Ian and I have been in Mill Valley, CA this past week, eager attendants in two roast profiling workshops offered by Willem Boot in his garage-cum-coffee-lab. We’re always amazed at how enthusiastic, open, and, frankly, a little eclectic, coffee people are, the other attendees, the instructors, the guests dropping by. It has struck us too how inspiring it is to be in a learning environment. There’s always something to learn about coffee.
While some of these key messages are obvious, they are important to never overlook:
- You can only roast great coffee if the green beans you begin with are great.
- No matter how well you might roast the coffee, you have to be equally attentive to your packaging, logistics, handling in shop, your water quality, and the calibration and cleanliness of your equipment for the coffee to be great.
- Judge your roasting by how well the coffee performs in the cup.
- Develop systems to ensure you can repeat success. Record, record, record.
- Slow coffee is good coffee. There are between 1000 and 1200 organic compounds in coffee, all of which are subject to Maillard reactions. Using slow and even predevelopment, and extended roast development yields more complexity and flavour in the cup.
- All coffees, when roasted more darkly, will exhibit the flavour and aroma profiles attributed to sugar browning, but when coffee is roasted more lightly, the uniqueness of the coffee will be more present.
One of our guest presenters was Graciano Cruz, a coffee farmer and coffee evangelist from Panama. He has been a pioneer in the development of ‘honey’ coffees (same as pulped natural process). Washed coffees, the standard for arabicas, use a lot of water, roughly 2000 L per 65 kg bag of green coffee, and this is a large and ever-increasing concern at origin. Honey coffees are processed without water. After pulping, the green coffee, contained in its sheath of parchment and mucilage, are carefully dried on raised beds. The risk has always been that is difficult to dry unwashed coffee carefully enough to avoid defects of rot and mould, but Graciano has worked out protocals that are yielding consistent, and consistently good results. He, along with Boot Coffee, are currently the technical advisors for a five year long project in El Salvador, introducing the honey process. Over 500 farmers processed honey coffees this year. We got to taste the results and we loved what we tasted. Washing coffee washes away between 60 and 80% of the sugars in green coffee. The honey process, aptly named, maintains these sugars. The resulting cups are sweeter with more intense flavours. And remember, a lot less water. We hope to source some honey coffees in the future!
– Tracey Clark