THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY BRAZEN HAZEN BEANS
The Perfect Cup of Coffee
The perfect cup of coffee must start with perfect beans. Brazen Hazen beans, grown on the lush slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii, have a unique flavor profile.
We already think our 100 percent Kona coffee beans are some of the best in the world, but we get a lot of strong opinions about the best WAY to prepare and enjoy our coffee. Coffee is an artisanal beverage, and variances in the brewing process can provide vast differences in the final drinking experience. So how does one brew the perfect cup of coffee?
The perfect cup of coffee must start with perfect beans. Brazen Hazen beans, grown on the lush slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii, have a unique flavor profile that Brazen Hazen owner and coffee connoisseur David Duron is proud to share with his customers.
"I find 100 percent Kona coffee to be much smoother than coffee grown in other regions," says David.
In addition to the perfect coffee-growing climate, David says some of that distinct Kona flavor can be attributed to the quality regulations and heritage farming practices employed to grow it. Kona beans are always hand-picked, never with machines, ensuring only perfectly ripe cherries get harvested.
With the finest beans, David weighs in on his favorite way to turn them into the perfect cup of coffee.
"I love this conversation because flavor varies so much depending on how the coffee is prepared," says David. "Even within a given preparation, the taste can vary with grind size, coffee/water ratio, water temperature, etc."
Roasting is a critical part of the flavor process and requires precision and timing. The difference between perfectly roasted coffee and a ruined batch can be a matter of seconds. At Brazen Hazen, coffee is always roasted in small batches to ensure freshness and consistency of flavor.
"Generally, I would describe our coffee as being rich and nutty with notes of chocolate and fruit," says David who offers both medium and dark roasts of his beans.
But what's the difference? Like the name suggests, dark roasts spend more time in the roasting process, making for bolder flavor and less acidity. However, more time in the roasting process can also mean more uniformity in flavor resulting in less nuance and fewer individual or distinct characteristics of the beans prior to roasting. So, for more subtlety or complexity, there's an argument to be made for medium roast.
This choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and David has his.
"While I enjoy both roasts, I am partial to the Dark Roast," he admits. "I really enjoy the flavors that pop as a result of the roasting process. To me it is robust but smooth...best of both worlds."
Not sure which one to try? David has come up with the perfect gift idea.
"I'll send friends who haven't tried my coffee yet the Mixed Roast Gift Basket. That way they get the wonderful presentation of the gift basket and our two different roasts so that they can try each and determine which flavor best suits them," he says.
One you've chosen a roast, it's time to move onto the next step. Experts agree there are some subtleties in the brewing process that have tremendous impact on the coffee quality: water chemistry, particle size distribution produced by the grinder and coffee freshness.
For water chemistry, there's a bit to unpack. Coffee is an acidic beverage meaning the acidity of the water you use to make your coffee can distinctly affect the flavor. Soft water will result in a highly acidic cup while hard water will produce a chalky cup, as the bicarbonate has neutralized most of the flavorsome acids in the coffee. Ideally you want somewhere in the middle, but most people probably don't know the bicarbonate concentration in their tap water. To taste the difference water chemistry can make, try brewing your coffee with Evian bottled water—one of the highest bicarbonate concentration bottled waters—and compare the flavor to coffee made with your home tap water.
For particle size distribution, coffee enthusiasts agree the coffee grinder you use makes a world of difference in the final flavor of the coffee. Blade grinders are considered a poor choice because they produce a more random particle size; there can be both powder and essentially whole coffee beans coexisting in the same grind. Connoisseurs, like David, prefer a burr grinder.
"The most important piece of equipment I use in the brewing process is the grinder," says David.
Burr grinders have two pieces of metal with teeth that cut the coffee into progressively smaller pieces, only passing through once they are small enough which results in a much more uniform grind. If possible, always wait to grind the coffee until you're ready to use it for optimal freshness.
Speaking of freshness, coffee science confirms that the freshness of the coffee is crucial to the final product. Roasted coffee contains a significant amount of CO₂ and other volatile compounds which release over time, resulting in a less flavorful cup of coffee. Most cafes know this and will not serve coffee more than four weeks out from the roast date. Coffee freshly ground from freshly roasted beans will result in a more flavorful, more aromatic, and less bitter cup of coffee.
David knows that freshness is essential to the perfect cup of coffee. That's why Brazen Hazen beans are always roasted to order, in small batches that ship on the same day, meaning customers get the freshest possible coffee, every time. For extra savings and convenience, coffee connoisseurs can even join their Fresh Brew Club, a monthly subscription of Brazen Hazen beans, delivered right to your door so you never run out of fresh, delicious 100 percent Kona coffee.
With freshly roasted beans, balanced water, and the perfect grind… the actual brewing can begin! But what's the best brewing method?
To get technical, scientists have found that people seem to like drinks that contain coffee constituents at 1.2 to 1.5 percent by mass (as in filter coffee), and favor drinks containing 8 to 10 percent by mass (as in espresso). There are a limited number of brew methods that achieve 8 to 10 percent concentrations, the espresso machine being the most familiar.
While espresso machines are considered by many to be the optimal way to make the best cup of coffee, they're also expensive, take up considerable space and can be difficult to clean. Realistically, espresso makes an indulgent treat if you're at a café, but generally outside the realm of possibility for most at-home coffee drinkers.
There are, however, many ways to achieve a great cup of coffee at home which still contain coffee constituents in the right ratios. A pour-over, Turkish, Arabic, Aeropress, French press, siphon, or batch brew (that is, regular drip) apparatus - each produces coffee that tastes good with the added benefit of price, convenience, and size.
So how does the owner of a coffee farm and business make his coffee at home?
"The ritual of making coffee in the morning might be one of my favorites and it has evolved over time," says David. "At first, I was very precise...weighing out my coffee, etc. Nowadays, I'm a little less precise, but still enjoy the ritual. My go-to method of preparation is with a French press, but I've also been known to use an Italian Moka Pot. Both take a touch more work than a drip machine, but not that much more and I really enjoy the result."
Owning a coffee farm has irreversibly shaped David's perception of coffee and given him a behind-the-scenes appreciation for it as a product.
"Before learning about coffee production, coffee was something I really took for granted and a product I considered to be un-impressive," says David.
David says he has come to appreciate the work that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee. It requires a top-down harmony among the growers, harvesters, roasters, distributors, and brewers.
"Today, I have a great respect for what it takes to produce great coffee. To bring something of high quality from farm to cup takes a lot of steps, and there are a lot of people involved along the way."
Being surrounded by only the best coffee can have its downsides too.
"Unfortunately, now I'm spoiled," he laughs. "I've gotten used to the quality of 100 percent Kona and when I have coffee from elsewhere, I tend to be disappointed. I know I'm biased," he admits.
Not only does David insist that Kona coffee tastes better, but he also says it's a product you can feel good about buying.
"Kona is one of the very few places in the United States where coffee is grown at any scale," he says. "When you buy 100 percent Kona coffee, customers are supporting US farming and production which means all of our products are inherently fair trade."
With all the variables at work, the best cup of coffee comes down to your own taste buds and a ritual you can repeat and enjoy. However you brew it, the more good you put good in, the more good you'll get good out. If you start with the best, it will show in the final cup.