I think that anyone thinks that there is one hard and fast rule or right answer in terms of any of those things either likes a very narrow range of coffee or hasnt tasted coffee widely.
I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend this afternoon - of course, we discussed coffee and in particular, general practice amongst mass produced coffee. Some of his remarks went along the lines of...
On the topic of nitrogen flushing:
"Would you rather have a freshly picked apple from a tree, or one that has been in cold storage for a year?"
On the topic of packaging:
"I dont like gassy bags. Coffee should not be packed immediately, but allowed to rest once its roasted. The beans will be less oily."
On the topic of pre-blending:
"Every variety has a different moisture content, a different hardness, a different temperature point and profile when its roasted at its best. Thats why its far better to post-blend rather than pre-blend. They [roasters] only pre-blend because its easy and convenient."
Once again, I walked away from a coffee conversation with some challenging thoughts running through my head!
I think that anyone thinks that there is one hard and fast rule or right answer in terms of any of those things either likes a very narrow range of coffee or hasnt tasted coffee widely.
I think that there are a few issues here. Firstly mass produced coffee. I have worked in a factory that mass produce coffee. We roasted and packed 10 ton of coffee every week. Every batch was carefully monitored and cupped before being released into the packing warehouse. The quality of the product was excellent and the attention to detail required a full time QA manager to ensure this. I am sure there are roasters this size that also do not put as much care in, but you cannot generalise based on size.
Storage, both in terms of packaging and storing should be experimented. If it works for you, than that is the right way to do it. As Luca said there are no hard and fast rules.
In terms of pre vs post blending, he has a point. It is easier to preblend. There are more issues here than what is easier though. There are pors and cons each way for the outcome of post v pre blending and you have to find what works for you. I find some of my blends taste and roast better pre blend, and some taste and roast better post blend.
The best advise I was ever given very early in my coffee career was "try it". this is the best way to answer your questions.
Oh, I wasnt questioning, or looking for answers Jason. I learnt quite a while ago to try things for myself, and never to discount the thoughts of others.
Whenever someone says anything that challenges my thoughts I think its great. It means to me that my views arent rigid and its an opportunity to re-evaluate; doesnt mean I would necessarily change them. I find that exciting.
Luca...we agree! :)Originally Posted by 7D647270110 link=1235737032/1#1 date=1235742642
;D ;DOriginally Posted by 5F494C4C5D5F535A5A59593C0 link=1235737032/3#3 date=1235772123
Yeah, only the other day I was having a chat with a friend about blending pre-roast. I could see some merit in that its faster, more economical etc, but from a taste sense, how can it be. I mean if some beans are fairly close in roast profile, I can kinda understand, but I guess IF you did have time to roast small batches seperately and post-roast blend, why wouldnt you? Surely you can roast each origin to its maximum potential and specific profile to produce a certain outcome. Basically, besides the time/cost factor, is it a viable option? It just doesnt make sense to me. Id love to hear thought from roasters, Im truly intrigued.
Den, are we meant to comment on the above, or is it a prompt to start 3 new threads... as I reckon we totally could? Theres 3 great convos Id love to chew out.
I guess with blending its best to know what the final result should be and as long as you have it in the cup, it doesnt matter what exactly was done. However to get to it one should experimentOriginally Posted by 7E686D6D7C7E727B7B78781D0 link=1235737032/0#0 date=1235737032
I couldnt disagree more! ;)Originally Posted by 3A31382B2D2B3C2A590 link=1235737032/5#5 date=1235794895
Dan, if were talking about someting like a 100kg roaster, then that equates to 400kg for just one batch of a typical 4 bean blend. Even on my comparatively little 3kg roaster, 12kg of greens means one needs to have the orders to make post blending worthwhile. I really struggled with this when I first started out, and a lot of beans were binned.Originally Posted by 203C3C2338590 link=1235737032/4#4 date=1235790018
Like Jason, I happen to think that the flavours in a couple of my blends homogenise when roasted together. Like a casserole, they certainly produce a different taste when the same beans are either pre or post blended.
Comment away! We can even add in the topic of labelling, where its not uncommon for mass producers to use batch codes rather than dates. I know a few cafe operators that find this very frustrating.
My intention isnt to criticise these practices or suggest whats right or wrong. Just to provoke a little thought and discussion.
Agreed that code labels can and often do hide stale beans. I for one would much prefer to see roast date on bags wherever possible. This should at least be possible for SO bags? :-?Originally Posted by 3325202031333F36363535500 link=1235737032/6#6 date=1235802490
I guess one problem might occur when beans are post blended (often in big operations with silos full of SO) and for reasons of hitting the mark or other operational issues, were roasted on different days.
What to do then?
people in the coffee industry think that what is right is what they are doing and what everyone else does is wrong.....but rather
what is right is understanding what the result of what you are doing is going to be.... this is the difference between an expert in this industry and a think they are expert....
eg.... storage of coffee.... light, air and temperature affect coffee... we all know this.... light and air are easy to explain..... temperature... well this is where the experts think this, recommend that, put down other companies and so on....
wake up..... an expert will explain that storage at 30 degrees will have one result in the cup and storage at 10 degrees will have another... it is understanding why this is the case, and explaining this to the consumer that differentiates the experts from the parrots in the coffee industry...
and i am sure the coffee drinker, enthusiast, diehard etc appreciates this type of answer.... :)
well, the thing is,Originally Posted by 594F4A4A5B59555C5C5F5F3A0 link=1235737032/6#6 date=1235802490
the customer is paying for something he/she likes. If I buy roasted coffee from you and I like it, it doesnt matter at all what exactly you have done and whether you blended before roast or post... the only thing that matters then is consistency. Whatever you have done to achieve the result must be 100% repeatable. Thats all. That is what I meant by the final result. You have this ideal profile in mind when you blend and as soon as you reached it and your physical senses tell you its the same your imaginary senses told you - its done!
its not any different from making wine for that matter, or whiskey...
Chartres, from your original comment you didnt appear to be speaking from a customer perspective, ie.No matter.Originally Posted by 6C676E7D7B7D6A7C0F0 link=1235737032/5#5 date=1235794895
Ive yet to meet a customer who isnt interested in the process, on the contrary, most of my customers would like to stand there and watch as I roast.
A generalisation I know, but perhaps those customers who arent so discerning, and rank consistency high on their priorities, are more likely, and better off, to make their purchases from a supermarket shelf.
What about listing the range of dates?Originally Posted by 63565B5C68745851515252370 link=1235737032/7#7 date=1235803807
e.g. "The beans in this blend were roasted between this date and that date and then lovingly bagged for you on another date".
I dont understand what you are trying to say.Originally Posted by 584E4B4B5A58545D5D5E5E3B0 link=1235737032/10#10 date=1236149483
Quality and consistency are not mutually exclusive. You can produce coffee that tastes consistently awful or coffee that tastes consistently good.
As chatres says, consistency is expected from a professional roaster, regardless of the quality of what they are selling. A lack of consistency across multiple roasts of the same product (ie. blend or SO) will drive away regular customers - particularly wholesale customers - and make it more difficult to get new regular customers.
I had a really interesting conversation with Stephen Hurst from Mercanta about product differentiation in the market for roasted coffee in Australia at a cupping a few days ago. His view is that there is tremendous potential for growth both in the overall coffee market and in product differentiation in the market, even though we might not be where we like to be at the moment. This, of course, is good news for people who love top quality coffee, as it means that buying higher quality (and therefore more expensive) green will hopefully become more viable. However, product differentiation requires consumer recognition, which, in turn, requires a consistent product within that line. People will feel ripped off if their $60/kg CoE coffee tastes different from week to week. They will think; hey, this is supposedly a great coffee - why doesnt it taste good. Risk will make them cautious in paying the (currently) premium price necessary to foster the high end of the market. From reading these forums, there definitely seems to be a perception that bigger roasters are inferior to smaller, boutique roasters. That may or may not be true for a given pair of roasters. What is undoubtedly true is that both small and large roasters do a tremendous amount of harm to the nascent pointy end of the coffee market when they promise more than they deliver. Whats in the bag has to match up to the (often unrealistic) description on the packet. This means that the product has to be of high quality and consistently not only of high quality, but of high quality in the same way insofar as is reasonably possible. Now we can debate what level of consistency is reasonably possible ad nauseum, but saying that quality and consistency are exclusive strikes me as both untenable and detrimental to the development of a differentiated coffee market.
Luca I dont think Dennis was saying that quality and consistency were mutually exclusive; You need to read between the lines.
"A generalisation I know, but perhaps those customers who arent so discerning, and rank consistency high on their priorities, are more likely, and better off, to make their purchases (of poor but consistent quality coffee) from a supermarket shelf."
Highlighted words were added (between the lines) by me for clarification.
well, I think I am misunderstood here a bit... I am sorry to go into wine and spirits allegories again, but what I meant was:Originally Posted by 293F3A3A2B29252C2C2F2F4A0 link=1235737032/10#10 date=1236149483
when I go out and buy Romane-Conti I expect to get something tasting like Conti give or take good/bad vintage, or at least something *tasting like exquisite Bourgogne. To find something tasting like top-Bordeau (e.g. Latour) in the bottle of R-C would be shocking, to say the least. When I go out and buy Peter Lehman shiraz, Id like something that tastes like mega-oaky warm climate shiraz for 20bucks. I wouldnt want to find something tasting like pinot in the bottle of Peter Lehman shiraz, even if this pinot would taste better... Because the next time I will be wondering what exactly I would find in the bottle and would that be whats promised or better or worse?
Thats the consistency.
For argument sake, If I buy DiBellas Premium blend, I know that it makes, to my taste, one of the best milk based coffees that I have tasted (though not particularly special as short black)... and when I buy it, I expect perhaps to treat my guests to just that. suppose I find that its tastes something different, improved perhaps, better perhaps as espresso, but its not what I wanted... Will I complain? Perhaps not, because I still have good coffee. Will I buy it next time? I dont know...
Sorry, an example of what I meant is that I can get a Big Mac in either Sydney or Melbourne, and can be pretty sure they will both taste the same. Whether I think its any good or not is another matter.Originally Posted by 435A4C4E2F0 link=1235737032/12#12 date=1236173516
I also pretty much agree with what youre saying Luca, though I think you may agree that the current CoEs are likely to taste different to the next, even if they happen to be from the same farm and variety. Trade blends are of course subject to seasonal crops, just like apples. I understand that its the roasters responsibility to adapt their product to these changes, again, to provide consistency. Yet while I have an expectation of what a granny smith apple will taste like, Im not so surprised that one may taste a little different to another.
Unless Ive missed something, again up until this point I have made no mention of quality. I do believe quality and consistency have independent meanings, though would agree that when we speak of one, we expect the other to also be present in either a good or bad sense. Just like GM or Ford, its not to say that these two dont manufacture quality cars consistently, yet I would expect a higher quality from a smaller, hand-built car like a Morgan. Of course, this all comes at a cost. Perhaps its just my own perception, but I think that expectations of a small, or boutique roaster are higher than that of the big boys.
I know there are a number of both small and large-scale roasters who imo, create magnificent coffee, time and time again. Currently, both seem to be outnumbered by those whose coffee I find unpalatable.
Hope that clarifies.
Heres a question to throw out there, along the same subject line. I was reading an article recently by (I think) Dr Illy, where he mentioned that as part of their quality control they had developed machinery that could detect certain faults in the unroasted bean and remove them prior to roasting.
Obviously a system like this would be too costly for many smaller roasters to develop or perhaps even purchase. Are many of the larger roasters using such systems, and does it in the end make any difference to quality or consistency?
Yeah that was with a whole lot of laser/light technology. V.cool. And yeah its in the Espresso Coffee (awesomeness) book.
Though I just read that Probat have something cool going on with sorting - a whole lot of digital cameras and little bursts of air to sort them by colour. 8-)
Out of curiosity ... why? Why does it have to taste the same year to year, crop to crop? What does it matter as long as it tastes good?Originally Posted by 3C2A2F2F3E3C3039393A3A5F0 link=1235737032/15#15 date=1236217580
Even if it is now a better product? I dont understand this. :-/Originally Posted by 3C373E2D2B2D3A2C5F0 link=1235737032/14#14 date=1236204055
Im with you on that one Michelle.Originally Posted by 607A6C79790D0 link=1235737032/18#18 date=1236225176
I for one dont expect my coffee to taste the same from crop to crop any more that I would want wine to be the same :-?. The more variety I can get, the better. Does wonders for the palate ;).
Give me variety, preferably at high quality and Ill try to find a way of drinking it which best highlights the bean...
Sanitise it, look for sameness and then all of a sudden, boring!
Originally Posted by 0E51495F545F535A5A5959515D523C0 link=1235737032/19#19 date=1236225624
You are not wrong.... and that is a MAJOR problem with our society.... not just the products we consume.....
We aim at sameness in everything these days.... and for sameness read "lowest common denominator".... even in schools where once excellence was encouraged and rewarded.... they have been "dumbed down".... so the not so bright students dont feel so bad....
Sameness is something to be loathed IMHO.... not something to be aimed at.....
Ever heard of "viva la difference"..... do exactly that - in all things.... appreciate the difference and enjoy the fact that it is the best you can get in those circumstances... rather than something of a lower standard - just so it can be consistent.....
And that especially applies to Coffee, wine and other fine food and beverage appreciation.
So you can be just like charbucks, la vazza and all the big boys?Originally Posted by 766C7A6F6F1B0 link=1235737032/18#18 date=1236225176
Cause if your expecting corn flakes and it tastes like sultana bran you might not be too happy about it.Originally Posted by 72687E6B6B1F0 link=1235737032/18#18 date=1236225176
For difference, I roast SOs, and while the blends I roast may differ ever so slightly from one batch to the next, season to season, my aim is to keep them reasonably consistent.
Some customers love trying different SOs and blends, while others purchase the same SO or blend and never deviate. Either way is OK by me.
Sorry ... Im still scratching my head a bit ... you seem to be saying that the two are different, but you also seem to have picked an example specifically to highlight where flavour and quality is sacrificed for consistency. To put it another way, would you agree that if I bought, say, a dozen bottles of 1982 Chateau Petrus that had all been looked after well by the resellers and I treated them well myself, I should expect them to taste consistently the same?Originally Posted by 5046434352505C55555656330 link=1235737032/15#15 date=1236217580
I think youre confusing two different things. You are talking about variation from crop to crop. Thats fine, I acknowledge that that is going to happen.Originally Posted by 5046434352505C55555656330 link=1235737032/15#15 date=1236217580
I - and, I think, Chatres - am talking about variation when using a given crop by a roaster. Once a pro roaster gets that bag or that pallet in their factory, I think that consumers are entitled to expect that if they buy that coffee one week from the roaster it will taste the same the next. Roasting consistently is a skill that professional roasters should possess.
Blends are an interesting issue. On the one hand, I appreciate that crops will change and be substituted and that that may change the flavour of the blend. Thats fine, if the roaster changes their tasting notes for the coffee. If they dont change their tasting notes, they should select green coffee to maintain the flavour profile that they have established. Skillful bean buying is another skill that professional roasters should possess.
Bottom line is that the coffee should taste like what the roaster holds it out to taste like and it shouldnt change from week to week unless the customer is notified.
Customers shouldnt be paying to be beta testers for blends, origins and roast profiles that the roaster is experimenting with unless they have an idea of what they are getting. I dont think that professional roasters can get away with disguising their failure to do their homework as some sort of variation that is to be celebrated.
I gathered that you were implying that quality is necessarily sacrificed for consistency by saying that people that value consistency might be better off buying their coffee from a supermarket shelf. Thats what prompted me to post.Originally Posted by 5046434352505C55555656330 link=1235737032/15#15 date=1236217580
Yes, I think that the informed public does have higher expectations of smaller roasters than they do of larger roasters. I also think that that leads to a certain amount of free-riding, where people can buy a roaster, turn some green brown and then pretty convincingly lead the public to think that they are doing a great job when they actually arent. Of course, this applies equally to any roaster, regardless of size ... which is just a roundabout way of saying that it all comes down to what is actually in the cup. In this regard, I have to say that my impression is probably that small roasters as a group are probably less consistent than bigger roasters and have a wider spread for quality.Originally Posted by 5046434352505C55555656330 link=1235737032/15#15 date=1236217580
Yeah, but thats like saying that the portion of restaurants that cook a meal worth paying $200 for is tiny because you include fast food franchises within the definition of restaurant and, hence, have a massive denominator. The problem is that nowadays every roaster seems to use the exact same buzzwords, which is absurd -- its like having McDonalds advertising their beef patties as Wagyu. The difference is that the market seems to tolerate this sort of creative marketing when it comes to coffee. (A friend of mine came up with an extremely eloquent and accuratedescription for marketing and coffee descriptions by most coffee roasteries - lies.) The portion of coffee roasters dishing out great coffee relative to those that use all the buzzwords would have to be dismal.Originally Posted by 5046434352505C55555656330 link=1235737032/15#15 date=1236217580
All of which is to say that talk is cheap. Pro roasters can put up or shut up by actually selling some tasty coffee. Consistently tasty - in the same way.
No, I just picked an example. Im sure there are plenty of people who think the burgers have flavour and of good quality.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
Despite not having tried it myself, yes. I would also imagine that this Petrus was probably fermented and stored all in the one batch before being bottled.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
No, I think *we* were confusing two different things.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
OK, so I accept thats what you meant. Ive re-read Chartres comments and for the life of me cant see how you think his meaning was the same or even vaguely similar.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
Agree.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
I dont know of any who do. Do you?Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
No argument here.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
I do my best not to imply but rather state what I mean. Obviously, not always that clearly!Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
Look around. The market not only tolerates this when it comes to coffee, it pretty much embraces it no matter what the product. I use Gillette blades so I can play tennis like Roger, sink a golf ball like Tiger, and I still havent worked out who that other bloke is. What logo do you have on your t-shirt by the way?Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
The idea of providing a descriptor is to give the consumer an idea of what to expect. I think we agree on that, though at this point in our online conversation I have a little doubt.Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
Our most popular coffee is the World Blend. The descriptor reads, "The aroma produces berry and sweet spice sensations. With a thick, dark crema the flavour is rich and buttery, leaving a mouth-feel of lingering bitter-sweet chocolate."
Reflecting on this blurb the crema isnt really all that dark. Its more a kind of mid-hazelnut colour. Ill change it.
Now if you read that carefully, thats confusing!Originally Posted by 756C7A78190 link=1235737032/23#23 date=1236254252
very simple - if theres a meaningful and intelligible description of what this blend is like then Id like the coffee to match this description and not be better than what description provides ;-) Note, that I only am talking about the case when we have a particular blend and its sold under unchanged description. If you come the pizza restaurant and order margarita i pretty much expect a particular thing... of course if I come to the restaurant and theres on the menu - "todays chef creation, whatever he feels like and God help him", I (provided I trust the chef) will be open to surprise and be happy to discover. But then you see my expectations are managed this way.Originally Posted by 2F35233636420 link=1235737032/18#18 date=1236225176
Once again, I am sorry, I dont think I quite explained myself. The roaster (or cook for that matter) has his own idea of what he wants to have at the end and he, if you like, signs his name next to his creation. If the result that he has got in his mind, this target, is consistently achieved day after day - I am happy. The target itself may be changing, but Id like the roaster to know in advance what he is working towards, not to get the result after some unrepeatable process and then describe it.
Exactly!!!Originally Posted by 796F6A6A7B79757C7C7F7F1A0 link=1235737032/22#22 date=1236234399
I dont want every vintage of Bass Phillip to be the same, but Id like them all to taste like European style pinot , because thats what I like and thats why I agree to pay 100bucks for a bottle of wine which for some smells foul ;-)
I am happy that we finally agree ;-) (at least I believe we agree on this) And I do like small boutique wines and roasters, as well as small restaurants ;-). I think Luca understood well what I meant *- whatever you do must be repeatable so you could do it again if you (and customers wanted it). Often I dont want to know what exactly you have done, but I want you to be able to repeat it ;-) ( and yes, mostly it matters within the same batch because otherwise other factors creep in)
I guess to speak more generally what I meant is that the roaster should really be able to use his tools so that he could achieve very precise result which he would know in advance. This is not easy and maybe it sholdnt be done every time, but at least he should know what he is doing. If I want to make a symmetrical rosetta on my latte but at the end it comes as a heart - its not really good, even though coffee tastes well.
I am pretty sure Jimmy Page, fond of improvisation as he is, would be able to play his part in Dazed and Confused the same way two times in the row, if he wanted... it just to show that he has got the skill and he can use his instrument to his liking ;-)