I stopped by Garrick‘s house the other night to roast up a few batches of coffee. He’s posted a podcast of our conversation.

Garrick has got a cool little setup, roasting out in his garage with an old Poppery hot air popcorn popper. It is important to be outside, as roasting coffee creates a lot of smoke and sends chaff everywhere. He prefers processed coffees, such as the two we roasted, in part because of the reduced chaff. Can’t blame him.

We started with a Colombian Huila (Santa Elena) water process decaf. I confess to doubting how good the coffee would taste. You see, how much heat is applied to the beans (and when) is an important factor in how well a roast turns out. With a popper the only heat control you have is how long you run the machine. (Garrick tells me that there are modded Popperies out there, juiced up with separate heat and fan controls. Wow. Gotta love subcultures.) The beans roasted up damn fast — probably due to the heat produced by the popper and the low quantity being roasted (half a cup). The speed of the roast was evident when I bit into a bean to examine a cross-section: the outside of the bean was sharply distinct from the lighter center, an indication of an uneven roast.

Nevertheless, the Colombian decaf really surprised me. It was more than pleasant, I went back for a second cup! I do not doubt that Garrick’s considerable brewing skill — and his Chemex — helped, but all the skill in the world won’t cover up bad beans. There was no pronounced decaf flavor, as there so often is. It was decaf, but not screamingly so. A lot of mouthfeel, more body than I’m used to in a Colombian. There was a sort of “high back” piquant flavor that dominated the first cup. As the coffee cooled, that effect lessened and the flavor became more balanced. I never tasted the fruitiness that the supplier suggested, but there were hints of baking spices and a molasses/brown sugar. Overall, recommended.

We then roasted a few batches of an Indian Monsooned Malabar. Garrick very kindly sent me home with all of the beans, and I promised I’d write it up. I did a preliminary cupping yesterday morning (tasting, not brewing a whole batch), and with regret have to say that I wasn’t impressed. I tried to keep my expectations out of the picture, but the roast was light (city) and uneven and the coffee tasted like it. Very rough, very pungent. The beans themselves carry the earthy mustiness typical of monsooned coffees, but much of that disappeared (or became something unpleasant indeed) once ground. I thought this might mellow a bit if the beans are allowed to rest a day or two, and Garrick confirmed that Sweet Marias in fact suggest doing just that. So I’ll get back to you with the results of another cupping, as well as how it tastes when I brew a full pot.

The Colombian is available from Sweet Marias, as is the Indian Monsooned Malabar(those links will work only as long as the coffee is in stock).

Afterward, I walked through a light rain over to the Tea Source and picked up a small amount of Keemun tea. Keemuns are a good “work-safe” tea, a solid, rich cup that overcomes the lousy brewing conditions available in your typical office kitchen. After the rich Colombian, I need a deeper tea than the Darjeelings that I’ve been drinking lately.

All in all, a fine evening. My thanks to Garrick for having me over. I hope that someday we can meet to cup coffees. It’s a wonderfully fun ritual. And all that slurping would make for a fine podcast, I’m sure. :)

Okay, that just sounded dirty.