How We Choose Our Coffees

Do you like delicious coffee? Do you want a job where all you do is taste delicious coffee and select delicious coffees for other people to try? Well, you need my job; one of the best in the world!

In all seriousness, I do a lot more than drink delicious coffee. One of the things that I and the team at Seven Miles do is taste, select and serve some of the most amazing coffees available. It really does make your day doing this, and sometimes it totally doesn’t feel like work. How do we do it though? Is there rhyme or reason behind it? What’s our rationale?

There is a lot that goes into coffee. You, the drinker, see a small amount of that as you see the Barista making your coffee in front of you. We, the roaster, see the coffee arrive and roast it to be served, which can take a few hours. The coffee beans are a labour of love and commitment over a nine to twelve month period. It’s this process that really sparks our interest. What is it about a certain coffee that really makes it taste good?

Different regions, different flavours

As selection goes, we consider the region in which the coffee is grown, how long it is going to ripen, and what variety it is. Maybe it’s from Colombia and it’s a yellow catuai that has ripened for nine months. This is going to tell me that it will have a vibrant malic acidity and will be very juicy. Each region has a different associated flavour, and we can go shopping for that flavour. Ethiopia – dark berries, Brazil – chocolate, Sumatra – spicy… The list goes on.

Is it washed, honey or natural process? How long did the process take? Was it dried under shade cloth, in machines or on rooftop patios? It might be that the coffee is an El Salvador that has been natural process (dried in cherry) over a six week period, where it has spent half its life on raised drying beds and half resting in a warehouse. This tells me the coffee is going to be intensely fruity and complex. Each process has some unique attribute. Washed – clarity and vibrancy, honey – sweet and floral, natural – intense and boozy.

How the farm impacts the bean

Is the coffee traceable? Is it from an organic farm? Is it from a cooperative or small lot? Whilst these don’t necessarily attribute to the flavour, they are important in the whole story. Organic farming has its pros and cons, but it can help in the bigger picture to know what processes a farm is using. In the cases of my origin trips, the organic farms I have seen have had a wider view on how to get their farm producing and yielding more per hectare. They have also known how to keep the soil healthy, and have the land rebound to produce better. If a coffee is traceable, we have the opportunity to find it again. If we know whether the coffee has come from a small lot, larger farm or cooperative, this has help us trace the coffee so we can secure more. The pursuit of a coffee that is truly special is hard, but knowing it can be repeatedly purchased is really exciting. If a farm is growing this coffee on a larger scale, then it means we can have more and more for years to come. A little known fact about some of the amazing specialty coffees that come from Ethiopia is that they are often from hundreds of different farms. The dry mill has been able to select a flavour and source coffees to suit that flavour. After that, they give it a name and we get to enjoy it here in Australia.

The hardest part: taste testing!

We have so many choices, so how do we put it all together? Every month we sit down with a list of amazing specialty coffee in front of us, and we are bewildered. There are so many tasty sounding coffees; some even from the same farms, but using different micro-lots or processing methods. We do, however, start out with an agenda. You may have noticed the weeks are themed. Washed week, natural week, Honduras week. This matters in the selection as we can purchase coffees that suit these themes. Of course, the reality is we’d love to buy all the coffees, but we just can’t drink that many! For instance, we had a coffee from Honduras called El Chile. We used that coffee in a Honduras Week, a Washed Week and a Central American week. We were able to try that coffee as an espresso, filter and in a blend.

Once we have selected the coffees we like the sound of, we receive samples and ‘cup’ them. For those that don’t know what cupping is, it’s simple: we take 11 grams of coffee, add 190 millilitres of water, and then heat it to 96 degrees celsius. We let it sit for four minutes, then proceed to scrape the surface off, releasing the aroma. Once it’s cooled a bit, we take a spoon and slurp it, kind of like tasting soup or wine. It’s probably a hard place to be around for the germaphobes among us, but we do it to get the full flavour experience. Why like this and not as an espresso of V60? Everyone in the world working with coffee follows this procedure, making sure it is kept consistent; it’s the easiest way to translate tasting. For those that want to join us in a cupping, keep an eye out on our Facebook. We will be holding weekly cuppings at the Seven Miles Roastery Door.

We taste these coffees all together, and inevitably, there’s always that one coffee that will really have the ‘wow’ factor. Often, there will be a selection of different cups that really stand out from the rest, meaning we get an awesome selection of coffees and then you, the drinker, get to enjoy them!

And let’s face it, people loving amazing coffee is the reason I have a job!

Paul Asquith
With 15 years already spent committed to coffee, Paul's passion is for digesting the endless possibilities and knowledge surrounding coffee flavour development. After winning the Australasian Grand Barista Championship in 2012, Paul knows just how good coffee can be and the important role everyone plays, from grower to Barista, in developing and nurturing flavour. Captivated by coffee’s agronomy, Paul is excited to be part of a generation passionate about improving practices on farms and seeing growers produce outstanding coffee. Paul holds a pivotal role within our team. Working side by side with our cupping panel, roasters and trainers, Paul’s focus is on refining our coffee program to ensure it honours the remarkable flavour diversity coffee has to offer and supports best practice at each and every stage.