Almico wrote:Simply following a BT roast profile will get you in the ball park on darker roasts, but I fear not with lighter roasts for the discerning palette. I don't see automation as the answer for consistently great coffee.
This gets to the here and now of the discussion -- third wave roasting and brewing often suck; and with some roasters and cafes, mostly suck. For the past five years or so, everyone has had the same solution: more technology, more quality control, more data, more theory. The result: the coffee sucks even more.
I'd like to make an analogy to souffles and potato gnocchi. According to most cookbooks, these are ultra unstable: soufffles will collapse, gnocchi will dissolve if you even look at them wrong. The recipes read like horror movie scripts. Guess what? It ain't so. Knead the gnocchi dough by hand, and in a few tries you know when it feels right; if it isn't, maybe because the potatoes are too young or slightly undercooked, add a hint more flour until it is right. Dip a finger in the egg white, and you'll know when it's right for a moist, non-collapsing souffle. This doesn't take a magic nose or finger, just experience and knowing what's important and what isn't
You want a good light roast; again, know what's important, sufficient development, and what isn't, everything else. Reduce the heat ahead of the first crack slowly and just right. After the first crack starts, wait at least three and half minutes. If the roast is too dark, tough; start reducing the heat a little earlier next time. If it is still light, check for bean expansion, sniff for grassy flavors. When the bean is expanded and smelling of sugars and caramels, you're set. Will this roast be consistent? No, sometimes it'll be too dark. Will it be the best ever? Obviously not. Will it not suck? Guaranteed, since you've given yourself a large sweet spot, one that's big enough to get good results without being super-roaster-robot.
So why all the crappy roasts? Too much tech. People want predetermined limits on a dozen or so theoretical variable -- BTs, time, ETs, and their differentials, at various portions in the roast The result is insanely exaggerated control inputs, and missing the forest for the trees. The roasts that suck are usually underdeveloped, heat damaged from raising the heat too fast, polymerized from dropping it too fast, and often all three. It's the result of using too much control to get all the irrelevant variables right by royally effing up the few that actually count.
What's the old saw about doing more of the same, and expecting a different result?