Every morning, you have a cup or two. Sometimes, in the afternoon as well. And even a cup after dinner.
You might make it at home, and take it in a commuter cup.
You might buy it from Starbucks, from Dunkin’, from McD’s.
From gas stations, diners, and greasy spoons.
Wherever you get it, you’re gonna get your daily coffee.
And for the most part, that’s what it tastes like–coffee.
Some is better than others; no one wants the dregs of the pot from the office machine.
But every so often, you’ll see a sign, or a note, talking about the tasting notes of this or that blend: “chocolate, with hints of caramel and citrus”, or “a fruity cup, with overtones of raspberry and cherry.”
When you sip–coffee. It tastes like coffee.
Which is why I was so surprised the first time I visited New Order Coffee.
Like some other shops, there’s a blend menu behind the registers, detailing all the wonderful nuances of each of their coffees.
Unlike most of the other shops, you’ll actually taste them in your cup.
The Black Forest Torte (raspberry, chocolate) notes in my cup were from the coffee, not a syrup or additive.
I had to know more. How does New Order get their coffee to actually have the flavors and tastes others only claim to capture?
Patrick Seeney is the Director of Coffee at New Order, the person who decides which blends make it into their rotation. And once that decision has been made, he’s also the person who decides how long to roast the beans, as well as a recommended serving style.
From a finite initial choice, Coffea robusta or Coffea arabica (the two main types of beans), there’s nearly an infinite number of variables that affect the final taste in the cup. The terroir in the three main regions where coffee is grown (the Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia/India), the cultivation in shade or full sun, and the processing method used all affect the bean. How the beans are removed from the cherry (the fruit the beans grow in), and how the mucilage (sticky residue) is removed from the beans also affects the taste, and the surrounding environment.
After this, the beans are sorted, and sold as green coffee.
And that’s where Patrick comes in.
Working with various coffee importers, Patrick samples small batches of single-sourced coffee. That is, the beans in the 150-lb. bag all come from the same coffee farm. Typically, these are small producers, family farms with more control over the crop.
When Patrick finds a coffee of interest, he then begins testing it.
He’ll roast small batches of beans to varying degrees of doneness. Coffee is generally roasted at temperatures between 400 -450 degrees, for seven to nine minutes. Patrick may try five different roasts, attempting to coax as much flavor as possible into the final cup.
When roasting, the beans change both physically and chemically.
Physically, the beans lose about 20% of their weight, as the moisture is roasted out of the beans. If you start with a pound of green beans, the finished product will be a bit under 13 ounces of roasted beans.
The beans also double in size, becoming much less dense. So the bag they came in won’t be big enough to hold them once roasted.
Chemically, the intense heat caramelizes the beans, breaking starches down into simple sugars, which brown in the heat, changing the bean from pale green to a deep brown. At an internal temperature of 392 degrees, caffeol develops, an oil largely responsible for the taste and aroma of coffee.
At 401 degrees, other oils develop, adding to flavor complexity.
At some point in the process, the beans crack, much like popcorn.
Here’s where decision time comes in – when do you stop roasting, after first crack? Do you keep going, past second crack, into the really dark roasting (455 degrees)? If you do, you’ll lose most of the naturally-occurring caffeine, as it breaks down above 455 degrees.
Past that point, the coffee is simply burnt. It will be dark, bitter, and taste very familiar to people who frequent a certain national chain.
New Order sources much of its coffee from Africa. A lighter roast will reveal the fruity notes present in the beans, so Patrick tends to have a quicker hand on the “Off” button.
He may try up to five roasts with a particular bean, and up to six methods of brewing (cold brew, aero press, pour over, auto drip, espresso, French press), for a total of 30 outputs from a single varietal.
I’m amazed he ever falls asleep.
Patrick will also test the blends with New Order’s associates, getting a consensus on the favorite combination of roast and brewing method. That then becomes the recommended serving for that particular coffee.
When I was there, Patrick gave me three different roast levels of Ardi beans from Ethiopia. All three were brewed with a French press.
The first was the lightest roast, and looked much like tea. When you cupped your hand over the top and inhaled, it smelled like Froot Loops cereal. The taste, to my palate, was a bit weak, and tart.
The second was a medium roast, appearing similar to gas station coffee–a bit thin, but recognizable. The scent was much more floral, and tasted a bit fuller.
The third roast was my preference, a darker roast resembling my home brew. A very berry scent, with a full flavor profile, featuring raspberry. Delicious!
On the current menu is a barrel aged Maple Whiskey Espresso, a blend that smells like the booziest Irish coffee ever.
Other available coffees taste of honey, chocolate, spiced rum, or banana walnut bread (I’m not making this up!).
Unbeknownst to most of us, that’s the gamut of tastes available in a cup of coffee.
And thanks to Patrick, and New Order Coffee, now we can enjoy them.
New Order Coffee is located at 3100 Woodward Avenue in Detroit (corner of Woodward and Watson). They are open Monday – Thursday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can find them on the Web at https://www.newordercoffee.com. A Royal Oak location is slated to open in 2019.