Archive for January, 2009

Comfort Blends

Posted in coffee with tags , , on January 30, 2009 by Chad

Most home roasters I know have that one blend that pops up again and again–the comfort blend.  It’s the blend that you know will satisfy you and all those who drink your coffee.

I’ve had two major comfort blends in the last year.

Mocha Java–not very original, I know, but it’s the old standby.  I’ve had four different Java coffees in the blend, including Jampit Estate, Kali Bendo Estate, and Pancoer Estate (2007 and 2008 crop).  The Mocha has primarily been from two different lots of Yemen Mocha Sanani, which is harvested and milled near the Yemen capital of Sana’a.  Both of these lots were powerful coffees, so this year’s blending generally ranged around 2 parts Java to 1 part Yemen.  The deep rich oily body of the Javas mesh perfectly with the wild dark fruits and brightness of the Yemen.   The cup morphs as it cools with deeper chocolate and sharper fruit notes coming to the fore.

Ethiopian Silk – I happened onto this blend when I had roasted two wet-processed Ethiopian coffees imported by Samuel Demisse from Keffa Coffee in Baltimore.  Both of these coffees, a Yirgacheffe and a Sidamo, were standouts as single origins, but one day I did not have enough of either coffee to make a full pot.  I blended them about 60/40 Yirgacheffe/Sidamo, and the creation was outstanding.  The Yirgacheffe I had loved for it’s silky warm body, and the Sidamo for its Swiss Mocha Chocolate notes.  The combination was silken chocolate bliss.  I roasted this for several friends, and it became one of my favorite blends.  I’ll be working on a new version with my currently available Yirgacheffe Koke, also imported by Keffa Coffee.

What are your comfort blends?

The Stash Explosion

Posted in coffee with tags , , on January 29, 2009 by Chad

How much is too much? Almost every home roaster has faced stash explosion.  What ever the final tally of your explosion, it’s likely the two “outs” got you.


Fear of running out.

Fear of missing out.

It all began with the fear of running out.  Once you’ve roasted your own beans, and gotten used to the brew, the thought of reverting back to buying some other roaster’s coffee–or worse, heading off to some unproven coffee shop down the road–sends shivers down your spine.

It gets worse–not only do you fear running out of your home roast, after you start to feel that you’ve gotten a handle on roasting, you begin to fear that you will miss out on that one bean that everyone’s talking about.  You hear the tall tales of the legendary lots–Harar Horse Lot 30, the “Strawberry Fields Forever” IMV.  You want to be that old salt, spinning the yarns of coffees past to the next generation of home roasters.

Ultimately, unless you’re the paragon of self-control, the two outs lead you to the stash explosion realization: “What am I going to do with all this coffee?”, or it’s close cousin: “What are YOU going to do with all that coffee?!”

Here is an example of a >550 lb.  stash explosion


Some of us try to counter the stash growth using the ostrich technique, avoiding all inventories, and hoping that the final number is below some arbitrary limit that either we, or the cohabitants of our home coffee warehouse have set.  Don’t do it.  Better to know than to have that nagging feeling that you’ve got too much, but not enough information to address the issue head-on.

Fortunately, there exist more remedies to stash explosion than simple draconian reductions to your coffee buying.  Your can reduce that stash and continue to samples this year’s finest beans.  What follows is my five-step plan to contain stash explosion, which can also improve your roasting, improve your relationships with friends and family, provide service to your community, and expand your network of home roasting friends.

Step 1:  Inventory those beans!  You cannot create a plan without an accurate assessment of the hole you’ve dug.  Repeat the inventory at regular intervals (monthly or quarterly).

Step 2: Stop digging!  Cut back (don’t eliminate) your purchases.  Drop those fivers to one- and two-pound buys at most, and prioritize your purchases.  You’ll already have the inventory knowledge to allow you to either fill holes, or to know that you already have enough of a particular origin.

Step 3: Spread the wealth (part 1).  Offer to sell five- or ten-pound samplers to fellow home roasters at a discount.  You can easily reduce your stash by 30-50 pounds within a couple of weeks.

Step 4: Roast more!  Take the time to learn more about the science and art of roasting by firing up that roaster some more, even if you don’t need the coffee for your own consumption.  This leads to…

Step 5: Spread the wealth (part 2).  Give away your coffee to friends and family.  Offer to roast or brew coffee for your local church.  Give away coffee to local charities.  You can even sell a few pounds to friends of friends, or you can send roasted coffee to deployed military personnel (such as the AnySailor or AnySoldier programs).

Good luck with your stash, and Happy Roasting!