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Sweet Maria's: Roasting successes and failures


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#1 Chris Hennes

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:30 AM

Since a number of us are roasting our own (and here, and here), I thought it made sense to start comparing notes on what was working and what wasn't for the offerings at Sweet Maria's. To start it off, right now I'm drinking Brazil Fazenda Santa Mariana roasted to Full City, brewed drip follow the SM instructions. It is fantastic: it's got a great funkiness that I think is what the packaging is talking about when it describes the coffee as "malty". What are the rest of you experimenting with right now?

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#2 mkayahara

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 07:03 PM

I just pulled the trigger on an 8-pound sampler, so when it gets here, I'll be happy to join this conversation.
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#3 weinoo

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:52 AM

Oh, to be in Oklahoma, roasting my own. Sadly, I gave up my roasting years ago die to my not wanting to make my fellow cooperators, here in our NYC apartment, really pissed off.

Do you roast outside, in a garage, or where?
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#4 mkayahara

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:57 AM

A friend of mine who will soon be roasting commercially got started in his Manhattan apartment, Mitch. You've got no excuse. :raz:

Personally, though, I roast outside on my back patio.
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#5 weinoo

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 06:11 AM

A rental apartment - no problem. And if I had any outside space, I'd do it in a flash. But in a cooperative, it's a bit of a different story. I suppose I could sit in front of a window, with a fan at my back, holding a heat gun...
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#6 mkayahara

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 06:23 AM

For what it's worth, I think he was using an iRoast2, with dryer hose connected to the top to vent out the window. That's a bit of an investment, though.
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#7 Chris Hennes

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:00 AM

I'm doing the heat-gun roast method, outside, although that method produces a lot of chaff blowing around and not much (if any) smoke.

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#8 rotuts

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:05 AM

I roast with an iRoast2. Ive added a long analog Cooper dial thermometer through the top screen and the chaff collector into the bean mass. It gives me a 'relative' temperature that I then reference to the taste I get. Its reasonably reproducible so that changes up and down on the temp can also be reproduced with different beans.

If you are a coffee person, and can home or outdoors roast, its well worth the minimal effort.

Currently Im roasting to "445 degrees" 1/3 Guatemala 'finca rosma' 1/3 DP Brazil 'floresta' 1/3 Sumatra 'Gayo' for espresso. If I get the grind right and the tamp right: its quite sweet and requires no sugar.

I cant imagine a 'bad' green bean from SM. Its just a question of the level of roast one enjoys. For drip/FP I roast to '455' This roast is terrible as espresso and vice a versa.

Im sure I wouldn't be able to tell the difference in my blend with any of the Guatemala / DP Brazil / Sumatra they offer as subs for the above. But its fun to think that those long names make a difference!

#9 cdh

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:29 PM

I'm still roasting my own... I've been playing with Ethiopians and Coast Ricans recently. Amazing range of flavors even within those general categories. Have been using the 10-year-old FreshRoast v1, but am thinking seriously about upgrading to the DIY convection oven/Stir Crazy popcorn popper system that a quick google for "TurboCrazy" will more fully explain. Seems a reasonable way to get much bigger batches done.

Edited by cdh, 06 July 2012 - 05:38 PM.

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#10 donk79

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 04:06 PM

For those hesitating to attempt their own roasting for equipment reasons, I have had marvelous results roasting in an electric oven. It is not the perfect device for the job, but I even prefer it to our air popper. Not every roast is perfect, but you learn your equipment after a few roasts, and I can confidently say that i prefer my own roasts, even compared to the local professional roaster. I do not have my notes about my roasts with me atm, but I will post more later.

(One thing I will say though, is that the Tegu was not my favorite. That is my latest roast.)

#11 larryroohr

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:45 AM

I have the Behmore roaster, reasonably priced at 300$ and will do half pound batches well, a pound at a time is pushing it though even though it's advertised to take a pound of beans at a time.

I've got 30 lbs of a Brazilian in the deep freeze I bought for 3$/lb that I think is delicious, the Brazilians are usually used as a base and mixed with brighter beans but I like this one straight up for drip.

The reason I'm mentioning this is it has 'smoke suppression technology' which is a second burner in the exhaust path, and it catches all the chafe safely. It doesn't eliminate all the exhaust/smoke lt but does cut it down considerably, might be good for an apartment situation.

#12 Steve Irby

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 06:09 AM

I've been home roasting for about six years using Sweet Maria's offerings. I will order the 5# bag of Moka Kadir or Espresso Monkey blend and the 8 lb sampler and the combination qualifies for flat rate shipping. The beans are of the highest quality - well sorted, no trash or partial beans. The espresso blends are usually roasted just a few seconds into second crack and the single origins are generally roasted as recommended. Last nights roast was a Sumatra Lintong Tano Batak from the last sampler roasted to FC++.

I use a stove top roaster (Back To Basics) and roast 1 to 1.5 lbs at a time using a gas stove and 650 cfm hood vented to the outside. I have found that I get a more even roast with these weights as opposed to less than one pound roast. I roast in the evening and the time to roast a single origin is usually one beer and espresso 1.5 to 2 beers. That gas cooktops puts off a lot of heat! I step outside to cool the beans down by transferring them from colander to colander in front of a floor fan. It is amazing how much chaff is produced. My espresso setup is a Mazzer Mini grinder and Quick Mill Vetrano machine from Chris's Coffee Service. The equipment's been bullet since it's purchase in 2007 and the combination of good equipment and beans has produced a lot of great coffee.

#13 rotuts

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 06:19 AM

Kudos on your set-up for espresso. i also got my 'graduate' set-up from CCS after using a Ranchilio for about 4 years: K-3 doserless, PID Alexia ( i dont use milk )

It amazing what quality equipment properly taken care of can deliver.

I went through the 'espresso blending' tips:

http://www.sweetmari...om/blending.php

which took about a year to get to the blend I now prefer. Very very interesting doing this.

Edited by rotuts, 08 July 2012 - 06:24 AM.


#14 abooja

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 04:18 PM

I roasted my first ever batch of coffee just a few minutes ago using a West Bend Air Crazy popcorn popper and three ounces of Sweet Maria's Colombia "Dos Payasos de Tolima" beans. The roasted beans are sitting in a barely tightened half pint mason jar, to be ground and brewed tomorrow morning.

My first impressions are that this method produces a very uneven roast. Also, I should never again use the stopwatch function on my Android phone, because it switched screens on me at some point after four minutes, so I'm not at all certain how long this roast actually lasted. Because the beans were not turning over quite as much as I'd like during the roast, I shook the machine several times, then shut it off altogether, stirred, and restarted, confusing the timing even further. I'd say the roast lasted at least 4-1/2 minutes, and no longer than 5-1/2 minutes.

Some photos, so you can see for yourself:

first roast.jpg

The beans on the right are mine, and those on the left are Eight O'Clock Colombian:

first roast (right) vs 8'0c colombian (left).jpg

The Eight O'Clock beans are a lot more oily, which I'm hoping is what contributes to my not liking them very much. I'm concerned, however, that my roast will not even be drinkable. Should I have roasted them longer? Should I discard the very light beans before grinding? I definitely heard some cracks, but because of the volume of the popper, could not tell if first crack had ended or if second crack ever began.

I'll let you know tomorrow about the taste.

#15 Steve Irby

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 08:00 PM

If you are new to the process don't be worried about over roasting. I think you need to burn a batch or two to get a feel for the process especially if you are not monitoring temperature. With the method that you are using you will enter each roast stage somewhat gradually with each stage not as clearly defined as you would think. The roasts will always be (at least mine) less uniform due to limitations in the methods we are using. Here is a good link from SM to help you evaluate your efforts.

http://www.sweetmari...gs/degree-roast

and roasting tips for air poppers

http://www.sweetmari...irpopmethod.php

#16 rotuts

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 04:54 AM

abooja: congratulations on joining the roasting fraternity/sorority! as mentioned above SM has a lot of info on there web site. Keep a brief record of your roasts and they can only improve. Mine shot up dramatically once I was able to monitor a reproducible temperature.

#17 abooja

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:06 AM

I didn't bother to monitor the temperature of that first roast because I didn't think I had, on hand, an adequate method of doing so. I'm pretty sure I still don't. I have a Thermapen, and an infrared thermometer, and a meat thermometer (that I never use) that is too short-stemmed for the popper, and that lacks a high enough range. How is everyone else monitoring bean temperature?

As for the taste, who can rightly say? Someone other than myself, apparently. I'm not sure what the heck it tasted like. I know that I liked it more than I did the Eight O'Clock I've been brewing lately. I removed the quakers (or beans that were very pale) before grinding, then brewed a 60 grams of coffee-to-one liter of water ratio, stronger than my usual 50:1, because of the lightness of the roast. The first brew was 18 hours after the roast, and the second was nearly two days later, or this morning. Both tasted identical, at least to my uninformed palate. Mild, not bitter, very light bodied, and vaguely reminiscent of coffee. :huh:

Forging ahead, I roasted three more ounces of coffee this morning, some Brazil Fazenda do Sertao (Lot 50). This time, I stirred the roasting beans with the blunt end of a wooden skewer, and roasted a lot longer -- for 8 minutes, 53 seconds, to be precise. I heard first crack, and again could not determine whether or not I was hearing second crack. I also tried to monitor temperature with my infrared thermometer, but never got a reading higher than 405 degrees fahrenheit. The numbers even started to drop back to the high 300s, at which point I realized how much time had passed, and abruptly ended the roast.

Here's what it looks like:

2nd roast brazilian 7-10-12 (small).jpg

And here is how it compares to my first roast, which is on the right:

2nd roast brazilian left 1st roast colombian right (small).jpg

I hope I didn't burn it, but it did not smell burnt. It looks a lot more uniformly brown and smooth than my first roast, with less attached chaff and some "exploded" beans. I'll see how it tastes tomorrow.

#18 rotuts

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:28 AM

your best bet is to study SM color chart. Id be very careful with the thermapen in the bean mass as heat rising from the mass if left for too long will melt the thermapen plastic.

Id have to see a shot of the set-up you use to see if there is a way to get a reliable and reproducible temp.

#19 abooja

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:34 AM

your best bet is to study SM color chart. Id be very careful with the thermapen in the bean mass as heat rising from the mass if left for too long will melt the thermapen plastic.

Id have to see a shot of the set-up you use to see if there is a way to get a reliable and reproducible temp.

I did, and this latest roast, at least visually, appears to be close to a Full City+. BTW, I didn't keep the Thermapen inside the machine, just held it there for a few seconds, then pulled it right out.

Sweet Maria's has a recommended set-up for monitoring temps using a popcorn popper, but I would have to buy some things, and modify the machine. I may just decide to switch to a bake-and-heat gun method, in which case, I will need a different approach to monitoring temps.

Thanks for your encouragement!

#20 rotuts

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:55 AM

I took a peak at tom's PP vids. Im wondering if you put too much coffee in the popper?

I also noticed that the roast he shows is quite uneven. that may not matter as you can pick out the 'under-roasted' beans. Your roast looks much more even.

I dont use a PP so I cant say how dark you can get your roast. I drink drip on the 'darker side' espresso somewhat lighter.

enjoy!

#21 Chris Hennes

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 01:00 PM

At a glance I'd say your roast is still substantially lower than FC+, though of course that may be the camera and/or lighting. I think after roasting some you will be very surprised by just how dark you can go before you actually hit the burnt stage. Your beans don't show a hint of oil at the surface, so you're not to a French Roast yet, and even that isn't yet actually burnt. You might consider putting some commercially-roasted beans next to yours and posting a photo so we can see the comparison there.

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#22 abooja

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 04:20 PM

Here's a photo of my Brazilian roast side by side with Eight O'Clock Colombian, which is on the left.

2nd roast brazilian right, eight o'clock colombian left.jpg

With the exception of maybe one or two beans, not in the photo, my roast definitely lacks the sheen and is lighter than the Eight O'Clock. They call theirs a medium roast, but it looks much darker than that to me. Of course, color is not the only determining factor. My roast has some of the surface cracks that are reminiscent of a City to City+ roast. Perhaps if I had a professional roasting drum, the slower roast would produce darker tones without the cracking? Just a guess.

So, how do you guys measure temperature?

#23 MikeHartnett

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 04:50 PM

Just to clarify - are you looking for "darker tones" and the "sheen" of the Eight O'Clock beans? A sheen is not a desirable quality in coffee beans. It means they're overroasted (see https://www.sweetmar...ne-degree-roast). And if you have a problem with bitterness in your coffee, it's not going to help to roast darker. Roasts on the darker end of the spectrum are going to have more roast qualities in the taste, and express more bitterness.

#24 Chris Hennes

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 04:52 PM

The sheen in the Eight O'Clock is probably more due to age than to roast level: based on their color I'd guess they didn't have an oily surface when they came out of the roaster. If you discount the sheen and just look at the color of the beans you can see that your roast is substantially lighter than theirs: maybe in the neighborhood of City- or City.

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#25 MikeHartnett

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 06:03 PM

The sheen in the Eight O'Clock is probably more due to age than to roast level: based on their color I'd guess they didn't have an oily surface when they came out of the roaster. If you discount the sheen and just look at the color of the beans you can see that your roast is substantially lighter than theirs: maybe in the neighborhood of City- or City.


True. Forgot age as a factor, too. Add that to one of the reasons you don't want to buy coffee from the grocery store. Even reputable brands' coffees are often months past the roast date.

#26 Steve Irby

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:56 PM

Oil on the surface of the bean is primarily a function of degree of roast. That's why city roast is not oily and french roast is. Here's a good link - check rasquals response.

#27 Steve Irby

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:05 AM

Whoops forgot the link: http://cooking.stack...the-time-of-pur

#28 abooja

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 06:53 AM

I just brewed a cup of my latest roast, and it tastes virtually identical to the last, despite having been roasted twice as long. It has the color and astringency of black tea. It has been about 24 hours since it was roasted. As someone in Steve's link suggests, did it need to age a bit longer because it is a lighter roast? Or, from what you can tell, was it just not roasted long enough? I have enough left for one more cup. I may just run out and buy a heat gun today so that I can start roasting larger batches. I'd like to be able to test small portions of a batch over the course of a week, because three ounces only lasts so long.

#29 Chris Hennes

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 07:14 AM

Oil on the surface of the bean is primarily a function of degree of roast. That's why city roast is not oily and french roast is. Here's a good link - check rasquals response.

I really don't think you can say that it is "primarily" a function of roast: it is a function of roast and time. For example, I have a bag of emergency backup beans in the back of my cupboard that I just checked: they were roasted to City+, and were oil-free at the time and for at least a week afterwards. Now, three months later? Coated in oil. And this is just a City+ roast! Once roasted, beans will begin to express oil: the higher the roast, the faster that happens, but time is still a factor, and I bet those Eight O'Clock beans are old.

abooja, my advice to you is to sacrifice three ounces of beans to the coffee gods and incinerate the damned things. I really think you will be surprised by both how long it takes and how dark you can get them before they start to actually burn. Obviously it could still be a trick of the light, but your roast above looks quite light to me.

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#30 glepore

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 01:58 PM

Chris-I used that setup for 3+yrs and it worked well, will do one lb easily-but I gotta confess that I melted 3 or 4 stir crazies during that time-there's so much some involved that you need to roast outdoors, and in the winter its too easy to go in thinking you'll come back out in 15 min to check on first crack, then get distracted... :) Recently changed over to a Behmor, and its worth every penny of the 300 bucks-given that you'll invest 100 in the stir crazy setup-but the big limitation is 1/2 lb roasts if you want City+ or better. But you can roast inside-there's odor but no smoke.

Way off topic, just replaced my NS Oscar with a Breville Dual, and it is an incredible machine - nothing even close at its pricepoint.