Ken, you're on quite the roll these days. So our home roasts are substandard? Well, at least it's a welcome change of pace from hearing that North Americans don't know how to make espresso.Ken Fox wrote:There is an assumption among home roasters that their roast product is good; unfortunately, this is often not the case. One reason why home roasters assume their roast product to be good is that they are comparing their home roast to what they can buy locally, which often seriously sucks. They are comparing to stuff like Starbucks or that gross dark and oily stuff sitting in bins at a supermarket.
In reality, homeroast runs the gamut, everything from very good to truly horrid. Ask anyone who has tasted a lot of it, people who get samples sent to them regularly, people who go over to other home enthusiasts' houses for an espresso ---
We home roasters are not professionals, we often have no training, we have highly varied equipment that varies in both its innate capabilities, and in the ability to accurately monitor the roast temperature during the roast process.
It sounds like you take your home roasting seriously, Rob, and that is good. I take mine seriously as well. This does not change the fact that many home roasters produce substandard results. I have tasted some, and I'll tell you, it is not uniformally excellent, however good yours might be.
More seriously: I'd like to offer a counterpoint, because home roasting was arguably the biggest single step forward I've taken in my coffee odyssey.
Roasting coffee is not rocket science. It's cooking, fer cryin' out loud. Roasting coffee is much easier than many other food preparation activities, such as home brewing of beer or wine. With low-end roasting equipment, even beginning home roasters can produce results that are far better than anything found on a supermarket shelf. With slightly better gear and a bit of experience, the home roaster can surpass 99% of what's sold commercially. (I'm being cautious here; it's probably more like 99.99%.)
I don't see myself as a particularly accomplished home roaster, but I prefer my home roasts to anything I've found locally. Sure, there are a handful of artisan roasters in the US whose products are more consistent and, in some cases, clearly superior. But why insist on seeing the cup as 1% empty instead of 99% full? Home roasted espresso blends are my bread and butter; the occasional commercial roast makes a lovely treat and gives me a standard to strive towards. I don't home roast to save money, I home roast for the joy of it, for ready access to a wide variety of coffees, and because I truly enjoy the results.
Yes indeed. Which is one reason why the old Italian standards may not apply. Perhaps low cost arabicas mixed with high percentages of robusta drove those standards. We have access to better coffee nowadays.Ken Fox wrote:One has to consider the impact of the raw material, e.g. the coffee, that is being used by a person who makes any particular comment about their espressos or coffees. In my opinion, the coffee that one uses is far and away the biggest factor in anyone's results, far outweighing any piece of equipment or issue of technique.
It is always germane to ask about the coffee.
A recent quote from Jim Schulman:
Espresso began life as the mass coffee of Italy, blended with beans not much better than you'll find in any supermarket coffee here. It is still that way now, with shots costing less than a buck at most bars. In this market, the bar owners have to be price conscious when buying coffees and the roasters have to economize. If you compare how a basic Italian bar blend, say Lavazza or Segafredo, tastes compared to what you get in supermarkets here, you'll see that Italian roasters have developed an astonishing level of skill at this art.