Archive for the 'new stuff' Category

New Products: J-Scales by Jennings

Using a scale when roasting and brewing isn’t mandatory but when you are trying to make good coffee on a consistent basis, a scale sure does help. The latest additions to our online shelves are the Jennings CJ-600 and the JS-300v. We have been using the CJ-600 for some time in our office kitchen and it’s proven to be very accurate and durable. It’s compatible with an AC adapter (sold separately), which is good if it’s going to stay put on your counter for a while. The JS-300v is great for travel or folks with limited counter space. You can take a look at them both by clicking here.

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Videos: The Sumatran Coffee Trade

We finally had time to put together both videos from Tom’s recent trip to Sumatra.

Want to see more of our videos? We have a lot of them posted in our library. Click here.

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The Rebirth of the i-Roast 2

The Hearthware i-Roast2 is backand I wish I was more excited.    It is a neat little roaster that has worked well for many, many people.  But it can be flaky, and results can vary from one machine to the next.  And you have to keep the top screens super-duper clean or the roaster overheats.  The source of most of my uneasiness though stems from the company that makes them, Hearthware;  basically they could not produce them for what was it?  two years? And they ran out of replacement parts too and could not cover warranties.  But, to their credit, when they did get machines,  they generally made good on replacements. They say they plan to keep making and supporting them.

So, it’s a mixed bag to say the least.  But the folks who responded to my forum post urged us to carry them – so we are – with caveats.  Like all home roasters, it has it quirks and it not quite as good as the marketing says it is.  The programming can be helpful – though, overtime, I think Tom tended to use the presets. It is functionally the same as it was previously, no better, no worse.  -Maria

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The Sweet Maria’s Starter Kits

Long time Sweet Maria’s customers know that  convenience and legibility are not exactly the thoughts that leap to mind when shopping our website.  It is more like a labyrinth, with a gift shop attached.   This is something of a blessing and a curse; we do want folks to try home roasting and be as into it as we are, and what gets us excited about roasting and coffee are all the details, but maybe we throw too much information, too many choices, into the mix to start.

It’s probably too late for a personality transplant, so we cooked up the idea to offer “Starter Kits” which group together some things that you could poke around and find yourself, but makes them easier to order.  We thought this may be more convenient for folks just getting started roasting, or those who want to give a gift. The good thing is that you aren’t locked into choosing the entire kit, so you can customize it for your needs (and budget).  And if the kits don’t appeal to you, if you just want to assemble your own ala cart kit, that is fine too. Check out the  new starter kits here. – Maria

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El Salvador Manzano Process Experiment

Today we are listing the El Salvador Manzano Process Experiment,  which offers a fabulous chance to taste what processing contributes to a coffee. This is a rare offering; picked from the same area of the farm, same day, processed three different ways: Wet Processed, Pulped Natural, and Natural (Dry Process) . It is a 100% Bourbon coffee from the Manzano mill and farm in El Salvador,. Cupping these coffees is a great experience for tasting intellect. There is a pronounced difference in the cup, but at the same time a very logical progression of the development of certain flavors and characteristics which show how similar the coffees are as well.   You get a set of 1 pound each of the three different processing methods so you can see how that impacts not just the cup character but how the coffee roasts as well. (Again to be clear 3 Lbs of coffee, 1 lb of each process, cost is $18  for the set).

We started a thread in the SM Forum about the coffee, so please share your experience roasting with this unusual offering there. Tom has made a video with macro images of the unroasted and roasted samples, to give some clues of what to look for…

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New arrival: El Salvador Aida’s Grand Reserve (& Producers Visit)

Mario Mendoza-Corleto (far left) and Aida Batlle (right, in white) share a few laughs with Sweet Maria's staff

Aida Batlle at her farm on Santa Ana volcano

Announcing: El Salvador Peaberry “Aida’s Grand Reserve” …, the arrival of our favorite coffee from what is possibly our favorite farm! ! It’s hard to condense the intense qualities of character into a blurb but look for a juicy cup with Monukka raisin, dark wine notes, and semi-sweet chocolate in the profile. Look for a sherbet like fruit sweetness at the lighter roasts,… well, just check out Tom’s review after you read about Aida’s visit below:

Aida Batlle, Roberto Llach, Diego Llach and Mario Mendoza-Corleto recently visited our office/warehouse here in Oakland to see how we operate.  Aida runs several farms (including Finca Kilimanjaro) on the Santa Ana volcano, and Roberto and his son Diego are connected with the San Gabriel Tablon Buena Vista farm.  Mario runs the mill J. Hill that processes both farms’ coffees and many others.   Aida shared the story that she personally vacuum packs all her coffee herself, and has the arms to prove it!  We also found out that through his travels, Roberto had met Emperor Haile Selaissie during a trip to Ethiopia in the early 1970s.

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Pour-Over Mania; Hario & Bonmac

The last year has seen a revival of interest in pour-over brewing. The phenomenon seems a bit odd; how can something so old-fashioned be fashionable?  We have offered Chemex and filter cones for years, but there are some interesting new innovations in pour-over brewing. These relatively new products that have generated excitement and interest in manual brewing methods along with the Clever Coffee Dripper we carry; namely the introduction of the Hario V-60 filtercone that has a single large hole at its base. How can a dripper with a gaping hole in the bottom possibly make good coffee? That is what I asked when I first saw the Hario V-60. The answer lies in using a pouring technique, controlling the rate and pattern by which you add the water to the grounds.  There are lots of good YouTube videos showing pouring techniques. I recently made a new Pour-Over Brewing Technique Video to condense what we have found, and Chemex users should really take note of the technique too! -Tom

Part of the controlling the water involves having a kettle with a narrow pouring spout. So we are stocking the Hario Buono Kettle too. It seems silly in a way to need a special device to add water to a filtercone – but it makes a big difference.  I was a doubter; now I am a believer.

We will also have a Bonmac plastic version of the V-60 cone soon too – that will be less expensive.

And for folks who don’t want to mess with the technique-dependent V60 we have added the Bonmac Single Hole Porcelain Filtercone. This filtercone gave us the best results in a blind cupping we did of brews using various filtercones which we posted here and on YouTube a few weeks ago.  Here is the link to that filtercone comparison video again. -Maria


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New Shopping Cart-o-mania

Late last week we launched a new shopping cart for Sweet Maria’s. The cart has a lot of new features, both on the front end that customers see, and the back end that we work with everyday.  It is the future! And it is good!  The cart is just a few days old, so if you encounter errors or other weird things, let us know, so we can fix them.

The new cart will require existing customers to re-create their log in since we were not able to able to transfer that information.   When you create a log in, you will be able to  check the status of your orders, retrieve tracking numbers, view your order history, save items to a wish list, store multiple ship to addresses, and more.  We have a new server set up too that will give us better  speed, reliability and security.  So it is worth it!

We will continue to slightly tweak the appearance of the cart as we go forward, and add various features that seem worth while.

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