As our first attempt at the RoastBusters, things have
gone fairly well. Some "guidelines:"
Roast recommendations for the 4 samples (6 oz each):
Well, roast them light. You want to taste the differences
in the coffees based on origin, not on roast taste (even though the origin
does determeine the character of the roast taste too)
I roast samples until I know they are completely through
first crack, and have not yet entered second crack at all.
On many air corn poppers you will see a temperature of
about 425 degrees at this stage.
On my Hearthware Gourmet roaster it is about 6 on the
On my Precision it is about 4 on the dial
On my Unimax ...wait, they never returned my Unimax when
I sent it for repairs!
On the Agtron Chart this is about a 50 to 45
If you cant cup these coffees against eachother --maybe
you CAN roast and brew 2 and taste them against eachother? Or even if you
are going to taste 1 at a time, try to make a note or two about your impressions.
Just a descriptive word...
Cupping routine for Roastbusters(?):
Well, it has been decided that the 4 samples will not
be identified until the homeroast list decides its good and ready --about
Ideally you will be able to roast all 4 samples to the
City stage, put them in 4 little glass jelly-size mason jars, and let them
To do a blind cupping you must be able to fool yourself,
so if a jar has a particular distinction, you will probably remember which
sample is in it and that could taint your impressions. The good news is,
you only know it by number anyway.
I take a permanent Sharpie pen and write the identifying
number at the base of the jar.
So your are ready to cup? You have
4 rested coffee samples ground finely and evenly- specific
grind isnt too important. Filter coffee is better than French press though
but just make sure all samples are the same
A kettle of nice hot water (you did use good fresh water,
right?), just off boil
A coffee measure or tablespoon
5 cups or bowls of about 6 oz capacity, not much larger!-thats
like a "polite" coffee cup or cappuccino cup
A soup spoon
a pencil and paper
peace and quiet
Dry Fragrance: Arrange the jars in a line so the number
ID is away from you. Know, scramble them like you are playing a shell game
with yourself. Look away, think about all the crud you should really be
doing instead of this. See --eventually you lose trac an dntknow which
jar is which: you are now BLIND. Open the jars, let the initial gust of
CO2 escape. Then quickly sniff each one while shaking it a bit. Make some
notes. Rate it from 5 to 10. When I do this, I dont TRY to hard to smell
or it ruins my senses. I waive it in front of my nose, move it away, and
think about how to express what I am smelling. Fresh coffee with tons of
CO2 will not only ruin your senses, it will make you loopy. This is my
weakest ability in cupping. I am much better with my mouth than my nose
Wet Aroma: Put a cup in front of each jar. Put the soup
spoon in that 5th cp its your cupping spoon. Dump equal amounts of grounds
into each cup. It should be 7.25 grams to 5 oz water. A heaping tablespoon
will do. Just make all of them even. Judging by sight is good enough, really!
Then pour in 5 0z water at 195-200 degrees slowly. Avoid creating any floating
islands off coffee grounds (did you know Ohio is the home of the largest
natural floating island in the US). Fill the 5th cup with ater too. Now
do something else for 2 minutes. Okay, go back to the cups. Spread them
out so they are not right next to eachother. Start at one end. Take your
cupping spoon from the hot water. Get your nose right over the cup and
push the spoon straight down through the crust of grounds on the surface
while taking a nice whiff. Bring the spoon up and do it again. When the
crust breaks there is an opportunity to get a great aromatic whiff, but
dont worry if you miss it --just try to get a sense of the aromatics within
the first couple minutes of crust breaking.
Dip the spoon in water, and repeat for the other cups.
Do it in order, but then go back and try to smell differences. Make some
notes. Rate it from 5 to 10. Then lightly blow on the surface of each cup
to move the floating grinds to the edges and open up a clear window in
Slurping, sucking, spitting: Hold your soup spoon level.
Dip straight down in the center of the cup. Coffee pours over the edges
into the bowl of the spoon. Lots of grinds too? You need to wait another
Okay, sip it hard. Get it to the back of your mouth,
let it come down the sides, squeeze your tongue up to spread it across
the top of your mouth, allow it to stay in your mouth and circulate it
until it vanishes. Just pay attention.
Skip this if you like ....Here's my thoughts: I
like to think of taste as "the story" of the coffee ...it's not
that it tastes like one thing from start to finish, but it says something
at first, then something else (perhaps contradictory) then it might just
sit there, then it goes away and leaves some clue of its passing. It has
a start, finish and end, and an after-impression too in a way. Its an event.
For me, it usually opens with acidity, unless its a acid-less Indonesian
and the first chapter is torn out! As acidity fades it will give a sense
of middle or deeper flavors, but in the meantime you probably get so idea
of its thickness, how it feels in your mouth, weather its water or syrup,
as you weigh it on your toungue. A simple coffee repeats itself from acidity
to flavor, and a complex one will reveal flavors in succession. Coffees
with medium body can be hard to pin down because unless you have a really
thick coffee neraby, they all taste medium! Aftertaste: I love it. It's
like reading a book and it might have been dull, but the thoughts you have
later are really intriguing. Or it might have been action-packed and thrilling,
but after you finish it starts to seem stupid.
Move back and forth freely. The aromatics fade, but over-extraction
takes a while, at least 10-15 minutes I think.
Oh, give scores of 5-10 for Acidity/Brightness, Body/Mouthfeel,
Flavor/Depth, Finish, Aftertaste. Try to write a descriptive word too.
Scoring: You have 6 scores: add them up, divide by 6
for the average and add decimal place to make it a 50 to 100 score. Thats
how I do it now, having abandoned the archaic 32 point SCAA method lately
(well, even they have abandoned it too!)
Theres an easy way to do this with friends, but I didn't
mention it because you need 4 french presses. Maybe you have 4 presses???
The Coffees Revealed! -My Cupping Results and the Sample's Identities:
This has been really fun and educational! I have recupped
the coffees at 18 hours after roasting and 24 hours after roasting. I did
2 roasts on each coffee, City and Full City. The results are in-line with
my earlier cuppings as broker samples.
Here's a bit of preamble and hints to what the coffees
are. I chose 4 coffees from very DIFFERENT origins, with cup character
that was unique in this cupping but not OUTRAGEOUSLY unique. In other words
(and with one exception) these samples did not contrast eachother in the
cup in a "hit-you-over-the-head-and-slap-you-in-the-face" way,
so it was a cupper's challange.
Sample #1: Perhaps the softness of the cup suggested
a milder, lower-grown ISLAND coffee to you.
Sample #2: Fruit and chocolate and a little bit of earthiness.
Think about the NATURAL dry-processed coffees. This was the cup whose character
differed the most from the others.
Sample #3: It might not have hit you when the cup was
hot, but as it cooled you should have noted A LOT of brightness and fruit
(but in a cleaner taste than #2) in this cup, a bit of winey ferment too.
Sample #4: This would stump many in terms of guessing
origin. Many guessed Indonesian which is close. Brazil could be a good
guess too, actually. There was body, but brightness too; like a Timor or
PNG or a brighter Sumatra ...but did you catch the walnut flavor. That
is NOT an Indonesian flavor!
Don't scroll down if you still do not want to know the
Montana Verde Estate
Dry Frag./ Wet Aroma:
Notes: Overall the coffee is mild and soft. It is clear it is an island
coffee and not from a super high altitude. That said, there is a lot going
on in this cup ...even without a huge aftertaste I get a lot of different
flavors here. The main flavor is linked to the acidity: grapes, not fully
fermented or fresh --somewhere in between. That may bug some people; I
like it. Typical Central Am. acidity is judged for clarity, like ringing
a bell: here the bell is rung but with your other hand on it the sound
is muted. (Sounds corny, but this analogy really describes the taste in
this coffee for me). Theres also hints of vanilla and spice (allspice)
that lurk behind the fruit.
Roast: While a lighter roast reveals more in
the cup, I prefer a Full City to tone this coffee down and bring up some
of the nice roast taste.
Compare to: Haitian, other fruity island coffees
Dry Frag./ Wet Aroma:
Notes: Different from start to finish than the rest of the samples.
The fragrance from the dry ground coffee and wet aroma was pronounced.
Just as the water is added to the grounds theres a great plume of floral
aromatics released. For the City roast I did, this coffee cupped much more
delicate than other recent samples of it I have cupped. It wasnt as earthy
or fermented as I though hints of those were present. A light chocolate
flavor provides a great backdrop for fruit and floral aromatics. I always
think of dried apricot when I taste this...
Roast: City to full city --its delicate and more
fruity in the lighter roast, more pungent and spicey in the dark roasts.
Compare to: Harar
Organic, Fair Trade, Songbird Certified
Dry Frag./ Wet Aroma:
Notes: By far the brightest, most acidy, nippy coffee. This might not
strike you when the coffee is piping hot but let the cup cool, take a deep
draw and h o l d it in your mouth, circulating it around the pallete for
a minute. See? It almost seemed malty-sweet in the dry frace but the nippy
brightness was evident in the wet aroma. A very nice comparison to the
type of acidity and fruit present in the Dominican. I just admit the two
samples sort of blurred on my pallete and trying to identify the fruit
was tough: they both alternately seemed like red grape and then like apple
to me. Anyway, I also picked up a jasmine note here. Amazing that the power
of this coffee, tangy acidy fruitiness, aith a definite amount of winey
ferment too, is so present in the cooler cup, and muted while hot.
Roast: City to Full City -it can handle the more
aggressive roast although in one darker sample I really squashed the character
out of this coffee --still not exactly sure what happened there...
Compare to: Bright high-grown centrals
Pearl Mountain Estate
Dry Frag./ Wet Aroma:
Notes: The aromatics were nice but simple. There were definite nutty
aromas in the fragrance and a tad of moist earth in the wet aroma --like
peet moss sort of. But the cup had some definite suprises. What seemed
simple really was quite stunning and the overall flavor was walnuts with
a dry spice, just a faint cinammon. But in the lighter roast the lively
acidity took me a bit unawares. It was a strange combination, earthiness,
walnuts and acidity --like peanutbutter and pineapple pizza --but I did
like it. That brightness was the coffee had a more consistent character
when roasted to 2nd crack --just a few snaps of 2nd that is. I could definitely
tell that it had a softer mider character of a lower grown coffee. In summary,
it was versatile simple but suprising, and delicious!
Roast: See above
Compare to: Indians, maybe some Indonesians like
Timor and Papua New Guinea, but aso has the character of some Brazils.
So maybe it seems that Ethiopian Sidamo was my favorite?
Sure I love it, but thats not the case at all.
Is it the best coffee in this Roastbuster cupping? Its
really like apples and oranges.
These are all coffees I chose from many brokers samples
because I like them all for their unique character. So its a bit unfair.
I didnt send out a coffee that had a lack of character like many I cup.
I certainly didnt send out one that has defective character, and really
I dont cup many that do because this is specialty coffee and brokers have
already weeded those coffees out (well, at least the ones I buy from).
I can do this in the future for educational purposes, it might be fun to
send an old baggy sample, or something with a hard note in the cup.
As far as I am concerned, these are all ribbon-winning
coffees in their respective categories. As an interesting aside, let me
add this. The broker that sold me the Dominican doesnt like it: I disagree!
The one that sold me the Pearl Mountain thought it was "nice".
I think tis much better than that... The Sidamo raved about it last year
but didn't make much ado this year; while last years was good, this years
is great! This Atitlan is loved by some but not by all. I am told some
roasters hogged it all up, some though it was too winey/fermented.
Anyway, my point is that while I listen to brokers cuppings,
I still do the cupping work to find these coffees. If I bought only ones
they raved about and avoided those they didnt push I would have a sad,
sorry collection of coffee. While it may get a bit tiring to read all my
frothy reviews of the coffees, like they are all magnifico (because I did
"discover" each one via cupping), remember that YOU may disagree,
and if you do you may be able to understand what tastes you like and thusly
find a method to choose coffees based on this. Then again, you just might
be a COFFEE OMNIVORE like me and like everything that has good pronounced
Anyway, hope this first Roastbuster has served you, and we WILL
do this again. Let's go to the homeroast list and DISCUSS!