Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

  • New Advertiser Specials Extended

  • February 19th, 2014
  • Coffee Review is blessed to work with numerous long-time advertisers who support our goal of providing readers with interesting and informative tasting articles and reviews every month.

    We’re also pleased to welcome some new advertisers who have taken advantage of starter programs that we began offering in 2014.  These popular programs, which offer new advertisers discounts of more than 50% off our normal monthly rates, were scheduled to end on February 28.  However, quite a few folks have told us they need more time so we’ve extended our deadline to March 31.

    If you’re interested in finding out more about these fantastic opportunities that cost as little as $495 for 3 months of advertising, contact Mark at Mark@CoffeeReview or 503-828-5319.

  • Seattle Edges San Francisco… In Coffee Anyway

  • January 17th, 2014
  • First of all, for anyone who doesn’t follow NFL football, the Seattle Seahawks play the San Francisco 49′ers this weekend in the NFC Championship Game.  The winner will be one of two teams that go to the Superbowl.

    With that as background, for an upcoming piece on online coffee trends, we started crunching the numbers on Coffee Review traffic in 2013.  Not surprisingly, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the three most populous cities in the United States, were #1, #2, and #3, respectively, for the cities with the most Coffee Review readers.

    However, to obtain a better picture of where people are passionate about coffee (at least as measured by Coffee Review readership), we normalized our traffic by factoring in a city’s population.  We we did this, two cities popped to the top: Seattle and San Francisco.  Using per capita visits (i.e. visits per million residents) as our measure, Seattle edged San Francisco by the slightest of margins, 13,605 to 13,424.

    Hmm?  Is this more than a coincidence?  Maybe not.  Maybe coffee is what gives these teams their edge?

    Nonsense, you say?  Well then, what about the teams in the AFC Championship Game?  What about Denver and Boston (as a proxy for New England)?  Denver is #10 with per capita visitation of 8,627.  Boston is #13 with 7,681.  As I said, hmm?

    So, if coffee has anything to do with it, here are our picks for the weekend:

    Seattle 24. San Francisco 23.

    Denver 31. New England 24.

    And, something you might actually care about… the top 10 cities based on per capita Coffee Review readership:

    1. Seattle, WA

    2. San Francisco, CA

    3. Alexandria, VA

    4. Cambridge, MA

    5. Atlanta, GA

    6. Madison, WI

    7. Minneapolis, MN

    8. Washington, DC

    9. Hialeah, FL

    10. Denver, CO

    Next week, we’ll share further details of Coffee Review traffic trends by U.S. city, state, worldwide cities, and country.






  • 2014 Coffee Review Cupping Calendar

  • January 2nd, 2014
  • At the beginning of each month, we publish a new feature article with reviews.  The planned cupping calendar for 2014 is shown below:

    January – Top 30 Coffees of 2013

    February – Real Blend: Blends Produced from Three or More Origins

    March – Specialty Coffees of Brazil

    April – Specialty Coffees of Colombia

    May – Coffees of Central Africa: Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo

    June – Coffees of Hawaii

    July – Specialty Coffees of Indonesia and East Timor (excluding Sumatra)

    August – Decaffeinated Espresso Blends and Single-Origins

    September – Natural- and Honey-Processed Coffees from Central America & Mexico

    October – Coffees of a Single Variety, from a Single Lot

    November – The New Competitive World of K-Cups

    December – Seasonal Offerings for the Holidays


    Please note that the previously listed January 2014 review subject (Real Blends: Blends Produced from Three or More Origins”) has been postponed one month.  Cupping will occur in January and the article will appear for February.  The schedule is subject to further change.

    The window during which we accept coffees for these review articles is the tenth day through the twentieth day of the month prior to publication. For example, we will test coffees for the May article during the period April 10 through 20.  However, professional travel or other distractions may lead to modifications of the 10th through 20th schedule, so we request that all roasters submitting coffees for a given article first query Jason Sarley at before sending their coffees.

    We welcome feedback regarding our proposed cupping calendar for 2014.

  • Coffee Review Membership Program

  • January 1st, 2014
  • This month, we launched a new membership program at Coffee Review.  As Kenneth said in our formal press release: “We’re pleased to offer our readers the opportunity to enhance their engagement with Coffee Review and its commercial partners. The program provides members with numerous value-added services including discounts from elite coffee roasters, exclusive access to rare top-rated coffees, and insider news such as previews of the Coffee Review’s Top 30 Coffees of 2013.

    What’s in it for readers?  The headline of the press release sums it up pretty well: “Coffee Lovers Save Big Bucks on Best Beans.” Members can save up to 20% or more on purchases from participating coffee roasters and retailers such as Barrington Coffee Roasters, Doi Chaang Coffee Company,, Paradise Roasters, Path Coffee Roasters, PT’s Coffee Roasting Co, and Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea. Two other roasters – CQ Coffee Roasters and Temple Coffee and Tea – will be on board next week.  More roasters are expected to participate as the program is rolled out.  Readers can view current offers any time but only members have access to coupon codes.

    When members sign up, they receive a password to gain access to the members-only portion of the website where they will find coupon codes that can be used for discounts at partner websites. Members may also opt to receive emails with insider news and special offers from participating roasters.

    Membership costs $35 per year. Mr. Davids explained that, “Proceeds from the membership program will support Coffee Review’s mission of helping consumers, retailers, and trade professionals identify and purchase superior quality coffees while helping drive demand and increase prices to reward farmers and roasters who invest time, energy, and capital in producing high quality coffee beans.”

    Mr. Davids added, “It also allows Coffee Review to more directly support charitable organizations that serve coffee growing communities that produce the exceptional coffees that we all enjoy. Coffee Review is delighted to contribute $5 from each new membership to Coffee Kids or Grounds for Health.”

    Regarding the business aspect of the new membership program, Mr. Davids explained “We’ve operated the Coffee Review as a traditional advertiser-supported publication since we first launched in 1997. However, as the Coffee Review has become increasingly popular, now hosting roughly one million unique visitors every year, we’ve found that we need to find additional sources of revenue to continue operating a coffee lab, maintaining a website, and publishing articles and reviews every month. We believe many of our readers and supporters will be excited to become members.”

    We considered a more traditional subscription model, like Wine Spectator and Consumer Reports, where ratings are only available to paying subscribers.  However, our hope is that enough coffee lovers and industry professionals will choose to become members such that Coffee Review articles and reviews can remain available to all readers.

    Become a Coffee Review Member Today


  • The Complexity of Coffee: Aroma Profiling Isn’t Just for Wine

  • December 30th, 2011
  • Proper Aroma/Flavor profiling is all too often neglected in Coffee. Coffee Aromas/Flavors are essential to understanding and appreciating coffee. 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 (genetic) and the method in which the green coffee was processed also contribute to the aromas/flavors. Like wine, coffee has many variables which can affect its quality. Coffee crops can be harmed by insects, freeze and poor storage conditions during harvest, which may lead to moldy and sour flavors. It can also be contaminated during its processing such as in the depulping and washing of the coffee cherries, and lastly, during the final storage conditions where once again several defects can develop on the beans. These problems are not exactly the same but similar to those which occur during wine production. Coffee has different varieties, as does wine, which get their characteristics from the soil (terroir).  The core aromatic profile of the end product (in the cup) is defined by these characteristics and by the roasters. The coffee blender creates the finishing touch by assembling different roasts. This is very similar to what consulting winemakers do during the wine blending process. We talk about taste, aromas, flavors, acidity and body in coffee as we do in wine. The main difference between coffee and wine, taste aside, is that coffee is not rated by vintage. Unlike certain wines, roasted coffee does not keep for years. The fresher the roast, the more aromatic the coffee beverage will be. Let it age and you will create unpleasant tastes and aromas; this is especially true for the volatile aromas. The consumer also has an important hand in the outcome of her/his coffee experience as does the wine consumer. In wine, serving temperature, wine glass shape and proper food pairing play an important role in properly enjoying a wine. In coffee this process is a little different. The important factors are the grinding, blending and brewing process. The grinding size and the water temperature play major roles in the proper extraction of coffee aromas/flavors, as well as the quantity and quality of water used to prepare a good cup of coffee.  Ultimately, the coffee drinker puts her/his final touch to the coffee beverage.

    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, etc. The classification of taste includes acid, bitter, body (thin, watery to thick, heavy). This simplification helps coffee drinkers express their preferences in a basic way. If one wants to gain further knowledge of coffee tasting, then it is imperative to recognize key aromas and flavors in coffee. Especially if you wish to narrow down the country of origin, variety and profile. One would then be able to differentiate between a Robusta from South East Asia with one from Brazil. This is something we have been doing for years with wine and which has been available to every wine aficionados for more than 30 years through le nez du vin (Wine Aroma Kits). Using the same methodology, Jean Lenoir, creator of the famous Wine Aroma kits, created two le nez du café (or make scents of coffee) kits. The first kit is an introduction that includes the 6 most commonly found coffee aromas:
    (1) Garden peas, 2) Blackcurrant-like, 3) Butter, 4) Caramel, 5) Roasted peanuts, 6) Roasted coffee. The second, a more advanced and complete kit, contains the 36 most commonly found coffee aromas:
    01) Earth , 02) Potato , 03) Garden peas, 04) Cucumber 05) Straw , 06) Cedar, 07) Clove-like , 08) Pepper, 09) Coriander seeds, 10) Vanilla, 11) Tea-roses/Redcurrant jelly, 12) Coffee blossom, 13) Coffee pulp, 14) Blackcurrant-like, 15) Lemon, 16)Apricot, 17) Apple, 18)Butter, 19) Honeyed, 20) Leather, 21) Basmati Rice, 22) Toast, 23) Malt, 24) Maple Syrup, 25) Caramel, 26) Dark chocolate, 27) Roasted almonds, 28) Roasted peanuts, 29) Roasted hazelnuts, 30) Walnuts, 31) Cooked beef, 32) Smoke, 33) Pipe Tobacco, 34) Roasted coffee, 35) Medicinal, 36) Rubber.
    This unique and extensive collection of aromas will help you train your sense of smell and improve your enjoyment of coffee. The le nez du café (make scents of coffee) kits provide a common vocabulary to describe coffee aromas, taste and flavors because coffee deserves the same attention as wine.

    It is no surprise that most coffee roasters and specialists from the world over use le nez du café to train their sense of smell and better understand the aromatics behind coffee.

    So if you are passionate about your coffee and would like to become a better taster, understand where aromas and flavors originate and how they are associated with the varieties, le nez du café (make scents of coffee) kits are fundamental to the development of your coffee expertise.

  • Quality: Passion, Process or Both?

  • July 25th, 2011

  • The challenge: The highest quality coffee is produced by large, technically sophisticated companies which do a much better job at delivering fresh, consistent, good-value coffees than do most of today’s smaller specialty roasting companies.

    I find I need to parse this lengthy and loaded sentence in order to comment on it.

    Quality in coffee is a multifaceted thing, in large measure because of what I called “the broken chain of custody” in my book Coffee Basics. The grower, who puts in the lion’s share of the work, can do everything right, only to have the coffee ruined during shipment. The roaster then optimizes the coffee’s potential – or ruins it through over- or under-roasting, blending, incorrect packaging or grinding. Even if all of these steps are done optimally, is the coffee sold fresh, brewed at the right dosage, in good equipment with soft water heated to ideal temperature, and if so is it consumed immediately? The chances of a given coffee reaching its full potential do indeed remind me of salmon swimming upstream!

    Starting near the beginning of the seed-to-cup path, sourcing the best quality green coffee depends on having extensive training in cupping so as to be able to recognize it, and then having sufficient funds to secure it in a competitive marketplace. Small start-ups typically are long on passion but short on both expertise and cash, while large, publicly-traded corporations have plenty of both but usually use them in the service of supplying coffees of consistent mediocrity.

    Freshness is something that needs to be defined, and it’s one of the biggest areas where small and large roasters alike tend to cut corners. If excellence is the standard – and it should be – then only whole bean coffee at room temperature within 5-7 days of roast deserves to be called “fresh,” and certainly only such coffee deserves the designation “freshly-roasted.”

    To preserve freshness beyond this very short time frame requires a large investment in technology and packaging and rigorous, consistent use thereof. One needs not only oxygen-impermeable bags with one-way degassing valves but also vacuum-packaging machine costing in excess of $50,000 to get the oxygen content within the bag below 1% before sealing, as well as an oxygen headspace meter to test packaged coffee and other equipment. Whole bean coffee thus packaged can be indistinguishable from freshly-roasted (as defined above) coffee for 2-3 months, but many roasters cut corners, either by just buying pre-formed bags and sealing them without drawing a vacuum or back-flushing with inert gas (in which case the shelf life is the same as unprotected whole beans), or by packaging their coffee correctly and then shooting themselves in the foot (and screwing their customers) through ridiculous “best by” dates of 6 months, a year, or even longer. The first practice is pervasive among small, “boutique” roasters, the others endemic among the larger players.

    As for ground coffee, if you are Nestlé you have the ability to take coffee from roasting all the way to a pressurized Nespresso capsule in a sub-1% oxygen environment, preserving almost all the coffee’s aroma through precise grinding on a state-of-the-art water-cooled roller mill grinder that by itself costs more than many craft roaster’s entire roasting plants. If, on the other hand, you’re buying great coffee but grinding it for your wholesale accounts on a well-worn Grindmaster or Ditting, quality for you is basically a fantasy, not the process with clearly defined and monitored parameters that is the definition of quality in a manufacturing context.

    Overall I would say that clearly the peak experiences in coffee are offered by roasters who employ experienced buyers with good access to capital and established buying relationships and who either roast and deliver their coffee on a purely local basis or have invested in (and know how to use) the equipment essential to preserve freshness. As for consistent quality, that is clearly the province of medium-to-large sized companies who buy in large enough quantities, understand the art of blending and, last not least, have made the investment in personnel and roasting, packaging, grinding and quality control equipment to deliver coffees of consistent quality. The Scandinavian countries, Germany and Japan have many such companies, Illycaffè in Italy is rightly revered for its standards, and of course here in the U.S. there are numerous mid-sized roasters who also deliver very good (and occasionally great) coffees of a consistent standard at prices consumers are happy to pay every day.

    In conclusion, being small, groovy, microlot-oriented and employing staff with the right number of piercings (and selling high-priced coffees) doesn’t guarantee quality, anymore than being medium-to-large sized and driven more by bottom-line considerations than raw passion guarantees mediocrity. As with most else in coffee, it’s much more complicated than that.

    For another perspective on this challenge, click here to see how Kenneth Davids responds

  • Regardless of Size, Only the Passionate Rule

  • July 25th, 2011

  • The challenge: The highest quality coffee is produced by large, technically sophisticated companies which do a much better job at delivering fresh, consistent, good-value coffees than do most of today’s smaller specialty roasting companies.

    Neither size nor technical sophistication assures quality. Only the obsessive and unrelenting commitment of a company’s leadership assures a steady output of high-quality, distinctive coffees. Some companies, regardless of size, produce such exceptional coffees on a regular basis; others produce good coffees always and exceptional ones now and then; far too many produce little but mediocrity.

    The original model for specialty coffee came courtesy of Alfred Peet in 1966, which is roasting fine, distinctive coffee at the back of the store and walking it up to the front to sell it fresh out of the roaster. Today there are small companies that have successfully revived this model, in some cases successfully updating it by selling via the Internet. They buy small lots of very fine coffee, roast them skillfully using skillful hands-on artisan roasting, and ship them fresh. Some of these companies have produced coffees that without a doubt are among the most memorable coffee experiences of my life, and rank as genuine triumphs of almost transcendent artisanry stretching from small producer through boutique importer to boutique roaster. On the other hand, second-rate versions of the archetypal boutique roaster abound, companies that buy mediocre green coffees on the bad advice of an importer and roast ‘em ‘til they’re brown – or, more usually, black. These companies are on the wane or changing, as they are pushed by the latest generation of smaller coffee roasting companies that buy with more precision and roast with a more careful and lighter hand, but there still are many of them around.

    And even the good boutique roasters face the challenge of growth. At a certain point volume increases until the small-scale, roast-and-sell-them-fresh model doesn’t work anymore, and the company either has to start buying expensive packaging equipment to assure a longer shelf life (see Kevin Knox’s excellent companion blog to this one for details), or slow down and stay small, which I can imagine is almost as difficult a business proposition as getting big enough to afford a minimum of about 70K of new packaging and testing equipment.

    Or these companies may be tempted to take the easy way out to expansion, which is packaging coffee in valve bags without equipment to properly evacuate oxygen and instruments to monitor it, subsequently allowing it to sit on store shelves or in back rooms until it’s half stale. There is a whole segment of the specialty coffee industry, new and old, that appears to handle coffee this way. These same companies often apply similar carelessness to buying green coffees and roasting them. They produce some of the least impressive whole bean coffees in the country, but you can’t tell that from reading the bags, which may be full of staling coffee on the inside but display a lot of fluff on the outside about buying the finest coffee and roasting it in small batches.

    Maybe the consistently best coffee in the country is produced by a handful of companies that are large enough to afford top-end packaging lines and obsessive enough to actually take the time to source top quality, distinctive green coffees. These companies range in size from medium-small to very large. The road to excellence is easier for the smaller ones because their volumes are smaller and they can be more selective in their green buying, but what remains most important, regardless of size, is the commitment leaders make to the demanding, unrelenting attention required to put out well-sourced, well-roasted, well-packaged coffee.

    Then there are the big commercial companies that turn out canned roast-and-ground coffees. These coffees are a clear case of garbage in and garbage out. Unless it is a 100% Colombia, the coffees that fill the plastic roast-and-ground supermarket cans are objectively and unarguably bad. But the companies that produce them have amazing technical capacity – for example, they can turn Robusta coffees that literally taste like stinking, two-week-old compost into dull, tasteless brown water. That is a genuine technical achievement. I’m quite serious. It is difficult to pull off, but it lets people on a severe coffee budget get stimulated relatively cheaply and without gagging while giving investors a decent return on their money.

    Finally, a word on what are probably the most technically sophisticated coffee companies in the world, the big European espresso roasters. To my taste, the best among these espresso giants is Nespresso, with its intimidatingly good and distinctively different range of espresso capsules. On the other hand, for me Illy Caffè is a triumph of technical sophistication aimed at a regrettably limited goal: a consistently characterless espresso, as technically perfect but as limply elegant as a French academic painting from the 19th century.

    For another perspective on this challenge, click here to see how Kevin Knox responds

  • Making Coffee Travel Relevant

  • July 11th, 2011
  • The Challenge: Coffee buyers for roasting companies should be doing much less travel and much more cupping, quality control and customer education.

    Kenneth Davids writes:

    I guess my reservation with the challenge statement is the repetition of the “much” word. If the thrust of the challenge statement is to argue that coffee buyers should focus first and foremost on the actual character of the coffee they buy and sell and less on travel stories glamorizing a quest for perfect coffees, etc. then I would agree. This critique applies as well to the traditional, older-fashioned marketing apparatus for fine single-origin coffees, wherein imagery of samba dancers and giraffes seemed to figure more prominently in promotional materials than attempts to describe the character of the coffees and what made them taste that way.

    One of the reasons I like the latest trend in promotion of high-end coffee is that it tends to focus on what made the coffee taste the way it does – botanical variety, growing elevation, processing method, etc. – rather than on tourist hype or giraffes. True, the affectionate accounts of growers and their families one runs across on websites and packages may come off as a little irrelevant to how the coffee tastes, but I’ll go with it in the spirit of fairness, because if the media can turn hysterical cooks and pretentious winemakers into heroes I don’t see why we shouldn’t try to do the same for our own friends and collaborators in producing countries. True too, the tendency to brand coffee farms or coops and for roasters to buy green coffee by these brands rather than by the actual character of the coffee offered for sale in a given crop year is a little distressing from the point of view of coffee quality and authenticity, but again, if executives in soft-drink company board rooms can try to brand their stuff I can’t see why coffee growers can’t make the same attempt.

    Although that does take us back to the argument made in the challenge statement, which is that coffee buyers should focus on the cup in front of them in this time and space and crop year and not on hype, safari glamour, or even on genuine friendship and how great the ron Zacapa was that night in Huehuetenango.

    But finally, I think a certain kind of serious coffee travel undertaken over the long run is probably essential for coffee buyers. This is the kind that happens during harvest, and is slow, thorough in its observation, and ultimately focused on a better understanding of the cup itself and the almost infinite number of variables, both natural and deliberate, that go into determining its character. It is not the kind of touring in which a group hits three farms or coops per day and its all “we pick only ripe cherries and they go in here and come out there and our coffee is the greatest in the world, and we treat our workers well, and now let’s have a great lunch up at the house.” It’s a process of observing what actually happens during processing and drying, and talking a lot with the people who actually make it happen, and then following up with systematically cupping the results. And if at all possible continuing to cup the results through subsequent years and the changes those years bring. To me, newer roasters should have such an education, and as the money and time come available should spend time witnessing all of the major variations on processing method and drying. In other words, rather than four trips to Central America it might be better to make one trip to witness wet-hulling in Sumatra and another to some large hi-tech farm in Brazil where they do three different processing methods and another to some farm or coop that does both traditional wet process and small-scale dry process; in Ethiopia, for example.

    We in the fine coffee industry need to make these investigations ourselves with an open mind, because the traditional lore of the traditional coffee industry is out-of-date and useless and the empirical work of the scientists is necessarily narrow in focus and, it would seem, oblivious to subtle sensory variation in coffee, which is precisely where we, as students and teachers of fine coffee, need to focus our attention.

    For another perspective on this challenge, click here to see how Kevin Knox responds

  • Inside Ratings and Coffee Review

  • December 20th, 2010
  • Readers occasionally call Coffee Review to task for rating coffees too high. (On the other hand, others ask why we’ve never rated a coffee higher than 97. That latter question I’ll save for another time and another blog.)

    But in response to those harboring the “too high” suspicion, the first thing I would point out is that in general we only publish reviews of coffees that exceed 87 or 88. That doesn’t mean we don’t rate many more coffees lower than 87, often considerably lower. We just don’t review these many lower-rated coffees. We only publish reviews of the good ones because we generally prefer to reward excellence, not punish failure. If we do identify weakness we try to do it in a more general context in the introductory articles to our reviews, rather than naming names in the reviews themselves. For example, we pointed out the overall deteriorating quality of many Hawaii and Caribbean coffees in our March 2010 article “Island Coffees: Hawaii and the Caribbean,” and gave some reasons for that trend. However, we stopped short of printing reviews of the disappointments that supported that generalization, focusing instead on reviews of those coffees and producers that bucked that trend.

    The other exceptions to the we-only-review-87-or-above approach are situations where consumers are limited in their choices. When we review mass-market coffees rather than specialty coffees, for example, we cover the whole range from dismal to pretty good, on the assumption that readers who buy these inexpensive coffees are limited to what they find on the supermarket shelf. Similarly, when we review single-serve pods or capsules that fit only one kind of machine we tend to review a range of whatever is available for that machine, regardless of rating.

    To sum up, for a typical review article we sample an average of about 25 to 40 coffees. These coffees have already gone through a selection process. They have been nominated by roasters (or in some cases by consumers) as outstanding coffees, so they presumably represent some of the best options for a given origin or category. Nevertheless, we typically find no more than about one-third of those 25 to 40 coffees worthy of review.

    Better, More Distinctive Coffees Mean Higher Ratings

    A second development to keep in mind is that the many of the best specialty coffees have gotten better – often much better – over the past two or three years. The leading edge of specialty coffee production, composed largely of smaller, younger coffee companies and a newer generation of more savvy, worldly coffee growers, has raised the bar for quality and distinction in specialty coffee. The historical dynamic of this change is too complex to go into here, but it starts with consumers who are willing to pay higher prices for small, one-time-only lots of exceptional coffees; roasting companies that are willing to spend time and money ferreting out the best small lots of exceptional coffees; coffee growers who understand this situation and are willing to meet or exceed the expectations of both demanding roasting companies and aficionados; and finally the growth of institutions that foster competitiveness in coffee, like the Cup of Excellence and the Barista Guild, and development institutions that fund improvements in coffee production at origin aimed at helping producers meet higher expectations and thus merit higher prices for their coffees.

    In other words, the high end of specialty coffee is simply producing better and more distinctive coffees than ever before, coffees that, when they hit their mark, deserve the recognition of high ratings.

    The Macro-Lot Challenge

    We at Coffee Review find ourselves concerned, however, that we may not be sufficiently honoring the middle range of specialty, those coffees from larger specialty roasters or more traditional smaller roasting companies that are sturdy, pleasing, reasonably distinctive, but perhaps only occasionally exceptional, yet offer a good value for their often modest price and are widely available. For coffees of this kind and price, a rating of 88 may be something to celebrate. We are trying to find more ways to focus on such coffees, along the lines of the “best wines under $15” approach to wine reviewing. For example, this year we are planning a review of single-origin coffees from larger lots of green coffees (at least one hundred 150-pound sacks), which we are calling “macro-lots” rather than the tiny, precious (and often high-priced) “micro-lots” that rightfully yet perhaps dauntingly tend to dominate the highest ratings at Coffee Review.