steamed chai over the espresso shot, and top with cinnamon or nutmeg. 

Chai tea mix

Chai apple cider

Apple cider beautifully complements the flavours of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. 

Simply pour 2 parts apple cider with 1 part Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix into a pitcher, and steam until it reaches 140 degrees F. Pour into a cup, and top with cinnamon.

Chai hot chocolate

The chai hot chocolate is an experience similar to a spicy hot chocolate. The ginger and black peppercorn add a spicy, zesty kick. 

To make it, pour 1 tbsp of chocolate syrup into a cup. Into a metal milk pitcher, pour one part Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix and 2 parts milk or non-dairy alternative. Steam it until it reaches 140 degrees F. Pour a small amount over the chocolate syrup, mixing well. Then, pour in the rest of the steamed chai. Top with nutmeg. 

Warm, spicy, and irresistable

Spiced Chai Latte

There’s nothing more comforting and warming than a chai latte with a dash of cinnamon on top. It’s the quintessential cozy drink, perfect for the colder fall and winter months. 

Make sure to seize the opportunity and offer this incredibly popular drink to your customers. It’s easy and quick to make, it makes for a perfectly balanced drink, and best of all, it’ll keep your line moving while keeping your customers in good spirits. Happy chai season!

Need the perfect chai latte blend for your coffee shop? Drop us a line at

 

How to Clean and Maintain Your Espresso Machine

It may seem like a daunting task to have to clean your commercial espresso machine. With all those levers and buttons and knobs, it may look more like a fuse box than a coffee maker. But rest assured that cleaning your commercial coffee machine isn’t much harder than cleaning your drip coffee maker!

Sure, you can dig out your dusty old user manual, complete with typos and instructions that make so sense. Or, you can check out this easy guide on how to clean your espresso machine. We’ll go over how to clean an espresso portafilter, what is backflushing an espresso machine, and how to descale an espresso machine.

What happens if I don’t clean my espresso machine?

If you don’t clean your espresso machine, you risk crappy tasting coffee, bacterial build-up, and the function of your machine. While you’re using your espresso machine throughout the day, espresso grinds, coffee oil, and mineral scale from water intake build up throughout the day. 

Espresso being extracted

 

A lot of things can go wrong if you don’t clean your espresso machine, or don’t clean it properly. 

For one, your coffee will taste stale or “off.” If you’re brewing espresso from a brew head with day-old grinds, through a dirty portafilter, you’ll taste yesterday’s coffee. Not exactly what you’re going for! When exposed to air, moisture, light, and heat, coffee oils go rancid quickly.

Not only that, but you also run the risk of attracting pests. Stray coffee grounds are food to cockroaches, and they can attract mice and rats if you’re not careful. Restaurants and cafes are particularly susceptible to pests. Make sure all surfaces are wiped of coffee beans and grounds, and don’t give pests a reason to stick around. 

In general, having a visibly dirty espresso machine could make customers think twice about ordering coffee off of you.

How to descale an espresso machine

Part of cleaning your espresso machine is descaling. Descaling your machine cleans it, but it also removes mineral buildup in the hot water tanks. If mineral buildup goes unchecked, it can affect water flow and pressure in your machine. This, in turn, will affect the flavour of your espresso. Excess mineral build-up will require a professional to remove, and can even cause your machine to call it quits altogether. 

How often do I need to clean my espresso machine?

To maintain your machine properly and have great tasting espresso at all times, clean your machine at least once a day, at the end of the business day. 

Espresso machine steaming

We’ve broken down the cleaning tasks by espresso machine part.

The portafilters (the filters that screw into the group heads with handles) need to be cleaned spotlessly. Soak them in hot water and dish soap to loosen stuck-on grounds and oil. If you’re worried about a soapy flavour, you can soak them in hot water and Puro Caff.  After they’ve soaked for 10-15 minutes, scrub them vigorously, rinse them, and leave them to air dry.

Pop the basket out first before you leave them to soak in the water to get them as clean as possible. To remove the basket, pry it off with a spoon or a butter knife. 

Backflushing the machine is when you intentionally change the direction of the water flow so the machine can flush the water tank. You do this by using “blind” or “blank” baskets. Unlike regular portafilter baskets with holes, these baskets are solid, forcing the water backwards into the tank. Backflushing removes any scale, coffee grounds or sludge from the inside of the water tank.

To backflush, remove the regular basket from the portafilter, and put the blind basket in. Place ½ tsp of Urnex into the basket, and screw the portafilter into the machine. You’ll want to run 5 cycles, each with 10 seconds on, and 5 seconds off. You’ll likely see dirty, foamy liquid coming from the outlet–that’s normal. After your 5 cycles, remove the portafilter, run some water from the group head, and rinse the portafilter. 

Screw the portafilter back in, and run 5 cycles (10 seconds on, 5 seconds off), this time without the Urnex. Your backflush is complete.

NOTE: Backflushing works on 3-way valve systems. If you have a lever-style machine, backflushing isn’t necessary, and shouldn’t be attempted.

Espresso machine group head

The group heads are the brewers, ie. the part that the portafilters screw into. They’ll be covered in grounds from the day, and will need a good wipe-down and brushing. Using a group head brush, scrub the entire top of the group head while running the water. If the hot water is threatening to splash at you, just turn the hot water off while scrubbing, running it between brushes. 

After you’re done brushing, wipe the entire group head with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

The steam wands are in contact with milk all day, posing the risk of bacteria. Not only this, but if the wands aren’t cleaned regularly, the milk residue can harden over time, affecting the performance of the steam wands. They won’t make barista-worthy microfoam if they’re clogged up. 

To clean them, dissolve a ¼ tsp of Frother Cleaner in a small pitcher with hot water filled halfway. Place the steam wand in the pitcher and leave it to soak for 30-60 minutes (NOTE - Do not leave overnight). In the morning, simply wipe down the steam wands and purge them for 30-60 seconds. 

Espresso machine steam wands

The espresso machine has a tray that collects water and spilt coffee. During the day, this can get quite dirty. It’s important to clean this daily–otherwise it can clog the drain, smell foul, and attract pests.

To clean the tray, simply flush the tray with hot water until all the grounds are gone. You can also manually remove it and rinse it under the sink (just make sure you cover the hole with a damp cloth or you’ll have another mess to clean up!). 

While it’s what’s on the inside that counts, we also believe your espresso machine should look sharp on the outside, too. Make sure the tops of your espresso machine (where the cups and saucers live) and the exterior of your machine are cleaned regularly. Grinds can accumulate on top of the machine, and coffee and milk splashes can be seen on the outside of the machine, facing customers. Your espresso machine is a work of art, so make sure it always looks taken-care-of. 

espresso cup

Maintaining the cleanliness of your espresso machine should be a group effort. An espresso machine that doesn’t get cleaned regularly can make the flavour of your coffee suffer, and it can slowly degrade your machine. Espresso machines are not cheap, and neither are espresso machine technicians. Remember: a stitch in time saves 9!

Looking for more tips for masking tasty espresso? Check out our previous article on how to pull a perfect shot of espresso. If you need more guidance on the ins-and-outs of espresso, book a consultation with us–we’re here to help!

 

Tamp Like a Champ: How to Tamp Espresso

How you tamp your espresso can have a huge impact on the flavour of the coffee. If you did everything else right but your espresso is tasting sour or running poorly, your tamp could be the culprit.

Tamping espresso

When you’re leading a team of baristas, it can be common for everyone to have different ways of tamping. There are lots of wrong ways to tamp espresso, and baristas can carry these bad habits for years. 

Poor tamping is not just an issue of flavour–it’s also a health and safety issue. Tamping can cause repetitive strain injuries over time, a condition more commonly known as “barista wrist” in the industry.

Luckily, it’s easy to learn how to tamp espresso properly and fix any mistakes. We’ll walk you through all the dos and don’ts of tamping espresso. But first, we’ll take a look at why we tamp coffee in the first place.

espresso tamper

What happens if you don’t tamp coffee?

Tamping coffee is when you apply downward pressure on coffee using a tamper. 

If you try to brew a portafilter with loose grounds, the water will move through the coffee instead of brewing it. As a result, you’ll get a watery, under extracted, sour espresso. Coffee that hasn’t been tamped has a lot of pockets of air, and the water finds an easy way to exit. 

Tamping removes these air pockets from the coffee. This helps the water move more evenly throughout the whole puck. All it takes is one loose spot on the puck for the water to find this weak spot and rush through it. This is known as “channeling.”

What are some examples of poor tamping?

Here are some common ways that tamping goes wrong. 

If you tamp at an angle and the puck isn’t parallel to the portfiler, the water will go to the lowest point. Water is always looking for the path of least resistance. Instead of brewing the whole puck, it will only brew the low part. To make sure your tamper is parallel to the portafilter, use the ring inside the portafilter basket as a guide.  

Holding the tamper incorrectly can have an impact on the flavour. Avoid holding the tamper like an ink stamp with your hand gripping the handle only. This can cause coffee grounds to jump out of the basket and cause an uneven tamp. Instead, wrap your fingers around the base of the tamp while applying downward pressure.

Tamping a mountain of coffee grounds won’t result in a level coffee bed. You’ll get a flat surface with bevelled edges–a perfect weak spot for the hot water. After grinding your beans into the portafilter, give the portafilter a good tap on the side. This helps the process along by settling the bed of coffee.

After tamping your espresso, there will usually be some loose grounds floating on the sides of the puck. The barista’s common instinct is to knock the portafilter to get the loose grounds in the middle so they can tamp again. But knocking the side of the portafilter can crack the puck, causing channeling, and it also damages your equipment.

Instead of knocking, place your tamper on top of the puck again, and spin the tamp with no pressure. This will make those loose grounds on the side co-operate. 

Barista tamping espresso

How to tamp espresso the right way: Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to tamp espresso properly.

  1. Grind your coffee into your portafilter. Once ground, tap it against the side of your hand (or on the tamping mat) to help level out the coffee bed.
  2. Place your portafilter on the tamp mat. Turn your body so that your dominant hand side is parallel with the bar counter. Place the tamper evenly on the bed of coffee so it’s parallel to the ring in the portafilter basket. Push straight down firmly until you meet resistance. (If your portafilter has a splitter, make sure the splitter is off the tamp mat. This prevents the splitter from breaking off.)
  3. If there are any loose coffee grounds, place the tamper back on. Without applying any pressure, spin the tamper to settle the loose grounds. 
  4. Brew your espresso. Easy!

Espresso tamping

How hard should I tamp?

In the coffee industry, it’s agreed upon that 20-30 lbs of pressure goes into a proper tamp. You don’t need to tamp incredibly hard to achieve this. Tamp until you feel the coffee stop. 

It can be easy to get tired at the end of the day and tamp lighter as the day goes on. Be aware of this, and try to keep a consistent tamping strength throughout the whole day.

Tamping safety

The trick to avoiding strain on your wrist is keeping it straight while you tamp and engaging your shoulder and your arm. Lifting your elbow at a 90 degree angle makes it easy to keep your wrist straight, and makes the power come from your arm.

Which is the best espresso tamper?

The most important thing when looking for a tamper is finding one that fits your portafilters. The tamp should spread to the very edges of the basket, ensuring a smooth, uniform tamp. If the tamper is too big, it simply won’t fit; if the tamper is too small, you’ll create air pockets around the edges and cause channeling. 

For newbie baristas who don’t know how hard to press, click tampers are a great option. They make an audible clicking noise once 30 lbs of pressure have been pushed into the coffee puck. 

naked portafilter

How do I know if I’m tamping correctly?

You can tell a lot about how well (or poorly) your coffee is running just by looking at your spent coffee pucks. If you see any air pockets or obvious signs of the coffee spilling over the edge of the basket, your tamp could be the issue.

If you’re still not sure, try to look at the bigger picture. Brew a shot of espresso, dilute it with some water, and taste it. If the coffee tastes unpleasant and has an edge, try again. If it tastes acceptable, or even good, you’re on the right track!

Tamp champ

Tamping isn’t complicated; it’s actually remarkably easy. But unfortunately, there are a lot of bad habits out there that seem to be contagious. Baristas learn by watching other baristas, picking up on their habits without knowing whether they’re right or wrong. But it’s not their fault–if they don’t receive the proper training, how can they be expected to do a good job?

As a cafe manager or owner, it’s up to you to set standards and catch any bad habits before they get out of hand. By teaching correct tamping, you improve your coffee, retain your customer base, and keep your team safe.

Looking for more tips to improve your espresso game? Check out our previous blog post about degassing coffee for better tasting espresso. And, if you need more support, book a consultation with us, and drop us a line at






Barista-worthy Steamed Milk : Microfoam for Beginners

There’s no experience more decadent than drinking a well-crafted latte. A good latte merries a perfectly pulled shot of espresso and textured milk. But textured milk is easier said than done. That’s why baristas painstakingly steam your milk to perfection. Properly steamed microfoam isn’t thick and foamy; it’s creamy and velvety, and its sweetness complements the espresso perfectly.

Latte Art

Proper microfoam is essential for latte art. At its core, latte art is an indication of a well-made drink. Both the espresso shot and the milk have to be executed properly, or you won’t get that beautiful latte art. The visual appeal of latte art will keep your customers coming back for more. As a barista, it’s a fun challenge that keeps you on your toes.

A note about foam

There are two main ideologies in the coffee world: Italian-style or “old-school” coffee, and third wave coffee. A lot of people order a cappuccino, expecting to see a thick cloud of foam on top. This is also referred to as a “bone-dry” cappuccino. When they get their microfoam cappuccino, they’re disappointed, and it’s not what they pictured.

The old-school coffee ideology is respected in its own right. But in this article, we’re talking about third wave coffee, to which flat microfoam is central.

What is microfoam?

Microfoam is a method of steaming milk where you inject tons of tiny bubbles into the milk, creating a textured milk. The bubbles run all throughout the milk, instead of the foam and the milk being separate from one another. Rather than having a thick foamy milk that plops right on top of your espresso, you get a continuous flow. This opens the door to latte art, and mastering microfoam lets baristas create rosettas, tulips, and even swans!

In addition, microfoam isn’t hot; it’s warm. Dairy milk has natural sugars (lactose) which complement the sweetness of espresso. Heating up your milk too much can burn and effectively destroy those natural sugars. You should aim for 120-140 degrees F. To get that optimal warm temperature, place your palm on the side of the metal pitcher while steaming. As soon as you feel warmth, stop steaming immediately. You can use a thermometer, but your hand is more intuitive.

Milk thermometer

How to make microfoam for beginners

To make proper microfoam, you’ll need a high-quality espresso machine with a precision steam wand. Pour your milk into a metal steaming pitcher until it’s about a centimetre below the spout. Place the pitcher at an angle, leaning down slightly to your right. Before you start steaming, lift the milk pitcher up to the steam wand. The steam wand should be slightly below the surface of the milk, about a centimetre.

Turn your steam wand on. If you’re at the correct angle, you should create a vortex effect. If you don’t see this affect, don’t panic. Gently move the pitcher side to side (not up and down), making sure the steam wand is just below the surface. Keep steaming until it starts to feel warm, not hot. Immediately switch the steam wand off.

steaming milk

The sound (or lack thereof) is everything. If the steam wand is too close to the surface, you’ll get a high-pitched screeching sound. If it’s too submerged, you’ll get a loud, low rumbling sound. If it’s in the right spot, it’ll make practically no sound at all.

It’s normal to get a few big bubbles. Let your milk sit for a few seconds and tap out the big bubbles on a hard surface before pouring.

How to make latte art with microfoam

This is probably the hardest part. Latte art takes practise. If all you can manage is a heart, you should call that a win!

Try to get better at microfoam before attempting latte art. You can’t make latte art if your microfoam is thick and foamy. It has to be thin and glossy, similar to wet paint in texture and viscosity.

Pour your microfoam directly over the espresso in a circular motion. Once your cup is about ⅔ full, pause your pour. This is when you’ll start your latte art.

Get the spout of the pitcher closer to your latte, and pour while rapidly swiveling the pitcher left and right, about half a centimeter apart.

Fratello Coffee Latte Art

Pro tip:

Pour a bit of microfoam in the espresso, stir it with a spoon, and then pour the rest of the milk. This helps prevent a bitter taste upon the first sip. The crema layer from the espresso is quite bitter, and it rises to the top when you do latte art. Integrating it early on disperses that bitter top layer.

Practising microfoam

Instead of wasting milk to practise your microfoam, practise with a pitcher of water with a drop of dish soap. When steamed, it creates a similar texture. It helps you gauge the correct position of the pitcher and the steam wand. It also helps you practise co-ordinating when to turn off the steam wand, which can be tricky at first.

pouring microfoam milk

Making microfoam with non dairy milk

Non-dairy milk doesn’t perform as well as dairy milk when steamed, but there are ways to improve the texture. Steam your non-dairy milk more vigorously than you would with regular milk. Because they have less fat content and are more watery, they heat up quicker, meaning you have to work quicker. After steaming, let it sit for a while to let bigger bubbles come to the surface. Then, tap the pitcher firmly on a hard surface to let the bubbles out and swirl vigorously to integrate.

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Creating that perfect microfoam can be frustrating at first. There are several factors that you have to be aware of, all at the same time. This includes the angle of the milk pitcher, proper submersion of the wand, temperature, and wand shut-off. It doesn’t help that a big, roaring espresso machine can be a little daunting to a newbie barista. But if you don’t get it perfect at first, the most important thing is that you try. Customers can taste care in a cup.

Looking to open a coffee shop, or just need a tune-up for your team of baristas? Get in touch with us about our cafe consultations, and drop us a line at .




Why Do I Need a Burr Grinder?

Blade grinders are not the best choice for grinding coffee beans. While they are inexpensive and easy to use, they don't produce the same quality of coffee as burr grinders.  So why do I need a burr grinder? 

The reason blade grinders do not produce high-quality coffee is because the blades heat up during operation and this causes a burnt taste. Burr grinders, on the other hand, use rotating disks that never get hot enough to cause this burnt taste.

There is only one grinder for coffee, and that’s the burr grinder. If your coffee doesn’t taste quite right on a burr grinder, at least you have the option of adjusting it. Consistency is everything when it comes to brewing good coffee.

Hand mill grinder

I can’t afford a burr grinder! I’m just a poor student.

We get it. Burr grinders can be expensive. But this is an investment, a piece of equipment that’ll make tasty coffee for years to come. A decent electric burr grinder ranges in price from $200-$1000. We recommend the Baratza Encore burr grinder as a great entry-level grinder. The conical burrs stay sharp for years with excellent precision. If you’re on a smaller budget, the Timemore Chestnut C2 grinder delivers the same quality. The only caveat is that it requires good old-fashioned elbow grease. This is perfect if you only drink one or two cups a day, and as a bonus, it travels well.

If you still don’t want to buy a burr grinder, at the very least, ask us to grind it for you, but make sure to use it up quickly. When you order beans online, make sure to tell us what grind setting you want in the checkout notes.

Hand burr grinder

Why are blade grinders bad for coffee?

Here’s what blade grinders do to your coffee. They blindly cut it up, resulting in coffee particles of all sizes, from fines to boulders. When you’re brewing a particular method, whether it’s French press or pour over, you are looking for 1 particle size… not 20!

Blade grinders are particularly bad for pour overs. When you make a pour over with blade ground coffee, you’ll get a slow-pouring, clogged filter. The resulting coffee will taste bitter and sour at the same time. And, you won’t really get any resounding flavour notes. Just a flat, lifeless cup. Sounds like a waste of effort, doesn’t it?

To understand why blade ground coffee is not ideal, you need to understand extraction. Extraction refers to the amount of soluble compounds extracted from coffee in a given time period. Extraction depends on a few factors, namely temperature and grind size. Temperature is easier to control, but grind size needs a lot of attention. The finer the grind, the quicker the extraction time; the coarser the grind, the slower the extraction time. That’s why espresso pours in mere seconds and French press takes several minutes. A bitter taste indicates over-extraction, and a sour taste indicates under-extraction.

Now that you see why blade grinders can’t create consistency, it’s time to retire that sucker. You can clean it out and use it to grind whole spices, or you can donate it to someone else looking to enter the “fresh ground coffee world”.

How does a burr grinder work?

A burr grinder is essentially a coffee mill. It “mills” the coffee, much like how a pepper mill creates particles that are uniform in size. On a burr grinder, you can adjust settings from fine to coarse, and every particle will be the same size. You need a uniform grind to achieve even extraction. If your coffee doesn’t come out quite right, at least you can adjust your grind and try again. You will notice that this is especially important when brewing espresso. With a blade grinder, you don’t have this option–instead, you get what you get.

Espresso grinder

Are there ways to make good coffee with a blade grinder?

We certainly don’t recommend a blade grinder for making pour overs, aeropresses and espresso. However, some coffee methods are more forgiving than others. Immersion methods, like steep & filter and French press, tend to respond better to blade ground coffee. That’s because immersion methods eliminate that awful sour, weak taste, which is almost always down to under extraction.

If you’re using a blade grinder, grind it on the coarser side, and pause every few seconds to shake it. Immerse the grounds in the hot water for 4-6 minutes. This won’t make an incredible coffee, but it’ll make it palatable.

What to do with pre-ground coffee

Maybe you’ve decided that a burr grinder is not in your budget, and you need to rely on pre-ground coffee. In this case, we recommend using up your pre ground coffee as quickly as possible. Ground coffee goes stale very quickly, so try to use it up within a few days maximum. Store it in the bag in a cool, dark place.

Another way to quickly use up pre ground coffee is to make a big batch of cold brew so you can use your coffee up in a timely manner. Once brewed, cold brew stays good for 1-2 weeks in your fridge. This coffee method is deliciously smooth and foolproof, and it makes for a refreshing drink in the summer months. If you’re not into cold coffee, you can always heat it up later.

Coffee Burr Grinder

Is a burr grinder a good investment?

If you’re the type who drinks 4-6 coffees a day with lots of cream and sugar, you might not notice the difference. But, if you drink coffee more for the flavour than for the caffeine, a burr grinder is a good investment. When it comes to specialty coffee, it doesn’t make sense to ruin

it with a blade grinder. Specialty coffee is pricier than other coffees on the market, in part because of the complex flavour. Only a burr grinder will unlock those tasting notes!

Want to put your burr grinder to the test? Check out our foolproof pour over guide!



Can Coffee be TOO Fresh? The Importance of Degassing Coffee

We’ve talked about the importance of fresh coffee ad nauseum here at Fratello Coffee. It’s coffee 101 to use up your beans within 2-4 weeks of roasting. But did you know that coffee can actually be too fresh? It may sound a little contradictory, but drinking too-fresh coffee can be less than tasty. This is where degassing coffee comes in.

Probat coffee roaster

In the coffee world, degassing is crucial after roasting. Coffee straight off the roaster can taste a bit jarring. Hardcore coffee lovers find extra-fresh coffee exciting, but the average coffee drinker will be a bit offput by the flavour.

Whether you make filter coffee at home or work in the coffee business, degassing coffee is key to making tasty coffee. Let’s take a look at the composition of fresh coffee and explore why it’s so important to give coffee a rest.

Why degassing coffee is necessary

When coffee beans are being roasted, the beans produce and trap carbon dioxide. Most of the CO2 dissipates from the coffee while it’s being roasted, but the coffee will retain a significant amount of it. CO2 is a natural byproduct of roasted coffee, but in large amounts, it can make the coffee taste bad. Extra fresh coffee will have a sour, vegetal, even carbonated taste. This can distract from the desirable flavour notes of the bean. 

After roasting, experts in the coffee industry recommend you rest, or “age”, your coffee for a few days before brewing. Lighter roasted beans are denser, and therefore retain a lot more CO2 than darker roasts. The lighter the roast, the longer it needs to rest.

There will still be CO2 in coffee even after the coffee has rested, but in smaller amounts. Have you ever wondered why pour over recipes tell you to “bloom” your coffee? It's because pouring a bit of hot water on the grinds allows the gasses to dissipate, improving the flavour of the coffee.

Slayer Espresso

Does aged coffee make a better espresso?

While degassing is important no matter what method you’re using, it’s particularly important for espresso. Because espresso introduces pressure, it’s a lot easier for those gasses to end up in the shot, altering the flavour. And, because third-wave espresso bars tend to serve light and medium roast espresso, aging is crucial.

Giving the coffee time to degas will let you taste the true characteristics of the coffee. You won’t have that overpowering CO2 flavour distracting your taste buds.

It’s important to realize that the “crema” layer (the caramel-coloured layer on top of the espresso) is overrated. While it may look delicious and make stunning latte art, it can make a bitter tasting drink. An ultra-thick crema layer indicates right away that your beans are still too fresh. Aging the coffee will make for a thinner crema layer, but the flavour will be much better.

How to degas coffee after roasting

Degassing coffee is simply a question of resting the coffee and leaving it alone for a few days. There’s no special technique–just let it sit undisturbed with minimal exposure to light, heat, and moisture. It should be left in an opaque container with a clearly-marked roast date so you know when to start using it.

espresso shot

How long should I degas the coffee?

How long you age your coffee depends on two things: the brew method you’re using, and the roast level.

When it comes to drip or filter coffee, it’s a good idea to rest your coffee for 2-8 days before using it. Lighter roasts can rest for 4-8 days, and darker roasts can rest for 2-4 days.

When it comes to espresso, you’ll want to wait longer. If you’re using a light roast, you’ll want to rest the coffee for 10 days. If you’re using a medium roast, rest it for 8-10 days. If you’re using a dark roast for your espresso, it should only rest for about 2 days. Dark roast coffees are porous, and you should be more concerned about using them up before they go stale. 

For further information on coffee storage, please refer to our blog post: 5 Ways to Keep your Beans Fresh

How can I degas coffee quickly?

We don’t recommend trying to speed up the degassing process. If you try to prematurely degas the coffee by exposing it to air and light, you’ll only damage it and make it go stale. Have patience!

If you run an espresso bar and you want to serve perfectly aged coffee at all times, do a bit of planning. It’s a good idea to have extra stock of your most popular espresso blend so you don’t have to wait for it to degas. 

espresso shot

What’s the point of the degassing valve?

On most coffee bags, you’ll see a circle with holes. That’s the degassing valve. While most people think that’s some kind of gadget for smelling the coffee, it actually serves a very important, practical purpose. It stops the bag of beans from exploding!

Freshly roasted beans contain enough CO2 to puff, and even explode, the bag. The valve is a one-way channel, letting CO2 exit without allowing outside air to enter the bag.

The purpose of degassing valves became abundantly clear after a 2019 incident with a popular California roaster. The renowned Blue Bottle Coffee had to recall their coffee, which was packed in airtight tins, after 13 people were injured. 

coffee beans

Fresh to death

Degassing your coffee is a great tool to have in your back pocket if you run an espresso bar. It’s a system you can implement early on to take your espresso from good to great. When it comes to making great coffee, there’s no one single recipe for perfection. Making great coffee requires curiosity, and it’s a journey of learning as you go.

If you’re looking to improve your overall espresso game, check out our previous post about pulling a perfect shot of espresso. If you’re in the coffee business and need more support, book a consultation with us by dropping us a line at




How to Read a Coffee Label Like a Pro

Do you ever go to buy a bag of quality coffee, only to stare blankly at the information on the label? Maybe you see “elevation: 1600 masl” or “varietal: SL-28.” What the heck does “honey process” mean? If you don’t know what it all means, it can make your head spin. You’re not alone. The world of coffee is vast and can be complicated. If you want to get the best coffee around, it starts with understanding what you’re buying.

Don’t let complicated labels plunge you into imposter syndrome! Great coffee is for everyone, and it’ll take some time to get acquainted with the specialty coffee label. Maybe you’re searching for particular tasting notes, or just want to learn more about specialty coffee. Or, maybe you just want to impress your friends with your knowledge! Either way, you’ll find that this tidbit of information isn’t so trivial afterall. Learning how to read coffee labels is not only important for understanding the journey the beans have taken before ending up in your cup, but also for being able to make educated purchase decisions.

Why should I read the coffee label?

If you’re becoming a real coffee lover, understanding the coffee label will take your passion to the next level. Plus, it’ll help you spot ethical coffee right away. Ethical coffee is coffee produced with the wellbeing of farmers in mind, and it’s more expensive as a result. Most coffee on the market today is incredibly cheap, and farmers don’t get a fair share.

You won’t find a comprehensive coffee label on bags of poor quality coffee. That’s because poor quality coffee companies don’t want you to see the ugly side of the coffee industry. Read any Fratello coffee label, and you’ll find the country, region or farm, process, roast date, and roast level. If you check out our online coffee collection, you’ll find even more information about the producers. Coffee labels aren’t just for laughs–they’re for traceability and transparency.

Specialty Coffee Label Specifics

Here are the most common pieces of information you’ll see printed on a specialty coffee label.

Coffee origin

It’s not enough to know which country your coffee came from–you should know the origin, and ideally, the farm. You can even get information about the microlot. For example, with our Guatemala Montecristo, “Montecristo” refers to the microlot where the coffee was grown. If you read the label further, you’ll find that it comes from the San Marcos region of Guatemala.

Even if you’re buying a coffee blend, you should know which origins make up the blend. Don’t be fooled by flowery language that describes the coffee with no information about where it comes from.

Coffee elevation

Coffee elevation is everything in specialty coffee. Quality arabica coffee is a delicate plant, and it likes to grow in cool, shady conditions. Growing coffee at higher altitudes achieves this. Lesser quality coffees are grown in full sun and on lower elevations. Although sun-grown, lower elevation coffee makes for a big yield, the quality of the coffee suffers.

When you see “1600 masl” on a coffee label, that means that it’s grown at 1600 metres above sea level. You might also see altitude in feet.

Tasting notes

Good coffee doesn’t need artificial flavourings to taste delicious. You’ll often find tasting notes printed on coffee bags that refer to the subtle characteristics unique to that bean. When it comes to fruit notes, you could see apple, cherry, or blueberry. For sweet notes, you could see toffee, caramel, or molasses. You could even come across notes like nutty, chocolatey, floral, earthy, and even smokey.

As a newbie coffee enthusiast, these flavour notes can be daunting. You may be thinking, “the bag says floral, but all I taste is coffee!” Remember, it takes a long time to develop a flavour palate. If you want to speed up the process, purchase two coffees with wildly different flavour notes, and try them side-by-side. For example, try our Ethiopia Guji (citrus, watermelon, bright) next to our Godfather Espresso TM Blend (milk chocolate, caramel, smooth).

Coffee process

For those who don’t know, coffee is actually the seed of a cherry. The cherries grow on shrub-like trees, and are picked ripe once they turn dark red. Farmers pick thousands and thousands of cherries, and the seeds are extracted. The extraction method is referred to as the coffee process. There are a few different processes, and different processes lead to unique flavours. Here are the most common ones.

Varietals

Just like with wine, arabica coffee has its own varietals. With wine, you’ll see different grapes, like merlot, chardonnay, or bordeaux. In coffee, you’ll see varietals like typica, caturra, catuai, SL-28, bourbon, and more. There are over 1000 heirloom varieties, though typica is said to be the oldest known coffee varietal.

Roast level

Roast level refers to roasted coffee, not green coffee. Roasts range from light to dark. Lighter roasts tend to have a bright, acidic, fruity flavour. On the other hand, darker roasts will have more of a bold, toasty, chocolatey flavour.

Roast date

Make sure to buy beans that have been roasted within the past two weeks. Roast date is extremely important if you want to drink fresh coffee. Many coffees sold at the supermarket will have coffee that’s been roasted months ago and vacuum-packed. Specialty coffee roasters will never offer stale, months-old coffee. Just say no to stale coffee!

The cream of the crop

Coffee is one of the top most traded commodity in the world, along with sugar, corn and oil. As a result, there’s a lot of bad coffee out there. You can dodge a bullet by only purchasing coffee with information about process, elevation, and more. Life is too short to drink poor quality coffee. So do yourself a favour, and learn to read coffee labels like a pro!

Want to learn more about specialty coffee? Check out our blog post about new crop coffee.



How to Pull a Perfect Shot of Espresso

There’s nothing worse than going to a renowned coffee shop only to receive an espresso drink that’s bitter and undrinkable. Poorly made espresso-based drinks are more common than you might think. Even the best beans, espresso machine, and grinder can’t guarantee a good shot of espresso.

Slayer Espresso

A big challenge for cafe managers and owners is getting their large team of baristas to make good-tasting espresso. A lot of newbie baristas don’t know what to look for when dialing in espresso and lack the confidence to calibrate it.  This is why we offer complimentary ongoing training and consultation for our wholesales clients.

By putting certain practises in place, you can show your whole team how to pull a perfect shot of espresso. First, we’ll show you how to lead an espresso tasting session with a team of baristas. Then, we’ll show you how to ensure the espresso is always running well.

The building blocks of good espresso

It may sound obvious, but you need to start with great coffee and great equipment to make great espresso. Make sure you have all of these in place first before you troubleshoot your espresso.

Make sure to source roasted beans from a high-quality, specialty coffee roaster. They should have an emphasis on ethical sourcing, meticulous roasting, and freshness.

A high-quality espresso machine with enough pressure and stamina is crucial for great espresso. We recommend the Slayer espresso machine, which was produced by the fine folks here at Fratello!

A good espresso grinder allows you to micro-adjust the grind setting. It should have a timed doser to provide consistency. We recommend Mahlkonig espresso grinders. 

If you have all of that already, let’s get into it!

coffee grinder

Leading an espresso tasting with your team

It’s always a good idea to do an espresso tasting session with your team. This allows you to answer any questions and try different espresso shots side-by-side for comparison. When guiding your team through a tasting, here are some common things to look for.

While not all coffees have a sweet profile, you should aim for a sweet shot. Sweetness is detected on the tip of the tongue. Unlike an unpleasant sour flavour, you’re looking for a sweetness akin to fruit or sugar.

A good shot of espresso should never taste unpleasantly bitter or sour. You can assess this more broadly when you try the espresso by asking yourself, “Is this pleasant?” “Is this acceptable to serve?”

Bitter and sour notes can be part of the inherent flavour profile of the coffee, like rich cocoa and lemon. Don’t get confused by desirable flavour attributes. 

Get your team familiar with the flavour wheel. It’s not cheating to fill your head with all the possibilities of what coffee can taste like. It helps your team by giving them a vocabulary to describe coffee.

TIP: It’s easier for newbie baristas to taste coffee that’s cooled down and/or diluted with a bit of water.

cappuccino

Creating an espresso calibration system

After you’ve done your initial group tasting session with your team, it’s time to create a calibration system.

The best way to calibrate espresso is by tasting it and adjusting it as needed. However, most newbie baristas won’t have the skills or the confidence to do this. This method also takes more time, and when you’re trying to move a lineup, it isn’t practical. A calibration system is easy-to-follow, keeps your coffee tasting great at all times, and doesn’t disrupt your flow.

Not all coffee is the same, but as a general rule of thumb, there’s a certain espresso recipe to follow. When it comes to brewing parameters for espresso, you want to start with a dry weight of 18 grams, a wet weight of 36 grams (ie. actual brewed espresso), and a brew time of 28-30 seconds. If you brew your espresso and it doesn’t fit within these confines, you can tweak the dose and the grind setting of the coffee.

perfect espresso

How to pull a perfect shot of espresso, step-by-step:

  1. Pop the basket out of the portafilter, and zero it out on a digital scale. Grind your beans from your timed espresso grinder, and weigh it. If it weighs below 18 grams, increase your dose by a few milliseconds. If it weighs above 18 grams, decrease your dose. Don’t worry if you’re off by 0.5 grams.
  2. Once you have the right weight, evenly tamp your espresso with 30 lbs of pressure.
  3. Have a timer ready to countdown from 30 seconds. Grab a clean shot glass or mini metal pitcher, place it on the scale, and zero it out.
  4. Place the scale and the glass under the group head, and begin brewing your espresso. Immediately start your 30-second timer. 
  5. At the 30-second mark, stop the shot and read the wet weight on the scale. If the wet weight isn’t 36 grams, make some changes and start over. If the wet weight is below 36 grams, make your grind coarser. If it’s above 36 grams, make your grind finer.

Make sure to post the espresso parameters (ie. dry weight, wet weight, brew time) where staff can see it. Have your team calibrate the espresso several times a day: once first thing in the morning, at mid-morning, and in the afternoon. For accountability, you can set up a checklist on a marker board, and have staff initial their calibrations.

Other factors affecting espresso flavour

Getting the right dose and weight is important when making good espresso, but it’s not the only thing to be aware of. Other things greatly affect the flavour of espresso. Here are some common factors:

Make sure your team is tamping properly. An uneven tamp or a cracked puck can result in uneven extraction, and thus, a sour, undrinkable espresso. Check out this video to make sure your team isn’t committing any tamping faux-pas!

 

The temperature and humidity in your cafe can instantly change how your espresso pours. If the weather suddenly changes from rainy and cold to sunny and warm, recalibrate your espresso.

A dirty espresso machine can make your coffee taste off if you’re doing everything else right. Make sure your team is cleaning the espresso machine and portafilters every night with Cafiza. Additionally, make sure your team is wiping the portafilter baskets with a dry rag between espressos. Have them purge the group heads between pours, too.

Fratello Coffee

Give it your best shot

Espresso can be intimidating for new baristas who lack skills and confidence. You can’t expect them to know everything right off the bat. The more effort you put into standards and procedures, the more likely it is that your team will get on board.

It doesn’t take long to gain a reputation as a no-fail, sure-shot espresso bar. Before long, your customers will notice, and they’ll be lining up for more. So do a little planning, schedule that espresso tasting with your team, and knock it out of the park!

We know that espresso can be a complicated beast. With decades of experience in the specialty coffee world, we have all the tools to make your cafe a success. Book a consultation call with us by emailing us at . We’re here to help!





Starting a Gratitude Journal : The Science of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a great reminder to be thankful for what we have, but science tells us that gratitude is important year-round. The act of practising gratitude is great for our overall health.  Intentionally going out of our way to bring to mind the things we’re grateful for helps us stay healthy and happy. 

Happy couple

Studies show that keeping a gratitude journal can ease depression and anxiety and actually improve your physical health. Neuroscience shows that the brain is a lot more changeable than previously thought, and carrying out practises actually creates new pathways, or “rewires” our brains. (You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!)

In today’s day and age, there are constant stressors all around us. Raising kids, full-time work, and excessive screen time can all bring our moods down and make us constantly feel stressed out. Not only does stress affect our quality of life, but studies show it actually makes us sick. Higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that upticks when we’re feeling stressed, has been linked to cancer and heart disease. Starting a gratitude journal eases a lot of this stress. 

Let’s take a look at how practising gratitude affects the brain. 

Gratitude Journal

Your brain on gratitude

The modern human is not subject to the same stressors as in the past. We no longer have to defend against bears and tigers or hunt and gather to provide food for our families. The modern human still has the fight-or-flight response, but it’s triggered by other things. Things like work stress, gridlock, and overdue bills can all get our heart racing and our cortisol flowing. 

While danger looks a little different now, humans are hard-wired to look for danger at every turn.

While this may have helped us escape real danger when we were hunter-gatherers, it doesn’t serve us anymore. Just because negative, catastrophizing thought patterns are our default, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

Humans can inject positive thinking into their brains, achieving a state of calm and well-being. The more we introduce positive thoughts into our brains, the more we flex this positivity muscle.

Similar to mindfulness, where we practise focusing on the present to achieve calm, practising gratitude creates equally strong pathways. Check out our post about parental burnout to learn more ways to deal with anxiety and stress. 

Practising gratitude has some real benefits and changes our brains in many ways. Gratitude can decrease materialism, help us work through personal problems, fight disease and sickness, and decrease feelings of envy and resentment.

journaling

How to practise gratitude

There are various ways that you can practise gratitude, and they all involve a pen and paper. 

A common gratitude journal exercise is to name 3 things you’re grateful for. Then, elaborate on those 3 things and muse about what life would be like without them. It can be anything from a supportive spouse, to a roof over your head, to your brand new dishwasher. 

You can also pick one thing that you’re grateful for, and take time to explore why you’re grateful for it. Let’s take running water, for example. Running water keeps you hydrated, saves you the effort and time of having to fetch it from the lake, allows you to bathe and brush your teeth, and waters your flowers. 

While it may sound like child’s play, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking after a few weeks of doing this consistently.

I don’t have time to write a gratitude journal!

It can be hard to justify the practise when you’re skeptical of it in the first place. You’ll reap the most benefits if you spend about 30 minutes everyday. However, even doing it 5 minutes a day can have a profound effect. When you’re first starting out, start small so you can realistically commit to the practise everyday. Deciding when and where you’re going to complete your gratitude journal can help you stay committed, too. 

If you’re a busy parent and your life gets busy in the evening, commit to waking up 5 minutes earlier than usual to complete your journal. 

If you plan to do your journal on the train or at your office desk, write in a pocket-sized notebook that’s easy to toss in your bag. If you prefer to journal digitally, you can keep a note in your phone, or you can even use a gratitude journal app

How long do I have to carry on with this practise?

When it comes to mindset work, such as practising gratitude or mindfulness, you should never stop! Think of a gratitude journal like working out or practising an instrument. When you stop working out for a while, you quickly run out of breath when you try to get back into it. Then, you have to play catch-up to get fit again. It’s the exact same thing with practising gratitude, and you should aim to stay “fit” your whole life. 

It might sound like a drag to have to do this constantly to reap the benefits. But choosing a set time, day of the week, and place to do it will significantly increase your chances of sticking to your routine. It’s actually more beneficial to practise it in short bursts over a period of time than it is to binge-practise it for hours all at once. Consistency is key. 

You don’t have to do it every single day if you don’t want to. But if you’re giving yourself a rest, make sure you do it consistently. For example, choose Sunday as your rest day instead of randomly taking off-days as you need them. 

be thankful

The greatest gift of all

Sometimes life will present unfair, cruel circumstances. On the other hand, you can have everything you could ever want in the world, and still be unhappy and unfulfilled. Living joyfully doesn’t happen by accident or to those who can afford it; it happens to those who are intentional. You have to have the imagination and the diligence to live the life you want. 

Let this Thanksgiving be the year you start your gratitude journal, and never look back!

Looking for more health & wellness content? Check out our previous post about drinking turmeric for health benefits




New Crop Coffee : What is it and Why Does it Matter?

You may have heard the term “new crop coffee” in the specialty coffee sphere. But few people actually know what it means, and why it’s so important in the coffee world. Here at Fratello coffee, our work revolves around new crop coffee. While it’s important that our coffee arrives to you freshly roasted, it’s equally important that the green coffee we roast is of the utmost freshness, too. New crop coffee is essential for delivering fresh coffee with exciting flavour notes.

You may have heard the term “new crop coffee” in the specialty coffee sphere. But few people actually know what it means, and why it’s so important in the coffee world. Here at Fratello coffee, our work revolves around new crop coffee. While it’s important that our coffee arrives to you freshly roasted, it’s equally important that the green coffee we roast is of the utmost freshness, too. New crop coffee is essential for delivering fresh coffee with exciting flavour notes.

Coffee Cupping at Home: How to Identify Tasting Notes

Coffee Cupping (or tasting) at home is easy to do and a lot of fun.   When on the lookout for specialty coffee, it’s common to see tasting notes like “floral” or “citrus” written on the bag. But when you go to try the coffee yourself, and all you taste is coffee, it can be discouraging. It can make you feel like you’re just not naturally inclined to picking up flavour notes.   What we want to show you, is how you can identify tasting notes in your favorite coffee. 

Coffee cupping

The truth is, tasting coffee is a skill that you acquire over time, and it requires you to develop a flavour palette. As a beginner, the best way to do this is a coffee cupping session at home.

But don’t worry–this isn’t a test. You don’t need to pull out an official coffee cupping score sheet and mathematically evaluate each coffee. Coffee cupping at home is meant to be fun, and it’s a great place to start when it comes to identifying tasting notes. 

Before we show you how to do a cupping session, we’ll answer some common questions. We’ll go over the flavour categories that you’re assessing, the list of tools you’ll need, and the type of coffee to use. 

Coffee cupping

What is coffee cupping?

Coffee cupping is when you brew several different coffees at once and taste them all separately, recording your findings. The brewing is done quite simply by pouring hot water directly over the grounds in a cup. The coffee is sipped with a cupping spoon to assess flavour. 

Coffee cupping is an industry practise normally conducted by coffee importers to gauge coffee quality. Each coffee receives a score out of 100. By definition, specialty coffee is coffee that receives at least 80 points out of 100. 

Cupping is also done by roasters as a form of quality control, or by coffee shops when they’re choosing coffees to put on their menu.

Our previous blog about coffee cupping is based around the SCAA cupping form, but this guide will teach you how to do it at home. While you’ll be focusing on identifying flavours, you won’t need the SCAA sheet (phew!). 

Coffee cupping table

What’s the point of coffee cupping at home?

Cupping at home lets you try a whole variety of coffees at once. Trying them out side-by-side gives you a reference point, helping you spot the differences between them. This will help you develop your flavour palette.

Though there are many other factors determining flavour, every coffee origin has its own characteristic flavour notes. Trying out single origin coffees from different regions is a great place to start when identifying flavour notes. 

Coffee cupping is also fun for budding coffee enthusiasts. It’s especially fun to do with a small group of friends. Because you need a few different varieties of coffee to do a home cupping session, you can send your friends home with the leftover coffee that didn’t get brewed. 

Coffee aroma

What am I looking for when cupping coffee?

When doing your coffee cupping session, you’ll want to record your findings on a sheet of paper. Let’s say you want to try 4 coffees. Make 4 columns on your sheet of paper. Write the name or origin of the coffee, and a line for the following categories. 

Coffee aroma

What if I don’t have words to describe the coffee?

When you’re stumped for words, you can always consult this interactive flavour wheel. It’s not cheating to read up on all the ways a coffee can taste. Rather, it gives you a vocabulary to describe what a coffee reminds you of. It’ll help you in the future when you encounter challenging coffees. 

Coffee cupping tools

What do I need for coffee cupping at home?

Here’s the list of supplies and ingredients you’ll need for a successful home coffee cupping session.

Coffee cupping

What coffee should I use?

For coffee cupping at home, we recommend trying at least 4 types of coffee with different flavour notes. Great options include Ethiopia Guji Uraga, Bolivia Buena Vista, Kenya Kiambu AA, and Costa Rica El Poeta.

What ratio is best for coffee cupping?

For coffee cupping, you’ll want a weaker ratio than a pour over. The pour over ratio is 1:16, but you’ll want a 1:17 ratio (1 part coffee, 17 parts water). So, if you’re using 12 grams of coffee, you’ll need 200 mL of water. Weaker ratios help you identify tasting notes better. 

Coffee tasting

Ready to start cupping coffee? Let’s go!

How to cup coffee at home

  1. Measure out 12 grams each of the different types of coffee. Be careful to purge the grinder between varieties to avoid mixing coffees. Place the grounds into 4 separate bowls. 
  2. Smell the dry grounds, and record your findings.
  3. Pour hot water (30-60 seconds off the boil) directly up to the top of the bowls, making sure to saturate all the grounds. Set a timer for 4 minutes, and let the bowls sit.
  4. After 4 minutes, the grounds will have floated to the top. Smell the wet aroma, and record your findings. 
  5. Break the crust by using a spoon to stir the grounds and let them sink to the bottom. This stops the brewing process. Use two spoons to catch the remaining grounds floating on top, and rinse your spoons. After you’ve broken the crust, the coffee will still be very hot. Wait an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Once it’s cooled to the point of being drinkable, grab your sheet of paper and pencil, and it’s time to start evaluating the coffee. Take a spoonful of the coffee, and audibly slurp it to spray it across your mouth. This helps you assess all aspects of the flavour. 
  7. Write your findings under each heading: flavour, cleanliness, aftertaste, acidity, body, and sweetness. Do this for each type of coffee until you’re done. Coffee tasting

    Not your average cup of joe

    Congratulations on your first coffee cupping! We hope you found the experience fun. You may have liked some of the coffees more than others, and you may have even disliked some of them. This is all normal–everyone has their own personal taste. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what flavours you like best.

    Cupping coffee at home is simply an exercise of curiosity. Developing your flavour palette takes time, and you have to drink many coffees before you start to notice patterns. Once you’re familiar with tasting notes, you’ll enjoy coffee so much more going forward. Rather than treating coffee like a caffeine fix, you’ll start to treat it with a sense of wonder. 

    We hope your coffee cupping journey brings you joy and intellectual stimulation. May your cup runneth over!

    Want to learn more about the ins and outs of specialty coffee? Check out our article on how to read a coffee label like a pro!



 



Can I Drink Coffee During Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is one of the hottest health trends to come out of the last decade. You may know someone who has tried it with varying degrees of success. It’s not just for bodybuilders and health nuts. Everyday people are trying it, for reasons including weight loss, improved sleep quality, better focus, and anti-aging.

You might be wondering how you’re going to go 16 hours everyday without eating. Those 16 hours can seem like an eternity at first. Your stomach will growl audibly, and you’ll likely feel irritable and “hangry.” You’ll need to find something other than calories to keep you preoccupied during the morning hours. Delicious specialty coffee, consumed black, can be a lifesaver. Drinking high-quality black coffee with complex flavour notes is a whole new experience. If you’re trying intermittent fasting, this can be a great opportunity to explore different origins with different flavour profiles.

Fasting can be tricky at first, but your body eventually adjusts, and there’s a good case to try it out. Think of it this way: it generally means no snacking after dinner, fasting during sleep, and skipping breakfast. If we fast after dinner (starting around 8 p.m.), and then for 8 hours during sleep, that’s 12 hours fasted. All you have to do is just add another 4 hours, and voilà–you’re intermittent fasting.

Before we get into coffee and fasting, let’s take a closer look at intermittent fasting.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is less of a diet plan, and more of a lifestyle. You choose a window of time during the day, and you only eat during that window. A popular time frame is a 16-hour fast, followed by an 8-hour eating window (sometimes called 16:8). If your eating window begins at noon, you begin your fast at 8 p.m. Your eating window doesn’t open up again until the next day at noon.

There are many different types of intermittent fasting. The “18:6” fast is where you fast for 18 hours followed by a 6-hour eating window. In the “5:2” fast, you eat normally for 5 days of the week, followed by 2 days of caloric restriction. “OMAD,” or “one meal a day,” is where you eat one large meal with no caloric restrictions.

Intermittent fasting benefits

Most people turn to fasting for weight loss. The science on why intermittent fasting leads to weight loss is still unclear. Some experts say that 16 hours of fasting triggers the fat burning process, called ketosis. Other experts say the weight loss is simply down to less calories consumed. Shortening your eating window generally forces you to eat more nutrient-dense foods. It also makes you feel more full, and less likely to eat everything you’d normally eat in a day.

Many people prefer fasting to dieting because there are no restrictions on what you can and can’t eat. The only restriction is time. For people who hate counting calories and enjoy the odd slice of cake, intermittent fasting is the answer.

The most exciting science on fasting is something called autophagy. Autophagy is a natural bodily function that only occurs when we’re in a fasted state. It’s a self-cleaning process, triggered by low insulin levels, where our damaged cells are replaced with new, healthy ones. For this reason, autophagy has been associated with anti-aging, and can be a powerful tool to prevent disease. If intermittent fasting is not for you, fasting just once a month can be enough to reap the benefits of autophagy.

Aside from weight loss and autophagy, fasting comes with some other great health benefits. People who fasted for a few months reported improvements on their energy levels, ability to focus, and sleep quality. Science links fasting to significant brain function improvement. Other added benefits include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduced liver fat.

Will coffee break my fast?

The key to drinking coffee while fasting is to drink it black. Black coffee contains a negligible 2-5 calories, which isn’t enough to break your fast. Drinking coffee with sugar and cream will break your fast, so if you’re going to drink coffee while fasting, drink it black.

I don’t drink black coffee! Black coffee is bitter.

Many people can’t fathom the idea of drinking coffee without the addition of sugar and cream. Poorly brewed coffee, whether bitter or sour, is unpalatable without sugar and cream. If your coffee is so bitter that you can’t enjoy it black, maybe it’s time to troubleshoot your brewing routine. Check out our foolproof pour over guide to get the best out of your cup each time.

Take this a step further and drink the smoothest, most flavourful brew known to mankind–cold brew. Cold brew is so smooth because the cold brewing method doesn’t extract any of the unpleasant compounds found in coffee. It only extracts the pleasant compounds, leaving bitter and sour flavours behind. Check out our incredibly easy, straightforward guide on how to make cold brew coffee at home. If iced coffee isn’t your thing, try heating up your cold brew.

When choosing coffee for intermittent fasting, go for specialty coffee with an emphasis on freshness and single origin offerings. If you browse the Fratello coffee collection, you’ll see coffees from Ethiopia, Guatemala, Congo, Nicaragua, and more. These coffees have exciting

flavour notes that you would otherwise miss out on if you added milk and sugar. You’ll get the true coffee experience when you drink it black.

If you must add flavours to your coffee, add a dusting of cinnamon or nutmeg, but don’t overdo it. You can also add a zero-calorie sweetener like erythritol or stevia.

Why should I drink coffee while intermittent fasting?

You don’t have to drink coffee while fasting. But a lot of people who try fasting say they aren’t willing to sacrifice their morning coffee routine. Black coffee can help if you’re finding that intermittent fasting deprives you of joy in the morning. It can be just the thing to get you through those difficult first hours of the morning when you’re “hangry.”

There is some scientific evidence that coffee’s own brain health benefits can complement the brain health benefits of fasting. Moderate caffeine intake may improve brain function and reduce your risk of long term mental decline. There are less cases of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s in people who drink coffee than those who don't. Moderation is key, however–limit your coffee intake to 1-2 cups a day to reap health benefits.

Trying out intermittent fasting and need something delicious to get you through it? Browse our coffee collection, read the complex flavour notes, and try something different!



How to Make AeroPress Coffee

When you’re craving a short, strong and delicious pick-me-up, look no further than the AeroPress. The AeroPress method is a favourite for coffee lovers because it does justice to specialty coffee with perfect, even extraction. If you’re finding your morning coffee routine is taking too long or isn’t tasting to your liking, consider adding this to your arsenal.  Read the rest of this article to find out how you can make AeroPress coffee yourself. 

AeroPress Coffee Maker

AeroPress style coffee is so established and beloved that there are even barista world championships for the best AeroPress. But don’t let that make you think it’s too complicated for you to master. On the contrary, making a delicious AeroPress is easy! Follow our complete guide to making a perfect AeroPress for a delicious single cup.

What does an AeroPress coffee taste like?

The AeroPress makes a small, bold cup of coffee with lots of clarity (ie. no sludge or coffee grind particles). While it does have the element of immersion just like a French press, it doesn’t have the same grittiness. In a way, it combines the best of a French press (immersion) and a pour over (clarity). The fine filter stops a lot of particles from passing through.

The brew ratio for an AeroPress is different from a standard pour over or drip coffee. While the ratio of a standard pour over is 1:16, the aeropress ratio is 1:13 (1 part coffee, 13 parts water). This makes for a strong tasting coffee. 

AeroPress Coffee process

What are the benefits of an AeroPress?

The AeroPress is a favourite for many reasons. It’s a great travel accessory for the stubborn coffee connoisseur. It works well if you’re staying in a hotel in another city where good coffee is scarce. It’s also perfect as a low-tech method of making coffee while camping or day-hiking.

The AeroPress is known for being easy to transport. Because it’s made of plastic, it’s shatterproof, virtually indestructible, and lightweight. And because it’s relatively small, it doesn’t take up too much room in your bag. 

It’s made of BPA-free plastic, so you don’t have to worry about plastic leaching from pouring hot water into the chamber. Generally, pouring hot (or even warm) water into plastic is not recommended as it can release harmful toxins.

After brewing, the AeroPress is easy to clean. Just hover over the organics bin and push the plunger until the spent coffee puck pops out. Then, rinse the outer part of the plunger to remove leftover grinds. 

The biggest benefit of the AeropPress is that it makes a truly delicious cup of coffee, and fast. It’s perfect if you’re craving a small, strong, delicious cup.

Is the AeroPress for me?

If you were hoping to make a large amount of coffee for a group, the AeroPress might not be for you. While you can make multiple cups, it’ll take some time, and everyone will have to wait their turn. For multi-serve options, check out the Chemex Classic 6 cup or the Hario Craft Coffee Maker.

If strong coffee isn’t your jam, you might not enjoy the AeroPress method. The 1:13 brew ratio makes for a strong cup. You might want to choose a brew method with a weaker ratio, like the pour over method, which has a ratio of 1:16.

Hario Kettle

How to make the perfect AeroPress:

Brew ratio: 

1:13 (1 part coffee, 13 parts water)

What you’ll need:

Pour over Kettle

  1. Begin by boiling your water. By the time you’re ready to brew, it should be about 60 seconds off the boil. For best results, use a gooseneck kettle, or pour your hot water into a heat-proof pitcher with a spout.
  2. Grab a paper AeroPress filter, and place it in the screw-on filter. Place the filter over the sink, and gently pour a bit of boiling water over the filter. This rinses the paper filter, preventing a papery taste. Once the filter is rinsed, screw the filter cap onto the chamber, and place on top of your favourite mug.
  3. Next, measure 17 grams of Fratello coffee. Grind your beans on the burr grinder on a medium-fine setting. The grind should be slightly finer than pour over. Place the grinds into the chamber, and give the chamber a firm tap to level out the coffee bed. Place the chamber on top of a mug, and place the mug on a weight scale. Set it to zero.

Coffee on scale

  1. Pour 220 mL of hot water very quickly over the grinds. Using the stir stick provided, gently stir the slurry to make sure all the grinds are submerged. Place the plunger on top of the slurry, but don’t plunge just yet. Placing the plunger just on top creates a vacuum so the water doesn’t draw down all at once. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
  2. After 2 minutes, begin your plunge. Slowly and gently plunge until you hear a hissing sound. Your AeroPress is ready. Enjoy.

AeroPress troubleshooting

If your AeroPress is tasting less than fantastic, here are some basic troubleshooting tips. You can’t fix a cup that’s already been brewed; just grind some new coffee, and start over. You only need 17 grams of coffee, after all!

Problems and solutions:

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for more tips for brewing that perfect cup of coffee? Check out our article on why you really need a burr grinder!



Matcha Powder - Delicious Caffeine Fix Packaged with Health Benefits

Green Tea Matcha powder is a delicious and healthy caffeinated tea option that’s grown in popularity in recent years. Known for its emerald green hue and many health benefits, it makes for a healthy treat or a calming ritual. 

Unlike regular varieties of green tea that are steeped, matcha powder is ground into a fine, pale green powder. The powder is then whisked into hot water, making a vibrant green, frothy tea. With matcha, you’re drinking the whole tea leaves instead of an infusion.

Many people who complain of jitters and heartburn associated with coffee turn to matcha tea as an occasional substitute. Matcha gives you a sustained caffeine fix that won’t give you that signature caffeine crash. Plus, it’s loaded with antioxidants that come with several health benefits.

Matcha tea powder is the centrepiece of the traditional tea ceremony in Japan, a tradition spanning over 500 years. The ceremony is centred around mindfulness, relaxation, purity, and simplicity. Matcha can be emblematic of a new habit in your life. It can be part of changing your diet, improving your work-life-balance, or decluttering your home. You can bring the traditional tea ceremony into your own home with a bag of Idle organic matcha powder.

How it’s produced

Our Idle matcha tea is made from the Yabukita green tea variety. It is the largest cultivar in Japan due to being frost resistant and yielding a good crop size. It was originally cultivated in 1908 by tea breeder Sugiyama Hikosaburo, and has been the dominant cultivar ever since. The tea leaves are picked young, and a month before harvest, the crop is covered with a dark canopy. This helps retain the nutrients, and enriches the tea leaves with chlorophyll, which gives it that rich dark green colour. The stems and veins of the leaves are removed, and the leaves are stone milled. 

Ceremonial vs. culinary grade matcha powder

There are two grades of matcha: ceremonial and culinary. Both are loaded with nutrients, but they differ in terms of their flavour and uses. Culinary matcha is mainly used for lattes or for baking. If had on its own, culinary matcha has a more bitter flavour, and as a result, it’s cheaper. Ceremonial matcha is meant to be had on its own, and is used in Japanese tea ceremonies. It has a sweet, grassy flavour, and is a bit pricier. Idle matcha is ceremonial grade. 

The origins of matcha powder

The origins of matcha date back to the Tang dynasty in China during the 7th-10th century. Green tea leaves were steamed and formed into bricks, making them easier to transport. Chinese Buddhist monks later brought the tea to Japan. Today, Japan produces the best matcha in the world. Idle matcha tea is made in Nishio, a central region in Japan located southwest of Tokyo. 

The Japanese tea ceremony is of huge cultural significance, dating back over 500 years ago and still practised today. The ceremony is always led by a host or a tea master. The room is sparsely decorated, and guests kneel on a tatami mat with good posture. The ceremony is centred around harmony, respect, purity, and tranquillity. 

The host always starts by purifying all the utensils with a silk cloth, mainly as a symbolic gesture. Before the tea is prepared, Japanese sweets, called wagashi, are laid out. After this, the host prepares the tea. Hot water is poured into the powder, and the tea is whisked vigorously until frothy. The host uses a chasen, a delicate bamboo whisk made specifically for matcha. Both the host and the guests bow before slowly sipping the tea. The ceremony can take up to 3 hours. 

What are the health benefits of matcha?

Green tea in general contains antioxidants, but because matcha powder is the whole leaf, it’s loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free-radicals in the body, and free radicals cause damage to our DNA. Things that trigger free radicals in our bodies include air pollution, radioactive substances, tobacco smoke, and UV rays. Antioxidants undo the effects of these substances. Matcha contains a group of antioxidants called catechins.

Matcha contains EGCG, a type of catechin with several health benefits. Though more studies are needed, there is evidence that EGCG may prevent cancer and slow the rate of tumour growth. In addition, it may lower cholesterol, and speed up metabolism, leading to weight loss.

Matcha also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes alertness and helps avoid crashes. It also reduces stress and triggers relaxation in the brain. 

How do I prepare matcha powder at home? Can I make matcha without a whisk?

Matcha is easy to prepare at home, and has many uses. If you don’t have a chasen, you can use a regular small whisk. Whisk vigorously to get a frothy texture. If you don’t have a small whisk, you can make it with a small spoon–just make sure to mix it very well. We recommend using a teaspoon of hot water, and mixing it well before adding any more hot water.

You can drink matcha on its own for a calming, healthy treat. You can also make a latte by heating up milk or non-dairy and pouring it over the matcha concentrate. In the summer months, iced matcha makes a delicious treat. Just pour the matcha concentrate over ice and your choice of milk. 

You can also bake with matcha. Add a teaspoon of matcha powder to pancakes, sugar cookies and cakes for a beautiful pale green hue. 

Can matcha powder go bad? 

Matcha powder will stay good for a year if left unopened, but after it’s opened, we recommend consuming it within a month. After that, the flavour begins to deteriorate.

Need an alternative to your morning coffee? Check out our Idle organic matcha powder, and while you’re there, peruse the whole Idle tea collection.






Does Caffeine Make Office Workers More Efficient?

What’s the thing that can make people wake up at 6 a.m. and waste an hour commuting to work everyday? Well, admittedly, not a lot of things have this effect, but great coffee for offices is potentially just the thing. In a post-lockdown world where employees are dreading returning to their cubicles, great coffee for offices could make the difference.

Computer desk with coffee

It’s harder than ever for employers to convince their workers to come back to the office. Most employers have only succeeded in bringing back their staff a few days a week at most. After two years of lockdown, office employees have enjoyed better sleep, no commuting, unsupervised breaks, and the list goes on. And, they’ve proved that they can be just as productive (if not more productive) working remotely.

However, for those employers who truly do need their employees to return, you’re going to need a bold tactic to bring them back. Read on to find out how great coffee for offices can be a juicy offer. 

Why should I provide good coffee for offices?

Providing great coffee for your office can communicate a lot of things to your employees.

Do you ever shake your head at that employee who shows up late every morning with a take-out coffee in their hand? Try to understand it from their perspective. Getting to work everyday is a grind, not just on account of the long, unpleasant commute, but the work environment. It can be even more difficult for employees who have bosses supervising them all day. Combine a lack of sleep, an early morning, a rough commute, and a job where you can’t relax, and you’d need a coffee, too!

In general, office workers reported feeling drained, anxious and taken-advantage-of pre-pandemic. Introducing a great office coffee program can be one step to making your employees feel valued. It can also make the workspace feel less intimidating, somewhere they can feel comfortable.

Coffee is inherently social, and it can be a way to get your employees to get to know each other. Encouraging socializing can improve staff morale, especially if morale is low. 

Coffee break

Frequent breaks improve productivity

Among employers, there seems to be an importance placed on productivity in the workplace. Many employers don’t seem to understand why surveilling their employees while at work doesn’t make them work harder or better. 

While it may sound counterintuitive, frequent breaks actually make people more productive. People get more work done throughout the day when they take several mini-breaks. Coffee is synonymous with a mid-day break.

In Sweden, there’s a ritual called fika which entails coffee and sweets. In many Scandinavian countries, work culture revolves around a shorter work day, more breaks, and sometimes, a 4-day work week. Studies show Scandinavian workers are just as productive as non-Scandinavian workers. 

Taking breaks during a long day can help workers with their mindset. It’s easier to tackle large projects by breaking them into bite-sized pieces, punctuated by breaks. When work is presented this way, the worker views the project as achievable.

Additionally, offering great coffee in the office can make your employees less likely to wander out for coffee, which can be a time drain.

Open office space

Does caffeine make office workers more efficient?

The main productivity benefits of coffee are down to the breaks that come with it. However, your brain on caffeine is more alert than without caffeine. Office workers generally show up to work tired from lack of sleep due to stress and commute. Caffeine helps to keep workers from nodding off, which is more likely to happen when sitting at a desk. 

Too much caffeine, however, can cause that signature crash. To truly reap the benefits of caffeine, limit your intake to 2 cups a day.

Health benefits of coffee

High quality coffee also comes with some health benefits. Freshly roasted coffee (ie. roasted within the last 2 weeks) contain antioxidants. Antioxidants have powerful anti-aging and disease prevention properties. They reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body. Upping your intake of antioxidant-rich foods is recommended if you live in a big city with air pollution.

In general, great coffee is delicious without the need for excess sugar and milk, making it a healthy, if not harmless, drink. 

Which coffee should I choose?

When choosing coffee, look for crowd-pleasing tasting notes. The majority of coffee drinkers prefer chocolatey, smooth, nutty flavours over bright, fruity flavours. We recommend the Godfather Espresso Blend ™, with milk chocolate and caramel notes. It works well as an espresso and as a drip coffee. 

What’s the best way to offer office coffee?

Depending on your budget, there are a lot of ways to offer up great coffee for offices. If you have a moderate budget, you can invest in a high-quality drip coffee maker. Cheaper drip coffee machines don’t make great coffee, so definitely invest in something good. Drip machines like the Technivorm Moccamaster make delicious coffee. You’ll also want to invest in a proper burr grinder. We recommend the Baratza Encore Grinder.Working with coffee

If you have the budget and have a huge team, you can actually hire an in-house barista for your office. You’ll have to invest in a high-quality espresso machine and grinder, too. 

Setting up great office coffee programs is old hat to us. We work in collaboration with many office coffee service supply companies for offices of all sizes. These companies provide everything from kitchen installation to brewing and cleaning equipment. For help setting up an in-office cafe, get in touch with our consultation team.

Stop and smell the coffee

If you want to improve morale and productivity, offering great coffee for offices is a great move. It shows that you value your workers’ sanity and wellbeing. By offering good coffee, you are being realistic and encouraging your workers to take breaks throughout the day. Sometimes, it just takes a little empathy to understand your employees’ behaviour.

Looking to improve your office coffee program to entice workers to return to the office? Get in touch with our wholesale team, and drop us a line at .



5 Reasons to Upgrade Restaurant Coffee Programs

As a restaurateur, do you ever stop to think about restaurant coffee from the perspective of your patrons? Bad restaurant coffee is a common complaint on Google reviews, and it can bring down an otherwise great experience. 

Put yourself in the patron’s shoes. You walk into a beautiful restaurant, noticing the soft lighting and the wonderful aroma. You’re met with friendly service, and you enjoy a superb meal, which is paired with a great glass of wine. At the end of your meal, you order a coffee. And the coffee is a let-down.

The coffee tastes stale, weak, bitter, or all of the above. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth (in the literal sense) and makes you regret ordering it in the first place. Restaurant coffee can be so much more, so why is your 5-star restaurant serving disappointing coffee?

Shouldn’t your coffee be as good as your menu, your wine selection, your service, and your ambiance? Your kitchen is stocked with local organic produce and free-range eggs. You’ve worked with a sommelier to source excellent wine. You’ve hand-picked your team of talented kitchen staff and servers. You don’t skimp on quality when it comes to the big picture, so why skimp on coffee?

You may be faced with some challenges when it comes to serving better coffee. Maybe you don’t have the budget for the overhead costs of coffee equipment. Your fast-paced kitchen environment may make it difficult to make coffee with proper attention and care. But whether your budget is big or small, you can make huge improvements to your restaurant coffee program. No more serving instant coffee and generic coffee pods. It’s time to embrace specialty coffee for restaurants that stays in line with your food philosophy.

What is specialty coffee? How do I source good coffee for my restaurant?

Specialty coffee is defined technically as coffee that scores at least 80 out of 100 on a cupping evaluation. In the general sense, specialty coffee fits a few criteria. The coffee company you source from should have an emphasis on freshness (ie. roasted within the last two weeks). You’ll want to buy from a provider who roasts and sources the coffee meticulously. A good roaster has a direct trade relationship with coffee farming co-operatives and pays a premium to protect their livelihood. The flavour of the coffee should be fresh and complex, with tasting notes from fruity to nutty to chocolatey. Lastly, the more local, the better. 

What if I can’t afford an espresso machine and barista training?

While a $20,000 espresso machine tended by a barista champion would be ideal, that might not be affordable for you.  We offer options of leasing equipment or helping to set up a monthly rental program like SilverChef offers you.  The other option of purchasing an industrial automatic drip coffee machine is less costly. The trouble is that you’re brewing large volumes of coffee that can potentially sit in the pot for hours.

A great solution to costly equipment is going low-tech by offering pour overs or French presses. They’re very affordable, they’re straightforward to use, and they make a better tasting coffee than industrial drip machines can. Plus, your customers will be dazzled by the novelty. If someone wants steamed milk, you can offer a “café au lait.” Milk frothers won’t make proper microfoam, but they’ll emulate the Italian cappuccino experience, which many diners seek anyways. Keep non-dairy milks and quality sweeteners on hand. Offer demerara sugar and local organic honey to create a memorable experience for the customer. 

In terms of restaurant logistics, you’ll want to put a restaurant staffer on coffee duty to avoid chaos. Servers don’t have time to drop everything they’re doing to make a pour over that takes upwards of 3 minutes. For equipment, you’ll need to invest in a burr grinder, pour over or French press hardware, and a weight scale. Hook up with a local coffee roaster to get fresh beans, and only grind them right before you need them. Make sure staff follow a straightforward recipe for maximum flavour and consistency. Check out our foolproof pour over recipe for a perfect cup every time!

This is a great starting point for restaurants to gauge specialty coffee enthusiasm with patrons. You can always upgrade later to an espresso machine if you feel the demand is there. 

Now that we’ve gone over the “how,” it’s time to go over the “why.” Without further ado, here are our top 5 reasons why you should upgrade your restaurant coffee.

5 reasons to upgrade your restaurant coffee program


It’s the lasting impression
.

Don’t let customers have a great meal and glass of wine, only to be followed by a bitter instant coffee. The coffee will be the last thing they taste, so don’t make them regret ordering it from you. Your coffee offerings should complement the entire experience, not detract from it.

You’ll create a following of loyal customers

Word will get around quickly, whether it’s over Google reviews or word-of-mouth, if the coffee is good. Lots of foodies and restaurant goers are on the hunt for great restaurant coffee. They love it when they can enjoy their favourite coffee brand at their favourite restaurant. Serving great coffee will make you stand out from the crowd, and you can brag about it on your menu. When customers see that you’re serving an independent, quality product, they’ll be impressed by your good taste.

Supporting local small business is good for the economy.

Supporting local small business puts more money back into the Canadian economy, improving infrastructure. In addition, you’re helping your neighbours stay in business and keep their livelihood. It also has an environmental impact–going local means less transportation of goods. 

Supporting independent roasters is more sustainable.

Because of their ease of use, many restaurant coffee programs are based on coffee pods. Unfortunately, the plastic pods are hard to recycle and create a lot of waste. Wholesale coffee from independent roasters comes in bulk bags, meaning less wasteful packaging. If you set your coffee program up wisely, you can knock out several pour overs at once. It may not be “press-of-a-button” fast, but it doesn’t have to slow you down if you play your cards right.

The critics will rave!

Your restaurant will become popular with the critics if you offer good coffee. Sustainability, quality, and organic farming are top-of-mind for modern restaurant-goers, so make sure to hit a home run. Make your clientele come for the food, and stay for the coffee. As the American silver screen actor Burt Lancaster aptly says, “I judge a restaurant by their bread and their coffee.”

Thinking about serving Fratello Coffee at your restaurant? Get in touch with our wholesale team for pricing and tastings. For more in-depth guidance on coffee service, book a consultation with us. Drop us a line at for more information.



Back-to-school: Tips for Coping with Parental Burnout

The back-to-school season stirs up a lot of emotions depending on who you are. For many, it's the season of excitement, nerves, nostalgia, new beginnings, and the madness of activity. This time of year can bring joy, in the form of hunkering down on studies or reuniting with classmates. But, if you’re a busy working parent, it can mean something entirely different: parental burnout.

Mother and daughter

Sure, the smell of fresh notebooks and the first signs of autumn bring a pleasantness to the air. But it can also be a return to that familiar hamster wheel of eat-work-sleep. Between making lunches, a full-time job, preparing dinner, and taking your kids to and from soccer practise, there’s exactly zero downtime. 

Working a full-time job is stressful enough on its own, but when you add raising kids to the mix, it can be crazy-making. Not only is this compounded stress a crappy feeling, but studies show that chronic stress literally makes us sick. Constant stress leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. High amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone, has been linked to cancer. The mind and the body are more interconnected than previously thought. 

As a parent, it can feel impossible to find some calm. If you continually let your own needs fall to the bottom of the priority list, that’s where they’ll stay. Don’t wait for downtime to occur–be proactive and make your own downtime. 

Here are our 5 tips for beating parental burnout so you can get the school year off to a great start.

5 tips for combatting parental burnout

Meditating woman

Carve out time for meditation 

Meditation, or mindfulness, is the practise of focusing on physical sensations and senses instead of on our thoughts. If you’ve never tried meditation before, you’ll be amazed at the effects on your mind after just 2-4 weeks of doing it regularly. 

Meditation exercises create new pathways in the brain, ie. new habits, new thought patterns, etc. If you tend to catastrophize, regular meditation creates a new, more level-headed way of thinking. 

Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, meditating 5-6 days a week can greatly ease parental burnout. Common meditations you can do anywhere and anytime include deep breathing and body scans. There are several free online guided meditation courses, such as the Palouse Mindfulness course. 

Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. To do something mindlessly would be to do something physical, like walking, without noticing your surroundings or sensations. Instead of focusing on the walk itself, you’d be caught up in thoughts about insecurities, bills, health, etc. A mindful walk, however, would involve focusing on the motion of your hips or the sounds of the birds in the trees. In essence, mindfulness is the practise of living life in the present and not missing what’s around us, however ordinary. 

Fratello coffee

Develop a new relationship with coffee

Sure, coffee contains caffeine, that thing that keeps our eyes open so we can deal with the demands of parenting. But rather than be used as a drug, coffee should be enjoyed. If you’re hitting up the drive-thru multiple times a day for a large triple-triple, you might be leaning on coffee. Parental burnout and too much caffeine tend to go hand-in-hand.

Change your relationship with coffee from one of caffeine addiction to one of mindful enjoyment. Start by drinking better coffee. Use the moment of drinking coffee to fully enjoy it. If you can, take a moment to sit down and enjoy it, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Even the act of making a pour over can be meditative. To fully enjoy the alertness benefits of coffee, try not to drink more than two cups a day.

If coffee isn't your thing, try making a matcha latte at home, and read about the health benefits of matcha.

Soak up parenting wisdom

Regardless of what age your kids are, it never hurts to take parenting classes or read parenting books. Not only will it help you beat parental burnout, but it will strengthen your relationship with your kids. Parenting wisdom can teach you how to deal with tough moments. Sometimes, kids will throw food at the walls or engage in naughty or rebellious behaviour. How you respond to these incidents is what makes the difference.

Parenting wisdom can also open your eyes to some of your own bad habits that you’re not even aware of. It can also demystify how to get kids to chores and homework without antagonizing them. 

A lot of unchecked life trauma can find its way into your family dynamic, damaging relationships. In general, parents can always benefit from seeing a therapist.  Studies show that kids with frazzled parents were much more likely to be stressed themselves

Mother and child

Do fun things with your kids regularly 

A lot of times, a major factor of parental burnout is too much work and not enough play. Regularly engaging in fun activities increases serotonin levels in the brain, the chemical associated with happiness. 

Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as making cookies together on the weekend or going to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Even though it may be tempting to do nothing on the weekends after a draining week, fun is essential to well-being. It’s also a form of bonding with our family. Many parents with grown children report having regrets about not spending enough time with their kids when they’re growing up. 

Have some alone time

While it’s important to bond as a family, it’s equally important to find solitude. Solitude is important to our mental health. Being alone helps us to work through personal struggles, improve our concentration, relax, think deeply, and more. 

When you have kids, you practically never have alone time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have it–it simply means you have to make the time. Protect this time with your life. Book off a day in the calendar to get out of the house and call a babysitter or a relative to watch your kids.

It can be as simple as going to a coffee shop to get a few chapters in or going to the art gallery by yourself. If you let quality alone time fall to the bottom of your to-do list, you’ll become irritable, depressed and anxious. 

child doing homework

Turning parenting into child’s play

Parenting is indeed hard. It requires good time management skills and being “on” more than we’d like. But the mental strain that comes with parental burnout can add an extra layer of “hard” on top of a jam-packed schedule. The key is to set boundaries around your self-care routine and to inject more joy into your life. This school year, get off to a good start, and don’t wait to start implementing self care!






How to Fix a Bad Pour Over Coffee

Have you ever been in the frustrating position where you’ve made a bad Pour Over coffee, not knowing where you went wrong?  We’ve been there too–that’s why we made a comprehensive guide to show you how to fix a bad coffee.

Pour Over coffee can be delicious. It can be the last thing you think about before bed, and the first thing you think about upon waking. Then again, coffee can also be not-so-delicious. It’s discouraging when you buy quality coffee, only to make an unsavoury cup. Even the best beans won’t make a good cup of coffee if you don’t know the basics. A poorly brewed cup of coffee can taste sour, bitter, flat, burnt, or cardboard-like. Read up on how to fix a bad coffee, and you’ll never have a morning-ruining cup of coffee again!

**Note

When we say “fix” bad coffee, we don’t mean that you can alter the cup after the fact. We simply mean that you can start over and make a new, delicious cup. There’s nothing you can do to a bad coffee but accept it and move on. So cut your losses, grab a new coffee filter, and let’s get to work.

Coffee Flavour variables

First, it’s crucial to understand all the different variables that affect the flavour of coffee. Here are the main things you have control over.   The main thing to start with, is fresh roasted coffee from your local coffee roaster of choice.....like Fratello Coffee Roasters. 

Coffee Grind Size

Grind size is really important to making a good cup of coffee. A good cup of coffee is one that has been extracted enough–not too little, and not too much. Extraction refers to the amount of flavour and caffeine being pulled out of the coffee by the hot water. 

Grind size plays a key role in extraction. When it comes to most coffee methods, a finer grind leads to a faster extraction rate. Conversely, a coarser grind leads to a slower extraction rate. For example, a pour over has a relatively quick brew time, which calls for a finer grind. You want to extract the flavours quickly. A French press, on the other hand, calls for a coarser grind, to slow down the extraction rate. Due to the longer brewing time and the immersion element, a fine grind would produce a very bitter French press.

Brew Ratio 

The ratio of water to coffee will dictate the strength of your cup of coffee. The most popular, recommended ratio of water to coffee is 1:16 or 1:15. So, if you’re using 20 grams of coffee, you would use 300-320 mL of hot water. While you can play around with the amounts, try not to diverge too much from the golden ratio.

Water Temperature 

The water you use to brew coffee should be hot, but not boiling. Water straight off the boil can give your coffee a burnt taste. Ideally, it should be between 93-96 degrees C. To achieve this temperature, bring a pot of water to the boil, and let it rest for 30-45 seconds. 

Coffee Brewing Gear 

Changing up your coffee equipment slightly can immediately fix a bad coffee. If you’re using a cheap automatic drip machine, consider switching to a pour over dripper set. It’s inexpensive and low-tech, and it will make a better cup than your clunky old coffee maker. 

If you can, purchase a gooseneck kettle. Not only do they look beautiful in your kitchen, but they also let you control the flow of the water. Pouring your water straight from a kettle can make the water flow too quickly, resulting in under extraction. If you don’t have one, consider pouring your water into a metal pitcher or a heat-proof container with a spout. 

While optional, a weight scale is helpful for weighing coffee beans, and great for gauging how your coffee is going. 

The most common cause of bad coffee

The biggest factor affecting the flavour of your coffee is the grind. Your coffee can be ground too fine or too coarse, and it can also be ground inconsistently. We hope that you’re not using a blade grinder, as this will result in an inconsistent grind. Blade grinders, while cheap and convenient, will most definitely produce a bad coffee. What you’ll get is a cup that’s both bitter and sour. It will also lead to a flat flavour, with not many distinctive flavour notes. As a serious coffee drinker, it’s time you invest in a proper burr grinder. If you’re not ready to invest in an electric burr grinder, consider purchasing a manual hand grinder. 

If you already do have a burr grinder and you’re finding your coffee isn’t tasting great, you could be grinding your coffee too fine or too coarse. Does your coffee taste strong and bitter? Set your grinder a few notches coarser. Does your coffee taste weak and sour? Go a little finer. 

Now that you understand extraction and its effect on the overall flavour, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. Try our foolproof pour over, and you’ll be an expert going forward. Make sure to read the directions from start to finish before trying your hand at this recipe. 

What you’ll need:

  1. Weigh your beans. Pour your beans into your grinder, and grind on a setting that’s finer than drip. Set aside.
  2. Bring your water to a boil. Set aside for 30-45 seconds. Place the paper filter in the pour over dripper, and place the dripper on top of a medium-sized mug. Pour hot water all over the empty filter until the whole filter is wet. Discard the water.
  3. Place the ground coffee in the filter. Give the dripper a tap to level out the coffee bed. Place the mug and dripper on a weight scale, and press the tare button to set it to zero.
  4. “Bloom” your coffee. (This is the process of adding a small amount of water to the grinds and allowing the CO2 to dissipate.) Pour 50 grams of hot water over the grinds, making sure to get them all wet. Wait 45 seconds before your second pour.
  5. Begin your second pour. Pour the water in concentric circles, starting from the centre and working outwards, until you reach 200 ml on the weight scale. Grab your small spoon, and gently mix the coffee grinds and the water. Wait until all the water has drawn down before you begin your third pour.
  6. Begin your third pour. Moving in concentric circles, pour the remaining water until the weight scale reaches 320 mL. Let the water fully draw down. Remove the dripper and set aside. Your pour over is complete!

Tip: your pour over should take about 3 minutes and 15 seconds. If it takes longer than this, make your grind a little coarser. If it takes less time than this, make your grind a little finer. Use a timer for optimal results. 

Want more tips to improve the flavour of your coffee at home? Check out our Coffee Storage guide!



How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at home

Summer is officially here, and nothing compliments the hot summer months more than cold brew coffee. We’ll show you a few easy methods to make cold brew at home to enjoy all season long.

There are lots of different variations on iced coffee out there, but cold brew is a completely different experience. It has a signature velvety-smooth flavour profile, making it a delicious iced coffee option. You’ll find it so smooth that you won’t have to add any milk or sugar to it–it’s that good!

The best part about cold brew is that it’s incredibly easy to make, with great results. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour compared to a regular cup of coffee. We’ll show you how to make cold brew at home with basic household tools that you probably already have. But first, we’ll answer some common questions about this intriguing coffee method. 

What is cold brew coffee?

Unlike hot brewed coffee, cold brew is coffee steeped in cold water and refrigerated for 16-24 hours. Some of the more bitter chemical compounds released in hot brewed coffee are not found in cold brewed coffee. That’s why it has a smooth flavour, with very little bitterness or acidity. 

What type of coffee should I use?

There aren’t many rules about what coffee you should use when making cold brew. If you want to amplify the smooth factor of cold brew, choose a coffee roasted on the darker side, and look for chocolate and caramel notes. A great option for a darker cold brew would be the Godfather ™ Dark Roast, featuring notes of chocolate fudge and toffee. If you want a similar flavour profile but with a bit more brightness, opt for the Godfather ™ Light Roast. The lighter roast brings out a milk chocolate and caramel profile. And if you’re feeling more adventurous and looking for brighter, fruitier profiles, we recommend the D.R. Congo, with notes of grapefruit and caramel, and the Ethiopia Guji Uraga, with tropical fruit and citrus notes. 

Do I have to buy a bunch of tools to make cold brew at home?

Hardly! While most people don’t have a cold brewer, you can easily make cold brew at home with some common household supplies. All you really need is a large glass container and something to strain your coffee with. You can even make cold brew in a French press–just steep your coffee in the glass vessel, and use the plunger when it’s time to strain it. If you own a reusable cloth filter, you can fill the filter with the ground coffee and tightly tie it off with an elastic band. Just make sure you give it a few good squeezes while submerged in the water to ensure the water can saturate the grinds all the way through. 

If you don’t have a French press or a cloth filter, you can also use a large glass jar, and strain the cold brew at the very end. Just pour your coffee into the jar with a litre of water, and then strain it with cheesecloth when brewing is complete.

Got everything you need to make cold brew at home?  Recipe for standard cold brew:

Let’s get brewing!

  1. Measure out 100 grams of coffee. Grind it on a medium setting, as you would for automatic drip.
  2. Place your coffee grinds into the large glass jar. Pour 250 grams of your cold water over top, and stir gently. Make sure all the grinds are saturated. Pour the rest of the cold water in, and give it a final stir. 
  3. Secure the lid on the jar, and store it in your fridge. At the 16-hour mark, do a taste test. If it tastes weak, let it continue to brew in the fridge, for a maximum of 24 hours. Once brewing is complete, remove from the fridge.
  4. Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth folded over twice, and place the sieve over a large bowl with a spout. Strain the mixture into the sieve. Once you’ve poured it all out, gather the edges of the cheese cloth, and give it a good squeeze to remove excess water. If the cold brew still looks murky, you can pass it through cheesecloth one more time.
  5. Pour your fresh cold brew into a glass container, and store in your fridge for up to a week. If the flavour is too heavy and concentrated for you, dilute it with some tap or sparkling water. Enjoy! 






Our Founding Father - An Interview with Cam Prefontaine

This Father’s Day, we’re paying homage to Cam Prefontaine, founder of Fratello Coffee, and pioneer of the burgeoning Calgary coffee scene. From his humble beginnings selling coffee to offices and restaurants and later roasting his own fresh coffee (long before it was cool), he’s seen the industry evolve over the years from the generic, ho-hum offerings of the mid ‘70s to the third-wave specialty coffee movement of today. 

It started out as a possible alternative to a dreary mechanic job, and it turned into a passion that his whole family grew to embrace. In running his coffee business, Cam unwittingly sparked an entrepreneurial streak in his three sons, Jason, Chris and Russ. Watching their dad sell and roast coffee had a profound impact on the three sons, who went on to pursue various business ventures together. The businesses ranged from flavour syrups/smoothies, to distributing and installing espresso machines, launching a world renowned espresso machine brand Slayer Espresso, to opening up a chain of cafes called Analog Coffee

We sat down with Cam and his son Chris to hear about the inspiration behind jumping into the coffee industry, the evolution of the cup of joe, and lessons learned from dad. 

Fratello Coffee: Cam, can you describe the coffee scene when you started out in the business in the ‘70s? 

Cam Prefontaine: In the early days, it was, “coffee is coffee.” Only generic brands were available. It had little fresh flavour, and was anywhere from 1 to 4 months old, and always ground coarse.

FC: What drew you to coffee? 

Cam: The opportunity was presented to me as an alternative to working as an aircraft mechanic for Air Canada. So I took on the product line and worked the midnight shift until we could replace our income. Barb, my bride, took care of the kids and managed the household and the books for this new small business. 

Like typical new entrepreneurs, we thought it looked easy.

 

 

FC: Was there a moment that made you want to pursue a career in the coffee industry?

Cam: I loved the smell of mom’s percolating coffee each morning with breakfast. As a child, I never liked the taste of milk, so she put some coffee in my milk with a bit of sugar, and boom… I loved the aroma and taste, and its association with many pleasant memories. 

So in 1974, we started selling coffee to businesses. After 3 months, I went full-time. Our parents thought we were nuts, but we made a nice living.

FC: Did you ever think that coffee would blow up in popularity the way it has today? 

Cam: Never entered my mind.

Around 1984, I was looking for the freshest roasted coffee to source for my customers. We found a local coffee roaster, who would roast small batches of coffee for us to spoil our clients, and keep them from wanting that cheap taste for a cheaper price. It worked!

 

FC: Did you realize you were doing coffee way before it was cool?

Cam: After attending the first specialty coffee trade show in New Orleans, my wife and I recognized that this would be the future of coffee. We returned home to sell our office coffee service company and devoted our efforts to fine tuning our coffee roasting and services. New prospective café owners would need our help with the best coffee and equipment.  

FC: Chris, what was it like watching your dad roast coffee as a kid? What about it made you want to get involved? 

Chris Prefontaine: Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, coffee was not cool like it is now. I remember being kind of embarrassed that my dad sold coffee out of our garage. But I remember thinking it was neat when he got into roasting in 1985. I liked seeing the production process, and it got me more interested. I worked for my dad right out of high school in 1989 when coffee was just starting to get very popular.  

But it wasn't until my dad suggested he help me start my own business selling espresso machines to cafés in Calgary that I really became excited. So in 1991, dad made it possible for my older brother and me to start Espuccino Imports, distributor of Nuova Simonelli espresso machines. 

FC: How old were you when you started drinking coffee? You look awfully young in those photos standing next to the roaster. 

Chris: I must have been 8 or 9 years old. My dad provided coffee for our church, and I would take some coffee from these large percolators, and then I would grab several sugar cubes to dissolve in the coffee! I feel sorry for my Sunday school teachers who had to put up with a super hyper kid in the class.

FC: What changes have you seen over the years in the coffee industry?

Chris: It started out in the ‘70s with my dad's cheesy mustache, selling crappy office coffee. In the ‘80s my dad started roasting many different types of coffee and supplying restaurants and mom & pop shops.  At the time, it was all about having 20 to 30 different flavored coffees, like "Irish Cream," "Hawaiian Breeze," or "Toasted Hazelnut Cream." All artificial chemicals we would add to the beans. Yuck.



Coffee Storage: 5 Ways to Keep your Beans Fresh

Need to overhaul your coffee storage etiquette? 

There's information out there about how to store your coffee, but not all of it is well advised.  Poor coffee storage can lead to flat, uninspiring, and downright stale coffee. You may be committing some coffee storage faux-pas lately, and you don’t even realize it! 

When you buy great coffee, you have a duty to keep it fresh and use it up in a timely manner to honour its innate qualities. Don’t forget that coffee is a food item, too. Just like bread, coffee goes stale. Just as you wouldn’t eat stale bread, you shouldn’t drink stale coffee. Fratello coffee bags are dosed at 340 grams for a reason–to encourage you to buy only what you need. 

How long do coffee beans last?

Ideally, you will use up all your coffee within 3-4 weeks of the roast date. Don’t buy coffee in huge quantities if you’re a household of 1 and you only drink 1 cup a day. Buy enough coffee to last you 1 week, 2 weeks maximum. If you’re a family of 5 and you all drink 2-3 cups a day, it might make sense to buy it in quantities of 2 lbs, but otherwise, you should never need more than 340 grams at a time. Try to get familiar with your needs, and go from there. 

Understanding the things that affect coffee freshness can help you keep your coffee tasting great. Below are the 3 main enemies of coffee.

Keep Coffee Away from:

  1. Light

    Have you ever noticed how coffee bags are always opaque? This is by design. Light, particularly UV exposure, causes photodegradation in coffee. This causes the breakdown of chemical compounds, leading to less aromatic coffee. Keep your beans in the bag they came in or place them in an opaque container for optimal coffee storage.

  2. Air. 

    When coffee is exposed to air, it oxidizes, and oxygen is what causes all foods to go bad. Never leave a bag of beans open where the air can get to it. Always close your coffee bag, and try to get as much air out of the bag as possible before closing. In addition, never grind a whole bag of coffee beans upon purchase. Only grind what you need, immediately before brewing.

  3. Moisture. 

    Moisture can not only introduce new, unsavoury flavours to your coffee, but it can also cause the beans to mould and the oils to go rancid quicker. While it may seem like a good idea to refrigerate or freeze your coffee, this is where moisture can be introduced. We don’t recommend freezing or refrigerating as a means of coffee storage. In addition, a humid kitchen will cause your beans to go south, so make sure your coffee is stored in a cool, dry place.

We’ll debunk some coffee storage myths and show you some new ways to keep your coffee fresh. Let’s make stale coffee a thing of the past!

Top 5 coffee storage tips:

  1. Don’t grind all your coffee at once

    When you’re purchasing coffee at a coffee shop or online, there is usually the option to have all your beans ground at once. While you may not have the means to grind it at home, don’t rely on this forever. Get yourself a quality burr grinder for home, and grind whatever you need, right before you need it. Grinding all your coffee at once brings in the enemy of air. More surface area means more air attacking your coffee, and it will begin to stale immediately. 

  2. Don’t freeze your coffee

    We don’t recommend freezing your coffee, and we especially don’t recommend refrigerating it. Freezing your coffee not only alters the chemical compounds (ie. flavours) in your coffee and dries up the oils, but it introduces moisture, one of the key enemies of coffee. What happens when you freeze your coffee is that condensation accumulates around the jar.  As soon as you take it out of the fridge and open the container or jar, the condensation rushes in, introducing moisture. While freezing your coffee is a common piece of advice, we don’t recommend it as a means of coffee storage. 

  3. Keep your coffee out of direct light

    Coffee bags are opaque for a reason–to keep light out, a major coffee enemy. The best container to store your beans in? The bag they came in! While it may be tempting to store your beans in a glass mason jar on the counter, this will quickly lead to flavour degradation. The same goes for storing beans in the hopper of your grinder. It may look nice as a way to display them, but it isn’t proper coffee storage. Avoid leaving beans in your hopper, and if you must, leave a small amount. If you’re going to buy a container for your coffee beans, make sure the container is opaque (black is best) and has an air-tight seal.  

  4. Keep coffee away from heat sources

    Avoid leaving your beans near heat sources, such as on top of the fridge or next to the stove. This is an improper means of coffee storage, and it will quickly degrade your beans. This goes for brewed coffee as well. While it may seem nice to have a hot pot of coffee all morning, this is going to singe all those delicate flavour notes in your coffee.  

  5. Learn to accept when your coffee is stale. 

    Once your coffee has gone stale, learn to accept it. There’s nothing you can do to bring back stale coffee. Don’t try to add fancy flavour syrups to it to bring it back to life. It’s time to move on, and vow to change up your future coffee storage habits. The only thing you can do with stale coffee beans is grind them up and use them for compost. 

A Fresh Start

While you may have been committing some coffee storage no-no’s, it’s never too late to change your ways. Fratello Coffee is sourced meticulously, and roasted carefully. We want you to get the best out of our coffee, and taste the difference. Want to learn more about how to perfect your home brew? Check out these useful tips about buying and using coffee!

Antigua, Guatemala Sourcing Trip and Direct Trade Process

In conversation with Russ Prefontaine, president and co-owner of Fratello Coffee, about his most recent sourcing trip to Guatemala

Bright red cherries hanging off of shady coffee trees are a beautiful sight for coffee enthusiasts. But that wasn’t what brought Russ Prefontaine to Antigua, Guatemala this past February. The Fratello Coffee president and co-owner has been sourcing coffee at origin for the past 17 years, and he’s seen it all. At this point, he’s after one thing: great coffee.

Coffee Cherries

But great coffee isn’t just about flavour; it starts with great people. We sat down with Prefontaine to chat about his most recent origin trip to meet the producers at San Miguel Coffees in Antigua and check out their coffee farm. He was impressed with what he saw, and tasted. 

Apart from producing some of the world’s best coffee, Antigua, Guatemala is a popular tourist destination. It’s a Unesco World Heritage site, with wonderfully preserved Spanish colonial architecture. In Antigua, you’ll find enchanted cobblestone streets with candy-coloured buildings, ancient church ruins, views of the surrounding volcanoes, and the ever famous pastel-yellow Santa Catalina Arch. Not to mention, incredible authentic culinary favourites, like tamales, sopas and caldos (soups and stews), fried plantains, and spiced mangoes to name a few.

Prefontaine got to bring his two children, aged 8 and 10, along for the ride. When he wasn’t busy cupping coffee and observing the operation of the farm, he was taking his kids to enjoy the essential tourist sites, like riding up the volcano on horseback and roasting marshmallows over red-hot lava. 

But tamales and marshmallows aside, Prefontaine was on serious business. He spoke about the ethos behind visiting the origin and meeting the producers, what he looks for, and what direct trade looks like to him. A healthy coffee community not only puts care and passion into growing and processing, but takes great care of its farmers. 

Fratello Coffee: Why is it important to you to visit the origin before purchasing?

Russ Prefontaine: I visit origins when I want to start establishing relationships. When I start getting more serious about sourcing larger volumes of coffee, I want to really find out who they are as business people. I consider coffee a very important business, and I want to work with people who see it the same way. The producers are passionate, they’re knowledgeable, they’re educated.  

FC: Why do you have direct relationships with these producers? Why don’t you just entrust a third-party importer to the job of sourcing? Why do you have to see it with your own eyes?

RP: You can look around and see the overall organization, the cleanliness.  Are they taking care of the environment? Are they taking care of waste water, the trees? How does everything look? We can have conversations about their overall operations, if they have programs within their operations that benefit their employees. Do the people look happy? I get an idea of who they are and if they are running the operations in a way that we can trust working together and get a consistent product. 

I like to see education programs where the producers have schooling systems on their farms. Because these farms are very remote, accessing education is almost impossible for the people that live around there. Schooling is mandatory, but not always enforced. What you might see in coffee growing communities is that families aren’t encouraging their kids to go to school because they don’t have a way to get them there. So when you’re driving around the towns near the farms, what are you seeing? Do they have any services? Do the people look healthy? Is there a store around there? What is there for them? 

I like to see healthcare programs. San Miguel has a dental clinic and a healthcare centre right on their facility. So you start to see differences between producers who are truly investing in the people and the community to improve it. My job is to support the people who are doing that. I have the choice. I can work with nice people! [Laughs] I get to work with people who are passionate about coffee, business people who get this. 

I feel great about who we’re buying from. They’re taking care of any wastewater and environmental issues that they can. And the coffee tastes great! When everything’s working together, I say, “Now I consider you a direct trade partner.” But it doesn’t happen in a year. It’s a very long process to build that trust. 

Anyone can just throw “Direct Trade” on their bag. All you have to do is fly down there and take a couple of pictures, and there you go. 

FC: Do these producers face any of the common hardships of coffee producers, ie. leaf rust, financial difficulties?

RP: Every year there’s something. In Brazil last year, they had huge floods followed by frosts that they’ve never had so bad.  This year, winter season is just starting in Brazil (end of May), and already they have had mild frost damage. Last year it destroyed approximatly 30% of their coffee harvest.  Within Central America, more and more, leaf rust is showing up at higher elevation, which is unique. Initially it was just a lower elevation where it was really warm. But what that's showing is that the overall temperatures are increasing, creating the possibility for rust to enter a higher elevation. So that really affects the coffees that roasters like us are purchasing.  In addition, fertilizer costs have sky-rocketed more than 3 times the regular price this year alone.



Giving Back to our Local Community

Coffee With a Conscience

Did you know that your friendly neighbourhood coffee roaster has been silently donating to local charities for decades? Fratello Coffee Roasters is heavily involved in the Calgary community, donating funds and supplying hundreds of pounds of fresh coffee every month to a host of different charities whose causes range from homelessness, to food insecurity, to addiction. 

Fratello Coffee

Co-owner Russ Prefontaine says it’s a way to give back to a community that has supported the company from the start.  It was his father, the founder of the company, that started the tradition. “We were raised with the attitude of giving back […] it makes us feel good.  If we want the local Calgary community to support us, we should then be the first in line to be supporting the local community when we can. That is what it truly means to Support Local….it needs to be a full circle.”

Roasting and sourcing ethically has always been top-priority, but the company’s generosity is yet another reason you can feel good about drinking Fratello coffee. Here are just a few of the wonderful causes the company donates to every year. 

CBC Eye Opener

Every year, Fratello takes part in the Calgary Food Bank fundraiser in partnership with the CBC, which happens around the holidays. The Calgary Food Bank is the city’s main charitable food hub, serving families, individuals and organizations. Their programs include emergency food hampers, food linking (making sure food gets to the people who need it), and rescuing perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste.

Fratello has taken part 10 years in a row, and has donated close to $300,000 total. In December of 2021, they donated 1,400 bags of coffee and raised just over $59,000 in coffee sales.

The Calgary Dream Centre is an organization dedicated to helping people overcome addiction and homelessness, two interrelated issues. They offer resources specifically geared towards men and women, and their approach is to pair individuals with case managers who guide them along their journey. The programs include mindfulness training, professional counselling, and life skills mentoring (cooking, driving, and job interview preparation). They also work hard to provide transitional and community housing to homeless and precariously housed people. 

Mustard Seed

The Seed is a Christian non-profit organization founded in 1984 on a mission to care for individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty. They cover basic needs like emergency shelter and meals, and also offer programs for health & wellness and employment guidance. The organization also has a waiting list for supportive housing. Fratello has been making significant coffee donations to this organization for 30 years.

The Alex

The Alex is a food program offering free healthy meals on a drop-in basis, and hosts an affordable produce market every Friday morning. Their New Roots program is geared towards new immigrants facing food insecurity and hosts culturally themed affordable food markets. Other programs include cooking and gardening classes for kids and adults, and community projects to advance Truth & Reconciliation. 

https://calgarydropin.ca/ 

The Calgary Drop-in serves adults at risk of experiencing homelessness. They offer emergency shelters, meal programs, health clinic services, permanent housing, and hygeine and laundry services. In addition, they offer the Free Goods program, where new and lightly used goods (such as furniture, clothing, electronics and cookware) find their way to low-income & no-income Calgarians. 

Calgary Drop In

Iced Vietnamese Coffee

Iced Vietnamese Coffee featuring our French Saigon Dark

There’s no treat more elegant than Vietnamese coffee. Strong coffee is brewed directly over sweetened condensed milk, stirred, and poured over ice in a rocks glass. It’s a small but mighty pick-me-up that’s at once indulgent and sophisticated.

It’s time to dust off this classic coffee recipe–we’re bringing it back! For Vietnamese coffee, you’ll want to use a full-bodied dark roast. We recommend our French Saigon Dark blend. Its full-bodied smoothness and dark chocolate notes compliment the sweetened condensed milk perfectly. It’s our oldest blend, pioneered in 1985 specifically for iced Vietnamese Coffee, and it remains one of our bestsellers to this day.

Iced Vietnamese coffee history

Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by French settlers. Since then, Vietnam has taken off as a major coffee producer, and today is responsible for 20% of the world’s coffee production. Coffee culture is massive in Vietnam now, and ca fe sua da (which translates to coffee with milk and ice) is a common order at coffee houses.  

Because fresh dairy is not readily available in Vietnam, canned sweetened condensed milk has increased in popularity due to its long shelf life and easy transportation.

 

Traditionally, Vietnamese coffee is made with a coffee brewing tool called a phin, a metal contraption with several filters. This ensures a slow brew time and a strong coffee.

Make sure to get a head start on the warm weather by perfecting your Vietnamese coffee game. Before long, everyone will want one!

How to make Vietnamese coffee using a phin (single serving):

 

  1. Measure a heaped tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk into a glass. Set aside. Weigh 20 grams of Fratello French Saigon Dark, and grind fine (as you would for an Aeropress). Boil water to 93-96 degrees C. 
  2. Place the filter plate over the glass containing the sweetened condensed milk. Place the brewing chamber on top of that, followed by the ground coffee. Then, drop the press filter (the piece with the handle) on top of the grinds.
  3. Pour about 20 grams of hot water over top of the press filter to bloom the coffee grinds. Let it sit for 30 seconds.
  4. Slowly, and in concentric circles, pour enough water into the chamber until you reach the top. Place the lid on top, and let the coffee slowly brew until it stops dripping.
  5. When it stops dripping, set your phin aside, and stir the hot coffee with the sweetened condensed milk until well combined. Fill a rocks glass ¾ full of ice, and pour the coffee-milk mixture over the ice. Enjoy!

 

If you don’t have a phin or you can’t source one, you can simply sub out the phin for the Aeropress method instead. Pour a heaped tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk in a glass. Prepare an aeropress coffee, and plunge the coffee directly into the glass. Stir and pour over ice. If you want a frothier consistency, you can pour the coffee-milk mixture into a cocktail shaker full of ice, along with a splash of hot water. Shake for one minute, and pour into a tall glass with a metal or paper straw. 

 

Mother's Day Sale - April 29 - May 3

The Godfather Espresso Collection is 20% off–just in time for Mother’s Day

This Mother’s Day, make her an offer she can’t refuse. Our Godfather blend is 20% off for a limited time only starting April 29th (for online orders only). This includes the Classic Light Roast Espresso, the Dark Roast Espresso, and the newly introduced Natural Decaf. This best-selling Classic blend is a crowd-pleaser, for both the casual drinker and the coffee connoisseur. As a light roast, it imparts flavours of caramel and milk chocolate, and as a dark roast, we taste chocolate fudge and dark toffee. The Godfather collection works well as drip coffee, espresso, or french press, and pairs well with milk.

Make sure to get your orders in by Tuesday, May 3rd at midnight, so you can give the gift of fresh coffee. Order directly off our website to have it shipped to your door.

Mum’s more of a tea drinker? We also have a line of our very own Idle Teas. Nothing is more classic than Cream of Earl Grey, a full-bodied, organic black tea with notes of citrus and lavender, and pure bergamot oil from Calabria. For something a bit more exciting, gift her the Rooibos Matcha powder–just like green matcha powder, caffeine-free rooibos tea is ground into a rich, amber-toned powder. Just whisk it up with a bit of hot water to make lattes, hot or cold, or add the powder directly to smoothies. For a burst of colour, gift her the Beetroot Latte powder. It makes the perfect caffeine-free latte with earthy sweetness and a hint of ginger.

Just one more trip to the flower shop, and you’re all set!



Coffee Farm Care and Maintenance

Coffee production does not end when the coffee has been picked, processed and shipped around the world. Maintaining an efficient, productive and high quality coffee farm requires a very sizable amount of work in between the harvests.

The coffee tree is a very demanding plant. In order to keep a coffee plant “happy” you must meet its most basic needs: nutrition and a suitable environment. These factors are true of all agriculture, but are even more important when it comes to the coffee plant, as it is not simply an agricultural product, but a product where quality dramatically varies dependent on the stewardship of the tree.

Coffee was never intended to leave the forests of Ethiopia; humans planted the seeds all over the tropics. As a result, coffee is somewhat of a “fussy” plant, in that, because it is endemic to one place, the plants in Honduras, Bolivia, Nicaragua, etc do not possess much genetic diversity. What does this mean? Well, the coffee plant outside of Ethiopia is extremely susceptible to a myriad of diseases, fungal infections and pests.Coffee has not been grown in regions outside of Ethiopia for a very long time either. Because of this, the coffee plant has not acquired a resistance to the unique environmental hazards that exist in the multiple countries in which coffee is currently grown. In short, it requires work to care for coffee.

Nutrition is very important for coffee trees growing in places such as Bolivia. Without adequate nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, coffee trees can not experience ample root, wood and bud development. Maintaining the topsoil, and fighting erosion from gravity and water run-off requires constant attention from the coffee producer.

In order to grow healthy, productive plants, the farmer is typically required to replenish this topsoil as needed, ensuring that the coffee tree is constantly being fed the required nutrients to produce at its expected level. This requires vigilance, you can’t just leave the trees alone. Most specialty coffee farms are produced on a slope, and thus the risk of erosion is very high, all the nutritious soil can simply fall down the hill, or be washed down. Additionally, in many coffee growing regions, the soil is very loose and silty. This unstable ground poses a risk to farm workers as well as the plants. We in the specialty coffee industry have all experienced brief scary moments where the ground gives way while inspecting a coffee tree. Maintaining the soil is a constant battle, but is vitally important for the health of the coffee tree.

Pruning is a typical activity that occurs on a coffee farm at the end of a harvest. Healthy coffee trees like to grow, especially varieties such as Geisha and Maragogype, which like to grow big, lanky branches that extend very far. Planting coffee must be done with careful consideration: if you space your trees too closely, they will grow towards each other quickly. This is a huge problem, as coffee trees need sunlight to produce fruit. A coffee tree producing less fruit than the year prior is disastrous for a coffee farmer, they will simply earn less money. Strategic pruning must be employed to ensure every tree gets the required amount of sunlight to maximize yields. This does result in a temporary loss of revenue, since you are technically removing branches that will produce fruit, but slacking on your pruning can create a disaster in the long-term, as the plants overlap each other. There is an additional benefit to regular pruning, in that the clipped branches can simply be left on the ground near the trees where they have fallen. These branches will decompose and feed nutrition back to the plant, creating a more healthy, productive tree.

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Analog Named Best Coffee Shop 2019

Coffee isn’t just coffee anymore. Now, it’s all about the brand, the merchandise, the location, the story, but it has always been, and always will be, about the taste. Lucky for you, Analog checks off all of these boxes. Coffee has run in the Prefontaine family since 1974, when the father Cam first started a wholesale coffee company out of his home. His three sons grew up helping him with sales and watching him roast his very own coffee. The parents produced the coffee and the sons started selling all the commercial coffee equipment, making them the whole package to share their love of coffee with the world. Eventually after many years in the industry, the family decided that it was finally time to open their own shop.

With seven current locations in Calgary and one soon to be available in the University District, Analog Coffee first started out in the Calgary Farmers’ Market in 2011. As business boomed almost immediately, the company bought their dream location that we all know and love today on 17th Avenue. As the coffee’s popularity grew and more and more people fell in love with the taste, the business couldn’t help but to expand their reach and provide more Calgarians with their delicious brews. Learn more about the history of the company and see which trendy Analog Coffee location is closest to you.

To see the original article, and other winners check out The Best of Calgary website.

Photo captured by Neil Zeller

Visting Expocamo in Nicaragua - Direct Trade Trip

On April 18, 2018 the protests in Nicaragua first began. Spurred on by social security reforms decreed by President Daniel Ortega, demonstrations involving university students, the elderly and other activists broke out in Managua, Jinotega, Leon and other large Nicaraguan cities. The protests were violently repressed: live ammunition was fired into crowds, hundreds of protestors were killed by police and armed Sandinista militias, thousands more were wounded and tens of thousands have fled the country in exile. Nicaragua has been in turmoil for over a year now, and the end doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight. Even in the relatively small and sleepy town of Ocotal, shouts of “¡Viva Nicaragua libre!” can be heard, quickly followed by the blaring of police sirens.

What amazes us the most about the Nicaraguan people, is that despite the tragic circumstances unfolding in their country, they still offer the most authentic hospitality, have the biggest hearts and have the most fun out of all the places we visit. It is nearly impossible to feel like an outsider in Nicaragua because the people simply will not let you. The amount of times we have been invited into the homes of people, who we barely know or have just met, to watch baseball or ultra-cheesy Mexican telenovelas is much higher than we ever could have expected. Nicaraguan culture is very laid back and tranquillo. In our experience, Nicaragua remains one of the most informal places we have ever been and it creates a truly relaxing and easy-going atmosphere.

Our partners in Nicaragua are having a tough time right now. Financing from the government, which was once available, is now gone and it’s becoming harder to plant new trees, rebuild drying beds and fertilize and spray crops to prevent roya. In response, we have committed to helping our partners at Expocamo by paying for several new drying beds, to replace some older, heavily used beds. These beds will improve the quality of the coffee not just for us, for but all the people around the world who buy coffee from Expocamo. We are super proud to do this for all Nicaraguan coffee lovers and to raise the profile of Nicaraguan coffee, which we feel is underappreciated.

Direct trade is so important to us because it gives us the opportunity to identify people like Rony Herrera and Francisco Valle Garcia, who are incredibly passionate farmers. Entering a partnership is incredibly beneficial for both sides. Buying coffee in 2019 is tremendously easy and convenient: many reputable companies have very easy to navigate websites, offering dozens and dozens of different types of coffees. It’s trivially easy to select 3 or 4 coffees, have samples delivered to the roastery and then purchase them with little-to-no direct interaction with the coffee farmers. Truthfully, many of these coffees, sourced by third parties, are incredibly delicious and affordable. But this is a lazy way to source coffee and deprives us of important relationships, unique flavors and great memories. Travelling to origin and developing friendships and partnerships feels like the right way to buy coffee for us.

Beyond coffee, the people of Nicaragua are simply good and we really like them a lot. We have been invited into their homes, dined with their families and watched many baseball games with them. The friendship we have developed is incredibly meaningful to us and every year we are so excited to go and see them again. We genuinely feel like part of the family in Nicaragua, which is honestly the typical treatment of foreigners by the Nicaraguan people, the hospitality is unmatched. Despite the hardships the people of Nicaragua are facing, they show every day that they still have some of the strongest hearts in the world. Saludos Nicaragua, te veo pronto.

El Salvador Coffee Farm Tours

Inside a hostel in Ahuachapan, we relax with Mauricio Salavierra, some of his friends who run a beautiful restaurant called Tayua near Conception de Ataco and some brand-new friends from Quebec City who are in Ahauachapan for the same reason we are, to find amazing coffees. It’s late and dark and we are craving something slightly greasy and filling to eat after drinking quite a few Pilsners, so we order El Salvador’s national dish, Pupusas. The rest of the night is spent sharing food, beer and stories in Spanish, Quebec French and English.

El Salvador is often maligned as a dangerous, violent country, one that North Americans often look over when choosing a Latin American destination, and it is true that El Salvador can be a dangerous place, the most violent in the Western Hemisphere. However, no country we’ve visited in the world shares the beautiful, untouched beauty of this tiny, dense nation.

As a foreigner, it is very clear which areas are unsafe to visit, and these areas are largely within the capital of San Salvador, where gang activity is high. Like many countries in the Northern Triangle, a little common sense goes a long way in ensuing a safe and fulfilling trip. When travelling outside of the city to coffee growing towns such as Ahuachapan, Conception de Ataco and Juayua, the stunning beauty of the El Salvador landscape and remarkable hospitality and pride of the Salvadoreños is revealed. We’ve never felt more safe as travelers than when we are in these charming towns.

El Salvador remains fiercely loyal to the Bourbon coffee tree. Elsewhere in Latin America, farmers are avoiding specialty trees and have chosen to reduce their crop diversity to protect against the monstrous Roya, a crop disease that has cut through Latin America and has repeatedly devastated coffee farms. A particularly terrible outbreak of Roya in 2014 is still being felt in El Salvador and it isn’t uncommon to see old farms which have been completely abandoned. El Salvador’s response to this crop disease has been very different from other countries within Latin America, they have been pivoting very hard into the specialty coffee sector. The Salvadoran Coffee Council predicts that 80% of Salvadoran coffee exports will be within the specialty coffee sector by 2025.

For farmers such as Mauricio Salavierra, this means a very high level of risk. The danger of a massive roya outbreak on one of his farms is always looming. By carefully grooming his farm and applying fertilizer and fungicide, he manages to stave off the disease, but he must remain constantly vigilant to combat roya. Because farmers such as Mauricio have chosen to farm Bourbon and other exotic varieties of coffee, the flavours we have encountered from this country have been exceptional. As other countries pivot to roya-resistant strains such as Catuai, Catimor and Castillo, the coffee flavor in these places has become somewhat homogenized in recent years. By contrast, the coffees we have been tasting from El Salvador have been marked with massive sweetness, explosive fruit flavors and dazzling acidity. Mauricio’s coffees in recent years have been some of the most inspiring and remarkable coffees we have ever tasted. These coffees have been a true expression of the passion, hard-work and pride of the Salvadoran people.

El Salvador is a jewel of a country, one that we wish more Canadians would experience and enjoy. From the impressive volcanoes to the massive beaches, from the simplicity of the pupusa to the determination of the Salvadoreños. This is a beautiful country that we hope to return to year after year.

Artisan coffee goes to suburbs as Analog Coffee opens in Westman Village

Analog Coffee’s sixth storefront in Calgary will feature an in-house bakery, a liquor license and top-of-the-line equipment

CALGARY (Feb. 13, 2019) – Coffee purveyors in south Calgary can rejoice as on Monday, Feb. 18, Analog Coffee (Analog) officially opens its doors at Westman Village. This is the sixth location for the Calgary-based coffee roaster. This storefront is unique to other Analog locations as it will be home to its first in-house bakery, top-of-the-line equipment - which will be the first-of-its-kind in Western Canada - and a liquor license so Westman Village residents and neighbours can enjoy an after work or weekend drink in Analog’s hip, trendy café.

This new location will harmonize downtown-city vibes with the comforts of the suburbs, while providing craft coffee that is anything but ordinary. It joins the likes of other more urban retailers such as Diner Deluxe, 5 Vines Wine, Craft Beer and Spirits and Chopped Leaf as part of the local, gourmet offerings at Westman Village, Jayman BUILT’s one-of-a-kind lakeside community in Mahogany.

Russ Prefontaine, president and co-owner, The Fratello Group, is passionate about providing coffee connoisseurs in the south with coffee as fuel for a busy day, or an escape from it.

“Being a native Calgarian myself, my team takes great pride in providing a variety of communities a little sense of home and a place to come together creating a fulsome experience for our customers,” says Prefontaine. “This new café is taking us in a direction where we can do more in-house, which enables us to control the quality of products we are executing. We are driven by the need to create an epic, unmatched experience for our customers and this new model of Analog allows us to do just that.”

This location will feature a unique food program that includes soups, salads, cheese boards and other treats -  which is new to Analog. The liquor license will enable it to offer a small selection of wine by the glass and local craft beer. However, coffee is still a priority at this location as it will have the highest tech coffee gear in Western Canada: The Slayer Steam Espresso Machine and The Mythos 2 Gravimetric Grinders and Marcos SP9 single-serve brewers.

The vision behind Westman Village is underpinned by the values of Jayman’s founder, Al Westman, weaving convenience, diversity and accessibility into an all-inclusive community. Westman Village is the most recent undertaking by industry-leading, Calgary-based home builder, Jayman BUILT. The community is the first of its kind in Calgary, with buying and leasing options for residents of all ages, including an active adult living, retirement living and starter to estate component. Retail and commercial partners are set to open from early 2019 onward.

“We want Westman Village to be a hub for our residents. We have strategically chosen boutique retailers, like Analog, to bring our residents unique and local offerings,” says Jay Westman, chairman and CEO, Jayman BUILT. “With the opening of Analog, we are bringing an urban, artisan experience to our residents right outside their front door.”

For more information on Westman Village and its amenities and service offerings, please visit http://westmanvillage.com/

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About Jayman BUILT

For 38 years, Jayman BUILT has continually redefined the way new homes are built, bought and, most importantly, lived in. Participating in community developments in Calgary, Airdrie, Cochrane, Edmonton and Sherwood Park, Jayman BUILT is the largest homebuilder in Alberta. For more information, visit www.jayman.com

About Westman Village

Westman Village embodies the harmonization of the values of Jayman's Founder, Al Westman, by thoughtfully weaving convenience, diversity and accessibility into an all-inclusive suburban community concept.

About Analog Coffee

Analog Coffee is part of the Fratello Group who have been roasting coffee in Calgary since 1985, and owned by local brother’s Russ and Chris Prefontaine. Analog is well known on the local Calgary coffee scene, focusing on single estate, direct trade coffees that are acquired from grower partners around the world.

 

Media inquiries

Lisa Libin

Brookline Public Relations

403-538-5641 ext. 104

Colombia Las Rosas Coffee Coop

Las Rosas Women's Cooperative

Recently, our President Russ Prefontaine had the opportunity to visit La Plata, located in Huila Colombia. He went to visit Las Rosas (formerly Las Marias) the women’s cooperative that we have been working with for some time.

Las Rosas was founded in September 2010 by women in the region, overwhelmed by the lack of credit available to them to use as working capital for their farms. This lack of critical credit combined with traditional household roles and duties, was weakening their families. So, they sought to change it

The major objectives are:

  1. Gender equality and the importance of an inclusive family
  2. Revolving credit to finance their farms
  3. Economic education
  4. Overall cup quality and farming processes
  5. Overall infrastructure improvements to their homes and coffee process equipment.

Las Rosas Family Training MeetingFratello started working with this cooperative in 2014. We are the majority supporter in this project. We have committed to continue working with them and are working on further incentives to improve cup quality and reward the top producers.

While there, Russ joined a family training day in the village of Monserrate located in La Plata. This lesson focused on the value and roles of women and the importance of gender equality. 40 members of Las Rosas were involved and that was inclusive of their entire family. At the end, they shared stories of how this program has literally changed their lives and transformed their village.

Nelly, the president of this cooperative just received her high school diploma at the age of 50 through this program!

Today, Fratello and Analog Coffee purchase 30% of their total production, however could reach 50% by the end of this year.

We take great pride and joy in knowing that we are making strategic decisions like this to improve the areas we are working in.

Our goal is to do a similar program in Brazil, starting in 2019.

At the forefront of bringing the café culture to Calgary

Russ Prefontaine of the Fratello Group talks about why quality, skill and hospitality are at the core of his family's coffee business

Calgary’s Business: How and when did Fratello start?

Prefontaine: Our family’s history in coffee dates back to 1974, when our dad, Cam Prefontaine, first started a wholesale coffee company, which was operated out of our garage and basement. Our parents involved all three of us brothers (Russ, Chris and Jason) in the family business from the start, earning our allowance by helping dad service old coffee brewers.

In 1985, our dad started roasting his own coffee. He was passionate from the start, experimenting and learning how to source and roast better coffee, as well as helping his wholesale customers make better coffee.

He was one of the first coffee professionals in Calgary to focus on higher-quality beans, and became a pioneer in what we now know as the modern café culture in Calgary.

This planted the seeds that would eventually grow into a family of brands known for their focus on premium quality: Fratello Coffee Roasters, Corbeaux Bakery and Analog Coffee itself. These companies, and their predecessors, played a huge part in bringing café culture to life in Calgary and Western Canada.

All three of us brothers started selling commercial espresso machines in 1991, helping local entrepreneurs start their own shops. We supplied all the equipment and training, and our parents’ company supplied the coffee. We bought the roasting company from our parents in 1997 and changed the name to Fratello Coffee (fratello means brother in Italian).

Over the years, we’ve never stopped learning, expanding our knowledge of coffee, working to keep up with the rapidly-changing trends in the industry. We started travelling to the countries and farms where our coffee was grown in search of the best coffee, and to meet the farmers and families who produced the raw product.

We learned from Dad’s increasingly obsessive attention to detail, not just in the way he focused on roasting great coffee but in how he presented it. For Dad, hospitality and community became critically important. He was making the argument – with every new cup poured — that coffee could be something special. Everything had to be as good as possible. Or why bother doing it at all?

This mindset would play a key part in how we eventually built the Analog business. Over the years, we have led, pioneered and challenged a vast variety of innovative coffee and coffee-related businesses, which include the creation of Slayer Espresso machines with our brother Jason in 2007. We envisioned inventing and creating a specialized machine unlike anything else on the market. The ambitious decision to create a machine from scratch that would dramatically expand brewing possibilities was born because we knew there was specific demand from coffee professionals for a machine that could ‘flavour profile’ the unique varietals of coffee that were being produced.

Our family also owned a bottling facility for coffee chai/syrups/smoothies.

We hope you’ll quickly see how completely and totally obsessed we are with every decision that goes into our coffee and its products. It’s simple: ‘good enough’ is never good enough.

As these things often go, it was the original lessons from Dad – the ones about quality and hospitality – that would bring all the promise of our businesses, finally, into reality. We threw ourselves full-bore into expanding our knowledge of growing and roasting coffee. We travelled around the world where we found kindred spirits in farmers who cared as much about coffee as we did.

As business thrived, we started thinking more and more about how best to present the coffees we were working so hard to perfect. This was the moment we decided it was time to create a line of cafés, each reflecting everything we believed a coffeehouse could be if done right. We would take everything we had learned and become so obsessed over, and share it with our community.

CB: Can you give me a scope of your business today and what you do?

Prefontaine: We continue to focus on what we grew up doing. Sourcing and roasting exceptionally good coffee and using our expertise to help other like-minded companies achieve their goals. Our core business is wholesale roasting and now with Corbeaux Bakery, we are also offering a wholesale food solution.

This ambitious project has had a very steep learning curve. But we press on, continuing to put as much effort and intention into our food as we do our coffee. In fact, our team of chefs and master bakers make virtually everything from scratch.

Our natural sourdough bread is fermented 48 hours before baking, our pastries are made from scratch with all-natural premium ingredients, we laminate our croissant dough by hand using real butter, we slow roast our own meat, and even make our own all-natural yogurt, which is a 24-hour process. We don’t add preservatives, we only use natural ingredients.

Simply put, we don’t cut corners. This has started to get a lot of attention because it’s so unique.

Our newest customer, Calgary Co-op, recognized this passion and has begun offering our bread program in a few of their locations. They realize that this was a segment that wasn’t being offered or served in their stores, or most of their competitors’ stores. We’re excited to say that we will be expanding to most of their Calgary stores over the next few months.

Aside from working with our wholesale customers across Western Canada, we spend a tremendous amount of time with our Analog Coffee team fine-tuning our operations. Currently, our focus is on culture and our customer experience. We believe we’re all hosts, and want our Analog team members to feel the same way when greeting and serving our guests.

CB: What are your growth plans for the company in the near future?

Prefontaine: We definitely have some fun and exciting plans for growth in the next five years. Much of these plans are to expand our roasting capacity and distribution in order to make it easier for people to find and enjoy our products. This will primarily be based on where we have our brick and mortar Analog Coffee locations, which is also the perfect place to enjoy our Corbeaux Bakery food products.

One challenge for us is we don’t do anything without going all the way. This does make it challenging when looking to expand outside of Calgary, as there are so many details to systemize to ensure a successful launch. How do we bring this same attention to detail, quality and care to another city with certainty that those guests will experience everything we do in Calgary?

We have been asking this question for a few years now and we believe we are on the verge of something great.

CB: Why have you been able to be successful in a market that seems to be saturated with coffee players and big ones such as Starbucks?

Prefontaine: We’ve been successful in this competitive marketplace because I believe our customers can see we authentically love what we’re doing. Analog is the realization of everything our family has been building for over 40 years. Every detail of the guest experience is considered, calculated and very intentional, from the décor, vibe and food, to the coffee itself. It’s decades of passion made tangible.

We had thought about starting our own café since the 1990s. And in 2011, we couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and opened the first Analog Coffee in the Calgary Farmers’ Market. It exceeded our own expectations. In 2012, our dream location came available for our second shop on Calgary’s 17th Avenue, right in the heart of the city’s Beltline community. More stores followed.

Analog gives us a place where we can carefully craft our brilliant single-origin coffees for guests from across all walks of life.

Analog allows us to practise what we have been preaching with a direct voice to the community. At Analog, average is completely unacceptable. We’re always in search of the finest coffees for our customers and our community. We’re driven by the need to deliver epic, unmatched coffee experiences to our customers. Every day. In every way.

We want to share our coffee with everyone from the longtime aficionado to the newcomer who just wants something a little (or a lot) better to drink. It’s not about attitude or elitism. It’s about how everyone who orders our subscriptions deserves the best coffee we can find.

We know good coffee is everywhere. But great coffee is surprisingly rare – whether you’re drinking it as fuel for your busy day or an escape from it. So, we’re here for those who want a life less ordinary. If only for the time it takes to finish a cup of our Analog Coffee.

CB: Why has coffee taken off in recent years as a burgeoning consumer trend?

Prefontaine: We have been watching coffee grow in popularity since we first started roasting in 1985. I remember the day that Starbucks announced they were coming to Calgary. We were excited. We knew that they would bring an enormous awareness to the public on what specialty coffee is, and we knew that to compete against someone like them, that you would have to raise the bar on everything we did.

Today, truly exceptional coffee isn’t as hard to find as it used to be in most cities. It’s now expected that if you are opening a café, or serving coffee in a restaurant or hotel, that the coffee you’re serving has been given attention. Even Swoop Airlines is offering our coffee on board because they wanted to serve their guests something special.

All the fancy grinding and brewing equipment in the world won’t make a difference if we don’t first find perfectly produced coffee. That’s why our producers harvest by hand-picking. That way only perfectly ripe cherries are selected while overripe and green cherries are sorted out. Our growers spend day after day moving from tree to tree, harvesting only the best cherries. This ensures that the quality of our coffee is not hindered by any shortcuts.

Our growers utilize a variety of different processing techniques from honey processing to fully-washed and beyond – all depending on what they believe will coax the best flavour from the varietal. By the time the coffee leaves the farm on its journey to our roasterie in Calgary, hundreds of people will have contributed to its creation.

This philosophy is the same with many coffee roasters these days and this started the third wave of the coffee movement. When we roast our beans we want to create a profile that best expresses the varietal and the region where it was grown. That’s both an art and a science. We roast every offering with a custom approach, all with the goal of telling a story in every cup.

Our roasters are always on the leading edge of their trade. They’re highly skilled at managing the variables of a roast, producing beans with vibrant aromas and creating the best possible flavour for each coffee.

Skilled baristas are the last important link in this movement. They should be well-trained experts in the art of brewing. They’re working with state-of-the-art machinery and a fine eye to detail. In fact, when one of our Analog baristas is standing behind the counter brewing your coffee, you should feel confident that they’re making sure this final step is done with all the care, attention and intention shown by each and every person who has cared for the coffee bean since it was planted.

That’s how you know that when you’re handed a cup of Analog Coffee, you’re tasting some of the best coffee in the world. Every time.

– Mario Toneguzzi

Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.

https://calgarysbusiness.ca/business/fratello-coffee-culture-calgary/

Analog Coffee Delivering "urban-vibe" to suburbia Calgary

 

CALGARY, Nov. 23, 2017 /CNW/ - Analog Coffee, a division of Calgary's Fratello Group Inc.; continues its successful expansion with two new select upcoming locations.

Analog Coffee is well known in the Calgary 3rd wave coffee scene; particularly noted for its flagship location on 17thAvenue; which serves upwards of a thousand guests per day.  Fratello Coffee Roasters has been an institution in the craft coffee roasting sector for over three decades and has been family owned for over 40 years.  Analog made its debut in 2011 at the Calgary Farmers Market on Blackfoot and also sports locations at Southcenter Mall, Bow Valley Square and at the coffee Roastery itself.

Russ Prefontaine; the group's President states that, "our choices for new locations are very specific and demographically intentional."  Prefontaine revealed that a new Analog will anchor both the upcoming locations at Westman Village in Mahogany, located in Calgary's far Southeast and the new University District in the heart of Northwest.

Analog Coffee intends to take the acclaimed "vibe, culture and community" created at locations such as 17th Avenue and bring them to the emerging ultra-trendsetting new suburban experiences being developed in Calgary.  "Developments such as Westman Village and the University District in Calgary's, appeal and serve many of our loyal customers in our downtown settings.  We want to bring the urban-vibe home for them. These two new locations are the quintessential examples of perfect matches for us and our customers," says Prefontaine.

Westman Village - At Westman Village, in the Lake community of Mahogany states, "life happens when you open your door, look around and find so much more.  We've built a resort-style community where convenience, relaxation and pleasure are found right outside your home. A place where hand-selected retail supports the community and extraordinary amenities keep it moving forward, always offering more. We believe people in a community should never be strangers – that's why we built more places to be together."

Analog Coffee will open fall of 2018.

University District - in the heart of North West states, "University District joins the ranks of campus communities around the world that combine culture and convenience with flourishing commerce and tremendous livability. An environmentally sound, socially responsible and intelligently designed 200-acre community that will change the way Calgarians live, work and play forever."

Analog Coffee will open spring/summer of 2019.

"Analog is proud to be a part of the Calgary 3rd wave coffee scene and shares the space with great fellow roasters such as Phil & Sebastian, Rosso and Monogram.  We have the utmost respect for our colleagues in the community and hope we all continue to grow and prosper while raising the (espresso) bar for Calgary's coffee enthusiasts," Prefontaine concludes.

Analog Coffee hosts WorldWide Instameet April 24th

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Analog Coffee joins Instagram’s Worldwide Instameet #wwim13 #wwim13yyc April 24th 2-4PM.

Analog Coffee is excited to join in the community gathering initiated by Instagram HQ from San Francisco. Twice a year, Instagram encourages communities to gather locally to take the relationships they have online and meet in person. This will be the 13th time Instagram will host this meet and they have chosen a theme that encourages others to take action as it is related to our earth (#myearthaction). Calgary is excited to participate with communities around the globe during this weekend.

Analog will host their Instameet at their urban location located on 740-17th Ave SW on Sunday April 24th from 2-4PM. This is open to all members of the public to come gather around, connect in person, capture moments to share online and of course, drink coffee! Analog Coffee will donate 50% of all sales from 2-4PM, which includes coffee, food and bags of coffee to the building of the Community Garden Project at The Mustard Seeds Shelter. In anticipation for crowds, we are encouraging people to also gather at Tompkins Park across the street once coffee and food are in hand where we will have music.

The Mustard Seed is a Christian registered charity. Since 1984, the organizations has been serving men and women experiencing poverty and homelessness by providing them with basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing, and also by helping them improve their health and wellbeing, as well as find jobs and homes of their own. Visit TheSeed.ca for more info.

The generous donations from Analog Coffee sales will go toward creating a community garden at The Mustard Seed Shelter. A variety of herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, and pea shoots) will be grown and then used to enhance the flavour of meals for the homeless. Volunteers are excited to start building the garden and tending to it over the summer and Shelter chefs are looking forward to cooking with the fresh herbs.

The event is also sponsored by Socality, a global online community that encourages others to use their social influence collectively for community development. This event is sure to see the local social media influencers all join to share the event live on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.

Owner, Russ Prefontaine says, "Analog exists to bring great coffee to our city and we have designed our space to be a central destination in our local community for people to gather. We are proud to host Instagram's Worldwide Instameet and offer 50% of sales during the event to support The Mustard Seed's Community Garden at our location. We hope the community will come out and have a great time connecting.

Cafe Consultation - How our Fratello Team Can Help You.

Meet Fratello Sales Consultants, John Mitchell and Joel May. They have been part of the Fratello team for years and are here to support clients with everything they need to run a successful cafe. If you are seeking to open a cafe or are you wanting support in your current business, John and Joel are here to help. You can read below to find out more about their role and how they may serve you!

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Joel May, Fratello.

What are your roles within Fratello and what do you do?

Our roles within Fratello is ultimately a sales consultant. We stay current with the newest industry trends, provide exceptional training, phenomenal coffee, and help our customers set up with the right equipment and layout. My goal is to become my customers most valuable asset, their key contact for any coffee related questions, issues or needs.

What services does Fratello offer its clients?

As a wholesaler working with independent and franchise cafe operators, we help our partners (customers) succeed through providing exceptional, high quality coffee, as well as the skills, tools, and knowledge required to showcase the best that our coffee has to offer. In addition, we consult with cafe operators to ensure they have the right equipment and flow for their particular location. Capitalizing on flow makes a world of difference to the bottom line.  This ultimately creates a win win sales relationship.

We offer:

- Initial consultation

- Equipment sourcing, specs, and quotes

- All maintenance training

- Installation and pre installation site inspections

- Help with equipment placement for optimized flow

- Help with coffee cost analysis

- Full training for all staff from Owner to Barista, from basic espresso training to advanced barista

- Ongoing training and support as required

- Coffee knowledge seminars

How many locations serve Fratello in Canada?

We service and support literally hundred of cafes.

What advice would you give for those who want to open a cafe?

 There are a lot of answers to this question, but a few of the most important points of advice I would offer are:

Location, location location! First and foremost, a great location sets you up for success, look for places offering massive amounts of foot traffic. Consider looking for foot traffic and making an offer on the right location even if its not for lease or sale. Stand alone locations with no foot traffic are always a challenge. Be wary of spaces that are too large, cavernous cafes give the impression that the cafe is not busy even if its doing well. A crowd always attracts a crowd and 1200 to 1500 square feet seems to be the winning footprint.

Be prepared to float yourself for a year, it often takes all of that to create a strong loyal regular customer base.

Do your research, understand the micro market you are looking to set up shop in.

Decor and renovation budgets are important but don’t forget to budget for your brewing and espresso gear. So often we see the gear as an afterthought, the espresso machine is the heartbeat of the cafe, get the right machine, espresso grinders, and brewing gear.

When selecting your coffee, choose quality over price every time, strong margins coupled with the high yield in coffee translates into $0.03 cents per cup for every $1.00 per lb. Not much of a savings for using a lower quality product…

Higher passionate staff, who love coffee.  If your not a people orientated person, higher a great manager who is.

What is the point of difference with those who work with Fratello?

When choosing to work with Fratello it is important to know that our customers are our partners, their success is our focus. We don’t charge a fee for helping them succeed.

While our coffee is exceptional, poor brewing and extracting techniques can ruin even the finest of coffee, we offer the tools to ensure that every cup is amazing!

We are of the belief that by helping our customers becomes better café operators, offering a high level of quality beverages with a great experience, we will all benefit. We produce excellent coffee.

We also have the experience to carry blends and dark roasts along side boutique style micro lots. In many instances, a customers key demographic in their area is looking for a really good dark or medium roast that is stable and unchanging all the time, one that can work well with cream and sugar. We know this and can help.

Is there any limit to the amount of coffee that needs to be ordered?

There are no minimums and there are definitely no maximums.

The Farmer behind some of your favourite El Salvador coffees

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Meet Rodrigo Dumont, a farmer from El Salvador that grows and provides some of Fratello's favourite coffees like the El Salvador Malacara B and the El Salvador Pacamara. We interviewed Rodrigo to learn more about his farm, community and more about the behind the scenes of what it takes to fill your cup with that flavour you enjoy each morning!

Q. How often do you grow coffee? What does a season look like?

We have a coffee renovation program for the next five years that contemplates an investment of at least 15,000 new coffee plants per year.  We are growing different varieties of coffees each year, from our traditional red bourbon, to our new and exciting microlots: orange and pink bourbon, mokka, and pacamara, among others.

A season includes different activities within the coffee farm:

Coffee pruning and management, which is essential for new growth and the stimulation of new foliage, which will eventually provide more crop.

Shade pruning and its efficient management provide enough light for the coffee plants to regenerate its foliage previous to the rainy season, and as it grows back, maintains a cool temperature in the farm during summer. Shade also provides further benefits:

Soil & Foliar Fertilization: coffee plants, like all plants,

require light, water, and soil to grow and bear fruit:

Picking and sorting is crucial to the quality of coffee.  A cherry picked at its ripest will deliver a well-formed and larger bean, with higher sugar content, and thus a better cup.

Milling: the milling process is outsourced to Beneficio El Borbollon, even though it is an integral part of the value chain.

These are some of the most important activities that go on at the farm level.  They are critical for coffee growth and coffee production.  Without these we could not have a harvest at the end of the season.

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Q. What makes for a good crop?

A good crop can be defined as producing what was expected, not having an environmental impact on the farm (e.g. some kind of plague, strong rains or draught), stable costs, and a secure space to work on.

The quality of the coffee can be established to a certain point by the hard work of the farm workers.

Q. Are there any unique techniques that you use for growing coffee?

We have a established a traditional method in Malacara B called agobio parra  This technique was used in the Santa Ana volcano region more than 50 years ago and provided superior productions for bourbon varieties.  The technique consists of bending the coffee trees when they are relatively young.  With proper shade and coffee pruning, new trees will grow from the mother tree and provide additional production.  Each season, the newer trees are bent and further trees grow to produce the new crop.  The growing philosophy behind the agobio is to always have in one parra, three or four producing generations of coffee trees.

Q. Tell us a Little about daily life. What does your day look like?

In Malacara B, work on the farm starts at 7 am.  Usually workers are divided by 20 or 30, supervised by a “Caporal”.  There is a farm administrator called “Mandador”.  During the year there are between 20 to 60 people working on non-harvest work.  During the harvest the amount of workers can increase to 100 at a time.  Each group has a specific activity to work on: shade pruning, coffee pruning, or fertilization for example.  Lunch break is at noon: beans, rice and “chengas” or tortillas, which the farm provides as part of the work benefits.  Work usually ends at 3 pm. If there is any work paid by the job, people choose to keep working and earn additional cash.

In my case, I visit Malacara B and the other two farms we administer, Piedra Pacha and Las Mercedes.  At least once a week each.

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Q. What kind of environment conditions are best for growing coffee?

Malacara B I would say has an ideal microclimate to grow coffee.  It is at 1500 m above sea level, perfect temperature in El Salvador for quality coffee.   It is in a side of the Santa Ana volcano where no wind hits the farm.  It is always partially cloudy, so there is not too much sun or too little.  The soil comes from volcanic rock.  All great conditions for specialty coffee!

Q.  How do you like to drink your coffee?

When I drink coffee I have two preferences.

When it is black coffee, I like to drink a Malacara B red Bourbon in a Chemex.  Clean, round, balanced and sweet.  I could drink that coffee on and on and on.

If there is a good barista around, and a good espresso machine, I like a good cortado: the perfect combination of sweet espresso and milk.

Cupping Coffee: A step by step guide

There is so much that goes into roasting that perfect cup of coffee, including a process known as cupping. This is a regular practice done at the roastery to ensure quality and flavour are to complete perfection. When you buy our beans or taste our coffee, we want to ensure that what you are getting is the best. Here is a step by step process known as cupping as completed by our roasters David Schindel and Meghan Gould.

Step 1: Weigh and grind your coffee samples. The ideal ratio is 8.25 grams of coffee per 150 ml of water.

Step 2: Evaluate dry fragrance by smelling the dry grounds within 15 minutes of grinding your coffee.

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Step 3: Infuse dry grounds with hot water (200° F (93° C)) filling all the way to the brim of the cup. Let it sit for 4 minutes leaving the crust unbroken.

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Step 4: After the 4 minutes is up break the crust by stirring three times allowing the foam to fall off the back of the spoon while gently smelling the back of the spoon.

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Step 5: Evaluate wet aroma/fragrance of the coffee samples on your SCAA scoring sheet

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Step 6: Before tasting the coffee clear off the remaining wet coffee grinds floating on top of the samples in one swift motion using two cupping spoons.

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Step 7: When the samples have cooled for about 10 minutes you can begin your flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body and balance evaluation.

When tasting: the coffee should be aspirated into the mouth so that it covers as much area as possible, making a very audible slurping noise. Flavour and after taste are then rated.

As the coffee continues to cool the acidity, body, balance are then rated. Lastly, the sweetness, uniformity and clean cup should be evaluated before your samples reach room temperature.

Step 8: Add all your scores on your evaluation sheets and you’re done! Based on your scores you can now determine the best coffee suited for your coffee shop.

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Top 4 Things to Know When Buying Coffee Beans

Making coffee at home is something people do almost every morning in their homes. There is so much that one can know when purchasing the right coffee. It is more than the brand or name on the table. There are several factors and things to be looking for when you are buying your next bag of beans. We put together a list of the top 4 things to look for when it comes to buying beans and keeping these fresh!

FRESHNESS:  Freshness is the key! This will go against culture but think smaller is better, for freshness reasons. If coffee is older than 3-4 weeks after its roast date it may not necessarily be stale it just may lose dome of its delicate, brighter and more complex flavours.

ROAST DATE: Look for a roast date on the packaging. This will always be dependent on how you choose to brew your coffee. If you don't see a roast date there is no way of knowing how long those beans have been packaged into that bag.

AGE: If you are wanting to use your coffee for espresso extraction we suggest that coffee is best aged at least 7 days from its roast ate. If you are choosing to use it for Pour Over, Regular Drip, French Press or Aeropress than we suggest brewing the coffee as early as 24 hours after roasting.

STORAGE: Keep coffee fresh. We suggest to avoid storing coffee in the freezer. This will dry up any oils in the coffee which can be essential to come out of the flavour. We suggest keeping the coffee in a airtight container and stored in a cool dry place away from the direct light.

You can purchase our beans directly from our site or in store at Analog Coffee located on 17 Ave SW, Calgary Farmers Market or Corbeaux Bakehouse.

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Analog Coffee - Past, Present and Future

Owners, Russ and Chris Prefontaine.

Fratello Coffee is excited to announce the launch of the newest Analog Coffee opening in Southcentre Mall in Fall of 2015. This location will bring what people love about the urban location to the south along with broad food service with fresh ingredients from Corbeaux Bakehouse. This will mark the third Analog location in Calgary and Owner, Russ Prefontaine shares more about the past, present and future Analog Coffee in our interview below.

How long has Fratello been around in Calgary? Describe the journey of the company.

Our family has been roasting coffee in Calgary for 2 generations now, 30 years.   For all those years we’ve worked closely with our wholesale café customers to educate them about what espresso-based beverages are all about and help them to create excellent café experiences. But what better way to show the world our vision for what a world-class café should be than to open one ourselves? Our cafés were created to give Fratello Coffee Roasters a direct voice to those who matters most: the people who drink and enjoy our coffee every day.  We like to think of Analog as our stage; on which we have the opportunity to showcase all of our elite coffees. The intricacies of which are highlighted by careful preparation, using only the worlds best brewing equipment and techniques by professional baristas who share our passion for exceptional coffees with dynamic and unique flavour profiles.  We’ve been teaching wholesale clients and trying to convince them of our idea of what a proper café can be  — now we are able to showcase our products ourselves, controlling every aspect of the finished product from choosing the beans to texturing the perfect milk for a traditional cappuccino.  We have a long history and a fun story, its great to finally share it.  https://www.fratellocoffee.com/our-story/about-us/

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When did the first Analog open its first location and why did Fratello go in this direction?

The idea of having our own café isn’t new. We’ve been talking about this concept for over 15 years, dating back to when we first purchased the roasting company from our parents in 1997. In March of 2011 we took the first step towards realizing this dream by opening Fratello’s Analog Coffee in the Calgary Farmers’ Market. In late 2012 we opened our flagship location, the stand-alone Analog location at 740-17th Ave SW. We’ve always believed that a coffee house should be much more than just a place to get your caffeine fix and with Analog, we believe we’ve created the perfect spot to retreat and enjoy a meticulously-prepared beverage.

These lofty goals has been both the most rewarding and taxing.  To achieve this every single day requires you to be surrounded by like minded people who authentically want those same goals.  You can’t fake it.   For us, our success has come from the team of people that have joined us at our roastery and cafes.  This team is truly behind the idea of delighting our guests.  The biggest challenge at first was finding these people, but now that we are together, together we attract more people who are passionate about what we do, and that is very rewarding.  The success of Analog Coffee is only because of our team.

What is the story behind the 17th Ave location? When did you take it over and what did it used to be?

This has literally been our “dream” location in Calgary ever since we had our offices down the roast on 17th ave and 9th street.  At that time we weren’t doing any roasting, it was still our parents company.  Back then we were called Espuccino Imports and were only focused on importing specialty restaurant equipment, like espresso machines.  Training and service was our specialty.   In those days we would look at the old Buy Right Grocery Store which is now Analog Coffee, and talk about how this location would be ideal for a local coffee shop.  It took over 50 years for the owners of this location to finally retire, but when they did, we were ready to take it over.  We wanted to keep some of the history of that old grocery store alive, so we installed their old outdoor signage inside our store.

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How have you seen 17th ave as a whole evolve since you opened the doors?

At Analog you will experience craftsman-like drink preparation on our Slayer espresso machines, single origin coffee and single estate tea offerings, delicious snacks and food, and a place where you can engage with us and learn more about the coffee we offer and how we make it. We want to show our passion and elevate your drink every day. When people get a coffee at Analog, we want them to have a true experience in every sense of the word. We want them to taste the coffee….we don’t want them to just drink the coffee.  We want to help educate and assist our clients, not preach to them.  We want them to be comfortable and relaxed as soon as they approach us and enter our cafes.  We want to be hosts.    This has always been the goal at both our locations and this hasn’t and won’t change.  What has changed is our food offering.   Food was the most frustrating part of Analog.  Trying to find bakeries that wanted to actually WORK with us, not just give us “off the shelf offerings”.   In order to take control of every aspect of our cafe, we needed to create our own food.  This is when Corbeaux Bakehouse was born, and the concept continued to grow to where it is today.  Now we are not only creating our own sandwiches, but are a full from scratch Bakery and Patisserie.  We see the future of high quality, “3rd wave cafes”, and that future is food.  You can’t just offer exceptional coffee and customer service, you need to have a complete offering.

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Analog is opening its 3rd location in the South of Calgary. How will this be different from its other locations?

At South Centre you will see and experience everything people love at 17th Ave and the Farmers Market.  Exceptional beverages hand made by professional baristas.  What you will also notice is a much broader and complete food offering.  We will even be baking many products fresh each day in store.  All of the foods and products will be produced by Corbeaux Bakehouse specifically for our needs.  It will be a great experience for shoppers who are looking for a break from shopping, a place to sit with friends, a “office” space for meetings and a little taste of down town.  This really will be something different for a shopping mall environment.

What is next for Analog? Will we see more location in the city or even expand across the country?

My brother and I are always dreaming about new business opportunities and concepts, and we will continue to travel abroad seeking inspiration.  Lets just say, we aren’t done yet.