HomeRoast Digest


Topic: Question on bad coffee (12 msgs / 639 lines)
1) From: Warren and Carolyn
Dear List Members:
I have been roasting for 20 years, and in that time have used a wide 
variety of roasting methods. When I started, I used a vegetable steamer 
in the oven (which helped me to develop an appreciation for uneven 
roasts). I got an old Melitta in 1990 that lasted 5 years-the only 
roaster I have ever had that lasted more than about a year and a 
half-and I have used a popcorn popper and various generations of the 
Fresh Roast 8 and the I-Roast. I now own a Behmor, and I roast in this 
pretty much exclusively now.
That said, I am far from a pro. I own no temperature probes, do not take 
logs of my roasts, I use a blade grinder and a french press, (and plunge 
it down when I feel like it) and   I  usually drink a cup right after 
roasting. In other words, I do not remotely aim for consistency. (and I 
actually was not kidding when I said I like uneven roasts!). I roast by 
ear, as suits a musician. (one reason I like the Behmor-really clear 
cracks!).
Despite my careless habits, I have had a pretty good success rate in 
getting good tasting coffee. But I recently had what I think is the 
worst coffee I have ever tasted, and the source is interesting. It was 
from St.Helena!
I buy coffee almost exclusively from Sweet Maria, and have since they 
opened, but when Tom stopped offering St.Helena for reasons of poor 
quality control-I think it was in 03- I was still able to get excellent 
coffee direct from the source, which as a treat, I would do about once a 
year. And the coffee has always been terrific.
This year I got a batch from them (2lbs) that made one of Tom's goo goo 
muck specials taste like ambrosia. I tried different roast levels, from 
city+ to Vienna; I actually let it rest for several days to see if it 
improved. I tried ramping it up differently, including my first shot at 
P5 on the Behmor. It tasted the same every time, (allowing for 
variations in roast level)and what was interesting was that it came out 
of the roaster with almost no smell at all- really, really weird. It was 
kind of grassy, even at a Vienna roast, and flat beyond description. It 
was not even especially bitter. In other words, it was different that 
usual bad coffee you get at a restaurant or from a can. But it was 
totally disgusting, even more so than usual bad coffee.
My question, which may really be a question for Tom, but some of the 
rest of you may have some ideas on this: given what I have said, is this 
likely to a failing in the bean, (which looks beautiful) a failing in 
storage or a failing in transportation? Can these sort of distinctions 
be determined in a way that is any more than a guess? I have debated 
saying something to David Henry, but I want to be clear-if this is 
possible-on the source of the problem. I would find it really hard to 
believe that anyone could knowingly send out coffee that tasted like 
that in the cup-but given what Tom said when Sweet Maria stopped 
carrying St.Helena, I do wonder...
So I am asking for help before I make an idiot of myself!
Thanks in advance.
Warren
Warren Cohen
Music Director
Musica Nova
www.musicanovaaz.org
480 585 4485

2) From: Brett Mason
My guess is in transport....
Hate it when that happens!
I like how you roast - reminds me of what I do most often!
Brett
On Sat, Feb 2, 2008 at 11:20 AM, Warren and Carolyn  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Cheers,
Bretthttp://homeroast.freeservers.com

3) From: Rich
Small batch coffee roasting is an art, not a science.  If you want 
science and precision then you want Maxwell House....
Brett Mason wrote:
<Snip>

4) From: Alchemist John
I would agree, although more generally.  It's just bad coffee but it 
is anyones guess where it went bad in the process.  That description 
you give makes me think it go wet at some point during or after 
drying.  Generally there is no hope.
At 09:32 2/2/2008, you wrote:
<Snip>
John Nanci
AlChemist at large
Zen Roasting , Blending & Espresso pulling by Gestalthttp://www.chocolatealchemy.com/

5) From: Ed Needham
I wish I were in your home and looking, smelling and tasting.  There are so 
many clues that play into the final taste.  If the greens look healthy and 
smell fresh, I would doubt a shipping or storage problem, although that 
would not be out of the question.  Grassy and flat.  Are those the flavors 
that are disgusting?  Are there more flavors associated with the 
'disgusting' you describe?
Is it baggy?  Chemical?  Moldy?  Are there flawed looking beans when green 
or roasted?  Do you get healthy cracks at 1st and 2nd?  Are the unroasted 
beans greenish or tan?
I think there needs to be a bit more description before a remote diagnosis 
can be made.  Is there another homeroaster nearby?  If you've been roasting 
for 20 years, what is your gut feeling about the bean?
*********************
Ed Needham
"to absurdity and beyond!"http://www.homeroaster.com*********************

6) From: gin
Warren:
My thinking is that you forget this coffee and move on; you will most likely never get an answer that explains your issue.
There are so many different things that "could" have happened to your coffee.
Did a mouse get in an d pee on the bag?? 
Who knows sometimes.
If you really think it was just a really crappy bag-o-beans from Tom tell him and they will be replaced.
ginny
---- Warren and Carolyn  wrote: 
<Snip>

7) From: Phil Bergman Jungle Music
Warren,
Interesting post.  I've roasted for a bit over a year.  Many of the posts in
this Forum are about the mechanics and techniques of roasting and preparing
coffee.  I really enjoy posts about the coffee itself: differences from
various areas, people's favorites, the good, bad, superb and why.  If we are
to recognize and appreciate those true cups of excellence, we must also be
able to recognize those that aren't. The problem is that, when discussing
tastes, we are not sitting together and tasting the coffee at the same time.
And, inherently, descriptions of tastes using words to describe virtues and
and flaws are very difficult.  I am sure that someone like Tom will smell
green beans, roast them and taste the resulting coffees offered him from all
over the world.  That's what he does professionally.  I am also sure that he
will discard and not purchase products that he considers less than
desirable.  And, if he were sitting with buyers from other companies, all
might come to an agreement that this coffee is superb and that one is not
worth purchasing.  And, through their experience, I suspect they might have
ideas why a certain coffee didn't meet expectations.  We at the consumer end
are probably just offered coffees that are basically palatable and worthy of
purchase.  We know nothing of all the rejects.   It sounds like you got a
coffee that plainly is just not very good.  When Ed asked this:  "Is it
baggy?  Chemical?  Moldy?  Are there flawed looking beans when green or
roasted?  Do you get healthy cracks at 1st and 2nd?  Are the unroasted beans
greenish or tan?" he's asking why.  I really like that he's looking for the
why.  This type of investigation is probably something that profession
coffee buyers do instictly.  And, they probably have answers that we just
don't recognize because of our lack of experience.  So, I'd like to hear
more from those who do have the experience about what makes a bean great and
what makes it just plain unpalatable.
Phil

8) From: Warren and Carolyn
Thank you all for input on this.  I tend to think that transport is the m=
ost likely place where the problem occurred, as Brett said; and certainly=
 what Alchemist John said about the beans having been exposed to moisture=
 makes excellent sense. 
Ginny may be right that we will never know  exactly what went wrong, but =
I think it is possible to eliminate certain variables. It is easy to get =
bad coffee for many different reasons. In reverse chronological order, le=
t's say they are 1. stale coffee 2. lousy roast for the coffee 3. bad thi=
ngs happening in transit 4. Bad preparation of the green bean 5. Bad bean=
s.
Well, the coffee was not stale when I drank it, and I eliminated the roas=
t possibility by playing with it and trying different things-things that =
work for other coffee (and in any case, I'm not that picky). That leaves =
3, 4 or 5. 
There is one piece of information I did not put in my first post, that I =
should have; I bought two one pound samples from two different plantation=
s on St.Helena. If the problem was in the bean, I would suspect there wou=
ld be some difference between the two samples. There is not. They taste p=
retty much exactly the same. So that leaves, most likely, either bad prep=
 or something in transit.
Has anyone on the list bought (or know of someone who bought) beans from =
St.Helena in the last few months? Were they good? I do not know if beans =
from all over the island are processed at the same place, but if they are=
, and someone else bought beans that tasted good, that really increases t=
he possibility that the issue is in transit-and most likely exposure to m=
oisture in transit.
Ah, but here's the rub...Ed said "If the greens look healthy and 
smell fresh, I would doubt a shipping or storage problem". Well, they loo=
k beautiful, fresh and green, and I think they smell fine...I say "I thin=
k" because although there is nothing that I noticed that was off in the s=
mell of the green bean, I remember being nervous when I first opened the =
package and took a sniff...and we all know how our subconscious can proce=
ss information our conscious mind misses.  But I still consciously smell =
nothing amiss in the green bean. As for "baggy, chemical, moldy", not at =
all. Healthy first and second cracks, when I expected them. Beans perfect=
 looking when roasted. In fact, it is much easier to describe what is mis=
sing than what is there! As I said, the oddest thing was the complete abs=
ence of any smell at all...have you ever had coffee with no smell after r=
oasting? It's bizarre! The only taste, except for a slight grassiness, is=
 that it kind of tastes like how I would imagine dirt to taste (what I ca=
lled "flat" in my first post). No other taste at all.This does not taste =
like, as an example, the Vietnamese Robusta that Tom once had available f=
or educational purposes. That was rubbery for one-and it did have a smell=
, however unpleasant it was.
As for my gut feeling about the bean, I don't have one, because the situa=
tion is so completely unprecedented in my  (obviously long!)experience. 
Sorry for the long post, but I think this is an interesting "detective" s=
tory, and if I say anything to David Henry in St.Helena I want to make su=
re I give him information that is worth having. 
Thanks again for your great input!
Warren
 
  If the greens look healthy and 
smell fresh, I would doubt a shipping or storage problem, although that 
would not be out of the question.  Grassy and flat.  Are those the flavor=
s 
that are disgusting?  Are there more flavors associated with the 
'disgusting' you describe?
Is it baggy?  Chemical?  Moldy?  Are there flawed looking beans when gree=
n 
or roasted?  Do you get healthy cracks at 1st and 2nd?  Are the unroasted=
 
beans greenish or tan?
I think there needs to be a bit more description before a remote diagnosi=
s 
can be made.  Is there another homeroaster nearby?  If you've been roasti=
ng 
for 20 years, what is your gut feeling about the bean?

9) From: Tim Harvey
how about sending some greens to a volunteer on the list to roast and see if they get the same thing? Perhaps on a different roaster than yours?
Tim
---- Warren and Carolyn  wrote: 
=============
Dear List Members:
I have been roasting for 20 years, and in that time have used a wide 
variety of roasting methods. When I started, I used a vegetable steamer 
in the oven (which helped me to develop an appreciation for uneven 
roasts). I got an old Melitta in 1990 that lasted 5 years-the only 
roaster I have ever had that lasted more than about a year and a 
half-and I have used a popcorn popper and various generations of the 
Fresh Roast 8 and the I-Roast. I now own a Behmor, and I roast in this 
pretty much exclusively now.
That said, I am far from a pro. I own no temperature probes, do not take 
logs of my roasts, I use a blade grinder and a french press, (and plunge 
it down when I feel like it) and   I  usually drink a cup right after 
roasting. In other words, I do not remotely aim for consistency. (and I 
actually was not kidding when I said I like uneven roasts!). I roast by 
ear, as suits a musician. (one reason I like the Behmor-really clear 
cracks!).
Despite my careless habits, I have had a pretty good success rate in 
getting good tasting coffee. But I recently had what I think is the 
worst coffee I have ever tasted, and the source is interesting. It was 
from St.Helena!
I buy coffee almost exclusively from Sweet Maria, and have since they 
opened, but when Tom stopped offering St.Helena for reasons of poor 
quality control-I think it was in 03- I was still able to get excellent 
coffee direct from the source, which as a treat, I would do about once a 
year. And the coffee has always been terrific.
This year I got a batch from them (2lbs) that made one of Tom's goo goo 
muck specials taste like ambrosia. I tried different roast levels, from 
city+ to Vienna; I actually let it rest for several days to see if it 
improved. I tried ramping it up differently, including my first shot at 
P5 on the Behmor. It tasted the same every time, (allowing for 
variations in roast level)and what was interesting was that it came out 
of the roaster with almost no smell at all- really, really weird. It was 
kind of grassy, even at a Vienna roast, and flat beyond description. It 
was not even especially bitter. In other words, it was different that 
usual bad coffee you get at a restaurant or from a can. But it was 
totally disgusting, even more so than usual bad coffee.
My question, which may really be a question for Tom, but some of the 
rest of you may have some ideas on this: given what I have said, is this 
likely to a failing in the bean, (which looks beautiful) a failing in 
storage or a failing in transportation? Can these sort of distinctions 
be determined in a way that is any more than a guess? I have debated 
saying something to David Henry, but I want to be clear-if this is 
possible-on the source of the problem. I would find it really hard to 
believe that anyone could knowingly send out coffee that tasted like 
that in the cup-but given what Tom said when Sweet Maria stopped 
carrying St.Helena, I do wonder...
So I am asking for help before I make an idiot of myself!
Thanks in advance.
Warren
Warren Cohen
Music Director
Musica Nova
www.musicanovaaz.org
480 585 4485

10) From: Phil Bergman Jungle Music
Warren,
I'm not sure that your discounting #5 is true because two different sources
had the same disappointment.  In 1983 there was to be a fantastic Burgundy
vintage in France.  Enthusiasts said it was to be the vintage of the decade.
But bad weather and hailstorms caused havoc and rot was present in all
vineyards.  The flaw of this vintage was seen in almost all wines from that
area.  As coffee comes from a flowering tree that gives fruit (like wine),
something seen at one plantation could easily be seen at another nearby.  Or
a processing technique could be similar.  This is why an expert here or Tom
could enlighten us.
Phil

11) From: Les
On 2/4/08, Phil Bergman Jungle Music  wrote:
<Snip>
The big difference is wine is stored in a bottle, and coffee greens usually
a burlap bag.  A lot can happen to a St. Helena coffee as most of it is
stored in S. Africa for shipping around the world.
Les

12) From: Warren and Carolyn
Tim-
That might be fun. If anyone is interested, e-mail me off-list. (I also 
have a few roasted beans saved which I could send).
Warren
how about sending some greens to a volunteer on the list to roast and 
see if they get the same thing? Perhaps on a different roaster than yours?
Tim
 Warren and Carolyn  wrote:
=============
Dear List Members:
I have been roasting for 20 years, and in that time have used a wide
variety of roasting methods. When I started, I used a vegetable steamer
in the oven (which helped me to develop an appreciation for uneven
roasts). I got an old Melitta in 1990 that lasted 5 years-the only
roaster I have ever had that lasted more than about a year and a
half-and I have used a popcorn popper and various generations of the
Fresh Roast 8 and the I-Roast. I now own a Behmor, and I roast in this
pretty much exclusively now.
That said, I am far from a pro. I own no temperature probes, do not take
logs of my roasts, I use a blade grinder and a french press, (and plunge
it down when I feel like it) and   I  usually drink a cup right after
roasting. In other words, I do not remotely aim for consistency. (and I
actually was not kidding when I said I like uneven roasts!). I roast by
ear, as suits a musician. (one reason I like the Behmor-really clear
cracks!).
Despite my careless habits, I have had a pretty good success rate in
getting good tasting coffee. But I recently had what I think is the
worst coffee I have ever tasted, and the source is interesting. It was
from St.Helena!
I buy coffee almost exclusively from Sweet Maria, and have since they
opened, but when Tom stopped offering St.Helena for reasons of poor
quality control-I think it was in 03- I was still able to get excellent
coffee direct from the source, which as a treat, I would do about once a
year. And the coffee has always been terrific.
This year I got a batch from them (2lbs) that made one of Tom's goo goo
muck specials taste like ambrosia. I tried different roast levels, from
city+ to Vienna; I actually let it rest for several days to see if it
improved. I tried ramping it up differently, including my first shot at
P5 on the Behmor. It tasted the same every time, (allowing for
variations in roast level)and what was interesting was that it came out
of the roaster with almost no smell at all- really, really weird. It was
kind of grassy, even at a Vienna roast, and flat beyond description. It
was not even especially bitter. In other words, it was different that
usual bad coffee you get at a restaurant or from a can. But it was
totally disgusting, even more so than usual bad coffee.
My question, which may really be a question for Tom, but some of the
rest of you may have some ideas on this: given what I have said, is this
likely to a failing in the bean, (which looks beautiful) a failing in
storage or a failing in transportation? Can these sort of distinctions
be determined in a way that is any more than a guess? I have debated
saying something to David Henry, but I want to be clear-if this is
possible-on the source of the problem. I would find it really hard to
believe that anyone could knowingly send out coffee that tasted like
that in the cup-but given what Tom said when Sweet Maria stopped
carrying St.Helena, I do wonder...
So I am asking for help before I make an idiot of myself!
Thanks in advance.
Warren
Warren Cohen
Music Director
Musica Nova
www.musicanovaaz.org
480 585 4485


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