A Schedule of Roasting Coffee
Rambling on Roasting II: In the lives of our coffee roasters
September 15, 2022
From the everyday coffees and house blends to the premium coffees that we use for coffee competitions, each of these coffees have been meticulously explored, refined and finished with care by the good hands of our coffee roasters.
There is often a faint curiosity about what goes on in the lives of the coffee roasters who work tirelessly behind the scenes to produce these coffee beans that we so enjoy. Today, we bring you through that door to explore the day-to-day activities of our coffee roasters.
Roasting: A Weekly Affair
Coffee roasters often work in a schedule of weeks.
Every week begins by planning the coffee that needs to be roasted, with the first few days of the week spent on production roasts. The volume of roasted coffee produced per batch depends on the capacity of the machine that is used – typical production roaster capacities range anywhere from a few kilograms to 60 kilograms, and sometimes even more in larger commercial settings.
On average, specialty coffee roasters can do anywhere from 10-30 batches of roasts in a single day, depending on demand from wholesale customers and café operations. While production roasts might seem to be the primary role of a coffee roaster, the truth is that roasters do far more than just that! In fact, it is only when production roasts are completed that the even more challenging work begins.
A day or two after completing the weekly production roasts, coffee roasters often conduct quality control tests, where we cup for defects in batches of coffee. Identifying roast defects and ensuring consistency from one batch of coffee to the next is as crucial a task as the roasting itself, and cupping completes the feedback loop for which roasters can stay in touch with the final product. Our coffee roasters critically evaluate their roasts and make the necessary adjustments to refine following batches, and coffees that do not make the cut are put aside for other purposes like training material for staff, or in the seasoning of new grinders.
After the green coffees have been roasted, and quality control checks done, the beans are packed into bags we are most familiar with, according to sizes ordered. This packing can be done either manually or with a coffee dispenser and are then sealed and set aside according to the delivery schedules. While this process sounds straightforward, the sheer amount of coffees that need to be packed at one go often means that packing can take anywhere from half a day to a full day!
A Little Labour
Aside from the end-to-end process of production roasts, coffee roasting is also, at times, a physically challenging role. Apart from prolonged exposure to loud sounds making for an uncomfortable environment during roasting, and having to actively move about as they roast through the day, there is also some manual labour that is required of coffee roasters.
When new green coffees arrive on our shores and are delivered to the roastery, our coffee roasters have to unload sacks of coffee from the transport vehicles to the greens room to be sorted and stored. Weighing up to 60kg a sack, these green coffees are no trifling matter to lift, especially when each delivery numbers in the pallets.
Sample Roasting and Cupping
After all that, our coffee roasters finally have some ‘free time’ to do some of the abovementioned ‘challenging’ tasks, such as roasting sample batches of coffees.
Sample roasts have many purposes, including roasting for coffee beans before the production roasts to determine an ideal profile that the roaster would like to translate into the production roast.
Sample roasting is also required to assess green coffee samples sent by producers, for roasters and green buyers to decide upon any green coffees of interest for us to purchase and roast for sale.
In addition, the small batch size of sample roasting is also very ideal for experimenting with various roast variables. At Homeground, we often roast samples with a wide range of a single variable to learn about the effects that said variable may have on the coffee beans.
Once roasting is completed for the week, another task is to conduct regular cleaning and maintenance of our coffee roasting machines. Maintenance is a crucial aspect often overlooked – ensuring the machine receives the proper care is essential to accurate performance and replicable readings to maintain the quality of the coffees produced daily.
The more frequent weekly activities include clearing out the chaff collector, cleaning the various equipment (cooling tray, cyclone, destoner and green bean conveyor, cyclone), as well as upkeeping the general area around the machine. Once to twice a month, we also lubricate the moving parts in the roasting machine, and clean the exhaust and electrostatic filter in the air ventilator.
Last but not least, to wrap up the activities for the week, our coffee roasters also spend some time communicating with our producer partners, coffee traders and industry peers. Not only do we learn more about the coffees that are being produced each season, but we also arrange for purchases and sale of these coffees, as well as attend some commercial cupping sessions, and keep up to date with the latest trends in the coffee world.
The week of a coffee roaster flies by really quickly – roasting coffee is only one among the many other things that need to be done as a preparation for future roasts, that keeps our coffee roasters busy throughout the week producing tasty coffees that we enjoy every single day!