CQ roaster serves the perfect cup
Friday, January 18, 2013
Claudia Q. Barrett, owner of CQ Coffee Roasters in Bedford, says an aromatic cup of hot coffee is one of life’s best pleasures. The belief rings especially true for those who do not start the day without a steaming mug of their favorite coffee.
Barrett knows about good coffee. She shared hundreds of cups with her parents in their Bedford home. She said she loves the community, a place she and her husband and two children feel at home.
Barrett has been an enthusiastic coffee maven since 992 when she drove across country with a college friend. The pair stopped into a small coffee shop in Idaho. There, Barrett had her first experience with specialty coffees.
Soon, she was ordering different types of coffees and journaling about their various flavors and aromas.
Barrett did not realize at the time that she was practicing the art of what the coffee industry calls cupping. She found there was much more to coffee drinking than a fast brew and a quick gulp.
Today, she owns a micro-roastery business that specializes in providing customers with freshly roasted batches of their favorite coffee blends. All orders are roasted at the plant and shipped within 24 hours. She roasts to order, and she says it’s “all we want to do.”
Barrett shares some of her expertise and answers questions about the drink so many in America, and across the globe, call indispensable.
Q. How did you get into coffee?
A: The road trip eventually ended and I moved to Washington, D.C., where I helped open several new stores of an exciting, young and relatively unknown company at the time called Starbucks. Shortly after, I worked for an amazing local company that roasted batches of coffee fresh each week and would only sell coffee beans within a week of roasting. I was in charge of coffee quality and shortly after began my roasting apprenticeship. At this point, specialty coffee was experiencing a second wave and I was grateful and excited to be a part of it.
Q: What is the magic of coffee, the drink that many people cannot wake up without?
A: Morning and afternoon coffee is a part of a coffee lover’s ritual. I often joke that morning coffee is the best way to trick yourself into thinking you will have a productive day. The magical cups of coffee are the reflective ones, the ones that place you in that receptive place between the tick and tock of time.
Q: Are there similarities between coffee varieties and wine varieties?
A: Oh, absolutely. Terroir, the coffee’s geographic regionality, is just as important in specialty coffee as it is in wine. As in wine, coffee gets its aromas or flavors from the soil and the climatic environment in which the coffee plant grows. The coffee variety, its genetics, and the method in which the green coffee was processed also contribute to the aromas and flavors.
Q: Are there many aromatic compounds that make a coffee unique?
A: In coffee, over 850 volatile aromatic compounds have been catalogued to date. That said, most aromatic descriptions have been simplified or regrouped in terms of flavors and taste. Common flavors found in coffee are fruity, floral, earthy, buttery, caramel, nutty, spicy, smoky and such.
Q: What do people mean when they say that their sense of smell is a major part of understanding a coffee’s aroma?
A: It is no surprise that most coffee roasters and specialists from the world over use “le nez du cafe,” a term borrowed from the wine world’s “le nez du vin” to train their sense of smell and better understand the aromatics behind coffee.
Q: Is a sense of smell something that can be sharpened through training?
A: If you are passionate about your coffee and would like to become a better taster, it’s good to understand where aromas and flavors originate and how they are associated with the varieties.
There are “le nez du cafe (make scents of coffee)” kits, compact kits that are fundamental to the development of your coffee expertise. Maybe at the next public cupping sponsored by CQ Coffee Roasters, I will bring this kit along.
Q: What is the difference between store-bought and locally roasted and delivered coffee?
A: There is a world of difference. Coffee freshness matters at two stages. Green coffee should follow the harvest cycle of growing regions.
CQ Coffee works hard to make sure the green coffee we have access to was harvested recently. We strive to buy in small lots, a select harvest and limited reserve, to protect the integrity of the green coffee. Ever notice a baggy taste to beans? That taste is a strong indicator that green coffee has sat too long in its burlap bag. If a coffee tastes woody that means it is way past its prime.
Q: How important is the roasting method in preserving flavor and aroma?
A: As far as the roast goes, coffee begins to change the second it is dropped out of the roaster. After roasting, coffee beans go through a de-gassing period during which they release CO2. The fresher the coffee, the more gas it produces, and these gases contribute to the aroma and the flavor of the coffee.
Eventually coffee beans stop producing gas and can be considered stale. Exposure to air, heat, moisture, and even light speeds the whole process along.
Our coffee-driven program with free delivery to all towns surrounding Bedford ensures our beans are fresh off the roast. Wonderful coffee is all about the aromatics and volatiles.
Q: What does it mean when coffee looks moist?
A: If you ever open a bag of roasted coffee and you notice the beans are “sweating,” those are the aromatics leaving town. We cannot tolerate this happening. Our signature roast ensures that the bean is like a honeycomb with all the yumminess trapped inside waiting to be released at grinding and coaxed out by brewing.
Q: Can you describe your roasting style?
A: Roasting is one of the most integral parts in the chain of events when crafting a good cup of coffee. I seek to highlight what makes a particular varietal or farm exciting. We prefer the steady and gentle roast profile we achieve with German-made Probat roasters. We’re here to bring out the best aspects of the coffee and, if we do our job correctly, no one should even be thinking about the roast when they drink it.
We want our customer to experience the terroir of the coffee instead of the generic roast taste.
Q. How are you involved in the community?
A: Community outreach is one of the cornerstones of our mission statement. We are doing a coffee fundraiser with the Bedford Historical Society. For every bag sold we donate $4 back to the Stevens-Buswell project. The society is looking to restore the old Stevens-Buswell School into a community center. I really believe in this project. The blend we hand crafted is called The Stevens Buswell Blend and is a well-structured cup of coffee. You can find it on our website
(cqcoffeeroasters.com) under blends.
Q. Where can we find you, so we can drink some specialty coffee?
A: Our website is
cqcoffeeroasters.com. The website coffeedriven.com also will get you to us. Our Select Harvest/Limited Reserves offerings are available only through our site. We roast these to order.
After receiving your order, we roast it as a very small, private batch. We let it rest off the roast for 12-24 hours depending on the coffee, and we deliver it right to your doorstep the next day. Free.
Q: What if we want some right now?
A: If you cannot wait, we have three amazing coffees at The Meat House in Bedford. We maintain the inventory and we donate and replace the coffee if it is a month past its roast date.
Q: Is it a pretty sure bet that local restaurants will be serving CQ Coffee Roasters selections sometime soon?
A: We’d love to find a restaurant with a truly innovative chef who understands that coffee should not simply be an afterthought following dinner, but like fine wine, can contribute to the overall dining experience. How great would it be to finish a fine meal with a press pot of freshly roasted specialty coffee?
Q: How do you know when you have had too much coffee?
A: I stop cupping and drinking when I see unicorns. Happy caffeinated unicorns.