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Fat Guy

Adventures in Home Coffee Roasting

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It doesn't surprise me too much that beans left out after 2 weeks would show some signs of breakdown.

One thing I realized from my visual examination is that nearly all the coffee I see in stores has already gone the way of degradation before it's even purchased. I was just in Fairway tonight, for example, looking at the coffee bins. All the beans in every bin but one seemed to be exuding oils in the way that I'm pretty sure was responsible for the inferior taste of the two-week-old beans in my test. The only bin that didn't have that sheen was the Fairway Blend, which I assume is their highest volume seller and may actually get roasted every day or two. Oh, and some of the decafs had that desirable matte finish, but the whole chemistry of decaf is different and I haven't gone there yet.

Rather than "left out," I'd say my samples were pretty well sealed. Left out would to me describe coffee sitting in a bin in a store, relatively exposed to the atmosphere. My storage method was a notch above that: A Zip-Loc bag with as much air removed as possible without vacuum-packing equipment, stored inside a second airtight container. Better still of course would be actual vacuum packaging, which is what they do with good coffee beans from companies like Illy and may very well be why a lot of coffee geeks like those beans better than the roasted-on-premises coffees from the coffee shops. I don't think I'm actually ready to go up against Illy yet, but I'm getting there.

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Just to reiterate--there's no condensation problem if you freeze the beans in small containers, take them out of the freezer a day before they're going to be ground and used and don't open the airtight containers until the beans have reached room temperature. This is not to say that freezing is desirable, just that condensation can be eliminated as a problem if you choose to freeze any quantity of roasted coffee beans.

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Freezing or not freezing shouldn't be a discussion. You roast them. Let them rest a day or two. Grind them and brew them. One of the main points of home-roasting is to eliminate any questions about the storing of roasted beans.

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Good luck telling this crowd what should and shouldn't be a discussion!

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Better still of course would be actual vacuum packaging, which is what they do with good coffee beans from companies like Illy and may very well be why a lot of coffee geeks like those beans better than the roasted-on-premises coffees from the coffee shops. I don't think I'm actually ready to go up against Illy yet, but I'm getting there.

I had never considered home roasting before your posts. I really didn’t know that they had roasters out there that would be affordable for home use. It really does sound like it’s worth the trouble if you love coffee, which I do. You may have covered this already, I apologize if you did, but where do you get your beans?

--Therese

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I’m certainly no fan of the precautionary principle when applied to official policy -- and I’ve cheerfully eaten red meat for the thirty years that it’s been considered by the health busybodies to be tantamount to smoking asbestos cigarettes -- but I find studies like the ones cited in Science News useful input to making informed individual, personal decisions. (Nice twist, though, about the more logical the hypothesis the less likely its truth.)

In summary, counselor, I found your reaction disproportionate. Perhaps you overreacted to my assault on your apparent brewing method of choice, or perhaps you’ve just been consuming way too much coffee. Like about a liter per day?

Edit: Added them parens.

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So far I've used The Coffee Project as my exclusive source of raw beans because James Vaughn, the owner and my home coffee roasting guru, has sent me two cartons of free samples including a big sack of the Colombian beans that I'm using for all my first-round tests. Especially given that I need to keep all the beans the same for the purposes of the comparisons I'm doing, there's no reason to go to a second source at this time. Eventually, though, I'll start experimenting with other beans. I have a bunch of small bags of beans from many different nations from The Coffee Project. I'll probably also mail-order some from Sweet Maria's, and I'll buy some locally. My preliminary research indicates that any place that roasts coffee on the premises will sell you raw beans, either officially or unofficially.

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Apparent obviousness and fulfilment of preexisting beliefs simply put one on the alert that people may be less likely to ask the kinds of questions that need to be asked before they swallow a load of crap.

I've been drinking on average maybe 6 ounces of brewed coffee a day. I rarely finish a mug.

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steve,

you are being so beautifully scientific about this issue that i don't quite kow how to put this. anyway, i'll try:

espresso exprts tell us that a cup of espresso should be made in 20-25 seconds. now, even with the right grind for press or if you pour the water manually for drip, won't the coffee be exposed to hot water for too long with methods other than espresso?

i'm really just an amateur (in the negative sense of the word... :sad:) who luckily has access to espressos made by a former world champion barista working at my favourite cafe ("europa" in copenhagen) :smile:

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I'm no expert, but my intuition says that espresso is going to call for shorter contact with water for two reasons: 1) Espresso is ground finer than filter or press-pot coffee and therefore yields up all its compounds more quickly, and 2) espresso is made with pressurized water that is forced through the grounds, thus hastening extraction. I think the larger grind size and gentler process of the drip filter or the press pot probably requires longer contact with water. Certainly, every expert source recommends 4-5 minutes for the press pot, though a few iconoclasts ask for closer to 3 minutes (and in so doing call for a finer grind).

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Hey Fat Guy, I've really been enjoying your posts about coffee. Keep up the good work and the attention to detail. I wish I could help you out and do experiments as well, but I've had to give up coffee though I love it dearly. I'm really sensitive to caffeine and every once and a while I need to sleep.

Guess I'll just have to help mamster out with growing coffee beans. :wacko:

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FG, What is the latest status of your coffee project? Have you continued to roast? I really enjoyed reading those.

Ben

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Yes, I enjoyed Steve's posts also. As a matter of fact, I liked em so much that I have it on good word Santa has a Freshroast coffee roaster packed away on his sled for me. Yeah! If you get a chance Steve, what beans are your favorites? I got a pound each of Java, Kawai (peaberry I assume?), and Columbian. I definitely wanted to stick with the less pricey beans, until I know what the heck I'm doing. :rolleyes:

-Therese

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Ben: I've been obsessively refining my technique and have nothing to report that wouldn't make me sound like a loser. I'll probably have a couple more entries in the diary eventually, though, to cover blending and freezing.

Tmnoland: Go with the Colombian beans for practice. To me, they taste the most like coffee. That's not to say they're better or worse than some others. It's just that they're good to practice on because you're not dealing with unusual or distracting flavors. Of course there are grades and types within Colombia too, but as long as you ordered decent beans you'll learn a lot working with the Colombians.

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Ben: I've been obsessively refining my technique and have nothing to report that wouldn't make me sound like a loser.

After your write-up of All Bar One, you may as well go for broke.

:raz:

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Part 1)

So many great points made in this series of posts and excellent info raised in the discussions. As a coffeegeek forum regular I can attest to the value of that forum as a resource. Think of it as an egullet for the coffee obsessed and you get the idea.

Not wishing to reiterate but I'll clarify some basic points that were raised and add a few opinions of my own. As usual, this is highly subjective but my statements are based on much personal trial and error and bolstered by the fact that these seem to be commonly held precepts among the crowd at coffeegeek. We differ on many issues but there are some fundamentals that hold true for most.

Burr grinders are better than blade grinders and are essential for producing quality espresso or press pot coffee. The cheapest burr grinder you can buy that is regarded as being consistent enough for espresso is the Solis Maestro at $125. Better results (albeit noisier) can be obtained from an Innova conical burr or a Rancilio Rocky, each respectively slightly higher in price than the Maestro. If you are ONLY making drip coffee (manual or auto drip - not french press), you can still get decent results from a $20-30 blade grinder. I've tried 4 or 5 different types including Melitta, Waring, Capresso and Krups. The Krups is the fastest and produces the most consistent particle size of the all the cheap blade grinders I've tried.

If you can find a quality microroaster in your area and pick up fresh coffee once every 5 - 7 days by all means do so and support your small local roaster - they need your support! I don't think there's a supermarket or specialty store in many (if any) locations that turns over all their beans fast enough and manages their stock carefully enough to ensure that you really get the freshest beans. Freshly roasted beans need to degas (release excess nitrogen). Typically, for drip coffee, fresh roasted beans are at their peak beginning 24-36 hours after initial roasting and remain in their prime state for another 5 to 6 days. They should be stored at room to cool temps out of the light. Some roasts (e.g. french Roast) are dark enough that they have oils visible shortly after roasting but oils that begin appearing on the surface of beans a week or so after roasting are in indication that the beans are well past their optimum point. Some espresso blends require 2 - 3 days of degassing before they're at their optimum.

Don't freeze coffee if you can avoid doing it. If you're in a situation where high quality fresh roasted beans are not readily avilable on as as needed basis, get some when it's really fresh (no more than two days past roasting) and use the method others have described of freezing in individual ziploc portions, removing one at a time as needed and allowing to thaw at room temp. There is some degradation relative to non-frozen beans (technically speaking it can be proven but I can't taste the difference and I'm a die hard coffee drinker).

Is commercially roasted microroaster coffee better than what you and I can roast at home with more primitive methods? In theory it often is because they have the years of experience and the commercial roasters that allow them greater control over the roast. I use a West Bend Poppery and get consistently good results but have to work carefully to get all the chaff out. Because it's a hot air popper and I haven't yet added a variac (device that allows variable roast temperature), I have fairly fast roasts and this lends a bright, acidic quality to the beans. The aromatics can be better developed with a slower roast. This is especially important for espresso blends but I digress.

The info that Fat Guy is sharing here is wonderful. I tend to be unscientific about my roasting experiments, apart from jotting down notes about the roast level and percentages of varietals for my blends. One of the critical things that he's doing which is SOOOOO important for home roasting and also for learning to make excellent espresso (not an easy task): eliminate as many variables as possible. Choose one bean and learn to roast it well. Choose one coffee prep method and learn to do it well. If expermenting with blending, start with some known basics that are recommended and vary one bean type or the proprotions of two specific beans in the blend before making more changes. It's easy to become frustrated with roasting if you don't proceed with some basic procedures in mind. Also - if you smaple your roasted beans right away or the next day and they don't seem quite right.... wait another day - they'll improve. if you have a blend that just doesn't hit the mark, consider mixing it in with another blend - I"ve done this and come up with some pleasantly surprising results.

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So, Steven, it's been six months.

Has the novelty worn off? Do you still roast your own beans? Or was this a one-shot deal, and now you find it easier to just grind-and-brew?

I'm curious.

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When I was going through my coffee-roasting phase, I would roast in the morning when I needed it, then grind and make it right away. A batch was enough for a few days, but if I blended two types, I might end up with more coffee than I could drink in a week. After a week at room temperature, it wasn't worth drinking, so I would chuck it and start again.

I had a dozen varietals I got from Sweet Maria's. You can do some interesting blends by using different types and varying the roasts.

I made some dam' fine coffee before I had to give it up.

Sigh. I miss coffee.

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So, Steven, it's been six months.

Has the novelty worn off? Do you still roast your own beans? Or was this a one-shot deal, and now you find it easier to just grind-and-brew?

I'm curious.

Still roasting 2-3 times a week. I've got the process almost fully automated now, so it's simply a question of remembering to do it a day ahead of when I need the beans. I don't think I'll ever be able to go back. At some point I'll do a big horizontal and vertical tasting, but my general impression is that home roasting is totally the way to go.

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my general impression is that home roasting is totally the way to go.

I just started last week, mainly because I hated to go out at 10pm to buy coffee beans the next morning. I have been impressed so far, and some egullet friends were positive about the early results.

I got my beans and roaster from Coffee Bean Corral, the roaster and beans arrived 2 days after ordering.

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I've been roasting on and off for the past six or seven months myself. I can safely say that FatGuy's espresso blend or mine or that of any number of other relatively inexperienced hoem roasters will blow Illy out of the water at a fraction of the price.

On occasion, I still buy a half or full pound fo fresh roasted espresso blend forma microraoster in Syracuse NY (where I spend a few weeks every month). I just wish there was a reliable microroaster in NYC or North Jersey. I've had very mixed results with Porto Rico Imports - everything is sold from open barrels (that stay open 24/7). There's no way of knowing what's dark roasted and oily for thatlem is they reason or the stocjk that has just sat for way too long. Empire Coffee and Tea on 9th Ave near 42nd is better in terms of freshness. Smaller variety to select from but appears to be much fresher - problem is that they don't offer an espresso blend but you can make one up with partial pounds of several bean varities.

I rarely drink drip coffee anymore but whether it's drip or espresso - home roasting is the way to go.

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FreshRoast is still the standard for entry-level machines, and when it comes to home coffee roasting the entry level takes you very far.

http://coffeeproject.com/roasters/freshroast.html

By the way, in New York City, both Zabar's and Fairway now officially sell raw beans. Fairway in Harlem even had a couple of choices. But the basic Colombian from either place is a great base for building a blend, and does away with the need to deal with mail order (where the only economical way to do it is to order a whole lot at once).

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