Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Roasting

Summer View From Roasting Shop

Today's View From Roasting Shop

This morning the temperature was 8 below zero and windy.  The shop warmed up quickly once I fired up the roaster.  I had an internet order for Kenya AA, so it was my first roast of the day..  The Kenyan that I have now is from the Kiawamururu Estate.  It is a great Kenyan.  I roast it to a medium roast, just before the 2nd crack.  This is also called a Full City Roast.  One of the best aspects of Kenyan coffe is it's acidity.  This roast allows the acidity in the coffee to sparkle and fully develops the other coffee flavors.  This coffee is full of citrus flavors, especially grapefruit and has a fruity/peachy finish as well as good body.
I also roasted our new Flores Bajawa Ngura from Indonesia.  The highlight of this cofffee is it's thick syruppy body.  It has dark chocolate notes that my importer calls baker's chocolate.  The finish is peppery/spicey.  This is a wonderful coffee.
I also roasted Sumatra Mandheling.  This is another Indonesian coffee, but is processed differently that the Flores.  The Sumatran is naturally processed.  This means that the coffee cherry fruit is allowed to dry on the coffee bean before it is removed giving the coffee more of a fruity taste.  This coffee has full body and chocolate notes, and has fruity notes in the aftertaste.
The other coffee roasted today was Yemen Mokha Harasi.  Good Yemen Coffees are amazing.  They are naturally processed, so can have wonderful fruit flavors.  I like this coffee just slightly into the 2nd crack. (Full City +) This makes the coffee more pungent with darker fruit flaovrs than at the lighter roasts. 
I also had an order for Sumatra Royal Select FTO decaf.  This is a water process decaf which means that the decaffeination process uses no chemicals.  I prefer the Royal Select because Royal coffee selects good coffees that they cup and test to assure their quality, and then send them to be decaffeinated.  My decaf customers love this one.  My other order today was for Sumatra FTO half-caff.  This blend is half regular Sumatran and half Sumatra decaf.  It is great for folks who want a little caffeine and a great coffee.  Decaf beans roast faster than regular beans, so the two coffees roast to differnt points.  The decaf beans end up darker than the regular beans resulting in a melange that is very tasty.


Thursday, January 28, 2010


Cupping is a a term for coffee tasting that is done to determine the natural flavors that are in a coffee.  The coffee is roasted to a light roast.  This prevents the roast from removing any of the coffee flavors.  The coffee is then placed in cups.  The first step in analyzing the coffee happens at this point.  The dry fragrance is checked by smelling the ground coffee.  Good coffees have incredible aromatics.  The possible scents cover a wide range including fruit, floral, chocolate, nutty and many others.  At this point hot water is added to the grounds.  It is then allowed to stand for about 3 minutes.  The next step is to break the crust of grounds that forms.  Using a spoon the grounds are pushed to the bottom and the wet aroma of the coffee inhaled.  Once again there are many aromas that come form the coffee.  Next the remaining grounds are removed and the coffee allowede to cool a bit more.  Now it is time to taste the coffee.  Using a cupping spoon the coffee is slurped in a manner that allows the coffee to spray over the entire pallet.  The cupper has to note flavor, acidity, aftertaste, and body (mouthfeel) as well as any defectsthat are noticed.  There are usually 3-5 cups for each coffee being cupped.  Coffee from each of these cups is tasted and and flavors or defects noted.  The coffee is then allowed to cool and it is tasted again.  A good coffee maintains good flavors after cooling.  At times there is a defect that will not show until the coffee cools.  There are also coffees that actually improve as they cool.

I try to cup all of our coffees before they are purchased from the importers.  We do this in order to provide the best possible coffees to our customers.  I am considering offering cupping sessions for intersted coffee lovers.  If anyone reading this in intersted in participating and learning about coffee cupping, let me know.  If there is enough interest I'll set it up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How It All Started

One winter night a few years ago I was relaxing and reading Time Magazine.  I read an article about the increasing popularity of home coffee roasting.  I had never heard of this and it caught my interest.  The article listed Home Roasting websites and mentioned using an air popcorn popper as a roaster.  I sat down at the computer and started checking out the websites, and reading about coffee roasting.  Before the evening was over I had purchased a popper/roaster on ebay for $12, and ordered several types of green coffee beans.   Over the next few days while waiting for my coffee to arrive I continued learning everything I could about coffee roasting. 

Finally my "roaster" and green beans were there and it was time to roast, butI had a problem.  The timer on my stove didn't work and my watch battery was dead so I needed a timer.  I called my girlfriend (now my wife) and asked her to do the timing for me.  She was happy to help so I measured the beans, plugged in the popper and started roasting.  One of the warnings that was stressed everywhere that talked about roasting at home was to have good ventilation.  I decided cracking a window should work (first mistake), and happily watched as the beans began to slowly change color and give off a wonderful smokey fragrance.  Very soon the fragrant aroma became stronger and smokier and smoke alarms began to go off.  This didn't make my dog happy.  He started running around barking and whining, but I didn't dare leave the coffee.  Finally the time was up and I dumped the coffee and started the cooling process.  I was thrilled and immediately took pictures of the coffee and emailed them to everyone I thought might be interested in seeing them. 

It was a great night for all except the dog.  For the rest of Sport's life he ran and hid every time he saw a popcorn popper or smelled coffee smoke.  The next day I realized I had found found a true passion.  When I tasted the coffee I knew I had discovered something amazing.  The taste of the fresh coffee could not compare with any coffee I had ever tasted.  I began roasting a few times a week and  buying many different coffees from many different countries.  I began to learn about the wonderful and different flavors and aromas that were hiding in the coffee beans.  Eventually I had a closet full of my green coffees and roasting stuff.  A lot of people thought I was crazy and they were right. 
A little over a year ago I retired from my job with New York State and became a happy coffee business owner.  I still love roasting and trying different coffees, roasts, and blends.  I also enjoy meeting people who share my love of coffee and talking about my coffees.
Life is good!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Coffees

Yesterday I received a shipment of coffee from Royal Coffee, NY.  Royal is the importer that I usually buy from.  They are located on Staten Island and offer coffees from all coffee growing areas of the world.  The coffees that arrived include two new crop coffees.  The first is a coffee that I have been anticipating for some time.  It is Columbian Mesa de Lao Santos.  The translation is "Table of the Saints".  This coffee is certified organic & bird friendly as well as Certified by the Rain Forest Alliance.  Mesa has everything a Columbian coffee fan would expect.  It is balanced with good body and fruity notes.  When first ground the aroma of this coffee is amazing.   The other new crop is a Sumatra Mandheling.  This coffee has heavy body and low acidity.  It is rich with dark chocolate, syrup, pepper and earthy notes.
Another of our new arrivals is another Indonesian coffee Flores Bajawa Ngura.  This coffee has typical Indonesian low acidity and full body. It also has notes of chocolate, vanilla bean, and caramel flavors with a walnut finish.  I'm very excited about these coffees and can't wait to start roasting them.
The other coffees we received include an FTO Guatemalan Huehuetenango.  My customers have been impatiently waiting for this to arrive.  It is a typical Huehue with nice acidity, chocolate and fruity notes.  Another is Ethiopian Longberry Harrar.  This coffee is an excellent Harrar with great  body and wonderful blueberry tones.  Also arriving was FTO Sumatra Mandheling Royal Select Decaf.  This is a water process decaf that is as rich and satisfying as a regular Sumatran.  It is rich with dark chocolate and syruppy notes. 
Tomorrow morning I'll be roasting some of these new coffees.  It should be a good day!

Who We Are

St. Lawrence Valley Roasters is a Specialty Coffee roaster located in Lisbon, NY.  We have been in business for a little over a year. It is a result of my dream of roasting fantastic coffees and making them available to coffee lovers in the North Country.

I roast with a Diedrich IR-3 coffee roaster. It is a small commercial roasting machine manufactured in Sand Point, Idaho. It is a 3 kilo roaster that produces about 5 pounds of wonderful roasted coffee from each batch. 

We offer Fair Trade/Organic Coffees, as well as regular and flavored coffees. I have also developed several blends that have been very successful. I'll talk about all of these coffees in future posts.  These coffees are available in many locations around the north country.
including Nature's Storehouse, the SLU Bookstore, SUNY's Dexter's Cafe, Jack & Wezzie's, The Potsdam Co-op, Scoopucino's, Common Grounds Coffee House, Season's Gift Shop, Oswegatchie Coffee Company, Artworks Gallery, Chapin's Country Market, Martin's Country Store, The Mustard Seed, Gold Cup Farms, Raquette River Gifts, and Valley Greenery. 
Our coffee is also available form our website

I love to talk about coffee.  If you have any questions feel free to let me know.  I'll be talking to you again soon.