Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bean

The new Haul is one of the finest bike-based coffee accessories I've ever used. So far there have been two roasts conducted on the back rack.

A full carafe rides quite nicely back there too.

As far as the roasting goes, in my case this is NOT a trivial use for a new bike. I double dog dare da doubters to find a level spot in our garage that's within three feet of a power outlet. Here at Casa Pepperoncini, coffee roasting needs to be conducted either outside (if it's warm enough) or in the garage. Rigorous experimentation by our staff has determined that the girl Kelly's sensitivity to caffeine is high enough so that the gaseous roasting effluent, presumably containing caffeine, keeps her awake at night. Plus it makes her a bit cranxious.

Let me back up a bit. I got into the coffee roasting for a number of reasons:
  • It's cheaper. You can get excellent green beans for about half the price of already roasted beans in the supermarket. The costs of even an expensive roaster are recuperated quite quickly.
  • It's fresher. The beans go through a peak in their flavor about eight hours after the roast, and you will miss that peak if you're scoring already-roasted bean at the market. Oils brought to the surface of beans by roasting start oxidizing and turning rancid immediately. For these reasons, green beans keep much longer (a year or more).
  • There's more variety. Vendors of green beans like Sweet Maria's offer a massive variety of coffees from all over the world. Even decafs. Plus home roasting allows you to multiply the number of bean varieties by a huge number of different roasting profiles, effectively greatly expanding your possible coffee experiences.
  • It's more sustainable. Purchasing green beans generally means that farmers are getting paid more for their products, especially with the Fair Trade and Direct Trade beans. Many smaller farms supplying high quality green beans grow multiple varieties in the shade of existing forests. In contrast, big coffee agribusinesses are known for using monoculture plots set in areas clear-cut of indigenous species. Check footnote 8 and the short "Coffee and the Environment" section of this report by Oxfam International and partners.
And finally, I have to admit that the quirkiness of home coffee roasting appeals to me in the same way that the quirkiness of the new Haul (aka "Cocoa Puff") appeals to me. Why drink Folgers when you could be styling on a Globe?

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