Espresso Blend Does Not (Always) Mean Dark-Roasted - Page 2

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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another_jim
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#11: Post by another_jim »

drgary wrote:They cater to a public that largely doesn't know the full variety available and have equated rich coffee with dark coffee. Perhaps some of these roasters know the difference themselves, as indicated in this case by their description of their medium roast.
You are still assuming that everyone who knows coffee will prefer a City Roast. I do not think this is a valid assumption.

For cupping, a City roast is useless, adding a layer of caramels that hides the flaws, which is like adding pancake makeup to cover acne. For regular consumption, if the coffee is a great Kenya, the medium roast will take it halfway between its light roast champagne sparkle and its dark roast blackberry port wine flavors, a dead zone where it will taste like nothing special. Not all coffee drinking is doable at medium roasts, and not all coffees are best at medium roasts.

Marshall and I are somewhat allergic to "amateurs are better than the pros" genre posts. There are doubtlessly many roaster and cafe owners who are ignorant, but these "I'm so much more discriminating than thou" posts are mostly inaccurate and always unkind.
Jim Schulman

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drgary (original poster)
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#12: Post by drgary (original poster) »

Marshall and Jim:

That's why I'm asking you for your ideas. No way am I more knowledgeable than many or most professionals. Maybe I'm asking the question wrong or making a suggestion that's awkward, and if so, believe me, it's unintentional. In response to Jim, when he says:
Marshall and I are somewhat allergic to "amateurs are better than the pros" genre posts. There are doubtlessly many roaster and cafe owners who are ignorant, but these "I'm so much more discriminating than thou" posts are mostly inaccurate and always unkind.
Please understand that is not my intention. I'm searching for a way to communicate to a vendor in this situation to help buyers make a more satisfying purchase. I don't know if such communication is possible, but am addressing a common issue, I think (see RANT above). In other words, is there any way a roaster of estate Konas (in this instance) can suggest something other than "if you don't know what your friends will like, choose the Full City+"?

BTW, I don't assume that a particular roast always optimizes a particular type of coffee. And although my suggested verbiage leans toward the medium -- a take-off on that roaster's site advertising, I've also acknowledged that I've enjoyed a dark roast. It's an artform, of course. Yet, aren't there ways a roaster thinks about optimizing that doesn't bury the flavor for people who want to taste the uniqueness of a particular bean? I liked Jim's earlier post where he mused about different types of coffees and roasts and different advantages of each -- for example where he discussed the advantages of a caramelized sugar versus one that isn't. And, I do understand that there are some roasters each of us will prefer. But what's the entry point? How can someone with access to estate grown coffees present them to people who want to taste them for the first time and don't want to roast them themselves? I know it's not an easy question to answer other than, quit fussing already and get a roaster!

FWIW, another bag of Kona sent to me from a different roaster was labeled "medium" and was great for espresso this morning. I'll have to share what it was when I get back home tonight. Later add: It was Sweet Okole Coffee Co. 100% Estate Grown Kona Coffee, Full City Roast. See http://www.sweetokolecoffeecompany.com . I pulled a lovely ristretto at about 196 degrees, 30 seconds, 13.5 gm single basket. Flavors I remember are a "classic cup" in that it tastes primarily like coffee, not something else, some subtle effervescent spice, nicely balanced, smooth.

Thinking on this further, maybe my title for this thread is off. It should be something like, "Don't Burn My Beans! Please?" :(
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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another_jim
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#13: Post by another_jim »

Commercial roasters make their livings serving a market where even self identified coffee lovers rarely use grinders, drink black, unsugared coffee, or straight espresso. The notion that a coffee is second rate if it tastes like coffee and not much else, or that needs sugar and cream to be at its best, would strike them as ridiculous. Any advice you give must fit this context, or it will bankrupt whoever listens.

I do not know the coffee business in Hawaii, so I cannot comment in detail. Here in Chicago, Intelligentsia and Metropolis were able to upgrade their coffees because they are known as top roasters, and because people expect to be get a rare experience, even if they are unsure what it will be. For a roaster without this high end reputation and, quite frankly, snob appeal, to do the same thing would be suicidal.

Moreover, while Metropolis and Intelligentsia flirted briefly with the on line coffee community, they mostly ignore us now. Even for a high end coffee company, we are neither enough of a market nor enough of a high visbility trend setter. They focus on appealing to various types of foodies, which make up a much larger group of both buyers and visible trend setters.

I am actually fairly optimistic about the long term influence of on-line expert communities, including our coffee one. But I no longer believe this consists in giving people advice. Instead, the posts of expert communities regularly top search lists when the questions are specific and knowledgeable. So people needing solid info read the posts of forums like this one. This is not influence that is short term enough to be interesting to businesses; but it does have a larger long term effect. We are more like a reference library for people looking for information than the corner mavens giving advice.
Jim Schulman

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drgary (original poster)
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#14: Post by drgary (original poster) »

If we remove the charged and awkward word, "advice," I hope this exchange of ideas will be useful to people who inquire about what gourmet coffees to choose from a roaster who sells online. Likewise may it be helpful to roasters who get inquiries from people like me who are eager to get the most enjoyable experience of their product. At times we find ourselves in a dilemma.

As a novice asking actual advice of H-B experts on this thread please understand the genuine curiosity of such a posting and my desire to find a way that customers and professionals might understand each other better. Please go easy on me for style points. I appreciate the expertise you bring to the subject and have gained a better understanding of the industry. And the more I read what you folks write and try it at home, the more improvement I see in the cup.
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

chang00

#15: Post by chang00 »

Most if not all commercial roasters are there to make a profit. If the market is not large enough or profitable, there will not be certain product.

As I previously posted, not everybody enjoys the special coffee flavors that are appreciated by the hobbyist. The coffee at work that are most popular are the bulk coffee from Costco, not my home roast. I attributed this influence to my middle performance in home roasting competition this year. :twisted:

So, if you were a commercial roaster, in my limited environment of a 10+ person office, with 9 people enjoying bulk coffee, and me alone enjoying the terroir flavor, do you roast for me specifically, or the other 9 people?

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drgary (original poster)
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#16: Post by drgary (original poster) »

Understood. Thank you all for your input. Here's what I gathered:

1. There are a few of us who like very specialized coffee.

2. There aren't enough of us to support an industry, so most commercial operations would go broke catering to our tastes and are not interested in our (or my) corner maven advice.

3. To find out if a roaster has something that will work for espresso, communicate with them individually and see what they recommend. Try it, and you may find a roaster you like.

4. There is no general boilerplate anyone can write about ordering for espresso. Go to the parts of roaster's sites that are dedicated to espresso for that kind of information, if it's there.

5. Great espresso requires different roast practices tailored to the specific varietal and crop. That's the art of it. Some sophisticated roasts are light, some dark, some in between.

6. Take your business to your favorite roasters. See if they have the varietal(s) you want. Help them succeed to feed a trend of increasing quality.

7. Learn how to roast yourself to more fully explore the quality varietals that are available.

8. Ask focused questions online to provide a reference library that supports a trend toward quality.

Have I heard you all?

Thanks!
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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another_jim
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#17: Post by another_jim »

Yeah, that covers it from my point of view. If you find a great coffee, let the roaster know what you think. Nobody likes unsolicited advice, but everyone likes a compliment out of the blue :wink:
Jim Schulman

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Marshall

#18: Post by Marshall »

Mine, too.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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michaelbenis

#19: Post by michaelbenis »

In short, there's nothing like dialogue. Most people appreciate intelligent questions and intelligent feedback.

There are however roasters who do different roasts for different preparation methods, like Londinium Espresso.

And I think it is also wise to remember that it's not just darkness, but length of roast and cooling etc. - the overall style. Even taking top-end roasters the differences can be vast, for example requiring very different grinder settings for beans of similar origin, size, processing and darkness of roast - and giving massively different tastes in the cup.
LMWDP No. 237

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drgary (original poster)
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#20: Post by drgary (original poster) »

Participating in this thread has been a little like having people say there's something on my shoes, when I wasn't smelling anything. Until I looked where they were pointing! Despite an internal feeling of openness, I needed an attitude adjustment.

Something else that emerged is a need for more flexibility in how I approach coffee. I experimented with an AeroPress when unable (so far) to get a good espresso. Dialing it in that way yielded a complex cup that is clean with lots of spice. Really delicious. I wrote to the roaster about that experience and his response was "now you're getting it"! A clue that such an experience might be available is the dedication suggested in the write-ups about the different estates sampled and their premium price. I've much to learn about the complex interaction between coffee style, brewing method, espresso technique, etc. I'm still eager to try their lighter roast in this case to see if it might yield a better espresso, but I'll also persevere a bit and see if I can pull a decent espresso with what I've got. If not, with a few pounds of this stuff in the freezer, the AeroPress is going to get lots of use.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!