Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cupping is Naked

A means of evaluating adjustments to the roasting process of green coffee and their characteristics that are origin and processing specific - is via that thing called cupping.
Why cupping is essential to guide us on the correct flavour trail and how we routinely incorporate the cupping into our daily roaster existence is for you to peruse and ponder. Catch the bug of curiosity of this beautiful tradition of critiquing the lovely bean.
      Room temperature, climate and environmental factors that affect the stability of the Roaster can be unpredictable, sometimes detrimental and a constant influence on the coffee bean as it roasts a detailed cooking path. As we do our best to control these ever changing variables, it is a roasters mission to carve the correct script for a beans’ cooking journey to create optimal flavour from the particular origin.
      Knowing a little of the background of the coffee; origin indicating the characteristics of the prized flavour, body, acidity and balance of the cup allows the roaster to know what to nurture during the cooking of that coffee. An origin that is reputable for lovely light floral/ citrus attributes should be roasted with more delicacy and to a lower temperature or time, than an origin that boasts bold flavour and body. Density of the beans and their size sees crafted roast profiles that involve greatly varied fuel values, temperatures and airflow. To cup these roasts, throughout a year of changing crops, roasting conditions and knowledge we gain of the personality of the beans as we constantly learn, is our means of implementing regular, necessary change.

      Cupping commences with a small 8 grams of coarsely ground roasted beans, at the level of roast we think suitable for customers. The grounds are placed in a white porcelain bowl, with in ten minutes of grinding. The dry aroma of the coffee is smelt and noted. 150 mls of just off boiling water (92c) is slowly poured over the grounds for a gentle infusion. Now that the coffee is wet, a second ‘sniff’ ensues. The overall aroma of the coffee is rated once both the dry fragrance and wet have been smelt. The crust of the cup forms a thick layer of frothy, bubbled coffee on the surface of the liquid. ‘Breaking’ the crust is using the back of the spoon to agitate the liquid and smell the infused brew again. Flavours that burst to mind are hastily scribbled down before a new note appears to contemplate. It is through recollection of past flavour memory that we draw these mud maps of description of the beans. To aid us, flavour wheels are within arm reach to assure us of our perception.
      The tasting begins! The crust, once broken, needs to be skimmed and discarded to reveal the liquid beneath that we slurp. A spoon in each hand to sweep the surface of the cup is an efficient means of removing the coffee froth and grounds mixture. The cupper is to observe and note flavour attributes, acidity, the body (or weight) of the coffee in the mouth, balance, aftertaste, clarity and faults. It is all of these components that create a magnificent coffee, when in the correct states to complement one another.
      The effect of the age of the roasted product has an influence on the flavour of the coffee, as the length of time wine spends in oak! Re-cupping samples of roasted beans at 1, 10 and 20 days, sometimes longer, to affirm that the origins in the blend are compatible with their level of roast and the magical test of time. If it is evident that that particular roast level or marriage of flavours of origins of green within a blend are not performing – back to the roaster we trot and work with a new strategy to unleash the best from our coffee.
      Cupping is the raw sensory analysis of the beans as they age and respond on a chemical level to their environment and the roasting process. It is the unveiling of the coffee seeds secret to the roasters and baristas. A moment where the coffee shines unaided by the often shiny things we today utilize, to extract the juice of espresso.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Café Biz, Melbourne 2011  
                An El Salvador COE #9 at three venues over the Café Biz weekend saw my inquiring tastebuds in an euphoric caffeine, flavour state – repeatedly.
                First sample of this magnificent bean was at a new Café venture in Kensington, ‘The Premises’. My long black welcomed gentle waves of syrupy mint and anise. A beautifully balanced extraction of a gorgeous amber liquid with a staunch Crema and unmistakable river Nile down its centre, provided that even stroke of the entire pallet with no unnecessary grabs and bites of the tongue.
                This experience (at this soon to revisited Café), was to be matched with the divinity of the tightest textured soy milk to mingle in the glass with a double ristretto El Salvador base from the larger than life Duchess of Spotswood. Excellent barista skills! I was very impressed by the many coffees I inhaled, matching the sensationalism of the simply English masterpiece of a breakfast.  A jab of Stilton with the poke of competitively crunchy Rosti encouraged me to delay the coffee experience in order to keep two perfectly crafted taste experiences separate; lengthening my stay and pleasure…
                ‘Seven Seeds’ sent me on the long drive home to Robe in enlightened spirits with the same strong soy latte as requested at Duchess, however the extraction at this North Melbourne hub brought sweeter mint from the bean, lending a concentrated front and side pallet poke.
                Aside to the external food and coffee pleasures of Melbourne was the purpose of Mahalia and I’s trip to the Smoke for the annual Café Biz Expo. We were blessed by the company of wonderful individuals, providing equipment and assistance and direction in our set up. The Expobar brothers decked out a beautiful two group, temperature controlled machine for our ease of operation over the three days. Their regular visits to our stall were enjoyable and appreciated ones, as all were aware of how ridiculously busy those fellows are! Present in many places, I’m sure of it.
                Greg introduced us to the Melkhonic grinder. Very steady gramage control that would reliably stay put as the grind was tweaked as required throughout the day. Such a lovely machine to cooperate with. A two hopper machine was a grind on demand grinder with a difference. A find that was sad to part with.
                Upon set up on the Friday, Mahalia and I witnessed the intoxicating, runny honey pour s from our beans consistently after much fiddling. This was a sweet start to the Expo, for the mind and taste sensation. Some over indulging of the Blend # 4 Piccolo ensued until late afternoon.
                The darkest roast and Golden Bean winner took on new dimension at the Biz. Always a syrupy, punchy blend of sweet, smoothly dissipating finish, the beans juice danced into the cup from the Nakeds with much vigour. The prominent spice of aniseed and cinnamon adopted the fine tannins of a young Shiraz. There existed a kick that was mellowed by a sticky palm sugar sweet finish. Molasses, but not quite molasses. Alluding whiffs of Chicken broth.
                A ‘Mystery Bean’ idea that was of a last minute decision calibre saw a regular stream of talented palettes mill to our stall. The Ethiopian Sundried Bench Maji Grd 3 has typical berry aromatics and flavour. Blueberry similar to the Harrar. Sophisticated citrus, bordering lemongrass. Wild African bean smells were nurturing drunken states, minus the alcohol.
                Such a healthy mix of passionate coffee proffesionals, mingled in a space dappled with sexy machines, tamping forearms, beautiful packaging and persistent and perusing quality hunters. I was baffled by the knowledge that looped the room and the knowledge I was able to both gain and share. For a first time Coffee Expo goer, I’m confident it was the pick of the crop for a learner like I.

Cannot forget the final pit stop at the 'Duchess of Spotswood' for almighty fine salmon fish cake with a spinach
puree, baby basil and beautifully, badly buttered sourdough.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dedication to age
8th September 2012

To trully determine why the flavour and aroma of a blend loses its dedication to marriage; I put five samples under the pump in the cupping room.
Roasts dated back to as early as the 4th of August. The 29th of August was the most recent of the samples. Bean development of each roast was relatively alike. In the cases of apparent tipping or underdevelopement, these taints were noted and expected upon the snorting, slurping and swishing commencement.
   Dry Aroma
4th August – Rasberries and young rosemary.
9th August – Hot dog bread!
11th August – Cracked black pepper.
16th August – Lamington chocolate.
29th August – Cranberries and blossom.
Given the age variance, the blend still held the dark roast head high throughout for its flavour, acid and body qualities. The slurp of each sample unveiled the most distanced marriage relationship in the 4th of August roast. A little harsh for the side palate and some undesirable salty. The 9th and 11th of August roasts were pleasant enough. Cups I certainly wouldn’t knock back to doing the honours of commencing my day. However, the flavours were a little dulled and no stand out acidity or high notes. The 16th and 29th of August roasts bore strong relationships within. Reflective of intimate mingling of gases and personalities of individual… beans in the valved bags over the one to two week period. Beautiful balance and spices prominent. The walnut and shiraz and their tanic beauty.
To complete the blend ageing test, I extracted three short blacks of the 4th, 16th and 29th of August roasts. As discovered in the cupping room, the 16tth and 29th of August  roasts were the top performers here. Our older contender, requiring a slightly courser grind setting, was sweet for the immediate tastebuds, but punched his way down. Not brutally, but not as tender as our winners. To conclude the experiment held, on an unthreateningly overcast morning in Robe – this particular blend proved is best young,  but will not dramatically dissapoint if taken when a little fragile in its age ridden marriage.

Monday, 9 July 2012

home on a summer sunday

Ethiopian Limu Ferment Case
29 March 2012

First ferment find. In an Ethiopian bag of green. Nostrils filled with memories of the proceeding hours of mid summer lawn mowing. Humid, sweating grass clippings, steaming like wilting greens in a congested pan. The oil off the blades rendering ashfelt stint – highly undesirable.
     The green beans weighed up for a roast sat high in the barrel. Density of the coffee much lower; or moisture content much lower? I would have thought otherwise for moisture level, as the plastic wrapping of the shipment was skin/air tight around the beans, differing from the norm of the packaging.
      Gazing wondrously at the bean loader as the soft, poorly pungent beans tumbled endlessly into the drum. A regular roast would load with a different sound and what seemed at the time a shorter period of time. I reweighed and re weighed, momentarily doubting the scales or my tare.
          Running fast in the drum, our ferment friend did well… In contrast to a regular roast of this lot number, the beautifully yeasty, sweet Ethiopian final bean temperatures were very close to one another, but drastically varied in colour.
   Flavour, feel and smell - Shiny, monsooned like small beans with a heavy feel. High acidity with a moderate body that predictably with age would improve. However, the alliaceous, sharp aroma wasn’t desirable. Rough front palate, grainy and truly unwell summation of the brew welcomed a decision to reject the fermented bag.
          Our regular smiling cup of berries and sweet wheat ‘digestive biscuit’, clean and rounded ripe stone fruit, was no where to be found!
    Never doubt initial visual perception or unusual wafts around the nose hair J
tasmanian raspberries

01 May 2012

A venture to destination Cradle Mountain in May saw an inpromptue raspberry harvest. 21 punnets later, from my Aunty Max's orchard, nestled in the creases and folds of the northern Tasmanian greenery, the raspberries fuelled us during our foggy eyed starts to the Cradle summit.
Still have some jam from the brilliant bright berries for vivid memory of the picking, eating and transforming of. Raspberry jam now leaves me with the feeling of height and clear air, as I recall it was at the top of the towering peak!
It's opening post time. The first few are going to be on shaky legs I suspect, until I can be a better acquaintance to this blogging stranger. The words and snaps of my world between a big blue Diedrich Roaster, hessian sacks of fine cherry seeds of mystery, extraction vessels shall commence. Necessarily additions along my scribbling and slurping path are the ventures of flavour and epistemological experience that translates the beautiful caffeinated buttons into their significance to me. Flavours and textures of this beverage cannot be possible to critique without the delightful assistance of the abundance of locally grown fruit, veg, herbs, eggs, meats, cheeses, WINEs, olives, breads.. Seriously talented home cooks that spoil me regularly in addition to resourceful Chefs, Winemakers and flavour enthusiasts alike, build significantly to a learning Coffee Roaster in her journey to understanding her median all the more. It's all for an enhancement! Not an enhancer of waist size, but something hugely powerful for the reliant to their palate.