Rhyme or Reason: Why You Roast – Carlos Aguayo

November 26, 2014

When I started this project of reaching out to roasters and asking them about why they roast and what their aspirations with roasting were, one of the first home roasters I had thought of was Carlos Aguayo because of his posts in the Sweet Maria’s forums. For some time Tom and I have talked about designing a Sweet Maria’s home roasting starter kit, and the flour sifter design that Carlos and some others have been discussion on the forum is one of the most inspirational set-ups that I’ve yet to come across as far as something to base it off of. I reached out to him to ask him about his how and why.    -Chris Schooley

CS: What’s your name and what equipment have you used?
CA: I use my own homespun roaster built with a heavily-modified Poplite popcorn popper and a flour sifter. My modifications include splitting the fan and heat power so I can adjust the airflow (and thus, the air temperature) manually, and putting a thermocouple in the air flow to measure that temperature accurately. I don’t know that I am the first to use a flour sifter for this, but it works really well in this configuration. See the original thread for details: http://www.sweetmariascoffee.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5331

CS: What do you most love about roasting?
CA: I love that I can control the roasting process to get coffee that meets my tastes and preferences. I also really enjoyed the tinkering and experimenting that it took to get my roasting setup working well, and look forward to another design iteration when time permits.

CS: How did you get into roasting?
CA: I have moved to a new state several times in the last decade, and have struggled to find a consistently good source of coffee that I love every time. I got spoiled by fresh Peet’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, and found that even if a place roasted it’s own coffee, it often did not measure up. So when I found myself with a bit of time to tinker and a local source of green beans, I decided to give it a shot.

CS: What’s your dream roaster set up?
CA: I’m more of a roast-your-own fanatic than a gearhead, so I don’t know the various brand names and commercial options. But I would love to move closer to a true fluid-bed design with automated temperature controls and timers. I track temperature and time manually and have to hand-crank to agitate the beans in my current setup, and automating each of those would simplify the process.

CS: In your opinion what makes a roaster legitimate?
CA: For me, it’s all about making coffee that I like. If I liked store-bought coffee more than the stuff I roast at home I would probably quit as it is a considerable investment of time and effort.

CS: How do you know your coffee is good?
CA: I spent many years seeking the best coffee I could find, and I know what I like, but I do have an objective opinion from my wife to keep me honest as well. When she says it’s good, then I know I’m on the right track.

CS: Have you ever wanted to start a roaster business?
CA: Only when I was between gigs. I work in high-tech, and scaling a roasting business to be more lucrative in my town’s competitive landscape would be quite a challenge. Developing a home-roasting machine would be fun, and probably the best "fit", but taking this on seriously seems to me like a risky investment. Though I can imagine it being a lot more fun than IT work!

CS: Do you share your roasts with others?
CA: I have shared my roasted beans with a few friends, and their appreciative response was quite pleasing. I like to share interesting beans, like the tasty and giant Maragogype, or "Elephant Bean" from Nicaragua.

CS: Do you have a favorite roasting company? What makes them your favorite?
CA: In terms of taste, I still prefer Peet’s Coffee, their full and rich flavor profile without a hint of burntness seems to me to be among the best I’ve ever had.

CS: Would roasting professionally ruin a hobby that you enjoy, or expand on it?
CA: It probably wouldn’t ruin it for me, but it would definitely change everything to scale up and run a business around the product. For me, it’s all about making the best coffee I can so that I can enjoy drinking it!!