Flat White vs Cappuccino Do You Know the Difference?

Flat White vs Cappuccino

So, what’s The Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino? Lately, there has been a lot of talk and debate over two very traditionally different drinks that are slowly becoming very similar.

As the Third wave of coffee is crashing over the world there are a lot of changes being made to classic coffee methods and ideals, from brewing, to technique and the ethics behind the whole coffee experience. We have seen new styles being introduced to coffee for the better half of the last decade. One of the most noticeable changes has come from the many new drinks that involve coffee. Baristas and new coffee shops popping up everywhere are now mixing their coffee with things like tonic water, ice cream and of course milk!

Shot of Espresso Cappuccino Flat WhiteHistory of Flat White and Cappuccino

So lets take a look at two very popular drinks, A flat white and a cappuccino drink. In most third wave coffee shops you’ll find one of these two and or maybe both.


The history of these two drink couldn’t be more different so lets start with the cappuccino. The cappuccino is an age old drink that dates back to the 1900s this drink has been a staple morning drink for many Europeans. The tradition is to have a cappuccino served in a 5-6 oz cup with espresso milk the a semi-thick layer of foam that has been aerated slightly longer to softly lay over the top of the drink. A clear separation between the foam and the espresso.

Flat White

The flat white was first brought to light in the 1980s in Australia and New Zealand. There’s no doubt that the drink draws inspirations from the much older cappuccino but with its own twist. A flat white will more commonly have less foam. In fact the milk will be mirco-foamed for a more silky mixture of milk and espresso. Think of it as a cappuccino sized latte.

There are many baristas alike that have chosen a side saying the Flat white has a stronger flavor with perfect mix of milk and espresso. Others saying that the cappuccino is the drink that best mixes espresso and foamed milk. Sometimes the only difference for some is the vessel that the drink is served in. The more experience you have with either of these drinks you will see a common theme being that the milk is almost always foamed longer for a cappuccino than a flat white.

Next time you go into a specialty coffee shop maybe see for yourself what the differences are between a flat white vs. a cappuccino?

Community Composting Through Local Coffee

Community Composting At Your Local Coffee Shop

The United States creates 30% of the waste in the entire world. However, the U.S. only holds about 4% of the world’s population. That means each American creates approximately 7 pounds of waste per day. And even more dismal, according to a report, landfills will reach capacity in a short 18 years. We live in a world where approximately 30% of the waste headed to landfills is compostable material. This problem has caught the attention of a number of people. Community composting at your local businesses seems to be an innovative way to combat this growing problem.

Community Composting Through Local CoffeeCoffee to Compost

Compost is a mixture of organic materials that naturally decomposes. This creates perfect conditions for bacteria and microorganisms. The process makes a nutrient rich humus which can be used as a fertilizer. At the same time composting cuts back waste that would normally go to landfills. By composting in your household as much as 30% of waste can be recycled into the Earth. Organic decomposing waste that mixes with normal trash creates problems. The material will not break down properly and release harmful gases such as methane. With landfills filling up and the amount of waste only increasing, it’s important to bring community composting into the picture.

Decomposing Coffee

Organisms that decompose the organic material need nitrogen, carbon, moisture and oxygen to survive. In order to create a compost pile that thrives, there should be about two thirds carbon material and one third of nitrogen. The compostable or “brown” carbon substances can be wood chips, straw, newspaper and leaves. The nitrogen or “green” substances act as materials for making enzymes to break down the matter. These include food scraps, lawn and gardening clippings and coffee grounds. However, there are a couple things that should never go into compost. Meat, dairy products, diseased plants or pet manure cannot decompose in the right way.

Composting Fit for You

There are a number of factors that must be considered with composting.Composting can be difficult because it requires   There are companies like Aerobin Composter who make composting bins that do all of the work or aerating and warming the scraps for you. You could make your own composting bin or one that sits directly on the ground. This gives access straight to the soil however makes it difficult to turn and aerate the mixture. An easy option for home composting is an enclosed tumbling bin which turns itself, so all you have to focus on is what you put in.

Community Composting: Food2Soil

Furthermore, in regards to community composting, Achilles acts as a drop off location for consumers who pay for a composting service in urban areas. This service is provided by Food2Soil, who provides customers with their own 5 lb buckets and connects them to participating businesses like Achilles. These businesses have bins for which you can drop your home compost off at and gets picked up weekly by Food2Soil. Ultimately, this helps to bridge the gap in the waste cycle and truly create a community in composting for urban areas.

Costa Rican Coffee – An Introduction for Coffee Lovers

Introduction to Costa Rican Coffee

Coffee drinkers worldwide recognize Costa Rican coffee for robust flavor profiles created from a mixture of favorable growing factors. Following natural gas, coffee is the second most traded good in the world. As of 2011, over 45 different countries export coffee. Surprisingly, Costa Rican coffee beans makes up only 1% of the global coffee trade. 


Origins of Costa Rican Coffee

All coffee has origins stemming from Ethiopia where Arabica was born. Through trade in the 1700s, coffee began to make its way into Europe and then the rest of the world. As far as Costa Rican coffee, a naval officer in 1723 obtained a seedling from a coffee plant from King Louis XIV of France. Amazingly, this single seedling made the voyage to the Americas and has since parented every coffee tree in Central America.

Although now, there is a lot more variation due to different growing regions. Seeing how quickly the coffee industry was growing, The Costa Rican government gave farmers free seeds to help boost the economy. As well as seeds, the government also gave plots of land to anyone willing to cultivate the plants. Because of the government’s push in the industry, farmers throughout Costa Rica began to harvest coffee. Of the entire population of Costa Rica, 10% is involved in coffee production and coffee makes up 90% of produce from the country.


Major Coffee Growing Regions of Costa Rica

There are 8 different coffee growing regions throughout Costa Rica that comprise the small 1% of the global coffee trade. The regions include: Tarrazu, West Valley, Central Valley, Tres Rios, Brunca, Guanacaste, Orosi, and Turrialba. Growing in such diverse regions of the country, each coffee creates a very distinct flavor profile. These profiles are variable depending on factors like latitude, altitude, soil type, rainfall, temperature, and processing methods. Of the different regions, coffee from Tarrazu and West Valley account for approximately half of Costa Rica’s coffee production. 

Achilles Coffee Roasters Costa Rican Coffee

Favorable factors

Grading all green coffee beans within the global trade is important to maintain high quality. In Costa Rica, green beans are primarily graded by altitude, which affects the hardness of the bean. Higher altitude regions produce harder coffee beans, which are viewed as more preferable. The Costa Rican grading system uses the classifications: Strictly High Grown(SHG), Good Hard Beans(GHB), and Medium Hard Beans(MHB). Strictly High Grown beans grow at an altitude higher than 1,200 meters above sea level. Good Hard Beans grow between 1,000 and 1,200 meters above sea level. Lastly, Medium Hard Beans grow at an altitude between 500 and 900 meters. The Tarrazu region produces 95% of its harvest graded as Strictly Hard Bean, the highest quality grade.


Costa Rica at the Forefront

Throughout Central America, coffee from Costa Rica is known to have some of the best flavor profiles due to the high altitudes. Another reason why Costa Rican coffee is of a higher standard is because it is illegal to produce Robusta beans. Achilles Coffee Roasters uses beans grown in the Central Valley region which has an altitude of about 900 to 1500 meters above sea level. In addition, the Central Valley is where coffee was first introduced to Central America, making the coffee plantations some of the oldest within Costa Rica. Beans grown in this region create a profile influenced by the soil’s tropical acidity creating a bright, citrusy flavor with nutty undertones. You can get some of our very own single origin Swami’s roast of Costa Rican coffee beans here.

Coffee As An Antioxidant – The Health Benefits in Your Morning Cup

Coffee As An Antioxidant

These days everything seems to be harmful to our bodies. However, there are coffee health benefits in your morning cup. Would you ever believe that coffee is a good source of antioxidants? Coffee, as a great source of antioxidants has recently been getting a lot more attention for its health promoting benefits. So maybe you won’t have to cut back on your favorite pour over after all.

Free Radicals vs. Antioxidants

Compounds called free radicals cause damage to cells in your body. They do this to certain DNA and proteins by breaking them apart and disrupting the cell structure. Free radicals contain unpaired electrons causing them to be highly reactive. They can be man-made or natural elements caused by chemicals produced in the body from normal functions or environmental toxins. Unfortunately, these compounds create oxidative stress which can create higher risk of various chronic diseases.

Although free radicals promote oxidative stress to the body, antioxidants help to decrease it. Antioxidants, like those found in coffee, bind to the unpaired electrons in free radicals making them more stable. Therefore, antioxidants help to lower the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and liver diseases. Ultimately meaning, you can prevent disease through coffee as an antioxidant.

Coffee: The Thoughtless Antioxidant

When you think health, you more likely than not think fruit and vegetables. Using your daily coffee as an antioxidant may be more beneficial. According to Superfoodly, a cup of coffee has similar antioxidant levels to a serving a fruit. It may be more common to have a second cup of coffee than a lot of fruit in one sitting. This is how coffee can provide more antioxidant power. Coffee, as an antioxidant, contains polyphenols which are also good at preventing cancer, diabetes and heart disease. As a result, you can feel a whole lot better about that daily, or maybe twice daily, cup of Joe.


Coffee as an Antioxidant Achilles Coffee RoastersCoffee Is Biggest Antioxidant Source

Within the Western diet, coffee and tea beverages are essentially a staple. Although there are dietary sources higher in antioxidants, coffee is consumed on a much more regular basis. In a study done on polyphenol intake, 79% of consumption came from beverages, while 21% came from food. There have been numerous studies done worldwide concluding that coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants within the populations.

Coffee Antioxidant Power

Although the antioxidant power of coffee is high due to consumption, it is important to know to get other sources as well. Coffee contains a certain antioxidant while other fruits, vegetables and spices have different antioxidants. Certain berries usually have the highest concentrations of antioxidants. However, it is difficult to eat a large amount of berries per day. This is why coffee as an antioxidant can be the easiest source for busy lifestyles. A healthy diet should consist of a balanced intake of these various antioxidants. Try adding some cinnamon or other spices to our favorite medium roast coffee, which contains the highest levels of antioxidants.

Cooperative Coffee Roasting – A New Model in the Coffee Industry

If you’re a coffee shop owner you might have considered roasting your own beans at some point. But the cost can be prohibitive for some — when you consider equipment, leasing space, building out that space, getting the right permits, and so on, the costs soon mount up.

Now that’s all starting to change with a new model: cooperative coffee roasting.

What is a Cooperative Coffee Roasting?

At its simplest, a cooperative is an organization run by its members, for the benefit of its members. It has historically been a popular business model for agriculture, art, groceries and sports teams. Industries in which being run by and for customers or fans can be a true asset. An insurance company that is owned by its customers will charge lower prices and pay more claims, for example, because they aren’t driven by the need to make a profit — they merely need to break even. A sports team run by its fans will always place fans’ interests ahead of commercial interests.

Now the model is spreading to cooperative coffee roasting. Cooperatives like Buckman Coffee Factory and Pulley Collective in New York, are beginning to make coffee roasting more accessible to everyone including small local coffee bean roasters.

Cost Benefits of a Cooperative Model

Cooperative-Coffee-Roasting-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Our-CoffeeAt its simplest, a cooperative allows people to share the startup costs of roasting. Pulley Collective, for example, estimates that the costs of opening a new coffee roasting operation would be between $300k – $1m in New York. Pulley Collective, in comparison, charges its members $850 per week for membership, with different packages available depending on whether you want to rent the space by the day or by the hour. Buckman Coffee Factory offers hourly and monthly leasing options as well as green coffee storage.

This means that roasting is accessible to everyone, no matter the budget.

Better Coffee, Too

Simple economics would suggest that when the cost of entry into a market falls, more people will enter that market. ;That’s exactly what’s happening with cooperative coffee roasters: more and more small, niche, local coffee bean roasters are getting involved, spurred on by the lower start up costs and a chance to do something they love.That’s exactly what’s happening with cooperative coffee roasters: more and more small, niche, local coffee bean roastersare getting involved, spurred on by the lower start up costs and a chance to do something they love.

With lower costs, roasters now have the freedom to experiment and try new ideas, too. By allowing room for this variety and innovation, cooperative roasters lead to better quality coffee.

There’s one final benefit: ready access to a community of like-minded people. Roasters can surround themselves with others who are striving to create great coffee, sharing advice and stories, and bonding over their shared passion.

With so many benefits to coffee roasters and drinkers alike, there’s no doubt about it. Cooperative coffee roasting is here to stay.

The Art of the Barista San Diego Coffee Culture

The Art of Being an Expert Barista

You’ve probably been to a cocktail bar and been served by one of those incredibly skilled bartenders — the people who can simultaneously mix great drinks and put on a performance. But did you know that it’s not just bartenders who do this? Baristas, the artisans of the espresso machine, do the same, in little-known competitions called throwdowns. In fact, we have a Thursday Throwdown every week here in San Diego, where baristas from across the city display their well-honed abilities.

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-1Barista Fundamentals

There’s one ability that ranks above all others: making a good espresso. As espresso shots form the basis of all your lattes, cappuccinos, and many other drinks, so it’s crucial to be able to get it right, every time. A good barista knows pressure to tamp the espresso grounds in the portafilter, the correct amount of water, temperature and time to pull the espresso shot.

The World Barista Championship

So if the espresso is the foundation that all baristas need to know, then what skills does it take to make it at the top level? Well, competitors at the World Barista Championship, now in its 17th year, are tasked with preparing four espressos, four milk drinks, and four original signature drinks, in a 15-minute performance set to music. These baristas are then judged on five criteria:

Technical skill
Overall presentation

This competition format allows baristas to demonstrate both their ability to flawlessly execute the fundamentals, but also their knowledge and innovation in creating new and unique coffee drinks. Berg Wu, the 2016 World Champion, created a drink with an orange and honey reduction, Earl Grey tea and espresso, before infusing it with mandarin essential oil through an aromatizer. It remains to be seen if anyone can top this at the 2017 World Championships this November in Seoul, Korea.

Barista Latte Art

The most visible skill on display is the latte art. If you’ve ever been served your coffee, looked into your micro-foam and seen a heart, a rosette, or a tulip, then you’ve seen barista latte art.

These simple designs are known as Free Hand Pours, where the barista uses only their steady hand and trusty milk pitcher. In the Barista World Latte Art Championships, however, things get more creative, as competitors are also judged on a Designer Pour, for which they are permitted to use a stylus and textured milk to draw with.

In the World Championships, these pours are judged on their symmetry, creativity, visual appeal, and difficulty. If that reminds you of olympic sports like gymnastics or ice-skating, then you’re exactly right — and like these athletes, latte artists are also judged on their professionalism, ability, and stage presence.

Community Gardens and Farms – Achilles Coffee Partners with Food2Soil

Achilles-Coffee-San-Diego-Food2SoilAchilles Coffee Roasters is proud to contribute to local San Diego community gardens and farms through our partnership with Food2Soil, a collective of restaurants and gardeners seeking to make better use of waste products in the food and beverage industry. We’re making every effort we can to get to Zero Waste, through composting, recycling, and/or reusing everything possible at our two locations.

Composting Spent Coffee Grounds

All of our spent coffee grounds are saved in repurposed buckets and Food2Soil picks them up once a week. Once our coffee grounds leave our locations, Food2Soil distributes them to local San Diego composts, gardens and farms. These partners then work our grounds into their composting bins, turning our grounds into nitrogen-rich compost.

When added to compost, coffee grounds increase the acidity of the mixture as well as add much-needed nitrogen to a finished pile of compost. The nitrogen-rich compost that Food2Soil’s composting partners create gets distributed to local urban farms, community gardens, and urban agriculture organizations.

San Diego Community Gardens and Farms

The produce that is grown from the local farms that use Food2Soil’s compost eventually makes its way back into local San Diego farmers markets and restaurants, closing the loop from waste products to nutritious, flavor-filled local produce. This is important to us because Achilles Coffee is committed to sourcing local produce, eggs, meats, dairy and bread whenever possible.

We hope that our small steps to close the loop as much as possible will start a chain reaction in both the local San Diego roaster industry, as well as in the San Diego food and beverage industry as a whole.

Sustainability in the Restaurant Industry

While we focus on making outputs from Achilles Coffee more sustainable by partnering with Food2Soil, we’re also doing everything in our power to source local, organic, and sustainable ingredients for both our food and drink. It’s our goal to make sure that both the inputs and outputs of our business are as local and sustainable as possible. This serves two purposes:

  1. We reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible
  2. We contribute to other local San Diego businesses by both sourcing ingredients from them, and then returning our compostable waste back to community gardens.

We can’t control what happens to resources once they leave our store, but we do everything we can to make sure what comes into our store is environmentally sound. It is our goal to replace the plastic cups and straws we use with products made from plant based materials. We hope to roll this out at our two locations in 2018.

If all local businesses take simple steps to reduce, reuse and recycle and source from local suppliers, together we’ll make progress towards a more sustainable and connected local business environment, which is one of our core values at Achilles Coffee Roasters.

The Growth of Third Wave Coffee

3rd Wave Coffee Expansion

The growth of third wave coffee is an undeniably good thing, both for coffee lovers and coffee shop owners alike. Coffee’s place in our culinary landscape has been cemented as a legitimate culinary experience as opposed to a simple drink we consume in the morning. The 3rd wave created a market for coffee that entrepreneurs all around the country have tapped to make a living doing what they love — roasting, brewing and serving artisanal coffee. Read on to learn about the coffee industry growth.

As the demand for specialty coffee continues to grow and expand, two companies with the biggest ambitions are Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee. Both hailing from the Bay Area, these two coffee companies started from humble beginnings, as single-location independent cafes.
Coffee Shop Third Wave Coffee Achilles Coffee

The Institutionalization of Third Wave Coffee

The growth of third wave coffee has attracted venture capital investment, with Philz raising over $75mm and Blue Bottle raising over $100mm. This begs the question: what are they going to with all of that money?

For both companies, the answer is simple: grow, grow grow.

Blue Bottle has already opened two cafes in Tokyo, with a third on the way. They’re planning to open cafes in most of the metropolitan areas of Asia, as they’ve been incredibly successful in Tokyo already.

Philz has built 34 locations in the last 15 years of their existence. They’re in San Diego now with a location in Encinitas, La Jolla and Del Mar. This new round of funding sees them trying to add 50 more locations in quick succession. That’s over double the number of locations they built in the last 15 years.

The growth of Third Wave Coffee and the cash infusion these companies received is a rapid accelerator of growth…but it comes at a cost. Many Blue Bottle employees have left the company to start their own independent cafes, citing the “corporate takeover” of the company.

The backlash makes sense — both Blue Bottle and Philz were once small, independent, single-location coffee shops. They attracted employees who loved the company for what it was. It’s no surprise some of them are fleeing after seeing the ambitious growth goals of both of these coffee companies.

Corporate Chains vs. Independent Locally Owned Coffee Shops

For coffee drinkers, there’s a different question to answer: will these companies lose what made them special in the first place?

Is there such a thing as growing “too big” to be taken seriously as a member of the 3rd wave movement? Are we seeing the 4th wave of coffee? At what point do Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle become so ubiquitous and their business processes become so systemized that they’re indistinguishable from the big players like Starbucks or Peet’s?

While you can’t fault a company for wanting to grow, at what point will coffee drinkers turn back to the small independently owned coffee shops to recapture some of the vibe that made Philz and Blue Bottle so popular in the first place? The answer remains to be seen, but with Philz and Blue Bottle locations popping up all over the place, we’ll see soon enough.

The History of the Espresso Machine – The Purest Form of Coffee

Coffee In Its Purest Form

For many coffee aficionados, espresso is coffee. They consider it the purest form of the coffee bean. But what is espresso and how did it become so popular today? Most people know of it due to the proliferation of artisanal coffee shops, but couldn’t define what espresso is if you put them on the spot. The history of the espresso machine and espresso dates back to 19th century Europe.

Espresso is a method of preparing coffee. Specifically, it is a method where highly pressurized hot water is forced over finely ground coffee. This produces a concentrated coffee drink with a distinctly strong flavor.History of the Espresso Machine - Coffee in its Purest Form

Because good espresso is the product of a consistent and high-quality process, it required the invention of an entirely new machine to produce. The first espresso machines began to pop up in Italy in the 19th century.

Even back then, coffee was big business. In Europe, cafes were spreading all across the continent. However, brewing coffee was still a slow process. It would sometimes take 5-10 minutes for a fresh cup! Being the impatient creatures that we are, inventors thought to create a steam machine to reduce the time it took to brew a cup.

The Invention of the Espresso Machine

The person who invented the espresso machine was Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy. He received a patent for it in 1884, but it didn’t become popular due to the fact that it was only used for the Turin General Exposition and wasn’t widely available. Aside from the fact that he held the first patent for an espresso machine, Moriondo doesn’t have much to do with the history of espresso.

That honor is reserved for two men: Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni.

Luigi was a liquor producer and the inventor of the single-shot espresso in the early 20th century. He took Moriondo’s machine and made multiple innovations to it, most of which are still present on modern-day espresso machines. Two of these include multiple brewheads and a portafilter.

Pavoni’s contribution to the espresso machine begins when he purchased Bezzerra’s patents in 1903. After purchasing the patents, he added to the design, including a pressure release valve. This innovation was more for the baristas than it was for the customers, as it prevented them from being splashed with hot coffee.

Espresso is Born

This is where the word “espresso” came to prominence. Pavoni decided to market this new process for coffee as espresso, meaning “made on the spur of the moment.” As the Pavoni machine became more popular, copycats began to pop up throughout Italy. It’s no surprise – these machines were able to produce at least 100 cups of coffee every single hour. That is a massive speed increase compared to old methods.

Espresso machines would go on to be improved upon in major ways more than a few times. In 1961, a motorized pump was added so the machine no longer had to rely on the strength of the barista. Espresso machines continued to become smaller, more efficient, and more affordable, leading to their expansion out of Italy and into other parts of Europe and America.

The history of the espresso machine is long and storied, but what it did for coffee is the exact opposite. It allowed for the quick production of a concentrated, delicious cup of coffee.

Fair and Direct Trade Coffee – Cooperative Coffees

Coop Coffees is an interesting player in the 3rd wave coffee movement. What they do is simple: they import green coffee from smaller-scale farmers and their exporting cooperatives all around the world. That’s not so unique, is it? After all, the fair trade coffee movement has been around for quite some time. What makes Cooperative Coffees different?Buy-Green-Coffee-Beans-Online-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-California


What Cooperative Coffees is doing differently is evolving the definition of “fair trade.” They already adhere to the “Nine Basic Principles” of fair trade:


  1. Create Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers
  2. Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships
  3. Build Capacity
  4. Promote Fair Trade
  5. Pay Promptly and Fairly
  6. Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions
  7. Ensure the Rights of Children
  8. Cultivate Environmental Stewardship
  9. Respect Cultural Identity


What they’ve done is take these nine principles and update them to the present day.


When the fair trade movement first started, the goal was to build a unified and transparent network between coffee growers, purchasers, and roasters. However, it has instead created a tangled web of different purchasing networks and companies. All of these players are operating by different sets of rules. This means that the definition of “fair trade” is much murkier than it once was.


In fact, this murkiness is part of the reason we’ve seen a push towards direct trade coffee, where roasters deal directly with a particular farm, often making site visits and building a person-to-person relationship with the farmer. Direct trade is often hailed as the gold standard of trade practices, but it’s a one-to-one relationship. What about smaller roasters that don’t have the capacity to directly visit farmers?


By updating the Nine Basic Principles and adding the cooperative aspect to their business, Coop Coffees is creating a more transparent and fair market between small-scale coffee growers and small-scale coffee roasters. By creating a collective of roasters that all commit to purchasing under these fair and direct trade coffee principles, they are giving farmers and their communities much more than just income. They’re giving them stability.


As if this wasn’t already enough, Coop Coffees is expanding all across the United States and Canada, with a new location coming to Los Angeles soon. They have dozens of exporting relationships with cooperatives in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. On the demand side, they have over 20 member roasters in the cooperative.


Will we see a Coop Coffees member roaster make an entrance in San Diego? Or perhaps another cooperative coffee shop will dip its toes in the water down here. Either way, this evolution of the fair trade movement is a good sign for artisanal roasters around the country.