HomeRoast Digest


Topic: Italian Coffee Roasting (93 lines)
1) From: Ralph Rosen
A friend of mine--not a homeroaster himself, but a definite coffee 
lover--is spending the year in Rome, and has been sending me periodic 
reports on his adventures with coffee culture there. He's found a 
local roaster near where he lives, and has been periodically 
questioning the proprietors about their approach to coffee. I thought 
some members of the list might find this particular anecdote 
entertaining. (We went to visit them over Christmas, and I was able 
to pay a quick visit there myself- I have to say they roast some of 
the best espresso blends I've ever had). Anyway, I find the claim 
attributed to the roaster that only certain European countries have 
access to the highest quality raw beans hard to believe, but no doubt 
this is a common nationalistic myth in countries that pride 
themselves on consistent quality coffee (as Italy can legitimately 
do!).  Enjoy...
Ralph
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"...So, I made my weekly trip down to Gasperini yesterday and got half a
kilo of their pure arabica blend, ground for la napolitana. I am
drinking it now, and it tastes fine, but I am getting a graphic
illustration of the importance of grind. Last week, when I got this same
blend ground for Melitta, it was better. As is, it is noticeably better
than the miscela bar ground for la napolitana, but not as good as the other.
This time when I went, there were not too many people, and the guy
seemed to be in a chatty mood. He was dispensing advice to the person
ahead of me, and there was a lady standing there taking part
intermittently in whatever conversation happened to be going on. (This
is almost a regular feature of Italian retail, that there will be
someone sitting there, ostensibly keeping the person minding the till
from feeling lonely, having a conversation that goes on for hours,
partly because it keeps getting interrupted by the actual business
transactions that take place in the shop every now and then. But no one
seems to mind this arrangement.)
Anyway, the guy ahead of me was asking about grind, and the thing I
learned there was that the shop grinds differently depending on the
weather. If you want a really fine grind for espresso, they won't grind
it quite as fine in humid weather, because it will tend to clump
together. Conversely, in very dry weather they grind as fine as they
can. What I didn't quite get, and didn't think to ask about on the spot,
was whether these are minor differences, or if, say, a napolitana grind
can shade over into Melitta territory because of humidity, and vice
versa. So that was one thing.
On the "miscela bar" ["bar blend"], I learned that it is composed of 
90% arabica and 10% robusta (and he made sure to tell me that you can 
find a lot more
robusta in other blends), and that all the blends are roasted to the
same degree -- they have the same "tostatura" -- which is called by some
particular shade of brown. The terminology seems to be like "cinnamon
roast" in that it is based on color, not on arcane and shifting terms
like "full city" and that sort of thing. I told him about you and he
said that you should just save some of your beans from him and try to
match that color when you roast at home. But this is where his pessimism
about results comes in, because, he says, Italy has five distinct grades
of quality in coffee, and the US only two at most. How he knows this, I
have no idea, and in fact with all the specialized coffee dealers that
seem to exist on the internet, I don't see how it can be true. But he
thinks that Italy and maybe France are the only countries where you can
get really top-quality beans. For instance, he sells another arabica
blend that is of higher quality than the one I've been buying, and has
less caffeine and a bit smoother taste (so he told yet another
customer).
Stupidly, I didn't ask where the beans come from -- Columbia, Africa,
who knows where. I will try to find that out next time I'm in.
Anyway, the impression I got was that the raw materials that they start
with may or may not be the same as we get at home, and the way that they
treat them is, on the one hand, more standardized (all blends are
roasted to the same degree of tostatura), but also less so (the grind
varies on different days according to the weather). Also, their sense of
a proper grind for this or that brewing method may not agree with mine.
So, interesting and instructive, but it does leave you with a sense that
there is a certain amount of alchemy involved in the whole process...."
-- 
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
Ralph M. Rosen 					215-898-5137 (office)
Professor of Classical Studies 			610-610-642-0756 (home voice)
Department of Classical Studies 		610-642-3179 (home FAX)
202 Logan Hall 					rrosen
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304http://lists.sweetmarias.com/mailman/listinfo/homeroast">http://www.classics.upenn.edu/faculty/rosen/default.htmlhomeroast mailing listhttp://lists.sweetmarias.com/mailman/listinfo/homeroast


HomeRoast Digest