This past Sunday, I was treated to quite a surprise. Ruth and Sean had a rather sneaky early birthday gift for which I was given little more detail than “show up at the gym at 8:50am”. Ruth had me navigate to Altadena (just outside of Pasadena) where we ended up at the Zane Grey Estate. At this point, I still had zero clue what we were there for, but I heard the guy directing parking mention something about a class. As we walked onto the grounds, I noticed a nicely equipped kitchen with several digital scales and French presses and name tags. Ruth then confessed I was there for a coffee roasting class.
It turned out to be quite a bit more, as the class started with a cupping (the coffee equivalent of wine tasting). During this exercise, we were challenged to find ways to describe the fragrance, aroma, taste and body of several different coffees, while blind to what the origin and roast levels were. If you’ve ever seen coffee described as having “notes of honey” and wondered how the heck people come up with that, rest assured — most of us in the class also struggled to come up with such flowery language. It would have helped if we had access to this detailed flavor wheel. At the end of the cupping, the instructor revealed what the different coffees were and helped us to recognize which regional coffees and roasts had the qualities we each enjoyed most.
The next part of the class turned to actually roasting some green coffee beans. For this, we used a simple stove-top popcorn popper. (Check out this article for a hacked version with detailed instructions.) We were told how long to heat our green coffee beans to achieve different roast levels and expanded our vocabulary in ways to describe these roasts. Once we reached the point we wanted, we dumped the coffee onto baking sheets to cool and later packed up our creations in bags to take home.
Lastly, we were taught how to properly brew coffee in the French press and partnered up to make a batch. The coffee we roasted wasn’t going to be ready for 24 hours, so we were given some the instructor had made previously. They also laid out various items to pair with the coffee, ranging from dried fruits to nuts to aged cheeses. There was also fresh raw goat’s milk for those that wanted some sort of creamer, or just to drink by itself.
The class is put on by the Institute of Domestic Technology, who offer a variety of cooking classes. If you’re a coffee addict like myself, I would highly recommend checking the class out. It was fun, informative and you leave with the 1/2 lb of beans you roasted along with another 1/2 lb of green coffee to practice on your own. As for the raw goat milk? They also have a herd of goats and chickens on the premises. This included a bunch of adorable three week old baby goats as pictured below.
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