Apr 2001: Pops, Cracks and Snaps; New Crop Central America Update

The Coffee Cupping Reviews for our green coffees usually recommend how long you should roast a particular coffee relative to the sounds of the roast; thefirst crack and the second crack. While it’s an imperfect way to talk about the “degree of roast,” let me explain why we chose cracks as reference points for how dark the roast is, and the alternatives.

There are several ways to determine the degree of roast. Most professional roasters rely on temperature readings, as well as smell, sight and sound. But temperature readings are relative to how the thermometer is mounted in the roaster, and the quality of the device itself. Good thermometers cost a small fortune, and even among professional roasters there are large differences in readings. Most pros learn to read temperatures relative to their own roaster, and based on experience. I see first crack occur around 335 f in my 12 kilo Diedrich roaster (which is fairly normal) but second occurs between 350 and 370. That is far too low to indicate the actual bean temperature of second crack, but I have learned to adjust my expectations to these readings.

Mounting a thermometer in your roaster might offer you the same advantage: temperature readings relative to your own roaster. But most home roast appliances have the advantage of having the roast occur right in front of you. You can see it, hear it and smell it quite well!

So why don’t I talk about degree of roast in terms of color? Isn’t that what the Agtron number system that pros use all about? Yes it is, but it requires either an Agtron photospectrometer to automatically read the color of the roaster, ground coffee. Or you need the $200 SCAA-Agtron Roast Color Tile Kit. I have this kit, and I also have experience in digital color correction …so let me tell you that there’s a lot more involved with “eyeballing” the color of the coffee and the color of the disks. You need balanced white light, no glare, and the ability to offset for textures and light absorption. What I am saying is …it’s so difficult to accurately judge that is barely worth the effort. Ken Davids provides 4 color tiles in the back of Home Coffee Roasting that help establish some basis of reference, and I think that’s about as far as color analysis by the naked eye should go in terms of coffee roasting!
Smell would be a great way to communicate the degree of roast (there’s a very particular shift in the aroma as the coffee nears the verge of 2nd crack) …or surface texture of the bean too. But those involve too many intangibles to fully explain.

So we are left with the cracks: the first crack which signals the beginning of true pyrolysis* (see Davids book) and the second crack that signals the coffee is entering the darker roast categories. These can be difficult to hear over the sound of the fan in the air roasters. But experience will help you to distinguish the sound of the cracks and to relate it to the bean appearance and aromas.

The basic wisdom is this: no coffee is palatable until it has completed the first crack, or pyrolysis. The period between the completion of first crack and the beginning of second is a Medium, or City roast. Roasting until the verge of second crack, or until the first few snaps of second are heard, or just a bit more is considered Full City. This roast has more bittersweet roast flavors and might already have begun to mask some of the more delicate “origin flavors”. Vienna comes after the coffee has experienced a decent amount of the 2nd crack and My idea of French is just after the coffee reaches its most rapidly-cracking point, but has not began to slow. There is a point where the sugars still retain some sweetness, and the carbony flavor has not completely overtaken the coffee: the cup has body and origin tastes are still possible. Italian is at the end of 2nd crack, where coffee only has extreme carbon tastes.
The actual time between cracks varies with different coffees and different roasters. And some coffees will sound differently, and even sound off a bit later due to their density and chemistry. Once again, it takes he experience tasting the coffee from a particular roast to know if the roast should b ….and that’s true for any coffee roaster, from those who roast 3 oz to those with a 4 bag, 600 lb Jabez Burns.

*Pyrolysis means a process of physical and chemical changes created by heat, just as Hydrolysis would be the same but with water. So the entire roast process is Pyrolysis but it’s the massive chemical changes that occur in the temperature window of 330-430 degrees that are key to coffee roasting.
This is reprinted from 7/00 Tiny Joy, which was not widely circulated at the time

New Crop Central American Update
We are finally getting into the season where new crop coffees from Mexico down to Panama (and all points in between) arrive. Sure, they are available as early as February (there were some great early arrivals, such as the Costa Rican Orosi and the Guatemala San Rafael). But the higher-altitude coffee cherry matures later, and the mid-crop pickings represent these coffees.

Unfortunately, the selection of coffees arriving in the U.S. this year has been poor and the cup quality low. The terrible market condition for coffee is the main culprit. With coffees that are fixed against the New York C Market (trading at record lows), many farmers find that it’s simply not worth it to pick and process the coffee. They are even defaulting on contracts because they would actually lose money to sell the coffee.

The quality coffee is trickling in … and we are getting a few great samples as you can see in the recent additions to our offering sheet. In fact it was a great year in terms of climate … all indications are that this is a record crop, and quality is high. But in very general terms, only some of the lower-altitude, large farms …those who can keep cost low because they have great volume … are shipping their crop.

We have a fantastic Guatemala Huehuetenango, and perhaps this region in particular will be one of the standout, as it was last year. We also have a Guatemala Atitlan in transit that was wonderfully fruity/winey. From Costa Rica we have a blended Tarrazu – Tres Rios that I believe is vastly better than any straight Tarrazu offering yet to come across our cupping table. We are still waiting for a qualified Nicaragua, Panama or El Salvador.

We’ll be closed April 19-23 during the SCAA Conference in Miami April 19-23. My presentation on Friday of “Coffee on the Web” will be a total bore…

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
9 E. 2nd Ave Columbus Ohio 43201
web: www.sweetmarias.com
email: [email protected]

Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 2/25/01:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page! http://sweetmarias.com/prod.greencoffee.shtml
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rican Organic La Amistad $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Costa Rican Tarrazu-Tres Rios $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guat.Fraijanes Org.-La Montana Estate $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Guatemalan Org. Finca San Rafael ’01 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Guatemalan Organic Huehuetenango ’01 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Mexican Organic -Finca Las Chiapas $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Mexican Organic Putla Mixteca $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Mexican San Pablo Tres Flechas $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Auction Winner-Faz. Bom Jardim $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 —
Brazil Auction Winner-Sitio Sao Joao $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 —
Brazil Cerrado-Monte Carmelo $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Brazil Natural Oberon 17/18 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Popayan Supremo $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Maragogype – Alto Gigante $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Colombian Medellin Excelso Bolivar $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Tuluni Supremo 18+ $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Peru Org/FT Chanchamayo La Florida $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Peru Chanchamayo Corona 18+ $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Harar Horse Gr.5 ’01 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Gr.2 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Kenya AA Kiungu Estate 99-00 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Kenya Peaberry ’00 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Tanzanian Northern Peaberry 00-01 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Tanzanian AA Flatbean ’01 $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Uganda Organic Bugisu A $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Yemen Mokha Mattari $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00
Yemen Mokha Raimi $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40
Zimbabwe AA+ -Lynwood Estate $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar AA $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Indian Pearl Mountain Est. Peaberry $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Aged Java – Old Brown ’97 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48
Java Govt. Estate Blawan $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Papua New Guinea Mile High Estate $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Papua New Guinea Organic AA $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sulawesi Rantepao -Monsooned $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Sulawesi Toraja Gr.1 00 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 ’01 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
Sumatra Organic Gayoland ’01 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Sumatra Organic Gayo Mountain ’01 $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Aged Sumatra Pwani Mandheling $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Timor Organic Maubese 00-01 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Dominican Rep.-Montana Verde Estate $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
French Chicory -Roasted/Ground $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Hawaii Kona XF-Purple Mountain Farm $15.90 $30.53 $73.94 $279.84
Hawaii Kona-Purple Mountain Peaberry $17.40 $- $- $-
Hawaii Molakai Malulani ’01 $6.90 $13.11 $32.09 5 lb limit
Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto AA $10.90 $20.71 $50.69 5 lb limit
SM’s Moka Kadir Blend $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
SM’s Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM’s Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
SM’s Decaf Espresso Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Sweet Maria’s Fr.RoastBlend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Malabar Gold Espresso Blend $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16
Colombian MC Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Colombian Natural Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Colombian CO-2 Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Costa Rican SHB Natural Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe MC Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Guatemalan SHB Natural Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Indonesian Komodo Blend Org SWP D $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94
Kenya MC Decaf -German KVW $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85
Mexican Esmeralda Natural Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Sumatra Org.GayoMtn SWP Decaf $6.30 $11.97 $27.41 $97.02
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Kaapi Royale Robusta $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indian Monsooned Robusta AA $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Mexican Washed Robusta $3.02 $5.74

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