Wednesday, January 24, 2007

this one is at LEAST worth a thousand words

Sunday, January 21, 2007

repeatability is key repeatability is key

so i was discussing on the new texas coffee people blog about a new coffee i received recently, honduras finca las canas, and was discussing the general roasting and cupping routine i observe when i receive a new coffee. my protocols for brown are not earth shattering or original and actually seem somewhat simplistic. but simple is beautiful and so often it is the functional arts that prepare the way for the fine arts. after all, the cistine chapel had to be built by calloused hands and bulging muscles before it could be adorned by meticulous fingers under a gimlet eye.

anyways, as i mentioned over there, receiving a new coffee for me means roasting at least three one pound samples for evaluation over a few days. the first roast is very light, sometimes with quite leprous looking beans, pulled just at or just past the first pop. in my limited experience this is both one of the most difficult roast levels to replicate and one of the most telling of cup quality. jaime was mentioning the release and/or disappearance of (at least the perception of) sugars in the beans through a roast curve and often i feel that this sample roast doesn't actually even fully set the stage for the sweetness of a bean to shine. the vast majority of beans just don't have the moxy to show really impressive stuff here. would that i always had the resources to only source beans that could do best even at light sample roasts. alas, reality is where you are, not necessarily where you want to be or think you will be eventually.

i've blogged about drinking sample roasts before and have posited that while they do have their purposes, it is often more helpful to take a new coffee somewhat past the traditional sample coloring and into the realm that one could conceivably use as a production roast at its earliest colorations. so i do a second roast to this level. if the traditional sample roast is basically to cup defensively vis a vis defects, this second roast is a gambit of sorts--though certainly no hail mary--just to push the boundaries of what might be a publicly acceptable taste. might push the envelope a bit and make some uncomfortable. might open some eyes with a pleased epiphany. or it might still taste immature and unfinished. fall flat. one just never knows when one first receives a new coffee. and that's what this process is all about.

the third roast is much more infield for me. it is a very safe roast progression to a very comfortable feeling roast coloration. generally for me that means i still won't get into second pop--at the least not very far into it. and after a couple three days there may be only a slight few beads of sweat on a few beans. relative to the first two roasts, cupping this third level often seems like sucking on a piece of charcoal, even though the reality is that i'm actually well within the boundaries of what most premium roasters feel comfortable putting into their customers' hands. it's all relative.

and it's all in desperate need of repeatability. that is the key. repitition is the key to success. repetition is the key to success. repetition is the key to success. what is the key to success?

after cupping the three i will usually do a two way cupping leaving the lightest of the three out and trying to settle on a production roast level. typically this is a split the difference between the middle and 'darkest' roasts. after slurping down to the grinds, copious notes and much internal deliberation i might even try to find that agreed upon roast with another go at the roaster. but in any case my goal is to capture and recapture that experience every single time. there may be less than five percent of drinkers out there who would be able to notice a different roast from one bag to the next. but that is the demographic i'm reaching for and so i will continue to hone my skills to move from an educated beginner in the world of roasting to a novice 'pretty good' roaster. master roaster? maybe one day. but that goal is far, far off; and i have many more roasts to go before then, trying to capture sweet essence of the coffee bean and repeat it over and again.

texas coffee people

just wanted to give a heads up on a new group blog alliance. it's called texas coffee people, and as the name suggests, its main axes are texas, coffee, and people. you don't have to be a texan to read or comment, of course. you just have to care a bit about nurturing a burgeoning scene at its roots.

thanks to jason haeger for heading this up.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


the day is looming on the horizon, ever nearer. i'm getting really excited for my trip to guatemala to visit edwin and his family's farm. but as excited as i get i'm getting all clenched up inside at the remainder of stuff i have to settle before i leave. setting up clients with enough coffee while i'm away (including a major new one...yea!); coordinating the travel logistics, reminders and whatnot for the trip attendees; finishing the seemingly massive to do list for this project edwin, jaime and i are undertaking...and so forth. daunting. the hours are ticking down.

it's gonna be grand.

Monday, January 15, 2007

meta tags and google

i've mentioned this i think over on my 'regular' blog before. but have you ever googled yourself? i've googled myself personally. (turns out i'm some sort of judo master in spain.) but, silly me, i've never googled brown. well, that's not entirely true. i haven't googled brown in a long time because when i was setting up the site originally i didn't know how to use the meta tags and descriptors to capture the attention of web crawlers. so when i tried to google brown nothing came up. nothing. bummer. that can't be good for business.

i still don't. but i just put "coffee" in there a ton of times. oh, and i also put "wal-mart" in there a bunch, just for good measure.

just kidding on that one. but hey...

well, something must be working because before the best i could hope for was a web spider capturing my sig line on a coffeed post. this time? page three, baby! moving on up. (come on, "wal-mart!")

so does anyone know how to set up meta tags? i need some experienced help.

oil and sweat

so as i mentioned earlier the reworked website is up. i've been toiling on it all weekend and i'm liking how it's shaping up. i still have to populate the 'links' page. other than that it's about done.

one thing i'm quite pleased with is the new and improved shopping cart. it has maps for the major growing regions, for the specific countries and the close up zoom shot (for about half the coffees thus far) is an actual shot of those beans. and i mean it gets really zoomy.

seems also that the most of the six or so beanshots i have up on the shopping cart site are slightly oiled to oiled beans. that's normal for the malabar. it's just best at that roast. the sumatra and java take lighter roasts; but the beans are now approaching a week and some of the oils have slightly eeked their way out of the beans, creating beads of 'sweat.'

i don't know why i'm bothering to discuss those details, except to say that brown prides itself on lighter roasts and these, though light, don't look as light as others. especially with the sumatra, note the lighter tones of the beans, yet there are still a couple stray beads. that takes some doing, folks.

whatever. go. look. comment here.

UPDATE: i have also begun posting some BROWN T-SHIRTS! more on that later. some of the details are here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

more promised than before

okay so after some wandering in the wilderness i think we're basically up and ready to rock again on the brown site. mostly i've heard feedback about the color scheme and general questions about why change the layout and design in the first place. after all, if it's not broken, why fix it?

i get bored. i need to keep things changed up. plus that old site was my very first attempt at building a site. and it showed. not that this new site is an earth smashing success over the last one. but hopefully it flows a little better, looks a little sleeker and feels less like a starter mcweb site and more like, like a real operation. hey, that's what i am. really!

take a visit. also visit the shopping cart, which has been revamped as well. and if you're a brown customer, send me a pic of you drinking brown. if we post it on the site you'll get free brown for life*

*life = as long as it takes you to consume one bag of your favorite brown coffee

Thursday, January 11, 2007


trying to revamp the brown website in the next few days. i'm doing terribly at it. it may be down for a while. if it goes down i'll keep posting here. and you can always visit the shopping cart still...

sorting it out at the workbench

there is a real romance to roasting coffee. and there is a real need for precision and analysis. roasters have to be among the most evenly balanced left-right brains out there. for sure, there are myriad ways and means of capturing data with regard to roast time, moisture content, bean and/or internal drum temperature and so forth. the list can be eye-glazing, to be sure.

but there is also the artisinal, craftsmanlike ethos that almost borders on mystical. sometimes i feel a little bit like luke skywalker hearing obi wan's voice as i make my final run to destroy the death star. "use the force, luke. let go." and it's in those times during a roast that i put the pen down for a few moments and just enjoy the sensuality of the moment: the smell of the beans as they gain brownness and lose moisture; the waff of smoke heading out the exhaust piping; the carefree way in which the beans tumble over and over in a seemingly eternal cycle, traveling in their equivalent to ezekiel's wheel within a wheel from obscure jade greenish pebbles into the alchemist's gold. it's pure magic. and in those moments all the struggles and cares that attend an emerging business melt away and i am gently reminded by those beans what i'm meant to be doing in this world.