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Stale coffee from boutique roasters.

Postby Ian_G on Thu May 26, 2011 1:19 pm

I just took possession of an Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica. I have been dialing it in with, so far, about a kilo of stock coffee beans. By stock, I mean no roast date; just a sell by. Starting with seeking balance, and then moving into brewing ratios, I have attempted to explore every nuance of what is, in effect, stale coffee. I have tried every conceivable way to find the absolute best from the beans. Of course this is eating bitter, sometimes literally, so that when the "roasted on" stuff showed up I'd be ready to party.

I bought some "roasted on" from two separate suppliers. One I'd used before, the other -highly recommended. From the supplier I'd used before I bought Cuban Turquino. I knew what it was like. I'd had it before. But never on such a good machine. What I got was, frankly, stale. You could tell it was the right coffee - but long past its best. From the highly recommended site I got 3 blends. They were very specific about flavours and textures. They sent, what on the surface appeared to be, 3 highly complex flavour combinations. Again stale. One that was still kicking, and had some of it former glory left; the other two were appalling. I mean Instant is almost how bad.

I thought, is it me, the machine, or the coffee? To find out I bought some Lavazza beans at the supermarket. I almost got it perfect first time. Loosened the grind and went for it. I wanted to know what terrible tasted like. What I got was chocolate and walnut (no not nutty, but walnut). Better than (but not great) the bleeping "Artisan Roasters", by a country mile. So what is going on?

Anyone else end up with crap from an "Boutique Roaster"?
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Postby yakster on Thu May 26, 2011 5:52 pm

So far, I've had no such problems with my orders from boutique roasters. The closest that I came was an order that was delayed and ended up shipping the next week. I had hoped to have the espresso on hand for a visiting guest from Italy, but I had to make do with home-roast.

Even the beans I recently picked up at Whole Foods were still fresh (though a week past what I would normally look for at a local roaster) and as my parents were visiting I knew that I would be using them up within a week.

That being said, I don't make a habit of ordering roasted coffee and have done so from just a few places or picked up the coffee from local roasters.
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Postby another_jim on Thu May 26, 2011 8:13 pm

Ian_G wrote:What I got was chocolate and walnut

Um ... Cocoa and a vague walnut is what completely stale coffee tastes like. If what you got with the "boutique roasters" is not this; what you were tasting was not stale.
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Postby Ian_G on Fri May 27, 2011 2:26 am

I'm sure there are varying degrees of staleness. I contend that if a particular roast promises particular flavours and mouthfeel and you don't get anything at all, then lack of freshness is a possibility. I accept mano and machine play their part too.

another_jim wrote:Um ... Cocoa and a vague walnut is what completely stale coffee tastes like. If what you got with the "boutique roasters" is not this; what you were tasting was not stale.


Staling surely is a spectrum, or a scale in which you do not go from fresh to absolute rancid in one go. But by degree flavour is lost, or emerges. What would you call it if you bought something expecting xyz flavours and they were not present - in terms of stale or fresh? I mean one of the coffees I ordered, I'd had before, so I knew what to expect. Its flavour was there but weak, and then gone after two days. Normally with Cuban Turquino I get big bold flavour that lasts a week easily.

PS I'd like to amend my original description to read "chocolate and a generic nut flavour".
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Postby another_jim on Fri May 27, 2011 5:21 am

Your description and conclusions don't align.

Cuban Turquino is a low grown, lowish quality, mostly overpriced coffee with very little acidity or fruit. Roasted light, it will taste of caramel and almond; darker roasts can add peaty, malt whiskey flavors. Both these are very stable, and will last six to eight weeks from roasting. If it is poorly processed, it may also have ferment, which is mostly bad smells like sausages and sauerkraut, but can sometimes be good, like fruit with an alcoholic overripeness. Fermented flavors dissipate in two to three weeks post roast.

Italian espresso blenders like Cuban coffees and buy the bulk of the crop, driving the price up in the rest of the world. They value the peaty edge a small proportion gives to the base Brazils in a blend

It is not the sort of coffee one would buy from specialty roasters, or value for its freshness. Freshness in coffee is indicated by high acidity and strong volatile aromatics. The "bold" flavors are mostly shelf stable just as spices or chocolate are. These flavors develop best in a slow roasting style that doesn't work well for high grown specialty coffees. I'm guessing your boutique roasters did the roasts too fast and too light, and it is that, not the freshness or lack of it that is bothering you.
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Postby NelisB on Fri May 27, 2011 7:09 am

Try to dose more coffee. (19/20 gr)
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Postby Ian_G on Fri May 27, 2011 7:32 am

another_jim wrote:Your description and conclusions don't align.

Cuban Turquino is a low grown, lowish quality, mostly overpriced coffee with very little acidity or fruit..........I'm guessing your boutique roasters did the roasts too fast and too light, and it is that, not the freshness or lack of it that is bothering you.


The reason I bought Turquino was because of the following:

Description
"Cuba Turquino is a full bodied coffee with a lush smoky flavour. It is a clean tasting coffee with mild acidity compared to other central american coffees due to its lower altitude. The best Cuban coffee is the Turquino. It is well-balanced, spicy, with a full aroma and an incredibly long-lasting aftertaste. A fiery and original coffee for real connoisseurs. Its bouquet and taste remind of the character of famous Cuban cigars. Cuba Turquino is often mentioned among connoisseurs in one breath with the Blue Mountain from Jamaica and Kona from Hawaii."

and because the last time I had it I got quite a lot of that flavour as described.

So ok maybe it was the roast and not the freshness for all of the coffee. What bothers me is when there is a mismatch between the description(s) and the aroma/taste, so you don't get what you think you're paying for.
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Postby cafeIKE on Fri May 27, 2011 12:25 pm

Ever read the menu descriptions at Brewers Fayre?

IMO, the more overblown the description, the less likely it's accurate.

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Postby Intrepid510 on Fri May 27, 2011 2:23 pm

You said supplier in your post, did you mean that you bought directly from the roaster or did you buy through a 3rd party?

I've never had a problem getting fresh beans directly from the roaster, it's mainly when I pick something up else where that freshness can be dubious. For example, went into a Williams and Sonoma that had Intellgentsia for sale, it was six months post roast date!
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Postby another_jim on Fri May 27, 2011 2:31 pm

Ian_G wrote:Cuba Turquino is often mentioned among connoisseurs in one breath with the Blue Mountain from Jamaica and Kona from Hawaii.


That's the breath of connoisseurs travel agents. Blue Mountain and Kona are the classic "vacation coffees," that is, expensive souvenirs of a great vacation, that in themselves mostly taste very average, if that.

The description you quote is of an idealized "island profile," -- of how the very best island coffees should taste. Each year, there's maybe a half dozen Kona lots, maybe also an odd lot or two of Puerto Rican or Jamaican coffee, that will actually taste like this. To get it requires a lot of processing labor and punctilious sorting; which is not something that happens very often.
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