The last three minutes (the life of a roast master)

Posted on

We talked about grading green coffee beans and sampling coffee to find the best of the best. What comes next is equally as important.  It is the roasting of the beans. If any of the other previous steps fall short then no matter how great the roast master is, the end product will fall short.

Up next is the creation of  a unique roast profile for each coffee. We will not get much into this part because I have written about it before.  The roast master is comparable to a head chef. The chef creates the ideal recipe highlighting the tastes and textures of the food. Then makes sure it is repeat the same way each time it is made. We create a way to roast the coffee to highlight different flavors and characteristics and to make sure it tastes the same each time, every time.

Today we are going to talk about the production roast. Roast Day! The night before my lovely bride Maxine creates a roast report. Each week she gathers all the order information i.e. new orders, subscription orders and change orders.  She double checks everything because this is important to get right. All I have to do is weigh out the beans and throw them into the roaster, sort of.

Each batch will take 12-15 minutes to roast. If under 12 minutes, the beans will not have enough time to develop all their flavors. If over 15 minutes, the cell walls start to char leaving a smokey flavor in the cup. The first part of the roast will last 9-11 minutes which is on the boring side. I have to sit there and make sure the coffee is ramping up at a controlled rate. Then the first “crack” happens (popping sound from the bean). From crack to drop (taking beans out of the roaster), no matter what the ending temperature is 3 minutes. If it is a low temperature, then I have to turn off the gas and open the vents to slow the temperature rise. I must be very careful not to “stall the roast” (make the temperature go backwards). A stalled roast means we will not sell that batch. Less than 12 minutes or over 15 minutes means I will not sell that batch.

So much is riding on those last 3 minutes that my heart rate and blood pressure do increase as well as my emotions. I have thought about filming my facial expression during that time but I think the thought of being laughed at quickly nixed that idea. Just know that your smooth, perfect cup of Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee is made with a lot of time, care, energy, heart-stopping moments and love. All you have to do is sit back, enjoy and smile.

Coffee Cupping Grading

Posted on

If the coffee passes our visual inspection then we will use a standard sample roast profile and let the coffee sit a couple of days. That is when the official cupping test begins. It is a very precise procedure. We coarse grind 13 grams of coffee per 5 ounce cup.  We do this for 3 separate cups to make sure all 3 are consistent with each other during the cupping process.   After weighing and grinding, we then smell the grounds which is the fragrance. taking note of the different subtle fragrances.  200 degree water is then poured into the grounds and we take note of any changes in the aroma. We wait three minutes and then break the “crust” (top layer of grounds) with a spoon and remove the crust, taking note of any other fragrance present on the spoon. We then wait an additional few minutes for the coffee to cool enough to slurp.

We are judged by our peers on how loud we slurp. True awe goes to the loudest slurpers. During the tasting phase we will concentrate on each part of the coffee’s makeup. The categories are flavor, acidity, body, balance and aftertaste, all the while looking for the hint of taints. If a coffee makes it past this stage, then we continue to sample the coffee as it cools. For us to consider buying the coffee it must taste great at all temperatures.

The final stage before purchasing is verifying its origin. No matter how much we enjoy the coffee we will not buy it until we can verify the origin. Not only do we know where the coffee came from, we know the name of the farmer who grew and processed the coffee as well. We make sure the farmer got paid. We want the farmer to be rewarded for their hard work.

Geez, after reading this I just realized, I am one of those geeky coffee guys.

How are coffee beans graded?

Posted on
We have always highlighted how are coffee tastes. Today I am feeling extra nerdy, so I am doing an entire nerdy series of a bean’s journey to becoming Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee.

We have said we only buy specialty grade coffee. Below is how coffee is graded. I will not go into what each item means Lets just leave it at they are defects found in coffee. Grade 1 (Specialty grade) is 0-3 full defects. Also must be free of cup faults and taints. Zero quakers allowed. Moisture content between 9-13%.

Tap Dancers Coffee has zero tolerance for any defect except for shells, broken beans and bug bites. Bug bites confirm that no pesticide was used.

These defects are the cause of why other coffees has a bitter acrid aftertaste and since ours do not have these taints and defects our coffee has a buttery smooth mouthfeel and wonderful lingering aftertaste.

 

 3 Shells 1
 2 sour or rancid beans 1
 2 beans in parchment 1
 1 cherry 1
 1 large husk 1
 2–3 small husks 1
 1 black bean 1
 1 large stone/earth clod 5
 1 medium-sized stone/earth clod 2
 1 small stone/earth clod 1
 1 large stick 5
 1 medium-sized stick 2
 1 small stick 1
 5 broken beans 1
 5 green or immature beans 1
5 insect damaged beans 1
Grade 1: Specialty Grade Coffee Beans: no primary defects, 0-3 full defects, sorted with a maximum of 5% above and 5% below specified screen size or range of screen size, and exhibiting a distinct attribute in one or more of the following areas: taste, acidity, body, or aroma. Also must be free of cup faults and taints. Zero quakers allowed. Moisture content between 9-13%.

 

Grade 2: Premium Grade Coffee Beans: Same as Grade 1 except maximum of 3 quakers. 0-8 full defects.

 

Grade 3: Exchange Grade Coffee Beans: 50% above screen 15 and less than 5% below screen 15. Max of 5 quakers. Must be free from faults. 9-23 full defects.

 

Grade 4: Standard Grade Coffee Beans: 24-86 full defects.

 

Grade 5: Off Grade Coffee Beans: More than 86 full defects.