by Ben Angelo, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
I think there’s a common hunger for knowledge when discovering and exploring craft roasting. That first batch drops and you want to know it all: was that the right temp to drop my Guatemala Antigua? Was the time good? It all looks brownish, so what’s the color I’m looking for? What does airflow do? How will x affect the coffee on the cupping table?
I’ve learned a lot in eight years of roasting and working with coffee. The majority of that was hands-on, from the repetition of production roasts and bagging thousands of pounds of fresh coffee each week. When questions presented themselves, I turned first to the few books on coffee in my library, but rarely found the details or specifics I was hoping for. Some solid resources are out there, but there’s no standard-issue Betty-Crocker-esque cookbook for coffee. If we want the answer to “Am I doing this right?” we must seek other avenues.
That’s how I found the Roasters Guild, and how I joined the specialty coffee roasting community’s journey of sharing and learning about our craft. What follows are some musings on my experiences, the unrelated-to-roasting way I found my niche, and how that led me to getting my answers questioned and ultimately, my questions answered.
So, you (or your bosses) paid a decent chunk of change, and now you’re in a room at a scenic mountain resort for the Roasters Guild Retreat, what you hope is the pinnacle of Zen coffee roasting experiences. You’re stoked to see what the “pros” do, and add it to your tool belt. You envision your triumphant return as master of the craft, improving every tricky profile, coaxing forth the perfect flavor notes and sweetness, winning over the hearts and palates of discerning coffee lovers. Cupping notes of Meyer lemon and passionfruit dance from your pen as you confidently assess your perfection on label descriptions. You and your liquid gold are showered with accolades. Then the phone calls start coming in. The phone is ringing off the hook…and suddenly, you’re up: it’s your 7 a.m. wake-up call.