I am a roaster….
I am a roaster.
There….I said it…..
I AM A ROASTER!
What joy I experience as I try to coax the flavors from these green nuggets. Flavors that were lying dormant; flavors that the caring hands of farmers and their families from around the world have charged me to extract.
I am a Roaster.
I started some 15 years ago, urged on by an on-line headline that screamed “ROAST YOUR OWN COFFEE AT HOME.” Sounded interesting. I love to cook, because I love to eat. Similarly, I thought, I might like to roast coffee because I love coffee. So via the on screen instructions I purchased a hot air popcorn popper from a thrift store for $1, sent away for some green beans and gave it a try. I was hooked! I had never tasted coffee so good…..and I didn’t even know what I was doing! I graduated to a real home roaster (the Alpenroast) which I proceeded to melt one Christmas as I was mass roasting for family and friends. From there, it was another modified popcorn popper (this one topped with a convection oven which allowed me to vary temperatures; my beginnings of profile roasting) and ultimately to our 10 Kg. Ambex, and most recently the 12 Kg Dietrich.
The Turks are credited with being the first to roast coffee beans From there, coffee was roasted for hundreds of years using everything from iron skillets to hand cranked drums over coals. In parts of Italy, you can still walk through small town squares and smell the sweet aroma of folks roasting that week’s coffee supply.
Roasting coffee is part art and part science; and since I was never particularly good at either of those disciplines, it’s perfect for me! The art of roasting is learning the sights, the sounds, the smell and the taste of a roast. The science is varied and complex. From multiple flavor compounds to how and when sugars develop. Terms such as endothermic, exothermic and the Maillard reaction are used when describing the process and outcome of a particular roast.
The process of roasting is the study of a time and temperature continuum. How and when do the beans reach a certain temperature and what are the expected results at those temperatures. For the roaster, it involves a lifetime of study and learning as factors such as the bean varietal, the altitude of the coffee shrubs and the processing method of the coffee cherries all pay important parts when building a roast profile. Of course, in the end, it’s all about the taste.
I had the opportunity to visit coffee farms and processing plants in Costa Rica. I broke bread with farm families as we talked about how they lovingly cared for their plants and workers. I came away feeling excited, energized and with a feeling of profound responsibility. I now must use my skills, my experience, my continuing education and my attention to detail to eke out the flavors they so caringly developed.
I AM A ROASTER