Category Archives: Beans

Find Your Coffee

At cafehound.com, we endeavor to locate the best coffee in the world. Over the last eight years we’ve happily watched as globally, the options available to the public have exponentially increased and the public’s general awareness of specialty coffee has deepened. Although we still believe that tracking down the best coffee in the world is central to our mission, we recently decided to dip our toes into the area of recommending specific coffee(s) to coffee lovers based on a mixture of qualitative and empirical analysis.

espresso_2017

In two posts (1 and 2) from 2015, we took verbal reviews of specialty coffees from the site coffeereview.com,  and we employed various clustering algorithms to discover groupings of coffee (based on words used to describe them and other factors). This served as our initial foray into using Data Science on expert coffee reviews to improve our understanding of specialty coffee.

Over the past month, we’ve set out to improve upon that original work in order to empower java lovers to discover the perfect brew. Our years of cupping coffee and talking with experts have shown that – after a certain point – what constitutes a “good cup of coffee” is subjective and specific to the palette of the beholder.

With that in mind, cafehound.com chose to use a large, multiyear list of coffee reviews from Kenneth David’s coffeereview.com site to explore the relationship between the descriptions used to rate coffee aroma, flavor, aftertaste, body, acidity and finish. We hypothesized that there are distinct groupings of coffee based on their roast profile, body, and flavors that are relevant to informing consumer preferences in the overall marketplace. To clarify, a market segmentation based on a representative sample of surveyed consumer preferences may be more useful to marketing professionals, but that is outside of the scope of this post. Instead, we’re using the structure inferred from math and reviews of specific coffees to estimate categories of the potential “coffee experience.” These categories may provide coffee consumers with guideposts for exploring new specialty coffees.

Our results led to six broad categories of coffee that we’ve ordered from lightest to darkest roast (based on average Agtron ratings). Agtron ratings are a numerical representation of the consistency of the roast color (lower numbers indicate a darker roast <45, higher numbers indicate a lighter roast 50+). More than the roast determines the flavor profile and overall body of the coffee, which is why some of these segments may appear similar.

Initially, we bring this content to you via occasionally updated web pages. Depending on demand, we may scale our service to provide daily or weekly recommendation updates.

For now, follow the link below to Find Your Coffee.

cafehoundlogos01

For code share:

Shiny Segmentation and Prediction

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Data Science: Exploring CoffeeReview.com Top Coffees

Over the past few years, I’ve transitioned my career from government-oriented management consulting to the field of advanced analytics and data science.

 

In general terms, this has required me to climb a significant learning curve in the related areas of computer programming languages and advanced statistical methods. While it has been challenging, the rewards of being able to more effectively and efficiently extract insights from various types of information/data is encouraging.

With the objective of exploring my love of specialty coffee, I chose to practice a few basic data science methods on a relatively well-known specialty coffee review website: coffeereview.com .

The goal was to apply web scraping, text analytics, segmentation, and some visualization techniques to coffee review data in order to explore correlations between price, producer country, roaster, and quality over time.

My colleague and I discussed the objective over Memorial Day weekend and set out on parallel paths to scrape review data from the website. He used a Python script to scrape the website, and I used an R script to do the same. In the end, his Python script achieved a more efficient scrape, producing a column separated variable (.csv) file that could be imported into a statistical computing software package like SPSS or R.

The website we targeted in this scrape was the 21 pages of: http://www.coffeereview.com/highest-rated-coffees/

 

From there, I cleaned up the file (using R packages such as “dplyr”, “stringr” and “sqldf” to get things to a point where we could calculate price per pound amounts and country of origin for most of the coffees reviewed. I was also able to pull down city/state location data for each of the roasters and their websites.

One of my first business questions involved the type of descriptive language used to review the website’s top-rated coffees. Where there any particular words that we could associate with the best rated coffee out there, according to coffeereview.com?

A relatively straightforward way to investigate that question is to use a Word Cloud to illustrate the words with the highest frequency of mention in individual review comments.

Most frequent words describing top rated coffees.

Most frequent words describing top rated coffees.

Clearly, if you want to appear to know the jargon for communicating your delight about a quality cup of java, you should say something like, “This coffee’s intense aroma of flowers, baker’s chocolate and fruit is only bested by its complex, rich flavor with tart tinges of acidity and a balanced, silky, syrupy, honey finish…”. Okay…so that sounds ridiculous…but you get the point.

Exploring the data

What is the range of ratings found on the top rated page?

The maximum rating any single coffee receives on this page (of highest rated coffees) is 97, while the minimum is 94. There isn’t a lot of variance. Most of the top rated coffees are rated 94, a third are 95, and the remaining15 percent are either 96 or 97. We will revisit this data later.

Distribution of Top Rated Coffees from CoffeeReview.com

Distribution of Top Rated Coffees from CoffeeReview.com

What years of ratings do we have the most robust data for in order to do more specific analysis on our variables?

We decided to drop all years prior to 2010 (which had 29 coffees reviewed that year).

year count
2014 70
2013 58
2012 40
2011 39
2015 24
2010 20
Which coffee roasters were the most frequently reviewed and top rated by coffeereview.com between 2010 and roughly six months into 2015?

JBC Coffee Roasters from Madison, Wisconsin was the favorite by far in terms of its 26 reviews on the website in the time span specified. Followed by Temple Coffee and Tea in Sacramento, CA (20) and PT’s Coffee Roasting Company in Topeka, Kansas (13). This was a surprise to me, as I have never sampled ANY coffee from these roasters and feel like I have been missing out. In order to show the table of roasters, i used the combination of R packages “RGraphics” and “gridExtra” to save some nice incremental (sets of 15) graphics.

roasters_1_15

roasters_16_30 roasters_31_45 roasters_46_60 roasters_61_73

A quick visualization of the top rated coffees by year, price per pound and origin country shows some semi-distinct segments within the data based on price alone. This led me to ponder if we could use a clustering algorithm (such as k-means using dummy variables for each country, price per pound, and rating) in order to more clearly segment particular coffees by segment. Instead of using R for this exploration, I exported the data into a .csv and imported it into SPSS to run the analysis there.

Price per pound by origin country and year ($US).

Price per pound by origin country and year ($US). United States = Hawai’i.

A five-way cluster solution seemed the most suitable for segmenting the data in a way that illustrated differences across price and producer country.

Price unreasonably drove the segmentation, as seen in this graphic.

Price unreasonably drove the segmentation, as seen in this graphic.

The segments broke out into groupings containing the following number of coffee reviews each:

Segment                       Count               $US/lb

1                                       174                   $21
2                                       8                      $121
3                                       35                    $44
4                                       1                       $243
5                                       20                    $84

Segment 1: No Geisha or Hawaiian Coffees, Espresso Blends
Segment 2: Panama and Colombian Geishas
Segment 3: Mix of Geishas, Ethiopian, and Hawaiian
Segment 4: Semeon Abay Ethiopia
Segment 5: Mid-priced Geisha, Hawaiian and Ethiopian

Interestingly, a few roasters exhibited a bit of dispersion across the segments due to the variety of awesome tasting coffees they had reviewed. Those roasters included:

PT’s Coffee Roasting Co.

5 (Seg 1)
3 (Seg 2)
3 (Seg 3)
2 were (Seg 5)

Barrington Coffee Roasting Co.

3 were (Seg 1)
4 were (Seg 3)
1 was (Seg 4)
3 were (Seg 5)

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

6 were (Seg 1)
1 was (Seg 2)
3 were (Seg 3)
1 was (Seg 5)

Paradise Roasters

6 were (Seg 1)
1 was (Seg 2)
1 was (Seg 3)
2 were (Seg 5)

After exploring the data in this way, I wondered if 1) my approach to segmentation was appropriate 2) what the comments from these segments looked like comparatively. To answer the first question: no, but that will be the topic of my next blog post. To answer the second, let’s explore some word clouds below.

Word Cloud: Segment 1

Word Cloud: Segment 1

Word Cloud: Segment 2

Word Cloud: Segment 2

Word Cloud: Segment 3

Word Cloud: Segment 3

Word Cloud: Segment 4

Word Cloud: Segment 4

Word Cloud: Segment 5

Word Cloud: Segment 5

 

Perhaps clustering by cupping notes is a better way to segment groups…stay tuned.

Cafe Hounding: Verve Coffee

Verve Coffee Roasters
816 41st Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Phone: (831) 475-7776

http://www.vervecoffeeroasters.com/

Awesome service, attention to coffee, and people.

Kris checked this place out when stopping through Santa Cruz while galavanting through California per usual.  The life of a professor… The atmosphere at Verve is relaxing in true Californian style.  Plenty of natural light and wood and metal decor reminiscent of Urban Outfitters in its layout.  The shop is located only a couple of blocks from the Pacific Ocean, which undoubtedly adds to the tranquil feel.

The beans are roasted next door in their own facility – it appears they also sell wholesale across the country. Check out their website to make sure. Verve is among the most raved about roasters in the continental US and their baristas are talented enough to consistently make a splash at the annual SCAA barista competitions.  Unfortunately for Kris, during his visit the top baristas were actually in Houston competing in the SCAA annual competition on the national stage.  The staff are super fun and friendly and the wifi is very, very free.

Two paws up for this place.  We look forward to continuing to sample their coffee throughout 2012!

– Cafe Hound

Bean Counting: Idido Natural Sun-dried – Counter Culture

Roaster: Counter Culture
Place of Purchase: Peregrine Espresso (14th St. NW Location)
Preferred Brew Method: Paper Filter Drip (pour over)
Excerpt From Counter Culture Describing Coffee:

Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Organic • Shade Grown
The community of Idido, just outside the town of Yirgacheffe, has once again produced the quintessential Ethiopian Natural Sundried coffee. One of the cleanest and most refined naturals we have tasted in years, Idido offers notes of strawberry, blueberry, and orange zest with a balanced, chocolate-like sweetness.

Cafe Hound Review:   Generally, Counter Culture got this one right. This coffee cups clean, though it has  enough of what I call, “berry funk” to entertain your palate. I cycled through several of the Counter Culture coffees this year, with the Central Americans admittedly disappointing after a VERY strong showing in 2009, and a decent showing in 2010. In 2010 my favorite growing region of the world ended up being Kenya, though the Cafe Hound annual blend at the end of 2009 included a fair amount of sun-dried Ethiopian coffee from the Amaro region. (washed version for sale at Novo now). Right now, this Yirgacheffe is rocking my world. I admit that as the weather cools here in the Nation’s Capital, I’m leaning towards more bold and fruity coffees – though I enjoy a clean cup so much that I rarely venture to the extremes of many Indonesian grown coffees (Sumatra). Though, it is all a matter of taste and I encourage you to post your comments letting us know what your preferences are this year! Happy Hounding!

info@cafehound.com

Rusty’s Hawaiian Site Visit: Pahala, Hawaii

In early April 2011, both Cafe Hounds took a journey to Hawaii in search of the storied Kona coffee, in addition to some sunshine and snorkeling – oh, and Kris had a conference for the Association for Asian Studies  (AAS), which he presented at. During out visit we had the pleasure of sampling some wonderfully crafted coffee drinks on the island of Oahu before we jumped on a short flight destined for the beautiful Big Island, where we landed in Kona.  Once there, we decided to casually sample a few plantations in the immediate area near our Bed & Breakfast in south Kona (Ka’awa Loa). In short – they stunk.

Ka'awa Loa B&B

So the ONE big coffee related adventure on Big Island was our visit to the wonderful farm of Lorie Obra and her family in the Ka’u District (in Pahala, Hawai’i). It was amazing. The Obra family house and farm is located in the small and relatively impoverished village of Pahala – with less than 1,350 inhabitants just east of the southern tip (South Point – Ka Lae). According to 2010 Census Data, more than  80% of the population is Asian/Pacific Islander or a mix of the two. Many of the inhabitants descend from the Philippines – a country that Maher Hound used to live in until a volcanic eruption destroyed his home in 1991. This fact made visiting the volcanic island of Hawai’i that much more special.

Maher, Miguel and Lorie On The Farm in Pahala, HI

Lorie agreed to meet with Kris and Maher on relatively short notice and coordinated the meeting with her coffee consultant – and friend – Miguel Meza. Lorie’s daughter Joan Obra and her husband Ralph Gaston joined the group as well – after somewhat recently arriving in Hawai’i themselves to join the family business after most of their lives on he mainland.

I drove us all up the road a mile or so to their farm where we were then able to walk around and experience the relatively young and VERY well planned out coffee farm of Rusty’s Hawaiian. The brand and the farm were started  in 1999 with the seedling of a dream by Rusty Obra, a retired chemist who sadly passed away in 2006 – leaving his wife, Lorie with the tough decision of whether to continue his dream…or cut her losses and move on. She bought into his dream and kept forging forward in a naturally advantageous habitat for superb coffee – planted on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano, which makes up the majority of Hawai’i’s biggest of islands, Big Island. Standing on the farm you can see the ocean off in the distance looking south towards South Point where one can find Green Sand Beach – where the sand is colored in such a way due to chemical and gaseous reactions from volcanic/lava eruptions with ocean water.

On the farm, Miguel and Lorie have experimented with several varietals – but the five that we had the pleasure of cupping that day were the:

  1. RH Lot 24 Tipica
  2. Bourbon (red)
  3. Yellow Caturra Natural Dried FRUKO
  4. Red Caturra
  5. Yellow Caturra Natural Dried

The farm currently has no certifications at all – though they stated that they plan to certify organic eventually. They stated the reason was because achieving certification is not viable and – probably mostly – it is not viewed as an important aspect of quality in their sales strategy. (aka – their buyers don’t care about certification as much as their unique flavor profile and superb quality control). Thus far, they have not experienced broque (bug diseases).

Cupping With Miguel At Lorie's Home

One of their most important variables in annual yields is rainfall – 1) they don’t have an irrigation system 2) volcanic soil doesn’t really retain water very well. To that end, Miguel shared with me that the average commercial farm in the Kona district (where he also engages in coffee consulting for other farms) yields about 1,000 pounds per acre (due to higher rainfall counts) compared to averages ranging from 400 to 600 pounds per acre at Rusty’s farm. This relatively limited annual yield capacity for Rusty’s creates a situation where demand outstrips supply by far. For this reason, the $80 per pound for some of the coffees we sampled was understandable.
The hospitality shown to Kris and I at Rusty’s Hawaiian farm and home was exceptional and encapsulates not only the Hawaiian way, but reminds me fondly of my (Maher) time in the Philippines. Hopefully, there will be more to come on Rusty’s Hawaiian and Miguel Meza – and the change that they are catalyzing in Hawaii’s specialty coffee industry.

Angolan Coffee: Cafe Ginga Lobito

AngoNabeiro / Cafe Delta / Cafe Ginga
Estrada do Cacuaco Km 5
PO Box 5727, Luanda
Email: anabeiro@snet.co.ao
Tel: +244 222 840161 / 62

How is the coffee?  How well is it delivered?

My expectations for any coffee that is roasted in a hot and muggy coffee producing country and transported to the United States in luggage are generally pretty low.  Opportunities for the coffee to be damaged by heat, humidity, and poor packaging are far too great. Upon receiving this kilogram of roasted whole bean coffee I politely thanked the gift bearer and placed any hope of this coffee stimulating my palate far from the reach of reality.  A couple of days later, I used my 480-watt Baratza Virtuoso burr grinder to grind up a fine espresso sample of the beans for use in a Gaggia Classic modified machine with a Rancho Silvia wand.  About 23 seconds later, a full Illy cup of syrupy espresso was ready to be slurped.  My initial surprise was that the machine pulled the shot surprisingly well for a first try.

After sipping the shot I was surprised again with the freshness and fruitiness of the drink.  The aroma of the beans was not nearly as satisfying as the drink itself.  The quality of the beans themselves did leave a little to be desired.  The roast was not consistent enough to be considered specialty quality – with some beans barely brown and others burnt to a crisp. Also, some were very small and damaged while others were huge.  Furthermore, I found a piece of metal wire resting in between a few beans when I was pouring the bag into a storage container – reflecting less than ideal quality control standards by the processing company. The packaging for the beans is metalized with an additional layer of multicolored labeling and a valve application for allowing gases to escape after sealing – a high quality packing meant for beans that a company would expect to export and/or sell retail.

Again, the taste was exotic and I was encouraged enough to make an entire pot of drip coffee with the same beans.  The end result was a bit less to my specific liking – I like a brighter coffee with a lighter roast and more mild finish.  Although, on colder days I like a drip coffee with a bit more character in the body than my usual Central American and Colombian varieties.  I’ve begun mixing some beans from Cundinamarca, Colombia with my Angolan coffee that apparently originates on an estate (fazenda) called Lobito (not to be confused with the port city of the same name) and am pleased to drink this blend in both espresso and drip coffee form.

What’s in a name? Ginga’s backstory

The Ginga (Njinga) name is distinctly Angolan, as it refers to a queen dating back to the times of the Ngondo Kingdom in Africa.  The Ngondo Kingdom was originally a tributary kingdom of the Kingdom of Congo – existing before the Portuguese colonizers arrived in 1482.  The Ngondo Kingdom was governed by Ginga’s father, Ngola Kiluange(Kiluanji), when the Portuguese arrived. He fiercely resisted the Portuguese as well as all other foreigners until his eventual decapitation. The Portuguese attributed the name Angola to the lands now known as Angola, not knowing/caring that the Ngola was the name of the ruler, not the lands.

Queen Ginga is a legendary figure in African history and the object of pride in Angola, as she is viewed as one of Angola’s most shrewd diplomats, rulers, military minds and intelligent leaders.  So much is written on her that her entire history appears to be in dispute and includes elements of near-mythology – certainly originating from the 16th century equivalent of smear campaigns and propaganda.  She is rumored to, at times, have adopted cannibalism, a very pious Catholic lifestyle, and – according to Maquis de Sade’s “Philosophy in the Bedroom” – she sacrificed elements of her all male harem of lovers immediately after lovemaking. In other words, there is much mystery and intrigue surrounding her life but she is most certainly a key historical figure in the Angolan national identity.

Throughout her political career, Queen Ginga both resisted and compromised with her Portuguese occupiers.  There seems to have been a relative interdependency between Ginga and Portugal.  She converted to Christianity, adopted tribal customs, and went to war with the crown and neighboring tribes – whatever ensured her survival.  Perhaps this is why the brand name Ginga is appropriate for a coffee company that claims to be 100% Angolan, yet is very much entangled in a past connected to Portugal. Ginga is one of two coffee brands connected to a holding company called AngoNabeiro, the other being Delta Café (a widely known Portuguese brand).  AngoNabeiro is part of a Portuguese conglomerate known as Nabeirogest, or more informally, Grupo Nabeiro.  One of the strongest performing companies in this group is Café Delta.  Café Delta dominates the coffee market in Portugal, is expanding rapidly in Angola and Brazil, and has long been active in segments of the East Asian market for roasted coffee (see Macau).

But, the Portuguese connection dates back to before Angolan Independence when AngoNabeiro was setting up coffee production operations in 1973 right before Portugal experienced a coup d’état in 1974 and, as part of a larger Portuguese agreement, Angola was liberated from colonization through the Alvor Agreement (Acordo do Alvor) in 1975.  Between 1975 and 2002, Angola endured a violent civil war that ravaged the countryside and made sustaining its agricultural economy very unpredictable. As in nearly all civil conflicts, land/property rights were constantly challenged creating terrible instability for coffee farm owners.

During the earlier part of the difficult times in Angola, Rui Patricio oversaw daily operations and ownership of AngoNabeiro inside of Angola.  Production continued, although at very small quantities, until 1983 when the company closed due to lacking technical assistance and know-how.  The physical infrastructure where AngoNabeiro’s main facility was located was loosely protected, unproductively, until 1998 when Delta Café proposed a revitalization of its coffee production in Angola.  By 2000, the Café Ginga brand emerged and by 2002 the civil war in Angola finally ended. Café Ginga and AngoNabeiro has grown steadily since, with an estimated US$1.2 million of annual revenues in 2005 according to Director General Rui Melo. Part of their growth has been thanks to a business structure where the mixed-capital Angolan company, AngoNabeiro benefits from Grupo Nabeiro’s know-how and financial largesse (capital and cash-on-hand). Café Delta is one of many companies housed within Grupo Nabeiro and it has been tremendously successful over the past decade.  As Ginga changes outside perceptions of high quality coffee within the Angolan market their ambitions are set on carving out market share in nearby South Africa and other countries in their immediate vicinity.

Rui Melo interview on history of AngoNabeiro (Portuguese): http://www.winne.com/dninterview.php?intervid=1686

Mr. Rui Melo
Manager / Director General of AngoNabeiro

Cafe Hounding: The Conservatory for Coffee, Tea & Cocoa – Culver City, CA

10117 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA
www.conservatorycoffeeandtea.com

P1000751

My long-time friend and her husband who had lived in Los Angeles in the past few years had suggested to me several times about The Conservatory in Culver City. Finally I had a chance to visit this coffee house on Halloween Day. Upon arrival in this coffee house, you will be greeted with piles of green beans from all over the world. Then you will see the roaster right there next to the seating area, which I thought it was very cool. Although I expected slow customer traffic as it was a weekend plus Halloween, there were quite a lot of people coming during more than an hour that I was there. There were plenty of tables inside and outside the cafe so seating didn’t seem to be a problem.

Picture 5

I ordered a large latte and it was prepared for me by Ingrid, who turned out to be a daughter of the owner. My latte was prepared from the house espresso blend, which consisted of Brazilian and Sumatra beans. Surprisingly, it had strong body but not too muddy as what I would expect from Sumatra. This was great as I am personally not a big fan of strong, dark roasted coffee. The latte art was also beautiful.

P1000747

Ingrid was very friendly and told me about this place while preparing my latte. The Conservatory is a family business and has been operating for over 15 years. At least one of the family members is always at the cafe when it is open. They also have quite a large selection of tea leaves. If you are hungry, some pastries are available as well.

The location of the cafe is great. It is in downtown Culver City on Washington Blvd, just a couple of blocks from a bunch of the city’s trendy restaurants and theaters. From my past experience visiting Culver City, street parking in this area is not a big problem as well (although I was very lucky to get a spot right in front of the cafe this time).

Overall, The Conservatory is a great place to have coffee drinks or to purchase coffee beans. If you look for a “neighborhood” cafe around West LA that you can relax and escape a bit from the notoriously pretentious LA environment, you may find this lovely coffee house a place you want to revisit again.