Brewing Beans: All About Coffee

Ever wondered about the history of coffee, or how to make and store it? The Main Street Trolley in Jefferson, Maryland, is excited to be offering our own exclusive Dublin Roaster’s blend of gourmet coffee. We’re so excited, in fact, we thought we would tickle the taste buds with a little coffee history and some hints and tips for getting the most out of your brew.

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The Main Street Trolley Medley from Dublin Roaster’s in Frederick, MD.

 

The Legend of the Dancing Goats

Consumers today can find coffee beans that are grown all over the world. No matter where they are grown, they all trace their roots to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau, where coffee trees still grow to this day.

Legend has it that a goatherd named Kaldi once noticed that the goats who ate the berries from a certain kind of tree became so lively that they didn’t want to sleep at night. He called them his dancing goats. Curious, he tried the berries himself and felt their energizing effect, too.  One version tells that Kaldi showed the beans to monks at a local monastery. The monks embraced the drink, for it kept them awake for prayers. Another version says that Kaldi related all of this to a local monk — who disapproved. He threw the berries into the fire, but the enticing aroma caused him to quickly retrieve the beans, grind them up, and brew them into the first ever cup of coffee.

While we will never know what is true or not, coffee lovers the world over appreciate the smell of fresh-roasted beans, and the taste of this delicious drink.

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Beautiful hand-made coffee mugs for sale at the Trolley in Jefferson.

 

Coffee Comes to the Colonies

We do know that coffee gradually spread eastward from Ethiopia to the Arab peninsula. It was the Arab people who were the first to cultivate and then trade coffee beans. By the 15th century, coffee was grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia; by the 16th century, knowledge of the “wine of Araby” was common in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.

Coffee was enjoyed in private homes and public coffee houses throughout the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was such that they evolved into noteworthy places for conversation, music performances, and games of chess. They became so important in the exchange of information that they became known as “Schools of the Wise.”

Pilgrims to Mecca came from around the world, spreading word of this delicious beverage upon their return home. By the 1600’s, coffee had made its way to Europe, and from there soon spread across the continent. Coffee arrived in Venice in 1615, where the local clergy declared it the “bitter invention of Satan.” Fortunately for modern coffee lovers, Pope Clement the VIII was asked for his opinion on the subject. Before deciding, he tasted it — and immediately liked it so much, he gave it Papal approval.

It is thought that coffee beans were brought to the Americas by the Dutch to New Amsterdam in the mid-1600’s, where they were sold at market. The earliest reference we have for the drink is from 1668 in New York and it tells of a beverage made from roasted beans and flavored with sugar or honey, and cinnamon.  Tea however, not coffee, reigned supreme in the Colonies until 1773. It was when the Colonists revolted against the heavy tax on tea that patriots changed their preferred drink to coffee.

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Beans and the Roasting Process:

How is coffee made before it reaches you? Roasting is the process that takes the green beans and turns them into the lovely aromatic gems that we love so much. Beans are added to roasters at about 550 degrees Fahrenheit, while a mechanism keeps everything moving to prevent burning. Then the beans are heated until their internal temperature reaches 400 degrees, at which time they start to turn brown and release internal oils. When the process is complete, the beans are quickly cooled by air or water.

There are three general areas of origins for beans: Latin America, Arabia/Africa, and Asia/Indonesia/Pacific Islands. Each area imparts certain flavor characteristics that are not changed by the roast or brew methods.

Beans originating in Latin American generally have lighter body and higher acidity. Beans from Arabia/Africa are medium bodied. Those coffees grown in Asia/Indonesia/Pacific Islands have lower acidity and heavy body, with earthy, hearty flavors.

Coffee is roasted to light, medium, medium-dark, or dark.

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Dark roast with an oily sheen.

 

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Light roast beans

Coffee Roasts and what they mean:

  • Light roasts – light body, no oils on bean surface, yield high acidity, no obvious “roast flavor.” This is an ideal roast for tasting the origin characteristics.
  • Medium roasts – no oils on bean surface, increased body and lowered acidity levels, and a more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity. Medium-roasted beans lose the grainy taste common to light-roasted beans.
  • Medium-dark – richer color and some oil begins to show; yields heavier-bodied coffees.
  • Dark roasts – oil sheen on surface is evident, roast flavors are clearly evident over origin characteristics. May have bitter, smoky, or even burnt taste.

 

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Coffee beans

Brewing Tips (AKA how to brew coffee):

Start with clean equipment.   Oily residues may cause rancid or bitter flavors. It is the method of brewing that determines the best grind of coffee. Generally the finer the ground, the more quickly the brew process should be (e.g. espresso = very fine grind). If your coffee tastes bitter, the coffee may be ground too finely. Try a slightly courser grind next time.

Not everyone is inclined to grind their own coffee, but doing so will give you the best results. Beans should be ground just before steeping.

Pro Tip: Burr-style grinders are considered superior to blade-styles, as they grind the coffee to a consistent size.

The general rule-of-thumb is to start with 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. Once you have a baseline for your coffee, add or subtract a little until you find what tastes best.   Remember the best coffee is the one you like, made the way you like it.

Some coffees are better for stronger brews; other less so. Have fun discovering the individual characteristics of artisan coffees!

Pro Tip: Use cold water to brew. Avoid distilled or softened water.

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What you’ll need to brew coffee from beans.

 

Storing Coffee:

Keep beans and blends away from excessive air, moisture, heat, and light (in that order).

Beans keep better than pre-ground coffee.

Do not freeze or refrigerate your daily stash of coffee. Exposure to moisture will cause the flavors to deteriorate. Instead, store in air-tight containers in a cool, dark location.

Want to freeze in bulk? Coffee stored in air-tight bags may be kept frozen for up to one month. Once removed, do not refreeze, but move them to air-tight containers and keep in a cool, dark locations.

Remember: Coffee beans that have been roasted have a short lifespan of 1-2 weeks. Unless you are going to freeze your beans, be sure to use them before they lose their flavor.

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How to store coffee (mason jars for beans).

 

Love coffee? Further Reading: http://en.ilovecoffee.jp/ (Full of lots of lovely tidbits and info graphics about our favorite drink!)

 

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Handmade ‘bark’ coffee mugs for sale at the Trolley.

 

 

 

 

Introducing Artist Natasha Nash

Introducing local artist Natasha Nash, painter and handbag designer with a style all of her own! A Damascus-based artist whose work is featured at the Trolley this week, Nash has a passion for lighthouses, fabrics, and all things art. You can find her on Facebook and her website, artisancrab.com.

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Lighthouse by Natasha Nash

I grew up in Frederick County, Maryland. Always doodling and drawing as a child, it was with encouragement from my artist mother that I pursued art as a young adult. After watching her painting one day and commenting on how I could never do that, she told me to try it and see. I loved Disney characters, so it wasn’t surprising that my very first painting was of Fantasia Mickey. After that painting was finished, I was hooked. I taught myself using tutorials from magazines and books, and over the years, created my own unique style.

Well, fast forward to present. Working full time as an office manager for a busy veterinary clinic, painting and crafting are my stress relief. I have a studio in my home and work there frequently, but I still take over the dining room table for projects! I participate in various art and craft shows in this area and on the Eastern Shore. In addition to painting, I also have interest in jewelry and fabrics. I designed and hand-crafted a collection of polymer clay jewelry pieces, including pendants and bracelets. All pieces are accented with glass and crystal beads, as well as natural stones. I also make fine silver pieces as well, using precious metal clay that I fire in a kiln.

While I love working with cloth and beads, my favorite medium is easily Acrylic paint. The drying time is short, and it’s no problem to go over any mistakes. I also enjoy its versatility, being able to water it down so that it acts as if it is Watercolor, or adding texture mediums for an endless amount of effects. I frequently work in pastels and charcoals as well, and tend to add many layers to my pieces so that I end up with a velvety texture in the end.

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Something every artist gets asked is how they’ve grown as an artist, or how their style has changed. Personally, my style is completely different from my beginning.

Self-taught, I first enjoyed tole painting. I painted on everything from flower pots and glassware, to unfinished wood pieces. Donna Dewberry’s “One Stroke” technique was a favorite of mine, and her magazine even printed a photo of one of my pieces. Subjects varied anywhere from flowers, to animals and fruit, and landscapes. I eventually decided that I wanted to try mural painting. My parents were brave in letting me attempt my first one on their bathroom wall! It’s a Maine lighthouse scene that my mother and I actually worked on together. Looking at it when I visit brings back a lot of happy memories.

Since that first mural, I have completed many others as well, including the walls of a Curves gym in Frederick. One of my friends asked me to paint her baby’s nursery several years ago. More recently I had the pleasure of painting what I call her “big girl” room. She has a pink “Paris” theme. I have also painted her brother’s room with WWII fighter jets and bomber nose art. I am especially proud of my murals! Last year I was lucky enough to gain a painting job after pictures of one of the rooms went up on Facebook. That homeowner ended up with a piece in her “avian” room that features the birds that she owns. This was fun to do, especially since I had cute little finches and parakeets to keep me company and sing to me as I worked.

My friends and clients really help me via word-of-mouth. Similarly, joining the Frederick County Art Association has given me lots of opportunities to take my art to the next level. Through membership I’ve participated in many gallery shows and events. I also joined the Plein Aire Painting Club and realized that I am not really that good at plein aire painting!

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Sealife wallet painted by Nash

You live and you learn!

A key part of who I am as an artist actually began with photographs from my parent’s holidays to Maine. The beautiful lighthouses inspired me, and helped me bring about my own style. Now I love being by the sea, travelling to the beach as often as I can for the relaxation and inspiration I find there.  In addition to canvas paintings and murals, I’ve also begun crafting jewelry and working with fabrics to make totes and handbags. Designing my own bags is a new journey for me. It’s definitely something that I never thought I would be doing.

As an artist myself, I feel that parents should expose their kids to art. Luckily, it is very easy to do in this area! Maryland is a great state for the arts. Just go to downtown Frederick on a First Saturday; you can stroll through the galleries, or maybe go to an art opening where you can meet the artist. For anyone looking to encourage their child’s creativity, it’s fun and engaging to start crafts and other projects at home. But don’t just sit them in front of an easel. You can begin with a simple exercise, like taking a picture of your family pet, and asking your child to draw or paint the animal any way they would like. Or paint flower pots together, and have everyone plant something this year to watch it grow.

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It was thanks to my own mom that I became an artist—she and my family and friends are my biggest fans, always helping me to get my artwork out there. For that, I’m incredibly grateful! My art grew into a side business when I would show people my work and they would say, “Wow! You should sell that!” This encouraged me, so I started with mostly commissioned work for co-workers and friends. I still do commissions, but have graduated to gallery and art and craft shows, and, most recently, to local shops.

One important lesson that I have learned with art and business is that quality suffers when quantity is your goal. Bearing that in mind, I do what I can to stay within my limits. I can’t say that I am always successful with this, but I try. Time management is a learned skill. My partner, Brett, has played an integral part in helping me with all aspects of getting my artwork into the computer to be printed, emailed, etc….I have taught classes as part of an after-school program called Young Rembrandts, for instance, but had to leave the program when it became too much for me with my busy work schedule.

You might guess that most of my free time is spent creating. It’s my stress relief and what I absolutely love to do with my Shih Tzu, Noodle, at my side. My favorite project is a long-term series of paintings that feature Maryland lighthouses. Part of the fun is visiting them and photographing the lights. I have even gained a few collectors of the series, who visit me at some of the craft shows where I participate to see what my latest work is.

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The lighthouses I paint are beautiful, but their histories are fascinating. I find it important to include a history with every print or note card. I feel like everyone should know why these lights are so special—and it’s this included history that makes my work a bit unique as well. I always try to paint in non-traditional angles, really making my work stand out. While visiting, I take multiple photos and then choose the most interesting one to work with. Recently, I have also been dabbling in hand-painting purses. I call it “up-cycling,” because I find gently used purses and wallets at thrift shops and flea markets, and then paint them to give them new life. This is something that you do not see locally very much, and I hope to build up a beautiful collection of these soon. It’s true that I’m especially proud of my painted handbags, and I am now even designing purses that feature images of my artwork. These are fun, and it allows me to infuse my paintings into another form.

I am very happy to be a part of the Main Street Trolley gift shop. It’s a wonderful shop with lots of beautiful things. You can also find my work at Flights of Fancy and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St Michaels. I also do special orders and commissioned work (including pet portraits), so please contact me if interested!

 

Kinklings or Pancakes?

Kinklings are a tradition at our house, passed down from my grandmother to my father, and now to me.  I never had my grandmother’s kinklings, but my father talks about them every year, reminiscing about how good there were.  I have been fortunate, though, to have tasted by father’s homemade kinklings fresh from the fryer and powered with sugar.  Divine.

Here in Maryland, many people celebrate Shrove Tuesday with fastnachts, or kinklings, as they do in Frederick County.  It is a way to indulge before Lent and historically, to use up the fat in the house.  Across the ocean in the UK, many families traditionally enjoy savory or sweet crepes (they call them pancakes) with onions, or maybe with lemon juice and sugar.  Either one is a traditional approach.

NPR states that to ancient Romans, deep-fried treats presented a way to use up all of the butter, sugar and fat in the house prior to the self-denying diets of Lent.

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Kinklings from the Jefferson Pastry Shoppe

Kinklings have many different names and variations throughout the world. In Louisiana, for instance, they’re called Beignets: pillows of deep-fried dough. There are many doughnuts of Mardi Gras, including:

  • Fasnacht (Or Fastnacht)

  • Cenci

  • Paczki

Can you guess where they’re from?

Don’t have a kinkling recipe? Try this article at the Frederick News-Post. There are a couple recipes for you to try.

Enjoy your kinklings, and stay warm – this March promises to be a cold and bitter month. We’re all waiting for spring!

Weather Updates and a Happy Valentine’s Day:

WEATHER UPDATE: Please call the Trolley Saturday to be sure it’s open on time; the Conductor is busy clearing snow and getting the Trolley back on its tracks! Jefferson, MD is currently buried under 20″ of snow, with more potentially … Continue reading