company - education - coffee - tea - equipment

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sugars in coffee

Trust me on this. Sugars mean a lot more than you may realize in coffee. They are an incredibly complex topic when you approach them and especially as it relates to flavor formation in roasted coffee.

I did a little research a while back on sugars in roasted coffee. I found out shortly thereafter that others had already done this research quite thoroughly but it was largely ignored by our coffee community. Still, for a small amount of time invested and a little money invested in Benedict's Solution, you can easily determine for yourself where and when measurable sugars disappear in your own roasts and begin again in that search for peak sweetness with more knowledge.

You are wondering what I mean by disappear?

So you are thinking what makes coffee sweet?

Then you are thinking, is roasted coffee actually sweet?

That's the tricky part. All green coffee has sugar but not all roasted coffees have easily measurable amounts of sugar(I was only measuring reducing sugars anyway.) Some times in roasted coffees we taste sweet because the coffees do have measurable sugar content (a lot rarer than you think). A lot of the time it is simply a combination of chemicals that gives us the 'perception of sweet'. According to Coffee Flavor Chemistry, there are a multitude of chemicals in coffee that create a sweet or ethereal like sweet perception on the palate. So sweet isn't likely from sugars but sometimes it may be...

You can see where I began to have one of those turning points again.

It was our early cupping notes that led us to believe that fruity coffees were perceived as sweeter and that chocolate heavy roast coffees were not 'sweet' simply because the roast obscured that perception. We thought that the bitters of these darker roasts were obscuring the perception of sweet rather than it being a case where there were no actual sugars present in the darker roast. We did not know there was any possibility of measurable sugar in roasted coffee at the time. We turned a corner when we discovered this new layer of complexity.

I entirely re-thought my use of the term sweet and have been trying to establish what it really means now. I'm still working on it. The results were just one more thing that made me reconsider the whole running conversation on coffee.

When I did my research, I found something quite interesting. You can still measure sugar content in a rare few roasts, but as they get darker in roast, there is a point where no more sugar is easily measurable for each specific coffee.

Some green are much sweeter than others, but that would take a lot of research to really define so we must rely on our observation and what is commonly held as facts about different processing methods. Simply the fact that some coffees which should have more sugar content because of their processing method would be darker roasted to cover the defects of that same processing leave the entire picture very muddy.
The simple answer is 'there is no simple answer in coffee and be wary of those who offer them!'

In fact, the sweetest coffee I measured was the production roast of Terroir's Kenya Mamuto(a big reason in not offering detailed results publicly). Not exactly a chocolate and caramel coffee, Mamuto's a medium roasted fruit heavy coffee. I found that my results were tied to one roast profile and therefore only pertinent to that profile from that roaster. A radically different roast profile, even to the same visible color may yield much different results. The processing methods (obviously) seemed the key to sweetness paired with the level of roast. This is to say, there is no magic point I can refer to and say there, that's the point you killed the coffee or likewise, that's where it's always going to have the most sugar.

What does all that mean? I am still pondering it and I have little to offer but more questions. I encourage everyone to do the research themselves and find that point in the roast where the sugars die and correlate that to something in the cupping notes. Don't take my word for it, invest your time and effort into it and find your solution for your own roast style.

The topic is too overwhelming and requires too much investment for me to give one size fits all answers.
I would suggest this however...

Moderation, don't over roast it, and always be willing to scrap the profile and to look for something new and different... especially when the coffee is good enough!

Always do the research and don't just take some one's word for it. There is plenty more to coffee than what we see on the surface. Whether it be that nifty black light for sorting green or a little Benedict's for sugar research, do your own research on everything and you may find something amazing all your own.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Video: Roasting and Sugars - Mr. Arno Schwenk

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Arno Schwenk!


Roasting class from the Nordic Barista Cup thanks to Kaminsky for making me post this.

Brilliant.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coffee Bloggin 101

Blogging is a weird thing. You don't know who your audience is and often you don't know exactly who is listening(or why). Sometimes you just wish they could change the channel and go away, other times you wish they would speak up and leave a comment. Some site owners have an agenda to their blogs, a goal so to speak while others use it as a journal of sorts. I thought blogs were rather snarky until I really began to look at the blog community beyond coffee and realized how large it really was. Studying up on it, I realized I need a mission statement.
One of the first things you should do with a blog is set a site goal.

I want to define what our goal is going forward at Barismo.

Putting the focus on taste and quality in coffee(and tea).

How do I define that? I can't really. How about this instead.

I want to cup and source coffees with ethics and quality like George Howell. Sort them like Simon Hsieh. Blend(when I do blend them) them like Robert Thoreson. Approach Espresso like Andrew Barnett(and the palate...) AND mentor the way he does. Speak with passion and conviction about the flavor of my coffees like Miguel Meza. Approach new ideas ambitiously and with open arms like Aaron Blanco. Have a strong sense of community and commitment to family(and quality) like Edwin Martinez. All that and add a little stubborn resistence to 'falling in line'.

That about sums it up. I hope you can get a glimpse of what that means by who we look up to and admire. That's the direction we want to go with this site. Hope that cleared the dirty water!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Super Hard Bean!

It's SHB. Super hard bean. Strictly Hard Bean. Strictly high grown dense beans... no matter what you will call it, they are the good stuff. The dense little buggers that wear grinders down quicker but pack a flavorful punch!

So what about hard beans?

I'm headed off to Guatemala in a week as part of Edwin and Aaron's barista trip. Edwin is leading some work on storage that Aaron and I are priveleged to help out on. Got a couple of blinds lined up to help out and it should be interesting stuff. I got a bag of green from Edwin to roast pre-trip and I need to sort out a lot of side things before going. This is going to be a busy week.
I will follow up on the experiment when Edwin sets us up with the green, Aaron may write an article if things go well.
Keep an eye on it. I am feeling the pressure, but I know that's just part of the growing phase for me in this business.
Looking forward to some Guatemala SHB... :p

Friday, January 05, 2007

Espresso Tamper: Barismo Spec

Handle: EspressoCraft 3.50"
Base: Old stock EspressoParts S.S. 58mm convex
Modifications:
- Custom machined brass collar ring
- Base machined to "c-flat" hybrid shape
- Mirror polished base bottom surface

note: The new stock EPNW base are now 1/8" thinner. It's much lighter and does not have sufficient height to be used as dose/level indicator. No reponse from EPNW on old stock availability.

- Ben

Searching for a french press...

I forget how hard it is to get good coffee when out traveling. No french press. No coffee(period)

I recently made my way down the East coast.

No stop off in New York this time. Honestly, I won't visit there much anymore. At least until something new opens or there is a reason to go. Too expensive to travel right now.

It got me thinking about this concept of community and how fickle it is in this online forum when compared to our small Boston community. Yeah, there is the weird angry kid we'd rather not be associated with but the rest of us are pretty tight. I started thinking about if it is worth posting on the forums when the focus is flavor.

I'm not sure.

So, I gave up posting in the coffee focused forums and largely unplugged from that medium. It wasn't for negativity or perceived criticism. In fact it happened largely for the reasons brinsky is not posting.

We got tired.

I realized until I can sit down with peers and 'cup things out' then there is little to say in those forums. Arguing my apples to your oranges is nearly futile.

We are not nearly content with the coffee we are drinking but we see hints of some really cool stuff ahead. That's the problem though, it's ahead instead of right now. I had a long talk with Judson and I really want to get back and get things moving again but we are in limbo for now.

I will have updates from the trip to Finca Vista Hermosa at the end of the month.

The North East Regional Barista Competition looks like a wash right now. The combination of several things made me decide it's not worth entering. That means Judson and I will attend with the gang but no competitors. Simon is not sending Ben either so it's a complete wash. We will all go and cheer on Judson's friend Andrew assuming he competes.

Oh and here is an interview I did for a film school project courtesy of Jason via HB.