The RoastRite color analyzer came in very handy last week:
My local coffee importer rep brought back a dozens bags of a nice Honduras Pacamara microlot https://www.royalny.com/assets/img/coff ... s/5721.pdf
from a recent trip. I excitedly put my name on one bag pending sample approval.
I received the 1# sample and did a medium roast, dropping about 2:15 into 1C. I cupped it the next morning and was very disappointed to find it exceedingly meh. I call this "hole in the donut coffee". Nothing offensive in the cup, no roast defects to speak of, just no sweetness or flavor either. Considering this is not and inexpensive coffee, I felt badly that I would have to renege on my commitment to purchase.
But before doing that, I suggested we get together and cup my roast, along with a sample roast that they prepared with their bank of Probat sample roasters. I'll admit, the thought was creeping into my head that it may be my relatively inexpensive air roaster was not capable of roasting this coffee well.
So we met up over the cupping table the past Tuesday and started slurping. Sure enough, each of their two roasts were bright and juicy and nuanced with terrific body. My kind of coffee. The roast I did was flat and boring like someone just sucked the life of it. It reinforced my concern, coupled with the thread How does high airflow strip flavor from the bean?
, that somehow my roaster was deficient and I needed to spend $20-30K on a new drum roaster to take my game to the next level.
The fact that their roasts were great and mine was lacking did not solve my commitment to purchase dilemma. If my roaster couldn't make this coffee taste good, I would still have to turn it down.
Then came the RoastRite to the rescue. I ran out to my car to get it and started measuring the coffees. Their two samples measured 59/72 (bean/ground) and 60/73. Mine measured 54/50. That is quite a bit darker, but you could not tell that looking at the beans. My roast, when ground, did look darker, but without measuring, it was hard to quantify how much.
Now armed with more data, I suggested buying another sample and try roasting it again...lighter this time.
It would be nice having a roast development analyzer inside my roaster, but I went with best guess and dropped at 1:35, just when 1C was winding down. It measured 62/69 and as it turned out...close enough.
I brought what was left of the better of their two roasts along with my roast 2.0 to the bar and made a couple of pour overs.
I sipped both coffees back and forth for the better part on an hour and came away with a few things. First, I do not need a new drum coffee roaster in order to roast great coffees greatly. All my employees and including the market manager (who only drinks my coffee now) said they liked my roast better. She used the term "pickles" when describing her overall thought of the importer's roast. I didn't get pickles, but some sour, underdeveloped notes did creep in as it cooled.
My other takeaway was that their roast did have (after an hour back and forth) a bit more body along with being less developed, confirming (at least for this instance) the adage that drum roasted coffee can have more body than air roasted coffee. That said, if I was scoring these coffees for body, I would give their coffee no more than a half point increase. Maybe an 88.5 instead of 88. The difference was very subtle and if I wasn't A/Bing them back to back, I would not have picked it up.
The lesson there is written words on the internet can read black and white and not in appropriate degrees. When we read air roasted coffee has less body we think air roasted coffee is like tea water and drum roasted coffee like molasses. My findings from this very small sample is that more can mean very little more and hardly worth noting, as in this case.
So I'm very grateful for my new RoastRite analyzer. It wasn't cheap, but it may have saved me a pile of money on a new roaster.
As far as this thread goes, it seems the less "even" coffee won out over the more evenly, albeit darker roasted.