Thinking Differently About Specialty Coffee: Notes from the Roaster

George Howell was right about one thing: Drip coffee is an experience, drinking from the piping hot down to room temperature. A cup of coffee is an experience as it changes shape, as it changes flavor, as your perception of it changes and the world around it changes.

About eight months ago I had the opportunity to sit and listen to George Howell (George Howell Coffee, The Coffee Connection) talk about quality and sustainability in specialty coffee. He spoke about his love for the ever changing, ever cooling cup of drip coffee, and how he creates a relationship with every coffee. It’s a mindset that I have been bringing to my own coffee journey ever since.

While I still cup every batch that comes out of my roaster, I have been brewing every single origin coffee as drip during the profiling process and enjoying it on the front patio of the cafe. Doing this has given me the opportunity to get to know my coffees more intimately, which allows me to understand the ever changing roasting process under a better light.

For example, I received my favorite coffee of the year at the roasterie a few weeks ago. It comes from a family farm in Panama that has been producing wonderful coffees for four generations. With a wealth of knowledge and a lot of care the Hartmann estate creates the coffee that I absolutely look forward to each and every spring. I roasted this coffee with quick heat and variable drum speeds to try and develop the softer sweeter notes that lie within. I brought out a nice plum acidity that evolved into a deep peach sweetness as it cooled in the cup. While hot this coffee is aromatically heavy with an unassuming acidity and soft body. It reminds me more of an effervescent floral tea more so than a hot cup of coffee, yet as it cools the flavor sort of congeals and gains a syrupy mouth feel. The coffee loses its aromatics and gains a ripe peach flavor that coats the palate and bring a richness that previously was not in the cup.

This evolution of flavor and mouth feel is what draws me to this coffee every year and its what keeps me coming back to it day after day, roast after roast, and cup after cup. It is a coffee that I have built a relationship with over years and now we meet not as roaster and coffee but as old friends catching up on lost time.

I try to have these passionate relationships with each of the coffees I roast; some are old friends, some are new, some fight me every step of the way, some are docile like fawn in a meadow, but all of them are full of life. It’s my job to highlight their triumphs and communicate their personalities to the people who drink them.

I want to challenge you to take a second next time you have a cup of coffee in front of you: Take your time, get to know the coffee, listen to what it is trying to tell you, and enjoy it for what it is.

-Jake Deome, Roaster. Follow Jake on Instagram @shepherdofman.