All posts by Wayne Kwok

Cool Your Jet Fuel

Article by Wayne Kwok

The weather’s been unpredictable, but we’re starting to get some hot days. I’m feeling more frequent cravings for iced coffee. Cold brewing (or cold extraction) produces a rich concentrate that’s a great ingredient in iced coffee drinks.

Cold brew produces a smoother cup with less bitterness, astringency , and sharpness. It extracts lower levels of acids, caffeine, and oils which makes it less jolt-inducing and easier on stomachs. I agree with the many critics that cold extraction has its faults. Still, I like it for two reasons: It makes a coffee strong enough to hold up to lots of ice and milk; and, I find it the most forgiving extraction method when using older beans.

It’s not just for iced drinks. Add some hot water for a finer cup of instant coffee. Compared to coffee crystals, you’re starting with much higher quality beans and you’re not losing volatile aromas to the process of making instant coffee.
You might be surprised that making instant with cold brew concentrate can be just as quick in the morning and taste better than pod coffee.



This is my adaptation of Dan Souza’s cold brew method. Dan uses a French press, but I prefer a jar and a coffee sock. A French press makes the straining process easy. A sock strainer is better for squeezing more liquid out of the saturated grounds after brewing. I encourage you to tweak and experiment with the recipe to suit your taste. Share your results!

1. Choosing your coffee
Start with a medium roast. Medium roast beans allow you to taste more of the unique characteristics of the coffee and less of the burnt flavour from the roasting process.
2. Water
For great coffee, use a water filtration system that removes chlorine and contaminants, but not all the mineral content. Leaving some minerals in the water will give coffee more body and a richer taste.
3. Grind
Coffee starts losing precious aromas within seconds of grinding. It’s best to grind immediately before brewing. Most cold extraction recipes will call for a coarse grind. Use a fine grind to get the most flavour from your beans. Don’t worry about over-extracting when using room temperature water. The downside? Finer grounds are harder to strain out after brewing.
4. Dose
Use 1 part coffee and 4 parts water by weight. 1 mL of room temperature water weighs approximately 1 gram. Even though the exact ratio varies with the temperature of the water and your elevation, a scale keeps dosing consistent. It’s hard to be consistent when measuring by volume. Coarser grounds will take up more space than finer ones. The volume also varies by how compacted the grounds are. If you don’t have a scale, start with 1:1 by volume.
5. Stir
Stir room temperature water into the ground coffee. Make sure all the grounds get saturated. Wait ten minutes and give the slurry a few more stirs.
6. Cover
Cover the container with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours.
7. Strain
Push down the plunger on the French press to strain. If you used a jar, strain through a coffee sock or fine cloth strainer.
8. Filter (optional)
For a cleaner cup, strain again through a paper coffee filter. Depending on your grind size, you may need a spatula to help unclog the bottom part of your filter.
9. Refrigerate
The concentrate will keep well in the fridge for two weeks.

Making Iced Coffee

Once you have your concentrate, dilute it with water, milk, or combination of the two. Add ice. Start with 1 part concentrate to 2 parts milk/water and adjust to taste. Depending on your coffee beans and grind, you may be able to dilute it as much as 1:4.

Dan Souza suggests that sugar is unnecessary in a super-smooth cold brew. He recommends stirring in a pinch of kosher salt instead. Sounds foreign, but a little salt will enhance the flavour. Other variations include adding a quarter slice of lemon to your black cold brew or mixing with coconut water. Go crazy!

Making Instant Hot Coffee

When you’re rushing to get out the door in the morning, you’ll be thankful you have the concentrate on hand and not have to settle for the crystals. Use water that’s a few degrees from boiling. You can turn on the kettle and come back to it later. Start with 1 part concentrate and 4 parts hot water and adjust to taste.

Passion for Coffee

Sure, Valentine’s Day can be seen as a commercialized holiday to sell more flowers and chocolate. I choose to use this occasion as a chance to contemplate love beyond its traditional associations. I’d like to reflect on my passion for coffee and explore my relationship with it a little bit deeper.

To get a cup of specialty coffee with clear distinct flavours and complex aromas, it takes many dedicated and passionate people. Those artisans didn’t just show up, put in their hours, and go home without another thought about work until the next shift. They put a lot of time and thought into how to make your cup better. You may be surprised at how the decisions they have made directly impact what you taste.

It all starts with the farmer. Pete Licata, 2013 World Barista Champion, describes the farmer as the “cultivator of potential”. The farmer chooses which varietals to grow and nurture for five or more years before the first harvest. The Arabica species (Coffea arabica) that’s used for specialty coffee[1] requires a lot more care, is harder to grow, and produces much lower yields than the Robusta species (Coffea canephora) that’s more commonly used for commodity coffee. An Arabica tree yields about one pound of un-roasted coffee per year.

Coffee cherries do not all ripen at the same rate. To get optimal and consistent results, workers hand-pick the most developed and mature specialty Arabica cherries. Some farmers go so far as to use refractometers to measure the sugar content of the cherries. A similar practice is used by grape producers in the wine industry. Higher sugar content in the cherry means the seeds (beans) are going to have higher sugar and carbohydrate content, resulting in a sweeter cup.

After the cherries are harvested, they are processed by wet, dry, or a hybrid method. The choice in processing method affects the coffee’s brightness, complexity, clarity, and body. Some regions have little access to water, so the decision is easy. Where there is an option, the processing method used can accentuate the beans natural attributes or balance them out.

Licata feels the roaster’s job is to unlock the potential that the farmer put into the coffee. Control over time and temperature of the roast allows the roaster to choose the balance of brightness, body, and sweetness. Beans can be sold as single origin to draw attention to the character of a varietal and how it might be affected by the terroir and other factors. Blending beans is an art in itself. A good blend becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

As a barista, the last thing I want to do is squander the efforts of the people that have impacted the coffee before me. I screw up one shot and that’s 6% of a tree’s annual yield into the composter. When I get it right, I’m able to use the variables of extraction to bring forward my favourite characteristics of the coffee. The barista is the last, and likely the only person in the coffee production chain that you will meet. The passion that you might see from me as your barista is not mine alone. When I’m able to see the metaphorical fingerprints of the farmer and roaster in the coffee, that excites me and I can’t help sharing that emotion with you.

[1] Arabica is used for specialty coffee, but not all Arabica coffees carry the specialty rating.

Farmer’s Collective Organic Espresso

Roasted by Social Coffee & Tea Company on January 6, 2014
Sampled 10 days after roast

Living in Toronto, we’re a bit divided on coffee. From my observations, most Torontonians prefer roasty and bittersweet European coffees. The third wave specialty coffee movement (popular on the west coast of North America, Australia, and Scandinavia) sees coffee as an artisanal product. Beans are roasted lighter to allow the drinker to appreciate the subtleties of flavour and the distinctiveness of a varietal in a particular growing region.

As a roaster, Social Coffee & Tea sits on the progressive end of the spectrum. Farmer’s Collective Organic Espresso is obviously intended to be brewed in an espresso machine, but it also makes a decent drip-filter coffee. This seems to be Social’s attempt to appeal to those who like their coffee a bit more traditional. “Nice” seems to instantly come to my customers’ minds when they drink it. I agree. It’s like that reliable friend who would rather be described as pleasant than exciting. Even someone who believes espresso should be a party in your mouth will occasionally appreciate something smooth, mellow, and sweet.

Not everyone likes big, bright, fruity espressos. This one sits on the fence. It’s definitely not a wild west coast espresso, nor is it a dark and roasty European. Nothing about it smacks you in the face. There’s a subtle brightness in the beginning followed by strong nutty notes, ending with hints of bakers chocolate. It has a very mellow and balanced taste and mouthfeel—so balanced that Social says you could trust it to run a nation.

Using the same beans, I also made myself an Americano and a drip-filter style brew using an Aeropress (a full-immersion brew method like a french press, but the liquor is pressured through a paper filter). As an Americano, the cup I had was a bit brighter, sweeter, and fruitier with much more of a roasty, candied nut taste. The Aeropress brew was a bit flatter all around.

In a latte, the milk really brings out the aroma of hazelnut. If you like nutty aromas, you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re someone who just likes a pleasant cup and isn’t looking for green apple and tea rose flavours in their espresso, this is a great everyday blend.

Social Coffee - Awards
Social Coffee – Awards