The Agtron might sound like an agricultural superhero robot, but behind its name lies a simple coffee test: consistency.
The Agtron uses near infrared light to analyze the color of ground or whole bean coffee. It then outputs an easy-to-read number that represents the degree of roast. The lower the number, the darker the roast. For example, espresso roasts often have an Agtron reading in the 20s, dark roasts lie in the 30s, regular roasts between 40-55, and light roasts anywhere above 55.
Coffee Analysts uses the Agtron to determine roast consistency. We perform three Agtron readings for each sample to make sure they all fall within a certain range that’s determined by the customer. We then report all our findings back to our customers so they can adjust their roasting processes accordingly.
While we can tell you anything and everything there is to know about coffee, when it comes to actually growing coffee from seed … well … we’re not exactly green thumbs. The problem is that we love having coffee plants around the office.
At the Coffee Analysts Coffee Laboratory, we use a range of technical equipment to analyze the physical characteristics of green and roasted coffee. For all our coffee testing packages, we perform many tests, but there are few things in particular that we look for.
Comprehensive coffee testing will help you understand how to source, roast and brew consistently great coffee. However, testing one sample one time will not reflect the state of your overall coffee program; it will only provide a snapshot of the particular sample.
While some specialty roasters test every batch they produce, it often is unreasonable for a roaster to go to extreme lengths to ensure quality. In our opinion, the key is to figure out a level of testing that can account for the variability of your coffee without blowing budgets and time constraints.
When coffee is brewed correctly, there is truly nothing like it. You do a double-take, look incredulously at the cup in your hand and say, “man … that’s GOOD.”
But in order for the coffee to come out just right, the correct brew parameters must be in place: water quality, water-to-coffee ratio, water temperature, and grind. When brewed correctly, the coffee’s best flavors are released quickly, and bitterness will be present, but it will be perceived as more of an aftertaste or “finish.” Cutting off the extraction at a certain point can control the amount of bitterness.
The value of green coffee is in its flavor and how it can be used. Some green coffees are quite valuable and have a long-standing reputation of high quality (Kenyan, Kona, Guatemalan Antigua, Jamaican Blue Mountain), others are not always deserved.
Those that can be sold as a single origin command the highest prices. Next in line are lesser-known origins, some of which are every bit as good as the “stars,” but do not have a reputation in the marketplace. The “blenders” are coffees that may be all right on their own, but are usually blended with other components.
When Coffee Analysts tests green coffee, we conduct a physical and a sensory analysis, and then provide our clients with a detailed report. From this report, our clients can adjust their blends, roasting methodology, etc. to achieve the best flavor profile.
When testing coffee, the roast degree will determine what flavor component of the individual coffee is emphasized and is a primary determinant of the flavor profile.
More acidic coffees may maintain their acidity better at lighter roasts, while those that naturally have heavier body may be able to maintain that body through darker roasts. Some origin flavors can be more clearly perceived when the roast is lighter (more acidic), while some are obscured at the same level of roast.
Any coffee, no matter of what quality, can be affected dramatically at the stage of brewing. Brewing is a chemical reaction between hot water and coffee. According to work done by the Coffee Brewing Center, while roasted ground coffee is about 30% soluble by weight, only 18-22% of that soluble material results in desirable coffee flavor. This material must be present in a certain concentration to be best appreciated. For more details on ideal conditions for producing a satisfying cup, see the SCAA website.
Packaging and the maintenance of packaging equipment is one of the biggest challenges in the roasting facility. Coffee Analysts has designed shelf–life tests so that several samples from a batch are tested at once. Especially in the case of coffee packaging, only testing one bag will not give adequate information about the packaging system.
Use of the leak detector: When excessive oxygen is found, it is important to determine the source. If the equipment is not sealing the bag properly, pinhole leaks can develop that allow small amounts of oxygen into the package over time (immediately after manufacture, no oxygen will be detected). By isolating the location of these leaks, the equipment can be adjusted as necessary.
Freshness is a major determinant of roasted coffee quality and consumer satisfaction. The rate of coffee staling will depend upon the amount of contact with oxygen. Conditions of heat and added moisture will accelerate staling. Moisture-resistant sealed packaging with a minimum of oxygen content is the key to coffee shelf life.
The training focused on “Tongues & Noses” with emphasis on tasting coffees from around the world. Jacqui worked with the CA staff on identification of faults, taints and positive attributes, and departed with a “taste bud high,” ready to get back into her lab.
First Watch customers can pick up a 12-ounce bag of Sunrise Select™ ground coffee for only $5.99 plus tax. Sunrise Select is a proprietary blend of high-grown Panamanian, Mexican and Columbian coffee beans that is slow-roasted to create a unique, rich and delicate flavor. It was developed in partnership with highly-regarded coffee expert Coffee Analysts and is roasted and distributed by First Watch’s vendor-partner Royal Cup Coffee.
Coffee Ed, a newly founded coffee educational and training company is pleased to host George Howell for a very special slideshow presentation on “The Long Road to Quality – From Seed to Cup.” Following the slide show, George will be facilitating a coffee tasting for attendees on six coffees from coffee-growing regions around the world. Attendees will learn how professional coffee tasting is done and what attributes are characteristic of different growing regions. There is only space for 50 individuals, so please reserve your space today.
This event is being sponsored by Coffee Enterprises at 32 Lakeside Avenue, Burlington VT from 9-1pm Saturday March 6th for a small fee of $15. Only 50 seats are available so please call Coffee Enterprises (802.865.4480) or email: email@example.com to reserve your space!
George Howell, internationally recognized leader in the Specialty Coffee Industry, founded the Coffee Connection in Cambridge, MA in 1975 and went on to found George Howell Terroir Coffee Company in 2002. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America in 1996 and was awarded the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s Better Coffee World Award in 2007. George also was the co-founder of the Cup of Excellence and currently serves on the Arbitration Panel for the Specialty Coffee Association.
In Rwanda, Dan was a featured presenter at the East Africa Fine Coffee Association’s annual meeting. Dan’s presentation on Trends and New Products in the Coffee Industry was attended by over 300 delegates from twenty countries.
Upon leaving Rwanda, Dan traveled to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia where he spent a week teaching a course on cupping and technical coffee tasting to 28 adult students who worked in the coffee industry. Upon completion of the training, Dan administered the rigorous Q Grader exam to the participating students.