Author Archive: Kenneth Davids

Kenneth Davids is a coffee expert, author and co-founder of Coffee Review. He has been involved with coffee since the early 1970s and has published three books on coffee, including the influential Home Roasting: Romance and Revival, now in its second edition, and Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying, which has sold nearly 250,000 copies over five editions. His workshops and seminars on coffee sourcing, evaluation and communication have been featured at professional coffee meetings on six continents.

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Coffees of Brazil

Coffees of Brazil

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this month’s sampling of Brazil coffees may have been the absence of surprises. On the positive side, we suffered through almost none of the dismal “did anyone actually taste this coffee before they sold it?” moments that sometimes turn our cuppings into wakes rather than celebrations. This month’s Brazils […]

Coffees of Colombia 2012

Coffees of Colombia 2012

Both the dark side and the bright side of the trend toward offering select, precisely identified lots of green coffee (aka “microlots”) showed up in this month’s sampling of thirty-four coffees from Colombia. On the bright side, we cupped several precisely identified, small-lot coffees that expressed pure and subtle variations on the classic Colombia high-grown […]

Benchmarking the New Starbucks and Peet’s Medium Roasts

Benchmarking the New Starbucks and Peet’s Medium Roasts

When Starbucks, bowing to changing tastes in coffee, debuted two “Blonde” medium-roasted blends a couple of weeks ago, reaction among the blogging and tweeting cadres of coffee observers was predictable. One of our readers wrote that she didn’t want to bias us before we tested the new Starbucks blends, but for her they tasted like […]

By February 2, 2012 Read Article
Low-Acid Coffees

Low-Acid Coffees

True, acidity is a good thing in coffee. It provides the sweetly tart spark essential to lifting the sensory experience of a fine Arabica coffee from grainy, dull inertness to lively complexity. It signals the presence of certain organic acids with powerful anti-oxidant properties that have helped turn perception of coffee from a health threat […]

By January 9, 2012 |Reviews Tasting Report
Single-Variety Coffees: Aficionado Fun

Single-Variety Coffees: Aficionado Fun

This month’s reviews give consumers an opportunity to sample fourteen retail-roasted coffees that express a range of the cup character associated with specific botanical varieties of Coffea Arabica. The Arabica species, of course, produces virtually all of the world’s finest coffees. But within that species hundreds of distinct commercial varieties have developed. Coffea arabica is […]

By December 5, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report
Don’t Give Up Your Grinder: Pre-Ground Supermarket Coffees

Don’t Give Up Your Grinder: Pre-Ground Supermarket Coffees

Many years ago I was introduced at a party as “the guy responsible for messing up your kitchen counter every morning” because I had asserted in my first coffee book that the single most important thing one could do to improve one’s coffee was to grind it fresh just before brewing it. In the forty […]

By November 10, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report
From the Transparently Pure to the Creatively Edgy: Twelve Certified Organic Coffees

From the Transparently Pure to the Creatively Edgy: Twelve Certified Organic Coffees

Organic is the oldest and best established of the various certifications – Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc. – represented by the little seals that cluster on coffee packaging, all of them intent on reassuring the buyer that something positive has happened with the coffee inside the bag, even though it may not always be clear […]

By October 6, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report
Still Tops: Coffees of Kenya

Still Tops: Coffees of Kenya

Generally the central highlands of Kenya produce some of the most complex and subtly distinctive coffees in the world. There are a few other coffee origins/types that may be more distinctive, meaning more different from the sensory norm for coffee: Ethiopia Yirgacheffes, the very finest traditional Sumatras, the small but growing volume of coffee produced […]

By September 5, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report
Nicaragua: Continuity and Innovation

Nicaragua: Continuity and Innovation

Nicaragua, very much in the news when we last reviewed its coffees in 2004, seems to have slid into the background of coffee consciousness again. In 2004 general coffee prices had just recovered from devastating lows and Nicaragua was in many ways the poster origin representing both the suffering in the coffee sector caused by […]

Regardless of Size, Only the Passionate Rule

Regardless of Size, Only the Passionate Rule

  The challenge: The highest quality coffee is produced by large, technically sophisticated companies which do a much better job at delivering fresh, consistent, good-value coffees than do most of today’s smaller specialty roasting companies. Neither size nor technical sophistication assures quality. Only the obsessive and unrelenting commitment of a company’s leadership assures a steady […]

By July 25, 2011 Read Article
Making Coffee Travel Relevant

Making Coffee Travel Relevant

The Challenge: Coffee buyers for roasting companies should be doing much less travel and much more cupping, quality control and customer education.   Kenneth Davids writes:   I guess my reservation with the challenge statement is the repetition of the “much” word. If the thrust of the challenge statement is to argue that coffee buyers […]

By July 11, 2011 Read Article
Quest for an Everyday Coffee: Macro-Lots

Quest for an Everyday Coffee: Macro-Lots

Readers often write to us asking for recommendations for an “everyday” coffee – the equivalent of the $10 bottle of wine, a reasonably priced, reasonably distinctive, but consistently available coffee. Most coffees that attract a high rating on Coffee Review are exceptional in some way: They are often produced from small, or “micro” lots of […]

Ken Davids and Kevin Knox exchange views on the microlot trend

Ken Davids and Kevin Knox exchange views on the microlot trend

Whether a roaster is obligated by industry tradition and consumer expectation to also offer a familiar lineup of fine coffee standards, i.e. a Kenya AA, a Sumatra Mandheling, a high-grown Central America, etc. is of no consequence to me. I think consumers speak for themselves through their patronage, and if a successful business can be built on nothing but fine microlots that take advantage of seasonal opportunities[…]

By July 1, 2011 Read Article
Canada: Doing Fine though Not So Different

Canada: Doing Fine though Not So Different

This month’s survey of almost forty retail-roasted samples from twenty distinguished Canadian roasters confirms both the depth and liveliness of the current Canadian specialty coffee scene. It also suggests that Canadian specialty coffee roasting has proceeded in an essentially parallel track to specialty roasting in the U.S., although it’s possible to speculate on some very […]

Single-Origin Espressos

Single-Origin Espressos

The practice of roasting a coffee from a single farm or cooperative for espresso brewing is a tactic that appears to be carrying the day at the higher end of the North American specialty coffee world. The old argument against single-origin espressos and in favor of blends ran: Put a single, unblended coffee under the […]

The Single-Serve Compromise

The Single-Serve Compromise

The well-publicized commercial success of the Keurig single-serve brewer and Starbucks’ efforts to get in on the single-serve action have created much breathless reporting and speculation in the financial press, but we don’t hear much about the quality of the coffees the various contending single-serve systems are putting out, or their advantages (or pitfalls) for […]

Single-Serve System Reviews 2011

Single-Serve System Reviews 2011

Bunn My Café The Bunn My Café uses paper pods, the same dimension pods as the Senseo brewer. Bunn only brands the brewing units; it does not sell Bunn-branded coffee and no license is required to produce Bunn-compatible paper pods. This hands-off, open format approach makes the Bunn program unique among single-serve systems. Proprietary capsule […]

Instant Coffees and Starbucks VIA: Beyond Bad

Instant Coffees and Starbucks VIA: Beyond Bad

Snobs are people who make judgments for non-intrinsic reasons. Like brands for example (Starbucks is great, Starbucks sucks), or market ideologies (corporate coffee is bad, coffee from tiny stores with a roaster in the back are good), or on the basis of various other untested assumptions. We try to be anti-snob at Coffee Review by […]

By March 1, 2011 Read Article
Readers’ Nominations

Readers’ Nominations

Perhaps we can take this annual cupping of coffees nominated by our readers as a kind of informal sampling of the state of specialty coffee based on the People’s input. At least a very small part of the People. If so, this early 2011 sampling provokes the following (strictly organoleptic-dotal and non-scientific) trends and observations. […]

By February 8, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report
African Intensity: Yirgacheffe, Sidama and Environs

African Intensity: Yirgacheffe, Sidama and Environs

When we taste our way into the world of southern Ethiopia wet-processed coffees — the most famous names are Yirgacheffe and Sidamo or Sidama — we enter a special and different sensory world than the one to which most North American coffee drinkers are accustomed. These coffees, produced largely from heirloom varieties of Arabica that […]

By January 5, 2011 |Reviews Tasting Report