HomeRoast Digest


Topic: How do you pick you coffees? (22 msgs / 831 lines)
1) From: Les
With Sweet Marias bringing coffees faster than any one person can
choose, I thought it would be fun and educational if we shared some of
our thought process of ordering coffees.  It might help some of the
newbies and it might even help an old codger like me.  So to kick this
off,  I will share some of my thinking.  First off, I have some
mainstays.  I used to always have Uganda Bugisu in the stash.  I have
some there now because of a gift from a list member.  However the
dilemma I want help with and to have a discussion around is how do you
answer the following questions:
"Where is the balance between having a nice supply of coffees I really
enjoy, and having new coffees to experience and experiment with?"
Or "Having a nice stash of 'comfort' coffees might be causing me to
miss some wonderful coffees, so where is the balance?
Right now, I just have to have some of those Dry Processed Ethiopian
coffees.  I have a nice supply of both Misty Valley coffees.  I have
not ordered any of the other coffees.  I did order a small amount of
the Yemen coffees, and I don't know what happened to the other
micro-lots.  I seem to always want a good Colombian in the stash.  I
have to have a good DP Brazil in the stash for my espresso base.  I
always have at least 3 Centrals in the stash, one has to be a Bourbon
for my espresso.  I like having at least a Pacamara or a Maragoype in
the stash.  I keep a Kona in the stash because my wife loves Kona
coffee.  A high grown Panama is a must in the stash.  I have bought
some of the unique Costa Rican coffees this year, but I have not been
that impressed.  I arbitrarily eliminated the CR coffees just to cut
down on my stash.  I don't buy very many coffees from the Indonesian
area, but always have one or two in the stash.  I really like the Bali
and the Timor.  I always buy the coffee from India.  I must like it
because I always run out.  I like to have a Kenya or two in the stash.
 So, beyond these coffees, I like to try the coffees that Tom buys the
whole lot.  It must be special.  If he has personal contact with the
farm.  I look at the CoE coffees, but they are no longer must buys.
Where I struggle is with a coffee like the Colombian Warbler.  It has
become a favorite.  So, here is the struggle (assuming it isn't low
stock which it is right now), "Do I order a 10 or 20 pounder and skip
out on some of the intriguing coffees or do I order a 5 pounder and
then order 5-15 pounds of new coffees?  Or the current dilemma, "Do I
quickly order more Warbler due to the 'low stock'' warning even though
my coffee budget is blown out of the water after the Gesha buy, and
stocking up at the same time?"   I would love to hear your thoughts.
Les
P.S.  It sure is nice to have an understanding wife.
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2) From: golfermd01
Heck of a question Les. Hmmm. I guess it's whatever strikes my fancy at the time I order. I like many of the tastes available and just go for it. I used to pretty much like Sumatras. But that was at the time when I wasn't roasting my own. Now I like to experiment. I do have to admit that I don't have much interest in creating blends, at this time anyway. I also share my coffees with my friend, who has also come full circle. In fact one of her favorites is a Guatemalan, which is quite aways away from a Sumatran in flavor. I also just ground up some Costa Rican to a C roast and she absolutely loved the flavors!
Dan
---------

3) From: Floyd Lozano
I'm starting to have your problem.  I have so many different coffees,
and so much of it, it's getting hard to manage.  And I can't believe
my wife didn't even bat an eye when I said I was going to buy $250
worth of Panama coffee.  Of course, this was just after she informed
me she had bought a $200 wetsuit, so that might have something to do
with it ;)
I like a lot of the African coffees (specifically the Misty Valleys,
some Yirga Cheffe's, and many of the different Kenya coffee).  My wife
likes the Brazils (they tend to make a good espresso and are tolerant
of my roasting mistakes) so I get a lot of that as well.  Since I
first tried the Gesha from 2006, I've been buying it, and I'll always
have some of that in my stash.  When I see Tom rave about the coffee
in his review, or say something like "you must try this coffee.  it's
special" then I order it without a thought (there's one like this out
now, and I plan on 5lb of that to start ;) )  And finally, when Les
starts to talk about his sleeper coffees, I take a run at at least a
couple lbs of those too ;)   I'm still fairly new at this and finding
there's a lot out there I like (Bolivia, Nicaragua, Columbia, Costa
Rica, Guatemala , Yemen, Hawaii Kona, El Salvador) so it's very
very hard to not have a little of that around.  I just love the
variety.  I like the fruited flavors in coffee, but sometimes that
just gets to be too much, and so then I turn to the nuttier,
chocolaty, 'coffee' flavored coffees.
When I find myself getting too much of a particular coffee, or it
starts to get too old, then I roast it and gift it to someone that
will appreciate it before its lost what made it special.
I guess in the end I don't have much to offer you Les in saying how to
figure out what to pick.  I pretty much leave it up to Tom's palate to
figure it out and then try to chase those flavors with my limited
roasting skill.  I can say in the beginning, the sampler packs were a
great way to figure out what tastes like what.  I say when you are
starting, unless you happen to be a quick study, lucky, or especially
gifted, avoid buying the $25/lb coffees, you'll likely wreck them and
be disappointed (which I did a couple times).  The sampler packs are
an outstanding deal.  Once you get an idea of what coffees you like,
unless you're roasting tiny amounts, get at least 2lb of a particular
coffee - this gives you several opportunities to figure out the roast
and to drink it over the course of several days to see how it changes.
 I've had coffees start good and fade fast, and others start mediocre
and transform into something incredible in just a few days.  And when
you get the less expensive coffees and blow a roast, you won't feel so
horrible tossing it and trying again with what you learned.
I just picked up a Foodsaver, so I can only imagine my stash problems
will get worse ;)  There's worse problems to have!
-F
On Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 8:12 PM, Les  wrote:
<Snip>
   I would love to hear your thoughts.
<Snip>
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4) From: Sandy Andina
I go by what my guys like to drink (usually Sumatra and Harrar) and  
for me, Monkey, Donkey, components of a good espresso blend, Islands  
(if there are any reasonably priced ones in stock), Centrals and  
whatever everyone's raving about--regular and decaf. Among those I  
look at the best balance of price and score and on what beans I happen  
to be running low.
On Aug 22, 2008, at 7:43 PM, Floyd Lozano wrote:
<Snip>
Sandy Andina
www.myspace.com/sandyandina
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5) From: Sandy Andina
Should also shamefacedly admit I ran out of non-espresso, non-decaf  
homeroast and actually purchased some roasted Schweik's Ottoman  
Adventure from nearby Metropolis today so my guys have something to  
brew till what I roast them today rests and outgasses.
On Aug 22, 2008, at 7:49 PM, Sandy Andina wrote:
<Snip>
Sandy Andina
www.myspace.com/sandyandina
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6) From: R Nepsund
First I try not to buy more than about 3-4 months worth of coffees at a time
so that when Tom comes out with his next newest greatest coffee I don't have
to worry too much about it being sold out before I order again.   After I
figure out how many pounds I'm aiming at.  I start with my regulars  some
Moka Kadir ,a Sumatra and a Panama.  I start rereading this list and Toms
notes.   If somebody is raving about some coffee on  list,Tom is saying
something like 'WOW' about a coffee or it's won at a Cup of Excellence or
something  I usually add a pound of it to my list. Also I have been adding
one of Toms blends to each order.   I usually start putting together my
buying list about a week before I actually order.  I enjoy fiddling with it
for a while.
I'm about a month from ordering and some of the things that look interesing
are,  Roast In Parchment,  one of the less expensive Geshia's, and there are
some Panamas back in stock I wasn't able to get any last time.
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7) From: Rick Copple
Les wrote:
<Snip>
Balance, now that's a tough one. For a period earlier in the year, when 
certain coffees came out, I ended up with a fiver, and now I have 
several fivers in my stash. My big comfort coffee was the Guat Maravilla 
from about three years ago. I love the dutch cocoa flavor in a coffee, 
and that one had it pretty good. They don't seem to come along very 
frequently, though. I bought 20# of that one and it lasted me two years. 
And I was sad to see it go because nothing had come in to replace it really.
But I seem to favor the more unusual coffees. My general mode is to buy 
five pounds of coffees I know I'll like, and two pounds of coffees I 
want to try out. Occasionally I'll see something I know I'll like before 
trying it, and buy a fiver, but usually I'll try out a 2 pounder first, 
then if that proves worthy, I'll grab 5. But I've got so many 5s in my 
stash now that I'm being more picky in what gets into that category.
I guess if I had to pick a coffee now that is my standard fav, it would 
be the Java Prince. Though most use it for a base for blends, I like 
that flavor and just flat out chocolate low notes. But among my 5s I 
have both Misty Valleys, Monsoon Malabar, Java Prince, Panama Victoria, 
and Harar Horse.
I like to try the usual, but the only one I haven't done that with is 
the Jacu bird coffee. I can't get past the poop part mentally and while 
I'm sure its good, nothing has convinced me its worth getting past my 
mental block on it. But, rather, I like the more unusual flavors.
Then, just to keep me honest, I have my fill-in coffees. Those are ones 
that I use to fill in an order because what I'm really wanting is 
already added to the cart, but to make the shipping worth it, I need 
some more. So I'll sometimes get something I might not be particularly 
attracted to but does have some appeal. For instance, I don't generally 
care for citrus that much, but I tried one coffee that mentioned lemon 
notes that I really enjoyed, I think because the citrus twang wasn't too 
much, just enough to accent some great lemon flavor. But on some, it 
seems a fine line between citrus and sour/under roasted taste. But I'll 
try some coffees I naturally wouldn't at times because sometimes I find 
something I really do like. And I've rarely found a coffee I didn't like 
at all doing that. Most are good, just not always a "Ummmmm, that's 
wonderful!"
I even ordered a Columbian recently. I know a lot of people liked those, 
but in times past those, the Peruvian ones and such, just didn't appeal 
to me flavor-wise that much. I sort of gave up on those regions, but the 
Columbian model seems to be changing. I don't think I've roasted that 
one yet, but I just checked and if the Warbler is a Columbian coffee, I 
didn't see it there.
One of the CR coffees I've enjoyed recently in the lots is the Asop. 
Coop. Tarrazu. At the suggested C+ roast, it was pretty good. But the FC 
roast produced a very good dark chocolate flavor that I really enjoyed. 
Because of that, I bought another couple pounds on my last order. I 
haven't had a chance to try all the rest. I think I tried one, don't 
recall which, it was good but not outstanding to me. But the Miel is 
still in the stash unopened, though I have roasted the RIP and that was 
good.
Right now I'm only buying what I really don't think I can pass on, 
because I need to let my stash work down some. The cupboard is getting 
full, and I have so many I want to get to that I haven't. I need to 
roast more for church I guess. :)
Maybe you could call my method like using a gas pedal. When the stash is 
getting low, I press down and grab 5s of things I know I'll really like, 
and when it gets bigger, let up and just get 2s of anything I think I 
can't do without. Finally, there are those times like now I feel I need 
to coast for a while. :)
But if I found another coffee with great dutch cocoa flavor, I'd be on 
it with at least a 10 if not more.
-- 
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8) From: Morris Nelson
It seems a lot different for those of you who have shops than the pure home
roasters.  Who of you have shops?
Morris

9) From: sci
I agree that it's hard. It's a good problem to have, no? Is my stash big? no
doubt. 60 varieties 100+ pounds. Ouch. But I share my roasts a lot.
Here's my strategy: I try to have three or four green beans from every
region of the world, but I tend to really load up on my favorite region. For
me, the sweet spot is Ethiopia.
I have some gaps in my stash, mostly Island beans b/c they cost so much for
some reason and are scarce. My roasting schedule always includes an
Ethiopian. Then I have about three or four other regions rotating. I rotate
brews daily, drinking some from each region. But nearly always, I'll have
some kind of Ethi going.
Find your sweet spot and learn about that region/country. For some its
Sumatras; for others its Costa Rica. For a while I was into CRs. Brazils are
really nice; Guats are great;
 If you aren't sure what you like you cannot beat SM's sampler packs because
you get 8lbs for $4.50 per pound! Order one of those about every 6 months
and you'll soon zero in on a favorite region.
Heck, it's all good!
Ivan
The world looks rosier from behind a cup of Yirga Cheff.
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10) From: Les
Morris,
I don't have a coffee shop.  I have a wood shop.  I have a few
"customers."  I send coffee to my two daughters and my parents.  I
give coffee to our two pastors and I have 2 customers.  I won't go
past ten people or it will ruin the fun.
Les
On Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 7:33 PM, Morris Nelson  wrote:
<Snip>
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11) From: Rick Copple
Morris Nelson wrote:
<Snip>
Not I. I roast mostly for myself, but my son tends to drink some too. 
But I'll go through around a pound and a half a week. I'll make some for 
church frequently. But just by myself I can go through more than a pound 
a week. I drink it...a lot I guess. :)
-- 
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12) From: Bill
My consumption is between .5 and .66 lbs per week.  I roast on my porch, and
I gift a lot of coffees.  I probably roast 3 pounds a week and keep half for
me.  I like to give people something that I know they'll love.
Man, I'm a sucker for a citrusy Ethiopian.  The Yirga cheffe Konga, the
Organic Yirg (still have about 6 lbs of that in my cooler), and I'll
probably buy another 5 of the Koratie WP.
I enjoy the DP Ethiopians, but not as much as the WPs.  I think that the DPs
are more enjoyable for espresso... but I don't know, I don't drink espresso,
but that seems to be something I've seen.  I'd love it for the list to tell
me I'm off-base on that.  Still so much to learn!  I like to have an
Indonesian in the stash as well.  Right now I have about 7 lbs of Sulawesi
Grade 1 Toraja.  I probably prefer the Mandheling, but I enjoy many of the
Indonesians.  And then there's some 2ers in there, too.  Some kenyans I want
to try, as well as a few Bourbon centrals.  I have just a touch of Nic
Pacamara PB left.  And some of the Yemens.  Oh, yeah, and some aged lintong.
 That stuff was great!!
So, Les, great thread question.  I hope others keep chiming in.  I like to
keep a number of comfort coffees around, especially the citrusy Ethiopians
and the Indonesians.  And then I buy 2ers of some other coffees that look
interesting.
I think part of that is that I've only been roasting for about 18 months or
so, and so I'm really excited to find some beans that I absolutely love to
death.  I figure after I drink those to death, I'll go for some other stuff.
Great thread!!!
bill in wyo
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13) From: John Haley
I always make sure that I get large batches (10 pound bags) of my favorites
when they become available. The Yemeni coffees fall into this category and I
normally load up on.Matari and Sharisi when they are a highly rated crop.
For a slight change of taste I'll also add a good Ethiopian or Kenyan is
slightly lesser amounts. Other than that I'll try some of the higher quality
Central American or unusual Asian coffees in one pound orders, just to try
them out.
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14) From: Seth Grandeau
I've had a few people offer to pay me for my roasted coffee.  Though I
greatly appreciate the compliment, I think that would take some of the fun
out of it.  I enjoy giving coffee as gifts, but I don't think I'd enjoy
selling it.
To get back to the original question, I definitely have the "big eyes"
problem.  It all sounds so good that I end up ordering too many different
coffees.  Then, by the time I identify something I really like, it's
sometimes out of stock until next year (Panama Las Victorias comes to
mind).  And, even though I have more coffee than I have time to try, I still
regret missing certain lots, such as the Mennos Misty Valley and the
Columbian Warbler (just went out of stock).
I think my favorite origin, right now, is Ethiopia.  The fruity Ethiopians
are the most different from regular coffee that they really stand out for
me.  I've also really enjoy the smooth mouthfeel of the Hawaiians and some
of the centrals.
As I head into year 2 of homeroasting, I think I'm going to try to build a
strategy.  I'm going to start marking which coffees I've really enjoyed and
order them in 5s and 10s.  Mark which ones haven't wow-ed me, and not buy
them again.  And set a limit for the number of "try-me" 1 and 2 lb orders
for the new and wonderful coffees that Tom brings in.
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15) From: Robert Flanery
That sounds pretty sensible Seth.  The Ethiopians out of the popper are
incredibly bright and tangy.  It almost reminds me of drinking a Jolly
Rancher.  And yet there is no sugar.  Very nice.
Still, I am greatly driven to explore the offerings at SM, and have yet to
really run into a coffee I did not like.  Only a roasting job that I did
not.  I skipped the Geisha's and a couple of other outlandish offerings due
to the lack of roasting skill.  Working with such limited skills on such
fine beans would be a dis-service for the others who would get the most from
these wonderful coffees.
I plan on switching to a Behmor 1600 this winter, and an OCS 8 for my work
coffee.  I think the wife wants me to look into an espresso machine, but my
skill and knowledge are sorely lacking, and from what I see from the others
it is a never ending obsession from which there is no turning back.  Perhaps
it is an addiction best put off until my little one is 2.  That cheap little
Aeropress sure gets a work out around the house here.  No complaints on the
quality of the coffee from it.
On Sat, Aug 23, 2008 at 8:44 AM, Seth Grandeau  wrote:
<Snip>
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16) From: Bill S.
I'm still in the early part of the roasting learning curve (i.e., 15#s
roasted in 6 months), so my craftwork is still the limiting factor against
outstanding bean potentials.. I started by using SMs 1# samplers, but then
moved to 5# bags so that I could improve my roasting methods using a
consistent bean. All of SMs coffees are "first experiences" for me, so as I
improve profiles and procedures I find that I am liking each more and more.
I will probably continue with 5# bags, following advice of both Tom's
reviews and this group in making selections, and adding 1# samplers to
further my education/experience.  So far I have tried a 8# decaf sampler,
and 5# bags of Ethiopia IMV, Columbia HV, Brazil Daterra Farms and Sumatra
Lintong Nihuta decaf.
On Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 8:12 PM, Les  wrote:
<Snip>
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17) From: Bob Hazen
Great  subject Les!
I can't say I stick to certain origins - I'm pretty open minded.  I do have 
some favorites, though.  I gravitate toward heavier, choclatly, smokey or 
earthy characteristics.  In particular if it's stated to be good at FC or 
FC+, I'm interested.  When the reviews describe citrusy, fruity or winey 
I'll usually go with something else.
With that said, some coffees with lighter flavor characteristics have been 
raved about.  That gets my attention and I will buy those and possibly roast 
them lightly to see what the fuss is all about.  There have been pleasant 
surprises during my journey with that angle.
Right now I'm drinking Idido Misty Valley which I roasted last night to 
City.  I was aiming for C+, but in my anticipation of impending 2nd, I 
cooled it a bit early.  I got City and have been pleased.  I bought this 
coffee based on the raving reviews some time ago and was nonplussed.  It's 
been sitting for a while.  I probably went too dark at that time.
Bob
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18) From: Bill Goodman
Am still a relative newbie, and am having fun trying out many various 
coffees--much like what I went through when discovering craft beer 
12-odd years ago.  As with beer I'll probably narrow things down to some 
favorites after a few years of experimentation, but right now the sky's 
the limit.  First SM sampler this past Spring and early Summer was an 
eye-opener to nice coffees like Sumatran Mandheling and Central American 
coffees, especially from Costa Rica/Colombia, and also recently picked 
up El Salvador Matalpa Estate Peaberry as a potential gift to my 
next-door neighbors who hail from there.  From things I've read here on 
the list have also bought what to me are more exotic coffees such as 
Yirga Cheffe and Yemen Mokha Sana'ani, but have yet to roast those.
By the way, the Sumatran Mandheling re-roast I did the other day was a 
keeper after all!  Was very good as this past morning's espresso and as 
drip with evening dessert.
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19) From: John and Emma
I am still a newbie.
With my first order earlier this year I went with the trial pack and some
extras like the CR that was available at the time. After that I wanted to
order by region to see if I preferred one region over the other. That didn't
happen because as I read Tom's reviews I started to order based on ratings
and his comments.
This last order I wanted all the CR's available, went with the Gesha's
because of everyone's raves and the Koratie's so I can do direct comparison
of DP vs WP.
Being still relatively new to SM's and homeroasting I buy based mostly on
trying different beans and figuring out what it is I like best. I know that
I am here for the long term not the short term so over the years I will
develop my favourites but for now I'm just trying to find out what they are.
My wife and I go through about 1lb a week so I only order 1 or 2 lb of each
bean at a time. Maybe over the years when I find the must haves I will order
5ers.
John H.

20) From: Frank Awbrey
Since I am the only coffee drinker in the house, I roast only for myself. I
go through about 1 pound of greens a week, so I have been ordering 3 months
worth (12# at a time-the 12# shipping flat rate box). Don't know if I will
be able to justify to my wife ordering more than that at a time (20# flat
rate box?). It is around $80 a shipment, so, I guess "cost" figures greatly
into what/how much I buy. I do not keep a stash, other than the 12#. I
reorder when it gets down to one or two pounds.
I pick my coffee order by going over the last 4 or 5 blogs of Tom's
shipments. I read them over and compare, then order. I have always tried
something different and not ordered the same bean twice. Always in
increments of one or two pounds. I have found that I like IMV, Harrar and
the Yirgs pretty good, so I have started looking for them and will likely
double up on them if Tom has them. But right now I like trying new beans all
the time.
On 8/23/08, John Haley  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Frank
"Still the one"
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21) From: raymanowen
"new coffees to experience and experiment with?"
You ask? The coffee experience changes with a different roast profile even
to the same level, the different age periods, grind pitch and brewing
device, filter, time and temperature.
Multiply all these variations by just three or four origins available from
SM, 70 to 100 in a few months' time.
People could tend to get bored with McDreck if they buy it the same time
every day, or the Mr. Coffee and Foulgers routine. Add a stage to your
Filter Fresh and it could roast on demand now.
Add some real time history, and the anticipatory roaster would match the
aging you prefer.
Cheers, Mabuhay -RayO, aka Opa!
-- 
"When the theme hits the bass, I dance the Jig!" - -Virgil Fox at the Mighty
Wichita (ex- NYC Paramount) WurliTzer- 1976
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22) From: Justin Marquez
Well, two things I need to clear up right away....
1) I am a bit of a cheapskate
2) My taster isn't as good as many others' here
My criteria for adding to the stash is approximately as follows -
1- I generally don't buy more than 5# of any one coffee at a time. (Not much
available storage room for the stash) I usually try to have 3-10 pounds
decaf on hand, since our morning coffee is usually a 50/50 decaf/regular
blend. I have heretofore bought decaf only from SM.
2 - IF I have really enjoyed a coffee in the past, I favor that one when it
comes available.  Example - I will always buy African Highlands decaf when
it is there.
3 - I have a *great* local source (15 minutes from work) for regular coffee
which SWMBO and I both like a lot. So, I ALWAYS have a few pounds of Guat.
Antigua Filadelfia in the stash. It is my go-to regular coffee. I almost
always have some green and roasted of it. It costs me $3.70 per pound in 5#
bags with no internet shipping and no sales tax (as an unprepared
foodstuff). It is SWMBO's favorite coffee and her taster is a lot more
sensitive than mine.
4 - Beyond the above, my next criteria would be cupping score and Tom's
cupping notes and the origin area. I like Centrals and Africans. Since I am
down to "the special stuff" I would look first at the score. 87+ is my usual
cut-off. If the score divided by cost/1# is  > 16 for regular and > 15 for a
decaf, then it probably represents a great value purchase. (Of course if it
a coffee you don't like, then it isn't worth much to you!)
Ex - *Guatemala Finca La Florencia 100% Bourbon: Cupped At = 87.3 and Cost =
$5.15  *
**
*  My Great VALUE Grade = 87.3/5.15 = 16.95*
If the "value score" is really high, I will go below the usual 87+ score
cutoff. (A $5/lb coffee scoring 85 = 17.00 on the great value scale.)
5 - My sister thinks she loves Kona coffee. About once a year I will buy a
pound and roast it for her birthday or for Christmas.
6 - I will usually buy 1 - 3 pounds a year of either Gesha or some similar
high-dollar coffee just to see what it is like.  I usually do like it a lot,
but not enough to buy more at the prices I consider "high". Normally, if a
coffee is more than about $7 a pound, either SWMBO or I must absolutely LOVE
IT to buy more than a pound occasionally. And about $15-17 a pound is an
emotional cut-off for me, even for trying out something reportedly VERY
SPECIAL.
7 - I don't buy coffee removed from excrement. At least, not that I KNOW was
removed from such.
If I didn't have such a good local supply for the regular coffee, I'd
probably buy a larger variety from SM and would cut lower in the score than
87.  About once a year, I buy a sampler just to force myself to look at
other stuff, too.
Safe Journeys and Sweet Music
Justin Marquez (CYPRESS, TX)
On Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 7:12 PM, Les  wrote:
<Snip>
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