Saturday, September 03, 2011

A Continuous Journey

I started roasting in 2005 on a little one and a half kilo roaster from Korea.

The IMEX Digirosto 1500.

It came with three main profiles, each which had a multitude of roast levels -- about three or four, were actually useful. In addition, it could entirely manual as well. For me, it was about setting the profile to what I wanted, and controlling the beginning and the end of the roast. If the roaster did it's job during the bulk of the roast, the results would be good. Great in fact. Now I might have skipped over the 40 to 60 pounds of charred, unusable, and just plain wrong batches that I slogged through. But it forced me to understand the balance between technology and craft, between science and art.

You can poke your finger and it won't hurt a bit, but that's if you poke it with a marshmallow. Poke it with a pin, it might be a little uncomfortable, but you'll draw blood.

Understand the tool you are using, but more important, produce results.

In late 2007, I had the opportunity to install another roaster. Because there is no need for venting, and the technology intrigued me, I knew that the best roaster for my needs would be the one from Fresh Roast Systems.

This roaster is precision quantified.

Made primarily for use in large high-end markets where venting is not possible, I was one of the first small roaster-retailers able to use one.

And like anything else, it's a tool.

While it's initially simplistic in it's operation, it's nothing but simplistic.
I could now roast with much greater precision. Airflow. Drum speed. Drum charge temp. Roast start temp. Roast finish Temp. All comprised within the Roasting Profile to the second. What you have to remove is your ego. Understand that those things that you think you are detecting, you're not. How to blend, how to change a roast, that's mostly art. The process itself is more science than art. As art it's more intuition than definition.

Understand the capabilities of the tool. Use it to its potential.
As a roaster, it involves no less thorough study.

But with greater capability for precision there was a need for greater investigation in profiling. Peaberry, Pacamara, SHB, Medium-soft Brazils, Wet Processed, Dry Processed... and any other permutation and combination of cultivar and processing method.

There's always more to learn, and it's that continuous thirst for zeroing in on what's important and discarding the tasteless overly intellectual pablum that keeps me moving forward.

In the end, the results are in the cup.

And the journey will continue.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Espresso: Too soon is never "too soon"

Sometimes espresso is too fresh to use. But there are times when I need to pull shots sooner than expected. I usually wait several days after roasting before testing my espresso, but since we we're sold out on whole bean espresso, I needed to test a couple days earlier than usual.

At altitude espresso acts differently than at a lower elevation. What might be good at three to five days rest near the coast might need closer to seven days at altitude. So testing at less than 48 hours here involves some forecasting and manipulation.

I grind on the ultrafine end of espressodom, and knowing my components, I say 17 grams. Now keep in mind I'm just looking for tasting notes, not perfection at this point.

I pull the first shot and the crema is outrageously wild.

I tighten the grind a little more.

The crema is manageable and the aromatics are off the charts. Smell. Sip. Pause while my brain runs through my limited tasting vocabulary. Sip. Develop a mental tasting picture of the espresso. Finish. Ponder.

Now I stop pondering to think, and as I ponder my thoughts, I

Name it. Write it. Bag it.


"Soul Finger" -

This jazzy cacophony of flavors will leave you shouting joyously to the open ears of frantic handless pantomimes.

This three bean blend brings coffees from Sumatra Mandheling, Ethiopia Guji Quto Suke and a wonderful coffee from San Martin de Leon Cortes.

In the cup it's rhythmic raspberry and stone fruit with a punctuated praline-toffee sweetness.
Recommend: 198.5 – 199F, 17g, 28 S.

And it tastes exactly like it sounds.

This will be something special.