Einträge zum Thema tasting notes

Mittwoch, 7. Januar 2009

Cupping coffee

I love cupping coffee. I love the in-your-face tastes and aromas that this method of drinking (or analyzing) coffee gives you, the overwhelming sensations you get when slurping, and if you forget to spit, the overcaffeinated funkyness afterwards. The totally obvious difference from coffee to coffee or roast to roast, as well as the very subtle similarities. The pure pleasure every sip gives you. Yet at the same time, I have major difficulties in describing what I taste, what I smell and what I see. I find it very hard to exactly point out what is it I taste in a specific coffee, and how it develops during cooling. As a bonus, I still (after all the years) haven't really grasped what the term 'chocolate' means in a coffee. There are so many different tastes in chocolate that I find it hard to say 'this espresso was especially chocolaty'. It's more than possible that I just don't get it, but it can't be that important as my palate seems to be working well enough - in last years cuptasting I had 6 out of the 8 triples right. Not too bad considering the cup tasting competition was the only 'real' cupping I've had during that year! Let's see what this year brings for me. Especially with my shiney new totally awesome cupping spoon ...

For more information on how to cup and evaluate, read Hasbean Steve's article and/or Marc Prince's introduction to cupping. Also, Wolfredo has an excellent series of german articles about cupping, so if you speak german and interested in this they're a must read ("Cupping Grundlagen" and "Kaffee verkosten, Schritte und Termini").

The only thing that can teach me describe coffee better is, I believe (and you guessed), more cupping. So a few days before christmas, I roasted three batches of IACs Yirgacheffe with slightly different profiles to different roast degrees - just before second crack, to start of second crack and a few seconds before rolling second. It was the first time I actually made three roasts in a row with an eye on keeping them as similar as possible, to just different roast degrees. Turned out not as complicated as imagined - Using a good scale, a (hopefully quit exact) thermocouple and nearly-full gas cartidges, it worked quite well. The whole flat smelled funny for a few hours, though, as my batches are 450g and each produces a lot of smoke. A real roaster would make this so much easier (at least I hope) and reproducable ...

So, here are my totally unscientific tasting notes (I tried using the Cupping Database from greenbean, but I as of yet fail miserably in quantifying my notes so I just kept writing)! The three batches are labelled #1 (before second crack), #2 (beginning of second) and #3 (before rolling second). I had two cuppings - the first only about 5 hours after roasting, the second two days after roasting. I think I'll never cup so early after roast again, as it was really, really misleading - after the first I had #1 written of as a misroast, but it developed really well afterwards.

First Cupping:

Cupping three Yirgacheffes

Second cupping:

And at day 10 after roast, #3 turned out to be a really tasty espresso. Very lovely, very berry, very satisying. I was quite sad after all the coffee was used up (some of it had to go as christmas presents, so I ran out quickly!).

So, that was my christmas coffee cupping, and I'll try to do more in the future. Perhaps I'll even write about them, but don't hold me responsible if I'm not! Oh and by the way: Happy new year 2009!

Freitag, 5. September 2008

Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda Especial Batch 5

It took me that long to write up something on that special coffee. No apologies for that, as was quite busy (and still am) at the moment, and this sat long enough in the pipeline to be ready now.

So. What a name for a coffee. But it's good to be precise on this one - it allows poeple to identify the exact batch of coffee I'm talking about. That doesn't happen too often even in the special specialty coffee world, where direct trade models are being established, importers buy based on quality and building long-term relations with the farmers, roasters roast to perfection with each bean and blend having it's own roasting profile. So this is the batch I received from Walter's Kaffeespezialität, and I finally decided to write what I think about it after a friendly nag from a friend (I wrote this quite a while ago but only now managed to find the time to overlook and publish it).

The setting of this tasting was quite a thing for me. At Squaremilecoffee, roasted by Anette Moldvaer, together with a good friend that I've made through toomuchcoffee.com, side by side with a Cup of Excellence from Costa Rica, El Portillo if I remember correctly, and an unnamed Rwandan sample if memory servers me right.

It was a blind cupping, that means Anette arranged the coffees for us, three cups of each, without us knowing what was what. But to be frank, it was outright clear from the first sip which coffee was the Esmeralda, just because it was so different from what I was used to. (Now this is the point where I stopped writing some two months ago. Great.)

I could grasp why people are paying so much money for coffee from this farm. It's different. It's one of these showcase coffees that Steve talked about in the latest common grind podcast. But it's more than that: it is actually very, very, very, very, oh yes very enjoyable. The mouthfeel was more tee-y than any coffee I'd encountered before, light on body in a good way, the smell was very peachy as was the taste. Very sweet, too. Somehow, the taste reminded me of that lovely peach iced tea I used to drink ten years ago. Thouroughly enjoyable. It's a shame that I didn't make more notes back then, but I will have the chance to cup it again, as I still have around a hundred gram left that really need to be roasted soon. I just don't know yet how, as always!

In the eternal department of new toys my newest addition: Bestest of cupping spoons ever invented (not that I'd know ...) Thank you Dr. Schwarz, it's a blessing and such a lovely tool!

Sonntag, 10. August 2008

Coffee in London

Last week, I've been to England and visited London for two days. When I'd been there last year, I just hated that city. Now I know that this was mostly due to lack of planning and most definitly lack of good coffee. When I woke up at Toast's place we had a quick chat and a quick coffee. Believe me, waking up in a totally foreign city, being with a friend and having a good espresso is priceless. Equipped with a map and the address of places I'd liked to visit, my small journey started: on to flat white, where I had some really unexpected coffee. Dwayne (is that spelling correct?) pulled an incredibly rich, thick, dense, chocolaty fruit bomb short black (or double ristretto as I'd call it) from their new Square Mile Coffee blend. That shot was totally unusual for me, as when I watched him prepare it I just thought "oh my don't be so cruel and put so much coffee and aargh you're tamping way too hard"! But boy was I wrong. So that's the antipodean style of coffee then. Brilliant. I was so impressed that I came back later to try some of their milk drinks, and man, was I impressed. Again. Just about perfect. Never seen that kind of microfoam - at all - before. So well balanced. If you ever get there, the piccollo latte is about the perfectest balance of coffee and milk as it can get. We are so middle-age in germany! Okay enough praising of flat white. Went to Monmouth as well for a cup of filtered coffee, and it was quite nice - well filtered, good coffee, although just a tad bit overextracted for me. A gram more in the filter would have done wonders to the taste balance, but that's not to say it wasn't good. Better than most if not any other place where you get filtered I've been to yet. Next on the list (on day two) was Fernandez & Wells (thanks Cakeboy for the recommendation!). They have two locations in the same block that are funnily intertwined, one is a Café, the other I'd call a Bistro. Had a very nice chat to the three guys operating the Bistro and some delicious breakfast! At the Café, the shot I've had was very nice (they use the Monmouth espresso blend), but I've really never seen a barista working so incredibly messy on the grinder. They must waste about double the coffee they actually use! Very interesting style, but hey the coffee was good so I don't complain. Highly recommended, and just around the corner of flat white.


Expect a short writeup about my visit to Square Mile Coffee and the tasting of the Esmeralda, me being challenged in my established views of brewing coffee again (don't you just love that!) and that mysterical pressure profiling device that didn't work quite as well under 232 bars of pressure but James said that 132 bars was just about perfect. Oh and a sighting of the GS/3 in a small café at Hackney road which at that time to me was like an oasis!

Samstag, 26. Juli 2008

Rwanda Nyamagabe

I can't help but just lean back and enjoy this coffee. Every single cup.

More description would ruine the experience. Love!

Montag, 21. Juli 2008

Kenya Gethumbwini Peaberry

I'm sorry to pollute you with my tasting notes, I feel the urgent need to get some more training on developing my taste descriptions and what's the best place for it if not here?

The Gethumbwini was on my wish-list for the most part of the last year, but I never really got around ordering and roasting it. That moment finally came last week and I'm now sipping a cup of nicely brewed Gethumbwini Peaberry, roasted three days ago on my lovely stovetop roaster, possibly a tad bit too dark but still before the first pops of second crack.

This coffee tastes in many ways as I expected it to, which is a nice suprise and means I can start to really trust in my own senses and sensuary memory (I've had the non-peaberry over a year ago and still remember clearly how it tasted to me back then).

Brewed in a Melitta porcelain filter (I really need to rinse the paper filter for longer beforehand), this cup is so bold and so clean at the same time. It has a very blackcurrantlike zing to it and high, pleasantly high acidity. That berry taste is a bit like the Fortaleza which has that notes more in the aroma, whereas the Gethumbwini has it in-your-face in the cup and in the nose. The aroma of the fortaleza I'd describe as more wildberry like, whereas the Gethumbwini is really more blackcurrant than anything else. The body is as bold as you can get through a paper filter, very distinct and not overwhelming at the same time.

Through altering the roast profile I could possibly bring out the blackcurrant a bit smoother and mute the acidity just a little little bit, but I fear that's out of my possibilities with the stovetop thing and reserved for times having a proper roaster. Curious how this will taste in the vacpot!

Update: sipping through my second cup, of which I thought I wrecked up the brewing. But holy cow this is liquid blackcurrant juice, or wait, more like blackcurrent fruit tea. wow.

Dienstag, 15. Juli 2008

Fresh Coffee

A while ago, I wrote about the freshness of coffee. The last two days, friends were coming to taste some of Walter's coffees I told them so much about - the Fortaleza and a blend of Rwanda Nyamagabe and the Guatemala El Bosque (guess where the idea originated from). The coffees were roasted on July 3rd (the blend) and July 7th (the Fortaleza), that makes them 8 and 12 days "old". I won't go into the tasting details today (other than we all got the berry berry berry aroma of the Fortaleza (which I still can't really believe) and a very interesting ... mix of the fruity plus liqourice plus great mouthfeel from the blend), but there's one thing both of my friends said:

"So this is how fresh coffee tastes!"

Both were stunned (at least that's what I interpret into their facial expression). One of them a home barista, one a professional.

Hell yes, this is how fresh coffee tastes and I have to admit that my writings of April last year don't take into account just how crazily good fresh great coffee tastes.

Montag, 14. Juli 2008

Fazenda Fortaleza

Incredible coffee.

Brazil Fazanda Fortaleza (sorry for the poor quality picture, Jessica is in Bristol with all her nice'n'shiney cameras doing amazing things so I only have the webcam to make pictures)

I've had this before, but never with my shiney new old La San Marco. And I certainly would have remembered if it tasted like this one now: it has dark, ripe berries all over from the smell of the grounds to the armoa to the cup - the aroma is incredible, it reminds me of childhood times when my mother made concentrated juice of dark berries and the whole kitchen smelled of it. What a backflash. I was quite surprised initially as I've had this berry aroma before though not as concentrated - in a brewed cup of Kenyan coffee (I don't remember which one, perhaps the Gethumbwini), but never in a brazilian! That berry aroma translated well in the cup, which had a concentrated juice-y mouthfeel and was sweeeet. I'll report back when I'm over that berry taste and try to describe the taste a bit better, but for now it's all berries to me.

Montag, 18. Februar 2008


During the cuptasting competition, I started to have doubts about my passion for coffee. There was the table, eight sets of three coffees, sixteen different coffees, and I started slurping away. I did the same mistake as nearly everybody else did: I trusted my first impression on the first set of three - and pushed the wrong cup away. Everybody did that. Next time I won't!

But the further I got along the sets, I kept thinking to myself 'Well, this is a very nice boring coffee. A little bit of fruit in there maybe ...' and 'that's another boring coffee, ah, a bit more body' and 'oh yes, boring again, a little more spicey than the others'. On that whole table of sixteen different coffees, most of them were just plain boring with only slight differences in the cup profile (ok, I guess that's quite the point of such a competition, but nevertheless ...). There was a Kenyan which I thought spiced the table up a bit, but it was not very distinct.

And near the end of the table, I had one cup that blew my mind. I immediatly thought Hell Yes, that's one of the coffees and one of the reasons I do all that for. One of the reasons for me messing with coffee the last couple of years. It had more taste sensations than all the other coffees on the table together (at least it felt like that in contrast to the others). Very sweet, very very rich in flavour and aroma, a nice background chocolate, utterly intense, though smooth and very complete. Every sip I took was satisfying. I'd love to taste this one in an espresso.

After the competition (did I already mention that I placed eight, with guessing six of the eight sets correct? Yes? Oh, I'll mention it again anyway ;)), they lined up the thermos flasks for collective coffee drinking pleasure, and it was pretty obvious which coffee was it that blew my mind: the flask was labled 'Best of Brazil', and I enjoyed it until after the fair all the way back to my little brother, who very kindly lend us a pillow while we were there.

Why oh why don't we have more of coffees like that here in germany?

Or better: where oh where do I find more coffees like that in germany? For the time being, I'll order from Walter, because that's the kind of coffee he has.

Samstag, 5. Januar 2008

Recent coffees

I've been digging more into homeroasting the past few weeks and am amazed that I constantly learn new things, new tastes and surprising facts. For example the El Salvador Finca La Fany: I've had it quite a while ago when I was still using the old Gaggia Coffee and MDF grinder, and I was totally unable to pour a shot from it that was at least drinkable. Medium dark roasted back then, all I got was citric acid on my tongue (that's how it felt like). Based on the taste descriptions, I ordered some again and roasted it myself (into 2nd crack, with heavy ventilating to get the smoke off the beans, roast time around 19 minutes (a tad too long I believe)). And this proved to be another of these wow-coffees on my LaCimbali: Very tasty, creamy with a great mouthfeel, a little citrus (I tried it a bit too early after the roast) and very sweet. Yummy. A very welcome change to the Yemen Matari I've had very much of - the Matari is such a heavy coffee that you get tired of it very soon (at least for the late-afternoon drinks).

On a completely unrelated note, I love this picture my dad took on what would have been the most beautiful day of the year in decembre 2007: winter

I've also got a bag of my last years competition blend and I must say I still quite like it (when it's a few weeks old that is - too fresh, as it was during competition, it's way tough stuff, too old it's just boring). Not the kind of coffee I'd drink every day (it's a tad bit tough and unbalanced for that), though in milk drink it shines for me.

Before christmas I had the wonderful opportunity to roast a batch of Costa Rica CoE Libano (from Walter) on a Probat sample roaster - Thanks Mario! - but I wasn't very satisfied with the results in the cup. Probably it roasted too long (there seems to be a pattern here with me), although just into 2nd crack (another pattern?). I put the rest of the batch in the grinder and lucky as I am hit the grind spot-on for a very very very lovely espresso. I'd love to experiment more with this bean, there seems to be a lot of potential for great coffee and espresso, though I fear with my home-roasting device all I can experiment is a trial-and-error kind of thing - I can't really speak of reproduceability right now. Maybe that will change in the future - who knows? ;)

If you've got this far - thanks for reading! I'd love to know who actually reads my blog. Please, leave a comment!

Samstag, 24. November 2007

Yemen Matari Homeroast

The bag of Matari was just finished too fast (as always). Everybody liked it, it's a stunning coffee, especially if it's roasted just so well. So there I went roasting up a batch on my own: I hadn't done much roasting in the last weeks (mainly because I had no greens left) so this was my first batch in quite a while, and I was a bit ubercautios. The roast went nicely (as always :)), possibly a bit slow with first crack starting at 16'40 and second around 19'33. I panicked a little as I didn't want to ruin the roast so I stopped it at 19'55. Quite a bit lighter than I'd imagined and than Walter did it.

The taste was ok, though: the Matari was still there, the roasted wood turned a bit down to normal wood, acidity was higher (a little unpleasant; but brewing hotter helped a bit) and generally the taste was muted compared to the real thing (pictured here; the colors are way off but you can see the spots of oil on the bean surface). One advantage the lighter roast had, though: the coffee was now drinkable as normal brewed coffee.

Lesson learned: I need to do more roasts. And I need a proper roaster, but that's a completely different thing ... hooray that I now have a stash of 7kg in the kitchen and a batch of Yirgacheffe roasted that looks just like I wanted it to look!

Mittwoch, 21. November 2007

Yemen Matari

A few days ago I had a small surprise in the post - Walter kindly sent me some of his Yemen Matari Mokka - both roasted and unroasted. Thank you Walter, this is so kind and I still can't believe it.

Before my machine was up to temperature I couldn't wait and aeropress'd a cup of it: don't do that at home kids, this coffee is purely for your espresso machine. Really.

The bag is nearly finished now and I fear I can't replicate these intense nice tastes when I roast it on my own: It makes a very thick syrupy espresso, dense body and a very intensive mouthfeel. Tastes of (don't laugh) toasted wood in syrup-shape, with a nice acidity lingering on the tongue. And it's sweetness reminds me of liquorice - a little weird and very surprising taste experience. Thick, dense, sweet and full of body. It works best for me dosing low, grinding fine and doing a ristretto-type extraction. I can't say much about the aroma (catched a cold and can't really smell, I'm glad that I still can taste).

This coffee is just plain different from everything I've had before and seeing the greens, I see why Steve (and Walter probably too) have problems sourcing a good Yemen - they look a bit ugly and chaffy and not really consistent. But the taste is overwhelming and this Yemen really is fantastic.

Mittwoch, 25. April 2007

About coffee freshness

Again there was some discussion about coffee freshness on TMC, and I thought I'd share my two pence.

Under normal circumstances, I wholeheartedly agree that coffee gets incredibly stale, unpleasant and unbearable within two to three weeks after roasting. This is also the mantra that get's repeated by the people "in-the-know" over and over. Taste fresh coffee and know that you had black, bitter and hot water all your life before! Freshness is the key in having a good cup of coffee (or espresso).

But (there has to be a "but"!) this two to three week period applies to coffee beans that are exposed to air during that time (I'm sure there are other factors to it, but I don't know them).

If the coffee is left alone for two or three months in a sealed, air-tight bag with a one-way valve (ie without a steady supply of fresh air to breathe), you open the bag and make a coffee right away - I doubt that you would taste a big difference compared to coffee from a bag that was just a few days old. Been there, done that and hell was I surprised :)

After opening that bag, ie letting the air get to the coffee, it still goes wreck within a week or two (of course. It even seems to me that it goes stale faster than "real" fresh coffee goes). But in my experience coffee can be kept quite fresh for a while! Some say six months, I don't know - but I know that even two to three months old coffee can taste really good. If it was stored appropriatly that is. And if it was good anyway and all the other factors were ok, too.

Update: Steve and Cakey appearently disagree. I change camps every now and then, but I do give much about Steve's judgment when it comes to everything coffee. My own experience as stated above tought me that coffee can still be quite fresh after a while, but it could as well have been the low expectations I had when opening the old bags ;). I guess I just need more time to think about this "problem" and evaluate ...

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