Welcome to our new Website!
We are proud to announce this milestone project that we've been working on - a new website that we feel truly encompasses the culture and driving principles of our company.
Our internet vehicle for providing you the world's finest specialty coffees is more equipped than ever before! (Just in time for SCAA - as if we didn't have anything else going on, right??).
We believe our new website is an incredible resource for buying green coffee efficiently, for finding rich coffee media (including beautiful coffee photos and videos) and now more than ever, for access to Coffee Education.
Education is at the core of everything we do. It is truly one of our guiding principles, and we live it. This new site is the result of the collaboration between all of our specialists and partners, both here and abroad.
We are students and teachers in every facet of the chain of coffee, from the producer level to the barista level and we believe that paying forward experiences and lessons is the key to our industry progressing as a whole. For this reason, we have created a new education section to the website.
Our Education Section Includes:
As well as freshly updated information, the origin pages are home to our new "World Coffee Maps" project, with the first batch of Regional Coffee Maps debuting for Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador (more coming soon!)
Courses Available for Download Now: "Seed to Cup" "Intro to Sample Roasting" and "Intro to Cupping"
When searching for your coffee on our Offerings Page, the new website easily allows you to sort through our offerings by country, coffee type, or even search by flavor profile!
The geographic location in the top tab allows you to sort by warehouse. You can also see future offerings by clicking on "Afloat". Here you will see all coffees on the water in route to us, and to which warehouse it is going! Clicking on "Open" will show you all coffees contracted but not yet shipped.
We set out with the goal of building the best possible tool for our customers to fulfill their green coffee needs, both in terms of inventory and personal education. This site is our way of supporting you as our customers, friends, and most importantly, partners in finding homes for some of the world's finest specialty coffees.
We hope you enjoy and, as always, welcome any feedback over the coming months on how this can be improved even more for your needs.
The Cafe Imports Team
Café Imports Europe is hiring a Customer Service Representative!
Café Imports Europe is a specialty coffee importer based in Berlin, Germany. Our focus is sourcing the best green coffee we can find and making it available to the specialty coffee roasters of Europe.
We're looking for a passionate and detail-oriented person to join our Customer Service team. Our ideal candidate is fluent in German, fastidious, and has a background in office work. While an appreciation for fine coffees is valued, prior coffee experience is not required. We're looking for someone to start VERY SOON, so please send your CV and cover letter to email@example.com immediately for consideration. Please make the subject of the email: "European Customer Service Position".
First and foremost, this is an administrative position (I.e. office job). Responsibilities include (but are not limited to):
- Issuing invoices and bank rates to customers
- First point of contact with customers regarding payment
- Correspondence with US headquarters' accounting department
- Weighing, cataloging, and preparing samples to ship
- Managing shipment pickups
3. Customer Service and Communication
- Assisting Sales Representatives with order processing
- Correspondence with local business partners
Thanks for reading!
The Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association
Watch the video above for a full run-down of a program we've initiated with a young band of Jamaican coffee farmers called the "Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association"
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is mainly produced by the Wallenford, Mavis Bank, Moy Hall, and Old Tavern Estates. It is consistently the highest priced coffee in the world. A typical Jamaican farmer will pick their own "cherry-berry" and drop them off to these estates for processing and to get paid. For the 15-20 years that we have been buying Jamaican coffee, we have not been able to work or communicate with the producers or farmers. In 2014, Cafe Imports President, Andrew Miller met a young Jamaican coffee farmer who is a member of the Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association, a group of about 250 small producers in Jamaica that are trying to band together, process their own coffee, and bypass the big estates' processing services. Since meeting and visting their farms in Jamaica, Cafe Imports has pre-financed Arthur and the Jamaican Coffee Farmers Associaton so that they can produce their own coffee.
We are very excited to be working with the JCFA, and we cannot wait to see where our relationship might take us.
Visit the Beanology here
The 2015 US barista Championships have officially kicked off today in Long Beach California, and we couldnt be more excited. Once again we are proud to be contributing to the competition by providing top notch competition coffees sourced in partnership with an elite cast of Barista and Brewing competitors.
Here is a run down of competitors/coffees that will provoke judges to have animated eyebrows this weekend at the USBC:
Nora Brady: Blueprint Coffee - Saint Louis, MO. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo. Instagram & Twitter @snackpackbrady, @BlueprintCoffee
"Nora is a lazer beam of focus, and a heart full of passion for what she does. Her drive toward pure excellence creates a wake which is full of people who strive after her example. When Nora has a goal, she will reach it. We are so excited to be partnering with her again this year in striving toward what many of us think is impossible, but she thinks is attainable, that perfect coffee experience." -Joe Marrocco
(click here to watch our interview with Nora From last years USBC)
David Bueher: Greenway Coffee - Houston, TX. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo. Instagram & Twitter @greenwaybarista
"David is one of those people that you want to bring home to meet the folks. He is a genuine, honest, food loving, pho slurping man. It is impossible to not have fun with David. People dream about driving around with this guy to eat food...I know I do. Thank you for your partnership, you will kill it!" - Noah Namowicz
Michael Butterworth: Quills Coffee - Louisville, KY. Coffee: Colombia ACES Alexander Cortes - Instagram: @mjbutterworth
"Michael is a severly dedicated competitor, his passion for coffee and service shows in every presentation. I couldn't be more excited to see him representing on the national level for the second time, his place there is well deserved. He looks good doing it too...which doesn't hurt." - Matt Brown
(click here to watch our interview with Michael From last years USBC)
"I first met Michael in Brasil on the first ever Barista Origin Trip after he won his region. Michael is honestly probably the sweetest person I know I aside from my Grandma. It is really neat for me to see how these trips build lifelong friendships. I consider Michael a great friend. He is an extremely dedicated coffee professional, and it has been amazing to see his coffee journey take him now to a new part of the country. Best of luck Michael!" -Noah Namowicz
Cole McBride: PublicUs - Las Vegas, NV. Coffee: Arnulfo Leguizamo, Colombia. Instagram & Twitter @cole_coffee
"Cole McBride is that guy that you see at every major coffee event. He has been a leader within the barista community both in his service and his excellence. We are proud to partner with Cole and Arnulfo Leguizamo to bring one of the top producers and top baristas together in one of the most prestigous coffee events in the world. Thank you Cole!" -Joe Marrocco
Jonathan Miller: MadCap Coffee - Grand Rapids, MI. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo
"Jonathan Miller has been at this for some time. He is a flavor focused madcap scientist who will draw out every drop of character his coffee has to offer. Technical abilities in drves, but hidden under a slight-of-hand execution. Put Jonathan and a special coffee like the Typica from Finca Maputo....Watch Out." -Joe Marrocco
Kyle Ramage - Mahlkonig. Coffee: Colombia Best of Cauca - Twitter: @kyle_rampage
"Baron of the burrs! Kyle is one of the finest professionals I've had the pleasure of meeting, it's great to see the way that he has stretched his desire to advance our industry into this competition. More than that, great to see him doing such a fine job. I'm excited to see what he brings to the national level." - Matt Brown
Radames Roldan: Blueprint Coffee - Saint Louis, MO. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo. Instagram and Twitter @radprojection, @BlueprintCoffee
"Radames is cool, calm, collected. He has a voice that captivates and pulls everyone in the room to hear what he has to say. But, more importantly, he has the skills and follow through at the bar to surpass expectations of what coffee quality means. Don't be fooled by this champion's cool deameanor. He is out to win, and has one round under his belt." -Joe Marrocco
Leann Wacker: Colectivo - Milwaukee, WI. Coffee: Ecuador Juan Pena. Instagram: @leannsoowacker
"Leann is a fairly new competitor to the scene and completely blew everyone away with her BIG CENTRAL routine. She is known as the "Milwaukee Dark Horse". Leann is one of those people that just completely lights up a room with her smile and positive attitude. I am so happy to see her flourish as a competitor and cannot wait to see her progress in her coffee career." - Noah Namowicz
Hadassah Wilson: Square One Coffee - Lancaseter, PA. Coffee: Brasil Santa Lucia Instagram: @hadassahwilson
"Hadassah is a unbelievably dedicated and fierce competitor. She has constantly been in touch with myself and our partners at Carmo Coffees to truly uncover what makes her coffee tick. Hadassah's BIG EASTERN routine just made me want to be back in Brasil. I am proud to call Hadassah a friend and love everything she brings to our industry." - Noah Namowicz
(click here to watch our interview with Hadassah From last years USBC)
Brewers Cup Competition:
Zach Althaus: Sump Coffee - St Louis, MO. Coffee: Peru ACES Alejandro Apolinar
"Zach Althaus has that hear of gold that pushes him to brew coffee in a way that is customer first, Zach second. His humble focus leaves the coffee on center stage and the drinker in awe. Expect him to take a surprisingly refreshing coffee, a Peru Microlot, to new heights!" -Joe Marrocco
Brian Benavente: Black Cup Café Del Mundo - Anchorage, AK. Coffee: Ecuador Las Cinco - Fabian Lomas - Sidra - Twitter and instagram: @brthbe
"Brian has shown such an amazing excitement about competing this year, driven by a love for his coffee. I know that attitude is going to show in the spotlight, all of you who get to partake should consider yourself fortunate. Someone give that guy a hug on my behalf." - Matt Brown
Mickey Comerford: Colectivo - Milwaukee, WI. Coffee: Ecuador Juan Pena
"I got to know Mickey because he lives and works in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI. Mickey has been a force the past several years of barista competition. He has some of the most impressive facial hair capability in our industry. Mickey and I also share some Jesuit education roots and I feel like he is just one of those people in life you could call and count on for anything. Best of luck Mickey!" - Noah Namowicz
Mick Evans: One Line Coffee, Columbus, OH. Coffee: Costa Rica Las Lajas Alma Negra. Twitter: @mick_hop, Twitter & Instagram: @onelinecoffee
"Mick is director of retail operations and partner in One Line Coffee. He brings 7.5 years coffee experience, starting off an educator with Boston Stoker. His approach is trying to bring simplicity to brewing; trying to adapt brew to the variables as presented to him. We love this approach and believe that Mick is using one of the most amazing coffees we saw out of Costa Rica last year. Las Lajas processing experiments bring an amazing opportunity to showcase processing to the judges. Best of luck Mick!" - Cafe Imports Team
Tony Querio: Spyhouse, Minneapolis, MN. Coffee: Ecuador Juan Pena. Instagram: @tonyqtostador, Twitter: @tony_querio
"We were all incredibly excited to learn that Tony was being imported from Oregon to Minnesota to work for Spyhouse's new roasting operation. Tony is a man with an unbelievable amount of integrity. He is truly one of the good guys in our industry, and a seriously talented roaster. Watching Tony compete at the Big Central, it was clear that he is one of the most well rounded coffee pros in our industry. We cannot wait to see what he comes up with for the USBC this weekend!" - Joe Marrocco
And of course, we cannot forget the Cup Tasters Championship, where we have two competitors representing Cafe Imports (!!!)
Piero Cristiani: Cafe Imports Green buyer.
"Piero is originally from El Salvador and found his way to Minnesota for school. We are so proud that he wanted to join the Cafe Imports team. Piero started by answering phones, and for you
longtime customers, you will remember his distinctive greeting. Piero has been a pioneer for many new exciting origin programs for us, including setting up our office in San Jose Costa Rica. Piero is an incredible cupper. We all will be cheering him on this weekend!"
- Noah Namowicz
Megan Person: Cafe Imports Sensory Analysis
"Megan is a pillar of the Twin Cities coffee community, previously working as a barista behind the counter of some of the best coffee shops in the area. Megan has developed into an incredible cupper and sample roaster throughout her journey at Cafe Imports. She outright smoked everyone in the office during cup tasters practice rounds. Watch out for this one, she's there to win."
AND LASTLY BUT NOT LEASTLY - here are our FIVE ads that you can see during the 2015 Barista Championships' commercial programming between competitors! enjoy :)
The A(w)ctivity of Drying Coffee - by Ian Fretheim
Last November I was invited to Copenhagen to speak to the Nordic Roaster Forum about a project that I've been leading back in the lab here at Cafe Imports, namely, investigating the role of water activity (Aw) in green coffee quality and longevity. From the beginning we envisioned two sides to this project, an origin side and a destination side.
To date, we've been focusing primarily on the destination side. What can Aw tell us about pre shipment coffees and the likelihood of their arriving to specification? For this investigation, time begins when we first cup a pre shipment sample. Day zero for the coffees in this trial is measured from the first time that we see them in the practical course of business. Of course, this approach turns a blind eye to whole worlds of variability in different coffees' lives beginning much, much earlier. The upside to this approach is that it challenges water activity to show us a pattern in spite of lacking a considerable amount of highly pertinent information. More on this shortly.
In the last two or so years we've picked up just shy of 2500 longitudinal readings- that is, readings on coffees that we've approved or purchased and will have (or have had) an opportunity to cup and measure again after some interval of time. For now, coffees remain in the study for one year from day zero and can be cupped up to four times. There are patterns emerging, albeit with a need for more data and further analysis, but enough so to encourage us to take a closer look at all those pre-preshipment variables that we set aside earlier.
In Copenhagen, and in a couple of articles that I wrote previously, mention was made of a few tentative drying trials. These were of a much smaller scope and I'm afraid suffered somewhat from my own lack of familiarity both with what to look for in an Aw trial, as well as more simply with how to control and run such a thing. Fast forward to December of 2014, back from CPH and feeling pretty good, though unsure where the next step with water activity would be. I get into the office one morning, open my email and see a note from a guy named Carlos. Sr. Batalla was writing to say that he had read the articles and would I like to further the drying study at his facilities in Costa Rica? I expressed some interest and described some of the previous challenges and current needs and would he be interested and able to accommodate? After a little conversation we had yesses all around. Great.
So, how about a primer? Water molecules combine more or less easily with the molecules of whatever substrate is wet up by said water. The strength of the molecular bond between water and the substrate or system in which it is found is what Aw measures. For example, the water content of rolled oats and that of raisins is quite different. Raisins of course carry a higher percentage moisture. However, because the sugars in raisins bind with the water so well, the water activity of raisins is lower than that of rolled oats. This is significant because it is water activity and not moisture content that governs numerous factors of transformation, spoilage and growth in food products. Great.
Back in Costa Rica, our primary origin question for water activity is whether or not it can tell us anything significant about a coffee prior to its being tendered as a pre shipment sample. Specifically, are there better and worse ways for coffees to shed moisture through the drying process that can be identified by cup and shelf life and profiled at the time of drying with water activity? Neat stuff, but dang if there ain't horses to be held. In developing our lab study it became quickly apparent that we needed a massive sample size, both to account for variables and because we really had no scope for what Aw in coffee could be, let alone should be. Same thing applies here.
Fortunately, we're starting with some background in place this time around. Nonetheless, step one, the one we're working on and talking about right now, is to establish a baseline and to substantiate it with a reasonably large pool of data. For this we're looking at water activity, temperature, and relative humidity through the drying process. In the end we'll be cupping these coffees over the course of 2015 and into 2016 and then going back to see if there are relationships and patterns that emerge between the three drying measurements and both initial cup score and stability over the following year. Heady stuff, that.
Sample chart of temperature and humidity readings.
Carlos indicated that he was already set up to process and maintain separation of day lots. That's his SOP. Super duper. Over the course of this season we'll be monitoring up to six separate lots at any given time, and hopefully coming away in the end with between 40 and 60 individually tracked lots of coffee. Already within Carlos' drying facility we can see hotter and cooler zones, and he noted as well that in years past different zones could take a full day longer to complete drying. This means that we'll have a small range of drying profiles spread across a substantial sample size of similarly originated and processed coffee. That's a good thing. We don't need the answer this time around. We want to establish a baseline, and if we can see a trend shake out across that relatively controlled sample size without mussing around so much as to overly diversify the sampling into effectively many different types of sample- even better.
Drying facilities at Carlos Batalla's mill.
Mid January and we're up and running. It's already been a month since I went down to set up the sensors and meet Carlos. The loggers report back to my computer every day, and I forward the temperature and humidity data back down to Carlos. This is just the beginning. As the coffees start coming in, we'll be labeling, storing and cupping them over and over. And then tying all that data back to the Aw and data logger data. By the end of the year, I'll be tucked back right here in my office pouring over data and looking for patterns, profiles and next steps. Until then the plan is to buckle up. Spring in coffee is already getting sprung, and the first Centrals are already on offer.
So, there we are. An update from the dark winter recesses of pet projects and R&D in the sensory department at Cafe Imports.
The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. "Vámonos, amigos," he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.
Cafe Imports' Dan Jensen reports on Ethiopia for Barista Magazine
Our very own Dan Jensen was asked by Barista Magazine to report on his recent sourcing experience in Ethiopia this past December. His article recounting the origin visit was just featured in their February/March issue that just hit the newsstands!
you can catch Dan's Article on pages 42-47, or read the digital version here
follow along with Dan's musings about all things coffee, his thoughts on the latest (and oldest) R&B popcharts, and his love for cured meats on twitter and instagram at @Jandensen
Coffee Send Back → Back to the Origin
Knowing that many producers never actually get to taste their own coffee, we decided to create a way to do just that - send it back, roasted. We are super excited about this program and the excitement and support we've received so far is incredible. We will be doing several Send Backs each year, so stay tuned for future origins!
Our first official Coffee Send Back of 2015 was to Brasil. Part I of the send back featured CarmoCoffees in Carmo de Minas, Minas Gerais. The event was held at Unique Cafes where the producers were able to taste their own coffees roasted by: Detour Coffee, Bow Truss, Modest Coffee, Lineage Roasting, Passenger Coffee, Coffee Hound, Square One, Boxcar, and Hansa Coffee.
We'd like to say a huge thank you to CarmoCoffees and the producers for all the hard work in producing some truly amazing coffees. Their dedication to quality and passion for innovation are inspiring and so greatly appreciated. Also to all the roasters that were able to participate in this first round, a huge thank you for supporting this program by sharing your craft and fostering the coffee community from seed to cup. We can't wait to grow this program and get as many roasters involved as possible.
More to come! Rumor has it some nice fresh Colombians are flying out the door...
- Caitlin Cooreman and the Cafe Imports CS Team
CarmoCoffees made this video to showcase the event and relay their experience → back to the roasters (this is the coolest thing ever):
and here are some more photos from the event:
Introducing: Cafe Imports' Variety Select Project
In our usual course of walking around a coffee farm with a producer and talking about his or her coffee; the layout of the farm, the distance between trees, pruning, fertilizing, yield, varieties, life and things like that, we sometimes come across interesting items; like a 75 year old tree in Brazil, a small field of Pacas in Mexico or a family of Possums living on the farm under a tree.
Last Month in Colombia we happened upon a field of Pink Bourbon, yes Pink. We bought all 20 bags.
Later that day we met three small producers in Alto Del Obispo region who all happened to produce Yellow Bourbon. I've never seen that much Yellow Bourbon in Colombia, a tree here and there but not enough to produce a hundred bags.
We've had producers with pure Castillo that got 91 points on the cupping table, a pure Absynnian varietal from Sumatra and 100% Pacamara from Mexico for example and for these interesting reasons, we have decided to launch a new little program called "Variety Select" In this program we will work with our producer/export partners to keep these varieties separate throughout the picking washing, drying, milling, bagging and shipping process so that we can offer a variety of variety specific coffees from around the world.
Yellow Bourbon - Colombia
Yellow Bourbon is a natural cross between Red Bourbon and Amarelo de Botacuto, which is labelled as a Typica variant with yellow fruit. Bourbon resulted from selections made by French botanists in wild Yemeni coffee groves. Moved to controlled fields for propagation, the relatively humble stock produced a remarkable variety and was given the namesake of its nursery - Bourbon Island - upon its introduction to South America. Under expanded cultivation in Brazil, a yellow mutant with a unique flavor profile expressed itself and was isolated, expanded, and named for its color.
Pink Bourbon - Colombia
Cultivated from hybridizations of Red and Yellow Bourbon - very rare but the producer said it is quite resistant to Rust. Pink and Orange Bourbons are very difficult to produce with consistency. The recessive genes leading to the expression of these colors are easily thwarted by the presence of yellow and red genes in a given pollen grain. A carefully isolated and contained lot can do quite well and preserve the unique color and character of this variety, though this is quite hard to find.
Laurina or Bourbon Pointu
Laurina is a Bourbon derivative originating from Reunion Island with a recessive gene mutation that gives it a dwarf-like habit, small leaves, small, pointed seeds and very low caffeine concentration: as low as 0.6% when compared to the 1.2% of Arabica and 2.2% found in Robusta. The Laurina is also parent to Mokka varieties, known for uniquely small beans and even more exotic flavors.
Rume Sudan RS-510 was selected from the wild population on the Bome Plateau, in the Rume Valley of south east Sudan. Predating the extraction of Typica and Bourbon genetic material, the Sudanese (and Ethiopian) accessions draw on a much broader genetic pool than their more strenuously selected nieces and nephews. Rume Sudan has long interested genetic and hybrid development researchers due to the broader genetic base and disease resistance it offers, and continues to appear in new hybrids today. Low yields and small bean size have limited Rume Sudan's popularity with farmers, making it rare to find as a standalone variety. We're excited to be offering this interesting look into coffee's history... and it's future.
An Ethiopian descendent, Geisha had been trialed in Latin America since the mid 50's by researches seeking new means of disease resistance. Shelved for poor cup quality and yield due to being grown at too low of altitudes, the Geisha variety did not come to prominence until Price Peterson won the Best of Panama contest with it in 2006. In the decade since, the Geisha variety has ascended to the ranks of coffee variety superstardom. Geisha coffee typically offers a very floral cup with loads of citrus acidity. While Central American Geishas are commonly described as tea-like, with a lighter body and moderate sugar levels, those grown in Colombia frequently have a heavier mouthfeel and sweeter cup.
And check out these Beanologies of the Variety Select coffees we have coming:
"Roasting Finicky Ecuadorian Coffees" by Roaster Joe
As roasters there are few things more exciting and frightening than when we get our hands on a fresh green coffee that we have been anticipating for months. We try to put aside the anxiety, the fear of burning these precious few seeds, the scandal of letting our supply chain down, the heartbreak of knowing our peers will taste a sub-par example of the coffee, and the financial knowledge of our responsibility. But, in the back of our minds resides that whisper of exactly how much money resides in that drum, the fact that we are fallible, the mystery of what is really happening in each individual coffee seed, and the fact that this is our first go at this particular coffee and it could be a disaster. Yet, we do it. We evenhandedly...
With a deep breath...
Pull the lever...
Hear the coffee clatter in the drum...
Put all of my knowledge to work, and humbly...
There is a particular coffee (and group of coffees, which I will get into later) that has revitalized my humility of late. Mr. Fabian Lomas' Sidra variety has been an incredible champion on our cupping table, full of wild flavors that I have truly not experienced in coffee before: crab apple, deeply savory floral aromas that I have previously rarely found in coffee, coconut, pineapple. The list goes on and on. Yet, when I have roasted this coffee, on a few occasions it has come out of the drum lacking the blissful aromatics found on our cupping table. Along with this, there is a waft of mesquite, cloves, dark chocolate and more experiences that point to my having had a heavy hand with the heat.
My first time roasting this coffee was early last year (2014). I was lucky enough (more due to sponsorship than ability) to roast the coffee that was used for the World Aeropress Championship. It was a no brainer for us to choose this coffee when we tasted it on the cupping table. I scored it a 93. Ian Fretheim, our Sensory Analysis Director, opened the ink flow on his pen and graced his page with a blatant 95, his highest score that we had witnessed. I was too timid, as usually is the case for most of us tasters in the cupping room, to go that high. I did not disagree with his score, but my fear held me back. Needless to say, this coffee had our attention loud and clear.
We rush-shipped in a couple of bags for some projects we were working on, such as the Aeropress Championship. I was giddy with joy to roast it and bring it to my buddies in the office and home to my wife (who is of Ecuadorian decent). I roasted it, kept it "light and bright", right around what most would consider a city to city+ roast, about 2-2.5 minutes of "development (another blog will likely address my problems with this term) time". I allowed the coffee to off-gas until the next morning. I was so eager to share this the next day that I got to the office and brewed it before most everyone else was around in order to make sure my brew was on point.
Tragedy. It tasted "over-roasted".
Now, I know that this is a controversial term for me to use. I know that "roast" is not a taste, it is a cooking method. But, you all get what I am saying, right? I mean, it tasted as though I had taken it well beyond the level of roast that I thought I had, and certainly much darker than I had intended. We had a very limited amount of coffee to work with, and I needed this to be nailed for our sponsorship. This was the first time, since working at Café Imports that I had not hit a roast where I wanted to, or at least very close to it.
Usual roasting process at the office: I typically roast coffee just a touch beyond where I personally prefer it, somewhat in between where we see what some of the roasters who love to roast super light bring to the table, and where we see some of the roasters who have a more nostalgic touch to their roasts do. We like to see a bit of both sides of the coin in order to be better communicators about our coffees, especially since we see them at such starkly light roasts on our cupping table (67+ Agtron).
But, this was the first time that my peers raised that eye-brow. This was a very inopportune time for this to be the case.
I sat down with Noah Namowicz and discussed the issue:
"Noah, don't worry. I will unlock this coffee, and we will send a great roast off. I am stunned this tastes as dark as it does. I have a plan, and I will get this coffee singing in no time."
Noah, along with my other friends in the office, had nothing but confidence in me. We roasters need that, right? We need to know that our team will support us and trust us, even (and especially) when things are not quite adding up.
Fast forward: I ended up sending out coffee that I was still shaky about. I still felt that I had left something on the table in my roast. This coffee is such a gem, however, that it still tasted glorious.
We recently received this season's harvest of the same coffee. While this time around we found the cup was not quite in the same league with the early harvest of this spring, the coffee is still incredibly unique and delicious. I had to sink my roasting teeth into and redeem myself from the previous harvest. This year, I set up a simple roasting experiment that many of you perform with all of your new coffees (or should). Usually I only get one crack at a coffee.
This time, I needed more.
-I roasted this coffee five times with an assistant, Dan Jensen, one of our Sales Associates who has been doing a lot of roasting work with me of late. Two heads are always better than one.
-We used the Diedrich IR 2.5K.
-We roasted four pounds of green coffee per batch.
-We attempted to repeat the beginning and middle of the roast as closely as possible each of the five roasts, only changing when I would end the roast.
-First Crack is typically around 360-363F on my probe, with the end of First being around 385F. I also try to see first, even on a Diedrich, around 8-10 minutes, at the LATEST. We shot for 9:00 on all of these batches, and this was fairly consistent, with the exception of batch #2, which went long. We were trying to go bit slower, since I assumed the roaster would be bit hotter after batch #1. Turns out I had properly warmed up before #1 and should have just stuck with the program.
-I am not perfect, and conditions are never perfect, so there were some slight variations in the beginning and middle of the roasts, thus we do not call this a scientifically rigorous experiment, and admit that this is anecdotal. I mean, five batches is really not much in the grand scheme of things. That said, there was such wide variance in flavors and mild variance in roast profiles that I feel our findings are valid.
-We did not use a data logging system, but rather took notes the old fashioned way, with paper and pencil.
-We cupped this coffee, as did others in my office, but we did not score the coffee on a green coffee cupping form. I wanted to keep this open to preference, not just analysis. I called in people who were not fully aware of the process, the coffee, and even cupping to give feedback.
-In order to not belabor the information too much, I will only be highlighting differences in the roasts that I feel are pertinent. If you have a particular question about one roast against the others, I am open to further follow-up dialogue.
This roast was close to the profile that I used first early last spring when I first roasted this coffee. My drop time and temp were 12:26 @ 393. This would be around city+ with a "typical" (high grown, quality, hard bean) coffee.
The Cup: The fragrance was burnt toast. The flavors were bittersweet cocoa, charcoal, mesquite, sunflower seed. This was most people's least favorite coffee. It was flat and lifeless, tasting like a generic coffee that was a bit "roasty". Everything we love about this coffee had been destroyed or buried. *Note: This was nowhere close to entering second crack, but had all of the sensory sins of having hit second crack.
This is the roast that was a bit slower overall. That said, we hit first at 10:00, first ended at 12:00, drop time and temp was 13:37 at 390F
The Cup: the fragrance was fruit jam and toast. Cup was a bit floral with some "gamey-ness" present, like lamb or goat's milk, nut, cream, creamy texture, toast, potato chip, salt, earth and spice. While much more flavorful, for me personally, many of these flavors either don't jive, or were frankly off-putting. If anyone did not choose roast #1 as their least favorite, they did choose this roast.
Roast 1 and 2 were hated on.
This roast went well and right along the plan, just like 4 and 5, which follow. First Crack was at 9 minutes, ending at 11:30, drop time and temp were 388F at 12:27.
The Cup: the fragrance was toasty/malty with cacao. Flavor opened to roasted tree nut, fruits like sweet grape, lemon, orange, and cherry. This cup also exhibited a lot more floral aroma and a lot more snappy brightness. One taster found this to be their favorite.
Very slightly over-roasted
Again, First Crack hit at 9:00, basically finishing at 11:00. Drop time and temp were 11:10 at 386.8F. There were still some lingering pops from First in the cooling tray.
The Cup: The fragrance was ripe fresh fruit, butter, honey. The flavors we found were tons of rich sweet fruit, sweet oolong tea, crab apple (FOUND IT!!), deeply savory floral aromas, lively acidity that was popping, wild flower honey, lemon, and panela. This cup was banging and sweet. I loved it. I picked this as my favorite cup.
Yet... with this roast I had broken a roaster's rule of thumb. I dropped this batch before first crack had completely finished.
Everything with this roast went according to plan up to just before first crack we saw a bit of lag, landing its start at 9:15. This led to a bit slower development, with a drop temp and time of 10:56 at 378.2F. We were in the thick of first crack, still bursting pretty strongly.
The Cup: The fragrance we found on this cup was much fuller, bursting with ripe fruit. The acidity was dazzling almost toward effervescent. The tart crab apple turned a bit more toward green apple, the oolong toward a ripe green tea, slightly "peasy", with a very subtle straw to grass aroma present. Yet the body was very rich and thick. Sweetness was still strongly present in this cup, and the floral aromas were still extraordinary. Had I not tasted the roast before it, this would have been my favorite.
It is no surprise that in order to get the "best" roast of a particular coffee (whatever that means) you need to run some trials and find some errors. I am not re-inventing the wheel here. But I do have a point here.
This is a very odd bird coffee. In order to find its peak, or what I personally think its peak can be, we had to break some rules a bit. I had to step outside of my comfort zone and trust my eyes and nose, while denying my ears and past experiences.
I also want to save you some time, money, and those raised eye-brows. This roasting experience is not unique to this lot of coffee. We are finding this same trend in many of the coffees from Ecuador. Many of our customers have been able to tap into the wild flavors and aromas these coffees can offer. At the same time, we have had folks who explain their experiences very similarly to ours in roast three or four, somewhat flat, nutty; not as overwhelmingly pleasing as we have described in roasts 3-5.
We want you to have the option to taste what we taste. We don't ask that you like what we like all of the time, but we do hope that you at least get the chance to try it. I hope this has helped you get to that point.
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For more on Fabian Lomas, the producer of this remarkable coffee, watch this video, from the source:
PHOTOS: an in-depth look at Ethiopia and Kenya specialty coffee 2014
Just before the holidays, we had an action packed origin trip to Ethiopia and Kenya - The trip left us in very high spirits; the 2014 crop was looking just as consistent as ever, and we cant wait to duke out these stellar coffees in our cupping lab. We have lots of exciting content to come including videos, interviews, updated beanologies, an Ethiopia field report, and of course 2015 offerings. But for now, sink your teeth into these two new origin photo albums to curb your unruly coffee desires (click for gallery link):