[Homeroast] hazmat blends of *$

Ryan M. Ward silvercro_magnon at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 8 15:32:23 CST 2010

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to suggest that we should all got out and buy Agtron systems- that would be sort of silly. 

I think that I should back up a bit and explain why I became interested in this topic in the first place, that may clarify where I am coming from.

Personally, I am a Mathematician(Well, technically a Mathematics graduate student), which means that I am very focused on Logic and definitions. This is just how my life runs. In Mathematics, we have to take some abstract concepts and define them very clearly in a way that one can perform logical arguments on. Sometimes things that seem very obvious or intuitive are actually the hardest to define. 

Example (I am starting to get a little OT, I promise I will come back soon and make my point clear):
Consider a collection of objects which has nothing in it. This, in set theory, is called an empty set(pretty descriptive name huh?). Well, the description above is not a very workable definition mathematically. It's hard to do math on it even though its point is rather clear, so we use a better definition:

Definition: The empty set is the set of all elements which are not equal to themselves. 

This definition is very strange but surprisingly is very workable. 

Now, back to coffee. My interest in this topic arose out of the motivation I have outlined above. Has the industry established a formal definition, based in rigour and physical properties, for different roasting profiles. If such a definition exists, I am sure there are implications that trickle down to the home roaster but my original inquiry was simply whether such a definition exists. Mike then established that the industry uses color and a spectrometer to establish uniformity in roasting profiles. I assume that temperature is also controlled in this process. To summarize, I was simply asking if such a thing exists. I think we can all agree that if you throw some beans into a Behmor and roast for 2 seconds you certainly do not have a Full City roast, right? Well, this leads me to suspect that some kind of definition exists- even if a loose one. 

Now, regarding eggs and steak the same, equally valid question can be applied: Does an industry standard definition exist which clearly defines what an over easy egg is, or a medum rare steak is? I have no idea, when I am eating an egg am I focused on this question? No, of course not, I am eating an egg. Now, if I were to open up a high end French restaurant which caters to the egg connoisseurs, would I care then? Of course, I would be researching it like crazy, and then once I had mastered the ability to created the egg of definition, I would butcher the recipe and add my own personal signature to it. If I was feeding egg snobs, I would hate to listen to them complain about how the eggs florentine dish that I fed them wasn't even really eggs florentine because I forgot X, Y and Z. I probably would not care so much if I was having friends over though.

Now, one last thought and then I will quit. I never meant to personally establish what that definition is. A formal definition can be sufficiently loose to allow for a wide range of variation. I could see a definition for an over easy egg as being an egg fried on both sides. The reason I question a color based definition with coffee roasting is that the surface can brown at a different rate than the center based on ambient temperature. This is why I feel that any definition based on color needs to at least account for temperature controls. In short, such a formal definition does not have anything to do with extreme repeatability, other than the fact that such a definition would allow "extreme repeatability" to occur should one choose. 
Ryan M. Ward

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> Date: Mon, 8 Mar 2010 02:54:37 -0500
> From: scizen at gmail.com
> To: homeroast at lists.sweetmariascoffee.com
> Subject: Re: [Homeroast] hazmat blends of *$
>  Ryan,
> I don't deny the need for extreme repeatability for certain ventures. But
> such high tolerances for the homeroaster isn't helpful. I don't use NASA
> standards for maintaining my car.  Look at another food analogy: steaks. I
> like mine medium. And there's a range of acceptable levels of cooking that
> qualify as medium. Go to a fine steak house and order a Filet and let me
> order a rib-eye, both medium. Your filet will look like it is medium rare
> compared to my rib-eye. Coffee is quite similar. FC is well after first
> crack, but well before second crack. But I have roasted many coffees (a
> Koratie DP comes to mind) that look like (quite dark) they are FC+ when
> first crack ends. Go figure. So what was it? It had the dark color of FC+
> but the first crack just ended and the EOR temp was consistent with my other
> C+ roasts. How's an agtron scale going to help there? Reminds me of cooking
> a filet. For me saying FC (or any roast name) is like saying "medium" on a
> steak order. It can have an acceptable range. If I had a commercial roasting
> setup, I'd have to be concerned with high repeatability.
> Ivan
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