HomeRoast Digest

Topic: neophyte questions & problems (23 msgs / 617 lines)
1) From: John Blumel
For the usual reasons, I decided to try my hand at roasting my own. I
bought a copy of Ken Davids home roasting book, read it cover to cover,
dug the old WB Poppery II out of the back of the cupboard and located a
local (New Orleans) roaster who was willing to sell me some green
beans. I bought an assortment of coffees -- 1 pound each of Tarrazu,
Yirgacheffe & Mandheling and 2 pounds of a Guatamalan SHB for some
'practice' roasts -- and started roasting late last week.
Unfortunately, all of my roasting attempts to date have resulted in a
sour barely drinkable brew that I can only compare to extremely stale
Here are the technical details:
Roaster: West Bend Poppery II
Atmospheric conditions: Roasted outdoors in ~65 degree weather.
Humidity varied from relatively dry to somewhat humid. (Don't have
actual readings on this but, given that this is New Orleans, my idea of
dry and somewhat humid is probably wetter than most people's.)
Quenching Method: Forced Air (I taped a large funnel to the end of a
Dirt Devil hose. At the end of the roast I unplug the popper, dump the
beans in a wire mesh colander, turn on the Dirt Devil and place the
colander in the funnel and shake/stir the beans until 'room'
Roast Level: I roasted all of the coffees to somewhere between 1st (~3
- 3.5 minutes to start) & 2nd crack -- i.e., about 45 secs to 1 minute
past the end of 1st, about 6 - 6.5 minutes total. The Gutamalan SHB was
roasted to several levels from just past 1st crack up to the end of 2nd
crack. I also roasted the Mandheling to the end of 2nd crack. Popper
was allowed to completely cool between roasts.
Chaff: All of the coffees produced what seemed like an extraordinary
amount of chaff, although, since I'm new to this I can't really say
whether the quantity was normal or not.
Resting: Coffee was rested in glass jars for ~24 hours before grinding
(coarse) and brewing (french press). The lids were loose for hours 12
hours, then tightened for the remaining 12. At no time was there
anything remotely like what I would consider to be a fresh roasted
I suspect that perhaps the coffee I bought was bad but I could also be
doing something wrong. Has anyone had a similar problem or does anyone
have knowledge of what would cause the coffee to be so 'sour'.
Basically, the beans smell sour, the ground coffee smells sour and the
brewed coffee is, as I mentioned at the top, sour and barely drinkable.
John Blumel
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2) From: floyd burton
Love your town but high humidity can cause big problems with green coffee
beans-if they have spent a summer in that humidity, you can gets tons of
mold and mildew growing on all the free protein.  Your methods look good
to-have roasted with my PII's.  Underroasts taste like grass-over like burnt
or charbucks coffee.  Buy some beans from Tom-Yirg and the various Yemeni
are my favs-good luck-ben gays and MS mud in Le Mond yahoo

3) From: Henry C. Davis
try ordering some fresh green beans from Tom and trying again, sounds like
your supply may be suspect. Oh, and just as a cross check you could try some
the local roaster roasted of the same beans, but it may be too late for

4) From: Isabel1130
Green beans should not smell sour.  I agree with everyone else.  Get better 
beans and try again.  Also roasting tips.  Sumatran will taste great the day 
after roasting.  Costa Rican probably needs a few more days and will taste 
best on the third day.  Sumatran is my current favorite coffee.  Isabel
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5) From: Andrew Thomas
John Blumel:
It sounds like you're doing it right. The fault may be:
(1) The coffee (as a previous poster mentioned). May be that your local roaster unloaded some stale beans at your expense; (2) The roaster. Are you sure your Poppery II is functioning properly?  Maybe try to roast into 2nd crack as an experiment to see if your popper can do it. 
   BTW the fact that you're getting lots of chaff is probably a good sign. If you had chaff that did not blow off, that would indicate a problem.
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6) From: John Blumel
On Tue, 13 Mar 2001 13:16:06 EST, Isabel1130 wrote:
Just to clarify, the green beans do not smell sour, the freshly roasted
ones do. The green do have a definite smell, which I wouldn't want to
try to describe at the moment since they are at home and I'm at work.  
Can anyone describe what green beans should smell like? Can one tell by
the smell, before roasting, whether they have gone bad? Will what
ruined them produce a distinct smell?
Also, should the roasted beans immediately smell 'fresh roasted' or do
they have to rest for a certain amount of time before they smell
John Blumel
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7) From: Henry C. Davis
as to the last issue, some of my coffee that is to die for in the cup
smells, well, not fresh roasted at all even just before I grind it and get
it wet. I think the end smell of the bean does not really tell you much
about the resulting coffee. (Check earlier posts about wonderful smelling
Kona beans being something of a disappointment in the cup.)
most of my green beans smell in the range of clean but earthy to a bit sharp
except the aged stuff, which I can't even describe. I have no idea what
spoiled green coffee would smell or look like since I have gotten all of
mine from Sweet Marias! Some fungi would produce little or no smell but
still be quite invasive to the product, mildew would smell as you would
expect. It is also possible that they are simply poor grade beans in the
first place, as there are lots of those in the world.

8) From: Bluedog
The only taste I can imagine coming out of Mandheling roasted to the end
of 2nd crack would be burnt. Sour is usually associated with underroasted
coffee, of which end of 2nd crack would be at the opposite end of the 
Outside of it being the beans themselves, what brewing method were you
using, and what were the coffee-to-water proportions?
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9) From: EuropaChris
I'll second that.  I had roasted some Guatemalan beans up about 30sec. into second crack on my PII.  Brewed a batch in my Yama and it was delicious - 4 Illy scoops of beans to 20 oz. water.  The next day, for giggles, I used the exact same proportions in my Mr. Coffee 4 cup coffee maker.  The resultant product (I won't call it coffee) was sour, nasty, disgusting, putrid, etc. ad nauseum.  I had to pour it out half way to work that morning.  The only variable was the coffee maker, and I'm convinced, as we all know, that most electric drips can't brew hot enough, lending to a sour brew when using enough coffee for proper extraction.  I never had a problem using that coffee maker with preground Yuban, 2 to 3 scoops to 20 oz. water, but then the coffee was over extracted due to the small amount of coffee, giving a bitter taste to offset the sourness.  
Ahh, so little did I know then...
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10) From: John Blumel
On Tue, 13 Mar 2001 12:38:43 -0800 (PST), Bluedog wrote:
That was my thought as well. So just to rule out the under-roasted
possibility I thought I'd go to the other extreme.
Mostly I was brewing in a "4 cup" press pot (visually clean parts, no
nylon filter) with 4 Tbsp of ground coffee. per pot. This morning, to
eliminate the dirty press theory, I brewed 3 samples directly in the
cup -- just under 2 Tbsp ground coffee to just under 6oz of water.
What effect would it have if the water were too hot (say around 210
John Blumel
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11) From: Robert Cantor
I'm wondering if your popper's thermostat is causing you to roast at too low
a temperature.  If you're handy with electrical devices you can find details
for changing things on Tom's website or our archives, but if you're not,
better sour coffee than pushing up daisies.
Bob C.

12) From: Simpson
Bob, its a close call... 8^)
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13) From: Hammonds, Derek
I have to go out on a limb here.  ALL of the green beans that I have
purchased (mostly from Sweet Marias) smell exactly the same.  They smell
like burlap bags.  Which, probably not coincidentally, is the type of
container they are shipped in.
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14) From: Henry C. Davis
funny, I always thought burlap smelled kind of like old green coffee.... :-)

15) From: John Blumel
On Tue, 13 Mar 2001 12:38:43 -0800 (PST), Bluedog wrote:
Inspired by another post that indicated that the smell of the bean was
not a reliable indicator of the taste of the coffee, I decided to brew
this 2nd crack Mandheling, which I hadn't even bothered to grind based
on the uninviting aroma of the roasted beans -- my brief experience
told me to not even bother with this last attempt.
Turns out you are quite right. The brewed coffee had a pronounced
charcoal flavor with just a hint of the bad sour taste remaining.
I spoke with someone off the list and they suggested that the sour
taste could have been caused by "over washing" of the beans that may
have caused them to "ferment" or from unclean brewing equipment.
(Unless brewing equipment can be contaminated by something invisible, I
don't think that is the problem.)  Anyway, I've ordered some beans from
SM's and, hopefully, I'll have better luck with them.
John Blumel
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16) From: cationic
One thing I did not see in your original post, was the aspect (color) of the
roasted beans. You did state that you roasted to first or second crack or
beyond - did you check that the color you got was what one normally gets
from those levels of roasting? For example, when you roasted to 2nd crack,
did you get fairly dark beans? Were they oily? Did you see the roundish
"chips" come off the beans if you roasted them past the 2nd crack?
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17) From: Gary Zimmerman
I've always thought even minute, invisible amounts of dish soap residue 
could have this effect.  I always rinse my brewing equipment VERY well if I 
use soap when I wash it.
-- garyZ
        & vacuum
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18) From: Paul Goelz
I have had similar results with various roasts from the same bag of Yemen Raimi.  One will be fine and the next will have a sour or "off" note to it (both the smell of the beans and the taste of the brew) for several days after the roast.  It does eventually go away, but it takes several days.  
In all cases, the roast was at least past first crack, and usually into second.  
I have no idea why the roasts were so variable.  
Paul Goelz
Rochester Hills, MI
pgoelz at eaglequest dot com
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19) From: John Blumel
On Wed, 14 Mar 2001 11:02:30 -0500, cationic wrote:
All of the beans roasted between 1st & 2nd crack were what I would call
a medium to slightly dark brown. To me at least, the color looked like
medium roasts that I have bought in the past.
The 2nd crack beans were very dark with an oily sheen and they did have
the small craters on them that I've seen refered to in the list
archives. Roast times for these were a bit over 9 minutes for the
Sumatran (large beans) and, if memory serves, around 8 minutes for the
John Blumel
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20) From: Gary Zimmerman
Hi Paul,
I think the Raimi beans themselves are so variable in the bag, that just 
randomly you probably get some "bad" ones in some batches and not in 
others.  Be sure to pick out the very black and shrivelled beans and any 
small rocks you might find before you roast.
-- garyZ
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21) From: floyd burton
Had a similiar issue with Raimi-love it when it is on but had one brew
within a roast batch that I could not drink.  Maybe there are some kind of
cats running around Yemen also.

22) From: Henry C. Davis
Yes, but the original poster is having the problem with several different
kinds of beans from various parts of the world. What they have in common is
the vendor and his storage of them. It is odd that beans from the same bag
would vary that much. Cats in the warehouse, if not in the selection of the
beans? :-)

23) From: cationic
OK, then I can't think of anything else besides what has been already
discussed here. Sorry!

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