Cupping Indian Coffees at Mr. Espresso’s Roasting Plant

I attended a local (Bay Area) cupping in early April that was interesting in two aspects: we cupped some very nice Indian coffees that I never had access to before, and we did it at Mr. Espresso, a wholesale roaster that uses unique Italian wood-fired coffee roasters.

The cupping was held in Mr. Espresso’s showroom/cupping room. Here’s a partial picture of the group there, with a bunch of SF Bay Area roasters and brokers. Ken David, author of coffee books (which we sell) set up the cupping and is paid as a consultant by the Coffee Board of India. He’s in the light brown shirt.

The cupping was very, very limited. I expected 20 samples or so and there was just 10. But several of the coffees were very unique, and I have been talking with brokers about trying to bring these coffees into the US so we can buy a few bags. We evaluated Arabica and Robusta coffees separately and tasted the Robusta in a traditional cupping format and as espresso too.

India has its own particular grading system.

For Arabicas:

  • Top Grade: MNEB (Mysore Nuggets Extra Bold) -19 Screen
  • Premium Grade: Plantation AA and AB -Screen 18 and up
  • Premium Peaberry: Plantation PB Bold -Screen 12 oblong
  • Unwashed Premium Arabica: Arabica Cherry AA -18 Screen

For Robusta:

  • Top Grade: Kaapi Royale -17+ Screen
  • Premium Grade: Robusta Parchment A -Screen 17 and up
  • Unwashed Premium Robusta: Robusta Cherry AA -18 Screen

For Monsooned Arabica:

  • Top Grade: Monsooned Malabar AA -18 to 19 screen
  • Premium Grade: Monsooned Basanally 16-17 Screen

We cupped two coffees that we actually sell; the Cohelo’s Cold Monsooned Malabar AA, and the Indian Pearl Mountain Estate from Chikmagalur. (We actually cupped the flatbean of this coffee, whereas this time in my own cupping I thought the Peaberry was much better, and that’s what we stock currently 04/03).

Two arabica coffee we evaluated that really impressed me were the Jumboor Estate MNEB from Coorg district. It was a very complete cup, with sage and thyme nuances. I also really liked the Badnekahn Estate coffee from Chikmagalur. It is of the SL-9 cultivar that has Ethiopian heritage, and there was indeed an identifiable fruitiness in the cup.

We cupped SLN Exports Kaapi Royale – very nice qualities, and very potent Devon Plantation Parchment AB Robusta that was my favorite. Of the Monsooned we cupped just two: Aspinwall AA and Coehlo’s Gold. I preferred the Coehlo’s for its potency.

Mr. Espresso’s Wood-Fired Roasters
Mr. Espresso uses unique Italian wood-fired roasters. ALL the heat is supplied by just a few oak logs, and this is astounding when you see the size of the machines. These are big roasters: a 4 bag in the foreground and a 2 bag in the background.

The size of the Stirflexes (cooling trays) themselves is enormous, and when you are used to standing by a smaller machine (I have a 12 kilo Probat), you feel small next to these giants. But I imagine over time you just get used to it.

This view might give you a better idea of the size.

The idea of wood-fired roasting might seem a bit anachronistic. In fact, the coffee is not smoked by wood: the heat is entirely baffled from the coffee. The idea is that wood is a less-dry heat than atmospheric gas, and the roast times are extended a bit (which suits espresso, but and darker roast French roasts perhaps … I don’t like longer roasts with delicate coffees, personally).

Roast times are 20-26 minutes if I heard correctly.

Here’s the remarkably small door for the wood oven. There seems to be room for just 10 logs or less. And it appears they stoke it with about 6-8 logs between roasts.

You can’t see here, but the oven is so hot that the logs are literally translucent. With no heat being vented outside of the roast system, you can see that it is an extremely efficient heat-capturing system.

Thanks to John DiRuocco for the tour. His father and the family own and operate the company; John is the QC person, cupper, and green coffee buyer. We actually met at the SCAP Panama Cupping in Boquette, and will be on the same panel of judges for the Nicaragua “Cup of Excellence” this year too. -Tom 4/03

John uses a little San Franciscan cupping roaster -cool little thing!!! Don’t get too worked up over it though -last time I checked they were $4000.

By the way, the DO sell roasted coffee and if you are an espresso fiend, you should definitely give them a try.