Random Musings of a Coffee Roaster

Keeping busy

A few weeks ago I decided to take on a second job to bring in a few extra dollars. I was looking into trying to pick up a few shifts at a local restaurant. Line cook was what I was thinking, but dishes, busing or something FOH would have worked as well. As I was heading into a well liked Mexican place, I ran into a friend who owns a locally cafe. She said that she could use a barista for a couple of closing shifts and I could start soon. Perfect. It’s been about 8 years since I’ve was on the front lines of the coffee world and as nervous as I was about it, I’m really enjoying it. Roasting will always come first, but the balance is great. Working 12-13 hours on Fridays and only having Sundays off isn’t ideal, but it’s getting a little easier. When I got in yesterday, the sound system was set to a station playing Gang of Four, X, Sonic Youth, the Stooges, etc. The customers were awesome as well which made the entire night amazing. Just need to figure out how to make the days longer so that I have more time at home to get things done and hang out with the Mrs.


Onyx Coffee Lab Ethiopia Maji Bebeka

I was very excited when Mark over at Onyx Coffee Lab told that they would releasing the Ethiopia Maji Bebeka, since we had just received our two bags of greens from that same lot and I had just roasted my first batch trying to feel it out. This particular natural was proving to be a bit tricky, so it was really nice to taste another roaster’s interpretation. The first thing that grabs you is all the fruit. It’s almost like drinking warm grape soda at first. Maybe more like grape hard candy. The sweetness settles in heavy raisin with a touch of nutty dryness in the finish. As it cools, the florals come out, settling into chocolate covered cranberries. The natural is very much the poster child of a natural. Check out their other coffees at:

Ruby Kenya Gachatha

I was tipped off by one of my importers that I may know one of the people involved with Ruby Coffee Roasters out of Nelsonville, WI. Turns out that our bands played some of the same shows in our pre coffee lives in the late 90s. This was my first contact with them. After reintroducing myself and some emails back and forth, I asked if they would be interested in doing a bit of a coffee trade. I’m so glad they said yes! This Kenya Gachatha as made for the Chemex. The aroma was rich with black cherry and plums. The body was silky, yet heavy with raisin, currents with higher notes of cranberries. I’d like to pick the brain of their roaster a bit, because the development was spot on. I’m ready to try more from these folks(their shirts are damn comfy, too).

Baba Ghanoush

Kitchen Addict

The weather has been absolutely beautiful of late. To celebrate this, along with me being able to spend my afternoons blissfully cooking in my kitchen, I decided to cook dinner for myself and my boys. And considering I still had a whole bowl of tzatziki leftover from dipping my beets earlier this week, I decided to go in the direction of the Mediterranean.

I marinated and grilled some chicken thighs and lamb burgers, grilled pita bread, made a marinated tomato and cucumber salad, grilled bell peppers and the classic Mediterranean staple, baba ghanoush with Plowbreak Farm’s amazingly fresh, deep purple eggplants.

Every element of the meal was exceptional but the baba ghanoush was truly what brought everything together. We were shmearing it on the pita, on the burgers, dipping the peppers in it, it was awesome!

There is nothing quite like preparing a big meal, collaborating on it (I prepared everything…

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Press Cafe

After taking a stroll through the newly remodeled Ithaca Commons yesterday, I stopped in to Press Bay Alley to have a shot of Wood Burl Coffee – Handyman Espresso at Press Cafe. THe extraction was just about perfect. The shot was sweet and balanced with the acidity hitting just enough as to not overpower the low end and a full, heavy body. I’ve only been here a handful of times, but it’s always a good experience. The coffee never disappoints, the service is always nice, as is the presentation, and the space is well designed with big windows and clean lines.

Mug Mug Mug!!!

I’ve had a thing for coffee mugs ever since I started reading the old Garfield books when I was a kid. It faded for a while until I was a teenager reading Transworld Skateboarding Magazine that had comic for a while called Wrench Pilot written by Mel Bend. The mugs he drew made me decide that I needed to get one tattooed on me(still haven’t) and now I can’t pass up a good one when I come across it. That said, when I saw that Parliament Coffee Roasters made a limited run of these, I contacted Paul in a panic hoping that there were some left. Score! Solid handle, nicely weighted, high volume for those slow Winer mornings. I love this thing. They are still available as I write this for $7 at I just realized they have shirts now, so I have to wrap up and order one. BTW, their Burundi Collines Rugabano is delicious!


Morning Ritual, Acidity and the Illusion of Time

imageUtah Phillips used to say that listening to the news first thing in the morning was a bad idea, because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I’m guilty of that. Very guilty. After removing the taste of old boots from my mouth and putting water on for coffee, the news goes on. Granted the news is usually bad, I’d rather know than not know. More importantly, it serves as a distraction while I’m waiting for the kettle to come to a boil. Being old and un-hip, I still heat heat water in a stove top kettle then transfer it to a goose neck kettle as part of the Chemex ritual. Sure, I could buy a nice temperature controlled kettle, but that money is better spent on coffee at this point.

The coffee is ready(and the computer has already crashed once). I’ve brewed up a Colombia Finca San Luis.We’ve been fortunate enough to build a relation with the producer Omar and secure this coffee as well as the La Gloria from him for a number of years. These past few months I’ve been working really heard to crack the code while roasting this one. No matter how I tweaked the roast, there would always be a bit of green pepper or snap pea or even tomato in the cup. It seamed like I just could get the proper inner development, so I focused harder on the portion of development before first crack, first raising the charge temperature by 20F to build momentum, then making some drastic gas cuts, then lowering the charge temperature and going easier on the gas to lengthen the time before first crack in order to give the inner bean enough time and energy to develop, while keeping the DTR around 24%. This all helped to get to know the coffee pretty well. The last piece of the puzzle is the sample roast. Sample roasts don’t lie and I just wasn’t listening closely enough. It turns out that this coffee has a bit of pineapple and raw jalapeno as part of its natural flavor. It all made sense now. I then shifted my concentration to enhancing the natural sweetness in the cup to balance out the acidity that had been so confusing for so long. That said, my cup is now empty and it’s time to get back to the news during pre-work yoga.  I know what you’re thinking, but multitasking is how I function. Trust me, I would much rather do yoga while listening to Neurosis – Through Silver in Blood, then do news and coffee, but Mick Jagger was wrong, time is not on my side.

Morning Brew

 Like many people around the globe, my day starts with coffee. By age six, I had a preferred brand(Hills Bros.) and by 17 was drinking up to three pots a day. Now, as a coffee roaster, I view coffee very differently. I don’t drink nearly as much and the quality these days is beyond comparison. The drip maker has been donated and replaced with a Chemex.

This morning we’re enjoying a coffee from Congo that I’ve only done a 9lb test roast of, but so far, it’s pretty tasty.


45 grams coffee a bit coarser than a medium grind

770 grams water, roughly 203 degrees

Place filter in Chemex. Rinse filter with hot water and pour out excess. Put freshly ground coffee in filter. Place on scale and zero scale weight.

When water reaches desired temperature, pour in enough water to saturate grounds(roughly the same weight as ground coffee – 45g).

Let bloom for 30-45 seconds depending on freshness of coffee*. Then add another 200g water in an even circular motion, then agitate ground coffee and water with a spoon.

As the coffee bed gets very low, add another 200g water and repeat until you’ve added the entire 770g water.

Drain. Drink. Enjoy.

You should experiment with these numbers to find the extraction you most prefer, as this is what works best in our home with the water and equipment that we have.

*A coffee that’s been roasted more recently with need a few more seconds to release gases than a coffee that’s been sitting on the shelf a bit longer.

They Say It’s Spring, but….

According to the calendar, it’s officially Spring. It’s currently 5F and the ground is still snow covered thanks to early morning snow storms yesterday and the day before. Dawn and I have brought out the seeds we’ve saved as well as the seeds catalogs and started planning out what will be going in the ground this year. For now, we just have to be patient.

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