Finally, the stars aligned and I was able to go visit Fabrice Moschetti at his coffee roasting business. Took a while to taste the dozen or so coffees he had brewed, and added to my morning buzz. Some interesting flavors from the Indonesian, Ethiopian, Free Trade Organic Mexican etc. It’s fun and fascinating to taste so many coffees in one sitting.
Saturdays from 9-12 is open house at Moschettis’, where Fabrice brews up a bunch of coffees for folks to taste, and to offer up great deals on his fresh roasted beans. This day, he offered $8 a pound coffee. It really is a fantastic for really good coffee that is freshly roasted.
Fabrice and I visited in between all his other free coffee day visitors. The place was hopping, with folks coming, tasting and taking off with bags of coffee in their arms. Today there was live music with two guitarists jamming on some tasty tunes. There are seats at tables and umbrellas to make it a comfortable and friendly. And folks tended hang out, talk about Vallejo, local, national and international politics, home gardens, chickens, social issues etc. I am amazed that Fabrice is bringing together a diverse group of folks from the local community and fostering free speech and exchange of ideas. He is doing something very important for our community.
Fabrice suggested that perhaps I’d like to do a “Steve Roast”, and I giddily agreed! He asked what I’d like to roast. Since I had Sumatra and Uganda on my mind I said how about Sumatra, Uganda and a bean for mid tones. Fabrice suggested Brazil, which is a mellow and mild flavored bean. I agreed, and Fabrice’s right hand man Mario gathered up the coffee and loaded it into the roaster.
I said I’d like a lighter roast just for espresso, and Fabrice said, “it’s your roast”, you say when! I’m like a little kid in a candy shop.
The process is to dry the coffee a bit, and then increase the heat to the target temperature of about 475 degrees. The beans are roasting and rotating in the drum, and go through a color change from a pale green / ivory color to an interesting shade of orange. Soon we get to first crack where you can hear the beans cracking and snapping, and Fabrice says we should turn the fire down and coast through the second crack using the residual heat in the drum. Second crack the color is almost correct. We keep pulling samples and comparing them in both warm tungsten light and then natural sun light. Finally I proclaim the roast almost there and Fabrice pulls the lever of the roaster door and the beautiful coffee cascades out into the cooling bin, where it spins around and is stirred while it cools.
Freshly roasted coffee has a pleasant but subtle aroma of popcorn, and as the age of the coffee increases the aromas mature and become the familiar bouquet of high quality fresh coffee. The aroma changes depending on the bean(s), amount of roast and age. I have learned that there is a prime age of coffee that seems to range from a few days old to two weeks tops. My favorite time is about day four of a roast where the beans mellow and flavor is at it’s peak. Before this the beans are a bit green in flavor, a bit acidic or even citrus like and difficult to control in pulling shots. The first couple days, the crema is immense.
I thanked Fabrice for taking the time to roast with me, and I headed home to pull a first shot.
Day 1. The first 24 hours the coffee is green and very difficult to control. The grinder is dialed in after a few shots, but I’m struggling with a sharp and super bright shot. Eventually, I am able to dial in the grinder more, the amount of coffee, and my tamp and I end up with shots that almost behave. I sample half a dozen shots to dial it in, and finally pull some shots for my lovely wife’s morning latte. They are over extracted which made for a somewhat ashy flavor. I redo the shots and this time the shots are not over extracted and my lovely wife is happy.
Day 2. The second day the espresso is mellowing. There is still the gentle aroma of popcorn and the flavor is less green but still rather boiled peanut. All ash flavor is dialed out, and there is still mountains of crema.
Day 3. Continued mellowing, and less green flavor. Other earthy notes are really starting to come through and the shots are much more delicious. Crema overflows with goodness!
Day 4. Today and tomorrow is perhaps the peak of this roast. Will be interesting to taste over the next week, if my bag of coffee lasts that long. Actually, I fear I’ll run out before the weekend! I started with five pounds on Saturday and I’m down to less than half of that.
I think the roast is right on. I’d hesitate roasting any darker. Keeping in mind that I really had this roast, and blend in mind for my equipment, Miss Silvia, and Monsieur Mazzer, as well as my own general taste preferences. I’m thinking that the next time Fabrice lets me blend and direct roasting I’ll reduce Brazil, and perhaps drop in a tiny bit of Ethiopian or another fruity coffee bean. I like a complex shot with a journey of flavors.
Flavor is big, earthy with dark chocolate. Holds up really well in milk drinks. I generally start out with a couple shots for the Home-Barista (me) and then make lattes with two double ristrettos each for my lovely wife and myself. Lately however my coffee consumption appears to have gone up and I’ve woken up several times this week with my heart pitterpattering. I suppose there is such a thing as too much caffeine.
Day 5 & Day 6. Most of the green-ness has dissipated, but lingering is a bit of a boiled peanut flavor I’m not crazy about. This morning I pulled shot after shot to try and drive out that peanut flavor. Increased and decreased temperature, increased and decreased grind, but the peanut still lingers. This blending and roasting business is hard. Will consult with Fabrice about the roast. I suspect he’ll say we are a tiny bit under roasted on one or more of the three beans. Since we roasted all three together then all three beans would require an increase in roast. That seems reasonable to me. I wonder if roasters bother to separate their beans in roasting and then combine.
Interestingly, the peanut flavor does not exist in milk drinks. This emphasizes the fact that milk tends to mask flawed shots.
Hope to roast another batch soon. I’m down to less than a pound of coffee from last week.