I suppose nobody will have any objections, if this time I will be writing about everything, and about nothing at the same time (but all coffee-related, surely). And in case somebody is against it – just don’t read 🙂
I got my right hand hurt somehow, an inflamation of the tissues, and I passed last barista shift using my left hand at its maximum instead: taking out the portafilters from the group, tamping and pouring latte art. Which was fun, I guess I had been just waiting for the opportunity to justify that kind of the challenge.
It goes along with my belief that a professional should be able to do things with both hands.
It was like learning to be doing all of it again – be careful and consistent with tamping, mirroring the pouring – holding the cup differently, slowing myself down when getting closer to the surface of the coffee, being conscious about the inclination of the cup, feeling that moment when you start drawing… Loved it. It is not for everybody, I guess – because you have to kinda surrender to the imperfection, be totally ok with making not a perfect tulip (about the espresso – it has to be perfect, as well as steamed milk – but I am talking right now only about pouring).
Totally worth it, in other words. Challenges your brain.
Now couple of days of rest, to be able to move my hand.
Had a curious experince this, I believe, Friday, connected with the concept of “baked” coffee.
But first, a short preambule.
Although specialty coffee world is growing, the amount of books, courses, webinars, blogs, with the up to date and valid information – it is still small. Not as small as before, where you could find 2-3 books about coffee, but still small enough for the coffee professionals who want to be growing to be getting the info from the same sources.
It is the reality.
You cannot surprise somebody who is staying alert and studying, with what James Hoffmann or Scott Rao said in the last posts – because most probably this person read the same articles and took the same course as you. People know where to take the info from. The sources are the same.
Just to give you an example, we all experimented with the water when that article in Barista Hustle appeared, haven’t we?
The only difference is how people use this info. And do they use it at all. In other words, the real worth of that information is when you start to apply it to your work, you start to experiment, you take what everybody knows and you get your own truth from it, by experimenting. And by mixing of all the knowledge you got from the different sources, not just from one, + your experince, + your own personality.
This is the reason, by the way, why I believe that 90% of the time we dedicate to our craft, we should be doing it alone. You study alone, and then you share – only when you have something valid to share. Otherwise it is useless. But it is just my position, of course.
10 000 hours.
The point is… Probably if the info is available for you – it is available for everybody else the same way.
So… Baked coffee. There is a certain coffee professional that I hugely respect, and he dedicated last years to fighting baked roasts (and the majority of the roasts we come to taste are baked). It is so common we almost don’t pay attention at it. Because everybody bakes.
It is far less noticeable than when the coffee is burnt, or underdeveloped. So it is tricky to taste, because to actually understand that it is there, first you have to taste the coffee that is not baked.
All the roasters who are more or less into the topic, are improving because of this coffee professional now, trying to control RoR, paying more attention at the curves, etc.
And I am no exception. Last two months were, I am not afraid to confess, dedicated fighting that defect. It was an intense roast-cup-repeat cycle, where I was starting my day with 5 profiles of the same coffee, where only RoR was different, the curve was almost equal (yes, it happens, I was surprised as well. Do you remember those peaceful times when we only were worried about the curve? You can forget them, and throw away those profiles, you will never need them).
So I tasted baked coffees. A lot. I baked a lot myself. I was baking and baking every day, making experiments and adjustements, until I slowly came to understanding what I can do and what I cannot do to not to be baking it. You can wake me up in the night and make a cupping, and I would have told you where were the coffees that are baked.
And then I get a feedback on one of my coffees – it is baked. Imagine my face. And it is important for me, because – it is an opportunity to improve, to get better, and I want the guys satisfied. And that client was some sort of into coffee, if he uses that descriptor.
So I am not missing this one. I get back to the sample of the same coffee the client of mine had received – and cup it blind with other ones. I take it and make it the same way my client did, repeating his method of preparation, even though for a long time I don’t brew V60 with the grind so fine. And, finally, I bring up the roast profile. The answer is no. My roast profile and my tasting buds say that this coffee is not baked.
But what could have happened?
Remember I mentioned that “baked” is a tricky roasting defect?
When you are analyzing the coffees blindly, especially when it was not you roasted them and you have no access to the profiles to check your guess – you can almost for sure say “baked” to any of them. Because, first of all, most probably they will be, to the certain degree, some less, some more. And, second, probably your tongue will pick up some “muted” tones, like if the coffee is not turned “on full”, like if it was hiding something – and you will attribute it to the baking.
The only major difference between the experiences was that the coffee the client had was pre-ground.
So this is what I got out of that feedback. Defects like oxidized because of being -pre-ground and baked – are pretty close. I am looking forward now to be cupping the same coffee with the nice profile, another one with some baking happening, one more with lots of baking, and same coffee with the nice profile, but ground 2 days before.
And this is how we learn!