July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
Last night combined two of my new favorite things, home roasting coffee and hand cranking ice cream. Ok, maybe the hand cranking isn’t my favorite thing, but with friends it’s not so bad and the result is pretty fantastic. We started out by stovetop roasting a batch of Rwandan coffee to a semi-dark roast. You can check out more info here about home coffee roasting from when I did that week in early January. We then added the grounds to the basic ice cream base from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home, following her recipe for dark roast coffee ice cream.
Talk about a delicious smell. Fresh roasted coffee, cream, sugar…pretty divine. Unfortunately there was still a lot of work to be done to turn it into ice cream. We strained the grounds out, brought it back to a boil adding the thickener (milk and cornstarch) and then added it to the cream cheese and salt mixture. We got to enjoy a little wine break as the mixture cooled in an ice bath.
We were lacking in some of the manpower we had the other night but we ladies still did the job. My friend Jess was not to be daunted by how difficult it got towards the end. I tried to be patient but my desire to try the ice cream finally took over from powering through. Once we were finished the result was once again pretty darn awesome.
I think it will be a lot of fun to continue to try different beans and roasts making homemade ice cream. You can really taste the oil and flavor from the beans, so it will be interesting to see how different varieties work.
Tonight I’m going to be trying out a locally inspired ice cream recipe. I’m sticking with Jeni’s book because so far it’s led to some pretty fantastic ice cream. No need to mess with a good thing.
January 22, 2011 § 2 Comments
Interests – Coffee is definitely one of my favorite things in the world and it’s been fun to learn another dimension of enjoying it through home roasting. It is one of those things that takes so little time it’s worth giving it a shot. For roughly 10 minutes a week, I now have the best tasting coffee I’ve ever had (ok, that’s a stretch, I’m still learning)
Local – I’ve gotten out and tried some of the great local roasts here in Boulder and would have never known that we even had claim to the Roaster of the Year, Conscious Coffees. Having spent a lot of time in Portland, that’s saying a lot.
Craft – Home roasting is something people used to do out of necessity and it’s one of those things I think was a shame to lose, in the same way that baking bread was. The aroma alone is worth it. I also enjoyed visiting Ozo coffee’s roasting lab. It was inspiring to hear from, Nolan, a master roaster who has learned something from the ground up and is on that path to perfecting everything from the roast to the brew.
The only downside to the week was a bit of a sore elbow from all the cranking and maybe a bit of insomnia. I may have gotten a little carried away with how much I was drinking, but c’est la vie!
One helpful thing to do when roasting is to keep a roasting log. It helps you keep track of what you did to get to the coffee you like: temperatures throughout the roast, roasting style, beans and cooling.
I’ll continue trying out different beans and roasting styles and don’t have a favorite varietal speak of yet. The El Salvadorian was the most familiar, the Indian was of a floral nature almost like tea and the Papua New Guineau was just fun. More than anything I’ve enjoyed being able to taste the differences in the beans.
January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Learning how to roast isn’t necessarily something people go to school for like you would to become a chef or a viticulturist. It seems to be something people pick up from each other and learn through trial and error on their own. There is a coffee school in Portland, OR where you can go for roasting classes which I may check out next time I’m there.
In exploring what’s available locally in Boulder, Ozo coffee has a roasting lab that is open to the public every friday at 2pm. The thing I like about Ozo is that they not only care about roasting but about how you’re preparing the coffee as well.
Nolan Dutton is the master roaster and he is more than happy to answer any questions you have about roasting. As is typical in coffee culture, there were other tasters there that also liked to share their own home roasting tips.
It’s a fun way to spend a lunch break and definitely a great way to learn some of the tricks of the trade. Ozo is opening a new location next week on Pearl St. by the Kitchen where they will be focusing on single service pour over coffee.
Today I roasted Papua New Guinea AA Sigri Plantation beans. Wow, so far these are my favorite. They have such depth and flavor to them. I roasted them on the light-medium side and they were delicious. I am getting a hint of tennis elbow from all the cranking this week, but it’s been worth it.
January 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
In business school in 1998, I did a project on the ethics of coffee production and shed light on some of the sustainable practices that were being adopted. I got a “C” for being naive about scale. I may still deserve that judgement, but it’s been nice to see that sustainable practice has put a dent in socially & environmentally harmful coffee.
When looking for beans to roast, quality is the most important factor but there are others that can make you feel better about what you’re drinking.
Nowadays, it’s fairly easy to buy quality organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee. I’ve been looking around at what is available in Boulder and came across Conscious Coffees. As their name implies, they care. They are one of 23 members of cooperative coffees an organization that partners with local farming communities where the coffee is grown. Aside from being good people, they apparently know what they’re doing in the roasting world, as they won Roaster of the Year this year from Roast magazine. They don’t do direct retail, but I have tried them at The Cup on Pearl St and they live up to their reputation.
In terms of home roasting, I’ve been looking to see where you can order responsible green coffee beans and came across a few places. One that seems reasonable is the seven bridges cooperative site. I will also ask around as I visit some of the local roasters.
If anyone knows of any good resources, please pass them along!
January 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Coffee roasting like many things comes down to a mixture of art & science. There’s not really a perfect formula because it all depends on personal taste. I have been playing around with both the art and science of it, and for me, I think I’m leaning more towards the art. If I were to buy a more expensive roaster, that might change, but when you’re dealing with a stovetop popcorn popper, there are a lot of variables you just don’t have a ton of control over to make it too scientific.
In terms of the science, I use the thermometer to tell me when the popper is ready to start the roast at 400 degrees on medium gas heat. I also use it to monitor the beans to make sure it stays at a roasting temperature vs falling too low and baking the beans which sucks out the moisture & oils (i’ve been keeping it around 350-375 degrees). That’s about it on the science side for me.
Most of the instructions I’ve read tell you to try to start judging based on your senses. From a smell perspective, you can tell when the beans start to roast because they smell grassy. Then they start to smell like coffee and finally you can smell the roasted smell (not a burnt smell). You start to notice steam turning into a lighter smoke and if you’re roasting darker a lighter charcoal colored smoke. You can also just flip open the lid now and then to see what color the beans are (you want to remove them when they’re slightly lighter than you want as they’ll keep roasting after you remove them – a mistake i’ve made a few times now)
My favorite thing about roasting coffee is the sound of it – the snap and the crackle. It’s that happy sound like popping popcorn or rice krispies in a bowl of milk. I was a little too nervous to rely upon this the first time but today it was the way to go. In roasting you have what are called the “first crack” and the “second crack” which when you become familiar with them, make it as easy to roast coffee as it is to pop popcorn. You’ll know more or less when it’s ready. The first crack sounds more like a pop and it will build momentum much like popcorn does and then die off. For light roasts, you can stop roasting after the crack begins and go to a more medium roast as the crack reaches its end. As you get into the second crack this is where the dark roasts begin. You can go from a dark viennese at the beginning of the second crack to a darker french roast as it reaches its crescendo. Most do not recommend going darker as it will just be burned.
Today I roasted El Salvadorian Finca La Florida and roasted it a couple of ways. First I did a darker roast where I let it go a little bit after the second crack. It goes from sounding like snapping during the first crack to crinkling of paper. For the second roast I stopped before it was at the end of the first crack for more of a breakfast roast. I do think I like the lighter to medium roast since you can take more of the differences in the coffee. I think El Salvadorian coffee is much more similar to what I’m accustomed to drinking.
January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
Most people would probably answer this question in any number of ways that generally relate to everything but the coffee itself. Whether you like a light or dark roast, take your coffee black or with cream and sugar or whether you’ve gotten your personalized Starbucks drink down to a science, all of those are valid personal tastes that have to do with your enjoyment of coffee. If we were to strip all of the accoutrements away though and just ask what kind of coffee we enjoy (i.e. where it’s from), I’m not sure I have the answer and I supposedly really love coffee.
If I liken it to wine, it’s like saying I prefer red over white and could really care less where it comes from, as long as it’s red and served in the right glass at the right temperature. I’m much pickier about my wine than that and this week I vow to be the same with my coffee.
It takes a lot to enjoy the nuances of the bean itself since there are a lot of factors that can get in the way. If the coffee has been roasted too dark, you’re pretty much just tasting the roast. If it’s older coffee it’ll have lost most of its flavor and aroma and if it hasn’t just been ground before brewing it will also seem more generic.
Home Coffee Roasting by Kenneth Davids is a good guide to learning more about the nuances of coffee. It comes with the home roasting kit from Sweet Maria’s. It’s a quick and easy read to get up and running without feeling like you need a degree in roasting.
I will be roasting and brewing a different single origin variety each day and taking notes on some of the differences. I’ll be roasting them on the lighter to medium-dark range, following the notes that are provided so the natural flavors can come out.
Today I roasted Ethiopian Organic Shakiso Wet Process beans. Again, this only took 10 minutes which you can do once a week and have coffee for the week! It is so easy and even with an uneven roast it’s so much better than the store bought (stale) stuff. This had a kind of lemon verbena quality to it compared with the fruity, floral India Sanskirit from yesterday. I think I may have roasted it a little light since it says it should have a caramel sweetness to it.
So far neither of these are my coffee yet but it’s fun to be able to see the distinction.
January 17, 2011 § 9 Comments
All I can say is “wow”! First of all I can’t believe how easy it was to roast the beans with simple instructions from Sweet Maria’s site. It took about 10 minutes all in – stirring, watching temperatures and lifting the lid to see how the beans were doing. Then they just had to cool.
This is going to sound a tad dramatic, but I don’t think I’ve ever really had coffee til now. The aroma not only roasting the beans but after grinding them is incredible. The house smells amazing. The taste has so much more depth and nuance to it than I’ve had in a cup before. There is a nice fruitiness to it that I’ve never tasted before, almost as delicate as tea. Maybe I’m just blinded by home roasting pride, but I think the first endeavor was pretty damn awesome.
Overall my roast was on the lighter side, which seems to allow the flavor of the bean to come to the forefront. For this first roast I used India Sanskriti Arabica beans from sweetmarias.com (you get beans as part of the starter kit). Needless to say the uniformity of the roast was a little all over the map (the Agtron coffee classification system) but regardless it still beats what you can buy in the supermarket hands-down. I just plucked the burnt ones out before I ground them. No harm, no foul. Next time I will put the roaster on a cast iron pan to diffuse the heat a bit more which may help.
The John Wayne mug for my first home roasted brew ever is for my Mom. 🙂