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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Fair Trade and Direct Trade - our perspective

The FairTade debate is a long a hard debate, especially when it comes to something as complex as coffee.

FairTrade’s objective was to increase the living wage of the farmer / grower and their staff. In a first world country that is a great objective. However in a coffee that is heavily dependent on a complex system of 6 to 8 middle men before a product is produced, this vision becomes hazy at best.

So how does Fair Trade in coffee work? Or should I rather say how is it supposed to work. Let us assume that the Fairtrade you are talking about the Fairtrade international (called FLO) or the Word Fair Trade Organization, which are similar. Rather than the US Fair Trade or as they call it Fair World Project.

FLO in coffee is an end user to producer program. Coffee has essentially sold at a speculative price (or C market price) or a processor/producer set price (which we will get to later). FLO is a levy applied to speculative pricing, or pricing fixed to speculative pricing. A roaster or importer can elect to pay a levy, let us work on 50c, to the Europe based exporter (almost all coffee in South Africa is sourced via these agents), who to be certified then pays 5c to the FLO and 45c to the exporter, that is local to origin. They then pay 5c to the local FLO and 40c to the regional agent who then pays 5c to the regional FLO and 35c to the mill, the mill then pay their 5c to their FLO certifier and 30c to the processor of the coffee.

At this point the process stops. Since the processor is then supposed to distribute the money to the people they get the coffee from. But the people that bring the coffee are either cherry transporters, or are the 100s and sometimes thousands of farmers that they work with. You need to process a lot of coffee before the 30c that is paid as a levy can actually be in a divisible enough amount to make it into the farmers pocket. And the research on the ground has found that in fact it never does. Even if the farmers form a co-operative and the co-operative then raise money to make their own processing plant, and sometimes even a mill, this small levy really only helps build infrastructure, with the hope that it will increase sales, and hence increase money in the pocket of the grower.

Now let’s get to the point. So we as Quaffee took about 2 years to figure out that Fair Trade was not really assisting the people that actually grow and process the coffee as much as it was assisting the FairTrade organization itself. And we are not alone, others have figure this out.

So how do roasters, like ourselves, that are passionate about sustainability and rewarding the grower get past this? Well we source as close to the processor and hence co-operative and grower as possible, or use a direct trade model (see picture below). We work with people that are local in the countries, that reward farmers producing a quality product with a higher price. To explain that further the coffee futures market (a publicly traded market mentioned above) sits at around $1.40 per pound at the moment (25 Nov 2015). The Fairtrade levy on that coffee is currently about 50c.

We work with the local agents and they add 20-30c to help source the coffee on their price, and we pay them from $3.20 (yes more than double) to our latest order which is $20.15 per pound. Thus rewarding the farm with a better than liveable wage. We also publish the prices we charge for the coffee online for the people we work with, and the end user to see. We publish costs online (see: our blog post: so that the farmers can see what we land the coffee at, and we included all the costs associate with importing. Where we can we work with grower and producer crop and production cycles telling them 4 -6 months in advanced what we need. In some cases this is a year before they pick so they can allocate coffee for us. The Colombian coffees we have are sourced using the relationship model from Virmax who are the Colombian agent, that is why we have a blend called relationship which is a blend of those coffees.

So what are our direct trade coffee? Well actually all of our 4 star and above coffees, with the exception of our Cuban coffee.
Bird rock direct vs Fair Trade

Basic steps in calibrating a grinder for espresso 

Calibrating a grinder so that you can pull a relatively regular espresso should be done as often as possible. Depending on the grinder and the espresso machine, calibration should be done at least three times a day, ideally. Before the morning rush, before the lunch rush and before the evening rush are good times. It should also be done as a roasted coffee ages, when the coffee blend or origin changes, and also if it is a new roast. However this is in an ideal world. If any espresso station aims to calibrate at least once a week, this will go a long way to improve the quality of the espresso being pulled.

Before you begin

Before you start this is what you need:
  • The coffee with which you're calibrating the espresso grinder
  • Assuming it is a doserless grinder with a timer, then an understanding of the grinder, viz. how to adjust its grind size from coarse to fine, and how to adjust the timer setting (get the manual from the internet if required).
  • A scale that can fit the filter basket that is being used in the espresso machine. Ideally one that can fit the portafilter as well.
  • Ideally a second scale to measure the dose of the brewed cup. You can use one scale but this takes longer.
  • A timer (a phone is fine usually).
  • You also need to understand the capacity of your filter basket. If it is a calibrated basket it will have a grammage written on the side of the basket (or a code you can look up). If not then you need to assume that it is an uncalibrated basket. A double basket takes 14g and a single takes 7g. A double is about a thumb knuckle's depth from top to bottom. A single is either shallower, or has two parts in the basket -- one for the grinds, and one for stopping the tamper. This is a generalization, however.  It is best to use a calibrated or precision basket like a Strada, VST or IMS for accuracy of extraction.
  • Preferably standard items like cups and tamper, a mat if possible etc.
Portafilter with an 18g Portafilter with an 18g IMS calibrated basket and a 7g or single uncalibrated basket

Setup of grind size

Once you have all your goodies, set up your grind for fineness or coarseness.
  1. Using your grinder, grind a portion of coffee at least at the dose size your basket recommends. You can do this into the basket in the portafilter (if your scale can take both), or you can do this into the basket or a separate container.
  2. After taring your scale, adjust the grammage (with a spoon) within an accuracy of about .1g or 100mg.
  3. Tamp the coffee. Get ready to pull a shot.
  4. Place the scale on the espresso machine, tare it with the cup (or as the scale recommends) and then insert the portafilter and pull an espresso. You are aiming to pull between 1.5 times the dose and 2 times the dose, in 25 seconds ideally, not shorter than 15 seconds,and not longer than 45 seconds. Anything over 60 seconds adds no value to the brew.
  5. You want to see slow infusion. Within 4 seconds the coffee should start running out of the portafilter into the cup.
    1. If nothing comes out after 10 seconds, your grind is too fine.
    2. If it runs too quickly, your grind is too coarse.
    3. If it begins slowly, accelerating a little as it extracts, creating almost a gentle "S", what some call mouse tails, you have hit the spot.
  6. If you nailed it, feel free to try it again. Otherwise continue to Setup of timer on grinder. If not, adjust the grinder (grind out remainders from the previous grind so as to avoid mixing) and repeat the above steps until you are happy. This requires patience and concentration.
mouse tails in espresso Example of mouse tails in espresso

Setup of timer on the grinder

Now that you have your grind size setup, you need to set the timer on the grinder to make sure it is dosing the correct grams as per your calibration. You may need to check your manual. Some grinders are not as precise as others and dose more or less. As long as it is within 100mg, you can settle for this. Increase the timer to increase the dose and decrease it to decrease the dose. Save between settings. Once set, check the espresso again. Remember the ideal dose of the final espresso and timing.

Some notes

This is a basic guide and it does not cover the various tweaks you can make to extract more or less. It does not cover the solubility percentage or ideal end dose. You can read more about this on the Barista hustle blog. You can read more here:; >/espresso-recipes-understanding-yield/; /analyzing-espresso-recipes-strength/. Or watch the video that summarizes these:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Quaffee Newsletter Vol 4 Issue 4 Nov 2015

What a year! We hope you’ve had a good one and with six weeks left, enjoy the rest of it. It’s been a good year for us, one of change, a year in which we are happy to have been able to increase the quality of the coffee we source and produce. 

We have tried to reduce the content this time, since our last newsletter was long, and we received a number of suggestions to make it shorter. We have now included links for items for further reading. 

News from the Coffee Industry

It’s tough to summarise all the developments that have taken place over the last two or three months. We have continually posted coffee new updates and articles of interest on our facebook and twitter feeds, so like and follow us.

A short summary of the year is that there has been a general surge in scientific approaches to improving coffee in the high-end and specialty side of the industry, with important research looking at planting, growing, processing, packing, roasting and brewing.

To share this information, and hopefully add to the pool of knowledge ourselves, we have co-founded a podcast called Coffee Brewmance – which you can follow on Twitter or Facebook and listen to on the website or via Podcast on iPhone or Sticther on Android . We have a total of over 20 interviews lined up which we will release as and when they’re done.

We’ve put up a recommended reading and listening list as well on the Coffee Brewmance site for those of you who’d like to go deeper into this sort of thing.
Limu Kaffa forest

Quality Improvement

At Quaffee we continually try and improve the quality of the coffee offering. Quality is relative so what you believe is good today, may not cut it tomorrow as you may tasted and sampled better. As we sample and are offered better and better coffees, what we consider a minimum standard of quality takes a step up the rung in the ladder of quality. Of course each rung of quality does come with a price premium, which we believe is worth paying. As we source coffees closer to the producer we are able to access these higher quality coffees. Working with agents and producers that give back through education and living wages helps to promote the full cycle of production and this takes a premium.
As testimony to our conviction, we’ve posted a full summary of all the coffees we’ve imported this year, read more here.

Since our last quick update newsletter, we have released the Honduras Erapuca and Brazilian Pântano. We have also made updates to our Bunna and Wildly Organic blends, improving their quality. Next year we’ll run out of the current Serena grade of Antigua from Guatemala and do not plan on sourcing it again. We believe the current coffee is a rung lower than we are happy to offer so have not sourced this coffee again. We are also considering dropping our Armonizar blend (at least on the website), since it includes a coffee we feel is of to lower a quality.

Remember our latest list of coffees is always available online at

Growth in Domestic Market

The domestic market has been our biggest source of growth. This sector of our client base is driven to choose something they enjoy, prepared to pay the extra R1 a cup premium for a better tasting cup, that a café or office may not be comfortable with.

Our sales to the passionate self-brewer have almost doubled this year. And some are consuming this coffee at work too, shunning the low quality stuff their company hand out. This is an exciting market to find growth in and we receive a lot more feedback from the sophisticated domestic user, and they keep us on our toes, which we love.

Pour over

Over the last six months we have seen an increasing interest in the manual filter brew, also known as pour over. Our most popular are the Hario V60 and the Chemex. We have now published a web page dedicated to these methods, and will be holding stock for those who would like to try them. These methods are great to use. It is easy to play with dose and water quantities and achieve different tastes from the same coffees. We recommend a scale for accuracy in your playing.

Read more here: maybe an elusive year end gift can be found here.


With the Rand having lost almost a quarter of its value this year, as a result of the dip in emerging markets, we anticipate price increases in the coming year. This will affect the Jura range first since there will be a price increase effective 1 Jan 2016.

New Site

In partnership with the Vineyard Hotel, we will be opening a new roasting site, scheduled for the 15th of December. We will have a small space at the front of the hotel and they’ll be opening a specialty coffee focused café as well. Stay updated through our Facebook and Twitter.

Closing Times This Year

Our last scheduled delivery for the year falls on the 21st of December. Thereafter, we’ll be doing half-days at Buitenverwachting while setting up the Vineyard. We will still dispatch coffee from the 22nd December to the 4th of January via courier. Standard operations will resume from the 5th of January 2016.


We’d like to give a big thanks to everyone. Everyone who helps spread the word about great coffee, all those moved enough to support us and the people who place quality in the cup above everything else. Our next event will be next year, and after the success of the last one we have some hands on brewing planned.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Price Transparency for Quaffee's Coffee Imports Year 2015

Full transparency of imports 2015

Full transparency disclosure for Quaffee's coffee imports 2015:

Embeded Sheet below

OR see Quaffee Imports 2015