Advanced sorting/culling coffee beans

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
User avatar
hbuchtel

Postby hbuchtel » May 13, 2007, 11:57 am

I am intrigued by the mention in Two days at Terroir of the hand-sorting that they do before roasting and had a couple questions about the practice-

The greens that they get there are presumedly pretty well sorted already, at this point is the goal to remove 'defective' beans or rather to create a more uniform taste?

I assume that there are some characteristics which would lead to slightly different flavors, without being considered defective- an obvious example would be peaberry vs whole (half) beans. Perhaps they are looking for other things like slight variations in size/color?

Do any of the roasters here find hand sorting worth their time?

Henry
LMWDP #53

coffee_monkey

Postby coffee_monkey » May 13, 2007, 3:46 pm

hbuchtel wrote:The greens that they get there are presumedly pretty well sorted already, at this point is the goal to remove 'defective' beans or rather to create a more uniform taste?

I assume that there are some characteristics which would lead to slightly different flavors, without being considered defective- an obvious example would be peaberry vs whole (half) beans. Perhaps they are looking for other things like slight variations in size/color?

Do any of the roasters here find hand sorting worth their time?

Henry



Gravity sorter and electronic eyes can't catch all the defects. The "minor" ones are especially hard to sort - under ripes and agey greens (they turn white-ish/spotty white). All these contributed some off flavors to the cup... removing them resulted in a cup that is incredibly clean, sweet, and "focused". The major flavor component of the cup is very defined.

I've been sorting since the concept was introduced us by Simon Hsieh, a Taiwanese roaster who sells "zero-defect" coffee. A lot of Japanese and Taiwanese roasters also hand sorts greens for production roasts (though not to the extent/standard of Simon's roasts). I highly encourage everyone give it a try. It will teach you a lot about green quality, and prob will shock you with the amount of defects in those "specialty grade" coffee...

- Ben C.
Ben Chen

SL28ave

Postby SL28ave » May 13, 2007, 5:06 pm

Everyone should play around with this, at least to learn. It's so easy to do to some extent.

George first learned about it at La Minita around 1990. Bill Mcalpin, legendary owner of La Minita, was pointing to different beans from the same farm and describing how they taste. There were sorting exercises at The Coffee Connection and further learnings from Brazil during the Gourmet Project. George used this to help with grading at Cup of Excellence. I spent countless hours hand-sorting different specialty grade coffees at Terroir over 3 years ago - and the cuppings from this are definitely amongst my most powerful coffee lessons ever. Learning to sort and learn from the results is so very empowering!

Pre-roast, I pull out any unripes, tiny, pale, dark, splotchy, mutant-shaped, triage, bruised, cut, hard-pressed, over-ripe or moldy beans that I can find. Additional sorting can be done post-roast, especially when lightly roasted: bite different-looking beans to learn if they smell mellow, roasty, sewery, peanuty, or *great*.

Mud can be turned into molasses or even better. Coffee-Monkey said it very well: "removing them resulted in a cup that is incredibly clean, sweet, and "focused". The major flavor component of the cup is very defined."
"Few, but ripe." -Carl Friedrich Gauss

DaveC

Postby DaveC » May 14, 2007, 5:23 am

I have also always pulled out any obviously defective beans before roasting (I don't go mad about it, but I have a reasonable look). After roasting I definitely go through all the beans carefully. Although I have magnets in the roaster, I am looking for quakers and other roast/bean defects, plus stones and non ferrous metals etc.

I think the taste in the cup can be markedly improved when the beans have a little sorting done pre and post roast (in a roast just for me, I might spend even more time sorting in the pre-roast stage). The whole topic has made me think though, and I realise that I need to write a small Wiki article, as many home roasters possibly don't do this and could benefit greatly if they do.

SL28ave

Postby SL28ave » Jul 29, 2007, 10:26 pm

For those of you who may have anti-sorting at home feelings, you very unexpectedly won a battle (small in the big picture, but absolutely essential) last week, but not the war!

I sorted a couple super Colombian lots into <16, 16, 17 and 18+ screen sizes and cupped them. Basically, the results of the cupping were as if the beans were yelling, "try sorting, and the flavor will defy!". A true-blue expert guest from Colombia was present and said something along the lines of, sorting by size "is like saying you're smarter than me because you're taller" (George is taller, FWINW)... Aye, coffee is complex. :lol:
"Few, but ripe." -Carl Friedrich Gauss

User avatar
farmroast

Postby farmroast » Jul 29, 2007, 11:25 pm

Peter You would have to trace each bean back to it's tree and branch to determine why the bean ended up larger or smaller. Maturity,part of the bush, water, nutrients, general health, exposure. It would be really interesting to pick by different criteria within a grove. When I go to a pick your own apple orchard I'll pick from sunnyside of a healthy tree that stands in a spot that can collect ground water.
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

Pilgrim

Postby Pilgrim » Feb 19, 2008, 11:25 pm

hbuchtel wrote:I am intrigued by the mention in Two days at Terroir of the hand-sorting that they do before roasting and had a couple questions about the practice-

The greens that they get there are presumedly pretty well sorted already, at this point is the goal to remove 'defective' beans or rather to create a more uniform taste?

I assume that there are some characteristics which would lead to slightly different flavors, without being considered defective- an obvious example would be peaberry vs whole (half) beans. Perhaps they are looking for other things like slight variations in size/color?

Do any of the roasters here find hand sorting worth their time?

Henry



The short answer is: YES

I have found bugs and rocks in my green beans before! The rocks are hell on a expensive grinder and its burrs and the bug can ruin a hole batch of roasted beans by throwing off the flavor and the damn thing looked just like a coffee bean! So it pays to go through a pound of beans for a few minute's inspecting them in a flat metal sive is what i use an old baking sive 10" i bought off ebay and used to cool beans at one time works great under strong light to do the inspection in. You have to remember that the people that inspect them before you go through 100's of pounds of beans at a crack so being human bound to miss some things
Salvatore the only way to go for Quality made in the USA

User avatar
ordo.dk

Postby ordo.dk » Mar 01, 2008, 2:21 pm

I've started to hand sort my beans pre-roast. Usually I only cull 10%, today however I took out 18% of the greens - oh, and I found a ROCK :( I like to believe that I can taste the difference in the cup, not because of the missing rocks, but some of the beans I remove are disgusting looking, I cannot believe they wouldn't affect the taste!
Only minus is that it takes a while to sort them :P

User avatar
SlowRain

Postby SlowRain » Jul 01, 2009, 8:31 am

coffee_monkey wrote:Simon Hsieh, a Taiwanese roaster who sells "zero-defect" coffee.

I only just heard about this today when I watched this month's episode of Tamper Tantrum. Someone (I forget who) at Barismo listed Simon as a huge influence on their career. Since he's in Taiwan too, I did a search on "4-Arts Zero Defect Coffee" and came up with this (in English) and this (in Chinese). I also sent him an email letting him know about his mention in Tamper Tantrum. He writes (and I assume speaks) very good English.

I'm now curious about this concept and would like to know who else is doing it, both commercially and personally. What do you think of the results?
Espresso shrine--> viewtopic.php?p=256899

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Jul 01, 2009, 5:10 pm

SlowRain wrote:I'm now curious about this concept and would like to know who else is doing it, both commercially and personally. What do you think of the results?


The background to this is that the price of coffee and its grade depend on how well it is sorted. The basic sorting criteria and levels (along with all sorts of coffee abcs) can be found at the coffee research org website. There are also some pictures of the bad defects.

Auction and super premium coffees are sorted to higher standards than the SCAA premium level. In essence, there are no secondary defects such as partial blacks or sours, insect bites, etc, in these coffees. Going back to the blog post; the difference between a triple pick Lintong and a basic Mandheling is probably all in the sort.

The effect of sorting to this level is the elimination of all off flavors. The stricter the sort, the more the off flavors are gone. There are some coffees, notably Harars and Yemens, where oversorting reduces cup quality, since some fruity ferment is part of the experience. However, even here, blacks, sours and moldy beans should be removed, since there is absolutely nothing exotic about their flavors.

The sorting that Peter describes at Terroir, or the one done by Simon, is at a stricter level still. Deformed, unripe and overripe beans are also removed, even though these are never classified as defects in regular sorting methods. The effect of this type of sorting is more subtle. It removes the "taste noise," that background of nondescript wood, bran, rust, or slightly tannic flavors one gets from poorly prepped or unripe beans.
Jim Schulman