That's a lottalotta Gaturiri AB - a NICE buncha coffees.
This year the folks at Home Barista (www.home-barista.com) held their annual home roasters challenge. It’s a friendly competition that invites message board members to submit their roasts of both espresso and brewed coffees to a panel of judges who then pick the top coffees and provide feedback on all of the roasts. It’s a friendly competition and a great way for home roasters to have their craft evaluated. Needless to say, we once again graciously accepted the invitation to judge the brewed coffee portion, and going off of the quality of last year’s roasts, were excited to cup this year’s entries.
One major difference in the brewing part this year was the decision to limit the entrants to one coffee option. Last year there were a few different coffees for them to choose from, regionally and processing-wise. One benefit of this for the roaster is the chance to roast a coffee that they are already familiar with. But for judging, a variety of coffees makes deciphering roast quality more difficult. So this year all contestants roasted our Kenya Nyeri Gaturiri AB, keeping the focus on roast differences, instead of varietal and processing.
It’s funny being in the position of “judging” the quality of someone else’s roast. Especially when the roast you’re giving feedback on is probably tailored to someone else’s taste (which there truly is no accounting for!). And I firmly believe if you enjoy the coffee you roast, then you’re doing it 100% correctly! But we have a good deal of experience cupping for roast level as well as know this coffee, and because of that, we are in some way qualified to give our opinion. And so that’s what we did.
We approached judging the same way we approach all of our cupping. Our decisions were based on the dry fragrance, wet aromatics, and then cup flavors. Knowing how this coffee should taste when roasted well gives us a vantage point from which we recognize if certain characteristics are lacking - i.e. lacking acidity and sweetness can be attributed to baking, or even abbreviating a roast. So we cupped all 13 coffees, picked our favorites, and then went back over the roasted coffees to look for physical evidence of roast errors that may help back up our overall assessment (for example over-expanded beans signifying a fast roast, minimal fracturing for underdevelopment, etc).
It was a really fun exercise, and more than that, a reminder of how passionate home roasters are. Looking at the home roasting topic in the forums section of Home Barista's website, members post their varied experiences with home roasting, pictures of their roast setups (often HEAVILY modified), roasting graphs, and other really helpful information - for themselves and for other board members to learn from. There’s definitely a spirit of community and lots of enthusiasm behind sharing roasting information with each other. It’s always great to work with these folks, and we hope to be a part of it again next year!
See more on the happenings at Home Barista here - www.home-barista.com.