The Art of Roasting

 

As many of you are probably aware, 2010-2011 brought about a pretty thorough overhaul of our coffee program. Not only were several blend recipes modified, new coffees brought in, we also completely changed the way we roast our coffee. We’ve been working to achieve a vision of fresh craft-roasted artisan coffee, a method allowing us to coax the best possible result out of a green coffee’s potential, repeat those results and alter the profile of each bean as needed as those beans mature and change, new crops come in and old crops are phased out. The art of roasting coffee is in finding its sweet spot to get the best possible flavor. The science is in repeating it.

To that end we weaned ourselves off our faithful old Probat 45 that was set up to run on a more automated roasting system. We invested a lot of time and effort into developing artisanal roasting and quality-grading cupping skills, trained on our 22kg Probat craft roaster, and brought in our refurbished 120kg Gothot  roaster. After much troubleshooting, tweaking and frustrating delay, the hard work of those responsible brought about its current glory.  We call her “Maestro,” since she conducts our days in the roastery in a sedate waltz-like 6/8, and it’s a rare day we don’t manage a little better than 3.5 roasts an hour with her.

A part of this raising of our standards involved pursuing new and more direct contacts at origin, trying to source the best coffees available through direct relationships with producers. However well a roaster roasts or a barista brews, at the end of the day we are only showcasing the hard work and quality control that has already happened at origin before we ever laid our hands on the bean. If we do our jobs poorly, we can ruin a good product. If we do them well, we can make a good product fantastic. The point is any truly great cup of coffee starts with truly great green beans - that’s why in 2011 we introduced the Just Us! Reserve Line.

These are coffees that pay homage to our producers, and come from a very specific area or farm. We chose and roasted these coffees to demonstrate specific varietal or terroir-based characteristics. “Varietal” refers to the type of coffee cherry – in the same way that you would expect different flavors from a Gravenstein or Honeycrisp apple, or a different bottle of wine from a Muscat or Zinfandel grape; you can also expect different characteristics from a Bourbon or Catimor varietal of coffee. “Terroir” would be a familiar term to any wine enthusiast, it refers to the conditions in which the coffee cherries are grown – climate, soil, shade level and elevation are all factors in distinctiveness. Coffee grown in certain areas of Ethiopia may be prone to a certain blueberry-like or floral note, where coffees grown in areas of Guatemala may tend towards a bright, citrus-like acidity.

Because coffee is an agricultural product and therefore seasonal, we occasionally alter our blends according to what’s in season. We strive to keep a consistent flavor profile, so that your favorite blend stays your favorite blend (though we always encourage you to try something new!). We keep all our recipes updated on our website at all times, they can be found here, as well as links to information about the producers who supply us: http://www.justuscoffee.com/our-products/Coffee/

We cup coffee every day, religiously. Some would even call us fanatics. Every blend and origin we sell is cupped in a daily rotation. We ensure each is tested at least once a week, more often if we feel we have some development to do on that particular label or sometimes if we just feel we really nailed that roast - the smell, the color, the expansion and texture of the roasted bean combining in such a way that we just can’t wait to try a cup.

A lot of people have worked hard to make this change in our coffee program come about, and the degree of success we’ve attained is worth celebrating. But it doesn’t end here. We’re ready to take the next step, and we need everybody. Everybody serving, selling and enjoying our coffee, from our farmers’ hands to our customers’ lips, each link in the great coffee chain matters. We don’t just want you to enjoy Just Us! Coffee because everyone in the supply chain was treated fairly with dignity and respect, we want you to enjoy it because it’s the best coffee around.

Until next time, we’ll keep the fires burning and the coffee hot.

Ananda Kavanagh, Artisan Roaster

On behalf of the Roastery team

Experimentation

Glad to hear this! I haven't actually visited one of your shops (I live 2000+ miles away)but I have been following your story a bit. I've been a barista for a while, and I find that the more control you have over the finished product, the more it represents who you are as a business. Having a manual roaster instead of an automated one definitely allows you to exemplify you intent with the coffee. Don't forget to experiment with you r roasts!

Experimentation indeed

We will keep on tweaking. ;)

good coffee

Very inspiring post Andy. Keep aiming for the sweet spot!
Austin