Tasting a Roast Without 'Cupping'

Reading about cupping and attending a few cuppings with experts hasn't given me the confidence to do any of it myself. In a cupping company I am primarily concerned about avoiding someone else's mucus on my spoon.

Still it would be handy if I could do something like it to taste my own roasts right after roasting.

Presently I take 10g of beans right after cooling down from the roaster, grind it (always the same grind setting on the same grinder) and measure it using the Tonino. It gives me a number that tells me how much darker / lighter this roast is than another one in similar circumstances.

The grinds then sit on the table for a few hours before I throw them out. Sometimes they yield a mesmerizing coffee perfume and sometimes hardly any smell comes off. This also helps predict how the espresso will be a week later, especially if I save three different samples of roasts done in quick succession. If one seems dead to my nose, the other sends out plain 'coffee' aroma and the third practically sings a song to the senses, I can tell that this third will probably be the most expressive one in the cup a week later.

Still it would be nice to be able to tell more a little sooner.

To try this, I dusted off a french press that I have had in a closet for about 6 years:

I used the 10g of grinds, added 200ml of water at 85ºC, waited 3 minutes, pushed and poured 100ml of coffee in a cappuccino cup.

The coffee tasted soft and sweet (Costa Rica, FC @ 200ºC, development 21%, weight loss 15%, volume gain 40%, drop temp 218ºC, Tonino#93).

Later, I used this recipe:
10g of grinds, an hour after roasting, added 150ml of water near 90ºC, waited 3 minutes, pushed, poured out 85ml in a cup, tasted soft-sweet-bread-spicy, measured TDS 1.3, VST Coffee Tools app showed 19% extraction.

PS 9 May 2015
After trying this a few more times, I still find that the result from the french press into the cup is less pronounced than it is after a week in the espresso cup. Updosing the french press brew to 20g improves the taste profile, making the brew more expressive but to me it still feels like guessing blindfolded.

Grinds in a heated and covered cappuccino cup

Yesterday, Tije de Jong visited me and when he saw how I pre-heat an espresso cup with hot water, he wondered if this would also enhance the smell of the grinds. That sounded like a great idea and I filled a cappuccino size cup with hot water, left it there to heat the cup, dried it and the dumped the 10g sample grinds of freshly roasted Burundi beans into it. Covered the cup with a round rubber tamper base, waited a minute and then smelled the grinds.

Heated grinds: expressive, revealing
Sure enough, the aroma was very expressive and the smell of these grinds did evoke the taste of the Burundi roasts that I have had from the same green bean batch.

So in the end, for me, using my nose to help predict how a roast is turning out is more helpful than trying to use hot water to get the grinds to talk to me.

Thanks Tije for the idea!!


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