Recently Iíve been sampling the roasts from Heroes Coffee,
a local coffee roaster based here in Springfield, Missouri. Heroes
Coffee also owns the Heroes Coffee Cafe located at the corner of
National Avenue and Chestnut Expressway in Springfield, which is one of
the shops taking part in our 417Coffee Disloyalty Card. Itís the best location to sample all the coffee roasts of Heroes Coffee because they serve Heroes roasts exclusively.
Tim Ferguson, who owns Heroes, recently gave me a bag of Tanzania
coffee to sample. When I get beans from a local roaster to try, I
usually swing by a local coffee shop and test them out with the owner of
the shop for two reasons: 1) the shops have the best equipment on hand
to brew up a couple cups to sample, and 2) I think itís always good to
keep the efforts of local roasters in front of our local coffee shop
owners to help further the local coffee community. Itís always fun to
evaluate a local roast with a coffee shop that works to brew excellent
coffee every minute of every day.
Some of the local coffee shops use local roasts, such as the Mudhouse, which roasts its own coffee at the Mudhouse roasting facility downtown, Heroes Coffee Cafe, Big Mommaís Coffee,
which uses coffee from a local roaster named Origins, and from what
Iíve heard, Hot Shots over on East Sunshine in Springfield. There may
be other local shops that also use local roasters, but several of the
local shops use national roasters, namely PTís Coffee and Intelligentsia, both of which create a great coffee product on a national level with expeditious shipping to guarantee freshness.
On this particular day, I knew the The Hub Bikes and Beans,
which carries Intelligentsia coffee beans, had just received a shipment
of Tanzania beans. So I felt it would be fun to do a side-by-side
comparison of the Intelligentsia Tanzania with the Heroes Tanzania.
Jason Strother, who owns The Hub, can brew two cups side-by-side using a
pourover drip brewer, using the same measurement of beans, the same
grind and the same water. By equalizing those variable as much as
possible, we can see what comes out of these two roasts.
On physical inspection of the beans, we noted that the Heroes
Tanzania beans appeared to be of the peaberry variety while the
Intelligentsia beans appeared larger and may not have been a peaberry. A
peaberry is a special type of coffee bean. Typically, two flat-sided
coffee beans, called flat berries, develop inside each cherry of coffee
fruit, but in the case of a peaberry, only one side of the coffee fruit
gets fertilized and as such only one small oval, pea-shaped coffee bean
develops inside. According to Wikipedia,
about 5% of the worldwide coffee crop comes in the peaberry form.
Tanzania has become known for sorting out the peaberries and selling
them together as a coffee variety. For more on peaberries and the
specific peaberries of Tanzania, thereís an interesting, very detailed read over at the Virtual Coffee site on the matter.
Back to the side-by-side comparison, though, it was interesting to us
that the Heroes appeared to be a peaberry variety while the
Intelligentsia appeared to be more of a flat berry roast. I was
expecting both roasts to be of the peaberry variety simply because it
was from Tanzania, but looking at the Intelligentsia siteís description page
for this bean, I donít see any reference to peaberry. What was also
noticeable in visual inspection was how similar the two roasts were.
The Heroes roast was barely darker than the Intelligentsia roast, but
they were so close that you couldnít really tell the difference until
you put the beans side by side.
In grinding the beans, they smelled similar, and then in brewing, the
only thing we noticed different between the two brew cycles was that
the Intelligentsia roast had a more prominent ďbloomĒ than the Heroes
Fresh roasted and freshly ground coffee will typically ďbloomĒ as it
comes into contact with water, meaning the grounds will expand and
almost foam together. From my experience, the bloom of a coffee brew is a
good sign of freshness of the roast, but you can actually get too much
bloom if you brew too soon after a roast without letting the beans rest
for a few days. I once had a roast that wouldnít stop blooming ó the
whole time the grinds were in the French press with the water, they were
constantly effervescing and moving the grinds in almost a rolling boil
style, and after a little research, I discovered that too much bloom
means youíre brewing the coffee too early, and the beans havenít had a
chance to release enough gases post-roast, so all those gases are
expelling out during the brew process. Typically, a freshly roast
coffee that has had ample time to rest will bloom for about a minute
after coming into contact with water and then settle down. Anecdotally,
Iíve heard that you wonít get much bloom in a brew around 30 days
post-roast, but I personally believe itís shorter than that. In this
situation, though, the low bloom in the Heroes roast was somewhat odd,
because I know it was freshly roast. Iíve notified Tim about this odd
behavior and heís checking into it because the Heroes coffee should have
After the brew, Jason poured the coffees into cups, and we tasted
them. After a few slurps, Jason and I both agreed that the tastes of
the coffees were almost identical. The flavors were the same, the
acidity and the same, but the only real distinction was the body. The
Intelligentsia brew was a little more syrupy in its mouth feel than the
Heroes version. We couldnít really tag one as better than the other.
Instead, it came down to a preferential determination as to whether you
wanted a more syrupy body to the coffee or a less syrupy body.
All in all, we considered this a success for Heroes Coffee.
Intelligentsia Coffee is a national roaster that produces some of the
better coffee roasts in the coffee industry, so for Heroes Coffee to
produce a roast of similar, almost identical qualities is a big deal.
Heroes is working hard to develop their roasts to the level of
consistent quality that the national roasters, like Intelligentsia and
PTís Coffee, are putting out, and itís exciting to see a local roaster
producing a good Tanzania roast like the one we sampled.