Archive for July, 2009


Clover coffee by Klaus Thomsen


In 2006 I got introduced to my first clover experience by the one and only Klaus Thomsen, who, at that time was working for Estate Coffee in Copenhagen.

This clip is purely for fun, so please enjoy.



A Duck to remember!


Does anyone remember this duck?

Who started sending around the world to coffee people everywhere?

Who has it and where is it now?

Maybe it is lost forever, that duck, so many memories! Sniff…


Duck learning to roast, Bewleys, DublinDuck watching the baristas at work, Bewley's DublinDuck inspecting COE greens, Bewley's, Dublin 2006Duck looking to cup, Bewley's Dublin 2006Duck finally cupping Bewley's Dublin 2006

For more photo’s of the Duck go to my flickr.



Balancing act – Sweetness


Like I mentioned in my post “How sweet is your cup ” I find the balancing of fruit sweet (fructose) with the sugar browning reactions or caramelization to be somewhat of a conundrum. The idea that sucrose in its most pure form is actually sweeter then it’s caramelized counter part fascinates me. For the purpose of this post I will focus solely on the above and will talk about other reactions and their perceptions in the cup later.

The goal for us is to actually achieve maximum sweetness, so knowing (or at least approximating) what sweetness is being developed at what time and temperature during the roast cycle, is key.

I can assume that we all know that there are an infinite amount of variables to contend with, so let me talk about some of our findings that I have witnessed to be consistent here in LA.

It is time to talk about our “ideal” roast profile (for me) and delve more into to the balancing act.

First of all we need to know what we are trying to achieve with the coffee that we are roasting, this starts at the cupping table as we are evaluating coffees for purchase. Knowing what brew method this coffee will ultimately be used for (to some degree) , plus determining what the coffees large flavor descriptors are, is vital.

Please note that temp and time’s that are given are directly read of our equipment, so temps may differ depending on accuracy of temperature gauges. It is also important to note that these are my thoughts and may not reflect Intelligentsia’s opinion.

Following Carl Staubs theories of sucrose development I prolong the “golden period” where the color of the once-green coffee bean changes from pale yellow to bright orange. We allow the roaster to gently heat the beans and maintain a low minute-to-minute temperature increase. It is in this stage of the roast between minutes 2 and 7 – 8  and at 230-340°F that the Polysaccharides split of into Monosaccharides building a foundation of simple sugars for us to work with latter on.

Between 7 and 12 minutes and 240-392°F, we are starting to dig into the foundation of sweetness that we had just built, and the beans start the Maillard reaction, which is the caramelization of those simple sugars.

At the beginning of this period we start to apply more heat so we can stay ahead of the exothermic reactions. If the environmental temperature stays ahead of the bean temperature, we are less likely to lose the simple sugars that have developed as paralysis of the cellular structure breaks down and first crack occurs. I will explain more about exothermic reactions in another post.

If I have come into first crack with enough heat and momentum I will typically turn the gas to it’s lowest setting and just ride  out the rest of the roast. The amount of time that it takes between first crack (I measure from it’s most volitile/ noisy) till the point that I drop out will also greatly impact flavors into the cup. I feel it is between these two points that its when we will enevitable start to introduce carbon into the beans make up.

There is a tipping point, at which time we start to introduce “phenol” or medicinal-taste qualities into the coffee and you actually start loose those sweet caramel flavors. We start to dig even further into those sweet notes and we have an introduced human element to the bean…and all you can taste is the degree of roast. Rather than tasting the intrinsic qualities of the coffee, we taste something more akin to burnt rubber, smoke and charcoal…flavors that could be derived from burning into any organic materials that’s left in the coffee.




I am kinda kicking myself that I have not responded to the coffee collectives post here and am only now being inspired to write by James Hoffman’s video blog here.

When I think back to my days learning how to drink espresso, I would always hate the intense bitterness that the crema provided. My answer was to chuck three sugars into the cup and stir vigorously till dissolved. If only my mentors had of directed me to great coffees plus told me to skim the crema off the top, could that have helped speed up the development of my pallet? Or instead, why did I never try and take the crema off myself?

When I was a full time barista trainer back in Australia, I would teach budding baristas or begrudged employees to stir in their crema on the top of their cappuccinos so that their first sip would not be over powered by the bitterness that is crema. Anything to just get them to taste what they were serving, I say.

So when Klaus from the Coffee Collective took the time to show me how he skimmed the crema of an Americano, why did I not take that ball and run with it? I remember Kyle Glanville and I sitting their bemused by the whole process and then being sat back as it actually tasted nice. I think he served us a Gethumbwini back at the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen.

All we did with that information is head back to our daily grind, tell a few co-workers and go about our day, are we stupid? Why did we not spread the love and tell all within ear shot or blog spot? Mind the pun (it will get ya!).

Maybe it was because it was not that exciting to us at the time?  Was it because I had calibrated out that crema taste, essentially over time had painfully learned to appreciate it? This morning, I had to try the side by side again again to remind myself.

I will not go into the fact that crema is a good visual key when brewing espresso, we all know that don’t we?

Here it is, although I do agree with James and Klaus crema on it’s own is dirty, it seems to carry more roast related notes. The difference in the cup when doing a side by side, might really only amount to 1 point difference at best.  I also imagine that the scores could very well be closer when you start to loose points on body and mouth feel when minus crema.

Interestingly, where I found a resounding difference was in the finish, after about a minute or so after I had consumed the beverage and was left with the lingering aftertaste, the cup without the crema was definitely cleaner.

What does this mean, assuming that the coffee you are drinking is roasted with a goal to mantain the intrinsic flavors of the bean intact ie, no roasty notes. I would say go about your espresso drinking day as normal, making sure that you do infact stir your espresso thouroughly so as to ensure a balanced beverage.

On the other hand there are mornings where I find drinking espresso to be a daunting proposal, I might just find myself reaching for two spoons and skim that “rubbish” crema right the f#$@ off!


P.s. I found out today that Intelligentsia Venice has been offering a skimmed Americano since it opened, a best kept of the menu secret, that you will have to just ask for, FYI.


Crema by James Hoffman


This is something worth trying, I got to taste this for the first time at The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, during the WBC 08 and like James have had it stored in the back of my mind for a while now…

Like James said you should buy The Coffee Collectives coffee if you like this, their coffees are tops, just like they are tops!

Give it a go and let me know what you think!


Oh after over a month without internet at home, it is now back on, expect updates soon.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Crema by James Hoffman“, posted with vodpod