"Lots of honey sweetness on the dry fragrance, round cherry like acidity, super clean and not showing any signs of age/paper, round mouthfeel with clarity throughout the cup. Little more caramel and chocolate as it cools. I felt that you really nailed the roast. There's a nice balanced brightness but you really pushed the sweetness of this coffee with the roast development."
These are my cupping notes for the Guatemala Finca Cabrejo that Wade Windsor of Lord Windsor Coffee Roasters roasted and sent to me. Being really excited about the roast, I thought for sure that Wade was someone that I'd like to talk about roasting with so I sent him some questions about this coffee and such which he was very gracious to answer.
How long have you been roasting, and what equipment have you used?
I've been roasting for around 7 years now. I was a home roaster for a long time using a Whirley Pop popcorn popper and a Behmor 1600. About 2.5 years ago I snatched a neglected Diedrich IR-7 from a bagel shop, and have been roasting on it since.
What's the first thing you look at when roasting a new coffee?
I guess the first thing I'm looking at is balance. I try to throw a couple of varied roast profiles in the sampling, and see what is on each end. As a business owner, I want to roast coffees that are both comfortable and encouraging adventure with our customers. I guess through sampling I try to find what I feel makes that particular coffee sing, and chase after that in the profiling stage.
What made you select this coffee, the Cabrejo, and what was your approach to roasting it, + were there any challenges?
I had just gotten through a wonderful Huehuetenango lot, and didn't wanna walk away from Guatemala yet. After checking out the awesome (as always) description on the Shrub site, it seemed like a nice fit for the coffee line-up we had. Plus, we have this customer who never stops raving about how beautiful Antigua is, and how he visits once a year, and how his favorite café there serves $1 lattes, and how he rides on the wings of eagles while surveying all the majestic land has to offer, and how Catherine Zeta Jones combs his hair while doing her best rendition of 'Blinded By the Light,' and how at every corner there are soldiers shooting Travelling Wilbury's shirts from t-shirt grenade guns. I basically wanted to see him smile. My approach to roasting it was simple; bring forth that awesome cherry syrup sweetness I found in my samples. I wanted to bottom pretty low, steadily drive til approaching first crack, then extend the crack to really draw out that nice sweetness. From there, a gentle finish to allow the body to be evident, but not overpowering. To be quite honest, I didn't have many challenges w/ this one. I'd say the biggest challenge was finding the amount of development that allowed the coffee to flex it's muscles, but not reach back and slap you.
What has been the reaction from your customers to this coffee?
Well, you know who was stoked, but I wouldn't say ecstatic, ha. It's probably been one of our most popular coffees to date. I really found it to be that classic team of fun, but dependable. I was having a hard time keeping bags of this on the shelf.
How do you talk to your customers about roasting?
I try to talk to them the same way I was talked to when I became obsessed with it; simple, but artistic. It's my job and craft, I don't want to sell the act of roasting short, but I don't want them to write us off as being cocky. I'm far too sinful to turn water into wine, so I wanna showcase the farms and processing methods as being the main ingredient to delicious coffee. But I also want to highlight how a roaster can really make these coffees explode w/ good stuff (or bad for that matter), and that it is much more than microwaving a Hot Pocket. I hope my conversations about roasting give off passion, and not pomp.
Tell me about some of the mods/work you've done in your roaster.
CLEANED THE SH*T OUT OF IT. That thing was beat up! There was mounds of chaff down below, that when opening the door came falling out. The holes in the cooling bin were completely clogged and black. The face plate was blackened, as well as flame scars on the sides where the sight holes are. Due to the excessive chaff buildup, the blower motor was seized, so that needed replacing. So, the majority of work needed on it was just cleaning the crap out of it; I must've gone through 5 cans of oven cleaner, and lost years off of my life.
I know you picked up the Java Pitaloka? It's a really unique coffee, how is your approach different with it if at all?
I dig the Pitaloka very much. There's a comment on the Shrub site about how it can appeal to the customers looking for "dark roasted" coffee, and I feel that is spot on. I tend to favor the brighter, sweeter side of coffee, but appreciate this coffee for it's depth and earthiness. It's a nice change of pace for me, and my customers have really responded well to it. It really does have this great sweetness, kind of reminds me of going to get a Coca Cola slurpee after sidehacking trash cans around town, all to be skunked when depressing the lever and only that syrup comes out. That thick sweetness and the pungent tobacco-like notes make this one wacky in a good way. From a profile perspective, my approach to this coffee is very different. I find that a much longer roast time suits my target best. I don't use a lot of heat throughout the entire roast, but obviously don't want stalling or too slow of progress. I want it to taste thick and heavy, but really like it when that punchy sweetness comes through.