Tag Archives: roast

Factors to Look Out For When Buying Freshly Roasted Coffee

I’ve wanted to broach on this subject for a long time now, ever since some friends and I have experienced disappointments from roasters in Singapore. What typically happens is that we’re assured by the MBTC (Men Behind The Counter) that the beans we’ve bought are freshly roasted the week before or so, and then we get home only to find out the beans are stale beyond consumption. Before I go any further, I would like to thank the following for their time, effort and photos:

Matt Riddle and Shari Bagwell from Intelligentsia Coffee, USA;

Tim Wendelboe and Tim Varney from Tim Wendelboe, Norway.

The following few points are some factors to look out for when buying freshly roasted coffee.

1)     Whole beans
When whole roasted coffee beans are ground and broken down into tiny fines, it results in a significant increase in surface area from which a rapid deterioration of the coffee occurs. And if you are buying freshly roasted coffee, you would want to buy whole beans instead of ground coffee.

2)     Roast Date
I am quite particular about the freshness of my coffee and I tend to discard beans which are older than 14 days. In Singapore, most roasted coffee packaging I’ve come across do not have roast dates. Instead, they list expiry dates which should be ONE YEAR from the roast date. Next time you pick up a bag of locally roasted coffee, just subtract a year from the date of expiry to determine how fresh the coffee is. I asked both Intelligentsia Coffee and Tim Wendelboe on the window of consumption on an opened bag before discarding the coffee and their replies were:

Matt Riddle, Intelligentsia: “2 – 3 weeks would be the top end of optimal storage time.”

Tim Wendelboe: “3 – 4 weeks, when coffee is packed in a one way valve bag flushed with nitrogen or CO2 then vacuum sealed. In an open paper bag maximum 4-5 days. We operate with 3 weeks on our bags that are vac sealed and flushed with nitrogen.”

3)     Proper Treatment and Packaging
Coffee is highly volatile and prone to staling upon roasting. The roasted coffee beans begin to degas carbon dioxide and deteriorate the moment they are being roasted. Proper packaging and treatment of the coffee as they leave the roastery are very important to prolong the freshness of the beans. The following are some features roasteries use on their packaging of coffee:

a)     Opaque one way valve Bags

b)     Resealable or Zip-loc

c)     Nitrogen flushed before sealing bags
Tim Varney mentioned that “When the bag is flushed, then sealed, the bag is sucked tight – but is designed to be able to stand up. Also, there is a one way valve on the rear of the bag to release the CO2 over time.”

d)     Immediate packaging of the beans upon cooling after the roast

The following are prime examples of coffee bags from the 2 aforementioned roasters.

FYI, the roast date for Tim Wendelboe Espresso is found on the lower right corner of the label.

Last but not least, I asked both roasters the following:

“I’ve come across a few roasters in Singapore who fib on the actual roast day. A good way to tell is the smell and the oil on the beans. Am I correct? What are other ways to tell you’ve been had?”

Matt Riddle stated “Really, just by looking at coffee it’s hard to tell when it was roasted. So much would depend on the level of roast, age of the (green) coffee and other factors. The best way to tell if the coffee is fresh is to grind some,  and pour a little water over it. if it blooms, it’s fresh. If not, it’s probably getting up on the window if not past it. You can most certainly smell old coffee…it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you smell it.”

Tim Wendelboe’s answer was “It depends on the roast and the cooling technique. If you cool the coffee with water quenching the shelf life is max 5 days and the beans will get oily the day after roast if they are dark roasted. Lighter roasted beans have longer shelf life and air cooled coffee has longer shelf life. However a good indication whether the coffee is stale or not is by looking, smelling and tasting. Oils is a good indicator of stale coffee as oils oxidize and turn bitter when in contact with oxygen.”

Incidentally, both coffees in the photos are legendary and you can order them online below:

Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso

Tim Wendelboe Espresso

Espresso Sans Crema Test

After reading James Hoffmann’s 1st video blog (well done, James!), I was prompted to do an espresso tasting session at 1 am, and I’ve done enough to give myself a caffeine high at this point. His last words were a shocker. I won’t give any spoilers. You have to watch the video.

The message is that he was also prompted to do a taste test, following a discussion he had at The Coffee Collective’s blog post. Without further ado, here are my findings, and I believe there are more to come.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa
Roasted to Full City +
4 days old
Dose: 18 grams

I did 2 pulls at different temperatures, each indicated by Eric’s Thermocouple.  I used a Bodum Pavina for the espresso, so that the crema could be clearly delineated. I then separated the crema into another cup. Then I tasted the espresso, followed by the crema only, and then both the espresso and crema. (Note: for this article, the espresso means the black liquid without the crema.)

1st Shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple: Start at 200, end at 204 Fahrenheit

Espresso only:  1st sensation was that it was bitter, a tobacco feel. Bitter aftertaste.

Crema only:  Sour, with a tiny hint of some sort of fragrance in the mouthfeel.

Espresso and Crema:  Bitter and sour (At this point, I was thinking, “My home barista skills have gone into the Dark Ages.”)

2nd shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 198, end at 202.5 Fahrenheit.

Espresso:  No bitterness, more body than the 1st shot, very mild aftertaste, taste is mostly congregated at the back of the mouth. A bit nutty and dark chocolate.

Crema only:  No sours at all. Lemony feel. It’s almost akin to perfume oils. There’s a pronounced fragrance but not of the floral sort. Taste goes over entire flat of the tongue.

Crema and espresso:  Perfumed lemony dark chocolate.

I Hate (with a capital “H”) to disagree with The Coffee Collective and James, but I believe that espresso is incomplete without the crema. I believe that the crema is what gives espresso the fragrance and the defining factor that lends to its character and body.  But likewise, the body is incomplete without the head (pun intended). I will definitely be staying on this topic and will include more taste tests. My next set should involve americano.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa – Full City +

I apologize for the multiple posts of Brazil Moreninha Formosa, but I just can’t seem to get enough of it. This roast was done at a lower average temperature and for a shorter period.

From Eric’s Thermometer, the pour was started at 200 degrees and ended at 203 degrees. The temperatures are a bit on the hot side as the pour had a slight bitterness. As a 4:1 water-espresso americano, hint of berry can be detected, and it is full bodied. 2 ounces in 25 seconds. I will try it at 198 tomorrow.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa

Roasted on I-Roast 2 Rec 2, stopped with 2 minutes remaining.
Full City to Full City +

2nd day: espresso, slow drip, 45 second ristretto, gorgeous naked flow. Extremely creamy, long aftertaste. Hint of spice, chocolate notes. I think taste will be more pronounced when it peaks later. Will be better tomorrow or day after. Needs more rest. Fantastic RISTRETTO roast. I’m in love! What have I been doing blending this with Zambia? This Brazil is great on its own. KS, take note, I know you have some left, don’t waste blending it.

Colombian El Descanso / Brazil Moreninha

I’ve had enough of the i-Roast 2 presets. I programmed into PROG 3 the following:

Temp/Time      Period
380F/3:00       12:00 – 9:00
450F/4:00       9:00 – 5:00
480F/4:00       5:00 – 1:00
400F/1:00       1:00 – 0:00

I roasted 90 grams of Colombian Cup of Excellence El Descanso and 60 grams of Brazil Moreninha Formosa. 1st crack was at -6:00 and 2nd crack was at -1:30. I was extremely pleased with the evenness of the roast.

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After a rest of just 1 day, I pulled 2 shots, the 2nd with a slightly coarser grind setting.

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Both drinks had slight fruited tones with a floral finish. I feel the fruits will be more pronounced on the 3rd day. This is one program I’ll be keeping.

i-Roast 2

I finally bought a coffee roaster. I’ve been using a popcorn roaster to roast coffee for the longest time. Melvin alerted me to someone selling the i-Roast 2 because he had received the US model. Knowing that I had a good collection of power transformers, Melvin emailed me and the deal was sealed.

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Enter the i-Roast 2. The i-Roast 2 is a fluid bed air roaster like the popcorn popper. It can roast up to 150 grams of beans per session, which is double that of the popper. The i-Roast 2 has 2 pre-set programs plus you can customise another 10 more programs into the i-Roast 2. Each session can be programmed up to 485F, up to 5 stages for a total roasting time of not more than 15 minutes. The 2 pre-set programs were of little use to me as I drink espresso. Pre-set Program 1 roasts at 450F for 10 minutes, while Pre-set 2 roasts at 455F for 6 minutes, 400F at 4 minutes, and 435F for 1:30 minute. All programs end with an additional 4 minute long cooling, which is enough to bring the roast down to near room temperature.

Being a noob, the first inaugural roast was a batch of Zambia/Brazil blend using Pre-set 2 and well, that was more suited to making americanos for house guests.  to be continued…

45 Seconds of Sheer Bliss Part 2

I should change the title.

I was jinxed yesterday.

I thought I had a good day ahead of me. I roasted a real nice batch of SM Italian Espresso blend 4 days ago. Yesterday would be peaking at 3 days. The roast was stopped at the start of 2nd crack, giving the bean a nice dark chocolate brown, with very slight hints of oil. Perfect day, right?

My bro requested an americano. I did the usual routine of DLT, pulled the shot, and it ran 55 seconds, volume around .75 oz. A super slow pour. No one’s going to believe this one. SO. I decided to vid it with my phone cam.

I pulled out my Espressoparts.com 4 oz Lined Measuring Glass, set up my phone cam, and proceeded with the pour. Everything was looking good, the same nice super slow pour, this one ran 60 seconds long, methinks I must’ve tamped slightly harder, the crema was beautiful, speckled with dark chocolate bits, the same volume of .75 oz, and the camera stopped filming at 0:11 because I had insufficient memory. ARRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!! I even narrated the whole thing through, not realising the faux pas. Btw, the ristretto was heavenly, even better than Part 1. The roast was just right, and I can taste the character of the coffee.

Not to be deterred, I slipped in a new 2 Gb memory card, should be sufficient. Damn. I was late for work. I put the beans in the grinder, and proceeded to dose the portafilter. As a habit, I would try to clean out as much of the grounds as possible, using a pipe cleaner. I inserted the pipe cleaner into the shaft and suddenly the grinder halted. ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!! I managed to jam the pipe cleaner in the grinder. And it wouldn’t budge. After much wrangling, I gave up and decided to vid the pour with whatever grounds I could get out of the dosing chamber. Well, the vid was good. The pour was like the previous 2, around .75 oz. I came back after work and managed to pull out the pipe cleaner. Both the pipe cleaner and the grinder are fine now. WHEW!

(Although the vid is Quicktime, I can’t get QT to open the video. So, I may have to try and embed VLC player into wordpress.)

End note: It is the beans. SM Italian Espresso blend.