The Tasting and the Voting
On November 13th and 14th, nearly 40 members of the Indy Hall community participated in the 2013 coffee taste-off. On both days, pour-over brewed coffees waited in hot, thermal carafes and espresso blends were at the ready for any would be tasters. Most of the members talked about what they were tasting and gave general indications of how they were voting. Despite this openness, the members seemed to be voting independently and were not easily swayed by the opinions of other members. Like all Indy Hall events, this tasting was another opportunity for members to connect. While rating the coffees without talking about them may have resulted in slightly more independent voting, it would have gone against the grain of something that Indy Hall regularly encourages: collaboration.
The scoring was pretty straight forward as we used a simple 1-5 scale (where 1= “This is crap” and 5 = “Yes, I would bathe in this”). To help split hairs, we offered tasters the option of using .5 ratings, e.g. 1.5, 2.5, etc. We didn’t just give them a scale, though. We encouraged everyone to consider the different characteristics of each coffee and how they would describe it. We hoped those thoughts would come first and then, at last, they’d assign a number once they had come to a degree of familiarity with the taste of each coffee and how they compared to each other. From my observations, this seemed to be the predominant approach.
We required all the tasters to rate the coffee as is - and we offered them an optional cream and sugar rating (if that’s the way they always prepare their coffee). We wanted this tasting to be educational as well as functional. A few of the members commented that tasting coffee completely without cream and sugar was a new experience for them and that they truly learned something from it: mission accomplished.
The coffees were not labeled, but rather, they were listed anonymously as “Roaster 1”, “Roaster 2”, etc. Likewise, the members voted anonymously. We tracked the coffees by assigning each company’s blend or single origin with a roaster number and labeled the thermal carafes with that roaster number. When it was over, we collected the voting ballots from both days, recorded all of the scores for each roaster, and then calculated the roaster’s average. The results were fairly close. Note: this was only a portion of a specific community and how they rated these coffees; this is not an official evaluation of quality.
Admittedly, I was disturbed when I saw how close the Folgers results were to the rest of the coffee. Some people actually seemed to like it while others proceeded to spit it out and then rinse out their mouth with urgency. They looked as if their mouths had been violated. But, at least Folgers came in dead last. We can take comfort in knowing that most people recognize the difference between good beans and whatever Folgers is selling as “coffee.”
To be clear, all of these coffee roasters are excellent - except for Folgers. Let’s be clear about that too. The blends and single origins that these roasters sent Indy Hall were at about the same level of quality - very good quality. The amount of care that these roasters put into their coffee production is inspiring. We were grateful to receive the free samples and include them in the taste-off. They all have great coffee and I encourage everyone to try any unfamiliar roasters.
The Winning Roasters
For the entirety of 2014, we have decided to order coffee from the top three roasters: Victrola, One Village, and Green Street. The main goal of this taste-off was to diversify the coffee we drink throughout the year. Purchasing from three roasters is a great way to make this happen. We’re happy to continue our relationship with One Village coffee, with whom we’ve collaborated on a number of events at Indy Hall. Of course, we’re excited to begin new relationships with Victrola and Green Street. Congratulations to the Indy Hall Coffee Taste-Off winners!
Next Post: TBD, TBA, TBO
written by James Falconi (aka Captain Falco)