The AutoComb

BH Unlimited Update, Oct 6th 2022.

Our Espresso Distribution Tool Unveiled -  We’re thrilled to have worked closely with Anthony Douglas during the lead up to his WBC win last week. He used a prototype of our new espresso distribution tool, the AutoComb. Over the last few months we’ve been iterating and refining the design, so that it was ready for the big stage and, thanks to Anthony’s stellar performance, it entered the world with a bang!

Anthony Douglas’ WBC 2022 performance using the AutoComb

You can watch Anthony’s performance here . Keep an eye out for the difference between the mountain of grinds exiting the Mythos and the beautiful flat mass of grinds afterwards.

The AutoComb is indeed our long awaited distribution tool. It’s not for sale yet, but rest assured, if you’re on this email list, we’ll let you know about it when the time comes. Until then, we’ll be busy building out the machine that makes the machine.

The State of the Smaller Holder Coffee Farmer

If you were watching the World Barista Champs and Brewers’ Cup this week, you’ll have heard endless details of variety, terroir, and processing from the competitors, and more than a few personal stories about the farmers and their families.

We’ve come to expect this kind of traceability data in specialty coffee as a bare minimum — but we rarely give any thought to what it costs to actually collect that kind of information and put it in the barista’s hands. Producers are expected to give full details of the methods they have developed over generations, while rarely getting anything in return — not even access to the kind of information we demand from them.

Even worse, this information is too often focused on the coffee, rather than the humans behind it. The amount of data we have about coffee processing, and market factors like yields, quality, and prices, stands in stark contrast to the information we have about the lives and livelihoods of most of the people that produce our coffee.

Most coffee farmers are smallholders, and in the great data-collecting exercises that guide the international coffee trade, coffee from smallholders tends to get lumped in with coffee from bigger farms. We know that smallholders face a ton of unique challenges, but the data that could actually drive decision-making to support them is sorely lacking.

Today, we’ve published a new white paper by Cory Gilman from Heifer International where she shares the story of the ‘ State of the Smallholder ’ project. Heifer is a charity focussed on food security and nutrition, with women's empowerment and connected communities at the centre of their work. The State of the Smallholder started life as a one-off research project, but when Heifer found that the data they needed either wasn’t available, or wasn’t being shared publicly, it ballooned into an open access digital platform intended to democratise data sharing in coffee.

By encouraging data sharing, Cory hopes to reduce the burden on producers, and put the data gathered back in producers’ hands. She’s currently working on funding, and looking for more collaborators willing to share their data. Baristas and roasters can benefit too, by getting access to information about origin countries that’s normally very hard to find. This paper is free for anyone to read, so dive in!

Roasting Science

In our Roasting Science course this week we get into the Glass Transition — the change in texture of the coffee from ‘glassy’ to ‘rubbery’ during roasting. This is some complicated physics, but we try to break it down as much as possible. One thing that’s often misunderstood is that there isn’t just one transition — different components of the coffee go through different transitions and the beans could even pass from glassy, to rubbery, and back to glassy, while still in the roaster.

Because room temperature exceeds their glass transition temperature, polythene bags can stretch and become permanently deformed

We also discuss the mechanics of first crack and second crack. It might surprise you to know that even though the cracks are such important markers of the roast progression, we aren’t absolutely sure what causes them. One theory links first crack to the glass transition. If this is the case, it raises an intriguing possibility — we could control when first crack happens during the roast.

Take a look at this week’s new lessons to learn more. BH Unlimited subscribers have advanced access to each new lesson as the course progresses.

The Coffee Buyer’s Guide to Colombia

This week in our Buyer’s Guide to Colombia , we’re wrapping up the immense chapter on Colombia’s growing regions with Tolima and Valle del Cauca. Tolima is unique in that it has one foot in the traditional heartland of Colombian coffee, the Eje Cafetero, and one foot in the new centre of Colombian coffee centred around Huila. Not only that, but some research suggests that it even has a distinctive chemical profile among Colombian coffees.

Technified coffee production near Sevilla, Valle del Cauca

Meanwhile Valle del Cauca is part of Colombia’s traditional coffee-growing region, but is trying to distinguish itself by developing more sustainable production. We wrap up this chapter with a recap to bring all this knowledge together, then a quiz, to make sure you can tell your Caqueta from your Casanare.

Quick Links

Astrophysicist-Barista Jonathan Gagné teased a new brewer he developed with NextLevel on Insta this week. It’s sure to be worth keeping an eye out for.

For another example of how providing access to data and decision-making tools can help smallholder farmers and the organisations that support them, take a look at the Gender Equity Index .

An Ad-Free Learning Experience

At BH we never do ads for other company’s products on our website. There’s no product placement in any of our courses, newsletters or blog posts. Our only income comes from what you pay for your subscriptions. When you see machinery or coffee gear mentioned in any of our educational material, or featured in our course videos, we have chosen to use that equipment because we like using it, because we think it’s historically significant in the evolution of the espresso machine, or because it shows you something you need to see about modern coffee culture. It’s as simple as that.

Roasting Science

Bean Behaviour
RS 3.07 • The Glass Transition
RS 3.08 • First Crack and Second Crack

The Coffee Buyer’s Guide to Colombia

Growing Regions of Colombia
CBGC 1.20 • Tolima
CBGC 1.21 • Valle del Cauca

As always, we're just an email away if you have any queries! Have great weekends and we look forward to seeing you next time.

To the Boundaries of Coffee,
Team BH