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Answer key for the coffee bean quiz

March 03, 2012

Reading through your guesses about which roasted bean samples went with which coffee descriptions (in the comments section under my last blog post) was great fun. Frankly, without realizing it I inadvertently made the quiz harder than I’d intended to by including a blend, but then again one of the three samples seems to have been a “gimme.” More about that in a minute. First, I’ll refresh people’s memories about the matching task.

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1. Velton’s Yemen Mokha Harasi

Heirloom varietals, dry-processed

2. Klatch’s Kenya Ichamara Peaberry

SL 28, SL 34, and Ruiru varietals, washed

3. MadCap’s Six One Six blend

Finca Vista Hermosa (Guatemala): Caturra varietal, washed

Finca de Dios (Guatemala): Catuai varietal, washed

Let me cut right to the chase: for correctly pairing up A-2, B-3, and C-1, Steve Rhinehart emerges as our uncontested winner. Nice work!

Everyone identified A as the peaberry, which actually makes it a bit surprising that only one of the six contestants got B and C right also. Assuming that the probability of correctly identifying these last two—and thereby acing the quiz—was 0.5 (1 in 2), the binomial probability of one person alone flipping "heads" with that coin, so to speak, is 0.09375 (or less than 1 in 10). Steve, the stars aligned for you in a sense; maybe go buy a lottery ticket?!

Anyway, back to peaberries, I’ll quote Klatch: “Peaberry means the coffee cherry produced one seed with rounded edges instead of two seeds with a flat-sided face. Some coffee experts think that when there is only one seed in a cherry more coffee ‘essence’ is transferred to that single seed. Peaberry coffee tends to be more intense than its flat-bean counterpart. Peaberry beans were once considered a defect until some very astute person roasted and brewed a cup. Now they are marketed as a premium and separate grade. They usually make up 10% or less of a crop, so the lot sizes, as in this case, are exceptionally small, often comprising only a few bags. Peaberries tend to be very hard, dense coffee beans. This means they tend to accept dark roasting well for those of you who like your coffee that way.”

The blend, B, doesn’t look the part. I don’t have much to say about why that is except that it probably reflects the care with which this coffee was sorted and roasted. Props to the two Guatemalan farms whose beans went into Six One Six and to MadCap for treating them right are in order then. Tastewise, this blend was too comfort-oriented/unexciting for me—good body and balance, as advertised, with maybe a hint of almond but nothing else noteworthy; still, its status as a “correct” (or “quality”) coffee was never in question, and it would probably be a good choice for someone just starting to experiment with drinking coffee black.

Which brings me to C, the Yemen. Steve was looking for the right attributes in identifying this one: “Slightly less uniform roast color, couple of defect beans; pretty indicative of dry processing. No stones though...I was looking for those first, haha!” No bullet casings either! Sorry, couldn’t resist. About the effect of dry processing, here’s what Velton has to say: “…partially due to it being a naturally processed coffee, it is not an attractive roast to look at. But do not let the look of this coffee fool you; Yemens are one of the most-respected—and highest sought after—coffees in the world, which has ensured that high-quality Yemens will always fetch high prices.” It might have been easier to pick C out if I’d provided a better picture (see below).

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So, that’s all for now. Thoughts? What should Steve win besides our respect? ;)

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