Ep #7 – Roasting Resolutions for 2017

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<Joe> Hello everybody, it’s Joe Marrocco here at Mill City Roasters in Minneapolis, Minnesota,with my good friend–

<Dave> Dave Borton,  Mill City Roasters with a fresh snow on the ground here in Minneapolis.

<Joe> It’s nice, and I’ve Taken that the short drive from Cafe Imports to be here with Dave, and we are going to talk to you today about some of our New Year resolutions, and I’m going to share some New Year resolutions that could be suggestive to inform your roasting over the course of 2017.

<Dave> Start Roasting.

<Joe> Yes.

<Dave> That’s the idea.

<Joe> If you’re not roasting yet.

<Dave> Join us, we’ll be glad to jump in there.Joe, what’s your first one on your list?

<Joe> So, I’m going to start with some of the Roaster Resolutions that I have come up with that I think will make a Roaster’s Life better, more enjoyable, and more informed to their roasting. My first one is, I think that a roaster should roast blind every now and then.

<Dave> What do you mean blind?

<Joe> I mean– gouge your eyes out.

<Dave> No, no no.

<Joe> I mean that a roaster should turn off the profile control system, turnoff the desire to write down and chart their information, and just sit there with the timer, a trier, and their five senses and roast some coffee.

<Dave> And that’s why most of us started roasting, anyway.

<Joe> That’s exactly right.

<Dave> Before we got– became infatuated with profiles, whether it’s cupster, or roastmaster,  tipica or artisan.

<Joe> Yeah, many of those programs are designed to capture what it was that the roaster was doing already with their five senses and with the timer so that they could revisit and replicate when they nailed that roast. So by going back to that every now and then it will help you be a better roaster. I think that maybe we should ask ourselves the question that if we cannot roast without those tools, can we even really roast?

<Dave> Meaning?

<Joe> Meaning, if we’re not in tune with the coffee, in a more physical way by hearing it and smelling it and roasting it sensorily, or as, like a chef cooking a broth, if we can’t taste it and know what we need to change then are we really a chef?

<Dave> So, it’s taking a look at the senses all of us started with, I think Joe and I just worked over the schedule and hmm, maybe March we’re going to be taking a deeper dive at the trier.

<Joe> That’s exactly right.

<Dave> So that’s where we’re going to have an opportunity to brush up on those sensing skills

<Joe> We’ve got–

<Dave> for smell, sight, and what else?

<Joe> Listening, and we’ve got Nick over here working on smell-o-vision, so that we could pull that trier out our friends at home can smell it.

<Dave> Yeah, and once we get that nailed we’ll put that up on artisan, so that you can fully appreciate, particularly the naturals

< and what they bring you on Nick’s Software.

<Joe> No, it will be a good idea though for you to watch that one,hopefully if we if we nail it. Hopefully Watch it while you’re roasting, you know,and you can pause it and pause the video at different times during your roast and take in the aromatic notes that we’re giving you, so.

<Dave> And, I know for myself I fall back on that profiling and I gotta knock that off, and then I’ll sit down and I’ll say, “okay, get on the trier,get on the trier.”

<Joe> That’s right.

<Dave> I’ll  probably say that more than anything when people come in for both the training and the demos here.What else you got on their list, anything?

<Joe> Yes, taste more, in general taste more things and when you’re tasting things taste them attentively. I’m gonna skip forward to one of my other ones and included in this, and say, also maybe start keeping a diary. I know that sounds like work, but keeping a taste diary to the things that you’re tasting and what they’re associating back to and then some how building that into your experiences around coffees that you’re tasting will really help you in building your, what I call “flavor lexicon,” your own personal rolodex of flavor recollection.So whenever you’re cupping a coffee,it’s not really going to be work to sit there and think about all of these flavors, what’s there, what’s not there;it’ll be more like recollection and recollection is really what you need.

<Dave> So,you talking about foods more than coffee.

<Joe> That’s exactly right.

<Dave> I know that for myself I always get hammered, my vegetal tastes in coffee always come up for me, celery, and the gentleman with whom I cup, give me the hardest time about celery; it’s a standing joke. For me,that’s a legitimate taste. If it comes up root beer or sarsaparilla,that’s what I’m putting down. I don’t sit there and filter it because for whatever reason, that particular coffee, that particular sense, that taste is coming out in an experience that I’ve had and I find those legitimate notes,whether my boys in the Gopher Gulpers Give me a ha-ha or not. You know what I mean?

<Joe> Yeah, and the only thing they can legitimatize of flavor experience that you have, is your own flavor experience.So the more flavor experiences we have,the more we can go back to those experiences and dig into them, and–

<Dave> That said, one thing I’d like to say though, is don’t bring the flavor wheel to the tasting table. I find when you pass that flavor wheel out, guys automatically think that they have to go after it and find tobacco or find cherry.

<Joe> That’s exactly right.

<Dave> And that serves no constructive purpose. When you’re tasting it’s to be an immediate sense, and if it doesn’t come, it doesn’t come. But don’t for– force-fit adjectives or flavors into your cupping or tasting experience.

<Joe> Yeah, that flavor wheel is there almost like you’re profiling tool is there for coffee roasting. It’s there to go back to after you have gone through the work so you can check your work. It’s also there as a translation tool, it’s kind of like a spanish-english dictionary; if you want to come up with a sentence in Spanish,you first come up with the sentence in English, then you go to the dictionary and see what words correlate. So when you’re tasting coffee and you taste sarsaparilla, and then you realize that you need to convey your information to somebody who may have never tasted sarsaparilla, you can go to the flavor wheel, look for flavors that may be synonymous with sarsaparilla and build out that flavor profile, then send that to your cohort you’re trying to translate the information to.

<Dave> The other thing with tasting and evaluation, Joe,I know that for myself, I found when I Cupped with groups that’s where my learning and my abilities at a cupping table went up radically as opposed to sitting alone with it. Because, like particularly, when I cup with Tony over there I think he’s a super taster. Tony will find white peach and I don’t have white peach and I go back to that table and I go back to that coffee and sure enough there’s white peach there.

<Joe> Yep, yeah tasting as a group is definitely a good way to sharpen your tool.

<Dave> Let me get my first one down. I have learned to do better city roasts. When I Say a city roast, I’m talking about a coffee dropped immediately at the end of first crack.I don’t care for light roasts.I don’t care for a city roast that much,and so I’ll typically on a washed coffee always go into a city plus and so then this next year,nailing a city roast I think is as difficult as it gets, and to get it properly developed and dropped at the end of that first crack is something I want to work on and learn this year. Don’t Know if I’m going to succeed, but I’m Going to have fun doing it.

<Joe> Yeah, I think that you may be a bit of a super taster to those light, light profiles when you’re tasting celery in all those roasts and other people aren’t. It’s probably something in that coffee tasting just a little bit green to you,whereas other people, they can’t perceive that. So getting rid of that little flavor of green, while holding onto all that rich sweetness and bright acidity is going to be a good challenge.We’ll see how we do and we can check up at the end of next year, Joe. I’d love to do this same segment at the conclusion of feet to the fire,

<Joe> That’s right.

<Dave>  have we walked the talking 2017? We’ll see what we learn.

<Joe> Yeah, and yours leads directly into my next suggestion for the viewers, and I do have some for myself, don’t worry. I’ll get there.

<Dave> We’re gonna hear them.

<Joe> So, taste more coffee from other Roasters.Like, for instance, if you are wanting to improve your city roast,well if you’re not tasting other city roast, especially other city roasted like coffee to what you’re trying to roast,then how do you even know what to shoot for?So get out there and taste coffee. And Along with that, also taste some really bad coffee. I recommend going to gas stations, doing a tasting of–

<Dave> Nick roasts.

<Joe> We’ll send you some Nick’s roasts. Do some gas station coffee tastings and if you’re an international listener you may not have the same experience with gas station coffee as we do any here in the US, but suffice it to say it is not good. So tasting some coffees that are not good or outside of the spectrum of what you’re normally used to cupping or tasting, will both give you appreciation for what it is that you get to taste everyday,and it will also connect you with a new audience. Gas station coffee is huge. Dark roasted, burnt, low quality coffee sells in much higher amounts than high-end specialty coffee. So understanding your future, clients hopefully will give you a better bridge so that you can reach out to that group of coffee drinkers.

<Dave> When You talked about the cupping other people’s roasts, over on,right now the folks there are starting to do the same bean.And so around the country 4 to 8 different roasters are going to be roasting the same bean, so maybe on during the year we’ll be offering one at a reasonable price for our folks to grab it.Take a look at and jump in there on that mutual roaster tasting experience.

<Joe> Yeah, and while you’re at it, while you’re tasting all of these coffees, my next recommendation is to taste coffees with additives added to them. If your customer is adding milk and sugar, or vanilla or whipped cream or who knows what all–

<Dave> Syrups.

<Joe> All kinds of syrups. It’s Probably important for you to taste how your coffee pairs with those things, it’s probably important for you to experience what it is that your customer is experiencing and how your coffee fits into that scheme to see whether or not your roast pairs well with milk, or pairs well with sugar. I don’t know what doesn’t pair well with sugar, to be honest with you.Sugar is actually pretty delicious.But, getting your coffee into that forum on your cupping table, or on your palate development table is a really important step.

<Dave> My next one was to better develop single origins for espresso roast. I have a Cremina, Swiss Cremina, vintage Lever at home and I’ll go right up to the cusp of second crack for all of those. So during this next year, I think what I’m going to do is start stretching that experience a little bit more where I’m going city plus, full city, and stretch the band of roast that I’m using single origin with that espresso. Because typically I’ll go five pops into the second one and cooled immediately, so I’ll stretch myself a little bit and see if I can learn to better develop those roasts for espresso.

<Joe> That’s great. Yeah, and when doing things like that, when you’re conducting an experiment, it’s really important to set up specific guidelines so you can maybe taste multiple roasts of the same coffee in the same setting so that you know exactly what your profile did to that coffee through the espresso machine.

<Dave> And Even by doing that too, Joe, the– I don’t know, we’ve probably got 10 or 11 coffees over here now. I can begin sharing those on our profiles that we have with the descriptors out there so those folks that are strictly into espressos can see what works and what doesn’t work.Sometimes single origins just don’t shine at a city plus, that kind of pull.So we’ll, we’ll stretch myself a little bit like in 2017.

<Joe> Yeah, and a hot tip. If you are roasting those single origin espressos a little lighter,this may sound crazy, but try to keep them in a bag for at least 10 to 15 days before you pull your first shot of that coffee.

<Dave> Lighter roasts, you’re suggesting,should de-gas longer and go into that bag for a more extended period of time than you’re used to doing.

<Joe> That’s exactly right. Trust me, try it.

<Dave> Why?

<Joe> Well, you’re you’re lighter roasts has a more tight-knit matrix of cells, it hasn’t opened up, so it takes longer for it to off gas. And when you put it under pressure, the carbon dioxide left in that coffee turns into carbonic acid because it’s smashed together with H20. And so,when you smashed that together you basically carbonate your beverage and you get a bittering kind of flavor that doesn’t pair very well with a nice bright acidity. But, if you allowed to off-gas, get rid of that carbon dioxide,then you hold onto a sweeter and more delicate acidity.

<Dave> Very good.

<Joe> Trust me and try it.

<Dave> One of the things my boss, I’m sure, has on my to-do list– herein the shop we’ve expanded. And so, we used to have just the one kilogram gas roaster up, and now if I look over my shoulder, I think there’s a 500 gram, a one-kilo, I’ve got a 3 kilo in the corner.On Saturday, we did a 15 kilogram that Is Roasted on with a customer. And then, over my left shoulder,I don’t know, Nick can you see the silon?

<Nick> Silon is there. You have two one-k’s, and two 500 grams over your shoulder.

<Dave> Super, and that solon was made by Coffee Tech, near Tel Aviv and Israel. And That’s a 7-kilo and I’m going to tackle that, probably in January. Joe, you may have found this when you commercially roast– roasted, but you get used to one machine. And even if you had two 10 kilos sitting side by side, each has its own personality and by golly you’d go, “oh,I’ve got to get off this one because I Know this one has a different personality and I’ve got to get on the other one in master it.”

<Joe> That’s exactly right. I Mean, it’s like, if you drive one car for years and then all of a sudden you’re stuck in a situation where you have to drive a different car, you’re herky-jerky on the brakes and the gas, and can’t see out the windows right, it’s super weird.But recently, with this job that I have at Cafe Imports, I’ve had to rent tons of different cars throughout the year and I’ve gotten really good at jumping in a car and immediately knowing what to look for in order to quickly adjust to that car so that you can move forward pretty quickly.

<Dave> How do you get used to them that Bentley you drive at home?

<Joe> Nice, nice.

<Dave> What else is on your list?

<Nick> Um, I had a couple more. This last one is just going to be short– or this next one is going to short: give more to research, coffee research in general. I think when you start a new year, it’s a good opportunity to assess where your generosity lies and I think that this is a place where we can have both generosity and self-centeredness because the more coffee research, that happens the more likely it is that will have a job 10 years from now, and we’ll have coffee plants this is December. From Thanksgiving til Christmas, if your mailbox is like mine,it’s just full of the non-for-profits that my wife and I have given to over the years, and you’ve got so many opportunities to give this giving season.Keep in mind Grounds for Health out there,  Coffee Kids and other non-for-profits in the coffee industry that give back to the peoples that form the basis and foundation of our livelihood and our industry.

<Joe> That’s right,and when you’re doing all of these roasts experiments, you’re probably going to be left over with some extra coffee and that extra coffee could easily go to a food bank, a homeless shelter, or something of that nature. So keep in mind opportunities to be thoughtful and generous.

<Dave> This past weekend, we’ve shuffled,oh, close to 60 pounds of roasted sumatran to own Salvation Army, and they were thrilled to death to accept the gift that Steve offered them.

<Joe> And you also donated me that Bentley.

<Dave> Yes I did, yes I did.

<Joe> Thank you for that.The last one is one that I’m going to touch more on in a future episode, but when– and this is more like philosophy of buying green coffee– and I’m going to combine these two together. Buying for replace,meaning when you make a purchase for coffee, thinking about what you’re going to replace that purchase with so that you’re two steps ahead. And then also,cupping your coffee for purchase.Instead of getting a million samples in and sifting through all those and narrowing them down, and sifting through those and narrowing them down, having a partner that helps you narrow into a few coffee selections and then say, “yes this fits my profile that I need,” or, “no, it does not,” will save you so much time and money. And I’ll talk a lot more about that in a future episode.

<Dave> You know, and I Think what would be helpful Joe, either in concert with that topic, or successive session that you and I do is to look at harvest schedules.

<Joe> Yeah.

<Dave> I think a lot of our audience have graduated from home roasting to commercial roasting and I think it’s critical that people make that jump and understand that during June- July they need to go deeper into their reservations on their Central and on their Ethiopians and so they’re beginning to think about buying for a year, rather than just what do I need for the next two months.

<Joe> Yep.

<Dave> And so, maybe focusing on the harvest schedule. We can look at that as a logical topic.

<Joe> It’s that 30,000 foot level thinking of your overall approach to buying coffee and how to simplify that in a way that doesn’t overwhelm or absorb your time, especially if you’re a roaster retailer or roast owner and you’re doing the roasting and you’re owning the shop and you’re doing the books and you’re buying the green and you’re doing the cupping, all of those– and you’re doing your marketing and your internet and our sales distribution, driving your coffee around. You know, the more things that you can take off your plate and simplify in a smart and effective way the better. We’ll help you do that.

<Dave> Joe, one thing I’m going to lean on you in the next year is, I want to have a better understanding of the physics involved with airflow, heat application and the bean, and the resultant chemistry that’s occurring. And I know the research isn’t that deep out there, but I always like to keep before our viewers the science behind this. And for me, you’ve got a great ability to take what is known and put it into a conversive and tone so that people have an idea of the science, the physics, and the chemistry that’s going into our coffee roasting.

<Joe> Well I will definitely continue to work on that,

<Dave> Super.

<Joe> that’s for sure, I need to continue to learn it, as well, which leads me to my personal resolutions.

<Dave> Write these down because we’re going to hold him accountable next December.

<Joe> So, I’ve got two new roasters that are getting installed into our space over at Cafe Imports, one of them is the one-kilo North machine and the other one is the 15-kilo Loring machine. I want to learn both of these machines; I’m pretty comfortable on the North machine but I Want to specifically do some tests on drums speed, and how drum speed affects the profile. So I’m going to set up some specific tests, run through those tests,share with you all my findings, even though that data set probably won’t be in the hundreds or thousands, it will at least be anecdotal to help you all as asa guide. And then maybe if you all build into that and share data as well, we can really get a consensus on some.

<Dave> And you say that because the drum speed on the North line of Roasters is a variable revolutions per minute, RPM control. So Joe is going to be playing with that the new year.

<Joe> Yeah, I hope you all do as well, and maybe I’ll set up an actual test, if I had the time to develop it, where I can put it out there for you all to kind of work through with me and we can share our findings.

<Dave> So you’re giving me and our viewers license to hold you accountable for this?

<Joe> Yes, yes that is correct. Do you have another one?

<Dave> No, I had two that came in from

<Joe> Great.

<Dave> One said, “I resolved to restore roasting as an art for me and not a task.” When we’re home roasters,we’ve got the ability to treat it as azen event and spend some time with a coffee and become isolated for that roasting session.Whereas, some guys, some folks, as they graduate into commercial, it gets into time constraints and people feel the pressure of production. All those 14 tasks that you just enumerated before,and it loses its fun.And so, one person that’s making this transition from home roasting to commercial said, “time to go back to restoring it as an art form rather than a task.”

<Joe> Yeah, I think a lot of times we start out with a fun thing that we’re doing and we think, “oh, this would be a great business,”and then we get into the business and realize that the business is what takes away from the very thing that started it.

<Dave> From the fun, sure.

<Joe> Yeah, so keeping that fun at the core and revisiting that, I think is important for roasting, for friendships and marriage–

<Dave> For life.

<Joe> For all of the things in your life.

<Dave> And vocation or advocation, to be present in that moment as opposed to belaboring the errors of the past or worrying about the future.

<Joe> That’s right.

<Dave> Did you have anything else on that list?

<Joe> I did, um, I’m definitely going to be running more tests on density, but my last big, I guess resolution, is I want to do more writing.In particular, I have a blog. I did one coffee related writing– or post on there,and it just like kind of blew up, so I want to put some more stuff up on the blog,but maybe come up with a different form where I can express some of that stuff,as well.

<Dave> You know, Joe, now that we’re talking about that I’d like the blog every week,but I started getting into the weeds myself and following blog forms out there, they’re more bursts of energy, or bursts around one more point–just one point– and I tend to have a whole thesis out there, rather than just quick hitting points where you get in and out. So maybe I’ll resolve to blog more frequently, with less depth.

<Joe> Sounds great.Those are mine.

<Dave> One of our writers wrote in there and he said, “my hopes for 2017 is to roast more, cup more, and learn more.If I just keep repeating this process over and over, I hope to have a noticeable difference in my coffee and know-how for 2017.” Great summary. Anything From the internet these days?

<Nick> Nope.

<Dave> Not a thing. Well, we appreciate the beautiful summary that one of our writers over at presented. Joe, I appreciate the time,and I want to thank, not only you and Nick, but all of our viewers that have tuned in during this year to give us a hit and let us know that these are worth while to you.So thanks for viewing in in 2017.

<Joe> And thank you, Dave. We’ll see you next time.

<Nick> Thank you, Dave. Thank you, Joe.

<Dave> See you in January.

<Nick> See ya!

<Joe> See you next year.

<Dave> Next year.



Addicted to coffee at a young age, Nick has turned his caffeinated attention towards coffee roasting education. Behind the scenes, Nick produces, directs, and edits all video series for Mill City Roasters.