Is Roast Uniformity Overrated?

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
bicktrav
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Postby bicktrav » Apr 05, 2018, 10:09 pm

This may be a controversial topic, but I'm interested in everyone's opinion.

I've come to wonder whether uniformity is an overrated quality in a roast. Don't get me wrong, I love a uniform roast, but after years of churning out home roasts that are admittedly less uniform but--to my palate at least--equally (and often more delicious) than their much-lauded commercial counterparts, I'm starting to think a slightly less uniform roast may offer advantages. Could it be that a more speckled batch offers a wider range of acidity, body, and carbon? Could it be that the combined effects of its wider flavor range creates a distinct profile that commercial roasters, with their immaculate uniformity, can't reproduce?

I kind of think of it like guitar (another hobby of mine): The world is filled with virtuoso guitarists. Their playing is precise, technically wonderful, and undeniably moving. But there's a different type of player, a rougher grittier brand that's equally magnificent--the Jack Whites of the world. They may not hit every note perfectly, but they often produce licks that beat out the virtuosos, not in spite of their imperfection but because of it. A crude parallel, sure, but it's the best I can come up with.

Also, just to be clear, I'm not talking up the merits of an awful multi-colored, Jackson Pollack batch of beans; I'm talking about one that has ever so slightly different hues, even if they all land in the same roast range.

What do you all think?

Tonefish
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Postby Tonefish » Apr 05, 2018, 10:22 pm

Is this independent of blend versus SO, or are you preferring blends?
LMWDP #581 .......... May your roasts, grinds, and pulls be the best!

bicktrav
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Postby bicktrav » replying to Tonefish » Apr 05, 2018, 10:28 pm

I'm talking mostly about SO. Very rarely roast blends.

Mbb
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Postby Mbb » Apr 05, 2018, 11:34 pm

Well, in spite of being a very crude, poorly sorted, earthy tasting coffee,
Sumatran, especially Mandheling, is a consistent favorite and best seller.

So there you go.

I would rather hear a raspy voiced "artist" sing, than the finest technically voiced "performer". Theres a difference. What does that have to do with coffee? Its all about what you like.

bicktrav
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Postby bicktrav » Apr 05, 2018, 11:38 pm

Mbb wrote:Well, in spite of being a very crude, poorly sorted, earthy tasting coffee,
Sumatran, especially Mandheling, is a consistent favorite and best seller.

So there you go.

I would rather hear a raspy voiced "artist" sing, than the finest technically voiced "performer". Theres a difference.


Good point and well put!

ThomasCee
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Postby ThomasCee » Apr 06, 2018, 1:51 pm

I am at the earlier end of the learning spectrum so take with a grain of salt.

Within reason (like I see you are referring to) I would say possibly "yes". I have however gotten my roasts toooo uneven, and the result was the "worst of both worlds". I don't like the carbon taste; so if I'm tasting grapefruit rind and carbon in the same cup, I'm usually trying to figure a different way to roast them.

That being said, I looove Naturals, and your theory would coincide with the relatively more complex taste of naturals which are my personal fav.

So in short, maaaaaaybe overrated, but slight variations withing the scope of "proper roasting techniques" do not bother me at all :lol:

N3Roaster
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Postby N3Roaster » Apr 06, 2018, 3:22 pm

My take on this is that if the lack of uniformity is coming primarily from the roaster/roasting technique, that's a serious problem and efforts should be made, either with further skills development or machine modifation/replacement to minimize that. That's a case of the machine not doing what you want it to and if you lack control at that level what's the point?

If the lack of uniformity is coming from the coffee itself, that can be much less of a concern and can actually be beneficial. As an interesting exercise, if you have a coffee where you can easily sort out seeds that are physically distinct (maybe by color, maybe by screen size) and try to replicate the same roast with the separated coffees and with the original mix, with high quality green coffees I suspect you'll often find that the mix comes out better than the coffees that have been further sorted. It's likely that this was intentionally blended at origin or that a choice was made to not apply certain additional sorting steps. Having a little bit of non-uniformity also often means that you can be a little less precise in the roasting and still get a consistent flavor in the cup. Unfortunately, over-sorting is a problem, especially among inexperienced buyers making their first attempts at direct sourcing and it can result in getting smaller quantities of a less delicious coffee at a higher price.

On the other hand, if you've just got a low grade coffee and a lot of variation as a result of that, it's probably also loaded with defects and that also won't ever be great.
Neal

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Andy
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Postby Andy » Apr 06, 2018, 3:24 pm

That is a matter of preference, of course. But IMO, the ABILITY to roast evenly is not overrated. If you can do that, you can always make a melange roast if that is what you want. If you can't control the roast well enough to assure an even roast, then you can't.

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Peppersass
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Postby Peppersass » Apr 07, 2018, 3:31 am

I'm relatively new to roasting, so my opinion isn't worth much, but my early experience has been that it's the bean and, to some extent, the roast level.

For example, my first roasts were way too dark, but they looked pretty even. Didn't taste very good because of mistakes I made in the roasting. As I experimented with faster, lighter roasts and was able to eliminate mistakes, there was less uniformity, but the coffee tasted a lot better. Same bean.

I thought the lack of uniformity must be something wrong with my technique or roaster, but then I tried roasting a batch of seasoning greens using the same profile, and they came out very uniform. In fact, no matter how I roast the seasoning greens they always seem to come out looking very uniform and really pretty. But they have very little flavor to speak of.

The seasoning greens came from Mill City Roasters. They say it's whatever is leftover in their warehouse. I thought that might mean a mix of leftovers, but maybe the bag I got was all one bean.

The beans that showed more variation, by the way, have a fair amount of external chaff, despite being fully washed. That could have something to do with the color variation showing more prominently with a lighter roast.
Dick Green

ThomasCee
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Postby ThomasCee » Apr 07, 2018, 3:45 am

Unfortunately, over-sorting is a problem, especially among inexperienced buyers making their first attempts at direct sourcing and it can result in getting smaller quantities of a less delicious coffee at a higher price.


Fascinating! Makes total sense.

Are you the same N3Roaster that has a YouTube channel? I love your content, and have watched and rewatched your roasting/profiling/taste modifying videos many many times. A+++++

(If that was not you, I'm sorry :) ) Great fourm name regardless lol