Sweet Maria's Weblog

India: delightful, appalling

Coffee cherry growing on old hard wood I just returned from a week in India, my first time there. I edited down from 1350 pictures to a mere 302, and I give you my usual warning ... 50% of them are not about coffee. Additionally, it's all my opinion. I also wrote a little essay about the contrast in India between things delightful and appalling. I also picked up a lot of information in our meetings with the director of the Coffee Board of India, and the Central Coffee Research Station. But here's a link to the photos on the temp. site in our new format ... or here's the html link on our site, which loads a bit faster. Ironically, I ate tons of incredible food and had no queasiness in India, but got totally sick on something in Amsterdam. Okay, maybe it was the raw meat hamburger I ate at the big soccer game I went to. Anyway, I have to get back into this time zone, and will be heading off to cup Costa Ricas in 7 days. -Tom

Costa Rica Coop Dota Dry-Process

This week we are tackling the most un-Costa Rican of the current crop of Costa Rica coffees on offer. As explained in the review, this coffee has been processed differently than all other Costas. The result is a hybridization of CR flavor profiles and cup characteristics associated with fruited Ethiopian coffees. We sample roasted to seven different levels trying to hit the "sweet spot" and the second lightest roast did just that: huge strawberry notes that punch your palate with an exotic strangeness (how's that for a redundant descriptor?). I just put the first batch into the Probat so I'll check back in a second with the results of trying to replicate the City+ roast we cupped this morning done on the sample roaster yesterday--that's right, while Tom Petty was Learnin' to Fly, I was learnin' how to roast this coffee correctly. We have success! I took the first batch up to 431 degrees which happened at the 17:00 mark on the dot. One good way to compare a test roast with the final roast right away is to grind a small sample of each and see if they match color-wise. This is a fairly accurate way to ensure you are in the right ballpark. As we all know, roasted coffee needs at least 24 hours to rest before the full flavor characteristics become apparent so cupping them side by side right away is a bit more problematic. However, we feel good about hitting a nice light roast that should unleash the fruited notes we are expecting. First crack happened at 405 degrees approximately 14:20 into the roast.

Bali Kintamani Arabica

From the volcanic heights of Bali, this particular coffee has been processed using a technique different from the fully wet process that is normally used by the larger farms in Bali. The coffee we are roasting today employs a semi-washed technique that allows for greater development of character and rusticity more akin to neighboring Sumatra or Sulawesi. The result should be outstanding when taken into Full City+ and for the test cupping I even roasted some to Vienna to have a full range of roasts to test when setting the target for today's Roastmaster. We decided that the Full City+ roast had the best overall character: bittersweet chocolate, strong tobacco notes, and the brooding character Tom speaks of in the reveiw.  The lighter roasts we cupped had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  It is interesting to roast this coffee after roasting so many Centrals and Africans which can taste great, albeit different, at a wider range of roasts. The Bali Kintamani is a coffee that tests the roaster's patience as first crack didn't happen on the Probat until 15:00 into the roast at around 404 degrees. I then had to keep the roast going until the thermo-probe read 450 degrees and I could hear just the slightest hint of second crack coming on. This happened routinely at the 18:30 minute mark, it never ceases to amaze me how consistent the Probat performs with the same temperature being reached at nearly the same time batch after batch. That is, of course, if each batch has been carefully weighed out beforehand.

big list of new green coffee arrivals

We have new lots that just arrived and a few that arrive Friday the 25th. I am excited about an out-of-season offering... why? Because we had it vacuum packaged in Ethiopia to preserve freshness, and the cup is outstanding: Ethiopia FTO Yirga Cheffe Konga cooperative. I am recommending very light roasts for a floral, sweet. It's a syrupy Yirga Cheffe with remarkable clarity in the cup flavors, that is best with a very light roast. And it's the first Vacuum-packed Ethiopia we have offered. (BTW, that means we receive it in vacuum bags, then we pack it and ship it in our normal zip bags. PS: Starting with this lot, we will be spelling Yirga Cheffe as two words, as it is in Ethiopia. ) We have a new lot of Colombia Los Naranjos de Huila, bright and multi-fruited. This is from a group of Huila farmers with average production around 10 bags, and the total group less than 100  growers. They are at altitudes ranging from 1600 to 1900 meters,  and all lots are wet-processed and sun-dried, then cupped, classified and combined based on the cup flavors. We have been holding back on a Guatemala offering because we had so many, but now is the time to launch Guatemala Huehuetenango -Finca San Vicente, a remarkable, dense 100% Bourbon like our other Guats, that cups like the day it got here. It's so classic, crips, well structured We have another Colombia Huila Valencia, a pooled coffee of many farmers, but we just happened to find a really nice lot here, balanced and sweet. It's a crowd-pleaser. And Sumatra Classic Mandheling is back with a vengeance, and excellent cup from a particular locale with old-growth Sumatra Typica cultivar plantings. This lot has nice preparation with much less percentage of defects than we have seen in recent seasons. Yes, it has that aggressive, woody, wet-earth character. But it also has a sweetness, mild fruitiness, a caramel roast taste that has a creamy, chocolate dimension to it as well. The finish goes toward the bittersweet, with a pungent (peppery spice) quality emerging, reminding you of the deep, heavy-handed cup character that epitomizes Sumatra. It has a bit of all the defining Sumatra flavors wrapped together in one coffee, and maintains a balance between them. Most people might taste this and just say, "Boy,...


We need a place to talk about the machine, how we have it set up with temperature probes, and what our measurements mean. Temperature measurements in different roast systems yield very different results, but if the device performs consistently in your machine (be it a Hearthware, Behmor, Diedrich or what-have-you), then you can transicribe our findings into something meaningful on your roaster. In a perfect world we would all have calibrated devices that would measure internal bean temperature, not simply a probe that touches the outside of the beans as they tumble. Most probes are going to measure environment temperature, and even if they physically probe the coffee it's going to be a mix of measurement, bean surface and environment. So you always have to interpret and translate someone else's numbers to apply to your roast system. One way is to compare 1st crack temperatures. When do you hear the very initial pops of 1st? On the Probat it is between 402-405 farenheit. (Occasionally we have in initial signs of 1st crack as low as 395 f). We measure this with 2 probes, simple bead type k-probes, one about 3 o'clock and one about 6 o'clock. I also have a probe wired for exit air temperature in a duct in the back, and that is the best way to measure environment temp, but i don't refer to it often. The big, stock dial thermometer on the front of the machine measures environment too. We basically use it only to indicate drop temperature to start roasting, and for cooldown, to indicate when it is safe to shut the roaster off. -Tom