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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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 […]

Inside Ratings and Coffee Review

Inside Ratings and Coffee Review

Readers occasionally call Coffee Review to task for rating coffees too high. (On the other hand, others ask why we’ve never rated a coffee higher than 97. That latter question I’ll save for another time and another blog.) But in response to those harboring the “too high” suspicion, the first thing I would point out is that […]

By December 20, 2010 Read Article
Prize-Winning Coffees from Latin America

Prize-Winning Coffees from Latin America

The story this month may be more about what’s not reviewed here than what is. As in years past, we planned a review of competition-winning green coffees offered to North American consumers. These competitions are events “during which a jury of international cuppers spends several well-caffeinated days slurping, spitting and obsessing over a gradually narrowing […]

By December 7, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Learning from Chocolate: The Pairing Experiment

Learning from Chocolate: The Pairing Experiment

A few weeks ago I took a few steps across a relatively new frontier of coffee connoisseurship known generally as “pairing,” i.e. recommending certain coffees that best pair with certain foods. Although I’ve always found the pairing process interesting, I’ve never pursued it in any depth. But when I was offered an opportunity (in this […]

By December 3, 2010 Read Article
More Coffee Aroma/Flavor Notes: Flowers and Aromatic Wood

More Coffee Aroma/Flavor Notes: Flowers and Aromatic Wood

Flowers and aromatic wood situate at opposite ends of the sensory range for coffee, though they both are among the most common and attractive of aroma and flavor notes. Floral notes appear to be a direct expression of the floral tendencies of the coffee fruit and seed; at times they show up as pure expressions […]

By November 30, 2010 Read Article
Resuming with Sweetness

Resuming with Sweetness

So let’s blog again like we did last summer. Reviewing three or four descriptive terms per week is the new plan. Judging by an occasional puzzled email, sweetness may be one of the more confusing terms for those new to coffee description. We use the term regularly in our reviews, and it’s one of the […]

By November 27, 2010 Read Article
Brandy and Surprises: The New Naturals

Brandy and Surprises: The New Naturals

For those unfamiliar with the emerging language of fine coffee the title of this article may be a puzzler. What’s a “natural” and what makes some of these “naturals” “new”? Natural is a positive name marketing-savvy Brazilians came up with some years ago to describe coffees that until that time were called “unwashed” or “dry-processed.” […]

By November 4, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Quiet Distinction: Coffees of Guatemala

Quiet Distinction: Coffees of Guatemala

Guatemala is a tease of a coffee origin in sensory terms. It would be very difficult in a blind cupping to pick out any of the coffees we reviewed this month with absolute certainty as Guatemalas if they were mixed in with, say, other Central Americas. Yet all twelve of this month’s samples clearly share […]

Tall-Drink Espressos: Best Blends for Big Milk

Tall-Drink Espressos: Best Blends for Big Milk

One old-time coffee generalization certainly got shot down by this month’s reviews: the notion that the way to get pronounced espresso flavor in large (i.e. caffè latte-sized) volumes of hot milk is to roast the hell out of the coffees. The idea used to be that the burned pungency of darker roasted coffees would cut […]

By September 2, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Summer Selections: Coffees of Note

Summer Selections: Coffees of Note

Coffee writers need vacations too. What we offer here in place of our usual monthly tasting report is a set of reviews of exceptional coffees that came into the Coffee Review lab during July 2010. The article originally scheduled for August (Tall Milk Espressos) will appear next month. In a sense, this fill-in-for-Ken’s-vacation article is […]

Pity the Poor Decaf Drinker: Signature Decaf Blends

Pity the Poor Decaf Drinker: Signature Decaf Blends

I am a positive thinker when it comes to coffee, but this month’s sampling of fifty decaffeinated blends from thirty of North America’s finest specialty roasters tested my optimism. Almost every month our reviews reveal impressive new coffee possibilities powered in part by a fresh generation of specialty coffee roasters and coffee producers. Typically our […]