Monday, December 07, 2009

Caffeine induced thoughts

While I love roasting my own coffee, the home coffee roaster with just a jury-rigged setup is always at a disadvantage when roasting compared to a skilled craftsperson using professional roasting equipment.

This isn’t to suggest I am about to stop roasting, far from it, but the variables involved in creating a fine end product are many, and it is a natural consequence of the process at home that it is more difficult to control these in a more casual process.

This weekend I roasted six batches of Santa Cruz de León Cortés, a Costa Rican coffee. Each batch has a slightly different profile and no matter how well I watched the time or the temperature I was never going to have each looking or tasting exactly like the other.

I have no doubt they will all taste good, but some may well be better than others. There is not much I can do other than control what variables I can and maintain a zen-like acceptance of the transient nature of each roast, enjoying its unique and oh-so-brief existence.

I friend of mine has recently purchased a lovely drum roaster and I wish him the joy of it as I think he will quickly master it and produce some wonderful coffee. My own ambitions are somewhat smaller and I hope over the next year to build a larger roaster capable of more consistent product.

Most weeks I do wonder why I roast at all – there is so much good coffee out there on the market that I don’t need to roast it myself. I know one of the reasons that I persist is that roasting help me learn more about coffee. Yes, I many not be able to roast as well as any of the Master Roasters we have in Perth, but I can’t learn as well from only drinking their coffee as I can from roasting myself. I am finding it a good idea to try their roast of the same bean that I am roasting if at all possible. This helps me calibrate my expectations of how the coffee should be and from time to time I manage to surprise myself with my own roasts.

I roast single origins and drink single origins almost to the exclusion of blends, not because I don’t like blends, but more because I need to understand each coffee better than I do now before I can really consider how best to blend it.

Also at the moment I am using a pour-over, a plunger or the Clever Coffee Dripper to make my coffee as my espresso machine is down hard with a bung pump. Single Origins seem to be nicely responsive to the hands on treatment of the espresso-less side of coffee making and I’m happy enough drinking other-than-espresso for a while.

I do have some interesting experiments coming up over summer that I will share with people, including some that might be quite interesting as part of a signature drink for competitions.

It does rely on some equipment I don’t have yet, but should have shortly. I will tell more when there is more to tell!

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