Monthly Archive for April, 2012

New Coffee: El Salvador Majahual – Tablon Tempisque

The dry fragrance ranges from malted milk to praline and cocoa. The wet aroma has caramel and butter scents, slight red apple notes and mulling spice. The cup taste stays true to the aromatics; rounded and balanced, with a thick and syrupy body, cocoa chocolate notes combine well with almond roast tones to give a confection-like character. There’s a very mild red apple sweetness lurking behind the roast notes, and fading to cocoa-dusted nut tones in the finish. While balanced as drip or press coffee, Tablon Tempisque is really intense and wonderful as espresso. Classic espresso flavors of chocolate bittersweets have a nice bright note, gingerbread spice flavors, and a long finish.

We recommend City+ roast level through Full City +. This can hold up to darker roasts too.

Read more about this coffee and the unique farm it comes from by clicking here.

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iCoffee Roaster

We tested out the iCoffee Roaster a couple weeks ago. It’s a new home roaster made in Korea that can roast 50-150 g batches (1.76-5.3 oz). It has a hot plate heating element with a removable bowl-shaped roast chamber that rests on top and has rotating arms to agitate the beans in the center. Basically, it’s like an electric Whirley Pop with a smoke abatement system. It comes with a detachable handle that you use to remove the roast bowl and the chaff collector.

Aesthetically, it’s very cute. I like the size, shape, wood panels and glass dome. It looks like a little steampunk robot or an old-timey radio.

The overall roast time is great. I appreciate being able to get to 1st crack reliably in 7-11 minutes (depending on batch size). Unfortunately, the cooling cycle is super ineffective. Having roasted the 150g maximum on the lightest advised setting (#3), we ended up with a batch that was at a French + level, with lots of oils and bean shrapnel. The problem is that there’s so much heat built up and retained that the cooling fan isn’t powerful enough to stop the roast process, even though cooling started pretty much right after 1st crack was finished. If a more powerful fan and a perforated roast pot were added, this might aid in cooling more effectively.

We were able to get our desired medium roast (about Full City) by stopping the machine entirely about 2 minutes after 1st crack and dumping the beans into a colander to cool. This resulted in big clouds of smoke and comedic attempts to get the handle on the roast bowl in time to prevent the beans from scorching. Leaving the handle on the roast bowl through the third batch helped, but we still had to stop the machine early and dump into the colander for cooling.

The 50g batch worked out best, but I’m not really sure why anyone would roast such a small quantity of coffee. Nano-roasting anyone?

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Bunn Trifecta MB

Bunn recently introduced a home version of their single cup commercial Trifecta brewer, the Trifecta MB. It’s smaller in size, has a handled chamber instead of a portafilter and water cylinder and features blue LEDs to make it seem even more futuristic. Just to get it off the table, the Trifecta MB is pretty expensive, at the introductory price of $499. It has adjustable brew times that vary from 40 seconds to 3 minutes, and 5 different turbulence settings to really customize your brew profile.

It comes with 2 brewing chambers (plastic canisters with handles and stainless steel filters at the bottom), a glass pitcher with graduated markings, a small gram scale and a brewing guide to help you navigate all the variables.

The brew water temperature is surprisingly low at 185, but it doesn’t seem to detract from the overall cup quality, probably due to the agitation aiding extraction. The resulting brew comes out at about 170 in a non-insulated, open container. I think 170 is a great drinking temperature, but some people might find it a little too cool.

The filter at the bottom of the brewing chamber is finely perforated stainless steel, which allows quite a bit of sediment to come through. Its internal hot water tank keeps water hot and ready to brew at any time, as long as the machine is plugged in.

To brew, you fill up the detachable water reservoir to your desired cup size–up to 12 oz.  Use coffee ground to a cone filter grind size for the best results. You can select the brew time and turbulence by turning 2 separate dials. The brewer introduces turbulence during the brew cycle by blowing puffs of air into the bottom of the chamber. You can really bring out different aspects of a coffee, like acidity and earthiness, by messing around with the turbulence. When it’s done brewing, air pushes down from the top, forcing the brewed coffee out through a valve in the bottom of the chamber.

Aside from the price, I think the only drawback is that the brew chambers are pretty difficult to clean. You can knock out most of the grounds like a French Press, but it’s hard to thoroughly rinse out the chamber and filter. You can remove the filter by sticking a butter knife or a flat head screwdriver into the chamber and twisting it out, but you have to be careful to not get any stray grounds into the valve at the bottom, which we found out by accident. If you do get grounds in the valve, you can clear it by depressing the center of the valve with a toothpick while rinsing with water.

Overall, it seems like a great machine and produces a really nice cup, once you get your brewing parameters down. We brewed a natural-processed Ethiopian that was pretty decent but unremarkable in a Technivorm, but super fruity and sweet in the Trifecta.

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Five New Additions

Brazil Mogiana Dry-Process Peaberry is remarkably clean for a natural with apple notes, works well across the roast spectrum. Colombia “Dos Payasos de Tolima” returns with wonderful raisin and nut tones, limited availability. Colombia Tolima – Einar Ortiz Microlot is our second offering from this farmer, with golden apple and lemon blossom notes, this is a very small lot. Sumatra Lake Toba 19+ Ulos is a special selection of large seeds and has intense foresty flavors, blackberry, and leather in the finish. Guatemala La Maridad SWP Decaf is our most recent special decaf blend of two great farms: Soledad and Maravilla, the cup is complex with interesting grape notes, great at all roast levels.

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Our Live, Interactive Webcasts

Have you been able to catch our live, interactive webcasts on Ustream? We have been going on-air every other Friday at noon PST, talking about different topics and chatting live with our friends our customers. If you aren’t able to tune in for the live broadcast, you can always watch the recorded show anytime you like. You can watch it all go down by clicking here. Sorry for any ads that pop up during the show. It’s how Ustream makes their money. Oh yeah, our next one is Friday, April 20th. We’ll demonstrate roasting coffee in a stovetop popcorn popper.

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Symposium, Imposium, Opposium

I have always had mixed feelings about the SCAA Symposium. And in my inimitable style, I have had them in absence of any actual experience: I never went to Symposium. It is the 2 day event before the SCAA Exposition that is billed as a meeting of Industry Leaders, and features a stacked bill of various personalities, consultants, a couple scientists, market researchers, financial experts, and interpretive dance. Okay, strike the last one.

In any case, it is an orchestrated series of presentations and panel discussions that comes with a high price tag (over $1k to come), but also high value. I had always thought it drew away from the general show,; it represented a retreat from investing in the quality of the educational discussions at the low-cost weekend event. I might still feel this way, but having just sat through my first day of Symposium, it undoubtedly has great value. And I am not just saying that because I got in free, in exchange for blogging it. There, full disclosure.

The core members of SCAA that plunge their hands into green coffee every day, the roasters, don’t get to poke their heads out of the backroom often enough. Along with the Roaster’s Guild Retreat, Symposium definitely offers a rube like myself who is always absorbed intensely in the issues of my own business to consider the broader picture … how the same issues are affecting everyone else. Even if the discussion isn’t speaking directly to me and my struggles in coffee, the benefit of Symposium can be experience tangentially. Just allowing myself to absorb the information, let it wash over me, and consider how I address whatever the speaker’s topic may be, has a certain distinct value.

We have had a lot of alternative names for Symposium, and I think some of them are pretty expressive. To a yokel like me, much of the lingo sounds like somebody went and got themselves one too many MBAs. And the results can be a bit comical too. “Where are the hotspots in your supply chain?” Or “How can we blow apart our assumptions, and make money in a whole new way?” Sounds like revolution-talk to me.

But when do you get to hear multiple perspectives on what is driving instability in the commodity market from people who focus entirely on that? How about some solid criticism of romantic notions about coffee varietals and cultivation from people with 40 years experience in a producing country? How can that not be enriching? When I consider my paltry experience with market watching, hedging coffee contracts, or on the other hand, a week or two in a producing country trying to understand all the complexities of quality and production, can that meager experience not benefit from listening to the folks on stage? Hell yeah.

So that’s part of Symposium, seeing the value in listening to other perspectives, whether you agree or not, whether you think they are relevant to your daily experience in coffee or not. We all know coffee is incredibly complicated. We all know we can’t “do it all” nor can we “know it all”. Coming together is a good humble admission of this fact. Plus, people say some hilarious things. -Tom

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New Products: J-Scales by Jennings

Using a scale when roasting and brewing isn’t mandatory but when you are trying to make good coffee on a consistent basis, a scale sure does help. The latest additions to our online shelves are the Jennings CJ-600 and the JS-300v. We have been using the CJ-600 for some time in our office kitchen and it’s proven to be very accurate and durable. It’s compatible with an AC adapter (sold separately), which is good if it’s going to stay put on your counter for a while. The JS-300v is great for travel or folks with limited counter space. You can take a look at them both by clicking here.

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Ye Olde Weblog

Traffic was so low on our blog we simply started ignoring it. We are investing a lot more time in our Library, and plan to eventually combine our blog type posts with our articles over there. We also found that most people are just checking out the What’s New on our home page to find out the latest. So you might not see the web log around too much longer.

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