Using Day One to Track Coffee Processing

hero-dayone-icon@2xSometimes I get the feeling Day One is used by many as everything but a standard journaling app — and I certainly mean that in a complimentary way. I’ve previously written about how I use the app for logging workouts (the recent regularity and frequency of which we won’t talk about if you don’t mind). Since that time, Day One has been refined and updated, yet retained its core features and attractive UI which so many users have come to love.

As the title of this post suggests, this is not a review of Day One as such — more so another in that long list of use cases I’ve linked to above, in which the app excels at being used for a specific purpose.

Exactly two years ago I ran a little experiment on coffee processing using the wet or washed method, and documented the experience in a series of posts titled Crop to Cup.. I am currently in the very early stages of a follow-up experiment to see how a small crop of coffee tastes after I process the fruit using dry processing methods. Clearly an undertaking which requires monitoring and data collection along the way — enter Day One.

What is Day One?

Although I am sure most readers are well aware of this beautiful Mac and iOS App, however for those perhaps not yet acquainted, the developers is summed up by the developer as follows:

Day One is a journaling app for the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Record life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One’s elegant interface makes journaling your life a simple pleasure.

I’d certainly agree with that sentiment, though I’d encourage you to see what the fuss is about for yourself if you haven’t already. Of course there is a significant amount of information on the Day One website, however for a review about as beautiful as the app itself, there is none better than this one over at The Newsprint.

The project

Nat process_publish

As I mentioned above, coming up in a post or two in the near future will be my attempts at a small experiment in dry processing of some coffee grown in the yard of my parents house in northern NSW. The coffee will be sun-dried with either the entire cherry intact (“Natural” process) or with the outer flesh removed first(“Pulped Natural” or “Honey”) process. More on this in future posts.

Although hardly a large-scale endeavour (or an overly professional one for that matter), I will need a record of how things progress over the course of approximately a month as the coffee transforms from its current state to something resembling being done1.

In considering my options here, when thinking about recording recurring data over a number of days, my thoughts invariably turn to spreadsheets. Immediately thereafter my thoughts then turn to the fact that I am buried in spreadsheets on a daily basis and considering combining an enjoyable hobby with this type of data analysis makes my stomach turn a little. If a spreadsheet was by far and away the best solution I would of course use it, however when other options are available I’d prefer to head in another direction.

Why Day One?

Ideally, I’d prefer something much more attractive and enjoyable to use for recording this data. Upon thinking about the sort of information relevant to my aims, the first items on the list are a daily photographic record and weather data, and therefore Day One was the obvious choice. The Day One About page provides a list of the data providing context to each entry:

Each Day One entry automatically tracks:

• Photo EXIF data

• Temperature and weather data

• Locations

• Time and date

• Activity data – Motion and step count

• Music playing

All well and good (with the bottom two from the above list not required here), however what about relevant data not automatically captured by Day One? Probably the key here is the relative humidity (the number one enemy of dry processing), over and above simple temperature data. I assume Day One simply pulls in the system weather information, which in itself, does not include humidity. Manually entering this as not a major issue, with the advantage of having what is recorded automatically by Day One providing a significant head start over a manually maintained spreadsheet.

Regardless of which system I use, there is the requirement for some sort of “Additional Comments” section, and it is here I will simply add the humidity reading (easily obtained with one tap from the best iOS local weather app there is: Pocket Weather Australia), along with information on how often I turn the drying beans (hint — it’ll be often), and anything additional worth commenting on for that particular day.

I don’t anticipate capturing a lot of additional information, as things will be fairly standardised day-to-day, however any significant changes or data outliers/modifiers will be noted specifically. As this additional data will in itself be fairly similar day-to-day, a customised template using Launch Center Pro might also be on the cards.

Nat process entriesNat process sing entry

Of course the non project-critical feature of sharing through Day One’s Publish feature will allow me to Tweet daily updates of the drying beans for your viewing pleasure. No — of course I won’t! Ever watched paint dry? Perhaps the occasional one… maybe. The benefits of organisation by tag, along with rock solid sync and export options (PDF, with entries for export selectable by tag on iOS), will also keep my data organised, safe, and allow a better overview of how things went when the processing is complete.

One feature which would have been nice is the ability to upload multiple photos per entry, thus keeping each day to a single entry2. No real complaints here though, as the Day One Newsletter tells me this is coming (along with refinements to the interface and multiple journals) in version 2.0, which will hopefully arrive before the end of the year.

Conclusion

Overall, Day One is just about perfect for what I require in terms of data collection and handling for a project of this nature and size. It’s a pity there is no “taste guarantee” built in to the app — for that I’ll just have to take my chances.

Irrespective of how things turn out, the entire process will be far more tasteful using Day One for recording purposes than the bitterness of nibbling on another spreadsheet every day.

Here’s to an enjoyable (and hopefully successful) journey, with a glorious cup of “natural process” coffee at the end. Wish me luck.

  1. More detail on this in a future post, for in my typical fashion I am learning as I go here. ↩︎
  2. I could of course merge two photos into one using another app, however this adds additional steps compared to simply opening Day One and snapping away. ↩︎

What’s Brewing #11 – Costa Rica Terra Bella

Terra Bella LatteIt has been a little while since the last What’s Brewing post, however back we are today, having roasted another batch of Costa Rica Terra Bella (Honey) last weekend. Having picked up a kilo of this coffee from Ministry Grounds a few weeks ago, this was my second roast batch, which seemed to do a better job at bringing out the flavours than the first attempt.

On with the review:

What
Costa Rica Terra Bella Villa Sarchi
– Altitude: 1450–1500m
– Crop Year: 2013
– Varietal: Villa Sarchi
– Processing: Honey

 Terra Bella Estate is located in the West Valley region of Costa Rica, about 35km west of the capital city of San Jose. This is one of the most classic coffee regions of Costa Rica and the one with the highest coffee production in the country nowadays. The reason for this is the excellent conditions to produce coffee that are prevalent here: deep, rich volcanic soils, high altitudes, moderate and well-distributed rainfall, cool temperatures, etc.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds via The MTC Group

A little more on the Honey processing method, courtesy of The Coffee Review:

“Honey” is a relatively new term describing coffee that has been dried with all or some of the sticky fruit pulp or “honey” (miel in Spanish) still adhering to the bean. Those familiar with coffee processing methods will, of course, recognize this practice as a kind of compromise between two more familiar processing methods: the dry or “natural” method, in which the beans are dried while entirely encased inside the fruit, and the wet or “washed” method, in which all of the soft fruit residue, both skin and pulp, are scrubbed off before the coffee is dried.

How
Latte, V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso

Assessment
Through milk in a latte or flat white, this coffee performed extremely well and resulted in a creamy, sweet brew with subtle apple and caramel flavours. When brewed as an espresso, I couldn’t help but think perhaps I should have let the roast run a little darker, as the acidity overpowered things a little. Not undrinkable by any stretch, however not quite as pleasant as some of the other varieties I’ve roasted and tried recently.

Which brings us to the V60 filter and Aeropress methods, which seemed well suited to both the coffee and the roast profile, producing a very well-balanced cup from either method. The V60 probably outshines the Aeropress slightly, with a cleaner, brighter cup, again containing sweet apple and a caramelly, honey like layer, with a nice long finish.

Conclusion; Know This
I really enjoyed the Costa Rica Terra Bella, with my preference being either as a milk drink, or on its own through the V60. As I mentioned above, this was my second roast batch, and definitely an improvement on the first. Looking back through my notes, the second time around was a slightly larger batch (450g vs 300g), which probably slowed the roast down a little, although I used the same heat ramp profile. In any event, if you get the chance to try this coffee, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 3.75/5

Crop to Cup – Part 5 | Tasting

Photo 22-10-2013 4 25 25 am

Here we go, the finale in the Crop to Cup series, where we sample the end result of the past 6 weeks caring for and nurturing (let’s be honest – processing) our microlot of coffee beans. As you can see by the image above, it was going to go one of two ways. Over this time we have worked through pulping and fermentation (Crop to Cup – Part 1); drying (Crop to Cup – Part 2, and Crop to Cup – Part 3); and hulling (Crop to Cup – Part 4) prior to roasting.

After such a long process, my concern was that I would be somewhat biased about the result. Also, given I had such a small amount, how was I going to brew? After setting aside half of the massive 27 gram (roasted) crop to return to the generous barista who gave me the coffee cherries in the first place, only enough remained for a single brew, whichever method I chose.

After much deliberation, I went with my Hario V60. My rationale being I wanted a method that would allow me to assess the coffee on its own merits rather than being combined with milk, and in the knowledge that the returned beans to my barista friend would be tasted as an espresso. The V60 seemed like a good fit as I would be able to enjoy six or so weeks worth of care and attention for a little longer, rather than having an espresso that was both created and consumed in a flash. Though in saying that, I would also be in for a longer period of disappointment and torture if the resulting brew was horrible.

Photo 22-10-2013 4 30 44 am

So, how did it turn out?

The Whack

What
Jen’s Australian Microlot
Harvest Year: 2013
Wet processed; sun dried
Sorry, no further information regarding the exact origin of these beans!

How
Hario V60 Pourover

Assessment
The section I have been waiting to get to for some time now!

In summary, the resulting brew was fairly ordinary, however drinkable none the less. Overall, it lacked any real body and had minimal sweetness, even as the brew cooled. Underneath there were some very mild floral and herby notes doing their best to be tasted. Accompanying these were some earthy flavours which thankfully did not overpower the brew, though lingered in an aftertaste that was a little, shall we say … strange.

Generally speaking, none of the flavours really overpowered the brew, making it a little “flat” overall. Given the light to medium roast of the beans, perhaps in retrospect I should have roasted them a little darker.

Feedback from my barista friend on the espresso experience was not positive at all. The concentrated form of an espresso shot seemed to magnify everything that was wrong with the beans, particularly the lack of any discernible body. I am told it was quite a flavourless experience.

Conclusion; Know This
In conclusion, although a little labour intensive, processing from the original cherries into something I could roast and then brew was a very satisfying experience. Yes, the taste test above did not reveal anything outstanding, however the brew was certainly drinkable and knowing that both the roast and brewing variables could be tweaked and improved if more of the “raw materials” were available was a promising sign for any future attempts.

I must also note here that I am comparing this with some fairly high quality beans I routinely purchase from Ministry Grounds Coffee, my usual supplier.

Rating : 2/5

If you have followed this 5 part series, thanks for sticking with it over the past couple of months. I hope it has given some insight into small batch coffee processing had you not already experienced it yourself. For me it will be back to the usual roasts and posts. I’m not sure if the labour intensive nature of processing from scratch suits my lifestyle. Then again, my mother did say there is a nice young coffee tree in a pot she is saving until my next visit. Perhaps I am about to become a grower as well…

Crop to Cup – Part 4

The fourth instalment in this Crop to Cup series looks at the final steps of processing, followed by the roasting of our “microlot” of coffee, kindly received straight off the tree from a barista friend about a month ago. As with anything, good things come to those who wait, and four weeks after starting, we are almost to the point of tasting the fruits of our labour.

To date, we have worked our way through Pulping, Fermentation (Crop to Cup – Part 1), Drying (Crop to Cup – Part 2), Drying again (yep – it took a while) (Crop to Cup – Part 3), and we continue on below.

4. Parchment Removal (Hulling)

In Part 3 of this series, drying continued in preparation for the final “hulling” or parchment removal prior to roasting. After a further two weeks drying (four in total) it was time to remove the parchment layer.

As I have written in previous posts, the beans being “dry enough” and the parchment ready for removal, is determined both by observing an appropriate drying time (approximately two weeks to a month), and having the parchment split easily off the inner bean upon attempted removal. According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF):

Inadequate drying – greater than 12 per cent moisture – will cause mouldiness and stale aroma during storage.

Upon proceeding with the hulling by hand (or rather thumbnail and finger), it is clear this is quite a labour intensive undertaking. After 1 hour, the parchment layer was removed from our crop, and we were a step further along in the process.

Photo 13-10-2013 5 41 17 am

Given the time and labour intensive nature of this part in the process, the DAFF suggests the following:

Place the beans, a small quantity at a time, in a food processor or similar type of blender. Use plastic blades to avoid breaking the coffee beans. Blend at low speed for approximately 30 seconds to remove the parchment from the beans.

My mother uses a similar approach, blending on low-speed for 8–9 seconds, which she finds removes much of the parchment layer without damaging the green bean inside. Whether done by hand or machine, you will be left with a fine outer layer of “silver skin” remaining on much of the bean. Enlisting the assistance of my son to provide a quick rubbing of the beans between his hands removed this final layer. Blowing away any remaining silver skin completes the process.

Photo 13-10-2013 5 47 51 am

We were now ready for roasting!

5. Roasting

With a dry weight of 35 grams, there was certainly no margin for error, and had me thinking I really should be calling this a “nanolot”, as “micro” probably doesn’t go far enough (yes an hour of hulling for 35 grams of green beans – as I said – very labour intensive!).

So proceed with care I did.

Photo 13-10-2013 6 01 02 am

The roast was undertaken via my usual breadmaker / heat gun set up which I have previously written about. The heat ramp was very slow, and the total roast time 12 minutes, with the beans pulled out 3 minutes after first crack. The result looked like a pretty even roast, and was cooled and bagged. A few days rest and it will be ready for tasting.

Photo 13-10-2013 6 07 14 am

Check back soon for the much anticipated taste test!

Crop to Cup – Part 3

photo (4)

Continued from Crop to Cup Part 1 and Part 2

If you have been reading this series of posts to date, you will know that for my wet processed micro lot I am following the steps listed below:

  1. Pulping
  2. Fermentation
  3. Drying
  4. Parchment removal (hulling)
  5. Roasting

The first two stages were outlined in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, along with the initial phase of stage 3, in which today we learn that patience is indeed a virtue.

3. Drying continued

Every day I walk past my drying rack, checking (and turning) the beans, as the remaining moisture is drawn out, courtesy of the great weather we have been having of late in South East QLD. No rain to speak of (though many gardens need it), and fairly low humidity (compared to usual levels) have made for what I would consider perfect ‘bean drying’ weather. Although the beans have been undercover and would not be directly affected by rain, the increased humidity and overall moisture in the air would likely have required a longer period of drying.

The ideal drying time?

For further information here we again refer to our two main sources:

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)

Whichever method of drying you use, the parchment on the coffee bean will dry to a pale straw colour and be brittle to touch. At this stage, test the dryness of the beans by removing the parchment by hand off several coffee beans. If dry, the bean inside should be greyish blue in colour, hard, and likely to break when bitten between the teeth, if not soft and chewy. If soft, continue the drying process.

The ‘methods’ of drying referred to above include the natural sun drying method I am following, or alternatively, a food dehydrator, which must be kept at 40 degrees celsius over the course of several days to complete the drying. Whilst a dehydrator may be a more rapid method of drying, some of the romance is lost, if I imagine hundreds of square metres of beans drying in the sun on a Colombian hillside. Though the strength of this argument wanes a little when my entire crop fits into my palms cupped together.

Anyway, for the current crop, sun drying it shall be.

My Mother

I usually leave it at least two weeks to dry out. Sometimes you might get away with 10 days or so, but two weeks just to be safe. Your best guide is to crack off the parchment layer with your thumbnail, and if you get a good split or cracking noise you can be fairly sure it is dry enough. Once I have removed this layer and simply have the green bean, a couple of days more drying will really finish them off.

We agreed that my planned two further weeks (making four in total) drying time would not be to the detriment of the end result (that is, be too long). The four week time frame is due to a holiday occurring in the middle of this process , rather than specifically planning a drying time of this length. I do note however this does coincide with the upper end of the 5–30 day recommendations of the DAFF.

Drying – Two Weeks In
As noted above, after two weeks I am now half way through my planned drying time and testing a couple of the beans would appear to show that everything is on track. You will see in the picture below that that the outer parchment is quite dry (it also comes away from the inner bean with a nice crack when pressure from my thumb is applied).

photo (5)

Referring to the DAFF instructions above, the bean is blue/grey in colour and feels reasonably hard, though I did not see the need to give it the ‘bite test’. In another two weeks I would expect the beans will be well and truly dry and begging to be roasted, at which time I will provide an update with another post.

In the mean time, have a look at my magazine Brew – Ways of Coffee on Flipboard for some great articles I have collected from around the web.