Sensory Summit 2016: A Roaster's Guild Event Recap

Posted on February 01, 2016 by Louis Nahlik

Dispatch and Pictures by Tony Auger

Traditionally the Roasters Guild has seen high attendance at their yearly Roasters Guild Retreat. Kaldi’s has consistently been involved with the Roasters Guild by sending their roasters to this yearly event, as well as myself being nominated for a seat on the Roasters Guild Executive Council last year and then serving on the Events Committee for the Roasters Guild. So it’s pretty safe to say that Kaldi’s is an advocate for the Roasters Guild which has been dedicated to the craft of roasting quality coffee.

The Sensory Summit is a new Roasters Guild Event focused on the higher-level needs of experienced roasters and coffee tasters, including sensory methods, quality control, product development and scientific research. The debut Summit was a collaborative event with UC Davis, taking place at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. This event seemed like a dream come true to professionals obsessed with sensory evaluation and food sciences. Tyler Zimmer and I knew we couldn’t miss this event.

So we prepared for it. When traveling to UC Davis, we lucked out and our flight to San Francisco got in earlier than expected. We decided to start our sensory trip off on a good foot by stopping off at two Napa Valley wineries.

One of these wineries was a special treat because we were able to taste four Zinfandels wines that were grown less than five miles apart from each other. Coffee is so similar to wine in that variety plays a huge factor in the final taste of the beverage. However factors like soil, microclimate, altitude, and processing play just as equal a role in how the coffee will taste. The vast difference in flavor between these Zinfandels was an unforgettable experience to me and served as the perfect introduction to this trip and well as the El Salvador origin trip that would directly follow.

We finally got settled in at UC Davis and our first session called “Tasting in the Dark: Wine Tasting and an Exploration of Senses” was underway. Henry “Hoby” Wedler a Chemistry PhD Student at UC Davis lead the tasting. Besides being incredibly knowledgeable in organic chemistry, Hoby was the perfect instructor for this session because he has been blind since birth.

Hoby had us step into his world for 2 hours as we were blind folded. Being temporarily vision impaired made it hard to find things on the table, but it greatly enhanced all of my other senses.

Hoby perfectly described the texture, taste and aftertaste of each wine; in a way that I did not think was possible. He demonstrated a type of sensory evaluation I previously had yet to used before. It was a great exercise that I intend to use for personal development over and over again.

The weekend was filled with events similar to this tasting but in other food fields like honey variety and olive oil tasting. These events served as a great reminder that coffee is just as complex as other agricultural products. Some of these tasting were done to help gauge consumer preferences or to help track quality assurance.

We also spent a significant amount of time focusing on coffee roasting and coffee brewing sciences. These are two fields where surprisingly a lot in the specialty coffee industry have become uninformed. This is because most people who get into specialty coffee are not scientists. They are coffee lovers who reverse engineer based on sensory analysis. On behalf of the Roasters Guild, we are trying to change this by having events like the Sensory Summit take place at academic universities.

Lastly, we also spent time unveiling the new SCAA Coffee Tasters Wheel and the Sensory Lexicon that was designed to coincide with it. It’s been over 20 years since the SCAA made the first Coffee Tasters Wheel, and this new, updated version was the result of research and data collection over many years. The Sensory Lexicon was developed by the World Coffee Research and is the largest collaborative research project on coffee's flavors and aroma ever done. Created at the Sensory Analysis Center at Kansas State University, the lexicon identifies 110 flavor, aroma, and texture attributes present in coffee, and provides references for measuring their intensity. The purpose of the lexicon is to advance our understanding of coffee quality and how it is created, so that we may continue to increase it.

When it comes to creating an academic pathway and a calibrated sensory lexicon, this event was a great first step for the Specialty Coffee Roasting Community. It was a pleasure to be part of both the planning side and educational attendance side of the Sensory Summit. I personally hope to see it continue to flourish so we can push the industry forward.

El Salvador Origin Trip January 2016

Posted on January 29, 2016 by Louis Nahlik


Dispatch by Frank McGinty, Tyler Zimmer, and Tony Auger. Photos by Tony Auger.

Jan 17 – After a full day of travel with the FeastTV crew and Emilio Lopez, we were all able to rendezvous in Houston and make the 2.5 hour flight to San Salvador. Emilio had a van waiting and we made the 45 minute drive through the night into the Salvadorian capital.

Jan 18 - We woke at Casa Mia B&B in San Salvador to the sights and sounds of the beautiful complex. After a delicious breakfast of eggs, papaya, and smoky beans, we were picked up by Dana, who does QC for Cuatro M, and Roberto (Emilio’s Cousin). An hour and a half drive later, with one pit stop in Santa Ana to pick up booze, we made it to the beautiful mountainside farm of El Manzano. We took a few quick minutes to take in the beauty of the coffee oasis, before a mill (or beneficio) tour, calibration cupping with us and Emilio’s team and a production cupping to begin building the blender coffee and microlots that will help fill the container we’re shipping back to Missouri. Later that afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting the Perez family (Luis Raphel, Luis Ferndado and Alicia) from the 12 acre farm of San Roberto as they brought in the scarlet cherry that had been picked that day and brought by truck to the El Manzano Mill. Their farm is over 1500 meters and planted with Bourbon and yellow Catuai. As night fell, we and the FeastTV crew were able to experience and document the extremely sophisticated wet mill that Emilio and his team have in place. The most astonishing realization was the attention to detail and information gathered by the team with each and every coffee that comes through the gates of El Manzano. Truly a pioneer with specialty coffee production, Emilio is tracking gram weight per cherry, brix of sugar content, sorting by varietal, ripeness, size, and cherry density. The complex milling and sorting system allows his team to sort, rinse, de-pulp, and choose the processing format (natural, pulp natural, dry fermented, mechanical washed), all being tracked every step of the 20-30 minute process.


Jan 19 – After spending the late hours of the night sitting around the bonfire sipping on rum, the 5:00am alarm came abruptly as we awoke to head to the top point of Emilio’s farm to catch the sunrise over the Finca El Manzano. The lack of sleep was worth the venue, as we were able to experience one of the most beautiful scenes over the farm. The crew spent the rest of the morning on a guided hike with Emilio through the higher plots of his farm, each planted with specific varietals of different coffees (Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, Orange Bourbon, Pacamara, SL-28, SL-34, Geisha, and Pacas). Once back on the farm we were able to do a second cupping to finalize the selection of coffee for our container (275 bags, each 69 kilos) of green coffee to be shipping back to St. Louis from Emilio’s farm. That afternoon Emilio took the group down the mountain to his lower elevation coffee farm, these being planted in large lots of very organized rows of coffee trees, similar to the farms that Emilio experienced in his travels to Brazil. Looking to the future of the sustainability of the coffee industry, Emilio continues to push the boundary on what is expected of the farming practices in El Salvador. While most coffee in El Salvador is shade gown, Emilio feels that the future of coffee in El Salvador is the balance of business, quality and quantity, and is okay with challenging the norm to sustain the industry in his country with the practice of sun exposed, very systematic farming practice that allow him to produce greater yield and quick growth times.

That evening we were treated to Emilio’s grilling skills as he prepared pork ribs, beef tenderloin, tortillas, pickled vegetables, and black beans for us as we dined al fresco with the gorgeous back drop of the mountains and volcanoes surrounding us. As the sun set, we once again made our way around the fire pit, sipping on local beverage and sharing stories of travel, food, and family.


Jan 20 – Awakening to another beautiful Salvadorian morning on the farm to a full breakfast of plantains with black beans, eggs, and fresh, we packed our back packs for a day trip to visit the farm of Brett Markwort, a fellow St Louis resident, whose family is from El Salvador and Uncle Rene Cornejo operates a few smaller coffee farms just outside the town of Ahuachapan. We met Brett and Rene at the family’s home in the small town about an hour from Emilio’s farm and where we toured the multiple tablons (small plots of coffee) operated by the family, each being planted with bourbon, pacas, and pacamara. These farms were very different from what we experienced at Emilio’s, all being heavily shade grown in an almost jungle like setting in smaller, flatter plots. After checking out the breathtaking venue from the lookout point over the town of Ataco, we headed back to the family home and were treated to an amazing lunch in the courtyard, along with ping pong and a little Barry White on vinyl. That evening we made our way back to Finca El Manzano and were able to see a bit more of the nightly coffee deliveries from the farms and wet milling process before crashing for the night.


Jan 21 – Our final morning waking on the farm, we were able to check out the dry mill of Emilio’s operation, seeing how the coffee is brought through in parchment (pergamino in Spanish), loaded into the dry mill where the parchment is removed, the green coffee is sorted, screened, and cleaned, finally making it’s way to it’s final destination of the 69 kilo (152lb) bags that will be shipped to Houston, then sent on rail to the caves of Kansas City, then finally to our Roastery in STL.

Later that morning we said goodbye to the team at Finca El Manzano and were picked up by Maria Pacas of Cafe Pacas to tour her farms and mill about an hour away by car. The Pacas family has been in the coffee business for 6 generations, owning and operating multiple farms, a nursery, wet mill and dry mill, offices, and a QC lab. The farms were high in the mountains, on the Santa Ana volcano, set between 1500-1750 meters. We started high on the farm of San Joaquin, hiking our way down, as Maria and her farm manager lead us through the tight rows of Bourbon, Pacas, and Pacamara coffee trees. One of the most interesting practices is that her family utilizes is the “agovio” method, bending the main branches of the tree, allowing multiple shoots to grow and maximizing the production of each tree.  This is a unique way to grow coffee and we’ve only seen it in El Salvador.

After making our may back down the mountain and checking out a neighboring farm operated by Maria’s family, El Retiro, we took an hour drive to the Café Pacas offices and mill about 20 minutes outside of the country capital of San Salvador. Built 25 years ago by Maria’s father Alfredo, the nursery, office, and mill allow Café Pacas to have vertical control over each step of the green coffee that is stamped with their name. After a quick lunch at the office we cupped 9 different micro-lots of coffee that Maria and her lead roaster had prepared for us. This table proved to be some of the best coffees we had tasted over the past few days, all scoring between 84-86.5, convincing us to buy two of the different micro-lots on the table, one from Los Bellotos and the other from El Talapo. Leaving the cupping lab, Maria gave us a full tour of the wet mill, drying patios and dry mill there, allowing us to see the very well run operation and attention to detail at every step of the process by the Pacas family.

Back at the offices, we were treated to a small tasting of the Pacas family of rum, made from their sugar cane farm in El Salvador, proving to be a perfect way to wrap up our experience with Maria and her family’s impressive operation. That night we made our way back to San Salavador and spent the evening at Emilio’s home cooking and eating pupusa (stuffed masa pancakes).

Keep an eye out for the Feast TV episode about this trip, set to air this summer.

Kilgus Farms Milk

Posted on January 11, 2016 by Louis Nahlik

Today (Monday, January 11) is National Milk Day, and we have some very exciting news. Kilgus Milk, the milk we have been working to bring in for the last few months, will be going live in the stores beginning this Thursday, January 14th. We will be using Kilgus for all of our Whole, Skim, and Heavy Whipping Cream needs.

Kilgus is located about half way between Chicago and St. Louis in Fairbury, Illinois. They are a family owned dairy and have been since the late 1950's.  We love the fact that we are now buying directly from another family owned business that is also about great products, great relationships, and great people.

From Kilgus: 

  • All Kilgus Farmstead creamery products begin with milk exclusively from our own Jersey cows. Jersey cows are light brown and smaller than Holsteins. As a breed, they give less milk than their black and white counterparts, but their milk is highly prized by cheesemakers, chefs, and consumers alike because of its elevated levels of protein and calcium.
  • We have healthier cows that live longer! Being in the grass instead of concrete lots is a lot easier on their feet and legs, and they also stay much healthier out in the fresh air. Their life expectancy has increased to over 8 years. This has also allowed us to increase our herd numbers from within our own herd.
  • It’s good for the environment! Since our cows do all their own harvesting of pasture grasses, we aren’t out burning fuel to harvest feed for them to eat in the barn. They also spread their own waste into the pastures as they graze, supplying valuable nutrient-rich fertilizer back into the land and preventing the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Milk from pastured cows is better for you and has more flavor! It has been shown repeatedly that milk from cows primarily grazed on pasture has more nutrients in it that benefit consumer health including vitamin E, Omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene, and CLAs (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). In addition, milk from pastured cows reveals the seasonality of the grasses they are grazed on in subtle flavor variations throughout the year. The milk tastes rich and delicious.

For more information about the farm, check out the Kilgus Farms website.


2015: Year in Review

Posted on December 31, 2015 by Louis Nahlik

We wanted to spend the last week of this year looking back at many of the exciting events from 2015. We’ve had an incredible year, and we couldn’t have done it without you, our guests, our partners, our friends, and our family. You are the reason we are who we are today and we couldn’t be more proud or more thankful.

We started this year in style, with Frank and Tony going to San Francisco to accept a Good Food Award for our coffee from Ethiopia Dama. We also unveiled a new collaboration with Urban Chestnut, Coffee CowTao. And we released the first coffee we’ve ever had from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Muungano.

In February, we built our very own snow tracker, following the most snow we got this winter. Soon after, we were in Long Beach, California, where David, Tony, and Tyler competed at the United States Barista, Brewer’s Cup, and Cup Taster’s Championships (respectively). Tony came home with 4th place in the US this year (!).

In March, we were stationed at our Columbia café, staging for the True/False film festival. It was our seventh year as the official coffee sponsor of the fest, and we can’t wait to see what happens in Columbia in the future.

April saw our move into our new Roastery. After years of planning, we’re so excited to be finally settled in the new space. We then hosted the Caffeine Crawl days after moving in. #sorryaboutthewetpaint

In June, we hosted over 1,000 guest at our new roasting facility with Strange Donuts for National Donut Day. We also hosted A Film About Coffee with just about every other coffee company in St. Louis at the Tivoli. Then a week later, we hosted a Coffee Dinner at the roasting facility. On June 30, we premiered our Breakfast Brew coffee whiskey with Still 630 at their annual 630 Day.

In August, we were honored with two Feast 50 Awards, for favorite coffee roaster and favorite coffee shop. We also opened our first store away from Missouri. Our location on Emory University’s campus quickly became our busiest spot. And we got a new roaster! The 1931 Probat Perfekt arrived on our doorstep this month after a year of being rebuilt in Germany. We think it may be the only roaster of its kind left in existence today.  

September saw the release of Firepot Nomadic Teas, our new tea line. After months and months of work, we’re so glad it’s out in the world. We were also at LouFest serving coffee and watching some amazing performances. And we were at the MS150 in Godfrey, Illinois, where our team raised almost $80,000 to fight MS.

The Missouri History Museum opened their coffee exhibit in October. They asked us and Chauvin Coffee to donate coffee to make a mural, and they made an unreal coffee STL skyline. We also got to brew Chemexes at Such and Such Farm as part of Outstanding in The Field. That was quite the honor. Also in September, our partners at Frothy Monkey opened their roasting facility in Nashville, TN, and our partners at Honolulu Coffee Company opened their new flagship location, the Honolulu Coffee Experience Center.

In November, Schlafly’s Coffee Stout was voted 5th best in the nation by Paste Magazine. So proud! We also released our Tis the Season blend, one of our favorite coffees of the year. Our partners at Firecracker Press nailed it on the packaging, as usual. And we launched Chouteau Joe with Urban Chestnut, a new coffee stout using our Ethiopia Konga as the coffee component.

This past month (December), we premiered Volume 2 of Ferguson Brewing Company’s Imperial Coffee Brown Ale. We were lucky enough to host a tea party with the Make-A-Wish foundation to reveal a wish granted for Mary to go to Disney World with her family. We also had our busiest week ever, roasting and packaging over 23,000 lbs of beans before spending time with our families over the holidays. Finally, to end the year, we’re proud to once again roast Colombia Monserrate, making this the 8th consecutive year we’ve had the privilege to work directly with this community on a ridge in Huila, Colombia.

Phew! It’s been one heck of a year for us here at Kaldi’s, cheers to many more.

Holiday Hours at Our Cafes

Posted on December 17, 2015 by Louis Nahlik

Holiday hours at our cafes will be as follows.

St. Louis:

December 24: 6:00am-3:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 
January 1: Closed

December 24: 6:00am-3:00pm
December 25: 
December 31: 6:00am-5:00pm
January 1: Closed

December 24: 6:00am-3:00pm 
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:00am-5:00pm
January 1: Closed

December 24: 6:00am-3:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:00am-5:00pm
January 1: Closed

December 24: 6:30am-3:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:30am-5:00pm
January 1: Closed

December 19 - January 2: 6:30am-3:00pm
December 24: 6:30am-3:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:30am-3:00pm
January 1: Closed


December 24: 6:00am-3:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:00am-5:00pm
January 1: Closed

Kansas City:

December 24: 7:00am-5:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 7:00am-7:00pm
January 1: 8:00am-7:00pm

December 24: 7:00am-6:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 7:00am-7:00pm
January 1: 8:00am-7:00pm

December 24: 6:00am-4:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:00am-4:00pm
January 1: 8:00am-6:00pm

December 24: 7:00am-3:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 6:30am-6:00pm
January 1: 9:00am-2:00pm

Main St.:
December 24: 8:00am-1:00pm
December 25: Closed
December 31: 7:00am-8:00pm
January 1: 8:00am-1:00pm



New World Mocha Java

Posted on December 16, 2015 by Louis Nahlik

A New Twist on an Old Blend

We're excited to announce our newest coffee, the New World Mocha JavaA companion to our 'Tis the Season Blend, New World Mocha Java is a 50/50 blend of a Nicaragua Javanica and a Costa Rica Gesha. We're roasting it today (Wednesday, December 16) and it will be available in cafes only starting this Thursday and Friday.

Our New World Mocha Java is an exercise in following coffee varieties as they mutate to taste the complex flavor assortment that can naturally occur. The blend stands as a testament to the hard work and dedication that happens across the world before it fills your cup.

The Java variety started in Indonesia, and we're following it to Nicaragua, where we have a relationship with the Mierisch family. In NicaraguaJava evolved into a new variety called Javanica. The Mierisch family grows and processes the Javanica variety on their family farm Limoncillo. This pulp-natural processed coffee adds a rich, juicy flavor with caramel, grapefruit, and green tea notes.

The other half of this blend follows the coveted heirloom Ethiopian variety Gesha to Costa Rica where it was first planted in the New World of coffee production. This dry processed Gesha coffee comes from 4th generation farmer Juan Ramon and adds complexity with blueberry skin, floral, strawberry, and mango notes.

The Turkish Latte

Posted on December 01, 2015 by Louis Nahlik

This blog is brought to you by David Fasman, our barista trainer.

As I crossed the border into Jordan, a small souvenir shop was to my right, directly across from the border patrol office. The shop was more of a shack, in that it didn’t have a front wall and there were holes randomly scattered in the other walls. The shop was full of cheap merchandise and nothing particularly caught my eye. That is until I saw an elderly gentleman near the back of the store, wearing an eye-patch, sitting on a stool, next to a wood fire, moving some sort of pitcher with a long handle in and out of the flames, with some intense concentration. Needless to say, I was intrigued; and not because of the indoor fire or one eyed barista, but the brew method. I’d never seen Turkish Coffee prepared before.

I approached the man to investigate and as I got close he looked at me and said, “Coffee?” Being 7:15am, and on our way to Petra for a long day trip, I happily obliged. He said, “One Shekel,” which is approximately $0.25. I gave the man a dollar and told him to keep the change. He proceeded to pour six ounces of thick liquid into a small Styrofoam cup. I looked in the cup and noticed a large amount of sediment. I allowed for it to settle, and in the end, there was about three ounces of liquid and three ounces of sludge. I was slightly put off (as I had never had Turkish Coffee before) but everything changed when I stuck my nose in the cup.

The most beautiful and intense aroma wafted out of the cup: a sweet aroma, with notes of coffee, cardamom, and cinnamon. It was like nothing I’d ever smelled. And after I took my first sip, it was like nothing I’d tasted either. It was the most incredible balance of all of the flavors I noted. It made me wonder how he was able to make such an exquisite beverage. And then it made me wonder how many other brew methods existed around the world that produced delicious coffee that I hadn’t tried yet. The drink I had that day was my “aha” moment with coffee and is the inspiration for the Turkish Latte.

Cardamom and cinnamon were some of the earliest flavor pairings with coffee and after tasting them together it is easy to see why. It’s like the flavors were meant to be together. The Turkish Latte is espresso and steamed milk, prepared with a cardamom and cinnamon simple syrup that we make in house. Not overly sweet, it is the perfect balance of coffee, cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar. We hope this drink can help facilitate a coffee “aha” moment for you and help spread the joy of the holidays to everyone.

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