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Topic: Altura French roast - newbie question (12 msgs / 251 lines)
1) From: Owen Davies
When my wife and I lived in New York years ago, our favorite
coffee was something described as "Mexican Altura French roast,"
from a shop on 6th Avenue, just uptown of the Village.  It made a
smooth, full-bodied brew.  When it went out of business, we had
to settle for something that McNulty's sold under the same name.
(They were closer to home anyway.)  Even as a French roast, it
had a much brighter, more acid flavor.  My memory, now probably
20 years old, still rates the original version as one of the best
coffees I've ever had.  Which inspires questions:
The only reference I see to Altura at Sweet Maria's is the name
on the Chiapas beans, which brings up the question, what does
"altura" mean, if anything?  Is this a useful term, or just something
that can be slapped on whatever beans they want to push?
Incidentally, this group is really destroying my mornings.
A week ago, inspired by the idea of better coffee and unable to
wait for a Rosto, which was then out of stock--oops!  Time to
order it!--I grabbed a 12-tasse French press at the local Bed,
Bath & Beyond.  Now I have to get up and make coffee instead
of just finding something vaguely like it waiting in the machine.
Worse, we had been drinking *$ French Roast for lack of
anything  better in the area, and because we had only a bean
whacker to grind with, I got it pre-ground this time.  It was an
amazing improvement over the drip product.  But this morning
we opened a new bag, and the result was a thin, bitter mess.
I'm not sure whether this was because of the coffee itself or
because we had run out of the water I've been using and had
to settle for the plastic-flavored distilled water my wife
insists on drinking.  Either way, it was miserable.
Things sure were easier before the possibility of having
really superior coffee siezed my thoughts.
Let's see...Rosto, beans, scale, vac pot, vacuum bottle--oh,
God, and a Rocky from someone else!  It's going to be a
pricey week.
Owen Davies
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2) From: Charlie Herlihy
--- Owen Davies  wrote:
Owen, the term "altura" re. coffee in Mexico means grown at over
1,000 meters elevation. "Estrictamente Altura"(SHB in Guatamala)
means grown over 1,200 meters. Tom's "Pluma Finca Olivo" is
estrictamente altura and makes a great French Roast, one of the
best. Roast well into rolling second crack to the Vienese stage
where a good glean of oil starts to show. If you roast it too
far it will quickly lose it's body, but still taste good. Don't
wait untill rolling second crack starts to slow-too much body
goes. Roasted just into second crack and blended with deep
second crack roasted you get all the body and bittersweet roast
flavors together. Very digestable, unlike so many of the beans
*$ uses for French Roast. Many Chiapas altura beans are the
Caturra variety wich is much more "bright acidy" than the Typica
variety of the Oaxaca Pluma Olivo which tends to be smoother.
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3) From: Andrew J. Lynn
I used *$ beans for a long time before recently starting to roast my 
own.  I noticed a number of things wrong with them that might be the 
problem.  For one, you never really know how long the beans have been 
sitting around, especially if you buy them in the supermarket (but I've 
had stale beans from the Starbucks stores too).  The longer they sit, 
the more flavor they lose, yada yada yada.  They do start with 
reasonably good beans (not as good as the stuff you can get from SM) but 
they roast the hell out of them, which is not necessarily good for the 
flavor level :)
Also, distilled water isn't going to give you the best results.  You do 
want some stuff in there - see the recent discussion on water hardness. 
 You might try filtered tap water.  And for the bitterness, try reducing 
your water temperature a little.  I've found that dark roasts tend to 
get more bitter the closer your water to boiling.  If you wait 30 more 
seconds between taking the water off the heat and adding it to the beans 
(or adding the beans to it or whatever you like to do) you might notice 
some improvement.
One more thing, if the price of a Rocky scares you, you might go with a 
Zass instead.  I picked up a used "knee mill" for maybe 1/7 the cost of 
a Rocky and I'm getting some good grinds, at espresso and French Press 
levels.  If your preferred methods are press and vac pot, the Zass is 
definitely good for that.  And I think the comments that hand grinding 
takes too long are a bit exaggerated, but maybe that's just me.
Andy Lynn (who is finally getting some good espresso)
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4) From: sho2go
My new Innova polished aluminum grinder showed up this morning.  Seeing as
how I picked it up for $155, I thought it might be another version of the
<$150 grinders around.  Let me say its VERY stout, very cool looking, fits
under the counter, and the grind!  WOW is all I can say; espresso here I
come.  It will grind either espresso or coarser grinds; but I have an old
Saeco grinder that will now be relegated to the FP/drip duty.  So for those
not willing to go up to Rocky/Mazzer, take a look at these.  They are on
sale once in a while; I'm most impressed.
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5) From: James Gundlach
On Tuesday, November 5, 2002, at 01:28 PM, Andrew J. Lynn wrote:
I make twelve to fifteen doubles a day and grinding by hand with the 
Zass while waiting for the Rocky to arrive after the Solis 166 crashed 
got to be a real pain.  Also, I think the Rocky does a better espresso 
grind than the Zass.  I will compare them once I get the set of screens 
Jim Gundlach
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6) From: John Abbott
I use my Zass just to keep in shape - I can now press 850#, but only with my
right arm :O)

7) From: Andrew J. Lynn
Heh.  Well, I guess with that amount of grinding to do I'd want an 
electric too.  Wow.  I've been drinking 3 doubles a day and that's about 
my limit - I seriously have to cut back or switch to decaf.
Andy Lynn
James Gundlach wrote:
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8) From: jim gundlach
On Tuesday, November 5, 2002, at 04:15 PM, Andrew J. Lynn wrote:
I only drink three or four a day myself, but I brew for five in this 
extended family.
Jim Gundlach
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9) From: Owen Davies
Andrew J. Lynn offered some useful advice:
I had just run out of the water I ordinarily use for coffee.  We're
supplied again, so we should know tomorrow morning whether that
was the problem.
Been doing that, thanks.
Doesn't really scare me.  I'm just cheap.  Can't see turning a Zass
long enough to make a pot of coffee before my first cup in the morning.
Thanks for the help.
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10) From: AlChemist John
Sometime around 11:28 11/5/02, Andrew J. Lynn typed:
How long would you estimate to grind 50g in a Zass for press, vac or 
drip?  I have  a non-Zass burr, and it can take many (5?) minutes.  Is the 
Zass more efficient or quicker?
John Nanci 
AlChemist at large
Roasting and Blending by Gestalt
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11) From: susan oppenheim
altura means elevated in spanish
like altitude
Owen Davies wrote:
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12) From: susan oppenheim
I knew you would do way more justice to that e mail than I did
thanks !!!
Charlie Herlihy wrote:
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