It's the day after the Panama Esmeralda auction for their geisha coffees, and I still feel a bit woozy. We bought coffees at 4 distinct price points, from the "Budget Batch" #5 which averaged not much over $6 a lb. to the highest priced coffee in the auction, which we had pre-arranged a "share" with our friends at Stumptown in Portland, and sold for a whopping $105 plus change. We have 150 Lbs of the Batch 2 and 150 Lbs of Batch 3 Peaberry, which was around $50/ Lb. Really, I can hardly argue for the sense in all this, except that coffee priced this way means about a $5 cup, and that #2 is really, really fantastic coffee. My favorite non-ridiculous price was Batch 10, which for those who read the notes might realize, is a blend of "North side of the creek" where #2 is from, and South side of the creek, and is also late harvest. I thought batches 8,9 and 10 were all nice, but 10 was a little more delicate and nuanced for me. Lots 5, 6 and 7 were second tier for me, but oddly just 5 sold for a lot less than others. In fact, mike was brilliant to get some for the cafe! $6/Lb Gesha! we bought 4 lots - no, it doesn't run side-by-side with batch 2 or 3 or 10, but put in in a blind cupping with 9 other centrals and it will win most every time! so i guess this means we will have sub $10/lb esmeralda, some around $15/lb. and then ... geez ... what did i get myself into??? What we will probably do is use our nitrogen-gas-flush vacuum package machine, which is coming in a week, to re-pack the batch 2 and 3 into small single-roast packets, that can be preserved for special occasions, such as next christmas and such. after export charges and shipping, i think we will have a modest markup so we will need to sell the batch 2 for something like $60 per half pound. Here's the final results of the auction.
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This week we roasted a great Tanzanian coffee to a City+ level using a somewhat complex profile. We dropped the batch in with our gas control set to "1" and after only three minutes we upped it to "1.5" this helped the roast pick up some speed, but not too much too soon. The big push to add momentum came around the nine minute mark as the coffee neared 345 degrees. Here we brought the gas almost to full throttle at "2.2", after only two minutes the thermoprobe was reading 380 degrees and we decided to slow the roast down as much as possible without stalling by setting the gas to ".5" This produced the gentlest first crack imaginable and allowed us to finish the roast at the low final temperature of 426 degrees. This is a good illustration of how backing way off at the end of a roast can help the coffee retain delicate flavors that may be obliterated by racing through the end. For the Espresso Monkey blend we used a similar profile but didn't drop the heat down quite as much at the end, still the coffee entered second crack on the quiet side but had a lot of momentum and kept cracking in the cooling tray for a good two minutes after being dumped. For both regular and espresso we averaged 15:30 minutes roast time.
We have a wide-ranging and eclectic mix of new arrivals today. From South America we have a new lot of Colombia Tolima -Finca Las Florestales a family farm of Maximino Gutierrez and his brothers. (I am headed to Colombia next week, but visiting Florestales is impossible - the area has too many FARC guerilla camps!) We have yet another great Kenya, and this is the first-ever Fair Trade lot we have been able to buy with a fantastic cup: Kenya FT Peaberry - Kiawamururu from the Nyeri District. We bought Kiawamururu (what a tongue twister of a name) in the past, and this lot rates with the best. Our last Kona of the year is in, Hawaii Kona -Moki's Farm. We chose to run out of Kona in summer, and the Moki's is running a bit late this year since there were drying problems early in the crop. We have a nice, new crop Mexico FTO Oaxaca WP Decaf. And you really need to read the story behind Panama Guyami Indian Robusta Rustico. It's the only coffee I have known to be sent to the coffee mill on a public bus! It's the only coffee I know that is "river-processed" in canvas bags. Not for everyone, but it can actually be brewed in a French Press and make a potent cup.
5/23 Additional Note: I didn't realize that this same lot of Matalapa was the single-origin espresso in Kyle Glanville's winning efforts at the 2008 United States Barista Championship ... a nice accolade. This weeks roast, the el salvador matalapa estate was finished with a fairly slow profile at 430f. I actually cupped the first batch versus the sample roaster batch i used as a reference and the difference was profound. the problem with doing this is freshness - you can't really cup coffees when they are 10 minutes out of the roaster! the sample roast batch, done on thursday, was the darkest of the 4 roast degrees i did at that time, but all were on the light side. It had a lot more brightness than the 10-minute-old probat batch, but what i can project is that the roastmaster lot will have a lot of body, and be very, very balanced, and that perceived acidity will increase as it rests. We have been consistently finding that the roasts from the larger roaster really require 3-5 days to start coming into their own. With these slower roasts we do, and the way we "soften" (i.e. draw out) the 1st crack, seems to leave the coffee bean less expanded, less puffed up, more structurally intact, and (I think) leaves more C0-2 intact in the little cellulose chambers within the seed. So the de-gassing period after roasting is even more important, and the shelf life of the coffee much longer, with this gentle approach in the roaster. If this post makes little sense, don't worry. It's probably because I am befuddled today. And, to a large degree, this is intuitive stuff that comes from years of pulling the sample trier out of the roaster, years of watching coffee get brown and expand in so many different ways, and years of calibrating those things you see in the roaster with your palate. It's no mystery; you respond to what you see happening to a coffee with intuition based on experience ... but describing it is a bit of a challenge for me.
Two new Centrals: Two new Kenyas. We have our perrenial favorite Guatemala Fraijanes -Finca Agua Tibia and a new lot from our favorite Honduran growing region: Honduras Organic SHG Marcala (full cupping review coming). Our first Kenya auction lots have arrived and they are amazing! Kenya Pebaerry Kirinyaga - Gakuyuini is a potent lot, darkly sweet with black currant. Kenya AA Nyeri - Kiamaina is a refined cup with peach-like flavors and brightness. Both lots are so different, both wonderful in their own right.