Recording coffee roast data – a new analogue option

Image courtesy 33 Books Co.

Though I’ve yet to get my hands on one directly, this bite from Sprudge recently caught my eye. The folk at 33 Books Co in Portland, Oregon, have just released a coffee roasting log: 33 Roasts, which looks just about perfect for an enthusiastic home roaster. Reading about this new offering triggered a few thoughts on how I’ve recorded my home roasting data in the past, and how I might continue from here.

Recording my roasts – so far

While there are many ways to record data when roasting your own green coffee, I’ve generally found analogue systems well suited to my needs, having tried digital methods on and off over the four years I’ve been roasting at home. If I could suggest one thing to someone considering having a go at home roasting, it is to record data somehow. The exact means is not important, however as trends emerge and you look to make adjustments, having something to refer back to is fairly valuable.

So how do I do it? The most obvious means of doing so given my fondness for all things analogue, is a notebook and pen. In the absence of setting up some form of more automated temperature logging and roasting software (the probe, thermocouple and roasting software based “HeatSnob” from Coffee Snobs for example), I have always relied on taking down data points manually (time, temperature and heat settings) — irrespective of whether these end up in something digital or remain on paper. After keeping things in Evernote for a short while, I ended up simply taking the relevant notes down in a pocket-sized Field Notes notebook, and have many filled to the brim with roasting records now safely stored in a shoe box.

Meaningful scrawl in a notebook

In recent months I’ve been using an infrared thermometer gun 1 to capture temperature readings, and manually entering the data on a per minute basis into a spreadsheet template I stumbled across online via the Home Barista Forum. The advantage of course being the roasting curves produced automatically as the data is entered, however I generally don’t have a look at these until the end of the roast, simply following the rate of rise by looking at the temperature change down the column as the roast progresses (also calculated automatically as I enter the raw temperature readings).

Raw data and curves

I’ve found it easier to take note of the readings rather than look at the curve, given I cannot really see it easily working in split view on my 9.7 inch iPad Air 2, with a third of the screen displaying the timer.2

Using one-third split view on iPad for the timer

I have enjoyed using this method, as I can see a visual curve of how the roast progressed, though at times it can become a little tiresome to manually capture and log the temperature readings every minute or so. Again, with dedicated, connected temperature probes this would be a breeze, however that might be a project for another time.

Why the move back to analogue then?

Well, the obvious why not? aside – even when using a spreadsheet, my notebook is always on hand, as I find in the heat of the moment around first crack, it is easier to keep an eye on things and scrawl down the time and temperature data by hand rather than worrying about entering data onto the spreadsheet. Given things can happen fairly quickly at that point in the roast, I usually fill in the blanks on the spreadsheet once the beans are out and cooling.

There are some apparent disadvantages to an analogue system in terms of search, and viewing or manipulating data, however remember we are not talking about a professional, commercial-scale roasting operation here (very far from it actually). Most times in the past I’ve flagged the great roasts and referred back to my previous records be they digital or analogue fairly easily anyway. Having recently begun creating a digital index of my analogue archives (irony not lost), I plan to get around to my roasting logs and do the same. Of course keeping on top of things like this as I go would be a much better idea. You might be surprised how easily things are found with a decently constructed and searchable index. Then again perhaps you might not, for I guess it is common sense really isn’t it.

Finally, there is a simplistic ease in opening a notebook and recording data, without setting up my iPad, opening Numbers, selecting a spreadsheet template, creating a new file, copying some tabs and then entering some preliminary information. Sure, analogue isn’t for everyone, however after using a few different systems (both digital and analogue) over the past four years, I’ve come to know what I like, what I need, and what works best for me.

Reason enough.

33 Roasts: A Coffee Roasting Log

Analogue is well… analogue. Why the need for a pre-formatted option such as this latest offering from the 33 Books company?

For one, I think they look fantastic, and the pre-formatted pages contain just about every field you might need (particularly as a home roaster), along with a notes field for any little extras. A graph to plot those data points on a curve? There as well. Add to that a ratings field for retrospectively adding tasting notes over subsequent days or weeks is also a nice touch.

Image courtesy 33 Books Co.

Speaking of nice touches — from 33 Books Co., something unable to be captured in a pixel:

A teeny, tiny amount of real freshly-roasted coffee is added to the ink in each new edition, which is cryptically noted on the back.

At 5×7 inches — or what I’d call just the right size, the log is similar to my current general note-taker in the Baron Fig Vanguard, or the new upsized Pitch Black Field Notes offering. Incidentally, one my favourite roasting logs in the past was the Field Notes Arts & Sciences edition, which came in at this same slightly larger-than-pocket size.

Signing off

In noting down these thoughts on my coffee roasting logs, of course I’ve yet to get my hands on one of those beauties from 33 Books Co., however the fine folk at Bookbinders are on the case and will come through with the goods pretty soon – of that I’m certain.

Having just taken delivery of a new coffee roaster (another post for another time), what better time to start afresh with my data logging process – and for that, the 33 Roast Log seems pretty much spot on.


  1. Although the readings lack validity, they are reliable for comparisons of minute to minute absolute temperature, and to monitor rate of rise over the course of the roast. ↩︎
  2. Yes I could indeed use my phone or some other time, however the size of the iPad screen is ideal to have the timer visible from a distance. ↩︎

Crop to Cup: The Complete Series

A little over two years ago I published a series of five posts outlining my initial foray into coffee processing. The technique I used at the time was a wet or washed method of taking recently picked coffee cherries through various stages to the point of roasting. While the end result was not outstanding in the cup, having been given the cherries with no information as to their exact source, type or quality, the whole process was always going to be a little hit and miss.

In saying that however, I was quite happy with how the actual processing techniques proceeded. I must admit to having quite an experienced mentor in the form of my mother, who has now been processing the coffee grown in the backyard for a number of years, culminating in a first place at the local Agricultural Society annual show just a few weeks ago.

As I am currently in the middle of experimenting with some natural processing methods, I thought it might be worthwhile combining those five posts (originally titled Crop to Cup Parts 1 through 5) and republishing them together. Hopefully what follows will provide a little context, and also highlight some of the differences between the two styles of processing when I eventually write about what I currently have underway.

Although none of the original posts were excessive in length, I have included a table of contents should you wish to jump to any particular section of the article.

What follows is essentially unedited from what was originally published, except to improve the formatting and for clarity. I hope you find it as interesting to read as I found it going through the process.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction, Pulping, and Fermentation

2. Transition to drying

3. Drying

4. Parchment Removal (Hulling) and Roasting

5. Tasting

1. Introduction, Pulping, and Fermentation (Top)

photo (1) While the title of this post may sound rather exotic, the reality is I have been lucky enough to be given a small, recently harvested crop of beautiful red coffee ‘cherries’. Receiving such a gift carries significant responsibility, and I am determined to process, roast and cup the resulting brew with all the dedication and care I can muster. As regular readers will know, I have been roasting at home for some time now (purchasing green beans online), however to this point have not processed beans straight from the tree.

This is a whole new ball game for me. How to proceed?

photo (3)photo (2)

The first step was a call to my parents, who grow, and therefore regularly process, roast and drink their own crop. Next, an internet search to see what is out there on this topic. I was surprised to find the most helpful instructions on my state government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website. For additional reading on the types of processing methods, the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) provides a good summary.

Wet or Dry Processing

Firstly, there are two options, wet or dry processing. What follows in the section below outlines the wet processing method I plan to use, said to “better preserve the intrinsic qualities of the bean”. This method is the one outlined on the state government website, and also the one my parents use.

In the dry processing method, the entire coffee cherries are dried in the sun for approximately 4 weeks (to a minimum 12.5% moisture content), followed by removal of all outer layers around the bean by hulling equipment. States the ICO:

The dry method is used for about 90 percent of the Arabica coffee produced in Brazil, most of the coffees produced in Ethiopia, Haiti and Paraguay, as well as for some Arabicas produced in India and Ecuador. Almost all Robustas are processed by this method.

Wet processing generally follows the procedure outlined below, though obviously on a fairly large scale for commercial operators. As opposed to the dry method, the seed is extracted and fermented first, the drying process then follows, again until the beans reach 12.5% moisture content. The beans are then stored, and the hulling process is completed just prior to export. Again from the (ICO):

The wet method is generally used for Arabica coffees, with the exception of those produced in Brazil and the Arabica-producing countries mentioned above as users of the dry method. It is rarely used for Robustas.

My wet processed micro lot

The wet processing technique I am using involves the following steps:

  • Pulping
  • Fermentation
  • Drying
  • Parchment removal (hulling)
  • Roasting
  • Brewing

Comparing the method my parents use with those online saw many similarities, with only some of the time frames differing a little in each stage. Today we will look at Pulping and Fermentation, and return in future posts as my drying process proceeds.

Pulping

Seed extraction in the pulping phase.
Seed extraction in the pulping phase.

Here we are removing all of the skin and pulp (flesh) from the cherry, and extracting both halves of the coffee ‘seed’ from inside, and should occur as soon as possible after harvesting. Be sure to discard any under-ripe (green) or overripe (black) fruit which will reduce the quality of what ends up in the cup.

This process can either be done by hand (squeezing each cherry between your thumb and finger), or in the bottom of a bucket using a piece of wood to squash the fruit, resulting in the seeds being forced out from the flesh. Adding water will then allow removal of the skins and one other critical element – any floating beans. Good coffee beans will not float, and those that do should be discarded as they are unusable, and will spoil the batch.

Removal of floating beans (left); fermentation (right).
Removal of floating beans (left); fermentation (right).

Fermentation

There is not a lot to say about this step, apart from the fact it should last anywhere from 18-48 hours to a few days, and involves natural enzymes breaking down the ‘mucilage’ (the outer slippery substance) around the parchment layer. Fermentation should be done in a plastic bucket or container (metal may affect the taste), with the entire bean mass covered by water. To test for completeness of this phase, washing a small amount of beans should see the ‘slippery’ coating disappear, resulting in a clean, gritty feel. If so, agitate and wash the remaining beans until he water is clear (again removing any that float), which may take several washes. Once washed and clean, the beans are then ready for drying.

At the time of writing this post, the pulping is completed, and the beans are sitting fermenting…

2. Transition to drying (Top)

Coffee drying in the sun. Dolka Plantation Cos...
Coffee drying in the sun. Dolka Plantation Costa Rica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the fermentation phase now complete, we move on to the drying phase of processing. You may remember from the first part of this series, coffee processing is broken up into the following stages, as described by both the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and my mother, who is very experienced and knowledgeable in these matters:

  • Pulping
  • Fermentation
  • Drying
  • Parchment removal (hulling)
  • Roasting
  • Brewing

At the completion of Crop to Cup Part 1, we left the beans fermenting in water at stage 2 above. I was a little unsure of how long this may take (72 hours or up to a week), though armed with the knowledge this phase would be complete when the mucilage (slippery outer layer) was easily rubbed away. Daily testing was undertaken, until on day 7 (exactly as predicted by my mother), rubbing one of the beans between thumb and finger resulted in a slightly gritty/pebbly feel rather than a slippery one.

Time to move on to drying.

Drying

Once the beans have fermented for long enough, they are required to undergo a final wash and rinse, before being laid out on drying beds. In aid of passing down the coffee loving tradition to the next generation, my son was enlisted to rub off the mucilage, with repeated washes then performed to remove any remaining on the outside of the bean. Agitating the beans and replacing the water over three washes was sufficient to achieve this. Washing

Looking back to our Department of Agriculture guide, the drying process is described as follows:

The beans should be spread out in a thin layer no more than 3 cm thick, stirred three times a day, and be protected from rainy weather. Drying in this way can take 5-30 days, depending on the seasonal weather pattern.

As you can see below, an initial drying of the beans was done on a small towel, before transfer to a drying rack to allow plenty of airflow around the beans. The rack is situated under cover to avoid any weather or dew, however sees the mid to late afternoon sun, which should assist with drying. Given the small crop I am processing, a single layer of beans was placed on the drying bed, with little chance of any mould formation (the reason for stirring daily), though I aim to ensure the beans are turned regularly.

Drying

I hope you will join me in a couple of weeks for the next post in this series, where we will be up to removing the remaining parchment layer and roasting our crop!

3. Drying (Top)

photo (4)

The first two stages of this process 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.

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.

…and from 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 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.

4. Parchment Removal (Hulling) and Roasting (Top)

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.

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!

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!

5. Tasting (Top)

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 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 Taste Test

The coffee

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

Method

Hario V60 Pourover

The Result

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

In summary, the resulting brew was fairly ordinary, however drinkable nonetheless. 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.

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…


What’s Brewing: Ethiopia Tade GG Guji Shakiso

My intent when sourcing beans from Ethiopia is usually to find some luscious red berry flavours in the cup. With tasting notes of red berry, peach and apricot, this coffee from the Guji zone in Southern Ethiopia sounded pretty interesting, and definitely worth a try.

The Region

Information courtesy of Wikipedia

Guji is one of the zones in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia, named after a tribe of the Oromo people. It is bordered on the south by Borena, the west by the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, and on the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale. To the east is the Somali Region.

The highest point in Guji is Mount Dara Tiniro, and the zone also contains its administrative centre, the town of Negele.

The Coffee

  • Ethiopia Tade GG Guji Shakiso
  • Region: Oromia
  • Farm: Tade GG
  • Elevation: 1830 – 1950m
  • Owner: Tesfaye Bekele
  • Varietal: Heirloom
  • Crop Year: 2015
  • Processing: washed
  • Tasting notes: Peach and floral aroma, clean, med/high white grape acidity, full juicy body, med sweetness, notes of peach, apricot, candied red berry and soft florals with a clean smooth finish.
women-coffee-farmers-in-ethiopia-sort-coffee-beans-to-produce-higher-quality-specialty-725x483
Bean sorting for quality control in Ethiopia (Public Domain Images)

More on the Tade GG farm from Ministry Grounds:

Tade GG is a private, certified organic farm owned by Tesfaye Bekele. The farm is 221 hectares in area and lies between 1830 and 1950 meters above sea level. The landscape is characterised by sharp and rugged hills, ridges, plateaus, valleys and flats creating stunningly dramatic setting. The coffee is pulped, fermented for 35-48 hours, then washed and dried in parchment for 9-15 days on elevated beds.

The Brew

Having roasted the Tade GG for both filter and espresso, each form of brewing was probably on par with the other — that is, very good, although not quite as rich in the berry and fruit flavours I had been expecting.

As a filter brew in the Hario V60 there were prominent flavours of candied berry, with a medium body, and a crisp, clean – though fairly short finish.

Brewing as espresso brought out a little more of the peach and berry flavours, with a fuller, juicier body, and smoother finish. As a flat white or latte, a little  increased sweetness was evident, with some mild caramel flavours peeking through as well.

The Finish

Overall, the Ethiopia Tade GG was an enjoyable coffee, without reaching the heights in rich fruit flavours of neighbouring growing regions such as Yirgacheffe.

My pick would be as espresso, however I must admit to brewing a sizeable carafe through the V60 and sitting back in front of the football on the occasional weekend afternoon. It is September after all.


What’s Brewing: Nicaragua Jaime Molina – Honey Process

Flag_of_Nicaragua.svgBefore snapping this up a month or so ago, I had not bought and roasted any coffee from Nicaragua, and was keen to try this offering from Ministry Grounds, my ever reliable green bean supplier. In addition, it was also processed using the honey or pulped natural method — that is, where the skins are removed but the beans are dried with all or some of the fruit flesh or mucilage still present. A good proportion of the coffee I roast tends to be of the washed variety, and I am keen to broaden my experience as much as possible.

The Region

A little on Las Sabanas from Wikipedia:

The Central American country of Nicaragua borders Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, both very prolific coffee producers in their own right, along with other close neighbours El Salvador and Guatemala. Las Sabanas is a municipality in the department of Madriz, which lies in the northern aspect of Nicaragua, close to the border with Honduras.

The municipality itself has a varied climate, which in the lower parts is a little drier, however more humid in the higher mountainous regions, with an annual rainfall between 1,200 and 1,400 mm. Nicaragua has a variety of vegetation, with predominantly pines, coffee, oak, guasimo, eucalyptus, and cedar.

The Coffee

Information Courtesy Ministry Grounds

Coffee: Nicaragua Jaime Molina
Region: Sabanas
Town: Mira Mar
Farm:  Monte Cristo
Altitude: 1300-1450 m
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Processing: Honey

Tasting notes: Chocolate, red berry, juicy, coating, balanced, medium body

In researching a little on this coffee, I came across a little on the producer, and his active role in the 5 de junio collective in Nicaragua:

Don Jaime and his family have shared their coffee processing methods with other members of the cooperative, fostering innovation in the name of quality.  During the 2010/11 harvest, 5 de junio implemented a successful pilot project for semi washed or “honey” coffee based on new technologies learned from Don Jaime.

The full post can be read on the CRS Coffeelands blog – incidentally a site which I highly recommend for great insights into the lives of coffee farmers and farm workers, including many harsh realities that come with such an existence in many of these countries.

The Brew

Terra Bella LatteI’m now through roasting the kilogram of green beans I originally ordered, and the coffee has been roasted for filter, espresso, and added to a couple of blends along the way. As usual, I’d have to say not all of the roasts were perfected — though by the last, things seemed to come together well. The last roast? Espresso, which is what I will describe here.

Brewed as precisely that — espresso, I’d describe it as one of the more balanced coffees I’ve had in recent times. The dry aroma on grinding teases of a little strawberry, however the cup didn’t back that up in any great measure — very subtle to say the least. More so the chocolate notes, with a medium body.

Where it really shined was with milk. My typical morning brew being a 5.5oz single shot latte (brew parameters from this morning were 19.3g dose; 46g yield – split between espresso and the latte; 27 second extraction time).1 As smooth as silk, with more chocolate, a little caramel, and a nice strawberry layer to boot. My pick for this coffee would definitely involve milk, however you prefer it — be that cappuccino, latte, flat white or something a little shorter.

The Finish

Perhaps not one of my standout favourites, however to kick off the day it will take some beating. I’d happily recommend, and buy this coffee again. The more I write about the coffees I roast and brew here, the more I’m convinced some sort of spreadsheet tracking system is called for, lining up roast and brew parameters, and in some way perhaps correlating the resulting outcomes.

Something for another day perhaps, however I’m certainly ready for another brew while I think about it — and for this Nicaraguan — just make it with milk is all I ask.


 

  1. Given I have been looking a little more closely into weighing and measuring dose and yield with my espresso lately, I figure it is worth documenting here, for those who might be interested. Of course my learnings around these parameters are slated for their own post, which I will get to in due course. ↩︎

What’s Brewing: Panama Baru Indian High Estate Geisha – Natural

You might notice this coffee originates from the same region which has produced my most enjoyable coffee to date — bar none — about which I wrote in a previous post. The reason is obvious of course — I was looking to capture some of that magic, figuring I would either be very happy once again, or find that perhaps I had been spoiled by the quality of that previous experience. My fingers were tightly crossed for the former.

The Region and Producer

Here, I again refer you back to that previous post, which outlines a little about the Boquete region in Panama.

There is also extensive information available (link below) on the Saurez family history of growing coffee in the region (beginning in 1920), and the Baru Indian High brand. A snippet on their philosophy I reproduce here:

Image courtesy Baru Indian High
Image courtesy Baru Indian High

The growth and success experienced throughout the years is due to the enforcement of basic principles when managing the farms: maintaining the same coffee varieties that our parents started growing since the birth of the business, promoting a high degree of social commitment with our partners and employees, applying a sustainable agriculture that respects the environment and investing in technology to constantly develop the latest trends in farming.

These paired up with the special micro-climate that Boquete brings, makes that at the end we can present you a product that is consistently the same — if not better — quality than the year before. This consistency provides our clients with an interesting volume and also a very attractive cup profile of the highest quality.

Courtesy Baru Indian High – About

The Coffee

Courtesy Ministry Grounds Coffee

  • Panama Baru Indian High Estate Geisha – Natural
  • Price at time of writing $AU26.00 for 500g (green)
  • Region: Jaramillo, Boquete
  • Farm: Anselmito Estate
  • Altitude: 1550 Meters above sea level
  • Variety: Geisha
  • Processing: Natural
  • Producer: Noberto Saurez
  • Tasting notes: Light body, sweet and bright with floral notes and a presence of jasmine, cherries, stone fruits, strawberries, dry banana & plums

The Brew

IMG_4114The result? Brewed with the Hario V60, I’d describe it as a very fine coffee indeed, however probably not quite to my initial expectations. It was indeed quite light in body, however not as bright in the cup as I anticipated. As far as the overall flavours were concerned? To me, there was an abundance jasmine, an almost candied-like berry flavour, and yes, a hint of dried banana, as the tasting notes above suggest, though of course I would not have necessarily picked that up myself.

Roasting side note

IMG_4319As you can see from the bullet points above, this coffee was double the usual price I pay for my green beans (that is, the usual per kilo price for a 500g lot), clearly reflecting the higher price initially paid at auction and the quality of the product. In an attempt to do justice to any subtle flavours, my initial roast was aimed squarely at light to medium, with an eye to filter brewing. Without a large amount to play with, roasting was done in two 250g batches to allow for some “correction” in a second attempt if need be.

Yes, that second attempt was indeed required, with a slightly longer development time, yielding much the same results1. I must note here I indeed found the roasting a little challenging, perhaps due to the fact this coffee had quite a large bean, with my small-scale set up not behaving with its usual roasting profile.

The Finish

Overall, I would not deny this coffee every bit of its price tag. Sometimes it would be nice to taste the same crop roasted by a professional roaster, to assist me in determining whether the coffee was slightly below my expectations, or whether my roasting skills resulted in me arriving at this point. Were I a betting man I would suggest the latter is most likely at play here.

In any event, the Panama Baru Indian High Estate Geisha (Natural) is a wonderful coffee indeed, and if you enjoy a brew with flavours a little more complex than your standard “mmm that’s fruity”, then this is well worth a try. To get the full value for your money, perhaps don’t have an amateur roast it in his back yard.

I do however — live and learn. On to the next roast… and cup.

  1. For those interested in further detail, the two roasts were (i) total time 11:00 mins; development 18%; and (ii) total time 10:10; development 21%. ↩︎