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Wood fire roasting + Robusta

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  • Wood fire roasting + Robusta

    Interesting approach:

    A robust apostle

    July 7, 2009

    THE coffee world is divided into good and bad, heaven and hell, where the arabica bean is god-sent and the robusta bean is the devils spawn.

    Robusta got its bad rap by being the hardy, high-yielding bean whose earthy bitterness supported the instant coffee market for decades. A couple of years ago, instant coffee manufacturers started touting 100 per cent arabica products in television ads, sticking the boot even more firmly into the poor old robusta bean.

    But robustas most outspoken advocate, Paolo Dicembre, rejects the conventional wisdom of arabica-good, robusta-bad. The 43-year-old coffee heretic - only a recent robusta convert - preaches the controversial doctrine that the maligned bean is not a mongrel but a pedigree that can be used in a 100 per cent blend.

    His views run counter to every major and minor player in the coffee business.

    A long-time owner of cafes, he became a coffee educator and ran the training program at Belaroma before setting up his own barista training, Sydney Coffee Centre, in Lilyfield in 2006 (see story, right).

    Shortly after, he began searching for a way to create a medium, archetypal Italian-style roast. He rediscovered wood-fire roasting, one of the oldest methods of cracking green beans to release their oils and aroma, inspired by his memory as a seven-year-old of his grandmother in Calabria rolling the beans in her frypan.

    He wanted to replicate the smoky, earthy notes released by hot coals without having to "roast dark" or put the beans under high heat for a longer time. So he lined a converted Probat machine with bricks and thought, "why not use robusta?" After all, the French, German and Italians traditionally include robusta in their blends. There are also different robusta grades, from the superior southern Indian Monsoon to pleasant African varieties.

    Gradually, he began to increase the percentage of robusta in his roast, from 50 to 90 and, eventually, he went the whole 100 per cent. He is reluctant to reveal his recipe but admits to using Indian Monsoon, Ugandan and Central American beans.

    Dicembre sells his DiVi wood-fire 100 per cent robusta blend at the cafe in Lilyfield and through Quattro Formaggi deli in Chatswood, which is part-owned by his brother, Michael. They have all been startled that, without a word, about 10kg is moving off the shops shelves every week.

    Dicembre also wholesales several other blends to 12 cafe accounts around Sydney. They include the popular Crema, a mix of 30 per cent robusta and 70 per cent arabica, Angelica, a 100 per cent arabica, and a Fair Trade.

    But its the unorthodox 100 per cent robusta I have to try. As a macchiato, this controversial coffee delivers the dark spicy flavours Dicembre is after but, ironically, lacks robustness. Married with milk, however, Dicembres robusta blooms into a full-bodied, smooth, sensational drink that will shake your coffee preconceptions.

    Sydney Coffee Centre
    Shop 19, 331 Balmain Road, Lilyfield

  • #2
    Re: Wood fire roasting + Robusta

    Great write up there. One of the things that would make me hesitant about robusta still though is the extra caffeine. This is probably why a lot of the europeans add robusta to their mixes. Personally I dont need any more caffeine in my day.



    • #3
      Re: Wood fire roasting + Robusta

      I guess it comes down to the grade of Robusta used.
      I assume there is higher grade, better robusta than the lower grade Arabica.

      But the Arabica is the bean of choice at the moment so it gets all the marketing $$$$$, even it there is a superior Robusta bean out there.

      Just my opinion.


      • #4
        Re: Wood fire roasting + Robusta

        Shhhh, please dont tell anyone else, otherwise we will have to pay premium price for good Robusta beans

        On a more serious note, I also dont need anymore caffeine in most of my days, but since roasting some good quality Robusta sourced right here at CS, I agree that there is nothing wrong with good Robusta, and indeed I have tried it at 100% and found it very nice indeed.

        Generally I blend it at around 15% and find it gives a nice lift to many of my other beans.


        • #5
          Re: Wood fire roasting + Robusta

          Jumping on the bandwagon.
          I have purchased some Java Robusta from CS.
          I have blended 70% PNG Ethica with 30% Robusta.
          Bloody amazing I reckon!! [smiley=thumbsup.gif]
          Fed some to unsuspecting relatives as caps and they gave very pleasent replies.

          Apart from being difficult to roast in my popper, I love the bean!



          • #6
            Re: Wood fire roasting + Robusta

            In my opinion the robusta bashing started when Vietnam(and other Asian countries) flooded the market with absolute garbage zz grade robusta leading to a huge dropout in the coffee market.
            This caused Brazil(& Columbia) to be stuck with masses of green bean.
            This eventually led to the Brazilian Government burning copious amounts of green been in an attempt to keep the price of their product stable in the coming years.
            At was around this time the stock market dipped drastically(coincidence?).
            So much like Hemp being outlawed in many countries due to the cotton growers making the governments who outlawed it a lot wealthier, robusta took a back seat to the more commonly thought of arabica.
            Yes the overall quality of rubusta is lower than arabica but for me...i will try anything as long as it is fresh. Even if it has come from the rear of an animal