Roasting coffee beans is easy. You just need a metal pan and fire.
Roasting coffee beans well is slightly harder. You need to pay close attention.
Roasting coffee beans excellently and consistently is both art, talent and science. It requires great skills and experience.
When you roast the coffee beans, the Maillard reaction creates a multitude of chemical compounds from around 145 C and caramelizes sugars present in the bean.
Roasting specialty coffee beans is on another level because they are of higher quality and you are trying to highlight, enhance or bring out certain flavors and tones that make that particular (micro)lot or harvest shine. Do it once and that’s luck. Do it twice and you are good! Do it more than twice and you are a true artist.
In light of celebrating those true coffee artisans and artists out there, here is my highly subjective list of the best coffee bean roasters in the Netherlands:
In alphabetical order:
Black and Bloom, Groningen
Boot Koffie, Baarn
Capriole, Den Haag
Giraffe Coffee Roasters, Rotterdam
Man met bril, Rotterdam
Manhattan Coffee Roasters, Rotterdam
Nordkapp Coffee, Utrecht
Single Estate, Den Haag
Why are they the best? Because they procure excellent beans and are able to create a roast profile that brings out the best of the bean.
They make great every day blends that are always outstanding, but also produce time-limited special editions of simply brilliant and out-of-this-world (micro)lots from somewhere special that just blow your mind.
Drinking those is more like enjoying a fabulous bottle of wine than drinking coffee…
After washing, the beans have to be dried to remove excess water from the beans before they can roasted or transported. Drying has various techniques and styles, each producing different flavors and tones in the bean. You can also ferment the bean before roasting, very popular and trendy at the moment.
Fermenting introduces a wealth of different and unique flavors in coffee. Very similar to how grape juice is fermented to wine.
The Coffee Science Education Centre (CSEC) in Australia tested the impact of a range of tap, artificially modified, and purified waters on the flavors of coffee in an espresso. The chemistry of the resulting brews and brew waters was analysed scientifically through gas chromatography with mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry, a bank of photometers, and a series of pH/conductivity multi probes.
What a brilliant idea! I have long asserted certain differences in the flavors in a cup of coffee to the water used, but never really thought about it scientifically. Sometimes my favorite coffee tasted completely different when brewed at a friend’s home. Other times I simply couldn’t replicate the same great taste for a coffee I’d had at work in my home. I varied the recipe, tried to compensate for certain differences but never really solved the problem…
The study looked at how three elements of water affected flavours in extraction: hardness (the amount of calcium, magnesium, carbonate, and bicarbonate in water), pH levels, and total dissolved solids (TDS).
They brewed an espresso on an industry standard machine from La Marzocco and then measured the concentration of chemicals in the coffee that are attributed to certain flavour characteristics, such as nutty/roasted (2-methylpyrazine), fruity (furaneol), vanilla/caramel (vanillin), and caffeine/bitterness (caffeine).
They found what I had sort of self-analysed by drinking coffee made with desalinated water, some mineral water and very hard (dH) water in my hometown in Bussum (dH around 9-10).
Minimum hardness of 50 ppm for “best” flavors
Higher than 60 ppm has little effect on flavors
pH tends to concentrate flavors, much like salt enhances flavors in food
Higher pH tended to concentrate stronger flavours in coffee, though not to the same extent as hardness. However, higher pH levels also led to issues in the extraction process.
Read the whole article to find out the recommended pH and what the effect on TDS was…
Scientists have finally answered a burning question of mine: why should an espresso be brewed in 25 +/- 2 seconds and use approx 15-22gr of dry coffee to yield 50ml of (a double) espresso?
Who came up with this rule and why? Not that I have a specific problem with it but it seems so arbitrary. Also, once you start to make espresso’s a day long, you’ll notice that it’s really hard to dial in the equipment a certain way and maintain those rules for every cup. Sometimes it’ll be 21 seconds, sometimes 29. The grinder is pretty accurate. The beans are practically the same. So where does this high variation come from?
Well, it turns out that brewing your espresso differently yields the same great taste and flavors while achieving this with much greater consistency and reducing the cost per cup of espresso!
How did they do it? Well, they started by reducing the process to a proper model with solid mathematics behind it. Brewing an espresso is basically fluid dynamics of a bed of particles. The “puck” being coffee grinds of varying sizes and water is pushed through this bed at a certain pressure.
These mathematics are very well understood and accepted. So the scientists started with this model, created equations for everything and solved the equations using differential equations. That resulted in a few parameters and then they found the optimal solutions.
Sounds easy enough but believe me the math is pretty impressive, yet their logic is sound.
Turns out if you lower the pressure to 6 bars instead of 9, use 7-15gr of dry coffee, ground more coarse then tradition tells you to and aim for an extraction of 8-15 seconds, you will get a beautiful espresso that is much easier to reproduce!
So what are the best coffee beans in the Netherlands? Well, that depends a little on personal taste and favorites, but I can tell you who roast amazing coffee beans in the Netherlands and sell their coffee online!
Traditionally, there are a handful established coffee roasters in the Netherlands who have been producing specialty coffee since it wasn’t called specialtycoffee. These are oldskool roasters who’ve always been on the lookout for great green beans and who know how to source these beans and treat them well. In my opinion, these are:
However, the whole third wave coffee movement have sparked a bunch of great newcomers with new routes, difference sources, smaller batches and that great newcomer creativity and curiosity. The get beans that are “off the beaten path”, if you will, or from non-traditional coffee producing countries. These are, amongst others:
They are sometimes pretty large scale roasters already, roasting every single day to keep production and delivery going. But some are small artisan roasters, roasting green coffee beans to order once or twice a week.
I’ve had excellent coffee beans from all of these sources, but two that stand out for me and who’s taste I can still recall are:
#2 Black and Bloom
What’s the best coffee I’ve had from a non-Dutch source, you ask?
Amavida Coffee! ❤ Price was high but the rewards were too!
But don’t take my word for it! Check (the sadly discontinued) “Koffie Top 100” which ranked the 100 best places to drink coffee in the Netherlands. Ranking was made by a professional coffee jury and each venue was visited at least 3x to see if they were consistent. Very impressive list, even today.
Dutch newspaper NRC did an investigation into the total energy it takes to produce a cup of coffee. By total they mean the LCA, Lifecycle Assessment, from growing to harvest to transport and roasting to you making your cup.
You will be surprised to learn what the most energy efficient type of coffee is. I.e. the least amount of energy required to make one cup of coffee…
Of course this leaves out those roasters who don’t have a shop (yet)…
Thankfully, Misterbarish.nl already has an extensive list of coffee roasters in the Netherlands (and a list for Belgium). Yay! With these two lists together there is nothing stopping you from ordering fresh roasted coffee beans that suit your taste to brew at home.