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Where has all the coffee gone?

Postby CoruscatingCoffee on Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:12 pm

I have to post a little rant about wasting coffee. Here is a link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE-Kw1p8m-g#t=93
It had been posted on H-B previously by Joco a few days ago:
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I am continually amazed at the amount of coffee that is wasted in otherwise "green conscious" coffee shops. In this video, the barista sweeps the mounded coffee off of the top of her basket with her finger. I think that may be a simple solution to prevent clumping and channeling from ruining her results. But it is the wrong solution for sustainable coffee. It is not clear that she swept the grounds into the trash, I know that is what they do at several coffee palaces near me.

For many of us, coffee retention in the grinder seems to be an issue. It seems to be of little concern to this video barista and others who simply sweep it away. I visited coffee farms in Guatemala in January and calculated that my 2-3 daily espresso habit requires about 25 shade grown coffee plants to sustain it. That equals a substantial quantity of farm land for a single person to have a couple of cups a day. I watched pickers grab one ripe bean at a time from bunches of red and green beans growing side by side. With the video illustrating about a 10% loss of ground coffee per drink, it looks like we are wasting the dedicated efforts of farmers in coffee growing regions all over the world.

What can we do? Show some respect. As Shakespeare said, there is many a slip between the grinder and the basket. Why not collect the extra fresh grounds and make some coffee jello or something? At least sweep it into the doser.
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Postby DanoM on Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:41 pm

Coffee grinds don't have to become trash. Some places are giving out their grinds and pucks to mushroom growers, gardeners and the like for growing medium and fertilizer. That keeps the coffee in the food cycle, and in my opinion is about as green as you can get: Cut the initial waste to minimal and reuse the spent grinds.
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Postby espressotime on Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:12 pm

I saw that video and was thinking exactly the same as you did.
It's stupid and shows little respect for the effort it took to produce that coffee.
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Postby HB on Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:54 pm

It's possible that the barista intentionally dosed high to make it easier to see. I've done the same thing when making videos, though I usually explain that it's for demonstration purposes only. When I do dose by volume, it's for a series of drinks, so I strike off into the doser and use the remainder for the next shot so there's no waste.

More generally, wasted product is lost money. It's not just a matter of respecting the farmers, it's good business sense. Mike Zhu (owner of New World Cafe) rhetorically asks his employees, "Would you give away every 5th drink for free? Or every 10th? Then don't accept waste as unavoidable."
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Postby CoruscatingCoffee on Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:25 pm

I'm glad that others are noticing this issue. I know that spillage can happen while roasting or at any stage of the process. I just want to consider the casual waste that multiplies as hundreds of baristas sweep that extra mound of coffee off of the portafilter while leveling. It seems so intentional and as HB said, it costs everyone.

Also thanks to DanoM for pointing out the composting value of spent grounds. I have been told that grounds can go directly into the garden without needing composting. I guess we've processed it enough by the time the puck pops out of the portafilter.

I tried burning dried grounds in my wood stove. Well, that is one coffee smell that I don't enjoy.
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Postby rjamadagni on Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:31 am

CoruscatingCoffee wrote:Also thanks to DanoM for pointing out the composting value of spent grounds. I have been told that grounds can go directly into the garden without needing composting. I guess we've processed it enough by the time the puck pops out of the portafilter.

Not to hijack this useful thread, but i could use some clarification. Spent grounds i.e. coffee puck after we extract espresso? or ground coffee that we swipe off before tamping that can be used in the garden?

TIA
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Postby CoruscatingCoffee on Thu Mar 20, 2014 8:35 am

Thanks for your note Espressotime. I am not sure of the proper terminology of coffee immediately after grinding and after being used to make the drink. For the sake of clarity let's say the former is the "grind" and the later is "spent grounds". I was previously using both "grounds" and "grind" interchangeably. Does anyone who has been to coffee school have a more specific word choice?

And it is the "spent grounds" that can go directly on the garden. I never have enough pre-drink coffee waste to throw anywhere. If I spill freshly ground coffee, I sweep it off my counter and into the doser. If I drop a bean, the 3 second rule applies and then it is back in the hopper or jar.
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Postby RapidCoffee on Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:40 am

CoruscatingCoffee wrote:What can we do? Show some respect. ... Why not collect the extra fresh grounds and make some coffee jello or something? At least sweep it into the doser.

Like you, I am bothered by waste. There will always be some waste associated with coffee, but you can take steps to minimize it. Most of these involve grinding the correct amount of coffee in the first place:

  • weigh the beans for the desired dose, and single dose the grinder
  • use a hopper, but time how long it takes to grind the desired dose (this should help you avoid grinding too much excess coffee)
  • get a grinder that automatically grinds the desired dose, either by time or weight
  • when grinding into the basket, use a funnel to catch stray grinds
  • if you have overdosed, use the excess grinds in your next shot (if there is one)
Overfilling the basket and using the finger strike method to brush off excess grinds (as shown in the video) is quick and easy, but it generates waste, reduces your ability to manipulate dose (one of the fundamental parameters influencing extraction), is less consistent than weighing, and tends to overdose. It makes more sense in a busy coffee shop than at home.
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Postby FotonDrv on Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:56 am

We have been using our own grounds and the grounds from a local coffee shop for several years. The grounds mixed with kitchen compost waste makes great worm food and the garden benefits greatly!

We produce most of our own vegetables during the summer and some winter months, depending on the veggie.

So, do not waste your grounds!
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Postby russel on Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:42 pm

It's important to remember that shops are selling the coffee that they make, and that every drink served is an opportunity to delight someone with a great drink but also to repulse them with an inadequate beverage. Waste costs money, so does lost customers and hits to a cafés reputation. It's a balancing act, and a lot of how it's handled depends on the experience of the ownership/management/head-baristas. In the context of a quality focused shop, I think maintaining the quality of the coffee comes before reducing waste. It the absence of a grinder that can control dose under a heavy drink load, I would rather see baristas using strike-off dosing instead of eyeballing it.

That being said, I think better dose control at the grinder level is a worthwhile investment and can improve any shops output while reducing waste. I think the general dissatisfaction with grinders in the specialty coffee industry stems from grinders' lack of sophisticated dose controls and a perceived lack of innovation on this front.

I would also venture to say that serving a beverage of poor quality is a bigger insult to the effort put into growing and roasting the beans than wasting a gram or two on each dose.
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