Spilling the beans: here’s how I roast, step-by-step

Spilling the beans: here’s how I roast, step-by-step

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I have to admit it. I just love roasting! It’s the smell, the noise of the machinery and the way I get my hands dirty. I also enjoy the amazing alchemy. You take small green fruit, put them through the roasting machine, and out comes amazing dark beans that are a brew away from delicious coffee.

So here I am all ready to go. I’ve been away from the roaster for over a week, which has made me even more keen to fire it up. Perhaps you can tell that from my look of intense concentration!

First, I load up the beans. They go into a large stainless steel cone, called a ‘hopper’ which you can see at the top of the machine. I also fire up the gas burners that will roast the beans and wait for the heat to hit 200˚C.

When it’s hot enough, I pull the lever that dispenses the beans down into the drum roaster – the large container with a black door and the ‘Toper’ label. The beans you can see in the circular tray have already been roasted and are cooling right now.

Now we have the beans where we want them. They’re in the drum roaster and once in, they begin to heat up. As the heat rises I check that the beans are roasting correctly. I insert a wooden implement into the hole underneath the ‘Toper’ label and check that they look and smell right.

The rod has a few beans lying inside, as you can see below. I examine them carefully. I’m looking for a lovely dark, rich colour all the way through. I tend to go for long, gentle roasting to ensure depth of flavour and a medium-to-dark colour. But I don’t want to roast too long. This is how you lose sweetness. Too high and you create bitterness.

Every two minutes I’m also logging the temperature. This step is crucial. It means I know what an ideal recipe looks like and I can replicate the process next time. Then I wait for the crack. This is the sound of the ‘chaff’ or skin on the beans breaking. Once the crack has sounded, I know it’s almost time to switch off the heat. How long you wait is the result of lots of experience. I continue to look and smell. Then I spill them into the cylinder.

Once in here, I examine them to ensure there aren’t any heat spots and they have coloured uniformly. I remove the few that have defects or haven’t roasting properly by putting them in the cup you can see in my hand.

All the while the steel rod in the cylinder turns round, ensuring that the beans cool in a consistent way.

And once fully cooled, I can spill them again – this time into large plastic containers beneath the machine. These 10kg recyclable buckets are used by 90% of our wholesale clients, ensuring minimum waste.

Finally I prep up for the store, decanting into the Scotties packs we all know and love. And the coffee is ready to go!

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this roasting run-through. It’s a vital part of the coffee-making process, bringing out the potential in the beans from the plantations. I like to take it carefully and slowly, experimenting with timings and heat to ensure the ultimate flavour for each coffee. All the better for you to enjoy!