Coffee Cup
"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved

Coffee Cup
51
It Can Always Get Worse

      There's an old joke that goes, "A fellow once told me, 'Look up! Things could be worse..' So I looked up, and sure enough, things got worse!" This chapter is dedicated to show just how correct that fellow was....

      I have been through some busy times to say the least. What with the alt.coffee T-Shirt program, my testing of the Hottop coffee roaster, installing Win XP on a new drive for evaluation purposes and then trying to get a couple of Adobe products that print through a PS driver (which still doesn't work), and all the other things that make up life I haven't had much of a chance to write for the website. Well, here you go...

      I recently found out just how many things can go wrong when making espresso. Don't worry- there were no burns, blinding, or vomiting in relation to this, and it certainly could have been worse, but it goes to illustrate just how much attention needs to be paid when dealing with coffee.

      Last night I needed to do some documentation of my Hottop drum roaster. After a long day's work on my computer trying to re-install the many dozens of application I have on a new hard drive under XP, I spent about half an hour in the garage installing a thermometer in my Hottop drum roaster. It actually came out pretty good, and I will post details in the future.

      So it was back into the house with my old self where I got out the digital scale and started weighing beans for a test roast. I weighed out 100 grams of Nicaraguan, 100 grams of Colombian, and 50 grams of Yemen to make up a 250 gram roast (the Hottop's preferred capacity). Try to do that correctly was the beginning of my trial by (roasting) fire. I began by having to deal with the mental calculations of dividing 250 grams into 2parts+2parts+1part. Sure, it's easy now, but I was so mentally distracted that at the time i nearly weighed out a 150+150+75 batch!

      Anyway, with the beans weighed I set the Hottop up outside on a picnic bench near an outdoior outlet. I got my notepad, pen, stopwatch, beans and flashlight ready and began. It was dark, so the light was necessary. I took the roast further than I normally would have because I was using the thermometer to gather data. The roast went well, although a lot darker than I normally would roast. By the time I ejected the beans they were dark, oily, hot, and creating a lot of smoke. One thing for sure, drum roasters are meant for outdoor use!

      As the beans were being stirred in their cooling tray I noticed that the viewing glass on the front of the roaster was nearly dripping with oil, looking like it had been used as a drip pan under the transmission of my '48 Chrysler.

      I went back in the house to correlate my data and there, on top of the microwave oven was my digital scale, and there on top of the digital scale was the 50 grams of Yemen that I had weighed out and left. That partially explained how the roast got so dark so quickly. I had only roasted 200 grams instead of 250 grams.

      Back at the computer I entered the data in a spreadsheet. That only took about an hour as I couldn't get things to go the way I wanted. Without getting into all the details (this is a coffee website, after all, and not spreadsheet.com), I couldn't think. I finally got the info graphed, copied the graph, and sent the graph off to the roaster's representative. Later that evening I examined the copy of the graph I had printed out and found numerous problems, mainly with the formatting of the "X" axis showing time of roast.

      Back at the computer the next morning, I reformatted the graph's parameters and re sent the now corrected graph out with an apology. It's starting to be a habit,. This apology thing.. Anyway...

      It was morning, wifee is now awake, she had finished a batch of muffin tops, so it was time for me to get to work making our morning cappas. It was fairly obvious that the beans were dark roasted. I don't know what to call it- French, Dark french, Midnight, Lucas *1, Black Hole- whatever. Call it what you like, but they are real dark, real oily, and real dark.. Yes, I repeated that for effect. They aren't actually burnt, in that combustion didn't take place and they weren't glowing when ejected from the drum, but a cupful would serve as a resume to get me a job as a roaster at Peet's.

      So I fill Rocky with the normal amount and grind at the level i was grinding at yesterday. The pull was about one ounce in 30 seconds, but that's OK. No big thing. Back to the grinder to get a second dose. I empty the doser of remaining grounds and proceed to grind a second batch. I am about half-way through the grind and am beginning to dose into the PF when I realize that, although I had indeed added more beans to the hopper, I had not bothered to change the grind setting on Rocky and was merely making more of the same. Stop Rocky, clean out the doser, change the grind setting, add more beans, clean out the PF, and begin again.

      I finally manage to get two doubles brewed into cappa cups. Of course, the over-roast showed itself in the pull, displaying less crema and the crema I did get was lighter in color lacking the texturized-colorization I always get with my regular roast and blend. A sniff of the espresso reinforced the over-roast. I drank the cappa, and it wasn't bad but it wasn't good. It was like Starbucks without the bitterness. Just a dark coffee taste with not much else to distinguish it from... a dark coffee taste.

      Just another morning at the FRCN house...
*1 Lucas- A reference to Lucas Electric company of England who for years carried a well- earned reputation for making some of the most undependable auto electrical parts in the world. Jokes still persist today such as:

"Lucas - Prince of Darkness"

and

Q- Why do the English drink warm beer?
A- Lucas refrigerators.


Coffee Cup
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