Friday, November 30, 2007

Visit to Probat

One of the prizes for winning the WBC last year was a trip to visit the Probat factory in Emmerich, Germany, where we also bought our own roaster. My year was quite busy, though, so I never made it down there while I had the reigning title. So when James Hoffmann was crowned as the new champion in Tokyo we made plans to go at the same time.

So finally Casper and I took a plane to Düsseldorf, where we met up with James and Anette (2006 World Cup Tasting Champion and James' girl friend - for those not in-the-know) and then to the town of Emmerich close to the Dutch border. There our good friends Inga Schaeper and Arno Schwenk welcomed us to the Probat Werke.

From left to right it's Arno Schwenk, Casper, James Hoffmann, Anette Moldvaer and Inga Schaeper

Probat was started in 1868 by three families, whose descendants still own the company. Probat has a stunning 57% market share, but deliver to both very large corporations and small roasteries such as ourselves. Fun fact: 7 out of 10 cups of coffees enjoyed globally is roasted on a Probat.

After arriving and having lunch we had a tour through the whole factory. It's impressive to see the roasters being built. Probat makes all sorts of roasters, not just for coffee, but also for nuts and cocoa for example. We saw the different models of coffee roasters that they make: Tangential, Centrifugal and Drum. We quickly realized how small our roaster is compared to the much larger commercial systems.

Here's Casper next to a huge roaster, which is for cocoa

We also saw their labs, where they do a lot of very scientific testing. Lots of it is way out of my league in terms of chemical understanding. But of course all the cool lab gear triggers something in every geek.

Probat has a 3-group La Marzocco GB5 set up with a Mahlkönig grinder and we saw an opportunity to have James pull us some shots from our espresso. In turn Casper and I also went behind and we all got coffeed up properly.

On the second day we got to roast on a Probatino. I think all of us has roasted on one before, but this one was a little different in that you had more control over the flame adjustment. I picked a Zambian Peaberry to roast, which I decided to run through a screen sorting first as the beans varied quite a bit. And also because I hadn't tried the screens before. There were quite a lot of defects in that coffee too, so I hand sorted it for a while. It was all in vain, though, because when I roasted it I was afraid of taking it too fast and ended up with a very slow and much too dark roast. On the other hand Casper stopped his roast of a Nicaraguan too soon. Fortunately, after begging, I got to roast another batch which turned out a lot better.

We cupped all our different roasts - Seven in total. The coffees were all commercial grades and not really the same quality any of us are used to, so we weren't too fond of any of them. I'd have to say the Sidamo James roasted was the best, though.

One of the most interesting parts of the programme was visiting Probat's Coffee Museum. Lots and lots of old roasters and grinders. We saw the first mass produced roasters and a lot of strange and interesting designs. I love the look of these old cast-iron machines, that would still work if you fired them up. Probat has done a good job of making the museum interesting for anyone interested in coffee and I'd highly recommend going if you have the chance.

Casper and I had a great trip and it was really good to see Anette, James, Inga and Arno again. Thanks to Probat for everything!

Check out my Flickr set for more pictures

Friday, November 23, 2007

Video from Behag Din Smag Event

Video from yesterday's event at Behag Din Smag is up on the local TV station (Danish).

Thanks to Lene and Jeppe from Behag Din Smag for hosting the event with Peter and Casper.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Field Trip Ethiopia 2007 - the end

Back in Denmark I look back on a wonderfull journey to the home country of coffee.

After some nice days of cupping in Addis Ababa we went to Yirga Cheffe in the southern part of Ethiopia. The drive from Addis to Yirga Cheffe takes approximately 6 hours. When you have passed the outskirts of Addis Ababa the land is very dry except from a couple of huge lakes untill reaching the Sidamo region.
After around 4 hours of drive we reached the Sidamo region and vegetation started getting greener and more aboundant. Addis lies in 2000 mas. From there it goes a bit down to the Sidamo region which along the road is apprx. 1600 -1800 mas. After 2 hours further drive through Sidamo region at a height of apprx. 1800 mas we reached the town Yirga Cheffe, which has given name to the coffee grown around the town in altitudes between 1800-2200 mas. These coffees are after my opinion the best coffees of Ethiopia .

We met with Johannes who manages the two wetmills we were going to visit. He drove us first up to a beautifull situated mill in an area called Misty Valley.
At this mill they had made the best washed ethiopian coffee I have ever tasted. I never tasted an Ethiopian coffee with such a high sweetness and even though it was also incredible clean in the taste it still had the intriguing aromas of very good washed Yirga Cheffe which to me is a combination of sweet floral notes and bergamot.
At this place they had also specialized in what is some places called New Naturals. Traditionally natural coffee in Ethiopia (and most other coffee producing countries) is treated as a kind of left over product. Often it is a mix of unripe, fully ripe and overripe cherries also often less carefully selected for other defects. With the New Naturals they try to take as much care in the making of the natural coffee as they do with the washed coffee. I.e. the proces is as with traditional natural coffee where you let the cherry dry with out depulping it, but they are extremely carefull in only using the fully ripe cherries, drying the cherries very carefull and they are doing a lot of manual sorting in the proces to make up for the sortings that is possible in the washing proces. In the washing proces it is for instance possible to make a sorting of different densities which separates the fully ripe cherries and the not perfectly ripe cherries. Because of the higher percentage of perfectly ripe cherries and the carefull sorting the New Naturals from here are much cleaner and sweeter than traditional Naturals. Nevertheless a fruity flavour profile is kept though it is more controlled than in traditional naturals – which I personally often find too dirty or fermented in the flavour.

The coffee in the bag was rejected at the mill because of to many green cherries.

Being there in the heart of Yirga Cheffe meeting there people who produced the wonderfull coffees we earlier had cupped in Addis having them show us around and showing us what they do was great. We also got to discus the possibilities of cooperation and what we could wish from their coming harvest. We believe that there were laid grounds for a mutual fruitfull cooperation on which we together can push the limits of coffee quality and get to present some Ethiopian coffees not seen the like in Denmark before.

All in all it was a great experince being in Ethiopia and meet wonderful dedicated and very innovative coffee people. The coffees we tasted was from last harvest but their quality is giving me chills just to think about it. For this harvest we will be waiting for the cherries from the middle of the harvest and the New Naturals will need to dry slowly over a couple of months before it can leave the mill. Therefore we will have to wait untill the spring before we can have it in our warehouse and start roasting and cupping it – we will be looking very much forward to this date and I can promise it will not run off unnoticed!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Behag Din Smag blog & event

Just thought we'd give some attention to reigning Danish Barista Champion Lene Hyldahl's blog. Don't forget to check out her website too.

On the 22nd November from 19 to 21 o'clock Behag Din Smag will host a coffee roasting and tasting event with Peter and Casper. Price is only DKR 85,- and includes a bag of fresh roasted coffee. But hurry - there are only 20 tickets. Contact Lene through her website for more info.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Field Trip Ethiopia 2007 - 2

After several days with cupping in Addis Ababa I found two coffees that were amazing - they had a sweetness and cleanliness I have never had similar in any Ethiopian coffee - especially we cupped an incredible clean natural yergacheffe-1. Gr. 1 coffees from Ethiopia are very rare and then this was even a Natural! At the same time as being very sweet and clean they carried some of the beautifull floralness in the washed and fruityness in the Natural that is found in the best Ethiopian coffees. They came from a mill in Yergacheffe!

Tomorrow we will go and look up the mill to meet the people behind these fantastic coffees!

In the cupping room where we found the beautifull coffees we also found this machine very little typical of cupping rooms.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Home espresso

As a commenter on our blog also suggested a while back, we have done a bit of testing of our espresso on a medium-level home espresso machine: Linus' five years old Isomac.
Loaded up with Copenhagen city water (quite bad and very hard water quality) and coffee ground on the matching Isomac grinder we engaged the testing. Linus pulled the shots from fresh ground and properly packed coffee. As you can see from the image, we didn't bother to clean much before we began.

To be honest none of us were expecting much, being so used to our high-end La Marzocco set-up.

To our surprise the shots actually came out quite well. The pours were a little fast for the usual standard, but any slower and too many bitters would probably have come out. The crema was tiger flecked and nicely brown, but not as thick as we would usually have liked.

The taste was surprisingly good. The mouthfeel was there, heavy yet creamy. The sweetness was there too, although not as intense as with the GS3. And there was no unnecessary bitterness. It was great to experience that the acidity and bitterness didn't come out over-powering, which was our biggest worry before the test. Instead the taste balance was rather good. What it did miss, however, was a lot of the aromas that usually characterize our espresso and the aftertaste was not nearly as long lasting either.

Overall it was a pleasing experience and interesting to see that we could still pull espressos of a better quality than you are served in 95% of the Danish cafés and coffee shops (there, I said it!)
Now I think we'll have a french press to celebrate :-)