Midtown Roast: Something for Everyone

Last week we introduced a new coffee that will have a permanent place in our lineup, called Midtown Roast. While the coffee’s origin may change, its characteristics will largely be the same: notes of chocolate and fruit, balanced, rounded-out body. A good, solid, everyday cup.

Since our roasting style is lighter and highlights lively acidity and delicate flavor, we wanted to provide something a bit more accessible but still full of great flavor, especially if you are used to darker roasts. Something that would work well with automatic and manual brewing methods alike. And that’s what we’ve come up with in our Midtown Roast.

We love the name Midtown for a couple of reasons. First, we live and roast in Midtown Indianapolis, one of our favorite parts of the city. Second, the word “Midtown” evokes a sense of balance, and this captures the essence of this coffee. Accessible, yet still intriguing. Enjoy!

Available at Wildwood Market, Goose the Market, Good Earth, Agrarian, and  Safeway.

Why We Roast Light(er), Part 2

 
 

Last time I talked about my own journey from drinking darker-roasted, "second wave" coffee to lighter-roasted, "third wave" coffee. Now I would like to explain why I believe this happened and continues to happen for many other people as well. In coffee roasting, there is a spectrum from light to dark, as the picture above shows. So when you see a coffee labeled "bold," that really just means dark. You can think of a piece of toast or roasted marshmallow. The spectrum for how you would judge these as light or dark is not entirely different from coffee (though in coffee the more technical term "degree of roast" goes beyond color alone).

By all means, there is a lot of room for subjectivity here. One man's light is another man's dark. But there does come a point when you really begin to taste the roast and not the natural flavor of the coffee bean. Coffee is a fruit, and like any fruit there are a lot of wonderful, interesting flavors. But when you roast the coffee dark enough, you begin increasingly tasting things like smoke, carbon, and charcoal that are not natural to the bean itself. To go back to the marshmallow illustration. Some people love to set their marshmallows on fire, blow them out, and eat them burnt. No judgment here. We like what we like. But if you want that nice, caramelized-brown, perfectly-toasted-but-soft-in-the-middle marshmallow, it's going to require a little more care. Coffee roasting is the same way. There comes a point when you begin to taste the burn. In fact, if left in the roaster long enough, the coffee bean would literally catch on fire, like a marshmallow.

Now, of course, everyone is different and has their own preferences. My coffee palate is more sensitive than it used to be, so I taste roasty flavors at a good deal lighter degree than I used to. I'm also not writing this to judge anyone's personal taste. If you love coffee, no matter the type, I'm sure we’d get along just fine. But the bottom line is, we roast lighter because coffee has a ton of wonderful, natural flavor that deserves to be experienced. And our burden is for people to enjoy these flavors as much as possible with the roast interfering as little as possible, all within the bounds of personal taste. 

A final note. Light roasting is sometimes associated with a weak "Breakfast Blend" or something that tastes sour and grassy. This is not what I mean by light. Lighter-roasted coffee can still have fully developed flavor. For me, light more-or-less means no roasty flavors. Or as little as possible while still fully developing the flavor of the coffee. If roasted and brewed with care, the flavors can be phenomenal. Roasting this way takes a bit more care and attention to detail, but in our opinion it is worth the effort.

Why We Roast Light(er), Part 1

 
 (Photo credit: Sweet Maria's)

(Photo credit: Sweet Maria's)

 

Bold. Dark. Robust. This is the kind of coffee we have come to love as Americans. The darker and stronger we can handle it, the more we’re true coffee lovers. I get this. I used to be proud that I liked my coffee as dark and hot and strong as you could get it. This is the legacy of the “second wave” coffee movement. The Starbucks revolution. Coffee lovers of all stripes can be grateful for this movement, because it got specialty coffee on the radar for many, many people. I would not be roasting coffee if it wasn’t for this movement.

At the same time, this is not the way I roast today and rarely how I drink coffee any more. So what happened? Well, thanks in large part to Sunergos Coffee in Louisville, Kentucky and the many people we knew connected to it when we lived in Louisville, I was introduced to coffee that was different from what I was used to. Lighter roasted, smaller batches, more attention to coffee origins and to detail. These are the characteristics of what has come to be known as the “third wave” coffee movement. And, step-by-step, I slowly began drinking different coffee. At first it was more of a treat, and then I would go back to my darker Starbucks, or cheaper substitute. Eventually, though, I was hooked for good.

This seems to be the natural progression to third wave coffee. At first you’re like, “Wow, that’s different. Hmmm. Smooth. Interesting. Almost tea-like. I’m not so sure about this.” You go back to your oily French roast, but the flavor you tasted kind of sticks with you. So eventually you circle back around and try it again. Now you’re more intrigued, the territory is not quite as unfamiliar as before, but you’re still not sold. At this point, it may or may not take a while, but if you are continually exposed to this kind of coffee, it becomes difficult to go back. It gets a hold on you in the very best way imaginable.

Next time we’ll talk a bit more about this, as well as what goes on in the actual roast that makes it light or dark . . .

Podcast With A Couple Cooks

 
 

We recently sat down with Sonja and Alex Overhiser, also known as A Couple Cooks. They are a writer/photographer/recipe-developer couple who have a food blog and, more recently, a podcast. They're also our neighbors and only live a few houses down from us! They came last week for a visit to our roasting room, and we got to share a little bit about Blue Mind and our love of coffee for a podcast episode. In it, they also talk about homebrewing and their go-to method, the Aeropress. Additionally, we have collaborated with them for a FREE GIVEAWAY of an Aeropress and all 3 of the coffees we are currently offering, so listen carefully for details! You can stream the podcast here: "For Coffee Lovers Only." Learn how to subscribe to their podcast here: "A Couple Cooks Podcast."

Not Your Mother's Sumatra

 
 

We went out on a limb recently and bought a Sumatran coffee—Toba Batak Peaberry. Sumatras are known to be very earthy and full-bodied and are usually roasted dark. Since we roast relatively light, I was skeptical I could get a Sumatra to work with our approach, afraid it would turn out sour and thin-bodied. However, this coffee is converting me into a believer. While there is the characteristic earthiness, roasting in the lighter range still allows for full and developed flavor, including some nice fruit notes. The sweetness is less pointed and more of a rustic variety, but it actually works very well with this coffee, and we have found it to be a nice complement to some of the more fruity and floral coffees we have purchased from other regions, such as Ethiopia and Kenya.

The coffee is also a peaberry, which means that only one seed (bean) developed in the coffee cherry, instead of two. These beans are smaller and rounder, since there is not another seed pressing against it to give it a flat side, like you normally see in coffee beans. They are thought by some to have more concentrated flavor and roast more evenly. I can’t say this for sure, but I do know this is a lovely coffee, with a complex, almost tobacco-like sweetness, coupled with some beautiful notes of fruit and spice. Check it out, it won’t be around for long!

 
 
 
 

Good Coffee Should Not Be Intimidating

 
 

I used to be a little intimidated by “coffee people.” What with their scales, grinders, chemistry beakers, thermometers, and what-not. Then, slowly, I became one of them. Because of my history here, though, I have compassion for people who feel a bit overwhelmed by all that goes into good coffee. I get that it can seem like it’s only for the elite. I get that the coffee world can sometimes exude an air of superiority. The truth is, though, that anyone can learn to appreciate great coffee. Certainly coffee can be complex and mysterious. But it should not be intimidating.

It is just a seed, processed from a plant, roasted with heat, cooled, ground up, and put in a device with water, which is then filtered so that you can drink it. That is all. In its essence, this is not overly complicated or intimidating. There are many fine details, to be sure, but anybody can understand the basics of coffee. If you feel intimidated about coffee, someone is doing it wrong.

Of course, we do think coffee is cool. We love exploring as much as anyone the intricacies of coffee and the latest devices, methods, and fads that surround it. Because we think coffee is that special. But those of us who roast and brew coffee are really not that special. Coffee doesn’t need us. It can stand on its own. And what better place for coffee minus intimidation than in the heartland of America? 

For Love of Slowness and Place

 
 

Hey there, thanks for checking out our blog. We thought we’d use our first post to introduce ourselves a little bit. We are a husband and wife who love great coffee and love the idea of being rooted in a “place,” which for us is the great state of Indiana and, more specifically, the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood of Indianapolis (near Broad Ripple), where we live with our kids. Here we have built out a space on our property where we can roast coffee and hopefully showcase the beauty that surrounds great coffee as well. 

Our name and really the whole concept of our business is founded on a pretty simple idea: slowing down and savoring life. Modern life and the warp-speed at which it runs can be fragmenting and exhausting. It has also hindered our ability to slow down, be present, and take in the beauty and life that surrounds us. Whether in your car, on your phone, at your computer, or on the street, a thousand voices scream out for attention every day, all day, so that it is difficult to be still and savor anything anymore.   

We have found great coffee to be a wonderful remedy for this. Roasting and brewing coffee in such a way that goes beyond a simple caffeine kick and moves you into the rich and varied flavors of a coffee bean requires attention to detail, patience, and even love. In our experience, the rewards are worth it. Besides deep, rich flavor, there is something about a great cup of coffee that leads to reflection and rootedness in a rootless world. It connects you to others and enriches and nurtures community. Not to make it sound more magical than it is, but from the farm to the cup, if you talk to “coffee people,” you will find that there is something uniquely mysterious and beautiful about coffee. It awakens and delights the senses, it nurtures contemplation, and it brings people together. That’s why we love it, and that’s why we’re doing this.