Roasting Sweet Maria’s Kenya Nyeri Ngunguru Peaberry

AKA: things I learned, and things I learned I had already learned1, my first time roasting coffee

General thoughts

In no particular order…

  • The longer the roast, the more moisture is lost, the lighter and less dense the bean2.

    The 5:00 roast lost 9g

    5:14 lost 12g

    The lightest roast of the bunch sounded like rocks going through my grinder.

  • Data, data, data. I need more data.

    I’ll get over the nervous jitters and the process will become second-nature and then I’ll be able to devote greater attention to taking more meticulous notes.

    For the past four roasts I’ve been focusing on logging when 1st crack is happening (somewhat challenging at the moment: “Was that it? … wait, no, that was it …) and what the total roast time has been.

    Moving forward, I can see me focusing on temps at which these things are happening as well as focusing on how far past 1st crack I’m reaching the temperature at which I’m satisfied with the color and smell (that’s going to be an interesting qualitative data point as well) I observe in the popper.

West Bend “Poppery II”

  • As I’ve said before, rumors of the West Bend “Poppery II”’s scarcity have been greatly exaggerated.

  • The “Poppery II” produces far, far less smoke than the literature at Sweet Maria’s and other sites has led me to believe.

    There were warnings to place the popper under a stove ventilation hood. There were warnings to take the popper outside to roast the coffee. I saw pictures of modifications using metal ducting to direct the smoke outside. “It must be four-alarm fire type of smoke for all of this effort”, I thought.

    I’ve produced more smoke grilling chicken indoors. A lot more.

    If you must, sure, place the popper under your stove’s ventilation hood. But really, there isn’t much smoke and most of it is released during the first minute of the roast. Not an issue.

    Of course, I could eat my words. Maybe Central Americans or non-peaberry coffees produce more smoke. Maybe this batch of coffee was an anomaly. I must remember: this was my first roast.

  • I’m duly impressed with the evenness of roast I’m getting … out of a popcorn popper. It’s not Probat quality. But it’s more than workable.

  • The best and most efficacious bit of advice I read was to place a bowl with a wet towel in it under the popper’s exit chute. Worked like a charm at catching the chaff and preventing it from blowing in all directions.

  • I read the process was going to be noisy. Again, not much of an issue, especially for someone who uses a burr grinder every morning and lives to tell about it. I own a Cuisinart ice cream maker that makes more noise and takes a longer time to achieve desired results.

The coffee: Sweet Maria’s Kenya Nyeri Ngunguru Peaberry

  • This is a beautiful coffee. It reminds me of a Kenya I had at Intelligentsia — I think it was the Tegu (PDF). Like that, the Nyeri is brothy and sweet.

  • Below city this coffee is disgusting. Really. I tried to drink it. I didn’t get far before tossing it into the sink. Grassy. Like I steeped hay in a cup. The sharpness of the fruit is tenaciously, still present but without any. sort. of sweetness. at all. to balance it out. Not good.

    At around city the Nyeri just goes bonkers with the fruit. It’s sharp and wild. In a good way. The brothy-ness (miso) undergirds it, just barely hanging onto the fruit (cherry and sweet cranberry), preventing it from getting too carried away.

    At around city+ balance prevails. It’s the more sophisticated older sister of the Nyeri at city. The sweetness takes more of the stage with the wild fruit. It’s a more sophisticated, balanced cup without losing the fruit.

    I thought, if I may, that at city, it had the light and wild fruit of a good Ritual roast. At City+, it was more representative of what I remember from the Intelligentsia Kenya mentioned above.

    I like both. I really can’t decide which is best. I suppose I don’t have to.

  • The nicest compliment I received was that

    It tastes like the coffee you usually get

    …from my roommate. Peet’s fan. So, you-know, objective.

Three more pounds of green coffee are on their way from Sweet Maria’s. This is fun.


  1. i.e. “duh” [head slap]. 

  2. as I said, [head slap] 

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