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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!