HomeRoast Digest

Topic: Mysterious Odors (27 msgs / 832 lines)
1) From: Scott Jensen
I roasted about 5lbs of coffee this morning in my sid and Jerrys,  then left
for a half hour to drop my daughter off at a friends.  When I returned my
wife informed me the POLICE had SURROUNDED our house while I was gone!!
They had had several calls about a Meth Lab in the shed where I roast
coffee.  They asked to see the shed and my wife took them in and showed them
all my contraband!  They started laughing when she explained about the
coffee roasting.   Of course I have bags of it all over on shelves,  so I'm
sure it did look rather comical- a private stash of green coffee!
Too bad I wasn't there, I would of had them all searching thift stores for
WBll as soon as they left!  I may still take them some down... I'm thinking
of making a special label for them ... "Meth Lab Coffee Roasters"  ^_^ !!
I guess I should take a Lb of coffee to all my neighbors and explain about
my unique hobby,  So the FBI doesn't come breaking down my door some night!
Scott Jensen
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2) From: Mike & Debi McGinness
I Love it and relate to "both" sides of the story. As a recovering addict (20+ years clean) and an
avid home roaster (16 variety of greens at the moment) that was Great! Thanks for sharing your
wonderfully humorous experience. MM;-)

3) From: Don Parkhurst
Thanks Scott!
That is the best coffee story I think that I have ever heard!!
I am going to forward that to my "coffee buddies".

4) From: Henry C. Davis
I am glad I was not the only one who had that immediate reaction to the
story. Based on wholly uninformed rumor with no substance as to criminal
activity the police surrounded his house and sought to search it. Had they
been denied I am sure they would have either had a warrant or attempted to
get one (in part based on the refusal to allow them to search, an amazing
bit of circular logic I see quite often). The erosion of the 4th amendment
as a result of the drug war would have horrified Jefferson. Frankly, it
scares me and I really have little to worry about as a member of the bar,
married to a career prosecutor and  with a father that has been a magistrate
for almost three decades. The idea that a judge would have issued a warrant
for search or the cops would have proceeded on such insubstantial basis
without one confirms that there is no longer any content to the concept of
being free from unreasonable search.
That aside, I hope the embarrassment to the police is taken in good humor
and makes them think twice or more the next time. Who knows, maybe they will
uncover some person refinishing furniture or throwing pots next time.
At least they had the good grace to laugh when the joke was on them rather
than insisting on looking for any kind of minor violation possible to
justify their actions. Of course, that is usually what the feds do. And
taking them some coffee, outrageous behavior or not, is probably a politic
and pleasant response. If they take up roasting I would be surprised,
considering the coffee I have had with cops and prosecutors over the years.
Not as bad as portrayed on Barney Miller, of course, but worse than most.
I hope the neighbors, on the other hand, apologize profusely.
My sources tell me a meth lab smells nothing like coffee roasting, no matter
how bad you are at roasting..... just in case anyone is worried.

5) From: Henry C. Davis
worst part about that decision is that it essentially says that any
violation of the law, including one for which absolutely no jail time is
possible, is sufficient justification for an officer to not only detain you,
but lock you up at the station and present you to a judge even if that isn't
how that violation is normally processed.
Let's hope no one decides to make home roasting a violation like burring
leaves is in some communities. :-)

6) From: John Roche
I heard they were acting on a tip from that skel aka "Sweet Maria"
too funny.
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7) From: Henry C. Davis
There is nothing wrong with a sense of humor, and this was so ridiculous
that it was funny. {the credit card spoof in another reply made it even
funnier....} Not only that, I do not disagree with Scott's decision on how
to handle it. However, as both Jefferson and Franklin said, paraphrasing
each other on several occasions, those who sacrifice liberty for safety
neither retain nor deserve either one. Neighbors are not entitled to have
the police raid someone's home because of ignorant suspicions about what he
"might be" doing or "might be preparing to do", at least not in the US.
I am all for neighbors getting to know one another and for citizens
reporting criminal activity. It is not possible for home roasting activities
to be confused with a meth lab by anyone with any significant information on
the subject. (of meth labs, I am assuming ignorance of home roasting coffee)
That is why the police behavior was wrong.
While everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and it is entirely
justified to forgive and laugh about this mistake, it is the failure of the
system of rules of police conduct that is worrisome. Deadly mistakes happen
during police raids that are unwarranted, mostly because the people being
raided have no reason to believe the police will be rushing in upon them and
the police should be, in a legitimate raid, expecting that sudden or
apparent violent action by the people they are raiding is intended to harm
them and act accordingly. If police get in the habit of raiding places where
honest citizens are conducting their legitimate activities in their own
homes (like roasting a pound of coffee) then someone is going to get dead or
seriously injured believing themselves to be simply protecting themselves
and their families from unknown intruders.
As wonderful as this hobby is and as fine as the result is in enriching our
lives, I don't think it is worth getting shot, or even manhandled, by
police. Fortunately the police in this instance were apparently civil and
relatively non-threatening, but that is NOT always the case. Nothing about
home roasting coffee in any way resembles illegal behavior. Consequently it
should not subject one to police scrutiny, let alone the danger of a police
raid, particularly not upon uninformed suspicion alone. The only reason it
does is that the police, legislatures and the courts have stretched the
meaning of unreasonable search and seizure for expediency and political
As for the neighbors, I suspect if they had bothered to ask Scott what he
was doing in his shed he would have been glad to share our mutual hobby with
them in great detail. Instead, apparently, they whipped themselves into the
delusion that he was a menace and demanded police act on that unfounded
suspicion. I think his idea of explaining his hobby to the neighbors and
even making a peace offering is a good idea; I just don't think it should be
necessary in order to avoid police searches of his home....
And, if one takes the entirely justified position that it is not any
business of the neighbors what he is doing in his shed, they are free to ask
the police to come to THEIR home and stand in THEIR yard and give the
resulting smell a sniff, take readings with equipment, or anything else they
want to do without bothering him at all. If the smell comes to their
property, they have every right to have the police investigate what came on
their property, but not what is going on in the shed unless the smell
provides probable cause to believe it is the result of a crime.
My wife, who has put more serious drug dealers (and child molesters, for
that matter) in prison than any ordinary citizen has seen in a lifetime of
watching them cover their faces on the way to the courthouse on the news,
agrees with me on this 100%. (A rarity, btw. :-)

8) From: Gerald Allen Green
In addition to sharing some amusement at Scott's story, I felt the chill I am
increasingly accustomed to feeling at hearing again evidence of police
over-reaction.  We're paying these guys to protect us, and whatever neighbors
complaints were, I think they should have evaluated them better before rushing
out to surround your house.  This zero-tolerance stuff has got to stop, or we
will increasingly merit the mockery we are receiving around the world.  --
Jerry Green
Scott Jensen wrote:
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9) From: Michael Allen Smith
Well said Jerry.  We are fortune that our drug of choice (coffee) is still
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10) From: John Blumel
On 5/20/01 4:36 AM, Henry C. Davis wrote:
Scott's just lucky they didn't see him pull up with his seat belt 
unbuckled or they could have cuffed him and thrown him in the back of the 
cruiser so as not to have to return to the precinct empty handed. 
(Per the recent Supreme Court decision to that effect, in case anyone 
thinks me guilty of wild exageration.)
John Blumel
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11) From: Steve
I think Scott has best attitude about the whole thing, one should take the
time to know their neighbors. We can argue rights and 4ths and police
brutality, etc, etc. But one also has the right to protect themselves from
the possibility before it's too late. If more people were a little bit more
suspicious, or, got to know their neighbors we would have less of the scum
who DO deal in drugs or may be preparing for criminal activity such as
school shootings.
I believe in protecting our rights but if we don't protect our lives what is
the point?
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12) From: Eric Fesler
That would be a good Visa commercial....coffee beans, $20, roaster,
$60....being surrounded by the ATF....priceless.

13) From: Henry C. Davis
" When I returned my wife informed me the POLICE had SURROUNDED our house
while I was gone!!"
they may have been polite, but this is more of a raid than your nice
neighborhood patrolman knocking on the door to ask a couple of
questions....so I didn't assume anything.
As I pointed out, they could have done a number of things that would have
allowed them to check on the validity of the neighbors' suspicions without
surrounding his house. If they had they would never have needed to act as
they did. Since all of us are engaged in producing the very same smells, all
of us need be concerned about such behavior. Fortunately he has the option
to treat the actual event lightly. I am glad for him, his family, the cops,
and even his neighbors. Unfortunately the event has darker implications for
all of us, because, unless there was some other suspicious behavior we don't
know about, the police had no lawful cause for their actions. The next home
roaster the police "investigate" if the police are allowed to behave this
way unchallenged may not be as lucky.
If you don't feel comfortable thinking about that, read Eric's Visa joke
message again, as the light side of this event is rather funny.
I suppose you could also post a sign on your front lawn that says "Dear
Police, I don't have a meth lab, I am roasting coffee, want a cup?"

14) From: Scott Jensen
My wife will get a good laugh out of this !!
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15) From: Steve
more like concerned neighbors asked the police to check it out. I know I
wouldn't be knocking on my neighbor's door with an apple pie if I suspected
a drug lab. Even the police with guns and bullet proof vests get shot at. If
my house was raided and I were innocent I don't think I would have taken the
time to post a message here about the event. My family and I would probaby
still be shaken and talking to our lawyer.
So we really don't know exactly what happened. But, it's interesting, a
little message, posted on a coffee board, has hit the nerves of so many who
have have assumed what took place (possibly like the neighbors assumed) and
hit a raw nerve...
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16) From: Steve D

17) From: Ryuji Suzuki -- JF7WEX
From: "Steve D" 
Subject: Re: +Mysterious Odors
Date: Sun, 20 May 2001 23:54:23 -0500
Where do you live?
I'd rather pick a right neighborhood than a gun. A perfect gun is
totally useless when I am zig-zag walking from a bar to home at
2 a.m.
Ryuji Suzuki
Q. What is your real message?
A. Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. (Bob Dylan 1965)
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18) From: Henry C. Davis
sounds like at least one neighbor deserves a pound of meth lab coffee! :-)

19) From: Steve
If I am ever accused of something I hope you aren't on the jury! Get the
facts first before you assume. As I mentioned, not only would my family be
in upset over a raid, but if it was my wife, alone when it happend, you can
trust I wouldn't be spending time here talking to you!
Ironically, the home owner found humor in it, but too much coffee for the
rest of us...
LOL! Back to roasting coffee :-)

20) From: John Blumel
On Mon, 21 May 2001 07:37:54 -0700, Steve wrote:
First, I don't really think that Henry is assuming any facts not in
evidence. Scott's email clearly stated that the police "SURROUNDED" his
house and that his wife was forced, through intimidation if nothing
else, to allow a search (probably warrantless) of his shed and to
explain his coffee roasting activities. The fact that they didn't
batter down his door and slap plastic pull ties around his wife's
wrists while pushing her face into the floor is irrelevant. 
The important point that Henry is trying to make here, if I may presume
to speak for him, is that they very well could have acted as outlined
above and the courts, as constituted today, would have turned a blind
eye to an outrageous abuse of police powers because the police had
'probable cause' based on a possibly anonymous 'tip' from one of
Scott's neighbors. Anyone who thinks that this can't happen in the good
old USA has their head in the sand. It is happening every day and is in
fact so commonplace that the media doesn't even bother to report it
except in the most sensational cases where a completely innocent person
is shot during the 'raid'.
The fact that the cops ended up looking like idiots is just a
coincidental side-effect that doesn't really make what happened any
less disturbing.
John Blumel
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21) From: Henry C. Davis
Please tell me, what did I assume? Are you suggesting that the portion I
quoted does not appear to be more a raid than a friendly visit? "POLICE had
SURROUNDED our house" is what he said. The only thing I assumed was that
they did not kick down the door but politely knocked on it and talked to his
wife. That seems likely given the tenor of his message and his humor at
their mistake, but then I might be reading that in since it isn't in the
text. Surrounding a house is not "...concerned neighbors asked the police to
check it out." as you suggested, it is full blown police action, not
And I do find it funny. The looks on the faces of the policeman when they
saw all that green coffee must have been worth a couple dozen photographs.
The visa spoof took it right over the top for me. However, the fact it has a
light side does not make the implication any less scary for those of us who
care about the basic civil liberties of honest law abiding citizens roasting

22) From: Henry C. Davis
Thanks, you get it. Hope *you* are on my jury if I ever need one....

23) From: Scott Jensen
Well,  I've really hated to say more, I don't want to go to far off topic,
and at this point although I'm very upset by it, I have chosen to look at
the humor in it.  It's probably a good thing I wasn't home or I would of
been in the slammer, trying auction off my supply of St. Helena to make
Apparently we were under some sort of survailence for at least a day? (a
neighbor had seen two large men at night walking past our house the night
before very slowly, looking the houses over, including hers)  That day more
large men (her description)were snooping around the house when the same
alert neighbor stopped them and asked what in the world they were
oing( Sniffing the mowers gas can!). They pulled out thier badges.  She
laughed and told the cops I was a coffee roaster and they were crazy to
think anything else!  So then thats when they collected thier buddies from
around the house and came to the door.  They were all plain clothed from the
narcotics division.
So I guess the moral of the story is- Sid an Jerry's roaster puts out a heck
of a lot of smoke and the sign on the front yard might be a good idea!
Seriously... I really don't want to complain because I'm half afraid the
city will tell me I can't roast in the city limits without afterburners and
permits ect...I do roast for a small coffee shop so it's more of a home
based business.  I don't make much money but it allows me to do what I love
and buy all the toys I want!   I never really anticipated the police would
raid the house or I would have taken the "OZ. of prevention" a little more
My daughter needs the phone now- so I will close before I get too verbose!
I have really enjoyed your comments!
Scott- AKA Meth Man
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24) From: Simpson
Henry, I agree 100% as well. I suspect the 'war on drugs' will be remembered
historically as one of the factors which contributed to a significant
erosion of personal liberty in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries... a
process which is currently occurring and accelerating, I'm afraid.
Lucky they didn't confiscate the 'evidence'... which seldom makes it back in
a timely fashion or even intact for that matter.
A bad situation handled well, but no all that funny at all...
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25) From: Gary Zimmerman
Ted wrote:
I recently visited a commercial coffee roaster in San Francisco and had a 
small tour of their huge roaster.  It was big enough to take up a large 
corner of their large warehouse.  This thing was big.
The nice woman who showed it to me told me that the owner bought it from 
somewhere in Europe, and it was apparently shipped intact.  When it came in 
aboard a ship, US Customs gave the guy a call - they didn't know what it 
was, and suspected it was some sort of drug-lab paraphenalia.  When he 
arrived at the docks, they had disassembled the huge thing, and the guy was 
just crushed about it.
She told the story as a rather humorous one, so maybe it wasn't as bad as 
it sounds.  I don't know who ultimately needed to put the thing back together.
It just surprised me that they would ship the thing fully assembled in the 
first place.
-- garyZ
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26) From: Steve Trescott
Coffee has been used to pack around drugs when shipped because the odor
distracted the drug sniffing dogs.
So, unfortunately, drugs and coffee have had an association for a long time.
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27) From: Daniel J. Piette
Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world. Let's call it what it
And thank goodness, too!

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