Grand Larseny



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What Makes Them Pro’s

So after digitizing my thoughts about roasting your own coffee instead of purchasing it online, I’ve done the opposite the past month. See, we had to pack up the roaster during our move (oh yeah, we’re moving houses), so I couldn’t do it. Yes, this makes me a hypocrite and you should probably feel better about yourself because you’re not me. Aren’t you so smart.

Turns out, professional roasters really know what they’re doing. Who woulda thought that passionately working on your craft each day would make you better than the guy who passionately works for fifteen minutes or so a week. Plus having a coffee roaster that didn’t start out it’s life as a Ronco Rotisserie Chicken Roaster helps. In any case, the beans I’ve been getting the past month have been better in most every way. In a strange way this is a very good thing.

Now I know where I need to improve and where I’m doing well. I am getting good green beans, and this is a great start. Some of the professionally roasted beans clearly start out as good, but not great, greens. You can tell in the cup since they don’t absolutely sing, and since the roaster isn’t crowing about all the specifics of where the coffee comes from. Other times I have been able to tell because they actually say it’s from a large farm (such as La Minita in Costa Rica). These coffees are good, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t hold a candle to the great coffees I’ve been getting from places like PT’s Coffee and Terroir. My roasts don’t come close either.

I definitely can improve in my roast stability. That is, after the roast I find way too much variance between the beans in roast level, at least visually. It might be interesting to split up a batch into lighter and darker tones after roasting to see if there’s really a difference in taste. I imagine most of this variance is due to not having a slot-loading roaster. In order to load the beans into the roaster it must be cool (or at least it takes so long to load the beans it is cool by the time they are loaded). Since the roaster is starting from a low temp it is my hope that getting a slot-loading roaster will fix the variance I’m seeing.

In all this has been a very tasteful and insightful month. Oh, and I’m getting coffee from Square Mile next. Jealous?

Skip the Ship

Yes, that’s a pun. Don’t judge me.

Buying roasted coffee honestly isn’t terribly more expensive than buying good green coffee in bulk from a well respected source such as Sweet Maria’s. All the little value-adds that a roaster provides such as sourcing1, roasting2, and packaging are actually done really well, in such a way that the difference between high quality green coffee beans and buying from a roaster really are just a few bucks. When you get right down to it, high quality coffee beans themselves are what make for good coffee, so it only makes sense that the source of those beans sees the benefits of their labor. No, the cost that I just can’t swallow is the shipping.

Shipping is going to be expensive, and there’s just no way around it. More than that, due to the nature of coffee as a fruit you’re going to have to ship frequently if you don’t have an amazing roaster in your town. At best there will be two shipments per month with a few months where you might be able to swing just one coffee shipment. Multiply that by $6, the best standard price per pound of coffee, and you’re looking at around an additional $20 per month, just for shipping.

That’s insane, and there’s no way around it. It makes me angry just thinking about it, because there’s no way around it, the cost is just there. The delivery company should be paid to take produce hundreds or thousands of miles. There’s no way to buy in bulk to cut down on the number of shipments because then the coffee goes stale before you can drink it. Game over, man. Game over.

However, sometimes the only way out is through. You have to delve deeper into coffee by roasting your own to win. See, green coffee has a shelf life measured in months, not weeks, so you can buy in bulk to cut down on the number of shipments. And since you’re roasting yourself you can make sure your coffee is always fresh. Just make sure you roast new coffee while you still have a couple days supply of the old roasted coffee available to drink while the fresh roast degases. And if you’re a nerd, and let’s be honest here you most certainly are, getting to play around with the fiddly aspects of roasting coffee is right up your alley. Because boy, howdy, are there ever some fiddly aspects to roasting coffee3.

Let me make a prediction, if you do decide to roast your own coffee you will experience some of the worst, strangest flavors as well as some truly great, rewarding coffee. It’s a game, nerds, and you can figure it out.

Lastly, even though your roasting your own you’ll want to occasionally get it from the pros. Memory has the stability of Silly-Putty, so you need to keep being reminded what others are doing to get a feel for what’s possible. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your usual suspects, either.

There’s a lot of good coffee out there, and I’d be happy to try some of your tasty, tasty coffee to tell you what I think. You know, I’m just thoughtful like that.

  1. What beans you decide to get and where you get them from
  2. Roasting expertise that comes from experience
  3. I’ve been doing this a little while now and the biggest jump in the quality of my roasts came from an off-the-cuff tip by a professional roaster who’s been doing this for years. Told me to make sure and cool the roast in four minutes. Made all the difference

Currently Brewing: Ethiopia Dry Process Bench Maji Biftu

This morning is the first morning for a dry processed Ethiopian coffee I’ve got, and it is everything yesterday’s Costa Rica is not.  It’s the cartoonish, melodramatic teenager to the tweed and leather jacket restraint shown in the Costa Rican cup.  Both are good in their own rite, but the Ethiopian is just hard to ignore.

You smell fruit, then you taste fruit, then you taste more fruit after you’re done drinking.  Tom (of SweetMaria’s) describes the fruit as mainly stewed peaches, and I can definitely see where he’s coming from.  I wouldn’t have chosen stewed peaches mainly because I’ve never had them.  However, I can imagine stewed peaches tasting like this.  I also went slightly darker with this roast, and there’s just hints of chocolate on the middle of my tongue.

The body is pretty subdued for me right now.  Not too much going on, just a slightly creamy mouthfeel.  Definitely enjoyable.

I should also note that I’m using a metal filtered AeroPress for this coffee, so that probably is affecting the flavor some.  It’s good.  I might try a paper filter tomorrow, though, to see if there’s any differences in the body.

 

 

Currently Brewing: Costa Rica La Legua

This bourbon coffee is amazing.  I love it.  More than that, it’s one of those coffees where I’ve really been able to single out the flavors I’m tasting.  Maybe that’s why I love it.  Well, that and it’s so dang good.
 
I’ve roasted this coffee a couple times now, and it’s interesting the way the taste changes as you move the roast level.  Right now it’s closer to a City roast than Full City (maybe a light City+), but it’s still great.  Sweet from the first sip, it kinda taste like pipe tobacco smells, and that’s a great thing to me.
 
Hopefully I’ll detail more about how I roast the coffees soon.  Hello future me, did you remember to record how the roasts went?

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