Brewing on the water (and roasting)

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.

#1: Post by EbenBruyns »

It's been a long time coming but I finally have what resembles an espresso setup on the water.

A little background. We live on a small wooden yacht called Taleisin, if you're into sailing and boats a quick google will tell you more. When we lived on land I had a La Cimbali jr and matching grinder. It's been one of the few things (well 2 to be exact) that I've been missing while living the simple life with very little in the way of modern technology. We still use oil lamps for lighting, we do not have a big inboard diesel engine and our solar panels are basically used to run laptops (for work purposes, and we don't like doing too much of that). So that left me with a giant void in my life, no coffee...

I took my sweet time and researched to the end of the internet on espresso gear and finally found something I think might work. After a long wait for things to ship to New Zealand...

I now have the following gear: Cafelat Robot, Kinu m47 classic (less plastic means less can get damaged when on passage), and to complete the equation a Hive roaster.

As many of you may be aware, beans do not last long when roasted. I found out that on the water it's only 5 days before they are stale to the point where you cannot get any pressure using them. So my solution, I hope, is to roast my own beans and store the beans unroasted.

I have some mad logic behind all of this and some of you may not agree with it, but at the end of the day I've got to make this work for my situation. So here's my attempt to justify the hoops I'm jumping through. Because we're on a boat and we don't get to shops easily - in fact we haven't set foot in a shop for over a month right now, we have to either stock up heavily or get this shipped to where we are (not always practical), and very expensive at times.

I managed to get green beans delivered a day before the robot arrived (it was the last item to arrive), so I roasted up a batch of beans. I dropped one cup's worth in the hive and did my best impression of somebody who knows how to roast coffee...

The roast was too light and it was a rather acidic brew. Most of that roast went into dialing the grinder in so it only lasted 2 days. I had half a kilogram's worth of roasted beans delivered from a known roaster the next day. It was bliss. gear worked as expected and the coffee was great. 5 days later, the coffee was stale and yesterday it was completely undrinkable, I didn't even get to use half of that batch. I fired up the hive about an hour ago and roasted a second batch. This time I dumped it at 225 deg C and it looks much better. similar color to the roasted beans that's now stale. I haven't brewed an espresso yet, but I'm not sure I'll be able to hold off much longer.

If people are interested in my experience with this, let me know and I'll update from time to time. If nobody replies, I'll know there's no interest and I wont bother people by posting again around this.


Ok I couldn't stop myself, I pulled a shot with the freshly roasted beans. Based on the shot I just had, there's many great things to come from this setup. Just for the record, the green beans have been on the boat for about 2 weeks now, will be interesting to see how long this nirvana will last.


#2: Post by vickeryj »

I'm interested in this adventure

EbenBruyns (original poster)

#3: Post by EbenBruyns (original poster) »

One response... good enough...

I've pulled 3 shots from the batch I roasted and each has been better than the last. On land this trend usually continued for the first 3 days of the roast and then declined. I hope this trend will hold till at least tomorrow, because from past experience the beans might be stale by day 5.

I'll post daily around this batch and then I'll update on how the green beans are holding up. I bought 2 Kilograms worth of beans and I roast a cups worth every time (it might go down depending on how quickly it goes stale). Once I'm through these 4 different blends I'll probably settle on a single blend and track how long the beans last in their unroasted form. My hope is that I can store 6 months worth of coffee on the boat and have a steady supply of great espresso.

We'll see how consistent the yield will be and how wildly the conditions will affect the taste in the cup. We're just heading towards winter so I suspect the humidity will wreak havoc with this process.

Supporter ♡

#4: Post by Marcelnl »

interesting story! How do you store your greens and roasted beans? Greens should be able to survice some battering and I'm surprised how fast your roast stales, if stored in a water/air tight container I imagine you should be able to extend usable life span...that or you will need to roast small batches and/or use more to keep up ;-)
LMWDP #483


#5: Post by vickeryj » replying to Marcelnl »

I was thinking about this too. If, after roasting, you were to divide the roast into individual, single dose, airtight containers, would that get you a longer shelf life?

EbenBruyns (original poster)

#6: Post by EbenBruyns (original poster) »

Day 3 of the second batch. Beans are just about stale. The shots I pulled this morning didn't look very good. They tasted ok though. I could get about 6 bar of pressure, but it was channeling and spittting coffee all over the place. The good news is that my non-coffee drinking admiral has decided that desperation trumps taste buds. She's had 2 ristrettos because she was after the caffeine hit and there's no red bull available. One yesterday and one today. That means the batch is done.

As for storing the beans. I'm still experimenting. I clearly cannot leave the beans out, the go stale super quick. I thought I'd leave them for the first 2 days to see how that goes, degassing etc. Well that's an ok idea for the first day. I'm going to buy an air tight container when I go into the city on Thursday so I can store the roasted batch in that. I'm either going to go with a mason jar or a plastic container with a water tight seal.

Storing greens is another adventure. Currently I've just got them in a zip lock bag, so it will be interesting to see how they go in that. There's only about 1.5 KG's worth of beans in there so it won't be a huge waste if I get it wrong at the moment. My thinking is that I might get a 12V vacuum sealer and store them vacuum sealed. It will come down to either single batches or batches of x, where x is the amount of batches I can get away with while still maintaining quality. It's a balance between conserving coffee and not producing plastic waste - we're a bit sensitive to it given our lifestyle.

I'll be roasting up another batch today, different blend this time. I did like the blend I've been playing with as it's very close if not exactly the same as the blend from my favorite roaster. But the logic goes, if you're going to roast you may as well experiment.

I've got a Bellman stove top steamer coming, there will be some experimentation with that too. As you can imagine fresh milk is an issue on a yacht, especially one that doesn't get to shops often. We already carry a lot of powdered milk, I have some trepidation around this, but my theory is that milk drinkers aren't as discerning as espresso drinkers. I should still be able to produce something that would be a treat in a remote location with no supplies to another wayward sailor. I've used UHT milk while playing barista in the pacific islands and the results weren't terrible. The only issue around UHT is the bulk it takes up storing it. Like I said this will be another adventure.

I'm aware that I'll have to mod the basket on the bellman, so I'll be drilling that pretty soon after it arrives.

The admiral might prefer a milky coffee, jumping feet first into espresso is a tall order for anybody.

I will continue to update with new findings.

EbenBruyns (original poster)

#7: Post by EbenBruyns (original poster) »

vickeryj wrote:I was thinking about this too. If, after roasting, you were to divide the roast into individual, single dose, airtight containers, would that get you a longer shelf life?
No a silly idea, how ever remember that my boat is super small, so more containers takes up more space. I know that I can at least get 2 good days out of a roast, not that the first day is the best day to be drinking it. This is also while not protecting it from the elements. So with a bit of luck an air tight container might help. If I can get 3-4 days or even 5 days out of a roast I'll be happy. I can only roast enough for 8 espressos (doubles) at a time at the rate I'm consuming them. So the problem isn't unsurmountable. It would just be nice to be able to drink the roast at it's peak. I might need 2 containers...

I do have to confess that I do not weigh anything, it's all volume based and eye balling. So I might be able to get more "scientific" about it, but honestly it's all about the taste in the cup at the end of the day.

Supporter ♡

#8: Post by Marcelnl »

with the Robot you should get away with eyeballing things real easy!

try two empty jam jars of suitable size ( small enough to not add loads of air) and test, my experience with Illy roasted beans in a can is that once opened they go stale in about 2 days (these cans are pressurized with Nitrogen). I have no clue why your beans fade away so fast, it may well be humidity so perhaps experiment with sealing the jar when they have barely cooled as to be sure humidity is still low? All he outgassing is fine yet unless you are storing large quantities the amount of CO2 is IMO not likely an issue, beans fading is IMO a larger issue.
LMWDP #483

EbenBruyns (original poster)

#9: Post by EbenBruyns (original poster) » replying to Marcelnl »

It's fading fast because the marine environment is harsh, it's also been raining so humidity is off the charts, cooking while it rains does not help matters. I've always known it would be challenging, just didn't realize it would be this challenging.

I'm about to start roasting another batch, I want another coffee but no roasted beans....

EbenBruyns (original poster)

#10: Post by EbenBruyns (original poster) »

Roasted batch number 3. Different blend and noticing a few beans with small burnt spots on them, not too many and it's not very big. Will have a agitate beans more for next roast.

Giving them time to sit before I grind them up, not sure how long I'll hold off...