How to Roast Single Origin Espresso

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

#1: Post by farmroast »

I find the whole SO thing fascinating. I too really love them but they still seem rather a novelty. Thus I'm not sure they are really high on the sourcing list for the buyers especially to trickle down to us homeroasters. For various reasons I sense many homeroasters roast for coffee and less so for espresso and will still buy in their espresso roasted. Some who do roast for espresso will buy the preblended greens and less seek SOs and even less blend at home. Can't think of a site with a greens category for great SOs or even a starting sentence of "here's a great SO"or that focus much on espresso home roasting. It is usually the last sentence at best. Hopefully Jim's efforts to put some light on espresso homeroasting will help. Maybe as we buildup the home roasting espresso community we can encourage our greens sources to seek more quality SOs and put more focus on home roasting for espresso in general.


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LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

Ken Fox

#2: Post by Ken Fox »

farmroast wrote:I find the whole SO thing fascinating. I too really love them but they still seem rather a novelty. Thus I'm not sure they are really high on the sourcing list for the buyers especially to trickle down to us homeroasters. For various reasons I sense many homeroasters roast for coffee and less so for espresso and will still buy in their espresso roasted. Some who do roast for espresso will buy the preblended greens and less seek SOs and even less blend at home. Can't think of a site with a greens category for great SOs or even a starting sentence of "here's a great SO"or that focus much on espresso home roasting. It is usually the last sentence at best. Hopefully Jim's efforts to put some light on espresso homeroasting will help. Maybe as we buildup the home roasting espresso community we can encourage our greens sources to seek more quality SOs and put more focus on home roasting for espresso in general.
I don't think the problem is that there are great SOs out there that only some roasters have, and that home roasters don't have access to. There are enough high end roasters and green bean purveyors out there who sell to the public in green form, that we do have availability, at least in the USA, and Canada.

The problem is that there is a relatively limited universe of green beans that can stand on their own to make a complex and exceptional espresso. Some of the candidates are fairly obvious, but plowing through the rest of what is out there that has a small percentage of working would require a lot of effort. No doubt we have missed many fringe candidates because either the sellers or us home users haven't been open minded enough to try them. One possible strategy that requires no additional skill would be to take some of these fringe candidates and to try making "melange" blends at different roast levels of the same bean, to see if some additional interest can be introduced that would allow them to stand on their own, as a sort of pseudo blend of the same SO. This has been done commercially and with some success, so it is probably a strategy worth at least a test.

That having been said, the current situation in Ethiopia as regards the export of "relationship coffees" is a disaster for the SO seeking home roaster/barista.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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farmroast (original poster)

#3: Post by farmroast (original poster) »

I found the Panama Carmen "Siete Dias de Bellota" lot that Tom bought an interesting example of what could be produced and it happened by accident when a storm knocked out a bridge to the mill and the estate that normally does great wet processed had to dry process the lot. It turned out to be a pretty decent SO. As a farmer I think I would have to intentionally grow and process for an SO and be encourage to do so.
I agree that melange roasting is a way to broaden the possibilities.
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

Hamilton

#4: Post by Hamilton »

That's a shame, It looks like the Panama Carmen is gone.

While we're on the topic, do you guys prefer wet vs dry process (or vice versa) for SO or does it depend on the origin/bean? This is something I have not really been able to absorb in my readings here and elsewhere.

Ken Fox

#5: Post by Ken Fox » replying to Hamilton »

I wouldn't generalize. Although I personally seem to gravitate largely to east African coffees, from Ethiopia and Yemen, most of which do tend to be DP, there are a lot of exceptions. Even from Ethiopia, one of the most enjoyable recent coffees I had was the WP version of the Ethiopian Wondo Bonko, which Sweet Marias was selling a while back. The suitable Latin American coffees will virtually all be WP.

In any event, most coffee producing regions will use one of these processes much more than the other, and I think that each coffee candidate needs to be tried, without reference to whether a wet or dry (natural) process was used. The kind of process used will certainly effect the taste of the coffee, but it doesn't tell us anything about whether a given coffee will work as an espresso SO.

One other thing to keep in mind is most green coffees will deteriorate rather rapidly when stored, with the possibility that freezing the green will preserve its qualities longer. So, when you read that a certain coffee was good for SO use, and the person writing about it bought the coffee 4 months ago, you may very well be lucky that it is no longer available, because most probably it is no longer exceptional, either.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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another_jim
Team HB

#6: Post by another_jim »

Another thing to realize is that high end espresso blends are simple. I know the recipe of several high end commercial blends, and they all use 2 to 4 different coffees. the basic idea is to source a sweet, creamy Brazil, and then add it to coffees that would make great SOs if only they were a little more balanced. Think of these coffees as singers who can't quite go a capella, but who do fine with some strings in the background.

This field of "semi-SOs" is a lot wider than the perfect SOs. I order roughly 20 to 30 pounds of good Brasils every year and use them to fill out coffees I tried that are not-quite SO. I roast a wide variety of new coffees, and always roast of Brazil along side. If the coffees are good SOs, I drink them straight; if they need help, they get filled out with the Brasil. If the new coffee makes a great SO or fill out, I order more.

I'm not sure what makes this so complicated or advanced.
Jim Schulman

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Sherman

#7: Post by Sherman »

What makes it complicated/advanced is just this sort of knowledge that you take for granted. You've learned this lesson already - those of us with less experience and time invested may not yet fully understand these mysteries.

It's akin to a classically trained (or otherwise equally-experienced) chef bewildering at the idea that someone would NOT understand the "mother" sauces or their basic derivatives.

For what it's worth, thanks for shedding light on your thought process regarding blends.

-s.
Your dog wants espresso.
LMWDP #288

Ken Fox

#8: Post by Ken Fox »

another_jim wrote:Another thing to realize is that high end espresso blends are simple. I know the recipe of several high end commercial blends, and they all use 2 to 4 different coffees. the basic idea is to source a sweet, creamy Brazil, and then add it to coffees that would make great SOs if only they were a little more balanced. Think of these coffees as singers who can't quite go a capella, but who do fine with some strings in the background.

This field of "semi-SOs" is a lot wider than the perfect SOs. I order roughly 20 to 30 pounds of good Brasils every year and use them to fill out coffees I tried that are not-quite SO. I roast a wide variety of new coffees, and always roast of Brazil along side. If the coffees are good SOs, I drink them straight; if they need help, they get filled out with the Brasil. If the new coffee makes a great SO or fill out, I order more.

I'm not sure what makes this so complicated or advanced.
You are certainly correct that most successful blends have a limited number of constituent beans, and that once one goes above 5 or 6 it becomes more and more likely that any given shot won't even have beans from all the beans types supposedly contained in the blend. On the other hand, Jim is describing what is, at least for me, a way to salvage disappointing beans that one would have hoped to use as a SO but aren't quite up to that task. And, there is nothing wrong with that, however, it is not going to produce more than an "OK" result at best, e.g. a way to use up beans that disappointed for some reason. It is not going to be a "purpose-built blend," or resemble in anyway a successful blend that a good roaster would have assembled given liberty to design a blend from scratch.

So be it, a lot of our lives are spent in "making things do," and I don't drink the world's best coffee every shot, either.

Still, if one wants to roast single origins, your suggestion is not really a suggestion about how to go about consuming single origin beans for espresso, but how to make the best out of a less than great situation.

It has been a while since I played around with melange blends, but I think the concept deserves much more attention than we tend to give it here. In fact, I've decided to make a few attempts at it on my next roasting sessions. A good start, I'd think, would be to go 50-50, with the same coffee roasted about a minute less, to a few degrees less than my usual (just before onset of 2nd crack) level, mixed with beans taken into 2nd for a few seconds.

ken
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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farmroast (original poster)

#9: Post by farmroast (original poster) »

Ken Fox wrote: It has been a while since I played around with melange blends, but I think the concept deserves much more attention than we tend to give it here. In fact, I've decided to make a few attempts at it on my next roasting sessions. A good start, I'd think, would be to go 50-50, with the same coffee roasted about a minute less, to a few degrees less than my usual (just before onset of 2nd crack) level, mixed with beans taken into 2nd for a few seconds.
I think the melange depends on what is lacking that might be improved. Sometimes I add some lighter and sometimes darker.
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

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another_jim
Team HB

#10: Post by another_jim »

First: Melange blends only make sense if the two extreme roasts mixed taste better than the intermediate roast. If this is the case, great; but if you want a touch of a great dark roast flavor, why not use 20% of a Sumatra or Sulawesi, where even the cheap ones produce great dark roasts. Guatemala Antigua Bourbons are just about the only bean I'd think would work consistently, year in, year out, as a melange, since they make both lovely dark and ultra light roasts.

Second, great SO coffees are extremely rare; great Brasils are not. All in all, if I ranked all the coffees I drank each year, my "make do" blends would win two years out of three, and there would always be seven to eight in my top ten, even in a super SO year.
Jim Schulman