Let us talk about the roasting – Keith Hamrick, Northbound Coffee Roasters – updated

Keith Hamrick was one of the first roasters I met when I started my coffee roasting career, I’ve been talking to him about roasting for more than a decade. The track to finally opening Northbound Coffee Roasters just over a year ago was arduous at times, but I was so very happy when Keith and Jen Lovrak got that train up and running. I always been super stoked when they’ve picked up Shrub coffees, and they’ve knocked some roasts of the Ethiopia Guji Shakisso out of the park. The thing that I love about the their roast of this coffee is that they’re not afraid to take it a little deeper into the roast and really bring out the stone fruit and red grape notes, and there’s still plenty of floral notes laced through to the finish. But what’s best of all are the complex sugars, almost tootsie roll with a chocolate and caramel combination. This roast brewed up a phenomenal Hario V60 brew, and another and another, hahaha. I’ve been all about it. Wanted to talk with Keith about this coffee as well as their American Beauty Espresso blend that right now features some of the lovely shrub Bolivias.

CS: Can you give me some specs on your sweet roaster?

KH: I roast on a 1936 7 kilo cast iron Barth. The roaster from what I can tell has all of its original parts, but a digital bean probe has been added. The machine was in Hamburg, Germany until just a few years ago and is a total workhorse. Often when I roast I like to daydream about all the operators and beans that have touched this machine in its 77 years. I reach my desired roast profiles by manipulating charge weight, drop temperature air flow and gas flow. The roaster is very unique, and the resulting cups of coffee continue to please our customers.

CS: How did you approach the Guji Shakisso in the roaster?

KH: My approach to the Guji Shakiso is to begin by heating the drum to high drop temperature and then shutting back the gas to allow the beans to begin absorbing the heat for just a minute or two. I then begin steadily turning up the gas, adding heat generally aiming for first crack at 10 minutes. I anticipate first crack and begin shutting back the fuel greatly letting it coast a slow but steady to ready to its end point where I can see that the beans are well developed and rounded. Guji Is one of my favorite coffees to roast, I find the end coffee to be the most visually pleasing.

CS: Can you tell me a little bit about the American Beauty Espresso

KH: American Beauty is a 3 part post roast espresso blend that is named after a once popular heirloom rose cultivar and one of our favorite albums. With that inspiration in mind, our goal is to create a straight forward, sweet and clean blend comprised only of the most stellar coffees from Central and South America. Coffee Shrub’s Bolivia Illumani and Apollo microlots offer this blend a juicy mouthfeel that lays out the backbeat while the dried fruit cocoa sweetness takes lead.

My roast approach is very similar to the Guji Shakiso, however I extend the time beginning at first crack differently with each roast to create complexity and layers of acidity and body that contrast and compliment each other. All three of the roasts in this blend are finished before second crack is heard in the drum.

Hear that whistle blowing, thanks Keith and Jen. So very happy that there are roasters and people like yourself out there in this world.

Update: I got to taste some shots of the American Beauty Espresso featuring 2 shrub Bolivias today, thanks to Chris Hess and Everyday Joe’s for always being sports to try some fun coffees. We dialed it in to the specs that Keith had given me for it – 21 grams in an 18 gram basket around 200 degrees, shooting for around 30 gram volume in between 28-34 seconds. Right away we got apricot notes right on the nose and in the first sips. The finish was all raisin and cocoa, almost a winey spiced raisin right in the middle of the palate as the shot cools a bit.

In the cool shot, the lovely roasts in this blend give a distinct dark chocolate flavor to the whole shot with the notes of raisin still prominent. This was a lovely and balanced espresso, and in milk it was beautiful. Chris Hess described it as a parade, with each flavor in the shot going by at an even steady pace, waving elegantly as it passed. Thanks so much for sharing this espresso with us Norhtbound.

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