Ok, guys! I see a lot of great conversations on this site but it seems to me that far too few of them are actually about the art/science of roasting. Most discussions focus brewing and retailing- which is totally fine. However, I'd like to discuss the reason we're all here.


It seems to me that, as with being a barista when pulling an espresso shot, there are a limited number of variables at work during a roast.


When pulling a shot a barista balances: dose size, grind size, brew time, water volume in, and coffee volume out. The result of the equation is the extraction and the taste of the espresso.

Each of these variables has a somewhat predictable effect on the extraction and taste of espresso. That, of course, is another conversation.


Similarly, a roaster has in the works his own variables: batch size, bean size [and water content], roast time, air temperature, drum temperature, bean temperature, and airflow. I would like to see an informed discussion as to how each of these effects the outcome of a roast.


We can discuss batch size by asking, among other questions: what characteristics are common among roasts over 20lbs and what traits are common in smaller roasts? For example, do smaller roasts tend to have certain cupping results? Do larger roasts?


Roast time is an interesting topic because it is directly correlated to each other variable.


The question I have the most difficulty answering as a roster is: where does an increase in airflow have the greatest impact? Is it in the time/temperature vectors or is it on the cupping table?


How can we dissect these elements, and then reconstruct them for a fuller understanding of coffee roasting?



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Well, since this is Barista Exchange not Roast Master Exchange go figure most discussions are barista oriented not roasting focused. And quite frankly the roasting "community" is not nearly as open to discussing the finer points of their craft as the barista community, understandable so IMO.

Please continue Mike. I've noticed, too, that roasters are a little more tight lipped. The reasons for it, though, I don't follow. I'd love to hear what yours are.


I've also noticed that among the barista community- my roots and where I still consider myself an active member- baristas who share knowledge and promote "friendly competition" with each other tend to be the better baristas. In this circle there are certainly more knowledgeable, better equipped artisans than in places where there is little or no coffee community.


It is my hope that the spirit of sharing and friendly competition will bleed into the roaster community. Well, frankly, it is my hope that the lines between roast master and barista become very blurred in the next 5 years of specialty coffee. I think it's the possibility change like this that makes the BX forum so appealing to me, personally.

Quite simple really. Or complex. Your bio says you buy ALL your coffee from Shrubs roasting for home delivery by bike. Cool. Very small scale roasting operation. Now let's say you were in Vancouver, WA not Georgia. Now I'm small scale too, but different small scale 400+ LB per week currently at about 1/4 to 1/5 capacity of my current little roaster. And while I do buy some greens from Tom, not the majority, just a few really wow coffees. He's not setup for my little Ton of greens orders every few weeks.

There's another newer roaster X in Vancouver inbetween your and my scale of operations. A few months ago I had a customer come to my Roastery Coffeehouse location, his first time. We chatted and I made him an Ethiopia Jimma pour over (from Shrubs), he loved it. We chatted and he commented he'd just recently purchased some coffee from X and was disappointed, flat and no flavor. We talked and he couldn't remember what the coffee was but happened to have the coffee in his car, went and got it. Lo and behold the exact same Eth Jimma from Tom. Ended up taking roaster X bag in trade for half off one of my bags of Jimma.


We held some interesting blind customer tastings of the two over the next couple days, to a person everyone much preferred my roasts.


Why on earth would I want to teach my competition how to roast?


It costs me about $1000 and takes at least a month to train a barista to run one of my bars solo. I estimate it would cost $10,000 or likely much more and take at least a year to really train someone to BEGIN to be able to roast decently. It's easy to turn beans brown, it's a lifetime Journey learning to make each bean sing. I'm not about to give away what I've learned and continue to learn in thousands and thousands of batches for free. It is much easier and takes much less time to become a very good barista than it does to become a very good roaster. I can say this with full confidence because yes I am both.


The lines will never become very blurred in my opinion for a couple reasons. Indeed there are many who are very good at both but don't believe it will every become even close to a majority of baristas becoming roasters. For one a roaster can supply hundreds nay thousands of baristas. And two once a barista becomes a good roaster his time is much more valuable at the roaster than behind bar. And it takes much more dedication and time to become a good roaster.


I've been asked by many barista, both part of and outside our company, if I take on roasting apprentices. I always ask if they home roast now. If the answer is no I tell them about Sweet Maria's and suggest they do some home roasting research. So far not one has followed through to my knowledge. There is no way I would EVER consider them as a roaster apprentice, the desire to learn to roast is not really there or they would be doing it. They just want to be a trained monkey doing what I tell them to do to roast like I do.


On the other hand we have two young customers who have a real thirst to learn about coffee. One works for Charbucks but is our regular, doesn't drink the swill he serves. They are constantly asking questions about all areas of coffee. I directed them to Sweet Maria's website to do some research on home roasting. Day before yesterday they scored a popper at a thrift store, stopped by the Roastery for some greens, and went off to begin THEIR roasting Journey. They are future employee candidates to be sure. They aren't looking for short cuts, they are willing to do what it takes to learn the song of flame and bean.

Oh, just to be clear I am not discounting for one second the value of great baristas. The difference in a coffeehouse can be night and day depending on who's behind the bar.

Do you really think it is easier to be a good barista than to be a good roaster? I would argue that the level we expect a roaster to operate at is higher than the expectations we have for baristas. Instead I would say that it takes longer to become a good roaster than it does to become a mediocre barista. But if you apply the standard of excellence to both it is not so easily quantifiable.


I'll stand corrected, easier isn't the correct word. Passion, culinary skills and inclinations, palate, dedication and thirst for knowledge are definitely transferable across platforms. Excellence in any field just takes more than many are willing to give. And it may be the extreme time factor required to learn and get good at roasting that deters many or most. Mediocrety is far too common, too much the norm in our society.


For instance leading up to our 4th of July Customer Apprecation Party Bry's been telling people the only thing I'm better at than roasting is BBQ. I disagree, excel pretty good at both :) I currently have 20# of boneless skinless chicken thighs cherry wood smoking just about ready to be taken off and another 20# put on. After resting will coarse chop and finish with apricot Q sauce for sliders. Tonight before going to bed will be putting
on 4 10#pork butts for their pecan/maple/apple wood low and slow smoke cook. Tomorrow pulled and later finished with a tomato based "carribean" style Q sauce, also for Monday's sliders. Come Monday during the party Nathan hot doggies never had 'em as good as slow smoked grilled. (will use same wood blend as for the pulled pork) Would have been much easier and far less time consuming to buy pre-cooked pre-pulled pre-sauced vac packs at our Restaurant supply, I just don't rock that way.

Deferio said:

Do you really think it is easier to be a good barista than to be a good roaster? I would argue that the level we expect a roaster to operate at is higher than the expectations we have for baristas. Instead I would say that it takes longer to become a good roaster than it does to become a mediocre barista. But if you apply the standard of excellence to both it is not so easily quantifiable.


What's really a challenge is selecting the breeding stock and then the feeds and raising great livestock! Took me 20years to get my first north american champion



I've hung with MiKe on the same list for quite a few years. Being my senior in roasting he helped me more than any other. Not with gems of roasting secrets but with kicks in the a** for thinking there were such things that he could easily just tell me and I would just be able to instantly understand and easily repeat.

thanks MiKe!

Just roast, cup, note, adjust, repeat.

Hi all! I understand all the arguments being made. I am a new roaster and when I started I needed a jump start to move forward. I was not looking for secret formulas or recipes but rather a good solid base from which I could develop my own style. I took as many classes as I could afford, joined SCAA and the Roasters Guild. The most valuable piece of information has always been roast, cup, adjust and then do it again. We all have different roasters as well as different green, and of course a different group of customers. Roasters adjust to these environmental differences. So a roaster on the West coast style may not fit for the East coast. My preferred route was to select 2-3 roasters whose coffee I felt was exceptional. I would attempt to model my roasting after their style. This takes a bit of money to purchase these beans but it was a worthwhile avenue. This helped me find my own path. I am grateful to the roasters I chose for providing me with a target to aim for. Without this target I believe it would have taken much longer to get in the roasting grove. I hope this helps although it does not contain any secret formulas or recipes. Roasting is similar to cooking. It is relatively easy to become a short order cook but very difficult to obtain star status. Many basic principals and a lifetime of roasting adjustments.

hi everyone,

the best thing i ever did was read as much material on the subject as i could and went through alot of coffee trying to find the right method. i use a small batch drum roaster. the coffee i use mostly is out of China. Yunnan Simao.

You're right, roasting is just as important to espresso as blending. even using the same coffee you can get completly different espresso just by the roast. you can go dark (bux espresso< roasted for consistancy's sake) or go lighter and work more with your blend.( getting more of an acidic drinkable espresso - depending on the blend.)


Good luck getting the roasters to talk. I dont blame them. It took me alot of time t make my roast. by this time next year i hope to be a part of the scaa. I'm ready to see there take on roasting in detail.


airflow has the greatest impact on the cupping table ... take it from me. i had the fan go out in one of my ym2's and i did'nt realize it had slowed down until i tasted the smokey, bready coffee it was throwing out. YUCK! and good luck with getting ambex to replace it. but it will jack with your temp a little depending on how much your talking about.

Mike, I'd say it's possible to talk about roasting without giving away your roast profiles. Also all we can really do is talk generally. I've roasted on several different machines and they all handle differently. Some have better airflow, some have better heat retention, etc. I don't know why most roasters don't talk more openly. I trade my profiles pretty openly with roasters across the country, none of us are trying to copy the others but when we accompany those profiles with tasting the coffee, it can be a true learning experience.

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