Talor Browne (and others) on Roasting

A remarkable quote from Talor Browne on her recent blog post:

Even at the top, there is no known knowledge, only trial and error. Everyone, even Tim, is kind of bumbling along in the dark, looking for the light switch. It bothers me to see people be looked up to so much when it’s all so unknown. The things I do know are: if your raw coffee is delicious, it’s actually pretty hard to fuck it up.

Thanks to Matt Perger for linking this in his Barista Hustle newsletter!

Marko Luther, a friend of mine and a highly regarded and experienced roaster, writes me:

"Nice quote. I couldn't express this better and share Talor's view fully. I had that impression already in 2013 when I talked to Morten and Tim in person at SCAE in Nice. 
So there seems to be a clear change in taste on modification of the roasting process, but it seems impossible to grab the exact details of this influence and use these to make a tool that brings out what you are looking for in a coffee.  
Even worse, I have the feeling that coffee changes dramatically and without much control or predictability during the time after roast and by small modifications of the drink preparation process. 
All we have by now are only some rather rough general wisdoms.  
Brewing hotter or extracting longer tends to make your brew more bitter, while extracting cooler and extracting shorter tends to move to the bright and sour side.  
The same in roasting. Shorter, lighter roasts might be brighter, while darker roasts turn towards bitter. In the middle there must be the 'sweet spot'.  
Then we know that there is the danger of underdeveloping a roast (still green in the middle), especially with gentle, but short roasts. Hotter short roasts are better developed, as are longer roasts. Too gentle and long roasts could end up boring.  
But why are some roasts that tasted horrible a week out of the roaster, excellent if tasted after 3 months? 
And why is my grinder choking up the shot every now and then, without me changing anything in bean choice or grind setting. Sure, changes in humidity might be the reason. But humidity is not changing too much during winter times in my kitchen. 
I am lost, but others too."


The reason I chose Talor's quote is that I agree that the more one delves into the coffee world, the more puzzling it becomes. One can book expensive courses with impressive titles like "Advanced Roast Profiling" but it boils down to doing your best, taking a few hints from experienced colleagues, trying out how this works on your roaster, documenting what you can and then taste the effect, days and weeks later if you have the time. Blending opens another box of surprises, for instance if two roasts from different origins that are a bit sharp or bland/uninteresting, together have a buttery smooth mouthfeel and a richness that neither seemed to have before. And a bag of roasted beans can be surprisingly wonderful after resting for even a month, when one was so keen on getting the freshest possible!

Keeping in mind that there is no book that can turn you into an experienced roaster, I saved these books on my shelf:


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