Friday, September 29, 2006


brewing the folgers lively colombian in the chemex

yes dear readers, i did it. i brewed the folgers new "lively colombian" from yesterday in the chemex at the so-called "oren proportion," 2 oz. coffee (it comes pre-ground, gak!) to 26 oz. water.

and the pot is also now soaking in josh d's clearly coffee to recover from it. let's be honest here: this coffee is better than i thought it would be -- marginally.

it's not undrinkable junk (the stuff in the red plastic supermarket jar), and it is better than the stuff many new yorkers buy from the quilted metal carts on streetcorners (which is also undrinkable junk).

in fact, it's a step backward for folgers. what do i mean?

folgers, as some coffee lovers might recall, began its life as a well-respected regional brand in california. it was primarily associated with central and south american coffees; thus there's a certain brightness or crispness one expects from any folgers product.

but over time, its corporate parent, an evil member of the big three + tchibo multi-national roasting conglomerates, penny-pinched the quality of this product to death. and over time, its market share has declined -- most coffee market surveys show that supermarket commercial brands are nearly dormant, and the growth in coffee is all in the higher-quality specialty sector.

which makes sense, because who wants to drink bad coffee? and so this new "lively colombian" folgers product appears to be an attempt for folgers to move back to reclaim its old, old heritage of quality.

to provide the tricycle, as was suggested to me yesterday.

several people, including my husband, urged me to undergo the exercise of treating this coffee like any of the others i try. so i did.

pre-grinding stales coffee. stale coffee has markedly reduced (or no) fragrance or aromas; it also fails to bloom when brewing, and performs poorly because aging coffee needs to be ground more and more finely to hope for any good brewing performance.

but here i was, stuck with a factory coarse grind. despite the oren proportion -- which puts a good amount of coffee in the filter -- the water just ran right through this staling stuff.

that 26 oz. brewed in 3 min. 7 secs., which is too short for a good pot, and many seconds below the minimum 4 minutes the lingle brewing handbook offers as a guideline.

not so good. but let's do it by the scaa flavor wheel, as i do for all coffees, and talking my way through the 4 parts of the bouquet, as best one can.

i believe this coffee to be something full-city-ish, altho' it's ground, so how to really tell?

the package had a clearly marked expiration date of 7/2007. since these dates are usually set a year ahead, i expect that this package was roasted and ground last july, making the coffee at least 60 days old.

please remember i believe that even whole bean coffee is, like milk, not worth drinking at 14 days old; pre-ground by the next day. so. . .i can't say anything about freshness. this product ain't fresh.

the fragrance of the dry grounds, once i pried open the package (with difficulty! pulling that mylar bag apart is hard on the high-gloss manicure!), was vaguely, lightly floral. my husband smelled it and said, "well, it doesn't smell as bad as chock. . ."

there was no particular aroma when the water hit the grounds, just a neutral roast-coffee smell. no nose to speak of -- another sign of age and pre-grinding.

but i was surprised to see the grounds rally a tiny bit, as if they were trying to bloom when i poured the water over them. maybe they bloomed a little.

yeah, i'll give it the benefit of the doubt on this point: there was some noticeable foaming. while the coffee dripped, there was a slight aroma of vanilla.

this slight floral and vanilla quality was the clue that this coffee could possibly be colombian beyond mary p's juan valdez certifying logo.

when sipped, the aftertaste was dry and slightly puckery. i think this coffee is intended for the milk and sugar crowd.

the aftertaste was rather cardboard-y, or maybe cardboard-dipped-in-roasted-coffee; but this is because the coffee was stale.

when the coffee was hot, with milk and sugar, it was drinkable. hot and black, the crispness was apparent.

but as the coffee cooled, it quickly became all bad. it just wasn't possible to finish it, black. it turned a little wine-y in a bad way and a little astringent; the brightness deteriorated into an unpleasant sensation (perhaps from the underextraction caused by the too-quick brewing?).

it had a medium body, true. it is balanced, but in a boring way -- this is no beautiful batdorf los lirios, no way.

to describe it, i have to borrow terms from the commercial cupping world of the exchange. remember, at the exchange they cup for defects; in specialty we cup for nuance.

there just ain't any nuance here to cup for. i acknowledge that this is what the exchange cuppers call "sound coffee."

it's not all yucky-defecto; it's mostly neutral, and if drunk quickly while hot as a "new york regular," it's better than coffee-cart coffee. if i were to fill out my cupping worksheet and give it number, i guess it would cup a 70.

i'm struggling, dear readers here, because i don't like this coffee, but at the same time i do realize that for a broad market segment, it might an improvement. that this could be in any way a step forward is, to my mind, an indictment of the state of commercial coffee today.

"but what about those people who would feel overwhelmed and alienated by walking into a specialty roaster/retailer? those people who would be taken aback and freak out at the number of options?" someone will ask me. "isn't this a better coffee for them?"

after thinking about this, my response to this is: since when are americans afraid of choices or overwhelmed by them? aren't american consumers famous for demanding choice, even the most ridiculous or lazy ones?

i mostly shop the perimeter of the supermarket, but when i have to venture into the aisles, i see a plethora of choices.

there must be 30 kinds of peanut butter, including varieties that already have the jelly swirled in! and it also comes in a tube now, so small kids can just squeeze it out for themselves.

but no american consumer feels overwhelmed by all these peanut butter choices. so i'm not sure we americans are actually overwhelmed by the origin menu you'd find at any good local nabe roaster/retailer.

i think it's a carnard. in sum, i applaud folgers for offering a line with somewhat improved quality.

but i wish instead of this line, they had tossed everything into a product of even superior quality to this or millstone!

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posted by fortune | 7:54 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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