Do You Want to Explain Your Curve?

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Postby ChrisSchooley » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:41 am

We were driving down an extra wide and exceptionally straight concrete road. It took me a minute before I realized that it was a runway. I pointed to some girls with pink hair who were walking the opposite direction back to town, one of them wearing a t-shirt with a wide open purple vampire mouth on it, and said to our driver “las mujeres de punk rock.”. I was working on reclaiming my spanish, but only really having luck with jokes and who we liked in the World Cup. “Alemania es muy agresivo”.

Darrin Daniels of Allegro Coffee and I were on our way to the Jansen Beneficio. It was our second day in Volcan, Panama. The day before, we had visited Finca Eleta where we did some roasting, and Finca Hartmann with the clouds lurking through the forests as Tessie Hartmann showed us the farm which was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen. They also had a beautiful Italian Revetti Farina production roaster with a large bowl of a cooling tray and two massive single orifice burners that poured flame onto the drum.

We were in Panama on behalf of the Roasters Guild at the request of SCAP (the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama). A year ago, SCAP had hosted a group of roasters that the RG had brought down, and in return for hosting and for donating all of the green coffee used at the 2009 Roasters Guild Retreat it had been worked out that the RG would provide some sample and production roasting training. I was very glad that Darrin had agreed to come with me.

At the Jansen Beneficio we were going to present the Identifying Defects in Roasting Lab and then cup some coffees that we had roasted at Finca Eleta the day before, but the power was out. In the large conference room where we were giving the lecture, there was a a disassembled Probatino sent from the SCAP office in Boquete which is on the other side of Volcan Baru. While a few people tried to figure out a generator situation, or how long the power might be out, Darrin and I set about putting together the Probatino. The damper piece of the exhaust system was missing, so we used our business cards to reduce the airflow and prevent the cyclone from sucking coffee right out the back of the roaster. Then the power came back on. Darrin continued getting the roaster and cupping ready while I started the lecture.

After the lecture and some roasting on the Probatino where I demonstrated proper and improper roast development in relation to some of what was covered in the presentation, we cupped the coffees we had worked on at Finca Eleta the day before. One thing that I wanted to look at was the difference in the cup between roasts where the gas input was left off for the first minute and a half, and roasts where the gas input was at full blast from the beginning of the roast. The reason being was that having the inputs at full blast would increase the chances of scorching and poor development, and I’ve also personally found the cup to have more articulation when there was a more dramatic drop in temperature during the initial charge (as long as you started with enough energy in the first place, and depending on the batch size, and what color socks you were wearing at the time). There was some head nodding and side discussion and the cups were different.

In the opposite corner of the conference room was a large diorama of a planned suburban community with a central park and a fountain. The runway was there just outside of town, waiting for commuter flights. I asked one of the roasters from Eleta which house was his and he said all of them, and then we both commented on a dead fly lying in the front yard of one of the model homes, “El Monstro!”.

After lunch we visited Finca Bambito and roasted on their new bright orange US Roaster Corp table top model. The Bambito lab was newly built and was filled with the rich scent of the cedar that had been used in the construction. The table top roaster had a variable speed exhaust fan that we played with a little while asking the Bambito roaster how he utilized this feature. There was more head nodding.

The next morning we headed over the Ruta Sur to Boquete. We were dropped off at the Cafe Ruiz roasting facility. Darrin looked funny in his hairnet. I thought that I wore mine pretty well. Cafe Ruiz is a rather impressive operation and we were given the tour of their roasting facilities and then the Beneficio. Dr. Maria Ruiz PhD., who had been our guide, had lunch with us at the house next to the roasting facility. What a remarkable person. She posed some very thought provoking questions about looking at the possible futures of coffee production.

After lunch we had some coffee in the Cafe Ruiz office where we discussed, among other things, interesting translations. There is a coffee producer whose production is split into four zones, and each zone is named after a flower which is common in that particular zone. One of the zones was called Las Novias which is a spanish name for the flowers we call Impatiens in english, but the direct english translation of novia is girlfriend. This reminded me of the other day in Volcan when we were touring a coffee mill and instead of “wet mill” it was referred to as a “wet benefit” by Victoria, our guide. It made me think about the use of the term Beneficio in spanish speaking Latin America instead Molino. It was proposed that in milling coffee, you are adding value to it, but no one we spoke to really knew how the term became widely used.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sample roasting coffee at Finca Gorrida. Javier, the chief roaster and cupper, had rigged the two barrel probat sample roaster with fans harvested from laptops feeding air to the burners in an effort to fix an air to fuel ratio problem. It was sensitive, but it worked. We roasted a lot of coffee, a number of different batches using different techniques for the cupping that we would do after tomorrow’s Identifying Defects in Roasting Lab that we were giving at the SCAP office. One technique that Javier used to evaluate the roast and which I had not seen before was that during the first crack he would stick his trier spoon into the smoke resulting from the crack at the top of the barrel opening. He was checking for the amount of moisture present in the smoke by wiping the spoon with his thumb when he drew it out of the roaster, and then checking again until he withdrew the spoon and it was relatively dry. Javier is a pretty cool cat. Solid guy, and a good roaster.

There was not only the Probatino (with the once missing damper piece) at the SCAP offices, but also an old 3 barrel Jabez Burns sample roaster. We had seen a number of sample roasters on this trip already. Probats, Pinhalenses, but mostly Jabez Burns. We were glad to have one on hand for our lab as this would allow us to demonstrate the coffee scorching and tipping that we discuss in the presentation more effectively. As romantic and built-to-last as these sample roasters are, the perforated drums, lack of efficient air-flow control, and powerful burners can lead to a number of problems in a sample roast, including but not limited to the aforementioned scorching but also the presence of actively incinerating chaff and the smoke influence that that can add even to a light roast. All of this is personal observation really, but Darrin was able to ruin some coffee for our purposes. After the demo on the sample roaster, I did a few roasts on the Probatino, again showing proper and improper development mostly through shortening and stretching out various stages of the roast. We sent those samples home with everyone to cup at their respective labs. Then we cupped the coffees that we had roasted at Gorrida with Javier.

Before cupping the samples, Javier and I described our different approaches to each roast as Javier’s boss (whose name escapes me at the moment) translated for me. After Javier and I had finished, Javier’s boss turned to Darrin and asked “Do you want to explain you curve?”. I thought that that sounded funny, so I wrote it down while Darrin explained his curve. While we cupped, a man wearing a mustache and a yellow shirt with a clever if not slightly wild look in his eyes asked me about roast parameters for machines of various sizes. I learned later that he builds all of his own processing and roasting equipment from scrap metal. His geisha was awarded second place in this year’s Best of Panama competition.

Ricardo Koyner, SCAP President, owner of Finca Kotowa, and tea and teak farmer took us to lunch at Rio Cristal, a retreat that he was building up in the mountains above Boquete where he had also just finished building a hydro-electric plant to power the facility. I got the feeling that Ricardo was rather enterprising, and kind of busy, but after lunch he gave us a tour of the original 100 year old mill that his family had built. It wasn’t in use but with the turn of a single crank, the leather belts pulled wooden sheaves setting the whole mill to action. Finca Kotowa milled their coffee now in a rather modern facility with low water use processing equipment from Penagas, a Colombian manufacturer, as opposed to the Brazilian Pinhalense equipment that we had seen predominantly. We spent a good amount of time working with Kotowa’s roasters trying to evaluate the airflow system on their Has Garanti production roaster.

The next morning, at her request and our glad indulgence, we watched the Netherlands vs. Brazil World Cup Quarterfinal with Rachel Peterson of Finca Esmeralda before visiting the Esmeralda mill where we worked with their roasters before a late lunch. After lunch, Price Peterson took Darrin and I to Jaramillo to see the farm. The rain poured on us, distorting the green forests and rows of coffee as it rolled down the windows of the truck. The weather throughout the Boquete area is wildly diverse depending on where you were, with some areas getting rain 11 months out of the year (many producers must use mechanical drying with their crops because of this). These rains unfortunately kept us from walking around the farm and a new area of former grazing lands that was being prepared for new planting. I watched Price in the rearview mirror as he told us about the happy accident of the famed geisha varietal, and the cupping skills of Rachel and her brother Daniel that really helped to developed that project. I thought about all of the truly progressive coffee producers that we had met on this trip.

Price continued to tell us the stories of various places and characters in Boquete as we headed back to town. We had to catch our flight in David back to Panama City where we would fly out of early the next morning on our way back home. We had done a lot of roasting, and hopefully we were of some service. I feel like we were able to share some ideas and experience. I hope that we were successful in explaining our curves.
ChrisSchooley
 
Posts: 174
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:35 pm
First Name: Christopher
Last Name: Schooley
City: Fort Collins
State: CO
Zip Code: 80526
Company: Coffee Shrub
Occupation: Roaster, Micro-Seller of Green Coffee
Roasting Since (Year): 2001
Website: http://www.coffeeshrub.com/.
Location: Fort Collins, CO.

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