I had the great pleasure of conversating with Larry the roaster over at Leverhead Coffee about his coffee. Also, to rave to him about his Ethiopian single origin beans! I also got to ask him about everything I’ve been curious about. For someone who’s interested in learning about coffee, not just drink it, this was a real treat. I hope I get the chance to chat with more roasters in my little coffee adventure!
See what Larry has to say below!
1. How did you acquire the interest and skill for roasting? And what do you enjoy most about it?
I’m sort of a renaissance guy, when I like something I want to learn how to do it. Coffee was one of those things. I’m pretty much self-taught in coffee roasting. I’ve been active on a few online forums in the past and attended many coffee expos and events. The online community of coffee fanatics is a great way to learn… then experiment from there.
2. Can you describe your roasting set up?
Hottop as a sample roaster (1/2 lb capacity), Ambex drum roaster (5 lb capacity).
3. What are the 3 most important steps in roasting, i.e. bean selection, bean storage, etc.?
1) Beans, you can make bad coffee with great beans, but you cannot make great coffee with low quality beans. 2) know your roaster, and how it reacts with each bean. 3) roast, cup (taste) make changes, repeat.
4. What are the essential brewing equipment every coffee lover needs, regardless of price?
A good grinder (burr grinder) – I recommend Baratza grinders (electric) or there are several good hand grinders.
5. Describe your perfect cup of coffee.
The one I’m having right now. That’s a hard question, since I don’t know I’ve had a “perfect cup of coffee”. It’s similar to anything that comes from a crop (describe your perfect apple)… Different regions, years, farms, processing, storage, age, roast, etc. all affect the cup. If it tastes great, is it perfect? In that moment yes, will there be a better cup tomorrow? Who knows.
6. With El Nino being in full effect this year, the prediction is that coffee along with rice and wheat crops are going to suffer. Has this ever happened before and how long did it take the cherry trees to bounce back? Do you forsee coffee prices soaring, if so, by how much?
Coffee is a crop, and varies in each region each year… Brazil may be so-so this year and Ethiopian coffee phenomenal, next year could be the opposite.. Coffee prices vary with many things and always will change. Beetles and rust are a bigger concern with coffee right now, rather than weather…
7. What are the 3 biggest mistakes people make when it comes to coffee?
1) Let coffee get old. Roasted coffee is best within 2 -3 weeks of roasting, then the flavors fall off. Buy less and use it within a few weeks. 2) low temperature coffee maker (any cheap electric coffee maker you can buy at Target, or Sears). Most coffee makers don’t get hot enough to extract the flavors (oils) out of the ground coffee. Many folks think over roasted coffee is “bold)… what you taste is charcoal (aka the roast) that is construed as “bold”. I can make any coffee taste that way if I over roast it…. Get a good coffee maker (Technivorm, Bonavita, Brazen, search for SCAA approved coffee maker) or use a kettle and a pourover (Melita – ready set Joe, as an example). Water should be 195 – 205 degrees. 3) Grind just before you brew…. Coffee degrades when it hits oxygen, whole beans have less surface area than ground, so degrade slower.