FAQ

Light Roast vs. Dark Roast

So, what’s the difference between a light versus a dark roast coffee? A whole lot. Although the roasting procedures are typically quite similar, a light roast and dark roast coffee can vary greatly in their taste, flavour, and body. These differences are due largely to two variables: the roast duration and the roast temperature, which ultimately results in varying colours, moisture levels, and flavour profiles. 

Coffee Bean Roasting

LIGHT ROAST

A light roast coffee will have a more pronounced acidity than a dark roast, and will have nicely developed flavours which reflect their region of origin. As a result, lighter roasts of coffee are known to have a more complex flavour profile, often featuring a subtle sweetness, fruity tanginess, and floral aromas, depending on their origin. These coffees tend to be more polarizing to customers due to their bright and intense flavours.  

DARK ROAST

Dark roast coffees, on the other hand, are roasted at higher temperatures for longer periods of time. As a result, these coffees are much lighter in weight and more bold and rich in flavour; typically featuring a nutty or chocolatey flavour with hints of brown spices such as nutmeg. These coffees typically produce a cup of full of flavour, rich texture and body, which traditionally has made them a more popular choice.

It’s common coffee lore that light roasts also contain more caffeine than their darkly roasted counterparts, but this difference is marginal and attributable to their difference in density. For the true coffee enthusiast, we recommend choosing whatever roast you prefer and then weighing your beans instead of measuring them. By doing so you will ensure you get a properly balanced cup full  of flavour and caffeine, regardless of the roast you choose. 

Light vs. Dark Coffee Roasting
Coffee Beans Roasting

SUMMARY 

Despite the similarities in their roasting methods, light roasts and dark roasts actually vary quite greatly in body, flavour, and taste due to slight differences in the temperature and duration of the roast. In a light roast you can expect a well pronounced acidity which comes through in the form of a subtle sweetness, fruity tanginess, or floral aromas. In a dark roast you can expect a richer texture and body with notes of chocolate, nuts, or dark spices. And while light roasts have marginally more caffeine than dark roasts, you can eliminate this issue by weighing your beans instead of scooping them! Ultimately, it all comes down to your flavour preferences and the qualities you're looking for in a cup of coffee. 

Want to find the right coffee for you? Take the quiz to find out!

Light vs. Dark Roast Coffee
Coffee Roasting Light vs. Dark

What is Ceylon Cinnamon?

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Cinnamon is one of the most popular and commonly used spices in the world. And we aren't surprised, considering the bounty of health benefits and delicious flavour this spice boasts! 

There are many benefits to be derived from cinnamon: it acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and is also known to lower lipids, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and fight against neurological disorders. In addition, the sweet and spicy flavour pairs well with a variety of dishes and drinks. But what’s the difference between the varieties of cinnamon and, more specifically, what is Ceylon Cinnamon?

Not all cinnamons are created equal.

Ceylon Cinnamon, also referred to as 'True Cinnamon', is renowned for its health benefits, including low levels of coumarin, and its delicate flavour. However, the majority of the cinnamons in the market today are Cassia and Saigon varieties. These varieties are grown in China and Vietnam and contain significantly less health benefits than the Ceylon variety; they have a thicker bark, higher levels of coumarin, and a vastly different flavour.  

Watch a two-minute CBC video on differences in cinnamon here.

Ceylon Cinnamon

Where is our cinnamon from?

Our Ceylon cinnamon is from small-scale farmers in Sri Lanka. We partner with farmers who organically grow 'True Cinnamon', harvest it when it is optimally fresh, and ship it directly to Level Ground. 

Harvesting Ceylon Cinnamon

The Fair Trade impact of purchasing this cinnamon is capacity building in Sri Lanka. Farmers are able to sustainably grow more spices, receiving better prices for their high quality cinnamon! 

Sri Lankan Farmer
CeylonCinnamon.jpg
Ceylon Cinnamon leaves

What is Dragon Fruit?

It's a dragon! No, it's a fruit! Well, actually ... it's a cactus.

Dragon fruit is the delicious, yet dangerously spiky, yellow fruit that comes from cactus varieties in South America.

In North America, we're accustomed to a bright pink dragon fruit, which typically comes from Asia.  In China the fruit is referred to as huǒlóng guǒ (火龍果), which translates to 'fire dragon fruit'! The juicy yellow dragon fruit we have is grown in Colombia - its real name is Pitahaya, but in English its nickname 'dragon fruit' has stuck! 

This fruit grows in rows, similar to a vineyard. The plant is lifted off of the ground to help it grow and allow for easier harvesting. 

GREAT THINGS ABOUT DRAGON FRUIT

  • It contains vitamins: It's high in Vitamin C and B
  • It aids digestion! It's high in fibre and can help to get things moving in a healthy, organic way! (Warning: We don't recommend eating an entire package at once.)
  • It's brand new! It's our newest product, and we're excited about it!
  • It benefits farmers in Colombia! Read about Simon and members of the dragon fruit farmers association here. 

 

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 A ripe dragon fruit before the spikes have  been removed.

A ripe dragon fruit before the spikes have  been removed.

 This variety of dragon fruit has a juicy white flesh. 

This variety of dragon fruit has a juicy white flesh. 

 The vineyard-like rows of dragon fruit!

The vineyard-like rows of dragon fruit!

How To Brew: Chemex

METHOD #1: LEVEL GROUND'S FAVOURITE METHOD

Recipe: 5 tbsp (35g) medium grind coffee, 600mL hot water

METHOD:

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  1. Place filter in Chemex with the 3 layered side towards the spout.

  2. Preheat the Chemex and filter by pouring hot water through them

  3. Pour out water, replace filter & put ground coffee in filter

  4. Place chemex on scale and tare to zero

  5. Start timing, and pour about 80g (mL) of water over the coffee. Gently stir the grounds to make sure they are all saturated

  6. Wait 30 seconds while the bloom de-gases and the grounds soften in the hot water (this is how the flavour comes out!)

  7. Add 200g (mL) of water, gently stir to agitate the grounds

  8. Wait ~45 seconds

  9. Add 200g (mL) of water, gently stir to agitate the grounds

  10. Wait ~45 seconds

  11. Add remaining water, 120g (mL)

  12. When all the water has been poured over, remove the filter and compost. The entire process should take 4-5 minutes

  13. Enjoy with friends!

METHOD #2: SCAA RECOMMENDATION. 

Recipe: 41g medium grind coffee, 672g (mL) of water

Method:

  1. Place filter in Chemex, make sure the 3 layered side of the filter is towards the spout

  2. Preheat the Chemex and filter by pouring hot water through them

  3. Pour out the water, replace filter & put ground coffee in filter

  4. Place everything on scale and tare to zero

  5. Start timing and pour 80g (mL) of water over the coffee, make sure to saturate all the grounds thoroughly

  6. Allows the bloom to de-gas for 30 seconds before adding more water

  7. Continue to periodically and slowly pour water over the coffee, keep the filter halfway filled with water during the brewing process

  8. General brew times are between 4-5 minutes

  9. When all the water has been poured over the grounds and the filter has begun to drip slowly, remove and discard the filter

  10. Give the Chemex a swirl and share with friends

How To Brew Chemex Coffee

How To Brew: Aeropress

METHOD #1: LEVEL GROUND'S FAVOURITE METHOD

Warning: we use the inverted method. There is no reason to be afraid of it. Let's conquer that fear together! 

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Recipe: 1 1/2 scoops ground coffee, enough water to fill the aeropress

METHOD:

  1. Put the top chamber inside the bottom chamber, and turn over. (It should look like the photo above.)

  2. Add 1 1/2 aeropress scoops of ground coffee (or 3 tbsp) *it's a really, really good idea to use the funnel to add the coffee. If grinds get into the top, step 6 might get tricky!

  3. Fill with water to just above the #1 and just below the rim.

  4. Wait 30 seconds, then stir.

  5. Fill with water again up to #1. Set timer.

  6. Screw lid (with pre-wet filter in it) to the top chamber. (*We hope you used the funnel in step 2, or this could get awkward.)

  7. When timer reaches 2 minutes, turn over* and press.

*Turning over is really just like pouring from a regular spout. Turn it confidently, and you will have no problem.  

METHOD #2: SCAA RECOMMENDATION. 

Recipe: 33g fine grind coffee, 113g (mL) of water

METHOD:

  1. Place filter in Aeropress & preheat by pouring hot water through it.

  2. Add coffee to bottom chamber of Aeropress & place on scale; tare scale to zero with cup underneath the Aeropress.

  3. Start timer and add 113g (mL) of water.

  4. When all the water has been added, stir the slurry (coffee & water mixture).

  5. When timer reaches 1 minute, stir slurry, add top chamber and press like mad.

This will produce a concentrated drink that can be enjoyed on its own or can be diluted with equal parts hot water to produce a more American-like beverage. 

How To Brew Aeropress Coffee

How To Brew: French Press

METHOD #1: LEVEL GROUND'S FAVOURITE METHOD

Recipe: 55g coarse grind coffee, 1L of water

METHOD:

  1. Add ground coffee into press

  2. Add water, just off the boil. Pour water in with lots of turbulence, saturating the grounds

  3. Stir with a non-metalic spoon

  4. Place the lid on, and press just below level

  5. Let stand for 4 minutes

  6. Press. Pour. Enjoy!

 

Check out our video instructional below!

 

 

 

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METHOD #2: SCAA RECOMMENDATION

Recipe: 40g medium-coarse grind coffee, 672g (mL) of water

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Method:

  1. Preheat your french press with hot water

  2. Place freshly ground coffee in press

  3. Start the timer & begin pouring hot water into the press

  4. Completely saturate the grounds with all the water. Stir.

  5. Place the lid with the plunger up on the press

  6. When the timer is at 2 minutes, remove the lid & stir the coffee again

  7. Using two spoons, skim the oils & remaining floating grounds off the top of the brew. This will produce a cleaner cup & will stop the coffee from extracting

  8. Place the plunger back on top & press down slowly

  9. Decant into your favourite mug.

 

How To Brew French Press Coffee

Fair Trade Verification vs. Certification.

This post was written by the Fair Trade Federation. The original post can be found on their website here.

Level Ground is proud to be a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation community, committed to 360° fair trade. fairtradefederation.org


Fair trade verification and certification are often mistakenly used interchangeably in North America. Although they both use the words “fair trade,” these approaches differ. We hope this information is helpful in understanding the diverse practices in the fair trade movement.

 

Verification

Fair trade verification is an evaluation of a wholesale or retail organization. To become verified and a member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), the organization must make a full commitment to our nine fair trade principles for all products and practices. They must uphold what we call 360° fair trade, making sure the well-being of the artisans and farmers is at the heart of every business decision. An important part of this commitment is paying at or above a living wage: a reliable wage to the artisans and farmers which can cover all of their needs, including food, shelter, education, and health care for their families. FTF businesses work with farmer and artisan partners that are typically ignored by conventional corporations and struggle to compete in the global market. The Fair Trade Federation is a proud member of the World Fair Trade Organization, an allied membership organization that works to promote holistic fair trade organizations globally.

Though the approaches differ, verification and certification are not mutually exclusive. A number of U.S. and Canadian businesses are both verified by the Fair Trade Federation and have certified products.

To see a list and/or search for verified fair trade companies, visit the FTF search engine.  To learn more about the verification process, see our post on how FTF verifies its member businesses.

Certification

Fair trade certification is offered by organizations such as Fair for Life, Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade USA. Certifiers perform in-person audits of a producer organization or site of an ingredient, product, or product line according to the fair trade standards set by each organization (see their websites above for further information regarding their standards). Important requirements of certification include paying at or above the designated minimum fair trade price, which acts as a safety net when market prices fall, as well as paying an additional fair trade premium. This premium goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use, as they see fit, to improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Fair Trade Verification and Certification

8 Ways to Make Better Coffee Right Now

1. Clean your equipment

Don’t be afraid to really pull apart your machine and give it a deep clean. Whether it is a coffee pot, French press, or any other method, soap and water will do the trick. We recommend cleaning it frequently, as coffee oils can build up on your equipment and will impart unwanted flavours on your cup.

 

2. Buy good beans

You’re going to get out of your cup of coffee what you put into it. Here’s what to look for when buying coffee beans:

  • Arabica beans (watch out for Robusta, those beans are used as a cheap filler).
  • Small-batch roasted – this allows for greater control and roasting perfection.
  • Transparency on origin – you want to know where your favourite beans are coming from. Roasters that identify the origin are not likely to be hiding lower quality beans.

(Buy our great coffee beans here!)

 

3. Make sure it’s fresh

Coffee peaks about 7 – 21 days after roasting. While that isn’t realistic to always find (unless you live beside a roaster), we recommend you look for coffee that was roasted between one and three months ago.

Some methods are more forgiving than others. Espresso requires fresh beans and careful attention, where more forgiving methods, like French Press and drip brewer, can produce a decent cup with more variance in beans.

 

4. Brew it right

Although we all think we’re experts at “eyeballing” it when it comes to scooping coffee, there is nothing like following the golden ratio (1 part coffee to 17.42 parts water). But all you need to remember is the recipe for each type of coffee:

If you like to use a traditional drip brewer, try out this method, which uses 60g of coffee for a 12-cup pot.

French press lovers, we recommend 55g of coffee for a 1L press, but you can see a full recipe here

 

5. Try a new method, like Chemex or Aeropress.

Coffee is all about getting a flavour you like. If the way you’re preparing coffee isn’t doing it for you (or you just want to branch out), why not try some of these methods:

Chemex – This attractive method produces an incredibly clean cup of coffee. It can be a little difficult to master, but with a scale and a bit of practice you’ll be golden. See our full step-by-step method here.

Aeropress – Although it may appear daunting thanks to its modular appearance, the Aeropress is surprisingly easy to use. Plus, it’s super handy to pack for travelling. See our full step-by-step method here. 

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6. Store it in a cool, dark place

Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air. If you don’t like to keep your coffee in the packaging you bought it in, make sure you transfer it to an airtight container that won’t let light in. A tin-tie, zipper, or seal will help keep the air out, and lock the freshness in.

 

7. No, not your freezer

Somehow a rumour got started that the freezer is a good place for your coffee, but don’t fall for it! When beans are taken in and out of a freezer, condensation happens. Moisture and coffee are not friends! Any benefit you might have gained from freezing the beans is quickly nullified.

 

8. Don’t be afraid to drink your coffee the way you like it

The best cup of coffee is the cup that you prefer. While so-called “coffee connoisseurs” will try to convince you it’s a sin to put sugar in your cup, we firmly believe that you should do what you like! If you like a splash of cream, go for it! If you prefer it black, enjoy that. And if you like 2 tablespoons of sugar, we’re certainly not going to fault you for it.

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Why isn't our Colombia Coffee organic?

In 1997, our first trade relationship was with a co-operative of coffee farmers in Colombia. That relationship, which is close to our hearts, remains today. These coffee beans, which you may know as our Colombia, Decaf, and French Roast, are not organic; we wanted to take the time to explain why.

Our Colombian coffee is not organic certified. We buy from small-scale farmers who grow coffee and other crops without pesticides, but they do use fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. 

 

What is the difference between Pesticides and Fertilizers?

Pesticides are used to eliminate and prevent pests and insects from farms. Pesticides include: insecticides, weed control and rodent poisons. Fertilizers, on the other hand, are organic or inorganic compounds that feed plants with required nutrients. The basic mentality difference between the two is that pesticides aim to kill, while fertilizers aim to grow. 

When a farmer uses either pesticides or fertilizers, their crop cannot be certified organic.  

 

Why don't the farmers switch their practice to organic? 

Farmers choose fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. In Colombia, coffee is a cash crop that many families rely on for income. Organic isn't about higher income for farming families. Often, organic is about sacrificing yield, which means lower income for families.

The journey towards organic is costly for farmers: third party inspectors need to visit, collect data and samples, and write a report card. Farmers have to follow standardized protocols and keep logs of everything they do. This is more than just a financial barrier for illiterate farmers. 

 

The process of Fair Trade is never easy. In an effort to maintain relationships and support Colombian farming families, we're committed to continuing to purchase this coffee that we have been buying for 20 years! 

 Stacey (Co-founder) & the face of our French Roast coffee, Luis. 

Stacey (Co-founder) & the face of our French Roast coffee, Luis. 

The story of our compostable packaging

In 2004, we went landfill free. 

Then, we introduced a reclamation and upcycling program for our coffee packages.

Now, we've taken another step in reducing our carbon footprint by launching a compostable coffee package. (The main ingredient? Made in Canada FSC certified wood pulp!)


WHAT IS THE PACKAGE MADE OF?

FSC certified paper, NatureFlex film, adhesive and bioplastic.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH THE PACKAGE WHEN I'M DONE WITH IT?

1. Compost it in your backyard

2. Bring it to one of our Reclamation Stations (available at many grocery stores) and we will compost it

CAN I PUT IT IN MY MUNICIPAL COMPOST BIN?

Most composting facilities only accept food scraps. Level Ground is trying to work with commercial composters, who are prepared to manage the longer composting time required for packaging. The reality is that our technology is ahead of where the waste management industry is currently. You are always welcome to send packaging back to us, and we will compost it.

CAN I COMPOST IT IN MY BACKYARD?

You can! Especially if you live in a mild climate and have composting skills. Cutting the package open and laying it flat will help speed things up. Remember to mix in lots of organic material like food scraps.

WILL IT KEEP MY COFFEE FRESH?

Yes! This packaging material is a high oxygen barrier film and will keep your coffee fresh. Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air; this package does both wonderfully!

How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?

How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?

Level Ground Decaf Coffee goes through a natural water process that results in a cup that is 97+% decaffeinated.

This means that there is anywhere from .8-3 mg of caffeine per serving rather than the traditional 40-100 mg depending on extraction method and volume.

 

How is the coffee decaffeinated? 

Our decaf coffee starts out as the same amazing Colombian coffee that you know from the brown Level Ground package (the one with Jaime's smiling face).  The difference is that once the Colombian green coffee is ready for export, the beans that are destined for decaf are sent to DESCAFECOL (a Colombian company).  Why decaffeinate in Colombia? Our intention is to provide as much value to the country of origin as possible.   We think one of the reasons our decaf tastes so amazing is that the green coffee is going through the decaffeination process so soon after harvest - super fresh beans.

DESCAFECOL uses a special combination of pure water and ethyl acetate (EA) which allows for a gentle caffeine extraction from the coffee bean.

EA may sound like a scary chemical, but in fact it is obtained from natural sources like sugar cane (which grows in Colombia). EA can also be found in many natural products including fruits, vegetables, and coffee. 

Once the decaffeinated coffee arrives here at Level Ground, we roast and package and then we sleep well knowing we've given you less caffeine in your cup.

The following is a diagram of the process, courtesy of DESCAFECOL.

 

 

 

Fair Trade, Free Trade: Similar in Name Only

This post was written by Rachel L. Spence of the Fair Trade Federation. The original post can be found on their website here.

The Fair Trade Federation is a community of like-minded businesses based in the U.S. and Canada that are committed to 360° fair trade. Our 360° fair trade approach is about building long-term partnerships with artisans and farmers and striving to create positive change through all of our work. fairtradefederation.org


During this election season “free trade” and “fair trade” have become topics of interest and debate, both on the front pages and in the minds of voters and consumers. Due to the similarity of the phrases there is often confusion and misunderstanding about their meaning. It is common to hear the terms used interchangeably or to hear the phrase “fair trade” in contexts unrelated to the fair trade movement.

The objectives and approaches to free and fair trade are illustrated in the descriptions and chart below. We hope this information helps guide tricky conversations and combat ongoing misperceptions. 

FREE TRADE

Free trade has played a major role in countries’ trade policies and the international trading system for the past few decades. Free trade is guided by government policies and agreements, such as the divisive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a transnational trade agreement between 12 nations in the Asia-Pacific and Americas. Free trade and free trade agreements (FTAs) focus on lowering tariffs, quotas, and regulatory barriers to trade between countries. Free trade does not focus on the equitable distribution of wealth. Rather, free trade agreements often reduce preferential policies for specific countries and industries, with the stated goal of improving the overall economic growth of participating nations.

FAIR TRADE

The fair trade movement is an approach to development in which businesses partner with artisans and farmers to create more equitable trading relationships. Fair trade organizations are guided by overarching principles that seek to empower marginalized producers and improve the quality of their lives. The fair trade movement is driving change through ensuring living wages and safe working conditions in disadvantaged areas of the world as well as empowering the communities with long-term commitments and relationships. The Fair Trade Federation supports the 360° fair trade approach, in which our member companies focus on creating positive change – socially, environmentally, and economically – throughout their entire business.

 Roastmaster Josh (right), shares a laugh with our farming partners in Ethiopia.

Roastmaster Josh (right), shares a laugh with our farming partners in Ethiopia.