By the time most people are drinking their morning cup of coffee, we are already 20 lbs deep into our roast schedule. We usually start with decaf first thing in the morning since it’s more resilient to inconsistencies in heating; this brings the drum up to temperature for every roast afterward to ensure even consistent roasting. Following decaf we usually go right into espresso or single origins, then we will roast any samples that were sent to us by our importers or farming partners and finally clean up. As a coffee roaster our day starts like any other: warm-up, roast, and clean-up but it’s the spaces in between that sets us apart from our friends at other companies.
I would begin by saying that it starts at the farm but in fact it starts with you, our customers. The feedback and palate of our customers dictate what type of coffees we look to bring in whether it is a flavored coffee, a blend or a single origin. After we source the coffee, and it is delivered to us, we roast it in such a way that brings out all the natural qualities of the bean without forcing it too much.
A trend in the coffee industry is the alienation of people’s palates in favor of an “ideal” flavor profile. In the Specialty Coffee Market there are a slew of companies roasting the same types of coffee in the same ways: bright, acidic coffees that are lightly roasted and touted as the “best” way to consume coffee. We have them in our lineup, and I absolutely love them but they make-up a small section of the coffee consumption experience and our goal is to have a coffee for everyone.
Once a coffee sample is received, it is catalogued and roasted to an industry standard sample roast level. This standard allows us to taste all the intricate notes in a coffee without imparting flavor unto it and is best served for evaluation purposed only, not general consumption. Once a sample is approved, we begin the “profiling” process by roasting a batch of coffee through the roasting spectrum from incredibly light to incredibly dark. We then cup* the various roast levels to determine at which roast level the coffee tastes the best which is the most important part of the roasting process because it determines how our customers will perceive this particular coffee. Some coffees do really well roasted darker such as coffees from Sumatra, while others do better at a light roast level such as washed African coffees. Once we get a general guideline of where the coffee should be roasted at, we will do a couple more batches around that roast level to fine tune exactly where we want the coffee at. Once that is done, the profile is saved and used only for that particular coffee. Every one of our coffees receives at least 5 hours of individual attention before a consumer even tastes it.
If you’re a regular Barnie’s customer you’ll notice that the same coffee may change roast levels over time or it may just taste different. Unroasted Fresh-crop coffee has, on average, a 10-12% moisture content. When we roast coffee, we are adding heat to the bean which causes that moisture inside to increase in temperature. When the moisture reached certain temperatures chemical reactions occur that change how the bean tastes. Essentially we are trying to brown the sugars without going too far and burning it. Think of butter, when it’s browned correctly, it becomes this sweet, rich, dynamic candy-like syrup; but if it’s burned, it becomes rancid and offensive. Over time, the unroasted coffee loses moisture content and therefore should be roasted differently.
While a lot of coffee roasters have similar processes—Barnie’s care and willingness to listen to our customers in addition to the dedication of our staff to improve every single day sets our coffee and our brand apart.
*An industry standard way of evaluating coffee developed by the Specialty Coffee Association