Day after Day Job, Part 4

Part 4 Being an Engaged Roaster (without Marrying Your Job)  

Oct. 30, 2015

Knowing that what coffees and roasts perform best in a press pot or drip brewer with a blade grinder, and asking your whole bean customers what they’re using at home, will go a long, long way in winning your customers’ confidence. As a roaster, you definitely want to be selling whole bean coffee for home brewing in addition to brewing and selling by the cup. This is where your best margins are. As I said earlier, there are roasters popping up left and right and there are fewer opportunities for wholesale out there .

In terms of further education, there are a number of quality classes, books, and articles out there. I firmly believe that talking with other roasters, sharing experiences, and learning from others has tremendous value. But if you were to do one thing on your own, there is an exercise that will make an incredible difference in your roasting, and teach you how to taste what’s going on in the roast. It’s as easy as this:

  • Step one:  Do two roasts of the same coffee, and make  a simple but dramatic enough adjustment in one of the roasts
  • Step two: Taste the difference. Note what difference that particular adjustment made in the profile.

This is not meant to be a “right and wrong” test, but rather a test that gives you two markers by which to make some judgment and direction towards preference. It might be that you prefer neither of the two markers, but somewhere in between or even beyond the markers. But now you have a reference, and reference is knowledge, and knowledge helps you get better. The other side of this exercise is that you’ve now made 2 distinct products with the same raw material. Not only does this exercise give you a better understanding of roasting, but also it gives you a new way to engage with your customers.

Here’s the thing. Roasting commercially does not have to take the joy out of roasting, but it so easily can. Do you want to start your business because you think you’re good enough to be pro, or is it because you see a real opportunity for a business in your area doing something that captivates you?  There are so many pressures on a business to be some other than what your idea of good might be. How are you going to stand up to those pressures, and what kind of compromises are you going to have to face or make? The definition of what good means to you should not be some trendy brewing device, roast style, or way to talk about coffee. Good should be defined by what keeps you engaged and passionate about roasting coffee.

 -Christopher Schooley

Christopher Schooley is a coffee roaster who works for Sweet Maria’s and our CoffeeShrub project, and has served as the chair of the Roasters Guild Executive Council and has worked for the SCAA.

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