Roasting coffee with "evenness" as the goal - Page 3

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.
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#21: Post by Almico »

DaveC wrote:I have actually done a lot of roasting...but I am not sure what it is you have done. So I will sign out of the thread as I don't think I will get anything useful from it.
Coffee roasters are like drivers; no one seems to think they are bad at it.

Yet there are plenty of bad drivers; and plenty of bad roasters.

I'm still learning. I've been roasting 4 or 5 years. Last year at this time I was schlepping to farmers markets selling my coffee.

Last October I designed, built and opened my first coffee bar. I roast only for my bar and do not have any desire to wholesale.

I roast my own coffee, brew my own coffee and hand it directly to every customer where I get to watch their reaction to it.

Since October I have roasted about 3500# of coffee, 5# at a time. Thats about 700 productions roasts and doesn't include sample and profiling roasts.

I have sold 11,222 drip coffees, 12,750 espresso drinks and 1253 12oz bags of coffee, not including online sales.

In a month I'll be in the black, having paid off all my start up costs.

I have a Starbucks and DDs 200 yards away, a 1950s 25kg Probat a few miles away, Diedrich 12IR down the road. These roasters have been in business many years and sell coffee to restaurants and such all around me, yet in a short time I have achieved the reputation of serving the best coffee in the area by the locals that love and appreciate great coffee as well as the tourists that tell me over and over again "this is the best coffee I've ever had" and "I haven't had espresso like this since I was in Europe".

I've been roasting on a relatively inexpensive, and not very sexy air roaster. But I need to upgrade in size and have been considering buying a drum roaster. But I'm concerned with being able to duplicate the flavor profile of the coffee that has built my reputation. The Loring Nighthawk is the dream, but I'm not spending $65K on a 15# roaster. I was looking at smaller drums roasters to get an idea of what I can do with them. FZ-94 or SF-6 or MCR 3kg Then I listened to Matt's video and it gave me pause. Hence this thread.

Anything else you would like to know?
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#22: Post by jammin »

Almico, that's awesome! You're live'n the dream:)

Do you have a write up anywhere on your story or a blog?

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#23: Post by drgary »


I think this is an excellent and educational discussion, with a lot of credit due to your pursuit of knowledge. What if you were to take some of your best profiles and greens to try with someone who sells roasters within your budget and see if their top in-house person can duplicate or better your result?

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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#24: Post by TomC »

Almico wrote:Coffee roasters are like drivers; no one seems to think they are bad at it.

Yet there are plenty of bad drivers; and plenty of bad roasters.
You nailed it! And I'm sharing it with everyone by the way.

I know without a doubt I'm not as good of a roaster today as I was 5 years ago. Because 5 years ago, I tried harder. Roasting coffee isn't riding a bike, unlike what many may think. I've been roasting for just shy of 25 years now as a hobbyist. When I want the best, I have to still put in the work. That easily means 10 different profiles on one coffee, then diligent notes on the cup results, multiplied over their aging time. It's not easy and I rarely do it.

I think outside of some fundamental skills and understanding that aren't too hard to learn, once a roaster knows how his machine works, thoroughly, then it's just a matter of putting in the time and work on profile tweaking. People who think they're somehow superior at roasting because they possess some sort of arcane higher knowledge is utter BS.

And as far as fluid bed versus drum roasting, one of our largest Bay Area roasters left their Loring sit damn near idle while their 25 pound San Franciscan did all the heavy lifting, because it consistently put out a better result for their filter coffees. The Loring was relegated to occasional blends, mainly espresso. But I do agree with the general saying "A poor mechanic blames his tools".
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#25: Post by millcityroasters »

Almico wrote: Anything else you would like to know?
Matt Perger has a point, but it's falls apart at underdeveloped and over developed coffee and the majority that embrace the idea out of context will inevitably misuse color tiles and roast color meters to justify oceans of baked coffee.

If you come to Minneapolis with your best roasts and the same greens, we'll show you how to replicate or better your roast profiles on the 3kg in at most a couple of hours.
We're not "good" drivers because we possess some arcane knowledge. We're professional roasters because we pay attention.

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#26: Post by GC7 »

Almico - good luck to you. You have a great story. Where in NJ are you? I go through there often and I'd love to see your operation. I'm a half pound at a time home roaster for family and friends so I can't comprehend the scale or frequency of your efforts. I applaud your efforts towards excellence!

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#27: Post by another_jim »

Almico wrote:I just got caught up on the fines thread: Fines: Necessary evil, or just plain evil?
My comment on his "innovations" from that thread are looking better and better. If he is both serious and has a modicum of intelligence, he would realize that to get the finest possible Pergerverse coffee, one should grind it to a molecular fineness when green, and then roast it, preferably by microwaves. That way every coffee molecule (!?! -- there are coffee molecules in the Pergerverse) would be evenly roasted. :roll:

There is no tact in science. If an idea, when pushed to its limit, turns into utter nonsense, it is a bad idea even when not pushed to its limit. Perger's idea of uniformity is exactly such a bad idea; since the last time I looked coffee is valued for its complexities, differences, and non-uniformities.

That being said, in a very light roast, a great deal of evenness is important, since if the center of the bean is still green, the coffee will taste grassy and undeveloped. However, there is nothing worse than an even dark roast. If the dry distillates in a coffee are fine tasting, a fast, hot roast roast that leaves the acidity and sugars in the center intact, and chars only the the outer bean, is ideal. Unfortunately, every roaster knew this fifty years ago, so it's tough if you need a radical coffee breakthrough for every new podcast.
Jim Schulman
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#28: Post by Almico » replying to another_jim »

Agreed. I also believe for an idea, theory or process to work, it needs to work to the Nth degree. As much as I love absolutes, they are a rare breed indeed, and even more so with coffee. But I wonder with all the variability built in to coffee, if it's not a worthwhile effort to limit the amount we add in the roasting process. I believe he has a point differentiating between complexity and muddledness. I admit to having fallen victim to calling a coffee complex, when really I just can't distinguish the factions.

His claim that maximum extraction yield is always best..."until it's not" is a great example. And he seems to assert that the highest yields are only possible with large, flat burrs. I'm using a Compak E10 conical and a Victoria Arduino Athena Leva with an Agtron 50/48 coffee, 15g doses @ 2:1 and getting EYs of 23% last time I measured. Hum...

But any time someone states something so emphatically, and puts their very reputation on the line, I feel obligated to stand up and take notice.

I'm finding it easy to get even roasts with more development time and harder with less. My Full City+ 48/48 espresso roasts are a good example. They do not taste baked and make a very nice espresso.

My last light Ethiopian roast:

was a 62/80 Agtron. It did not taste underdeveloped in the least, but I wonder what would happen if I got those numbers a bit closer. I'm going to try next roast.

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#29: Post by Almico »

millcityroasters wrote:If you come to Minneapolis with your best roasts and the same greens, we'll show you how to replicate or better your roast profiles on the 3kg in at most a couple of hours.
That is an excellent idea, Steve. Let me see if I can schedule a couple of days off...


#30: Post by archipelago »

keno wrote:As Scott Rao has noted the technique to get an even inner and outer bean temperature is to start with high heat to penetrate the density of the green bean. Drum roasters allow you to charge at a high temperature whereas a fluid bed roaster doesn't. Second, and relatedly, the preferred form of heat transfer early on is conduction to take advantage of the moisture content of the bean to get the heat to penetrate to the center. If you hit it with lots of air early on you can strip away the surface moisture which will actually prevent this from happening (by prematurely drying the exterior of the bean you effectively create a layer around the bean that insulates the interior). This is why roasters often start with very low air for the first few minutes of the roast.
I roast on a Loring but have also roasted on Sivetz fluid bed roasters. Yes, you actually can start with high heat — by adjusting your inlet temp and thus changing the heat of the roasting environment. It's still creating a differential between bean pile and roasting environment. That's all Scott Rao is referring to. You can, of course, roast with a static environmental temp as well... but in practice it tends to be less effective. But if you looked at my roast logs, you'd see the Return temp on my Loring has a very similar shape to ET logs from when I was roasting on a UG-22....

Another thing I see mentioned here is about how "high airflow strips moisture". Most modern fluid bed roasters allow control of airflow (Lorings, which are hybrid roasters, use convection to cook but really are low airflow relying on the paddles to agitate and loft the coffee). Older Probats and many drum roasters don't allow airflow control and have pretty low airflow — this is like setting your air to a 'minimum' setting using the lighter trick and leaving it alone. I reckon that the issue with too high airflow has less to do with wicking of surface moisture (there isn't much) and more to do with the amount of BTUs you have to shovel into a roasting environment to compensate for the lack of radiant heat. You'll have a lower ET in a high airflow situation, with higher BTU at the burners (and thus likely a hotter drum) than if you have a lower or more balanced airflow settting (requiring lower flame while maintaining higher ET)