Sept – Oct 2002: Pyrolysis: the Fancy Name for Roasting; Where’s My Damn Cupping Spoon…

Pyrolysis: the Fancy Name for Roasting
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; the first 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. 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 be …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.

Where’s My Damn Cupping Spoon…
Sweet Maria’s successfully moved from our tiny space in Columbus, Ohio to Emeryville, California last month, and indeed, I still can’t find the box that has my cupping spoons in it. If the name Emeryville isn’t familiar, it’s not a small rural town as the name connotes. It is roughly 40 city blocks or so squeezed between the San Francisco Bay, North Oakland, and Berkeley. (We actually lived on 65th Street in Emeryville before moving to Ohio 6 years ago, and now we find ourselves a stone’s throw away on 64th Street!) We are reaping a lot of benefits from being here. We probably received about 75% of our coffee through the port of Oakland when we were in Ohio, and now we can actually go to the cupping rooms of brokers for samples, and to the warehouses for coffee. (Without having to pay .15 to .25 cents per Lb. for trucking the coffee across the land, we will be able to reduce our prices, and have already done so on all the new lots we have received since arriving here!)

Besides being the major U.S. port for high quality coffee, there are scores of coffee brokers and roasters in the Bay Area. The main Specialty brokers here are Holland, Knutsen, Royal, Volcafe and Atlantic, but a lot of the privateers who represent one origin or one farm are storing coffee only in this area …that’s because there are 3 dedicated public coffee warehouses. The Annex is the biggest one and I am sure we will be making trips there a lot. Royal is one of the best brokers out here with a staggering list of coffee, and they lease their own warehouse here …in fact their offices and cupping lab is just a short walk from our place. As far as roasters goes, Peets is about 10 blocks away, McGloughlin is right next door to us, Uncommon Grounds is 5 blocks, Caffe Roma is 2 blocks, Peerless and Mr Espresso are down toward the Oakland docks. And on a clear night you can see the giant Hills Brothers sign across the Bay … there is a lot of coffee here.

Sweet Maria’s Coffee Inc.
1455 64th Street, Emeryville CA 94608
Email: Contact us

Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 9/9/02:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page!

Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Costa Rica Auct. Lot-Diamante Tarrazu $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Costa Rican Dota Tarrazu $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Costa Rican Tres Rios -La Magnolia $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80

Guatemala Antigua Los Volcanes ’02 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Guatemala Finca El Injerto ’02 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Guatemala Huehue. -Finca Huixoc $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Guatemala Org/FT Huehuetenango $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Guatemala Finca La Laguna Bourbon $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Honduras SHG Organic Marcala $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Mexican Chiapas Strictly Altura ’02 $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Mexican SHG Organic/FT Loxicha $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Mexican Oaxaca Pluma El Olivo $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Nicaragua SHG Nueva Esperanza $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76

Nicaragua Organic/FT Segovia ’02 $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Panama Boquete -Finca La Berlina $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Panama Auction Winner -Mama Cata $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Panama Boquete -Finca Maunier $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

El Salvador SHG St. Adelaida Estate $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76

South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Brazil Mogiana 17/18 SS/FC $3.90 $7.41 $16.97 $60.06

Brazil Cooxupe Prima Qualita $4.00 $7.60 $17.40 $61.60

Brazil Auction Winner-Vargem Grande $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16

Colombian FNC Antioquia Peaberry $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Colombian Org. Bucaramanga Bourbon $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Colombian Organic Mesa De Los Santos $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Peru Org-FT Chanchamayo $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Ethiopian Harar Longberry Lot 3174 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Ethiopian Sidamo DP $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe -Lot 957 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Kenya AA Kiawamururu Auction Lot ’02 $5.75 $10.93 $25.01 $88.55

Kenya AA Karumandi Auction Lot ’02 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24

Tanzanian Southern Peaberry $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Uganda Budadiri AA-S Specialty $4.10 $7.79 $17.84 $63.14

Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.90 $15.01 $36.74 $126.40

Yemen Mokha Raimi (Rimy) $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40

Yemen Mokha Sana’ani -Haimi $7.20 $13.68 $33.48 $115.20

Zambian AA Lupili $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Zimbabwe AA+ Salimba $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Indian Monsooned Malabar Coehlo Gold $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Java Govt. Estate -Jampit $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Papua New Guinea -Kimel Plantation A $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Sulawesi Toraja Gr. 1 -Lot 1942 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Timor Organic Aifu ’01 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Hawaii Kona-well Farms ’02 $15.00 $28.80 $69.75 5 lb limit

Jamaica Blue Mountain -Mavis Bank $19.40 $37.25 $90.21 5 lb limit

Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto AA $10.90 $20.93 $49.60 5 lb limit

SM’s Moka Kadir Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24

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 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24

SM’s French Roast Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

SM’s Roasted French Chicory $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

African Highland WP Decaf Blend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16

Brazil Prima Qualita WP Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Colombian MC Decaf -Narino del Abuelo $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Colombian CO-2 Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Colombian Santa Isabella WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Ethiopian Natural Decaf- Ghimbi $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Indonesian Komodo Blend Org SWP D $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86

Kenya MC Decaf -German Coffein $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85

Mexican Cepco Co-op Natural Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Mexican Chiapas Org/FT SWP Decaf $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94

Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Sumatra Mandheling Natural Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Uganda Robusta -Nanga Farms $4.00 $7.60 $17.40 5 lb limit

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