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bon appetit – June 2008

EXPERT ADVICE FROM/ the coffee fanatic

Sorenson spends two weeks of every month traveling the world chasing the perfect cup. He practices Direct Trade, paying well over fair-trade prices and encouraging producers to improve their methods and, in turn, their coffee. Stumptown meticulously roasts and brews that coffee at its seven cafes in Portland and Seattle. We asked Sorenson a few questions about one of our favorite pick-me-ups.

What do you look for when choosing a grower?
The first thing I do is determine whether the people are healthy and happy. Next, I take a look at ripeness. Ninety-nine percent of farms I visit pick under ripe or over ripe coffee cherries. Picking perfectly ripe cherries, and making sure they are milled within eight hours or so, is extremely important.

How has Direct Trade evolved since it began?
In the last five or ten years, I’ve learned a lot from traveling. And that means I’ve been able to share, for instance, coffee-drying techniques that I’ve seen in Ethiopia with farmers in Honduras. Now I can help these producers improve their processing and drying methods, a big step toward improving the quality of their coffee.

How can average consumers make the most of their coffee beans?
Buy from companies that stamp the bag with the roasting date, and don’t brew coffee that has been out of the roaster more than 10 to 14 days. Absolutely do not freeze coffee, which can actually hurt it. Instead, keep it in Tupperware, away from moister, heat and sunlight.

Many self-proclaimed serious coffee drinkers eschew iced coffee. Do you ever drink it?
Sure, I drink iced coffee—not to be confused with blended coffee drinks. The most successful method I’ve found is the Toddy [Cold Brew System coffeemaker]. It brews really smooth, low-acidic coffee. It’s much better than brewing coffee and throwing ice on top of it.

How do you make it?
Four ounces of cold-brewed coffee over ice cubes. I like it strong. No sugar, no cream, no milk.

What’s the best way to brew coffee at home?
You don’t need bells and whistles. My favorite way is a French press. It’s so simple, but it produces, when done correctly, a spectacular cup of coffee.