After a bit of a hiatus I’m back at the roaster in the garage. Why the break? It’s been chilly lately — it’s winter in Vermont, after all — and besides, my roaster doesn’t perform so well when the ambient temperature is anything less than 40 degrees. Neither do I fare all too well hanging around waiting for it to get its heat on. Oh sure, I know there’s hard-core roasters who don their parkas and mittens to roast outdoors all times of the year. That kind of insane and slavish devotion I save for barbecue alone, thanks.
I haven’t ordered any new green coffee of late (see the bit about it being cold) and so what I have left is really remnants of seasons past… in some cases, several seasons past. Some Ethiopian coffees from the last eCafe competition, Guatemalan greens from the spring before, and some Sumatra from — gosh, I really can’t be sure — maybe two years ago?
And so I roasted some of just about everything.
The Ethiopian coffee is quite decent, really. For a day or two, anyway; and then the cup just sort of… winds down. Aromatics are fleeting, flavors fading. It’s not a tragic thing, really. It’s just tired.
The Guatemalan beans have a similar tale to tell. Notably, they roast dry and hot — they’ve apparently lost a lot of moisture — and the cup quality is not only faded, but also bitter. Very much so.
The Sumatran beans — the oldest of the lot — well they’re something of a different story. They roast well within parameters I might expect of new crop beans. Fresh from the roaster the cup is quite nice (if a bit sharp.) In a day or two, they’re still quite good; caramel and cocoa aromas, turf and bittersweet chocolate flavors, long and mellow finish. And enough so that I suspect they could keep this up a week more (though I don’t know that they’ll last that long… herselfis a big fan of the coffees of Sumatra.)
Is it something about how Sumatran coffees are processed at the mill that lends them more staying power? Not necessarily… the eCafe Ethopian I sampled was a dry-process (or natural) too.
Was there perhaps more moisture in these beans to begin with, so that they’ve retained more over time? I don’t know… but if there was *that* much moisture I’d wonder that there hadn’t been something icky growing in the bag with them. And besides — they’re more than twice as old as the other beans I’d roasted of late.
Is it something about Sumatra? After all, there’s lots of beans that are marketed as Aged Sumatra… how many other origins actively market aged beans? On purpose? Um… I’m thinking. And coming up empty.
Maybe it’s really about the characteristics the coffee started with. The Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans were both bright, acidy, fruit-forward cups; the Sumatran earthy and dark-toned even when it was young. Perhaps fruit and floral esters are more delicate, more prone to age, while dusky chocolate just gets… mellow.