Saturday, December 16, 2006

frozen chosen

it was seventh grade during a physical education class. a friend and i were walking the track on a hot spring morning in texas, discussing some of the pros and cons of hot weather versus cold. my friend, a 'yankee' from upstate new york, opined that he liked cold weather much better than hot because with cold weather, said he, you could always keep piling on more and more layers. but in hot weather, "once you get down to the skin there's not much else you can do." (yes, i still remember those words all these years later.)

i work through those types of deductions sometimes in my own head regarding the state of excellence in coffee and how i can continue to improve in this area or with that process. some areas i've found a good groove: turnaround time for orders placed is very regularly less than 12 hours from order placed to order roasted. often, local deliveries get my sermon on overfreshness--i have to put the brakes on them and remind them that they need to wait a day before enjoying this two hour old coffee.

with the idea of overfreshness in mind i recall that conversation from so many years ago and conclude that there's not much more that can be done on the roasting side of the equation that will get the freshest possible coffee into the hands of my customers. so what other areas can i add "layers" and continue to improve?

it goes without saying that buying quality greens will produce quality browns, all other factors in play being carefully kept in line, such as the basic ticker below:

--storage: temp and temp swings, humidity, packaging, dust, rodent activity, exposure to ultraviolet light, etc.

--transportation considerations: what has happened to those carefully processed coffees in the interim from the mill to your warehouse? on the export dock? on the ship? the import dock? the importer's warehouse? in his delivery truck?

--roasting: the roasting itself can, of course, ruin all the other well-executed steps. as i've mentioned previously, a great discussion is unfolding over at barismo in the comments section of jaime's review of my guatemala finca vista hermosa. (i'm getting my butt handed to me by the pros, is what's happening.)

with those few areas there are worlds upons worlds where quality can be introduced, gained and improved upon.

this post is a call for discussion on storage, and in particular, on freezing as means of preserving peak ripeness. i've heard discussions of it here and there and know that some groups have been doing serious experimentation and implementation for a couple years now (i'd love to read some scientific type results...ahem!).

some parameter questions i've cooked up:

--does water in greens help/hurt the composition when frozen? ice crystals? does the water act as a sort of stabilizer?

--someone i recently read about was deep freezing freshly roasted. huh? benefits/drawbacks of that versus green?

--flash freeze?

--thaw parameters? in bag? how quickly? bean surface moisture/condensation in the thaw? how long before it's roaster ready?

--how do you determine the "peak" at which to freeze? can you, for instance, buy an early new crop, cup it out over a month or two until it "matures" into peak ripeness and then freeze? do you have to wait 'til mid crop ripeness and buy those beans and freeze immediately? can you make any money doing that, because surely then you'd be taking a bunch of extra steps and expense to get it from its grown country to your storage space?

--what is the best material for storage bags? mylar? food grade plastic? doesn't the composition of most materials break down/impart their composition to the beans after a while?

--40F below? i've heard of that. who has that much storage space at that constant temp? don't you stand to create an exhorbitantly huge environmental footprint just keeping that much space cold? how many smallish roasteries have access to that kind of space?

--fridge freezing: others say temps at something more like 0 degrees F will do. is there any consensus? what are the arguments for each?

--will freezing help even the score between super high grown beans and lower altitude beans? since it's generally accepted that density helps preserve flavor better/longer, couldn't freezing help level the playing field and potentially open even more doors for discovering great coffees that are grown lower?

--vacuum: do you vacuum pack bags? create a "near vacuum"? are one-way valves a no-no at such temps?

...and so forth. i'm expecting some good comments here, so bring 'em on. let's keep pushing the envelope. if these questions have been answered by someone, please hopefully we can see some printed materials somewhere.


At Saturday, 16 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Many good questions you present. All of which need and deserve answers. The basic truth I beleive in is that we (anyone in the supplt chain) can do nothing to improve a coffees quality (that is determined by genetics and enviroment) but there are many ways to lessen that potential quality at every step between nursury and end consumer. Revisting the packaging of green coffees at origin is one of things we are investigating. We have 2 lots of coffee we are expiramenting with vacuum packaging on and will expirament with this technology with a few other coffees this year. I am more interested in the effect on quality protecting the coffee from the enviroment at origin and through shipping than I am in exploring how long this will extend raw coffees shelf-life. I'm certain that the result will be that the vaccum packed coffee tastes fresher a year from now. But my ultimate hope is to be able to translate the splendor of the greatest coffees that cuppers experience at competitions and at origin to the consumer. Packaging, timeliness, careful roasting, and the Clover are all part of this.

R. Miguel Meza
Paradise Roasters

At Saturday, 16 December, 2006, Blogger blanco said...

hey miguel.

thanks for reading and posting. i would love to hear more about your experiments with repackaging and how they went/go. if you feel comfortable sharing some of what you're doing, by all means please do. (this blog is only read by like four people anyways, so you can share with confidence here!)


At Saturday, 16 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hey aaron,
I will try to fire off a package in the next few days. I think this is such an overwhelming topic that I get lost sometimes when trying to even begin relating it to others in the community.


Let me think about the questions you are asking a bit and try to explain everything that I can understand of what's going on from the old coffee chemistry book.

At Saturday, 16 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The first expirament i'm doing is with some colombian's that were vacuum packed at origin. (2 seperate lots)I am going to take one 5 Kg package and empty it into jute bags and leave a couple boxes of each lot unopened in the vacuum packs then compare the 2 at 6months, 9 months, and 12 months. Hopefully later this year I will be able to have some coffee packed at origin both ways to cmpare on arrival and over the course of time. when this happens I will also vacuum pak some of the coffee shipped in Jute bags upon arrival to help understand how packaging and storage at origin effects quality. As time and money allows I will be doing different expiraments with different coffees at varying stages of production to understand the effects on the cup. I intend to make my notes from these expiraments somewhat public as I feel they may be benificial to many. If you would like to see some of the samples at varying times thoughtout the expirament, I would be more than happy to send some your way.

R. Miguel Meza
Paradise Roasters

At Saturday, 16 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look at what Dterra is doing. Bagging the CoE lots in the same way should prove the point ot a lot of people too this year. Packaging. Better shipping, and as Edwin reminds me, not keeping the greens in climate uncontrolled areas like distribution warehouses for several months.

Freezing is something to explore but for a small business, it might only make sense for the premium coffee carried. To keep it as fresh as at origin but there are costs associated.

Then again, if you can keep it 'fresh' then you can roast it in a way to show amazing characters the skilled farmerer worked so hard for.

This stuff is all uber controversial tho...


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