Experience great professional coffees before you start home roasting

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
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Marshall

Postby Marshall » Jan 01, 2007, 6:34 pm

...split from Does HB really need a Home Roasting forum? by moderator...


I voted "no." This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read my responses to home roasting evangelists on alt.coffee.

I think the proportion of home roasters who really know how to roast and have the equipment, real estate and patience to do it right is quite small. What I see over and over again are people whose only reference points have been mummified supermarket beans, then buy a little air roaster, enjoy their first fresh beans and conclude that their four-minute roasts are the pinnacle of the roasters' art. I will never forget the SCAA Homecoming a couple of years ago, where a new home roaster from San Diego with a Fresh Roast flew into a tizzy, because Marty Curtis dared suggest professionals with commercial equipment might do a better job of roasting.

You see it over and over again on alt.coffee, where some beginner asks where he can buy great coffee, and the missionaries immediately jump in to tell him he won't really experience good coffee until he home roasts.

I have the utmost respect for people like Ken Fox and Jim Schulman, who have devoted serious time, thought and money to putting out a professional-level roast. But, frankly, I am wary of anything that might encourage more novices to home roast before they experience great professional coffees.

O.K. Let the missiles fly!
Marshall
Los Angeles

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prof_stack

Postby prof_stack » Jan 01, 2007, 7:18 pm

Marshall wrote:I think the proportion of home roasters who really know how to roast and have the equipment, real estate and patience to do it right is quite small. What I see over and over again are people whose only reference points have been mummified supermarket beans, then buy a little air roaster, enjoy their first fresh beans and conclude that their four-minute roasts are the pinnacle of the roasters' art. O.K. Let the missiles fly!



I'll just sling a few arrows. :D

That's a great story! I'm sure its true more than one realizes. (I've met one such person myself...) But some of those missionaries are themselves evolving as roasters, as students of the art.

If we focus on quality of roasts and what sort of profiles are needed, the quality of equipment and know-how will improve. That's a good thing.
LMWDP #010

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Compass Coffee
Sponsor

Postby Compass Coffee » Jan 01, 2007, 7:34 pm

Marshall wrote:I think the proportion of home roasters who really know how to roast and have the equipment, real estate and patience to do it right is quite small. What I see over and over again are people whose only reference points have been mummified supermarket beans, then buy a little air roaster, enjoy their first fresh beans and conclude that their four-minute roasts are the pinnacle of the roasters' art. I will never forget the SCAA Homecoming a couple of years ago, where a new home roaster from San Diego with a Fresh Roast flew into a tizzy, because Marty Curtis dared suggest professionals with commercial equipment might do a better job of roasting.

I don't necessarily disagree. However, given the total volume of Professionally roasted beans out there, I'd also wager the ratio of quality home roast to poor home roast may be about the same as quality Professional roast to poor Professional roast. If it's roasted, marketed and paid for by someone it's Professional, as is any canned or binned crap be it whole bean or pre-ground. Actually I take that back. Ratio for ratio I'd wager there's more Professional crap coffee than home roasted coffee, there's a hell of a lot of Folgers etc sold. Quality is quality whether artisan roasted at home or in a shop. And yes I've sampled numerous excellent artisan Professional AND home roast both SO and blends. Overall it's a tie IMO. Neither "camp" has an exclusive on the best greens nor care in roasting. Proof of course is in the cup. Just minutes ago pulled a 6 day rested shot of home roast of my current blend I'd put against any Professional artisan blend/roast. Not some willy nilly 4 minute roast, a carefully profiled roast of a carefully chosen blend of Arabica greens.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

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farmroast

Postby farmroast » Jan 01, 2007, 7:42 pm

Marshall wrote:I voted "no." This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read my responses to home roasting evangelists on alt.coffee.

I think the proportion of home roasters who really know how to roast and have the equipment, real estate and patience to do it right is quite small. What I see over and over again are people whose only reference points have been mummified supermarket beans, then buy a little air roaster, enjoy their first fresh beans and conclude that their four-minute roasts are the pinnacle of the roasters' art.

O.K. Let the missiles fly!



Marshall I'm unarmed, no wmd
You are absolutely right that the number of semi-pro homeroasters is presently small. But because of roasting forums we are a growing force with some levels of experience to share with each other and the green newbies. There are many great pro roasters and a few come instantly to mind but I've found many have to roast a little darker for mass consumer preference than the roaster or I may have roasted for ourselves.
Ed
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

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howard seth

Postby howard seth » Jan 01, 2007, 7:44 pm

In response to Marshalls post above.

A Home Roasting Forum is going to give vent to home roasting frustrations and failures, as well as triumphs. Getting a variety of information on home roasting processes out there- will allow more people to make informed decisions on whether to get into it or not -and will also likely lead to discussions - on the differences in quality between home roasted coffee -and the coffee one gets from pro roasters.

Dude. Power to the People.

Howard

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another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Jan 01, 2007, 9:32 pm

I think the proportion of home roasters who really know how to roast and have the equipment, real estate and patience to do it right is quite small. What I see over and over again are people whose only reference points have been mummified supermarket beans, then buy a little air roaster, enjoy their first fresh beans and conclude that their four-minute roasts are the pinnacle of the roasters' art. I will never forget the SCAA Homecoming a couple of years ago, where a new home roaster from San Diego with a Fresh Roast flew into a tizzy, because Marty Curtis dared suggest professionals with commercial equipment might do a better job of roasting.


I think this is less true today than it was a while back. In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a good deal of arrogance on alt.coffee when it came to both espresso and home roasting. Both have diminished considerably since the fanatic amateurs and dedicated pros have found each other. When I started out, around 2000, we amateurs simply didn't know about this group of pros, and we were fairly secure in our arrogance.

Obviously, a pro who's just as committed to quality will do better than an amateur. However, I'm not about to stop homeroasting. I'm going to take some flak for this, but I think committed amateurs keep the pros honest. We aren't enough to be a large market segment; but we are the largest segment of coffee talk, to which both pros and the wider buying public for quality coffee, who will browse the net for info, listen. I enjoy cooking and roasting coffee; one of the things I enjoy most is getting a dish or a shot where I'm scratching my head in admiration asking "how'd they do that." If our talk and arrogance disappeared from the net, one of the goads that is increasing quality would disappear too.

However, given the total volume of Professionally roasted beans out there, I'd also wager the ratio of quality home roast to poor home roast may be about the same as quality Professional roast to poor Professional roast.



There is a distinction between roasting and selecting coffees. One area where artisan specialty coffee roasters are dangerously arrogant is in their assumption that their roasts are technically better than the suppliers of mass market coffee. For mass roasters, it makes sense to pay megabucks in roasting technology and research if it allows them to get the same cup quality with coffees that cost a few pennies less per pound green. For instance, the last time I roasted Vietnamese Robusta, I got a cup that tasted like the water from a hot dog vendor's cart; the mass roasters get something from the same beans that tastes forgettably like generic coffee. This is quite an achievement of the roasting art.

It makes sense to assume all this investment creates better roasters than the standard shop drum; and it's important for us to keep an eye out on where this technology is going. I sometimes wonder how good COE coffee could taste if roasted on the gear that can put a semi-acceptable face on Vietnamese Robusta.
Jim Schulman

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espressoperson

Postby espressoperson » Jan 01, 2007, 10:10 pm

another_jim wrote:I sometimes wonder how good COE coffee could taste if roasted on the gear that can put a semi-acceptable face on Vietnamese Robusta.



And what could McDonald's do with Kobe beef? I admire your optimism but don't see how processes designed to cover up and hide defects could really help us improve the taste of COE coffee.
michaelb, lmwdp 24

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prof_stack

Postby prof_stack » Jan 01, 2007, 10:59 pm

An analogy might be in order. Beer geeks know that Budweiser is the best selling beer in the world and also know it contains more rice than barley. It is thin of body, weak of flavor, lacking in hop bitterness, etc. It is also very well made with 12+ breweries making the same product in N America with very careful quality control. Bud could make beer as good as any coming from Germany or the Czech Republic, but don't. Too costly for the shareholders.

Big coffee has their market established and doesn't need to change (too much). Heck, it doesn't take too far out of Seattle to find eating establishments that just laugh if you ask for a latte.

So let's not worry about them and concentrate on learning how to roast better coffee!

Okay, what's a good starting pre-blend of beans for an espresso?
LMWDP #010

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mrgnomer

Postby mrgnomer » Jan 07, 2007, 5:37 pm

Up in Canada here we like our beer and for a few years micro breweries have been doing better than the beer factories. In fact the beer factories are buying them out, I'd imagine, to increase their market share and add quality brands to their mass produced line up.

Looks like the same is true for coffee. I think as consumer's tastes become more discerning and developed the mass produced stuff will fall out of favour. Spending a little more for a much higher quality product is worth it. I'm sure there's home brewers who make a darn good beer too but it takes some know how, practice, decent equipment and good quality ingredients. Micro brewers, like micro roasters, would have more resources available to them to ensure better quality, control and consistency.

I think if a professional micro roaster has made the investment in equipment, experience and ingredients they should produce a product superior to an amateur's. Roasted coffee is pretty volatile, though, and the edge on freshness would go to the home roaster.

I don't know what most home roasters roast with but there's also equipment to consider. I'd imagine it's mostly fluid bed roasters. I've been roasting with a fluid bed iRoast2 for over a year now and the roasts are pretty good but the recent fresh local micro roasted beans I've tried are better. It seems that in the fluid bed vs. drum the drum is favoured.

With a home drum roast compared to a good commercial roast I personally couldn't say. I'd agree that with experience, pretty good equipment and ingredients home drum roast vs. commercial roast would be a draw.

In keeping with the intent of the post I'd agree that trying micro roasted beans is a good idea not just as a quality reference but to experience good coffee. Like espresso, it's hard to know what's good without tasting it and you could find out in a hit and miss way by your own hand but having it served to you by someone who knows what they're doing helps define good.
Kirk
LMWDP #116

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prof_stack

Postby prof_stack » Jan 07, 2007, 6:52 pm

Yeah, I agree its good to calibrate one's taste buds with some REALLY good espresso blends at home. When I got my Sama I also received a 1/2# of espresso blend from The Good Coffee Company. They roast right on the premises, I think up to 50# at a time. Nice smelling place!

What I noticed with their espresso blend was the full palate of flavor that some of my home roasted SO beans lack. I've learned so much on this site recently and now want to jump in to pre-mixing the green beans for some attempts at a decent blend.
LMWDP #010