Coffee Express

Providing great service to coffee houses and other specialty retailers in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana

Posts Tagged / roasting

Profile Roasting

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I bought my first espresso machine in 1971. Once the mechanics of pulling shots became second nature, it was time to pay more attention to the coffee itself. That’s why, in 1982 I decided to start roasting. In 1985, I hired Scott and taught him what I knew about it. Around 1987 Scott took over production roasting, and Walt came aboard and learned from both Scott and me. Today, in late 2015 going on 2016, Scott and Walt are still the roasters at Coffee Express – two of the best in the business.

Before actually roasting you have to obtain raw coffee. So, in 1981, after I had ordered our first machine (a Jabez Burns ½ bag) I set about learning how to evaluate and purchase green coffee. I’ve never relinquished that role; I still man our ancient sample roaster, a Gothot from 1946, and keep up our supplies of green coffee with the finest qualities available.

The Roasters Guild is part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and was formed in 2000. The SCAA began in 1984, but was so successful it came to encompass many facets of specialty coffee. A group of roasters decided there needed to be a separate Guild. I finally joined a few years ago, and have since participated in their annual retreats. It’s been thrilling to interact with roasters from around the country and the world, sharing skills, theories and knowledge.

In particular, it’s nice to be able to try all sorts of roasters at the Retreat. As a result, I recently bought a two pound Giesen. It has the very latest touch screen controller, with an infinite variable speed motor – allowing the most precise roasting imaginable. Slight adjustments in air speed, along with temperature controls, can enhance or detract from taste characteristics inherent in unroasted beans.

I’ve always tried to keep Coffee Express ahead of the specialty coffee revolution. Learning to be even more exacting in the craft of roasting coffee is exciting!

I plan to write about what the Giesen is telling us. Much of this we already know, but some of the pleasure of a craft is in the pursuit of further understanding.

13th Roaster’s Guild Retreat

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Michigan Contingent

The Michigan Contingent

13th Roaster’s Guild Retreat

The Roaster’s Guild, a group within the Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA), held their annual retreat in West Virginia for the second time this year. This is the closest it comes to Michigan, and a nice contingent of our state’s roasters made the trek. The Guild is a large group, and about 150 people attended. Three full days of roasting, cupping and classroom workshops make up the bulk of the retreat, during which, twelve teams of ten compete to see who can roast, blend and brew a winning cup.

 

 

 

Fun

Roasting with the “Arabicats”

A remarkably humble group, roasters of all stripes worked together, listening to each other, and deferring to whoever seemed to have the best plan for roasting, cupping, and brewing. Roasting coffee is an accomplished craft, and the community continues to probe and learn. Gauges to measure temperature and time are a must, helping the roaster’s senses of smell and sight. Experience in interpreting the various inputs finishes the job.

What my attendance at these retreats enables us to do here, at Coffee Express, is learn even more about the coffees we purchase, and processes we use to roast them. Each coffee has different attributes that need to be understood in advance of the final roast, in order to bring out the best of what that bean type has to offer. There were probably 30 workshops, classes, and other skill-building events – too many to list. But here are some of the ones I took part in:

 

More fun

More fun with roasting

Profile Roasting Practices: We went over coffee bean characteristics, then set out roasting. We chose a Giesen, and tried to learn to control the variable airflow. This particular roaster allows for more control than most. Hard machine to tame.

Calibration Cupping of Challenge Cup Coffees: We divided into our pre-arranged groups (we named ourselves the Arabicats), and spent Friday morning roasting four five-pound bags of coffee, in order to find what might work best.

Two long sessions followed. The first – on microlots, quality, and sustainability – was led by the coffee buyer at Counter Culture. The second was a detailed look at how the physical makeup of the beans affects the manner in which you roast. Lots of science in this one.

Organic Acids and the Chemistry of Coffee, and Introduction to Roasting Concepts were on my agenda for Saturday. The concepts course took us, once again, back to the roasters. We did three roasts on the same coffee, stretching development times, and logging the effects made to the cup. In the chemistry course, we learned that if growers and roasters better understand the various acids – formic, acetic, glycolic and lactic, for example- we can better adjust roast profiles to bring out some and mute others.

How’s The Weather?

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Anyone who’s pulled a shot of espresso knows temperature and humidity can affect the pour.  Many baristas adjust the grind and dose to compensate.

Similar factors influence the way we roast. You’ve probably noticed how light our dark roast coffees look the first day of 15-degree temperatures. We get at least one call per year wondering if we sent the right coffee! Rest assured we tell them, it will darken in a day or two at room temperature.

Warm summer temps age roasted coffee very quickly, while cold, dry winter weather slows the curing process

Our roasters Walt and Scott have to continually make adjustments depending on the conditions each day, and the age and moisture level of the green coffee they’re using. This is in addition to adapting to the variety of bean Brazil, Costa Rica, Sumatra, etc.

All three of our roast machines have read-outs. We typically set an ending temperature only as an emergency stopping point, monitoring each and every roast by hand. The first few batches can be an indicator of how things will be going that day.

I don’t want to leave out the importance of the age of green beans. Generally, green coffee – once processed – has a three to five month period when it is at its best. It will tend to dry some over time, which affects roasting.

Softer coffees, such as Brazil, Sumatra, some Mexicans, and others, develop more quickly. Harder beans, including Costa Rica and Kenya, more time. Coffees like Yemen Mocha are a devil to control. Scott and Walt use hundreds of signals, honed from their many years of roasting, to arrive at the result they are looking for.

Roasters Guild Annual Retreat

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The Specialty Coffee Association came together in 1984. At that time small specialty roasters and shop owners made up the membership. It didn’t take long for the trade group to grow to what it is today: a broad mix of roasters, both large and small, coffee shops of all sorts, and hundreds of allied members. Eleven years ago, a small group of specialty roasters once again felt they needed a trade group to better represent them, this time within the SCAA. They created the Roasters Guild. (The Barista Guild has a similar background). Read More

How We Choose Our Coffees

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Folks who make coffee their profession understand – there are many steps to a great cup. It starts with green beans, and involves roasting, brewing and serving. The green beans alone require a certain depth of knowledge, including genetics, growing regions, processing techniques, sorting, and shipping. Let’s take a look at how we choose our coffees. Read More

Degrees of Roast

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A word on degrees of roasting. The popularity of coffee houses brought with it a taste toward dark roasts. Prior to the 1990s, the preference for dark roast was limited. Espresso brewing changed that, and the Starbucks Phenomenon has popularized even darker roasts. Read More