A while back we had Mary Maina Manyeki visit us in Oakland, and had a great conversation about her experiences as a Kenya coffee farmer.Read More
Big Differences and Dumb Details
In my experience, people come to home coffee roasting because they want consistently better coffee, and because they don't mind (or even enjoy!) the craft of roasting. But certainly even the most diehard "do-it-yourselfer" does not start roasting because they lack an abundance of nagging details and unpleasant tasks in their workaday world.
It might seem shocking at first to find out how much there is to know about coffee, and all the minutia about coffee-producing origins, processing methods, roast styles and brewing options that result in that great cup of coffee. The amount of coffee knowledge you care to digest, about all that happens from the farm until the green coffee arrives at your door, is up to you (and we hope our web site is useful to you in this regard). But in terms of your end of the deal (roasting, grinding and brewing), there are several critical factors that need your attention if you want that optimal cup, and a bunch of tiny details that (unless you are a complete coffee nut) you may want to pass over.
The first critical factor is to chose the "right" green coffee … that is, the right green coffee for your tastes! That is probably not going to be something you can do after your first 5 or 10 home roasts. Perhaps the first thing you notice is that freshly roasted coffee has greatly enhanced aromatics over store-bought pre-roasted types. And you may notice that beyond these lively aromas there are flavor differences with each coffee, or what we call "cup character." Pre-roasted coffee might have nice "coffee flavor" but as coffee ages it there is a general breakdown of the organic components that express it's character in the cup. If you are a coffee "omnivore" like me, your first response may be that each coffee tastes good in its own right. But you might notice a specific quality you especially like in one, and it is important to remember that! Even if a particular coffee sells out, there are certain "families of taste" among coffee origins, closely related cup profiles that, while not identical, express similarly interesting qualities.
Of course, the "cup character" also depends greatly on the "degree of roast", the amount of time the coffee is in a roaster that determines the amount of chemical and physical changes in the seed. Yes, coffee is a dried seed from the fruit of a tree, and all we do when we roast it is incinerate it in a controlled way. The structure of the seed is comprised of woody cellulose, and it will eventually burn like wood if you leave it in the roaster long enough! As the coffee darkens, sugars formed in the middle stages of the roast process are caramelizing (if you have ever burned sugar in a pan, you know something of this color shift) and other pigmenting reactions are occurring too. The second important factor is that you figure out how long you like your coffee roasted, and maintain that level while sampling the different coffee origins. Each of our roast reviews has a recommended roast level, but hey … you’re the one drinking it!
The critical factor in grinding your coffee "seeds" is that you do it just before you brew for maximum aromatics, and that the grind is appropriate in fineness and evenness for the brewing method you employ. Some methods require a very specific grind and you need a very good conical burr mill: espresso for example. Drip brewing through a paper filter does not require such a fancy mill, since the paper will hold back particles from entering the brew. But with a French Press, fine powder in the grind becomes sludge in the cup; you need an even, coarse grind for this method.
No matter what brewing method you use, there are 2 critical factors that must be met to make a good cup: the water must be hot enough, and secondly the time the coffee and hot water are in contact must be right. For all brewing methods, water should be within several degrees of 200˚ fahrenheit (at sea level, water boils at 212˚). A bit over that is fine for infusion methods like drip brewing, or French Press, because contact with the brewer surfaces instantly moderates the temperature. But 180˚ or 190˚ is not good enough, and many automated brewers only reach these inadequate temperatures. You also need the coffee and water to stay in contact with each other the right time: too little and you under-infuse, and too long results in over-infused bitterness. For direct contact methods like French Press, the time is 3-4 minutes: for vacuum the pre-infusion of the grinds means a much shorter 45 seconds to 2 minutes. Extraction methods like espresso require 25-30 seconds with a 198˚ degree brew-head temperature.
And now, here are some less significant coffee truths:
You don’t have to learn Portuguese to drink Brasilian coffee. (There is a limit to the amount of knowledge that has an actual, perceptible bearing on cup character).
Don't store green coffee in pickle juice. (Just keep it in plastic or transfer to cloth if you are keeping in 6 + months. Green coffee is durable stuff!).
You don't taste with your eyeball. (The appearance of green or roasted coffee, or the size of the seed does not always have a bearing on the cup -don’t be an "eye-cupper").
Don't keep roasted coffee in your sock drawer. (Glass jars are nice for storage, at room temp -but hey, it's going to be gone in a few days so it's not a big deal).
If you have any other roast tips email me! email@example.com
Sweet Maria’s Coffee Inc.
9 E. 2nd Ave Columbus Ohio 43201
Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 11/5/01:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page! http://sweetmarias.com/prod.greencoffee.shtml
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rican Tres Rios -La Magnolia $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu $7.10 $13.49 $31.60 $113.60
Guatemalan Antigua -La Tacita Estate $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Guatemalan Finca El Injerto '01 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Guatemalan SHB Huehue -Finca Huixoc $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Mexican Chiapas Org.La Alianza $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Mexican Oaxaca San Pablo Becafisa $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Nicaragua Matagalpa Eugenio Lopez $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Nicaragua Segovia Canta Gallo Co-op $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Panama Boquete -Finca Maunier $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
El Salvador - San Rafael Naranjo $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Mogiani Bourbon $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Brazil Organic -Blue de Brasil $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Brazil Cerrado-Monte Carmelo $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Colombian Caracol del Abuelo-Peaberry $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Colombian Organic -Mesa de los Santos $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Colombian Santa Isabella Var.Typica $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Peru Org-FT Chanchamayo La Florida $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Burundi AA Buyendi FWS $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Ethiopian Harar Horse - Lot1900 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Ethiopian Organic Limmu -Oromia $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Ethiopian Sidamo DP '01 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe -Lot 957 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Kenya AB Gakui Auction Lot'01 $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Kenya AA Auction '01 - Lot 82 $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Kenya AB Gichugu Auction Lot'01 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Kenya AA Kirigara Auction Lot'01 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Tanzanian Kibo Peaberry $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.90 $15.01 $36.74 $126.40
Yemen Mokha Mattari $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00
Yemen Mokha Raimi (Rimy) $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40
AGED Yemen Mattari $8.10 $15.39 $37.67 $129.60
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar AA $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Indian Pearl Mountain Flatbean $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Java Govt. Estate -Jampit '01 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Papua New Guinea Kimel AA $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sulawesi Toraja Gr. 1 '01-02 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 '01-02 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Sumatra Lake Tawar 18+ $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Aged Sumatra Mandheling '98 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48
Timor Organic Aifu '01 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Hawaii Kona-Greenwell Farms '01-02 $15.00 $28.80 $69.75 5 lb limit
Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto AA '02 $10.90 $20.93 $49.60 $189.66
SM's Moka Kadir Blend $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
SM's Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM's Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
SM's Decaf Espresso Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
SM's French Roast Blend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Costa Rican SHB Natural Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Ethiopian Ghimbi MC Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Guatemala Atitlan Org-FT SWP Decaf $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48
Indonesian Komodo Blend Org SWP D $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94
Kenya MC Decaf -German KVW $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85
Mexican Cepco Co-op Natural Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Mexican Chiapas Org/FT SWP Decaf $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94
Sumatra Mandheling Natural Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Sumatra Gayo Mtn. Org.SWP Decaf $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Kaapi Royale Robusta $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indian Monsooned Robusta AA $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Java Washed Robusta $4.30 $8.17 $18.71 5 lb limit