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Coffee Q & A


What is artisan roasting? Every one of our coffees is roasted by hand, every day, by our skilled roasters. We also taste every one of our coffees, every day, to ensure quality consistency.

What do you like best about roasting? Roasting coffee is a continuous challenge. It's a creative process and a high wire act each time you push coffee in a roast. Like music, you only know how good a note is when you hear it, and you only know how good a coffee is when you taste it.

What does Roast-to-Order mean? At Charleston Coffee Roasters, when you order coffee from us today, we'll roast it for you tomorrow. Not until then will your coffee be packaged and on its way to you. This is our commitment and the main reason our coffee tastes so rich and flavorful. Only coffee that has been recently roasted can taste so good.

What's the difference between you and other roasters? We roast coffee in small batches so that the entire roast can be monitored by a single experienced professional. Our roaster doesn't rely on complicated machines to monitor the roast- -just her own senses and attention to detail. Micro-roasting offers, by far, the best coffee value - better taste, aroma and quality.

How do you cool down roasts? Our coffee is cooled with a process known as air quenching. Immediately after the coffee exits the roasting drum, a fan pulls cool air through the beans. Larger roasters cool their coffee by spraying water into the drum, which adds oxygen and speeds the staling process. It also adds weight to the coffee, - which is paid for by the customer.

What kind of coffee beans should you buy? For the best taste, select 100% Arabicas every time. Arabicas are high-quality coffees. They are grown in many countries and come in several grades. Because of their flavor and quality, they are sold as whole beans and high quality canned coffees.Our coffees are all 100% Arabicas. (see Beans)

How important is the origin of the coffee beans?  Different origins create different  coffees. Coffee is grown all over the world, and the beans from each region have unique characteristics. Like wine, you can read about these characteristics, but the only way to know what you really like is to taste for yourself. With a little experimenting, you can learn to tell the subtleties of each region and discern your favorites.

How do you know when your coffee beans are fresh? Roasted coffee is a perishable food - just like fresh produce or artisan bread. The flavor diminishes once exposed to air, light, and moisture. But unlike fresh produce or bread, it's not always clear when coffee is past its prime. Check for these signs.
  • Aroma - Envelops you when you open the bag. Deep and intoxicating, intense and fragrant.
  • Bloom - Coffee gases from fresh grounds will bubble and "froth" when mixed with hot water.
  • Flavor - Fresh coffee tastes complex and vibrant, rather than flat and bland.

What kind of packaging is best?  The best packaging for coffee are air-tight bags with a one way valve which lets the natural gases out without letting air inside. To further enhance the freshness of your coffee, we recommend storing it in an airtight canister once the package has been opened.  Use with in one week.  If you need to store the coffee longer after opening,  promptly put the portion not to be used in a bag or container, remove the air and seal then put in your freezer.  After removing from the freezer, let the coffee get to room temperature before brewing.

Isn't buying from bulk bins the freshest? Many people buy bulk coffee because they think it's fresher, but that is not necessarily true. Coffee begins losing its freshness, and hence its flavor, when exposed to light and air and can become stale after a week if not stored or packaged properly. To determine the freshness of the coffee in a bulk bin, ask the store manager when that coffee was roasted.   If it's more than a week, you may be better off selecting prepackaged coffee. When it comes to freshness, keep in mind that a punctured can or bag usually means the coffee inside is stale. 

How should I store my coffee? We recommend that you keep a week's worth of coffee in an airtight container at room temperature. For longer storage, keep it in the freezer. Packages of frozen coffee should be opened as infrequently as possible.  Buying small amounts frequently and grinding your own beans is the best way to enjoy fresh coffee.

Do your deep roasted coffees contain more caffeine than other, lighter coffees? Actually the longer the roast or darker the roast the less caffeine. 

Do you sell flavored coffees? Do to the specific regions, climates and  soils where coffee is grown Mother Nature has provided all the flavors that are needed.  The nuances are subtle, but some coffees have distinctive chocolate, fruity, or spicy tastes. We prefer these flavors to artificially flavored coffees. If you'd like a flavored coffee, you can easily add flavors such as cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract to brewed coffee.

What is SWISS WATER® processed decaffeination? The SWISS WATER® Process is a 100% chemical free coffee decaffeination process that results in great-tasting decaf. Most other processes use chemical solvents, like methylene chloride, to decaffeinate coffee beans. Conversely, the SWISS WATER® Process uses only water when removing caffeine, producing water processed decaf coffee.

What are the most important things to know about brewing coffee? Use enough coffee (2 Tbsp. ground coffee per 6 oz. of water). Start with freshly drawn, filtered water that has is just off the boil. The grounds need to be agitated during the brewing process  allowing the water to pass over all sides of the grinds.  Don't cook your coffee on a hot plate; put it in a thermos to keep it hot.  Burners are the death of coffee.

What does Certified Organic mean? The USDA has created strict guidelines for foods  to be labeled as organic.  With coffee this refers to how the coffee is grown as well as  roasted and packaged.   Coffee beans that are grown and processed according to a rigorous set of guidelines that are monitored at each stage by an independent certifying agency. The guidelines specify the type of allowable input, integrated pest management, and other weed and fungus controls.  Always look for the USDA symbol to be sure your product is organic. 

What is sustainable agriculture? This is very broad term referring to farming practices that emphasize the long-term health of the soil and the environment and those who work and live there.  Sustainable agriculture methods include erosion control, composting, shading and biological pest control.

Why does shade-grown coffee matter? Shade-grown coffee refers to coffee trees that are interspersed with various species of trees that intermittently protect the coffee from the direct rays of the sun as shadows are created throughout the day. Most high-quality coffee is grown in the shade because the old varieties (which typically produce the best flavor) require it. The newer, high-yield hybrids are sun trees and grow in open sunlight, consuming more nitrogen from the soil thus requiring higher amounts of fertilizers.

What does Bird Friendly Coffee® mean? Shade grown coffee plantations play a key role in the conservation of migratory birds that have found a sanctuary in their forest-like environment.The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center encourages the production of shade grown coffee, and the conservation of migratory birds, through its "Bird Friendly®" certifications.

What is the Rain Forest Alliance?  Sustainable agriculture is at the center of the Rainforest Alliance’s efforts to conserve ecosystems by protecting healthy soils, rivers and wildlife and by promoting dignified living conditions for farm workers and neighboring rural communities.

The unbridled and unsustainable growth of the agriculture industry in recent years has encouraged rampant deforestation and careless agrochemical use. Today agriculture is the number one cause of ecosystem destruction and species loss worldwide. Agriculture occupies approximately one third of the Earth’s total landscape and uses more land and freshwater than any other human activity in the world.

Do you sell any Fair Trade coffee? Yes we purchase coffee from farms that are certified  Fair Trade.  However, not all growers are eligible for Fair Trade certification; therefore we do not actively use the Fair Trade logo on our products.  We strive to maintain long-term, sustainable partnerships with our growers. Premium coffees such as the ones we use command prices well above the Fair Trade minimums.  We actively work with partners such as Coffee Kids, Rainforest Alliance  and the Smithsonian to improve the quality of life in coffee-growing communities and the world in which we all live.




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