Friday, February 28, 2014

A Full Analysis Of Our First Coffee Harvest On Mt. Totumas...

We just roasted our first Mt. Totumas Cloud Forest, Panama coffee mini harvest! Two lots of Catuai coffee from the same trees processed slightly different ways.  In the first, the coffee cherries were fermented with the fruit still attached and in the second fermented after depulping. The picture on the right is the coffee cherries being depulped.

The flavor profile is definitely a Panamanian coffee.  It's amazing how just region makes such a difference even with the same coffee variety.  As soon as we roasted the coffee it was obvious that this coffee was from Panama.  Some specific flavor notes are... mild with some pronounced lemon acidity with chocolate notes in the background. 

Funny enough, the 1st batch turned out to be the better tasting of the two. All of us expected it to taste a little strange in comparison, but turned out to be more complex of the two.  Even though it seems to have worked better, it's risky to process this way because there is a very good chance of defects from bad fermentation.  Fermenting with the coffee fruit is much more sensitive and prone to quickly going bad.  So if we do choose to experiment more with this style of processing, will have to be very careful and attentive during this part of the processing.  I think we do need to do more processing and roasting before we really start to determine what the best overall route is going to be.  I have only roasted a tiny batch of each and they came out a little different.  As I get to know the coffee a little better and figure out a few nuances, it will help us know more of what to do too.

  Green bean moisture content of the 1st batch is 16.2% (This is much too high, but made it so far without molding).  2nd batch is 11.8%  (perfect! And we don't even have a moisture meter on the farm yet!!!)

The samples are definitely lend themselves to being specialty grade quality and are very tasty.  Not quite yet in the highest range, but we will get there with a little more work and experience.  After roasting the coffee the beans were extremely mottled.  Panamanian coffees can be mottled some, but usually less than pictured.  I'm wondering if it's a product of processing or if it's because the coffee plants are still quite immature?  Maybe we have a new mutant variety of coffee.  Ha!  There were also massive amounts of chaff, so that might have affected the roasting too not to mention moisture content of the green beans.  All of this should resolve it's self as we learn more and get better at processing and the trees mature. 

 Overall this first harvest and sample roast was quite a success and we are very pleased with the progress we are making on the family coffee farm in Mt. Totumas Cloud Forest, Panama.  Let's keep up the good work.

It's very cool to be drinking some Mt. Totumas coffee!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Strong" coffee

    “Just give me some of your strong coffee” customers say...and everybody means something a little different by that.  Sometimes strong coffee is about the caffeine content, sometimes about the flavor profile or roast level, and some people seem worried that they would get a watered down version of coffee if they don’t specifically ask for the real stuff – from us?...really??

    So – what makes coffee strong?
The water to coffee grounds ratio can make coffee taste strong:  Espresso is made from a bit of hot water pressed through a compacted puck of coffee grounds – the result is a coffee concentrate and most people prefer it mixed with steamed milk etc.  
    Drip coffee is brewed with a lot more water.  
So – espresso is stronger than drip coffee, right?  Yes, but did you know a cup of drip coffee has significantly more caffeine than a shot of espresso?  That is because espresso extraction takes just seconds, while the drip coffee takes several minutes allowing more time to saturate the brew with caffeine.
So the caffeine is what makes coffee strong – yes, in it's effect on your body.  The picture above shows the chemical description of caffeine.

    And what about strong taste?  Well, that is – a question of personal flavor preference.  The coffee in your cup has quite a story behind it before it hits your taste buds and then enters your blood stream.  Many things contribute to the coffee's aroma: the variety of the coffee shrub, the dirt and climate it grows in, the elevation, the amount of care the coffee farmer gives to his crop, etc.  After harvesting the coffee cherries the further processing, storing and roasting of the coffee all affect its taste as well as the way it is brewed.

    Certain regions are often known for a certain kind of flavor profile: Sumatran coffees are rustic, earthy and pungent– strong flavors?  Some excellent Kenyan coffees have strong aromas and resemble strong red wines. Some coffee drinkers feel really dark roasting makes coffee taste strong- but excessive roasting also burns up a lot of the flavor components and makes coffee less complex.  If you never had a great, lighter roasted coffee, try a few.  They can also be really strong, but in a different sense than carbony, ashy, bittersweet and smokey flavors that are generally associated with dark roasting.
Think more along the lines of caramel, floral, vanilla, citrus, graham cracker, chocolate, tangerine, nutty, butterscotch and blueberry toaster waffle (Bet you didn't think this one was in coffee! Some Ethiopian Sidamo coffees scream blueberry toaster waffle.)

    Careless coffee brewing techniques can bring out really strong, but unpleasant flavors: bitter for example if the water is too hot, sour if too cold.  Using beans that are stale can result in some other unpleasant strong flavors.  On occasion you will find beans in this state to acutely resemble old fish.  Yeah, that gets strong flavors in your coffee - the kind of strong coffee I cannot stand!  Try some really fresh roasted coffee: Such vibrant and lively aromas will surely knock your socks off!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grinding coffee fresh - Just do it OK!!!

Grinding coffee beans right before the brewing starts is crucial for a good cup of coffee.
Why? Taste the difference!
Coffee beans start to loose their flavors immediately after grinding.  Exposure to air is devastating to both ground and whole bean coffee.  An estimated 50% of the gases trapped within the coffee bean are released within 5 minutes of grinding.
Think about these comparisons that have equal weight to buying pre-ground coffee: Would you have all the beer or soda cans pre-opened at the store, so you don't have to hassle with it later?  Have your eggs cracked open for you a couple of days before you want to use them?  Or buy enough french fries to eat for a few days afterwards so you don't have to go out and buy more?

Grinding equipment:

You can grind your coffee with the push of a button by electronic power, or using a manual grinder powered by you.

The cheapest electric grinders really chop, not grind. They have a spinning blade, similar to a food processor, that chops the coffee beans.  These grinders can be found in most stores and tend to cost around $20.  Blade grinders produce - yes, freshly chopped coffee - but the grounds are uneven which compromises the brewing results when compared to burr grinders.  Don't let this be a cop out for grinding your coffee fresh.  Using the the worst grinder in the world to grind before you brew beats the best grinder, pre-grinding your coffee beans.

Burr grinders produce much more even coffee grounds because they uniformly grind instead of chop. Also, you can adjust how fine you need your coffee ground. There are burr grinders with flat burrs and others with conical shaped burrs which are even better because they literally shave the coffee beans into grounds . If you are willing to invest physical effort in your grind, you can get a top of the line hand crank burr grinder for only about $50.

So, if you would like to improve the quality of your coffee at home, invest in a grinder. Once you have a grinder, you are one big step closer to the ultimate cup of coffee.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Arrival of some very special coffee (to us anyways)

Yesterday some very special coffee beans arrived on our doorstep: 2 big ziploc bags of Coffee from Mount Totumas, Panama, grown on Robbie's uncle and dad's land!
Mount Totumas is located in one of the absolute best, high elevation coffee growing areas in Panama. Neighboring farms produce many of Panamas award winning coffees, including the world famous La Esmeralda Geisha.
Robbie and I, as the coffee experts of the family, now get to further process, roast, taste and examine these family estate beans! We get to follow the beans from the shrub to the cup!

The whole coffee cherries got picked of the shrubs, then lightly soaked in water, dried in the sun and the pulp taken off the pits inside the cherries. Those pits are the coffee "beans". They still have a few layers of shell and skin around them, you can see it in the pictures. It will be our task to remove those...