Archive for April, 2009

Kick It Up for Coffee Kids

Posted in coffee, coffee roasting, home roasting with tags , , , , on April 29, 2009 by Chad

A few of us have arranged for a month-long auction over at homeroasters.org to benefit Coffee Kids.

From the homeroasters.org web site:

Throughout the month of May 2009, Homeroasters.org is conducting
auctions on a wide variety of items, many of which the specialty
coffee industry donated with jubilation. Items up for bid range from
assortments of top-quality green coffee, to magazine subscriptions,
grinders, brewers, roasters and much, much more; all proceeds going
directly to Coffee Kids.

Coffee Kids® Grounds for Hope was born out of the specialty coffee
industry by Bill Fishbein in 1988. Coffee Kids® has distributed over
$4 million dollars in funds “to help coffee-farming families improve
the quality of their lives.” With four distinct areas of focus, Latin
American countries have realized improvements in healthcare, education
for children, community-based projects and micro-credit consisting of
$50 – $100 loans that have enabled over 4,000 women to own their own
businesses and support their families.

Let the bidding begin! Click here and Kick it Up for Coffee Kids!

The auction includes donated green coffee from Royal Coffee NY, annual subsriptions and back issues from Roast Magazine, (who also  published my letter to the editor on the auction in their May/June 2009 issue), along with other green coffee lots, home roasters, home-built roasters, sculpture donated by a member, and loads of other items that would make any home roaster or coffee aficionado’s day.  All proceeds to Coffee Kids–some of us members and the donors will be paying all shipping costs within the US.

Our donors have been extremely generous–surprising even those of us who have gotten used to the generosity of the people in specialty coffee.  I continue to be amazed at the warmth and caring of those who chase the bean.  Thank  you all, and please drop by the auction.  Even if none of the lots interest you, drop a few bucks over to Coffee Kids–they deserve it.

UPDATE: Here are the spotlighted lots that will be open for the entire month:

Behmor 1600 Roaster Donated by Joe Behm
15 pounds Colombia Organic Don Telmo Reserva Bourbon donated by Royal Coffee New York

FreshRoast 8 home roasting unit and 10 lbs of coffee, “Big Box” package donated by The Captains Coffee

Heat gun and bread machine roasting set up built and donated by member Chad Beauford
15 pounds Colombia Organic Don Telmo Reserva Bourbon donated by Royal Coffee New York

Poppery 1 popcorn popper/roaster donated by member Chad Beauford
10 pounds Colombia Organic Don Telmo Reserva Bourbon donated by Royal Coffee New York

Nesco Professional Gourmet Home Coffee Roaster Donated by Nesco
5 pounds green coffee donated by Berres Brothers

“Peace Blend” Sculpture designed and built by member John A C Despres
15 pounds Colombia Organic Don Telmo Reserva Bourbon donated by Royal Coffee New York

Advertisements

Colombia Cup of Excellence 2009, Part 2

Posted in coffee roasting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 28, 2009 by Chad

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? –Vincent Van Gogh

The previous post described the roasting and cupping process for this year’s Colombia Cup of Excellence samples.   Prior to ordering the samples and registering for the auction, I had been contacting Mid-Atlantic roasters, surveying their interest in forming buying groups for 2009 Cup of  Excellence auctions.  A few expressed interest, but as I renewed contact for the Colombia auction, no one showed any great interest.  During the cupping, I discussed auction plans with my backers, all of whom renewed their pledge to back me for a portion of a winning lot.  This arrangement was similar to what we had all agreed for the 2008 Brazil Cup of Excellence, where we were able to secure a couple of bags of the #11 lot, with Mercanta acting as our buying agent.  My fellow homeroaster, Larry Lewis, arranged it all, distributing the majority of the beans through the Green Coffee Buying Club this past month.  That success brought more folks into the fold, and we were looking at a good position to secure 3-4 bags or more of any winning lot.  I fed the folks night-by-night wrap-ups of my cuppings, and we were all excited heading into auction day.

Auction Preparations

The morning of the auction, I started contacting importers, gauging their interest in setting up buying groups, or to provide support to bring the bags into the US.  First contact was not promising, as conditions in Colombia were combining against us.  The price differentials on Colombian coffee were going through the roof, due mainly to lower projections of the harvest, and a pending trucker strike in the country.  Two importers waived off participation in buying groups or importing, as they were not going to be bringing containers into the US for several months.  I immediatly went into a scramble to secure an importer, in case I could put together a buying group.

As the auction started, the bids starting coming in, albeit slowly.  A little background on the auction process–the auction is run so that the countdown timer does not start until there is a minimum bid put in on all the lots.  Once that occurs, a three minute countdown timer starts, with the auction ending if no one has bid.  In practice, the countdown usually lasts 4-5 hours or more, as folks continue to manuever to grab their desired lots.

So as the countdown timer had started, I had yet to find a willing importer or a buying group.  All the while, my compadres are egging me on, as my favored Lot #12 was still hanging at just over $2/lb.  I knew that wouldn’t last, so I kept working the importers and other roasters.  Within an hour, I had secured an importer, but still no takers for a buying group.  I had exhaused my roaster list, either because of lack of interest, or folks not available.

Second Wind

Having exhausted all my contacts, I called the folks from the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the group that manages the Cup of Excellence.  Susie Spindler, the ACE Executive Director, and Jon Lewis, the Membership Liaison, gave me a list of potential buyers, and also suggested I contact other US roasters listed on the CoE membership rolls.  More calls, including some of the main buyers/coffee directors for some of the larger US specialty roasters.   Still no takers, other than one group that offered a possibility of sharing some of the coffee if their bid were successful.  Several folks called me back right near the auction’s end, after I had concluded that efforts to form a buying group were not coming to fruition.

The End

Bidding ended near 4 pm Eastern time, with no shots fired from my group.  Four of the twenty-seven lots went to North American groups, including the top two lots won by Coffee Bean International (for Target).  Not a great showing for North America and the US.   I talked to several of my potential buying group after the auction–all of us were disappointed–the lots we targeted were all within our desired price range, but we didn’t have quite enough buying power for a full lot.  My main emotion was disappointment at the opportunity lost, along with a strong desire to learn and improve future efforts.  I would have loved to pull one of these coffees into the US, but the experience has given me new insight into what a successful bidding effort will require.

I’ve had many conversations with different people about the Cup of Excellence since the auction.  Many people have offerred theories on why fewer of the North American roasters are going after auction lots.  I think it boils down to a few things–many of the original roasters involved in the Cup of Excellence have moved on to other direct relationships with growers and exporters working to develop differentiated micro lots.  Colombia, in particular, has experienced great success in the last few years, with folks like Alejandro Cadena from Virmax, who is responsible for the Las Mingas project with Gimme! Coffee and the La Golondrina project at Counter Culture Coffee.  These efforts have been repeated in other countries, so the larger of the specialty roasters like Counter Culture, Gimme! Coffee, Intelligensia, and Dillanos have focused on their own relationship cofffes and no longer need or focus on the Cup of Excellence.  Now, that’s a big swipe, and I do not write that as a pejorative statement.  All of these companies continue to support the Cup of Excellence, but their buying of lots has fallen off as their own direct trade coffee projects have come to fruition.

This first auction experience, and follow-on discussions of the Cup of Excellence in the US just add fuel to my vision to help pull together a new generation of smaller, up and coming roasters in the Mid-Atlantic area to expand growth of specialty coffee seed to cup.  Successful bids for Cup of Excellence lots will serve as our first step.  We will meet sucess, we will support the farmers by our purchases, and we will introduce more people in the US to Cup of Excellence coffees.  Momentary setback on our learning journey in specialty coffee.

Success teaches us nothing; only failure teaches. –Hyman G. Rickover

Colombia Cup of Excellence 2009, Part 1

Posted in coffee cupping, coffee roasting, home roasting with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by Chad

The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.  –Norman Vincent Peale

My Colombia Cup of Excellence journey for this week started last Friday, April 17.  I had put off roasting the 27 winning samples until then, mainly because I had been recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis, and still had some hopes for arranging a public cupping the week of the auction.  That meant a weekend roast, so that the samples would be sitting 3-5 days off the roast for cupping.

Roasting

Based on the success I’d been having in the last three weeks of sample roasting (using my datalogging hottop), including some Colombian lots, I decided to stick with a City+ roast profile, with roast termination between 425°F and 427°F.  Here’s how I set up the three phases (drying, approach to 1st crack, 1st crack to end of roast)

1st phase: drop temperature 350°F–full heat–expected drying time (bright yellow beans @ 300°F bean temp) 6:00-6:30.

2nd phase: full heat, except for a 50% heat phase in the middle to extend the caramelization from 350°  to 370°F from about a minute to almost 2 minutes.  Remaining ramp at full power.

3rd phase:  Cut power to 50% about 12°F before 1st crack, and coast through until final temperature reached.  Time from start of 1st to end of roast should be between 3:30 – 4:30.

This profile does a few things.  Increases sugar caramelization and sweetness prior to 1st crack, slows things down to keep a reasonable brightness, and has an extended 1st to end of roast period to maximize post-1st crack flavor development.

The profile worked beautifully–all roasts hit the expected profile of drying time, 1st crack time, and post 1st crack time within about 30 seconds.  Only one problem roast–when I mistakenly hit the “eject” button on the hottop about 8 minutes into the roast of Lot #26.  I finished all the samples by Sunday evening.

Cupping

After exhausting a few sources for potential group or public cuppings, I set on a schedule to cup all the samples Tuesday and Wednesday night.  As we had all kinds of things going on (birthdays, anniversaries), it was difficult to work on arranging anyone but my time, so the solo cupping route worked best.

First night

Tuesday night, I set up three flights of the samples from 11-25.  Ignored 26 and 27–I pooched the roast on 26, and 27 was the sacrifice to the cupping gods (or so I was told).  Flights were 11-15, 16-20, and 21-25.  Blind cupping within each flight.

As I went through the flights, there were loads of classic cup* profiles all around.   I had been warned that wading through this many samples from one origin can be tough, and sure enough, that was the case.   I decided to forgo scoring, and to focus on the descriptors and relative preferences.  That helped me focus on which lots stood out and hit my preferences.  I recommended five lots on the first night.

Lot #11 Orange, spice, caramel, full rich, round body, with acidity turning malic (apple/pear) as it cools

Lot #12 Classic cup with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, complex acidity (couldn’t nail it to one group–jury called it sparkling), clean rich finish with caramel and vanilla

Lot #18  Floral, honey, caramel, delicate acidity, rich full silky body, lingering caramel and toffee finish.  Beautiful balance between the delicate acidity and silken body.

Lot #20 Tree fruit, citrus, honey, vanilla, and cocoa/milk chocolate, malic and citric acidity nicely balanced, medium, rounded body, clean, rich chocolate and tree fruit finish

Lot #21  Floral, honey, white fruit (pear/white grape), delicate tartaric/malic acidity, silky smooth medium weight body, clean, lingering floral, honey and white fruit finish.

Second night

The second night cupping was another three flights of samples–the top ten lots and a repeat cupping of the five preferred samples from the first night.  I cupped the top five first–all were excellent coffees, but I preferred #2, #1, and #4 in that order.

Lot #1  Multi-fruit aroma–sweet break and caramel.  Round, medium weight body silky and syrupy–lush.  I found it a nice firm and delicate acidity–balanced (jury saw more citrus–I wasn’t getting the lemon zip).  Many fruits, with caramel and malt hints.  CLEAN cup.

Lot #2  Spice and honey aromas with tree fruit and floral notes on the break.  Wonderful balance of body and acidity, malic brightness–green apple snap.  Floral, with darker fruits, plum, some raisin, milk chocolate and spice hints.  Finish complex albeit quick with juicy dark fruits, milk chocolate, spice and dried fruit.  Medium weight, balanced, creamy body.  My favorite, but it was close.

Lot #3  Molasses, malt and tree fruit aromas, crisp and delicate body–more apple and tree fruits there.  Body medium weight and silky.  Did I mention balanced?  Caramel, toffees, tart fruit (green apple) notes.  Slight effervescence.  Long caramel finish with warm sweet spice notes.

Lot #4  spice and malt aromas with pear and grape on the break.  Some snap in the brightness–malic and tartaric (red apple and white grapes).  medium weight body slight creaminess.  Floral, pear, warm spice, sugar cane/brown sugar, hints of banana.  Long caramel, milk chocolate, dried fruit in the finish.

Lot #5  Tart fruit, chocolate, citrus aromas, chocolate and a big citrus hit on the break.  Medium weight but full and rich body, tart and tangy brightness–citrus and malic.  Tangerine, honey, milk chocolate and caramel.  Finish hit tree fruit and citrus notes along with caramel and chocolate.

Out of the remaining two flights, I settled on Lot #12 as my favorite from the first night along with #8 and #10.

Lot #12:  Sweet and spice aroma, with plum (maybe raisin), slight orange and spice on the break.  Lively break.  Silky smooth body, medium weight and balanced with a delicate, multi-fruit acidity.  Sparkling is what the jury wrote–I agree.  Lots of complex fruit, tropical, banana, plum, stone fruit.  Caramel, hints of vanilla, milk chocolate and brown sugar hold the back end of the cup together.  Clean, sweet, fruit and caramel in the finish.  Notes read: “SOFT, lush”

Lot #8  Floral, chocolate and citrus aroma, floral and orange on the break.  Bright sweet citrus acidity, balanced by thicker, round, rich body.  Lots of chocolate (and some vanilla) in the cup, with floral notes and tangerine/orange swirling around and hints of malt and spice.  Rich, long orange/chocolate finish.  Was thinking Terry’s Chocolate Orange….

Lot #10  Lots of floral notes in the fragrance/aroma, along with spices, citrus (orange), red fruits and hints of darker or dried fruit.  Syrupy body and sparkling acidity–multiple fruits–not too bright or tart–more delicate.  Flavors of multiple fruits, red fruits orange, some tree fruit.  Wonderfully sweet finish–vanilla a caramel round out the cup.  A bit more of a soprano note, but it worked very well.  My favorite of the (6-10) group.

Final Thoughts

An excerpt from an email I sent out to my home roaster and cupper friends after the two cupping nights:

We’ve all cupped, and we all know sometimes how tough it is to put words, especially alone.  This was a humbling experience, and invigorating.  So much more to learn, but what a fun ride.

It was difficult.  I have written that cupping is a learned skill, and that one of the first things you must learn is to trust your senses.  That did come in handy, but I tell you, throughout the exercise I felt humbled by what I have yet to learn.  That said–it’s a great place to be.  Happy to have done the work, proud at how far I have come, humbled and invigorated by what I have yet to learn.

True humility…makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be. –Ralph W. Sockman

Grand Opening, Qualia Coffeehouse

Posted in coffee, coffee roasting, coffee shop with tags , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by Chad

Today was the day! A fellow coffee compatriot in Washington DC, Joel Finkelstein,  opened Qualia Coffeehouse on Georgia Avenue in Petworth.  The local online press and blogs have been buzzing about this grand opening since Joel announced his plans.

One of my green coffee sources, Taylor Mork from Crop to Cup was in DC, I suggested we meet at Qualia to chat over a cup, and to check out the Grand Opening.  Wish I’d had my camera–the place looks great.  I’d been by during the preparation work to cup with Joel, but the arwork and furnature selections set off the wood floor and inviting bar beautifully.  An inviting, warm and open atmosphere–perfect to sit down with a cup of outstanding coffee.

Joel is fanatical about fresh beans, and single origin brews.  I had  a cup of his house coffee–Tanzania Organic AB from the Hope Project.  I helped source this coffee–it’s full of fruit–tangerine, melon, stone fruit along with a creamy, chewy body and multi-fruit snappy acidity.  Joel’s roast does the coffee justice.  Taylor opted for a double espresso–Brazil Daterra blend.  I suspect Joel will be experimenting with crafting his own blends as things settle down.

Qualia has four other single-origin coffees ready for on-demand brewing, as well as cold-brewed iced coffee–something Joel crafted for his regular farmer’s market weekend.  He also has locally baked pastries and bags of his Fresh Off the Roast coffee available for sale.  If you are anywhere near Petworth in DC, please pay him a visit.  Quality coffee, committed artisan roaster.

Update–missed this press on the shop’s opening.

Qualia Coffeehouse
3917 Georgia Ave., NW
Washington, DC
202-248-6423
Map

Patience – It’s the Journey

Posted in coffee with tags , , , , on April 19, 2009 by Chad

It’s easy in today’s Gotta Have it NOW! culture to rush through something new, ever seeking to find the next great thing, like there’s some end-all, be-all destination for all of us.

I’ve been guilty of that for many years, and still find that mentality creeping in from time to time.  Like the daily grind of Washington DC traffic–where I may end up staring and yelling at my fellow drivers with selfish contempt.  Where am I trying to go?  What value is there in raging against something over which I have no control?

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that we must enjoy the journey of horrible traffic.  But when we rush through life, only concerned about ourselves and where we want to be, we lose sight of where we are, and who is surrounding us.

One of the great joys of specialty coffee is that, for me, it can elevate the present.  It slows me down, forces  concentration on the moment.  When shared with others, coffee connects, allowing all of us to share precious moments.  Our journey becomes shared again.  Coffee has opened up a new world of people to me–many of whom relish life right here, right now.

Yet my natural inclinations never wander far.  Left to my own devices, I still want it all.  Falling deeper into the rabbit hole,  my natural impatience begins to run rampant.  I want the business, the connections, the auction lots, the direct trade coffees, the cupping groups, the new roaster, the roasting facility, the cupping lab, the origin trips–all RIGHT NOW.

How tempting it is to forget where we are, letting moments slip through our fingers, as we gaze longingly and enviously to the future.  How enticing are the toys about which our neighbors rave, as we ungratefully look down our noses at  machines we have not mastered.  What would we do if suddenly we arrived at the destination we so covet?

Where are your hands?

That simple question usually pulls me back to the now.  Where are your hands? reminds me that life happens exactly now.  If my mind opens, I can even start to remember that today is another day to learn, to serve, and to love–to be grateful for the opportunities I have to drink incredible coffees, and to meet wonderful people.

There is great joy in coffee, and great opportunity for service.  I hope to continue to learn, grow, and serve in this avoction, and to share the journey with you.  As I’ve said before–I don’t want to grow up!  I wish to keep this child like attitude of wonder and joy–soaking up all the knowledge and attempting to spead a little joy with coffee as the medium.

Where are YOUR hands?

Qualia Coffeehouse

Posted in coffee, coffee roasting, coffee shop with tags , , , , , on April 18, 2009 by Chad

Coming to Petworth this Friday, April 24!

A (former) home roaster turned pro, Joel Finkelstein, will be opening his new shop, Qualia Coffeehouse, Friday, April 24.  Many of you may know Joel from his roasting business, Fresh off the Roast, or maybe you’ve dropped by his blog, Cuppa Joel.  He’s got his (relatively) new roaster set up in the shop, and has been roasting there as he’s navigated the treacherous DC waters working to open up the shop.

Joel was my introduction to the green bean side of things.  I learned the fine art of coffee distribution on his back porch last year–breaking up bags of Ethiopian coffee for shipping out to fellow home roasters.  Seems so long ago–now I am usually buying an extra bag or two for him every time I order.  Glad to count Joel as one of my friends and coffee compatriots–committed to bringing the best the bean has to offer to those we meet.

Congratulations, Joel! I’ll be sure to stop by Friday or over the weekend to share a cuppa.

Coffee Marathon, and I’m Not in Atlanta!

Posted in coffee cupping, coffee roasting, home roasting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2009 by Chad

Having decided not to travel to Atlanta for the SCAA (something about too many missed weekends in the yard), I partially made up for it with a marathon coffee session yesterday.

Bag, Box, Ship

The day began with the start of bagging, boxing, and labeling the first of what was to be fifty packages of green coffee, to be sent to my brethern home roasters.  This week’s prizes?  A Rwanda 2008 Cup of Excellence, Lot #18 supplied by our friends at Cafe Imports.  The preparation on this coffee is beautiful, and it holds up in the cup.  I talked about the other three coffees in my last post, including the Sulawesi Kalossi and Uganda FTO Bugishu Kawomera from InterAmerican Coffee and the Mexico Organic Natural Terruño Nayarita from San Cristobal Coffee Importers.  Ten bags of these to go with two 20kg boxes of the Rwanda Cup of Excellence.  That’s a total of over 1400 lbs., which will be lifted several times before my gregarious postman, Carl, picks them up.  There may be lots of news about the health benefits of coffee these days, but lugging this much coffee may be taking this health thing a bit far!

Cupping at Counter Culture

I took a mid-morning break from packing to attend the weekly cupping at the Counter Culture Coffee DC training center.  Alex was absent–travelling to Atlanta for the SCAA Event.  David from Tryst filled in admirably, leading us through some surprising coffees.  Had I bet money on the origins, I would have been in trouble. The first coffee was the hit of the day, and excellent, Colombian with a delicate brightness, lots of tree fruits (apple, pear, apricot) in the aroma, flavor and nose, and sweet caramel and milk chocolate.  Medium, rounded body balanced out the cup, and it left clean and quick.  La Golodrina, from Cauca in the southern part of Colombia.

The second coffee was another Colombian that I would have bet was a Kenya coffee–as would have everyone who didn’t know what was in the cup.  La Golodrina – Ariel Pajoy Microlot.  This one was effervescent with citrus (red grapefruit) and red fruits, with spicy notes that balanced well with the juicy citrus.  Nice rounded body complemented the bright notes well, and there was hints of rich chocolate providing a bass note to the citrus and red fruit soprano.  My favorite of the day, even if I missed the origin.

We all did not like the final sample, which hints that something was wrong with what was sent to DC–this coffee should have jumped out at us, and every one of us did not get anything like what’s the norm for this bean.  It must have been our sample, because a similar cupping at the Counter Culture Durham Traing Center won the day.

Colombia Cup of Excellence Samples

The last phase of my marathon day was roasting fifteen of the twenty-seven samples from the 2009 Colombia Cup of Excellence.  I roasted samples 8-22 yesterday–picked the middle of the pack, most likely the one’s we would be buying– with a standard cupping profile roast.  I’ll finish the rest over the weekend.  All the coffee was in fantastic shape, and all roasted up well.  My front office is filling with the outpourings of freshly roasted coffee leaking out of the valves in the sample bags.  I cannot wait to cup the samples this week–hopefully with some other Mid-Atlantic roasters.  Details to follow on this week’s cuppings!

A long, satisfying day.  Started at 8 am, finished at 11:30 pm.