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Cafe and roastery owners rejoice! According to the National Coffee Association, specialty coffee is seeing a rise in almost every available metric. Consumption is up, daily and weekly specialty coffee drinkers are increasing, and the number of cups per day is also on the rise. In other words, more people are drinking more specialty coffee more often. Clearly, customers are passionate about the care and attention that makes specialty coffee so…special. Coffee equipment companies are, of course, wise to this and building ever-better products to further refine and control those brewing variables as a result.
Some of the latest brewing variables cafe owners are now controlling for are grind consistency and grind uniformity. Since even the best grinders are technically only able to shatter beans, there is a large variability in the consistency and uniformity of the grinds. That means taking grind size to the next level requires sifting out boulders (larger particles) and/or fines (sma
ller particles). How many boulders or fines you remove is ultimately up to you, but the impact on flavour is undeniable. The secret to great sifting lies in the sieves and, as you will discover, not all sieves are created equal. You will also discover that sieves can be utilized in a variety of ways to improve the cafe experience on either side of the counter – whether you’re a shop owner or specialty coffee customer.
OLD TECH VS. NEW TECH
If you are not ‘in the know’ when it comes to sifting, that’s quite alright. For decades, it’s mostly been reserved for the scientific community and only employed in laboratory settings, accompanied by a plethora of charts and graphs used for deep analysis of moisture, particle characterization, color, and sampling. Add to that, coffee sieves have traditionally been used in large shaker machines that are all too often ugly and confusing to use.
However, this area of the specialty coffee market is changing, and sifting is now more prevalent than ever. This is due in large part to products like the KRUVE Sifter, which happens to be durable, affordable, easy-to-use, and incredibly accurate. You may have also seen the KRUVE Sifter on stage at recent World Barista Championships. To understand why products like the KRUVE Sifter are being used by barista champs and cafe owners alike, we first need to understand makes a quality sieve.
Traditionally, coffee sieves were made of a wire mesh and some are still even used today. However, wire mesh sieves have one fundamental flaw – they are a mesh, which means their cross-hatch design creates square holes. The problem with square holes is that there is a large discrepancy between the sides of a square and the diagonal from corner to corner. If one were to take a common mesh sieve—size 20, for example—it has square holes with length and width measuring 841 microns respectively, and yet the diagonal of that square measures 1189 microns. That means you might have grinds as small as 841 microns and grinds as large as 1189 microns. This is a huge variance in grind size that can fall through that square hole. Using a high-end sieve with chemically-etched round holes can remove this discrepancy because there is a consistent diameter all the way around. It doesn’t just help with accuracy either, stainless steel round holes help with ease-of-use. Etched round holes not only clog far less than a wire mesh, but can be cleaned by simply running the sieve under a tap with a sponge. No more brushes or toothpicks required to poke out each clogged hole.
Now, let’s explore how are cafes and roasteries taking advantage of the latest and greatest in sifting technology…
EVALUATE GRINDER/BURR WEAR & PERFORMANCE
It will come as no surprise that shop owners are putting their grinders through their paces. By grinding hundreds of pounds of beans, the burrs will no doubt wear and the grind size will vary as a result. By sifting the grinds at the beginning of the day (based on a determined standard), you can ensure your burrs are still outputting coffee at the same grind size you intended. You can feel confident that your customers, in turn, are consistently getting the same coffee they know and love. It also allows you to precisely determine when to change your burrs before they have negative effects on the coffee your customers experience. Ideally, you don’t wait that long and you detect any burr wear or misalignment and adjust accordingly before things go sour…literally.
Even if your burrs are fine, you might want to know how your grinder is interacting with a particular bean. Some things that affect grind are the age of the beans, relative humidity, and temperature. This can drastically change the output of the grind. With a properly calibrated grinder, you will know precisely how to set your grinder to output the appropriate micron range.
A sifter allows you to precisely establish and replicate a recipe by measuring and adjusting grind size down to the micron. This takes the guess work out of grind size and allows you to know exactly what micron range you are using. No more arbitrary comparisons like “sea salt” or “sugar”.
Many cafes and roasteries offer training programs and with a sifter in each student’s repertoire, students and customers can easily and accurately repeat the recipe with confidence. More importantly, the chances are, each student and/or customer will have a different grinder. This can make things a little tricky. However, with a sifter, they can replicate a precise grind range—no matter what grinder they use. Just think of how many times a customer asks, “Wow, this is amazing coffee, how can I make this myself?” If they can replicate what they taste in the shop, it will be sure to help customers feel confident they aren’t ruining a great roast and that often means they’ll buy more beans too.
Across Multiple Locations
If you are the owner of a cafe or roastery with multiple locations, you can now imagine how easy it would be to ensure consistency across the various locations. If you were to just ask your baristas to use the same grinder setting, you would be miles away from making the same great coffee. However, with a precise measurement tool, they can calibrate and repeat the exact same recipe, regardless of the grinder or burr wear they may experience.
As a roaster or coffee professional, cupping is one of the most important and fundamental aspects of tasting coffee. Most use cupping to grade coffee beans, find the best roasting profiles, and decide what brew method the beans will be best suited for. One of the key components to successful cupping is having the right grind profile. The SCA recommends using a size 20 mesh sieve to calibrate your grinder for cupping and according to the SCA, you have the right grind setting when 70-75% of the coffee grinds fall through the size 20 mesh sieve. This a great method for keeping the process standardized across the industry and repeatable between cuppings. However, there may be an even better and more precise method of cupping.
To get the best cupping experience possible, one could use a grind between 400 and 1100 microns. By removing particles below 400 and larger than 1100, we are left with an extremely consistent and uniform grind size. This grind will extract evenly and present better flavours in the cup and since cupping is a full immersion brew method, removing fines and boulders will greatly improve cup quality.
With all this in mind and knowing that specialty coffee consumption on the rise, more and more people will be looking for the perfect cup. Clearly, there are a number of meaningful ways sifting can improve the specialty coffee experience in cafes and roasteries that will make an impact on businesses, teachers/trainees, and of course, customers around the globe. If you haven’t tried a properly sifted coffee, you’ll definitely want to give it a try. Best part is, the only real way to experience the difference sifting can make is by tasting it!