Jump to content

Grace Street Coffee - Coffee Roaster in Georgetown at 3210 Grace Street


Recommended Posts

Grace Street Coffee website

I just visited here for the first time to pick up a bag of beans to brew at home. To my taste, the beans were a little over-roasted (I prefer Counter Culture, for reference), but I'd say it was about on par with other local roasters in the area. I was inspired to try them after seeing Blue Bottle was planning to open up a shop nearby. Interested to see how they do in DC.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't made it to Grace Street yet, but my roaster tried it and liked their coffee. All due respect, but the phrase "over roasted"  represents a misunderstanding of the roasting process. Roasting coffee for brewing is the process of heating the beans until the majority of the moisture content is released and they become friable (easily broken apart or crumbled). So, coffee is either roasted or it's not. Calling a coffee over roasted suggest there is only one right way to roast coffee. How coffee is roasted is really a matter of personal taste.

The way I have come to think of it is that each roaster (referring to both machine and man or woman) has a signature profile which is largely seen in the broad strokes of the flavor palette, namely the balance of acidity and body. If the roaster is sophisticated, within that palette they will also paint a more detail portrait of the delicate aromatic and other flavor compounds. 

In terms of signatures, I personally find a lot of third wave roasters, such as Counter Culture and Ceremony, focus on the organic acids almost to the exclusion of other types of flavor compounds such as sugar, protein, glutemate and fat. This makes sense because there are dozens of organic acids that form in the roasting process and highlighting them offers a lot of distinction in good quality beans.

However, my personal preference is for a roast profile that balances these organic acids with the other flavor compounds that form in the roasting process. I see this as something of a middle road between the dark roasting that used to be so prevalent, necessitated by the combination of low-quality beans and extended production chains, and third wave roasting, a knee-jerk reaction to those burnt beans and enabled by huge advances on the agricutlural side.

In my more cynical moments, I tend to believe that these latter two approaches are less about flavor and more about shelf life. While obviously I find our approach to roasting the most appealing from a flavor perspective, the logistics of Qualia were built entirely around delivering our beans within three days of roasting so customers can use them at their peak, between three to eight days of roasting. We can do this because we sell our coffee retail only. If we were selling our coffee for wholesale, I cannot imagine how we would continue to approach the roasting process the way we do. Once shelf-life enters the equations, you have to make adjustments to the roasting process that necessarily sacrifices compexity for consistency, just as is true for any form of fresh produce. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Joel. I came across another one of your posts recently (quoted at the bottom) that turned on a light bulb for me to help me understand the coffee science behind my taste preferences. And your post above illuminates the point even further. You're probably right that I used to think there was a "right" way to roast coffee and I'm now realizing personal taste plays a bigger role than I thought.

Do you think the issue of personal taste makes it more difficult for serious but amateur drinkers to talk about coffee in a forum like this? As a coffee lover, I'd love to see more discussion about the flavor of different coffees and roasters. 

I should note that our roast style is different than Blue Bottle. We don't roast darker, but we roast longer. Like other specialty roasters, our goal is to bring out as much of the complexity and individuality of each coffee we source, but to my taste, other roasters emphasize acidity at the cost of body and we have tried to find a different balance of flavors.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There has been an amazing effort in the specialty coffee community to avoid publicly criticizing coffee roasters or shops. I can't exactly say why, although clearly the community has taken a very cooperative approach to raise the level of discussion around coffee, but in the coffee world no one ever wants to public criticize anyone's coffee (there is plenty of backstabbing behind closed doors, of course). You will find extensive reviews of individual beans from roasters on coffeereview.com, but they only publish reviews of the coffee they like. The only recognized authority in the field I have ever heard critically review individual roasters is Willem Boot, but only on his web site which is accessible to paying members.

I think tastings are a great way to suss out the roast profile of individual roasters. Having the ability to try multiple coffees side-by-side from an individual roaster can help appreciate that particular roasters pallet. Eater DC just published a list, including Qualia, where you can attend tastings: http://dc.eater.com/maps/spots-for-coffee-tasting-cupping

I think this should be an ongoing discussion and we have been looking for ways to encourage our customers to provide us with more feedback on the beans. Our mail-order website has the option of leaving reviews for individual offerings. No one has so far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...