Tuesday, February 27, 2007

can defecting be apolitical?

i'm in one of those weird temporal places just now. i don't know about you, but when i experience a very unusual thing like my trip to guatemala, it's sometimes hard for me to talk about it. i don't know why. maybe it stems from the fact that there's no way to adequately capture (or recapture) what i saw, smelled, heard, said, ate, touched, felt, etc. to try just makes me feel dumb and a little awkward. so, sorry for those of you who have been asking for updates. descriptors like "amazing" and "incredible" are so vapid and overused anyway.

also, i think i've come to a place where i've kind of decided to blog much less. the only reason for that would be that i spend too much time in front of a computer and not enough time living life that way. because i tend to put too much time and effort into my blog posts, rather than the quickfire posts so many other bloggers seem to be able to get away with successfully, i can justify my time spent on it less and less. i'm not going away. just maybe you'll see me much less around here. but we'll see.

anyways, i wanted to toss out an idea into the ether because it's been on my mind a lot lately and rather than chew it over with just me i figured i'd let the three of you who actually read this blog begin to discuss.

the idea is whether there is any such thing as completely defect free coffee? i ask this honestly without a solid opinion. knowing the little i know about growing, harvesting, processing and storing (and even roasting, since i, as a roaster, would categorize an improper roast as a defect of sorts) and what it takes and costs to eliminate defects such as sours, quakers, pest evidence, splitters and the like, and further knowing that even giving a lot one or two or maybe even three passes through the sorting equipment, you'll never be able to get them all out. i like jaime's offhanded comment about ordering the sorting monkeys to get to work de-defecting some greens. i like it because that's exactly what your brain would devolve to--the level of a monkey--if you had to sort defects 24/7. honestly, i don't know how those ladies at the conveyor belts at the mills do it without going postal after about four hours.

so given that, can we ever expect completely defect free coffee? even the coe lots are surely not 100% defect free. harking back to a post i did maybe a year ago about the harrar defect and defectless (or defect-LESS) cupping, i know i could've continued that experiments with even more and more and more sorting (although with the harrar there might be very little, if any, left!).

is there a market for it? is it just too ridiculously cost prohibitive to do? is it even desirable taste wise? could a roaster, for example, market the world's first 100% certified defect free coffee and command a premium? somehow i doubt it.

i could expand the argument, but i've made my point. i expect full participation on this one. let's talk it out and get the discussion going.

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At Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, Blogger Jaime van Schyndel said...

Long comment coming...

Simon hsieh sorts his coffee five times, then once more post roast. We thought three previously but turns out each bean gets turned and checked 5 times. It's nutso but he has a loyal following and can command upwards of 40/lb for what are often less expensive coffees. he sorts them until they clean up and if you like vac pots or technivorm style drip coffee(like taiwanese/japanese do). he makes a business out of it and seems to be doing fine enough. he doesn't want to follow a volume model and seems to be getting by.

ben tried his idido misty valley and it puts most misty valley offerings we have tried to shame. Will let you know as we will be getting some more to cup in the coming days.

Seperate out bug bites, then quakers, then black light and remove the over-ferment. Sounds crazy but they all are part of the cup and until you do it on what was already a good coffee it's hard to make any definite statements... I remember being at a cupping event where 8 tables of the same coffees were prepared. You could go to each coffee and they were every one different(unintentionaly). Some great, some just off. Defects, uneven roast because of different size beans, who knows but you could see it and I think that's part of why you cup 5 or 6 glasses of one offering simultaneously when evaluating any coffee? Thing is it just really made us think and we did a sorting once.

The sorted roast had no outliers, just a clean and very very defined first crack. Then end cup notes were clean and layered so for us at home it made sense. For a commercial purpose, gotta get someone else to do it at the dry mill before I get it.

I challenge you to sort a pound and sample roast it next to an unsorted batch. Sort it to one size, remove peaberry and all defects/discolorations and post results.

Of course, unlike the Taiwan community, we are largely still trying to get people off milk and sugar around here.

At Thursday, 01 March, 2007, Blogger Jason Haeger said...

So, after having read this post, I started sifting through just a 6.75oz sample of the 06 crop of a Dry Process Brasil Daterra Santa Colomba batch I bought awhile ago.

The individual number of defective seeds based on incandescent light and visual inspection only is a whole lot more than I would have thought.

I don't have a black light yet, but that will change soon. (radio shack, here I come)

At Thursday, 01 March, 2007, Blogger Jason Haeger said...

I just thought I'd add.

I don't think it's possible to have 100% defect free coffee, just like I don't think it's possible for any human to be 100% perfect. Anything organic (as in, a life-form) will have flaws.

That is not to say that we should not try to minimize this flaws. Sorting by weight and color is a big part of this, and from the looks of this batch of green from Daterra, nothing of the sort was practiced before this crop left for shipment.

At Thursday, 01 March, 2007, Blogger blanco said...

ha! speak for yourself on the human imperfection stuff! :)

At Thursday, 01 March, 2007, Anonymous Stephen Leighton said...

Pleased to see you bloging again bro.

I personally think that not so much defects but the occasional peaberry and the odd misshaped or mis formed beans all adds to the character of the coffee, I wonder if you can over sort and kill the heart of the coffee. Or am I waffling again.

Any how good to see you back.

At Thursday, 01 March, 2007, Blogger blanco said...

yeah, i neglected to mention peaberries in this post, didn't i? while technically a defect i just don't know how i feel about them. i know they sometimes command a premium if sold as all peaberry. that i think is interesting. but i wouldn't necessarily pull them in an otherwise low-defect clean batch.

At Sunday, 11 March, 2007, Anonymous SL28ave said...

Hey Jason, I didn't even have luck sorting a Yemen with my Raytech UV light, longwave and shortwave. I could've done the same sort with the naked eye. The special lights used in farms like Daterra, inluding UV and tri-chromatic sorters, are super complex on the other hand... they can see a small defect isolated to the very center of a bean... Just a warning. But I'm far from an expert on these lights.

At Thursday, 15 March, 2007, Blogger Jaime van Schyndel said...

Unless you sort often like Simon, a UV light actually adds a lot in identifying defects for beginners. It can catch quickly what was overlooked in initial sorts.

As with everything, form an opinion through experience before giving an opinion.

At Thursday, 15 March, 2007, Blogger blanco said...

anyone have a make/model number for the uv light that would be beneficial to get into this with?

At Monday, 19 March, 2007, Anonymous SL28ave said...

That's not clear to me, Jaime. Are you referring to my experience or someone else's experience? I hope the latter.

At Monday, 19 March, 2007, Blogger blanco said...

i'm sure he's speaking generally, peter. btw, congrats on coe in may! i heard that the other day and didn't get a chance to say "cool!" to you.

At Thursday, 29 March, 2007, Blogger Jason Haeger said...

Boy am I late.

Seriously, that's a huge deal. Contratulations!

That's awesome.

At Thursday, 05 April, 2007, Anonymous SL28ave said...

It is a huge deal, and is *incredibly* invigorating. Thanks for the supportive words... Will keep ya'll posted on how it goes.


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