Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Great Coffee Roast

My life's filled with mundane things. But as I was roasting coffee today, I had an idea "Wouldn't it be great if roasting coffee had some sort of commentary like those guys off of the Tour de France?"

I can just see it now...

Phil Liggett: Welcome back everybody, we are here in the first stage of home coffee roasting at the dining table of the kitchen area, joined here by my co-host Paul Sherwen and of course Bob Roll. The first contender is a young American by the name of Howard Newell with several coffees to roast. Now, we know Newell has selected several different coffees today, ranging from the Sumatra region to the highlands of the Ethiopian country of Africa.

Paul: That's right, Phil. I talked to him and his manager last night asking about the choices and why they chose them. He explained to me that he was looking for that nice Ethiopian dry process character with the sweet, fruitlike character coming through the cup of coffee, and when asked about the Sumatra peaberry, he simply said, "Well, why not?"

Phil: [laughing] Why not indeed. But it's imperative that he be able to roast these beans correctly to stay in this home roasting competition. And now let's move on to Bob Roll to get more on Newell's roasting methods.

Bob: Yes, thank you Phil. Now, most guys wouldn't want to bother with this method and would just go ahead and plunk out the cash for a home roaster that uses convection to roast the beans, but not this guy. Sure, it's finicky, it can really scorch the beans, but I've seen him roast before, and he just keeps his head down and plows through it without any sort of problem. He'll be using a pan and shaking the beans so that they don't scorch and also a spoon to agitate the beans, make sure they don't stay in one place for too long. He's absolutely determined to do it in the most classic way possible. And, if you notice, he's actually using a crepe pan which distances himself even further from other contenders like Al Lawson and Bob Green. But, at the end of the day, it really comes down to talent which he has plenty of and the cup of coffee, which by the way is pretty tasty! [gives goofy grin]

Phil: Now, did you actually taste some of the coffee that he's made with this method?

Bob: Uhhh, yes I did Phil, I think it was a New England roast of a Central American bean that was low-acidity and very sweet.

Paul: Well, it looks like his pan is about ready to begin roasting. Yep, there's the timer going off, and he's off!...Now, he's measured out about 1/2 cup of the beans onto the pan, covering almost all of the surface, and he's shaking the pan. What coffee is this, Phil?

Phil: I believe this is the Ethiopian Dry Process Koratie from Sweet Maria's, I believe, a very good sponsor that for supplying the beans of such good quality. The way it looks brings to mind the famous home roasting Spaniard Alberto Vallan since this what he would've picked out if he were still in circuit.

Paul: And now, if you're at home watching you'll notice that the roast is progressing quite nicely, the beans lightening, and OH! they've just gotten into the elusive yellow stage with about a minute thirty into the batch!

Phil: And Newell knows that this is much too slow for a solid roast! He's telling himself, "Calm down, take it easy, turn up the heat, it'll be ok," but that roast stage is progressing so slowly that the beans will be flat by the time he's done!

Paul: He's turned up the roast now, but I think his nerves are jarred a little. Hopefully this won't turn into a dreaded fire like the start of his home roasting career.

Phil: And I think not, Paul, the beans are starting to shed their seed coats, and if we listen in carefully, we can hear the first crack about to begin.

Soft snapping is heard as the beans crack and expand.

Phil: And that is really something. I've always said that when you're using Ethiopian beans, it makes you roast like two men.

Bob: Yes, well, the Eh-theeopeh-ahn region produces some interesting coffee beans, and this is no exception. And just look at him! He is passing through these roast stages like kidney stones!

Paul: Looking at it, I can't help but wonder if he's progressing too fast with the roast; it's like he lit the blue touch paper and is setting off the second crack on those beans! Can't help but be reminded of the famous Italian roaster Iban Villa who blazed through those roast stages and actually won all the time trails in home roasting from '78 on up to his retirement in '86.

Phil: Now he's lining up the roast...tapered off the heat a little...steady hand, good shaking. And now he's in the perfect position to complete the roast. He knows what it takes, he's got the cooling pan ready, and JUST LOOK AT THAT FORM!

Paul: I think we're coming into the finish, this is intense! You can just see the concentration on his face as he makes those beans dance in the pan! Nothing is going to stop him from completing his coffee!

Bob: I also seem to notice that he's sweating profusely. And unfortunately for him, sweat doesn't go with an Ehtheeopehahn bean! [slight pause] It goes with an Indonesian coffee! [goofy grin]

Paul&Phil: Hahahahaha!

Phil: And I believe the beans are ready! Yes they are! All he needs is that last crucial seconds to get the roast perfect! Look at him go! He is digging deeply into the suitcase of courage, avoiding the smoke and chaff! HE IS POURING THE BEANS INTO THE COOLING PAN! THEY ARE THE PERFECT ROAST AND NONE ARE UNDONE! [pause] That was a PHENOMENAL performance by young Newell today, wouldn't you say Paul?

Paul: Indeed it was, his overall performace will be decided by a panel of barista judges determining the overall roast quality, but it wouldn't surprise me if he moved up to being a General Classification and started wearing the yellow apron or the tablier jaune as opposed to wearing the white apron! The white apron, of course, is the best roaster under 25, yellow apron is overall roaster.

Bob: And I believe we're getting something from the judges saying that the roast is good, his technique was perfect, but c'mon judges! Tell us something we don't know! Just one look at his face and you know that he knew he nailed it!

Newell starts pumping his fist after examining the beans and removing the chaff.

Phil: Well, day one of the home roasting circuit well underway. Lookout, leaders, the young American is going to prove himself and give no quarter!

Paul: And tune in tomorrow on television or wireless at 8AM for the second stage roast involving the Sumatra beans. And Bob, I believe you're going to show us proper defense tactics in the kitchen?

Bob: Yes I am, Paul. If caffeine addicts break into your home, I'll show you how to correctly defend your gourmet coffee beans tomorrow at 8! [goofy grin]

Phil: And now from all of us, signing off, and see you again tomorrow at 8.
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