[Homeroast] Newb roaster...Bad Beans?

Loomis, Darren (DCR) Darren.Loomis at dcr.virginia.gov
Mon May 23 15:23:39 CDT 2011

I have just joined the list and am an absolute newb to roasting coffee.
While helping my parents move I came across a hot air popper (west bend
poppery ii) and I recalled reading/hearing somewhere that hot air
poppers can be used to roast coffee. I took it, hopped on Amazon and
immediately ordered a 5lb bag of a green house blend from a coffee
retailer that has a large presence on Amazon.  

I just want to interject here that I am not a coffee connoisseur (read
snob).  I recall having had great cups of coffee in the past but I
continued drinking coffee from the big, red can every morning because it
is convenient and is what I am used to.  I own a french press and a
filtercone because when I lived in Richmond, VA I was near a roaster and
could get fresh coffee easily.  I moved, there was no nearby roaster
and it became more convenient to go back to the can. I do consider
myself a food snob so I know what I like, what tastes good to me and the
characteristics of quality food (vs. poor quality or spoiled). And I
wouldn't mind becoming a coffee snob because... I like things that taste

Anyhow, I order my coffee and then hopped on the internet to do my
research on home roasting and coffee in general. Turns out that one
should do their coffee research before ordering coffee.  I had never
heard of Sweet Maria's and have been amazed by all of the great
information available in their site.  To me, last week my coffee
knowledge was knowing I liked the house blend at the Richmond roaster
and that Folger's was an easy way to caffeinate myself during my commute
to work. the Sweet Maria's website and coffee library is an amazing
resource. One specific thing I learned is that blends can be used to
unload poor quality coffee.

Coffee shows up, I roast...screw it up (under-roasted) grind it anyway,
brew it, taste it, and promptly toss it.  Next I watch Tom's video, the
other video showing the roasting, hearing the cracks.  Roast again,
grind brew taste and toss. wash, rinse repeat. many times

I'm pretty sure I'm roasting correctly now.  I've tried roasts through
Full City and rest periods of up to 36 hours and the coffee is still
undrinkable.  I'm using a FP, grinding with a Kyocera hand grinder.  Got
the right temp water. Water is filtered (filter 1 month old) I haven't
tried everything yet (such as a full french roast).  I'm gonna try my
filtercone and I'm going to further reduce extraction times on my FP but
I'm pretty convinced that at this point the beans I have are of terrible
quality.  I've picked through a handful of the beans and have found
rocks, insect damage, cherries, black beans, broken beans etc. I have a
UV light and I have even found a few beans with a bright fluorescence
that I can only assume is a mold.  I think these beans where swept up
off the sorting room floor.  

All that being said, shouldn't there still be a taste of coffee?  I mean
low quality beans still get used commercially. As I type this it has
been 10 hours since my last attempt at brewing a cup so the flavor
profile isn't clear in my head but the brew is bitter, maybe some
astringency, a touch of gym sock and a back end that may be musty.  I'll
have to try it again and write down my immediate impressions.

I don't know what green coffee is supposed to smell like.  This bag
smells like hay.  My suspicion is that green coffee shouldn't smell like
hay, that a hay smell means there is (or was) too much moisture.  What
does green coffee smell like? I've tried popping a few of the roasted
beans in my mouth to get a feel for the flavor and they don't even taste
like coffee. Am I mistaken in thinking that a roasted coffee bean should
taste like coffee? 

I am in Suffolk, Virginia (USA) are there any experienced home roasters
near by who may want to try some of these beans?  It is entirely
possible that I totally suck at roasting and brewing coffee.  Or maybe
this is a difficult coffee to get right. I just ordered a sampler from
SM so hopefully by this time next week I'll know the answer.

If you read this far, thanks.  I'd appreciate any comments or advice.


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