Ep #9 – Roaster Roundtable

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<Dave> Hi, Dave Borton. Welcome to Mill City Roasters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have a stellar group

thats with me today assembled from the Twin Cities and Iowa. We’re going to be talking

about a couple of themes… what we wish we has known when we started roasting or about our business

that we know now. Let me introduce the group. Tony, please.

<Tony> Hi, I’m Tony. I’m the director of coffee over at Spyhouse Coffee Roasters right up the street. <Dave> And the 2016 roaster of the year. Joe?

<Joe>Hey I’m still Joe Maracco and I still work at Cafe Imports up the street, as well. Kind of halfway between here and where Tony works. And there

I do sales and am the director of education. <Dave> Former barista champ of the Midwest, former roaster,

and now our friend and compadre– Ellen, Ellen Swan.

<Ellen> Ellen Frank, from Auburn, Iowa, owner of Little Green Truck Coffee Company.

<Dave> Thank you, Ellen. I worked with an Ellen Swan, I slept there. Then a couple
of years, and Micah.

<Micah> Micah Svejda, I’m the owner of Bootstrap Coffee Roasters. We’re in Saint Paul,

just 5 minutes from here. <Dave> The better city in the Twin Cities and we’d welcome you here.

Our gallery today is a group of rogue roasters from around the world visiting us and hold

your applause until we get there. Let’s kick this off.

What do you wish you had known when you began roasting that you know now?

Joe, you want to get us into the weeds quickly? <Joe> Oh sure, you know you can count on me for that. <Dave> Always.

<Joe> Basically, when I started roasting I thought that roasting was going to be kind of like the barista craft

where they’re very clear and
distinct things that you needed to do. So if

you want to have the coffee flow more slowly
you tighten the grind, if you wanted to flow

more quickly you loosen the grind things like that. But I very quickly learned that roasting

was something that was not as scientific, not as cut-and-dry at that time and that there wasn’t

a lot of resource out there. I just wish
that I would have known that it was a practice

and not necessarily a prescription for
everything that you do so I would have been

a little bit more free to kind of explore some
different areas instead of trying to find

recipes for every single thing. <Dave> Are you suggesting you’d have been less mechanical and even

more inquisitive? <Joe> Absolutely. <Dave> Lets see, you used to roast on a what size?

<Joe> Well, the first roaster I ever roasted on was of 1 pounds San Franciscan. It was our sample roaster at Kaldi’s

in Saint Louis and our production roasters were 70 pound San Franciscan in a 25-pound San

Franciscan that I moved very quickly up to.
And then we switch those out for a 70 kilo

Probat and then a 22 kilo Probat. <Dave> Very good. <Joe> So, I spent probably
the most amount of time on the 25 pound San

Franciscan out of the years that I was there
and probably second most amount of time on

that 70 kilo Probat. <Dave> So, you wish you had realized it was more art and craft rather than

prescriptive occupation. <Joe> In a way. I feel like we are now getting to a point where we’re

understanding the science more and so we are able to prescribe a bit more but at the time

all of the science was so pseudoscience that we were prescribing exact ways of doing things

that didn’t really make a lot of sense and
so had we been free too kind of try different

things we would have very quickly shed that bad science and move to better ideas. <Dave> Very good.

Anybody else want to build on that? Or go in a different directions? <Tony> I have a lot of similar experience when I started out.

The culture at that time, especially around roasting and I was in the Pacific Northwest at the time, and it was very secret driven

and everyone had their way but nobody communicated much. And I think looking back on it a lot of that

may have been out of even personal fear. I think a lot of times people have theories and they

were not, as much as it came across that they did want someone to steal their theory, it was a little more of

I don’t want to say something and be wrong. That kind of thing that was a lot of what was going on in that era.

But, it was really hard to find much information on roasting at all and you kind of had to forge your own the way. I think we’re reaching a

point now where it’s– there’s never been as
much information available so easily and freely and

accessibly to a new roaster. I probably catch myself once a week saying to somebody it’s never been

easier to start a roastery than it is now. <Dave> And that bridges into current time. Would you say that

the community is loosening up? What’s driving that Tony? <Tony> I don’t have a very long history in the community. I think

there were always people who were doing good things and sharing their information but you had

to go to them. I mean, the Roasters Guild Retreat goes back this week the 18th year its existed? <Joe> Yeah, I think so.

<Tony> So, there were people getting together and discussing their ideas for at least 18 years with that

program. but its grown a lot more recently as more people have gotten involved. Granted the number of roasters in the US has increased expensively in that time

period, as well, but I don’t the culture was intentionally guarded I just–there was fewer people interested

and, I mean, the coffee culture has changed incredibly within the past 20 years. <Dave> I remember I came

back from a farm in Panama–excuse me– 2005 and I went to a roaster…very good roaster! And they locked up their

profiles at night, you know, it was that kind
of secretive as you referred to it of somebody

might want to know so…<Joe> Coca-Cola. <Dave> Yes! Proprietary information. Thoughts? Go ahead Joe. <Joe> There was a pioneer, I want to give a shout out to,

a guy named Chris Schooley who I think was one of the first people– he along with Tom Owens of

Sweet Maria’s they both put a lot of information out online especially through the Sweet Maria’s

website and work really hard to empower a
lot of roasters and really a lot of those

communications started with home roasters and small roasters. Roasters who didn’t have their business

on their shoulders that they were afraid of
losing if they shared too much or somebody

saw that they didn’t know what they were doing really, people that didn’t have as much skin

in the game just started sharing information back and forth, and Chris really lead that. <Dave> I drive people to

Sweet Maria’s library. There’s a phenomenal amount of information.

In their library–in our videos, we’re up to
like 35-36 videos, Joe–it’s

like the curtain is coming down between “this is my information and I’m going to keep it”

versus “this is my information, what’s yours?” kind of thing. I feel that experience in

the 12 years I’ve been involved in specialty

there’s a lot of that good information
being shared, as well. Other thoughts? What do

you know now that you wish you would have known in the beginning? Either about roasting or

business? <Ellen> I’ll say one thing to what Joe said early. I’m new to the roasting world and I love just the art

part of it, and because of the sharing in the
coffee community, I know that you experts know

the science so I don’t have to learn the science. I just want to do the art part and learn how

to roast good coffee. <Dave> Okay, and what steps do you do to get to that point, Ellen? You’ve got a

beginning business, you’ve got a retail space being developed…How did you get there?

What steps did you take on your path that other that starting in the small commercial business

might take? <Ellen> I started drinking coffee, and then we purchased our 2K roaster, to–as a hobby to support my husband’s addiction…

<Dave> To coffee? <Ellen> To coffee, we won’t talk about the other ones. And I went to Farmers Market and there was interest in good coffee and we soon

learned that we are in a coffee desert in our
little rural area so it’s been very fun and

I forgot your question. <Dave> Well, what steps did you take? How do you get to someone

that’s beginning to learn coffee to the point
of the initial commercial steps? <Ellen> To just dive in. <Dave> Okay.

<Ellen> And use the expert resources that you have all been amazing. I’m just honored to be here, honored.

<Dave> Its good to have you. <Ellen> Thank you for inviting me. <Joe> Honors all ours, for sure.

<Ellen> But, if I can do anything it’s to inspire the start-up tiny roaster, and go for it, and not be afraid, and um

I mean, if I have a bad roast, my family drinks it. And, you know, open to critize. And, I’m going to bring the point up that the thing that I know made me–helped me the most

in my long roasting career is when my Artisan did not work. One day when I had to roast 4 batches. <Dave> You mean you can roast coffee without using software?

<Ellen> Yes. <Dave> Talk about that that experience. <Ellen> Well, you rely on your nose and your eyes and timing other than the computer screen and it just

brought everything together for me and that’s how I became a little bit confident. <Dave> Joe plugged that,

I don’t know if it was last month or the
month before last. <Joe> Yeah, for our New Year’s resolution. <Dave> New Year’s resolution!

Roast several times without your profiles. <Joe> That’s right. <Dave> And Tony, I think you first learned to use

software when you came here, didn’t you? <Tony> I, yeah, we–so, I started on paper books. I won’t say how

far our 10 caps were where I started, I mean yeah, we had some range. And that shifted over time and when I started

at Spyhouse I was a paper guy, you know,
that how I did all my logging. But I had seen the power that some of the software had, so I actually created my

own Excel sheet that allowed me–I typed in temperatures every 15 seconds. That gave me graphs that I thought were really accurate–

I had a rate of rise, I had curves, I had all the things that the software gives you. And, it’s good in that learning because, I mean, I always flex on how I want to teach

someone to roast. Whether I want them to be paper, heads in, do the math, or software. The more and more I’m on software, it helps and that’s such a huge

improvement that the coffee industry has now. I like to call it the zen of roasting a little bit in,

as you’re having that instantaneous read out of what your air flow–your air temp is doing, what your bean temp is doing, you can see reactions and being

able to work alongside the coffee, not force the coffee. I know learning for me, you know, people would talk about the color changes of coffee and,

“Oh, I’m at yellow.” I’m like, how are you calling yellow to a second. There’s a range of yellow here, and like I’ve never worked in a place where we use,

actually use the terms full city, or anything like that. And I know, what I call yellow to my employees is not what the true definition of yellow is, but for us it is what

yellow means. But having that software enables us to see when a change is happening and work within it. And it really–for me its been a really great way

to improve my roasts and just kind of let the coffee lead it, and know where I need to make changes. <Dave> Very good. Micah, any different thoughts? Rejoinders?

<Micah> I mean, yeah, I also started on pen and paper, and we actually just moved over to software not even a year ago. It was last summer actually.

Yeah, and I think there’s a lot of value in kind of learning how to roast pen and paper. You’re very hands-on, you’re very–um–

you have to kind of see the curve, you know, that you’re creating and be really reactive and

at same time, sticking to your roast plan that you’ve set in the beginning. Its uh– I feel like it’s

it’s a good, it’s a good tool to learn on that
but then to move quickly or to move at some

point, at least, to software…to rely on that
technology. It takes a little bit of the guess work out and, and

then you can measure those results against your cup scores and your cupping notes and you can

precede in a little bit more of a systematic way, a little bit more of a predictable way. <Dave> Very good. I know the other day, there’s a Coffee Tech Silon,

a 7 kilo over Joe’s shoulder. And we did not have it hooked up to the computer

and Steve said, well give it a roll. So I was
roasting away and I found myself more attentive

to the coffee and I was on that trier more frequently and these were working more. And I’m thinking

well, I call coffee a 340 end of drying–
yellow stage and so on and so forth and I’m thinking,

“oh, I don’t have that temp, I’ve got to dive in
here and really, really focus on the coffee.”

So there’s strengths to software, and there’s a handicap to using software. Once one begins

not to roast, it’s too easy to get wedded or married to software, ignoring the tangible

product that you’ve got right in front of
you. Other thoughts? What do you know now that

you wish you had known you begin roasting or started in the roasting business? <Joe> I had a thought while you were speaking a moment ago, about how

myopically focused we can get on what we call a “good” roast, or a passable

roast. I wish that I would have known how hard it is to really mess coffee up. I mean, really you can, you can roast

in a pretty big range and a customer will still
accept that roast as being good. And sometimes we’re so hard on ourselves when we don’t get that little

extra push of floral out of a coffee, or that little extra bit of cherry that we want to get in a coffee. Whereas, a customer is more interested in interacting with us

as human beings– <Dave> Oh sure. <Joe> –and having coffee as part of that facilitating relationship. So, I wish that I would’ve focused on that, as well.

So, when you’re out there learning how to roast, know that if you are attentive with the trier, and you’re attentive with your nose and your eyes

you’re not going to burn the coffee, you’re going to drop it before it’s ashes. It’s okay. <Dave> Very good.

I’ve been roasting about 12 years, most of it home roasting, migrated over here a couple and a

half– three years ago– whenever it was, and I always felt somebody knew more than I did. I never

knew enough, you know? And, as opposed to embracing
or being thankful for what I did have, or

the knowledge that I have been given by others, I was always thinking, “but she knows more than

I do,” or “he’s a better roaster,” or “she’s a better cupper,” and I don’t know where– when it was–

it was at some point, probably about 5 years ago, to finally say I’m in a mix of people

with a variety of gifts, and a variety of talent. I don’t have to be the best cupper at this table, I

don’t have to be the best roaster among this group, but I do have to be willing to give

back to this community that’s gifted me in
so many ways. And once I did that, Tony used the

word zen before, I describe a lot of my coffee stuff, whether I’m doing a pour over in the

morning or I’m roasting, as zen. And that gets away from this cognitive criticism that flies

into overdrive and goes back to more to what you said, its pretty hard to ruin a roast.

<Joe> It is. <Dave> But it’s a gift that people in a country whom I never meet, will bring me that coffee

year in- year out, assuming I’m willing to pay for the fruits of their labor.

<Joe> Yeah, I think that a lot of times we focus so much on the little details, whether it is on the software

where we get in tuned to this piece of equipment and we’re making sure the line is on the graph,

or whether it’s the coffee and we’re pulling
out the trier and making sure that all of the

times and temps and aromas are on pace, but then when we do kind of relax, I think

that’s the moment where we become a coffee roasting professional. Where we’re able to kind of ease all of the burden of having to worry and feel frantic

about all of the dials and the gas and the air and all of that. And you can just been with the coffee and kind of feel your way though a roast and drop it and

know this is going to taste delicious and serve it with confidence. That’s what we should strive toward. <Dave> I think, uh, what that directs me towards is

a comment that Tony made to us several months ago, what coffee do you like best? And he said, the one I share with my wife

in the morning, you know. And doesn’t that really sum it up? In terms of the industry,

the product that we’re trying to produce for a customer, or a person with whom were in a relationship.

Tony, you were roaster of the year last year.
Did you get out of zen moment and get a little

bit frantic as competition draw near, or did you relax with it? <Tony> So, when we were turning in our coffees, I–

<Dave> To whom? <Tony> To Joe, specifically, <Joe> I was the head judge. <Tony> Joe was the head judge, last year–

<Dave> At the SCAA Convection in Altanta. <Tony> And, immediately turned in my coffee, went and helped my barista do a practice routine and then came

back and worked the Roasters Guild membership table. And I was sitting next to Jen Apodaca, who is also on the

EC, < Joe> Now the head judge of the competition. <Tony> Now the head judge, and a couple other people who had entered it come up and asked

how I felt about my coffee and I was convinced that I destroyed my compulsory. I did not think I was getting out of compulsory at all.

And, when I did win, Jen came running up to me along with Bill and gave me a huge hug and just

very not so gently reminded me of how upset I was about my compulsory coffee. Yeah, I mean when you’re going to be judged on something, you want

it to be perfect. And not all of the elements are in your hands. I competed

the year before and I had entered a horrible compulsory coffee that I thought was really good. There are things that are out of your hands in anything. I mean, you’re

flying cross-country with your coffee, you’re putting it on water that you may not be able to replicate

in your cafe, you’re–I mean, there are thing you just got to kind of let it go, and hope that what you want to show up shows up. I did three batches for my finals coffee

and one of them went a tiny bit off curve and I almost pulled it from the blend, and I kept it in there. And I’m glad I did. But it was one of those things where like

you just get into the minute details and I think good coffee should be good coffee, if you have to fight it then–there are coffees that area definitely harder to work with

like if you go back into some of the Cafe Imports archives, you’ll find Joe’s article about the first time he roasted

Sidra, out of Ecuador, and it’s a very, very challenging varietal. But, there are a lot of coffees that are more or

less easy to roast and if you have to fight
the coffee, if you have to do all these things to extract it

even if the green score was a 94, can we call it a good coffee the same way? If someone can’t

take it home and make it taste good, if you
can’t– if you have to fight to roast it, there’s

not a place for us to score coffee as what’s just good coffee. And, like I think part of being a good

coffee is that it’s easy to work with, that somebody– you can pass it off to somebody else with confidence.

I’m getting tangential and theoretical here. <Dave> No, no. I think the point is well-raised. The word I’d use there Tony is, “roastability.” <Tony> Yeah.

<Dave> You know? I had a coffee, it was an excellent coffee I scored it almost at an 88, but I knew from customers it had a very narrow band of people to whom

it would apply. The rest would say, “that’s not good coffee.” Oh, it was very good coffee, but a small segment

of our customer base would enjoy it. And likewise, I won’t buy a coffee if I’m struggling to

roast it. It makes no sense to make it out
there to my customers. <Tony> And, I guess what I was arching the arrow toward, I think was

buy good green. Like, starting off you may be afraid to throw an extra dollar at that pound of coffee that’s really good. You can only get out of it what’s in there.

And, if you’re starting with a lower quality coffee your output is going to be lower quality coffee.

I like to refer back to Target on this. People–Target started buying some Cup of Excellence lots

for their Archer Farms line a couple years ago and everyone was like, “why are you selling Cup of Excellence lots in large grocery stores?”

Like your customer– you’re taking a loss on
it and your customers aren’t going to get it

and the response was, if they’re taking home the better coffee to put in a brewers they’re going

to get a better cup. They may not do it perfect, they may not nail it, but they’re gonna get a better outcome. And it’s

scary to spend the money on something when you’re first learning, but you’re going to learn so

much more if you started with something good. If you’re starting with something that has some defects or it’s got a lot more

challenges, or it just doesn’t have the same
level of sweetness, acidity, body, whatever you

enjoy and you’re looking for, you can learn how to maximize what’s there, but the less you have to work with the less you have to work with.

<Dave> Very good. Others? <Ellen> Okay, this is from a way different angle. When you guys eat your corn flakes, or fill your car with ethanol, or eat a great steak,

I want you to think of my husband, who prepares the soil and give his seed and every kernel TLC. And me in the combine when we harvest, there’s more than

just driving that equipment. And my son who hauls it to the elevator that goes into that corn, for example.

So, when I drink a cup of coffee, I will never
meet those farmers. But, my in importer knows

them personally and I can’t stand to drink
coffee out of a metal or paper to-go cup. Its got to be a real cup

with the open-top and when I pour it, I want to see my favorite reddish golden

color in my coffee and it’s a whole experience
to drink that cup of coffee and I can’t do

it on the run. It’s– it’s a sit down and relax
for a few minutes thing because it’s a real

joy to me. <Dave> Yeah. <Ellen> So now, roasting coffee, that kind of all goes into my 13 minute roast, so… <Dave> Sure. There was a

roaster, and I don’t know where they’re at,
they had one called 1000 hands. That was the

name of the either the blend
or the origin, and they put 1000 hands.

And they had the hands, dirty hands of a campesino who had been picking those beans one by one

and it was a good visual reminder that this
comes from people to us as a gift. And back

to Tony’s comment if we give that extra dollar a pound that assures us that kind of quality

that we’ve been given gets adequately reimbursed for the work of her or his hands in that

farm. Extra buck is expensive, it’s worth it. Others? <Micah> Yeah, I would kind of second that. You know, that I think that better quality coffee

is also easier to roast. I found that there’s so many different ways you can develop a profile of

really great coffee. More body, less body, little more acidity, little more sweetness. You know, you can kind of manipulate a roast better with a better quality coffee.

And I think that that is kind of a good lesson too for, you know, beginning,

smaller companies, as well. You know, I think its, it can be difficult you know. You know, I started Bootstrap

really, really tiny and to be difficult especially in the early days to uh–and be tempting to the kind

of skimp on that a little bit but, you know,
this is– this is your product. This is what you’re selling. You’re pouring your heart and your soul into it and it

needs to be, it needs to be delicious and it needs to have your stamp of approval all over it, ya know. So, yeah.

<Dave> Micah, I’m gonna come right back to you. How many years you been in business? <Micah> In May it’ll be 3.

<Dave> Very good. And I’ve seen your business get

serious traction in the Saint Paul area. What do you wish you had known 3 years ago that

you know now about the business side of it? We’ve got a lot of people that view these

that are home roasters, that are branching into farmers market, consignments at the beauty

shops, so on and so forth. What do you wish you had known then? <Micah> Probably, get a larger roaster.

So, I started out on a 6-pound San Franciscan– not 6 kilo, 6 pounds– and uh, yeah I pretty quickly outgrew that. Within a year I was doing

30 to 35 batches 4 days a week. Yeah, so definitely– <Dave> No time to service the accounts that way.

<Micah> Well, it was a lot of yeah, 80 hour weeks. Yeah so, I think that was a big lesson I learned was to anticipate your growth, as much as you can,

and to plan for that. You know, buy a roaster now that

you want to grow into within the next 2-3 years. Don’t buy a roaster that you–that works for now and then upgrade, ya know. That would be one of the big lessons I learned

early on, um, yeah.<Tony> And, uh– <Dave> Joe, go ahead. <Joe> No, you go first. <Tony> On top of that,

If, I think Micah you did this greatly, I didn’t see a noticeable transition when you jumped machines, but

you had to learn a new machine. <Micah> Right. <Tony> With coffee you had to sell to customers and anytime, like you know, I went

through phases. I’ve always been on the same machine with Spyhouse, but we’ve upped our batch size, we ran smaller batches so

we could get more batches out, so we could profile more quickly. But every time we jumped up, you know, how do

I extend this curve a little bit to match the batch size? How much gas is this? Like any time you jump on a new machine, I’ve done it now a few more times through

some of the events I’ve gotten to go to, and I can jump on a machine and I can get good coffee out in a couple batches. But like, what does 5 mean?

Like, all those things you just don’t know when you are jumping on a new machine. And it’s like, I mean I’m sure you had some stuff, that you had planned loss,

but eventually you had to putting coffee out
to a customer that you were still technically

learning on. <Dave> Learning. Still learning. <Micah> Yeah, no…it’s uh, it was a really
stressful couple of weeks.

Our last production day of the week was Wednesday, and then the machine was installed Thursday

and then the next– our next production day
was Monday going out. So I had three days to

basically learn this machine and get up to
speed. And, it– the first– and then the next week or two

after that was really obviously, you know, scaling up profiles and setting– basically setting new profiles, you know

for this, for all the coffees. <Dave> What did you jump to? What was your next size? <Micah> The 25 pound San Franciscan. <Dave> 25 pound, okay. 6 to 25. Joe, you

were going to say something in response to Micah. <Joe> I was, yeah. Um, what I was going to say is, even if you do have to start with a small roaster,

there are a couple of strategies that you can employ that I’ve seen be really successful. One is by your first roaster, if it needs to be small,

small enough to where it still can serve a purpose when you get your next size up where that roaster may become your sample roaster,

if you buy a 6 pound roaster, you can’t really
do a sample on a 6 pound roaster and so then

you’re just swapping your roaster out and
now you have a big roaster but then you have

to face, oh I need to buy a sample roaster, too. Also, the other side of that is if you are

installing a small roaster in a very small
space, its going to be very hard to upgrade to a large

roaster if your full building infrastructure
is built around this small roaster. You’re

going to need new gas lines, you’re going to need ventilation, you may need a new space

altogether. So thinking about what you’re what you’re 1 year, 3 year, 5 year plan is– getting

that stuff in place with that the first chunk
of money that you get to start your startup

is very advisable. Even if you have to start
on a 6 pound roaster, having gas lines that

are installed or having, you know, an infrastructure around that space that when you do need to

swap out to 25 pound roaster, you can just
plug it in and you don’t have to wait a week,

2 weeks, 3 weeks, in between moving one roaster in and one roaster out. You might lose your customers

in that amount of time that are depending
on you for that coffee that you’re depending

on for that new roaster that you just are now installing. So you don’t want to get caught

in a situation where you’re in limbo between two machines. So really, truly plan out your

growth strategy. If you’re roasting for retail
and it’s going to be something like your space

where it’s kind of in a bubble–it’s your
retail, it’s your roaster, starting out with the

smaller machine may be exactly what you need because then you can roast what you need and you have it there and you’re

not planning on big wholesale. But, when you’re in a city and you have rent to pay, and things like

that piling on, you have to grow so…prepare for growth. <Tony> Know the laws, too, I mean– <Dave> Back up with that. Where would you start?

<Tony> Make sure that you’re install—like if you want to be selling coffee that, you know…you could roast in your basement. You can put a roaster in your basement,

you can put a roaster in your kitchen, you can put a roaster in your garage. When Health Department comes around the farmers market and finds out that

you’re in your garage, he’s gonna want to check out that garage and he might shut you down. I’ve known multiple

people who this has happened to. <Joe> And fine you and everything. <Tony> Yeah, and you know it’s–a hobby and a business are not the same thing you can make

your hobby your business but if it’s gonna be your business, and you’ve got to pay your bills off of it, make sure you know what you are doing

and are not making a food product in a non-food product space, and you don’t

want to have a planned sales day, you know,
if you start having a restaurant thats dependent on your

coffee and you plan to roast tomorrow and Health Department comes by and shuts you down and

that restaurant’s not gonna wait 4 weeks for you to find a space to open back up. They’re go to find someone

else’s coffee because they need to sell coffee. <Dave> You bet, you bet. Yeah, I’ve heard Micah say start with the biggest roaster that you can project you’ll need, and

say in a 3 year horizon, and and I’ve heard
the other side of it– grow into the business

and keep that small roaster. We’ve got a roaster, Adam Moore– Red Light Roastery in

Hot Springs, and he started out with 1 K to
learn to roast and all of a sudden he realized,

like you, all I’m doing is roasting! I’ve got
to get out and service accounts, get new accounts,

press some flesh, and all of that. And in
10 months he was in a 10K. So you’ll hear

both sides of that discussion. I think they’re
both right, and I don’t think either one’s wrong.

<Micah> Yeah, and, you know, kind of adding to that, too. It’s–it all depends on how much you’re gonna to sell. You know, if you’re, if it–

if you do, you know, intentionally kind of want to grow slowly, then–then and, and really start

with small machine then that’s fine, you
know. But just having a realistic vision of

how you’re going to grow, I think is a very wise… is very wise. And then that will inform your

decision about which roaster to get. <Dave> Looking one step beyond where you’re putting your

present foot. <Micah> Right. <Dave> But it sounds like you were able to put the clutch in when you jump

from 6 pounds to 25 pounds, your quadrupling your production capability. Sounds like you

you were able to do it. <Micah> Yeah, it definitely was. It was a little bit, like I was saying, a little bit kind of a rocky transition so– but

I don’t, I don’t regret starting with a smaller
at all. I think it was, I think it was a good decision.

But yeah, I think that, you know, I anticipated a little bit of a slower growth, thinking that, you know, 2 to 3 years in is kinda when I would need another

machine and I’m sorry– a larger, a larger machine. But yeah. I don’t, I mean, like I said… <Joe> You’re just too good. <Micah> I guess, I don’t know.

<Dave> How did you make those first

contacts? And reason I ask that, I remember meeting you a good 6/8 years ago, and you pulled me

the first cortado I had in the city. You jumped into roasting, how did you make those first

contacts with accounts? <Micah> Well, I mean, I think I had a little bit of an advantage because I

have been working in coffee for a long time
before. I was mostly in cafテゥs, and so I had known

a lot of other people sort of locally in the coffee community, you know, working out of the coffee shops and

also in restaurants and things. And so when, you know when I decided to kind of make the

leap, I had about nine months before I was
actually in business, just in terms

of getting things set up and everything, and
so during that time I was, you know, making– making

calls and, you know, kind of working from
my network and then working out. So, starting

with the people I know and see if it made
sense for us to work together and kind of

going from there. <Dave> Working your network, so you would go up to Florence Jones and say, “Florence

we’ve been friends for 12 years, tell me who I should be calling on? Is that what you mean expanding

your network? <Micah> Yeah, yeah. Yeah basically. <Dave> Grow that network from your centric on out. Think about one more thing that you’d like to add, what

you know now that you wish you had known when you started coffee? And, I’ll begin. I think

at some point to learn the confidence
and trust myself in coffee. And I say that,

probably 4 years ago, Dee and I were in San Francisco and we went to a very good coffee shop that

served good coffee from a well-known roaster. And it was a light roast, and the two baristas

just could not applaud this coffee enough.
And they kept going on and on about this coffee.

So, they’re making the pour-over and it’s taken three and a half minutes and they slide it

across to me and I took one sip of it and it
was horrible. It was light roasted, you can

develop well a light roast, but this was nothing but lemongrass and under development, and I pushed

it back and I said guys, that coffee’s no good. And I wish that I had it earlier, not in a

cocky sense, but in this 12 year walk in coffee I wish I had had more comfort with that at

year 4 and 5, as opposed to, well, “What did
Joe Marocco say? What did Micah Svejda say?”

You know? And then going, oh I’ve got the gospel of coffee here because I’ve talked to one of

the disciples. I can still learn, I can garner, I can appreciate what others have to offer.

But at the certain– at a certain point there’s
got to become a trust level for yourself

that you’re in this industry, that you can give back, that you’ve got something to extend to others. That’s mine.

<Tony> For mine, I would say try to find a balance between mentorship and trusting yourself. Personally, having

Joe up the street, we’ve been able to become great friends. And even this week, I had, you know, one of those

lying in bed crazy,

theory ideas, and emailed him the next day and I was able to swing by his office. <Joe> He rolled over and shared it with me.

<Tony> The next, the next day between batches I sent this complicated roast theory idea over to him and nervously waited for him to tell me I was way off base

and found out I wasn’t. I was able to go over and talk with him. Many times, he’s always been a great resource for me educationally. But

also, having that confidence in my ideas to say, “hey, this is what I think is right.” Before I go

tell someone else that it’s right, I’m going
to check this against you. One guy, whose kind of a personal

hero of mine in the coffee world is
Daniel Evans in Valparaiso, Indiana. He now owns a roastery called

Dagger Mountain, and he started there as a
barista, took over their roasting, in the past year and a half or so, I believe,

bought the company, upgraded their roaster from an old, beat-up, small Ambex to a beautiful,

rebuild Probat UG-15. And my production roaster was hanging out with him at Roaster’s Guild Retreat

this year and, I mean, Daniel pretty much taught himself to roast. He was–there wasn’t

many local resources in Valpo and someone was asking him how he did that, and he was like, you taste

a lot of coffee and you have a lot of tears. And like, that end of– his company was still doing well. He was selling

coffe. He wasn’t proud of his coffee because he’s a perfectionist. I mean, I think we all have had

those. We understand that like our customers will buy this and they will think it is good. I know

it could be this much better, I didn’t
hit my mark. And that drive, but like, if you put

your head down and you do your work and work hard, work hard, work hard, you can do great things.

But also, find someone who you can ask the questions if you need to ask questions. <Dave> Trust yourself, have a mentor, and know

the difference. <Tony> Yeah. <Dave> Very good. Good thoughts Tony. <Joe> I’m going to say, learn how to cook. You know, you’re cooking green coffee

that’s what you’re doing. So if you don’t understand culinary arts, and you can’t cook an egg, and you can’t cook a cookie,

you can’t cook a chicken…you may not be a good roaster. So learn how to cook a bunch of different

things and learn how to apply those culinary ideas to your coffee. And at the same time, you’re learning

how to taste, you’re building your lexicon of flavor memory, and you can apply that to your

coffee and really shape your coffee in the
direction that you want to shape it. The best

chefs in the world are not the best chefs because they could follow a spreadsheet, it’s because

they can explore new terrain that food has to offer conceptually, and then present that concept

to a guest and have the guest connect to it emotionally. <Dave> And taste, taste, taste. <Joe> And taste, that’s right. <Dave> Very good. Ellen?

<Ellen> Well, what I’m more confident with now than I was when I first started roasting
is that I know it’s okay to be a dreamer. And

I hope I have the problem of having to buy
a much larger roaster. <Dave> That 15 kilogram in the back

walls got your name on it. <Ellen> I would love to have to learn that, and build a bigger shop, and put up a

warehouse, and have delivery vehicles, like
that would just, that’d be awesome. <Dave> Okay, so that dream still is out there for you. Very good.

That’s, I think encouraging. And as I told you before, we’ve got people that come in

here every week, 6 out of 10 are just like you, that are at those beginning steps, and

that kind of voice is very important for them to hear. <Micah> So, going back to the green buying, I just had

one more kind of final thought on that. Have, I would advise having a good green buying strategy for your

company. And, we were talking earlier about, you know, paying good money for good coffee and that’s

definitely a good principle, but I think buying the right coffees for your company, and for your customers, and for your price point

in a way that really makes sense. I think relying on your importer

is a good way to, is a good resource for you, you know? To buy coffee in a way that really makes sense for your company

and, you know, they can help you set you up with the right coffees and,

you know, and with an eye toward the future, as well as the present, so… <Dave> And go deep

on fresh crop, right? <Micah> Yep. <Dave> When they come in, work with your importer, find the best coffees and go

as deep as you can based on your plan for
the year. <Tony> Be the kind of customer to them that you

want your customers to be. Everyone’s going to be– when fresh crop season rolls around, or like a couple weeks, couple months

after, everyone’s going to be asking, “hey, what’s the best!? Hey, what’s the best!?”

Be the kind of person that they want to put their best things at. Couple of them–if it means you have to hop on

a plane and come visit so you can spend an afternoon and cup coffee with them, communicate back, give

them back what you found in the coffee– what you liked, what you didn’t like in what you bought, so

that they can– when you ask for advice
they have some knowledge of you, to be advised.

If you’re– if they’re coming to your town and hosting an event, volunteer and don’t just be

the guy who is going to be drinking the free
beer in the corner and asking, you know,

for the best samples. But, you know, maybe offer to pour water at a cupping. Be the guy whose

currying the grounds, like, be a friend. The best part of this business is we all got into it because of people. When you ask somebody what their first coffee was

it was their mom, their grandma, their aunt, their uncle, their friend giving their first cup. You got into it because of people, be a good person.

You’ll get better results from other people back. <Dave> Very good. Very nice. Those are wonderful concluding

thoughts. I want to take this opportunity to
thank this group for extending your time, your

energy, your wit, and your willingness to bring forth that to others, to share it so that we can

expand our networks, expanded our knowledge. And for those of you out there that are viewing in, we welcome

your input and ideas for our videos. or

Joe and I usually stay about 3 months ahead of schedule, and so we look forward to any

ideas or questions that you may have. So, thanks very much for viewing in. We’ll see you!



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.