Coffee companies keeping the arabica/robusta ratio a secret - is it a shady practice? - Page 2

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
coffee_maybe (original poster)
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#11: Post by coffee_maybe (original poster) »

luca wrote:How picky you want to be is entirely up to you, but don't feel that this is the only practice that you might regard as "shady". For example, blends are often the dumping ground for green buying mistakes, or places where roasters are very price sensitive and buy cheap stuff - coffee might be past crop (like a year or two older than the current crop), or it might have good aspects offset by a number of bad aspects. This is particularly the case with "espresso" blends, where the darker roast level introduces bitterness to the cup, so roasters often seem to feel that if the coffee they are putting into the blend is astringent, papery, phenolic, medicinal, rubbery or has a host of other bad aspects, they're going to be hidden in the roast level anyway. There's coffee around on the market that has so many defects to it that it is not specialty grade. Like it's not all that uncommon that I'll taste commercial blends that seem to have mould or phenolic defect.

If a roaster doesn't want to disclose the composition of the blend, it may be that they need a bit of flexibility. This might be because they are buying different components specially for the blend, or it might be because the blend is a dumping ground for leftovers that they wind up with. And if they a roaster has coffee that isn't too characterful, in fairness, they can probably hide 10-15% in a blend without most people realizing.

Then there's the whole mire around coffee companies' representations around sustainability and what they pay for their green coffee, where, suffice to say, most coffee companies will make some noises about paying some amount that they think is fair, and most of them will not provide actual details to consumers.

The flipside is that invariably many consumers have a pigheaded combination of wanting to pay very little, and wanting to believe some sort of marketing puffery along the lines that they are getting "only the finest."

So ... are you being too picky? It's caveat emptor.

(I say all of this as general comments - I don't know anything about this particular roaster.)

In the end I don't think that they don't disclose the arabica/robusta content because it is their secret recipe that makes their product great. The "flexibility" that you mentioned is to me the main reason for big commercial roasters to keep it a secret. Coffee is a highly marketing rich product and in all honesty most people buying commercial beans would be happy to just buy a certain brand and don't care if the robusta is 20 or 40%. That really is great for the roaster since he can dump 10 or 20 % more robusta in a blend without many people noticing.
Regarding the "sustainability" i'm using a bean from a local Wholesale company - Metro Cash and Carry (pretty popular in Europe). The bean is supposed to BIO 100% arabica blend. It is super easy to see that even if 100% arabica, there are different beans in there. Like one day a shot would take 25 seconds, the next day the shot would take 40 seconds. We are talking about stale coffee here, that has clearly off-gassed enough to be stable but still - there are different beans in there.

SutterMill
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#12: Post by SutterMill »

coffee_maybe wrote:Regarding the "sustainability" i'm using a bean from a local Wholesale company - Metro Cash and Carry (pretty popular in Europe). The bean is supposed to BIO 100% arabica blend. It is super easy to see that even if 100% arabica, there are different beans in there. Like one day a shot would take 25 seconds, the next day the should would take 40 seconds. We are talking about stale coffee here, that has clearly off-gassed enough to be stable but still - there are different beans in there.
There are almost always several types of beans mixed together. They could still all be arabica. Several single origins I buy have multiple varieties of arabica mixed together from neighboring farms.

coffee_maybe (original poster)
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#13: Post by coffee_maybe (original poster) replying to SutterMill »

I don't doubt it that a 100% arabica blend is 100% arabica. I just found it strange how different the beans can be in a bag since they created a 15 seconds difference in pulling time. I have never had this experience with specialty coffee. That said, it's strange to see a shot tasting almost the same at 25 and at 40 seconds.

Milligan
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#14: Post by Milligan »

With specialty coffee pushing for more transparency, yes this seems like an old way of doing it. I don't think it is shady though. Saying something as simple as the robusta/arabica ratio is so benign that it is kind of laughable to call it a trade secret in my opinion.

Many respectable roasters describe the specific beans in a blend on their site. Not many go into as much detail as single origins. A good blend is developing flavors, characteristics, and consistency that is impossible to get from a single origin. A bad blend is a roaster's trash bin for old inventory.

jpender
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#15: Post by jpender »

I've bought blends where the roaster said that the components are varied depending on the beans that are available. Wine makers do the same thing, although they also often list the proportions for the particular vintage. With wine it's an annual, dated vintage. Each label is different. With coffee that would be more troublesome to change the label and other marketing whenever the recipe was tweaked.

I remember one year Blue Bottle "Three Africas" blend was made with two types of beans.

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Randy G.
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#16: Post by Randy G. »

The best roasters blend based on taste so the percentages of what is used will vary, sometimes throughout the season. The few roasters I have spoken to about specifics in their blends work on the principle of, "If I tell you I will have to kill you." A friend who was the roaster at a small coffee company kept the blending notes in a locked safe.
If the caffeine content doesn't matter to you, buy what tastes good. If it does, buy 100% Arabica. If you are looking for a specific taste and caffeine level, buy a coffee roasting appliance and spend the next decade or two perfecting your own blend. :wink:
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dparrish
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#17: Post by dparrish »

As Jim has hinted, there are plenty of Italian roasters who post the percentage of robusta used. If I were in the OP's shoes, I think I would be tempted to try some of them :).