Hosted A Coffee Tasting

"I don't need you to tell me how f**king good my coffee is, okay? I'm the one who buys it. I know how good it is. When Bonnie goes shopping she buys S**T. I buy the gourmet expensive stuff because when I drink it I want to taste it."
--Jimmie Dimmick as played by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction

The last time I did a tasting was very early in the year. It was
a comparison of the Mission's best burritos, and I was the sole blind taster. The plan for today was a bit different. This morning, we invited a bunch of friends over to compare the coffees roasted here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We compared 11 different coffees from all over the Bay Area, and I set the following parameters I tried to keep to for the test:

1) The beans were roasted at a local roaster. Our beans came from as far north as Santa Rosa and as far south as Santa Cruz. All but one of these was a relatively small roaster.
2) The coffees were single-origin. This means that it's one type of bean from one area of one farm (sometimes called a microlot) roasted one way. I believe most of the coffees we tried fit this description. There were a few exceptions.
3) The beans came from either Central America or Mexico. There was a late entry that was the only exception to this, but the coffees came from Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Here is the list of roasters and coffees we decided to try out:
Blue Bottle (Oakland, CA) - Plan De La Batea comes from a micro lot in El Salvador.
Ecco Caffe (Santa Rosa, CA) - La Maravilla is from a farm in Guatemala.
Four Barrel Coffee (San Francisco, CA) - Antigua Cadejo is from a Guatemalan farm named after a mythical black hellhound with red eyes and goat hooves.
Sightglass (San Francisco, CA) - Finca La Esperanza is a farm located in Monzonte, Nicaragua.
Ritual Roasters (San Francisco, CA) - Santa Teresa is a municipality on the west side of Nicaragua.
Barefoot Coffee (San Jose, CA) - Malacara Tablon 7 comes from a farm in El Salvador located "on the northern slope of the Santa Ana volcano, amidst a cloud covered, misty micro climate that creates the perfect environment in which to grow coffee."
De La Paz Coffee Roasters (San Francisco, CA) - Our only coffee from Panama was this Bambito Estate.
Bicycle Coffee (San Francisco, CA) - This dark roast was not specifically a single origin coffee because it came from a co-op and not a micro lot, but the beans came from Chiapas, Mexico.
Mr. Espresso (Oakland, CA) - The Cauca, Roble Blanco is from the South American country of Colombia. Aaron was nice enough to bring it from the East Bay which is great because I had a very difficult time finding it in the City.
Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz, CA) - Aragon is a farm in Antigua, Guatemala that operate a 100 year old wet/dry mill.
Peet's Coffee (Alameda, CA) - This was our ringer. I wanted to see how well a big coffee company would fair against these other small ones, especially since they are also from our area. San Sebastian is another farm located in the Antigua region in Guatemala.

Last night, I lined up all the beans and weighed out 1.5 ounces of beans in small dipping bowls.

I labelled all the bottoms before weighing.

I thought it looked pretty cool with all the beans lined up next to their respective packaging.

I took the bags away and mixed them all up so I wouldn't know which coffee was which.

I went to bed, and the next morning, I started to grind all the beans using our burr grinder. From there, the plan was to brew all the coffees in Chemexes. I had a few of our friends bring theirs from home.

We ended up with four things to brew coffee, and I poured water over each in a row on our kitchen counter.

It took three rounds of pouring, but eventually, J and I got all eleven coffees out on the table with numbers next to each.

I took a few minutes to talk about the procedures and grading guidelines while my friends patiently waited.

We noted different information on different categories:
- Aroma - what notes do you smell in the coffee?
- Acidity - is there a fruity, snappy quality?
- Flavors - what does the coffee taste like? is it floral? fruity? musky?
- Body - how thick does the coffee feel on your tongue?
- Strength - how intense is the coffee flavor?
- Overall Taste/Impression

I appreciated how most people took it pretty seriously as they judged the coffees then rotated around the table.

It was pretty intense around the table, but eventually, everyone got to all the cups and tasted them and made tons of notes. The most important was the overall taste rating which we used to select our winner and losers.

Here were the results. We got the top three coffees by weighting first, second, and third place votes and adding them all up. We did the same for the bottom two spots as well.

1. Barefoot (Ryan purchased this for me in the South Bay.)
2. Ecco (I picked this one up at Bi-Rite Market.)
3. Bicycle (I bought this coffee at Whole Foods.)

10. Mr. Espresso (Aaron found this across the Bay.)
11. Ritual Roasters (This one was also from Whole Foods.)

In my opinion, this event was a success. I had a ton of fun, and I think everyone else did as well. We all got to hang out and drink some great brew. I was happy to make a few pots of the winning coffees at the end.

Related Items:
Chemex Coffee Filters - 100 Chemex Bonded Unbleached Filter Squares FSU-100
Chemex Drip Coffee Carafe - 6 Cup
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