Advanced Search View Cart Checkout Home                                                                                                                                                                                   Customer Support: 301-428-9533 or Email Us
Items in your cart GO


Customer Service Our Policies About Us e-Gift Cards Wish List

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I build my own coffee assortment?.

  1. Go to "Coffee by the Unit" on the Category section.
  2. Add to your cart as many individual packs of coffee and/or tea as you like.
  3. We'll package and ship your assortment.

Q: How can I view the status of my order?

A: Go to the Customer Service, Account Information page. This page lists all your orders. Click the date of the order whose status you wish to view.

Q: What are your shipping costs?
A: You can view an estimate of shipping costs by viewing your cart. However, final shipping costs will be displayed on the Invoice you see before confirming your order.

Q: What is Arabica coffee?
Coffee Arabica was first described by Linnaeus in 1753. The best known varieties are 'Typica' and 'Bourbon' but from these many different strains and cultivars have been developed, such as Caturra (Brazil, Colombia), Mundo Novo (Brazil), Tico (Central America), the dwarf San Ramon and the Jamaican Blue Mountain. The average Arabica plant is a large bush with dark-green oval leaves. It is genetically different from other coffee species, having four sets of chromosomes rather than two. The fruits are oval and mature in 7 to 9 months; they usually contain two flat seeds (the coffee beans) - when only one bean develops it is called a peaberry. Arabica coffee is often susceptible to attack by pests and diseases; therefore, resistance is a major goal of plant breeding programs. Arabica coffee is grown throughout Latin America, in Central and East Africa, in India and to some extent in Indonesia.

Q: What is Robusta coffee?
The term 'robusta' is actually the name of a widely grown variety of this species.  It is a robust shrub or small tree growing up to 10 meters in height, but with a shallow root system.  The fruits are rounded and take up to 11 months to mature; the seeds are oval and smaller than those of Arabica.  Robusta coffee is grown in West and Central Africa, throughout South-East Asia and to some extent in Brazil, where it is known as Conillon.

Q: What kinds of roasts are there and why are they different?
A:Though the degrees of roasts may vary from one specialty coffee roaster to the next, the four basic roasts, and their differences, are mentioned below:

Medium - Also referred to as "Full City".  Medium roasted coffee is usually dark cinnamon in color with no surface oils appearing on the bean.  This roast marks the fullest development of the bean before its oils appear.  The acids (responsible for coffee's winery, citric, and/or dry taste) in medium roasted coffee are nearly fully developed but its body (mouth-feel or viscosity) is kept to a minimum.

Vienna - Slightly darker than the medium roast with oil droplets just beginning to appear on individual beans.  The acids in this roast are more fully developed, and its body is more enhanced, than the medium roast.  Vienna may also describe a blend of beans combining several different roast degrees.

French - The color of this roast resembles milk chocolate or slightly darker, with the beans half-covered with oil droplets and glossy in appearance.  The acidity (responsible for a coffee’s unique flavor) in French roasted coffee begins to break down while its body becomes near to fully maximized.

Italian - Darker than French roasted coffee taking on the color of bittersweet chocolate with oil completely covering each bean.  Because this roast's acidity is relatively low, the coffee’s once unique flavor is barely distinguishable with the bean taking on more of a “roasty” taste due to the carmelization of the sugars.

Espresso - The ideal cup of espresso demands the most specialized bean and roast combination of all the brewing methods.  Espresso, therefore, requires a roast that is neither lightly nor extremely darkly roasted because of the pressurized extraction process. If the roast is too light, the coffee’s acidity will be accentuated; if the roast is too dark, its potential bitterness will be exaggerated. Depending on a coffee’s origin, the best espresso roast falls somewhere between a Full City and an extra-dark French Roast if the finest flavor and crema is desired.

Q: How do different roast affect the flavor of coffee?
There is a trade-off between acidity and body when roasting coffee.  The medium and vienna roasting methods preserve the acidic qualities of coffee.  Darker roast on the other hand, mute the acidic tones of brewed coffee while improving its body.  The body is improved because more of the sugars occurring naturally in coffee are caramelized.  Espresso roasts (a term used for dark or extra dark roasts) are customized for the brewing method it is named after.  Espresso's brewing method necessitates the reduction of acids because of its potent concentration of flavor. 

Acidity is the most prominent characteristic of coffee because it affects its flavor and delicacy. It also gives coffee much of its complexity. Some of the acids that survive the roasting process are:

  • Acetic - found in vinegar
  • Citric - found in citrus fruits
  • Malic - found in apples, grapes and certain wines

Coffees grown at higher elevations, including high quality Arabica beans, have higher concentrations of acid than low-grown (usually Robusta) beans.

Q: Why offer so many different grinds?

A: Grind consistency actually controls how fast liquid flows through it.  To illustrate, imagine a funnel half-filled with flour.  Now add water to the top of the funnel with the flour inside.  You will have to wait a long time before the water eventually flows through the flour and out the bottom of the funnel. 

The same holds true for coffee.  Depending on the brewing method, you want to be sure you have the right grind. Drip coffee makers rely on gravity for the water to flow through the coffee.  Depending on the type of drip coffee maker, you might choose a “DRIP” or “CONE” grind.  On the other hand, you will prefer a finer grind, either “ESPRESSO” or “TURKISH,” when using an espresso machine.  Espresso machines do not use gravity but instead utilize steam pressure to force hot water through coffee grounds.  Because of this pressure, and the speed at which the water passes through an espresso machine, it is essential that a finer grind be used—which leads us to another reason grind is so important.

Grind consistency also determines surface area.  In other words, consider a whole coffee bean.  The surface area consists of the part of the bean you can physically see.  Everything on the inside of the bean is not exposed to the surface and therefore cannot be exposed to the water.  Now take that same bean and grind it up.  You will notice that each individual coffee speck has a surface area.  Therefore, when a coffee bean is ground, surface area increases and more of the bean is exposed to the water while brewing.  The more surface area there is exposed to hot water, the more flavor is extracted from the bean. 

Q: How can I improve the taste of my coffee?

  • Purchase carefully roasted quality beans
  • Insure greater freshness by ordering your coffee from a specialty roaster either via mail or from a local roaster.  The flavor of coffee is compromised with aging 
  • Protect beans from air, moisture, heat and light.  Exposure to any of these elements will cause coffee to quickly lose its freshness
  • Buy coffee whole bean and grind it just prior to brewing.  Whole bean coffee is better protected from exposure to air, moisture, heat and light and loses its aromatics (flavor) much more slowly than ground coffee
  • Choose your grind carefully.  Different brewing/filtering methods require different grinds.  An improper grind can cause the water to either pass through the coffee grounds too quickly, resulting in a weaker cup of coffee or too slowly, causing over-extraction and a bitter tasting beverage
  • Measure coffee grounds carefully.  Too much coffee and over-extraction will occur causing bitterness.  Too little coffee and it will taste weak.  Provided the coffee is ground specially for your coffee machine, carefully measure two level tablespoons (whole bean or ground) per six-ounce cup.  If you prefer weaker coffee, it is better to dilute your coffee with hot water, milk or cream
  • Use bottled or filtered water
  • Do not reheat coffee
  • Do not interrupt the brewing cycle to get a cup of coffee.  This will affect the batch flavor-balance.  The first 60% of the water passing through the filter extracts about 80% of coffee's solubles.  Taking a cup of coffee from this portion of the batch may taste bitter and leave the total batch, once brewing is completed, tasting weak
  • Do not rebrew coffee through spent grounds
  • Do not brew coffee on a burner.  When coffee drips into a carafe on a burner, it is overheated throwing its flavor out-of-balance.  It tastes sour and/or bitter because the coffee's desirable aromatics are vaporized and oils are oxidized.  The best way to keep coffee warm is to transfer it to a pre-heated, insulated carafe immediately after brewing


Q: What is the best way to store coffee at home?

A: Grease-proof, paper or plastic, re-sealable bags with one-way valves:  The best way to store coffee.  This storage method allows unwanted air to be more easily removed (by "burping") while preserving the coffee's aromatic oils (flavor).  The one-way valve will permit the degassing of the fresh coffee beans.  

TIP: Roll the bag down as close to the coffee as possible.  This will help expel additional air.  Then, tightly seal the bag.

Opaque, sealable bin: The next best method for storing coffee.  While it is more difficult to remove air from rigid containers, it will prevent light and moisture from accessing the coffee while helping to preserve its aromatics.

Refrigeration: Coffee stored in a refrigerator can easily absorb odors, especially if it is ground.  In fact, coffee grounds are so absorbent they used to be recommended as a refrigerator freshener!

Freezing coffee: In 1950, Michael Sivety conducted studies on storing coffee.  He concluded that freezing coffee removed fewer aromatics than other storage methods.  The downside of freezing coffee is that it still can absorb freezer odors.  In addition, the oils in coffee beans, especially in dark roasts, congeal when frozen.  Some claim that when the coffee thaws, the oils never return to their original consistency harming the body of brewed coffee (particularly espresso).

TIP: If you do not use up your coffee beans within two weeks and you decide to freeze them, store whole bean coffee, if possible, in a tightly sealed, glass or plastic container.

Q: What is the ideal water temperature for brewing coffee?

A: Ideal water temperatures for brewing coffee range from 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Near-boiling or boiling water being exposed to coffee grounds can cause over-extraction resulting in a more bitter cup of coffee.  Water temperatures less than 195 degrees Fahrenheit will cause under-extraction.  When under-extraction occurs, less solubles are removed from the coffee bean leaving a sour, weak, or “grassy” tasting beverage.  Some of the best brewing methods for maintaining proper water temperature include the French Press and Vacuum Pot.

Q: Is water important?

A: It is quite simple: Coffee is at least 98% water.  The higher the quality of water, the higher the quality of the cup.  Many people use filtered or bottled water for their coffee.  There is a difference.  Fortunately, some of the newer, more expensive coffee pots come with small, replaceable charcoal filters built into the machine. If possible, do not use distilled water.  It is missing minerals that make water pleasing to drink.


Go Back