Monthly Archive for August, 2008

A post from Rwanda

Well, we finished the judging of the 2008 Rwanda Cup of Excellence, the first COE ever held in Africa. We did all the judging in Huye, Butare, near many coffee farms and mills. I always prefer to have the cuppings in the coffee areas, as opposed to the big city (I guess it is a stretch to call the capital, Kigali, a big city). Nobody has posted results yet, but here are the top 5:
1. MIG Buremera 2. Facko Rulindo 3. MIG Buremera 4. SDL Minazi 5. SDL Muyongwe 6. Kabuye Maraba 7. Bufcafe Remera 8. Coopac Kabirizi 9. MIG Buremera 10. Horizon Nyamyumba
Ok … what the heck? These are the names of washing stations, i.e. wet mills. The first is the name of the mill group, and the second is the area. In Rwanda, farmers tend to have around 300 trees. Trees! That makes them some of the smallest farms in any coffee producing area. Each winning lot, about 15 bags (60 kg) of green, are the work of anywhere from 60 to 250 farmers! There is going to be a huge effort to distribute the auction proceeds to all these little farmers. (The auction is in October). You might notice the name Bufcafe, because we have offered this coffee several times, including the one we won #2 at in the SCAA Roasters Choice competition. There were also some amazing lots that were kicked out due to one defect cup … one cup of over 100 tested. So we are going to bid on those too, because they would have been top 10 coffees otherwise. Here’s a picture of a local business in Huye. I uploaded more to flickr too … but I am off to Harar region of Ethiopia now, so the full trip report for this historic COE event will not be uploaded for a week or more… Tom (from Novotel Hotel, Kigali Rwanda)
Smart Saloon, Cyber Cafe, Huye

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Nicaragua Pacamara Peaberry

This coffee is a rare beast indeed and the large bean size presents some challenges to the roaster.  On smaller roasters the beans will move and behave differently so care should be taken in order to achieve lighter City roasts.  On the Probat this meant dialing back the heat when the thermoprobe read 370 degrees, normally I would wait another ten degrees but with the larger bean structure there is greater potential for first crack blow outs.  I pulled the batch when the thermoprobe reached 427 degrees and the beans had an even surface color and nice expansion with wide crevices.

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A few new things for late summer

While Tom is in Rwanda – I have added a few new merchandise items; at long last we have Ibriks to sell again; we added a Double Wall Glass Bodum French press (which works great to keep the brew hot); and what our customers have all been waiting for…. a Sweet Maria’s Soccer/Football! Okay – so no one was waiting for this, no one asked for them, but Tom thought they would be cool anyhow. We decided to sell them to help subsidize the ones we are giving away.- Maria

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Race against time: 15 arrivals at once (ugh)

I am racing against the clock to add all these new arrivals before leaving for the first-ever Rwanda Cup of Excellence competition on Thursday night. I am going to split this into 3 parts: New Centrals; South America + a new DP Ethiopia; 6 new decafs arrive at once.

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Mexico FTO Chiapas – La Union Coop

This week’s Roastmaster coffee is a fine pooled lot from Chiapas that boasts a balanced sweet cup and can take a wide range of roasts. The first batch we roasted seemed to hit first crack rather violently, I missed backing off the heat right at 380 degrees like we’ve been doing and waited until 385. This caused the coffee to enter first crack with too much momentum resulting in a loud snap around 415, which is a bit later than most other coffees. For subsequent batches I was more on target and even pulled the heat back a little before it reached 380, first crack was still very loud and snappy which leads us to think the moisture content of this coffee is a touch lower than some of our other lots. Basically, roasting isn’t an exact science, as you all know, each time out you need to get in “synch” with the coffee you are roasting and sometimes it takes a batch to do that. We settled on a roast in the CIty++/Full CIty range which meant a final thermoprobe temperature of 430 degrees.

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Ethiopia Organic Sidamo DP Special Prep.

This Sidamo was taken to 438 degrees for a Full City roast. We used a profile that started with the heat at a very low setting then bumped it up as the coffee began to yellow. We then cut the heat dramatically near first crack, which draws out the roast and lengthens the amount of time it takes to complete first crack, especially on this dry processed coffee. Remember to cull out the lightest colored beans, called quakers, and enjoy the rustic blueberry and apricot notes in this outstanding lot. We’ve been enjoying the test roasts in our Technivorm here at the warehouse and hope that you like the results on the Probat.

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a great assortment of new lots

Today I am listing a great assortment of new lots.

  • Perhaps the most unusual is Costa Rica RIP Red Honey Coffee. RIP? Roasted In Parchment. This coffee has not been dry-milled, the green bean is still in the outer shell. In perhaps the wackyest moment in Sweet Maria’s history, we discovered you can roast coffee in the parchment shell, and it has a very unusual flavor. This is for experts only, since you can’t really see the green coffee as it turns brown. See the review and the pictures of the RIP process.
  • Not quite as “out there” is our new lot of Kenya Thika Chania -
    French Mission Cultivar
    . This is a coffee lot from the original French Bourbon varietal as it was brought to Kenya by French priests in 1893, and it as a unique cup character.
  • Some will think I have gone to “the dark side” by offering a Hawaii coffee that is not a small-farm Kona. But we found the Ka’u coffees from south of Kona on the Big Island have greatly improved in recent years, none more than Hawaii Ka’u Wet-Process -Will & Grace Farm. We also got some miniscule lots from them of hand-processed Ka’u Dry-Process and Pulp Natural NanoLot coffees. Yes, NanoLots. Sub-MicroLots. Read the commentary for these…
  • For those who must have monsooned coffee in their espresso blend, we have a fine new lot of India Monsooned Malabar AA
  • Our Classic Mandheling is gone but we have a really good, traditional Grade One Lot to back it up: Sumatra Gr. 1 Mandheling. The preparation isn’t pretty, but the cup has true Mandheling origin character.
  • And we have a nice lot of Sumatra Mandheling WP Decaf that scores quite well alongside it’s non-decaf counterpart.
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panama boquete golden peaberry

I have no idea what makes these peaberries golden, they sure don’t look like it to me. But I just cupped the production roast (yeah, yeah, with less than 10 minutes of rest out of the roaster), and it sure has a winey fruit note, an maybe it’s just language suggestion, but I get golden raisins. I am sure it will change dramatically over time, but it’s a good glimpse at what the cup will become with a few days rest. In general, drum roasts emit less CO-2 during the roast process, and in the first 12 hours of post-roast rest. Air roasts “puff” more, and this additional expansion might explain the fact that they de-gas faster. You can see this clearly by brewing a French Press with an air roast vs. a drum roast when the coffee is too fresh, i.e. 10 minutes after roasting. The drum roast will create a rapidly foaming head that will threaten to overflow the carafe. The air roast will foam, but much less. In brewing really fresh coffee, pre-wetting the grinds can help alot, since rapid de-gassing will prevent good extraction/infusion of the coffee and water. Ah, I digress. Panama Boquete Golden Peaberry, 431 f finish temp with the probat curve we have been using as of late… which includes dropping the heat before 1st crack in order to create an extended, slower pop, and lead to a good controlled finish. -Tom

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