Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coffee Roasting in Bluff View


Once while crossing the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, I found the aroma of roasting beans so compelling that it led me to Rembrandt's Coffee House, where Director of Marketing and Sales Michele Kephart would later rendezvous with me for a tour of the operation. "We've had clients ask us to roast during their events here," she said.Lucky are they whose special occasions are perfumed by the sweet, dense depths of a scent like no other, combining notes of caramel, vanilla and chocolate.

In a former glass making studio below the bocce court we are greeted by Chris Anderson, Assistant Food and Beverage Director for Bluff View. When the roasting oven, which resembles a steam locomotive, reaches the required 415 degrees, he pours eighteen pounds of green Mexican beans into the funnel atop the furnace and the temperature promptly drops by half. As it climbs between 280 and 290 degrees, chaff separates from the beans and is blown into a holding tray for later use a garden fertilizer.

The next stage is called 'first crack', because of the rapid popping sounds generated as moisture is released at a temperature between 380 and 390 degrees. In the end, beans will have doubled in volume, but lost sixteen percent of their mass. The resulting fifteen pounds of this particular roast cascade from the chamber in a cloud of smoke and descend into cooling tray. Three arms sweep them round and round while the forced air that once blew away their chaff now bears away the heat.

The roiling, glistening swirl brings a smile to this coffee lover, but Anderson's sharp eye has spotted an errant green bean that somehow never completed the process. While the one might not affect flavor, his pride in a job well done demands its removal, which he does while bagging the lot. Recently roasted beans will continue to emit gasses for two days, so the bags are valved to release them. Optimal serving falls within two to fourteen days hence.

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