Crop Talk with Dustin Fleming
Welcome to Crop Talk, our blog series with Barnie’s Manager of Coffee Programming, Dustin Fleming. No matter which Crop Ex batch you’ve brewed for the day, Dustin’s the man who saw it through, from sourcing to roast.
Dustin walks us through a typical day’s roast at Barnie’s Coffee & Tea.
When does roasting usually start? In the morning? Late at night?
By the time most people are drinking their morning cup of coffee, we’re already 20-pounds deep into our roast schedule. We usually start first thing in the morning with our decaf blends, since they’re the least likely to roast inconsistently. The decaf roasts bring the drum up to temperature to ensure even, consistent roasting for every batch afterward. We then go right into roasting espresso or single-origins, any samples sent to us by our importers or farming partners, and then we finally clean up for the day.
Where does your team even begin when choosing a coffee’s flavor profile?
You might think the whole coffee-making process starts at a coffee farm, but it actually starts with our customers. Their feedback and their palates dictate what coffees we bring in. After we source and receive the coffee, we roast it in such a way that brings out the beans’ best natural qualities.
A current trend in the coffee industry is to alienate coffee drinkers’ palates in favor of an “ideal” flavor profile. There are a slew of companies in the specialty coffee market roasting the same types of coffee in the same ways: crafting bright, acidic, lightly roasted coffees that are touted as having the “best” flavors. We have those kinds of coffee in our lineup — and I absolutely love them — but our goal is to make coffee for everyone, not just a small few.
What’s next after you settle on a flavor profile? How do you know how long to roast a given batch?
Once Barnie’s receives a coffee sample, 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 onto it.
Once a sample is approved, we begin the “profiling” process by roasting a batch of coffee through the roast spectrum, from incredibly light to incredibly dark. We then “cup” the beans at each roast level to determine where on the spectrum that particular coffee shines.
Some coffees, like Sumatras, do really well at a darker roast, while others, such as washed African coffees, fair better at a light roast level. Once we get an idea how the coffee should be roasted, we’ll do a couple more batches around that roast level to pinpoint exactly where we want those beans. The profile is saved and used only for that specific coffee. Each of our coffees receives at least 5 hours of individual attention before anyone else even tastes it.
Are there any speed bumps a roaster needs to look out for?
If you’re a regular Barnie’s customer, you’ll notice that the same coffee may change roast levels over time. Some coffees may just taste a little different than you remember. Unroasted fresh crop coffee has, on average, 10-12% moisture content. When we roast coffee, we’re adding heat to the bean, raising the internal moisture’s temperature. Once that moisture reaches certain temperatures, chemical reactions occur that change how the bean tastes.
Unroasted coffee loses that moisture content over time and, therefore, should be roasted differently. When roasting coffee, you’re essentially trying to brown the sugars without burning them. Think of butter. When browned correctly, butter becomes this rich, dynamic, candy-like syrup, but when it’s burned, it becomes rancid and offensive.
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 apart.
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