Shop roasting: Roasting with an audience.

18 Feb

Last week our roaster malfunctioned (again!), and I had to go out of the shop to roast. Solberg & Hansen were nice enough to let us use their UG22 Probat roaster. Thank you S&H! They are a medium scale roaster and naturally don’t roast their coffee in a coffeebar as we do. The whole experience taught me a lot about several things. 

First of all that it’s easy to get used to roasting with logs and several temperature probes. The UG22 had only one analogue thermometer at the exhaust, whilst our roaster has two digital thermometers (one bean pile thermometer and one exhaust). At S&H I had to rely a whole lot more on sight and smell and the knowledge of the development of the beans I’ve managed to pick up so far. I’m not going to pretend that it all went like a breeze, but I was surprised over how well it turned out.

This leads me on to the next thing I learned while roasting at S&H: It’s easier to roast without people constantly disturbing you to ask what you are doing. This seems pretty obvious, but after roasting in the shop for a while I have gotten used to it. Looking back now however I realize that one has to be a lot more focused when roasting with an audience. I’ve lost count over how many times I’ve had to tell customers that I’m NOT grinding beans, nor brewing coffee in that giant metal thing, I’m actually roasting coffee. There is no doubt that the roaster draws attention to itself and I feel that for every person realizing what I’m actually doing there is one more person enjoying their cup of coffee just a little bit more. So I’ve found my place as not only a roaster but also a teacher of basic coffee knowledge. I dear to claim that shop roasters are the frontline soldiers of specialty coffee. (Anyone disagree with this?) 

Photo taken by Chris Kolbu (and used without permission… Sorry Chris.)


14 Responses to “Shop roasting: Roasting with an audience.”

  1. Tim Monday, February 18, 2008 at 22:41 #

    may I add that Ola has to deal with me constantly poking him in the ribs and pulling his hair…

  2. Lukas Monday, February 18, 2008 at 22:46 #

    Hey Olings, nice to hear from you again. You have been quite quiet lately on the web 🙂

    It’s still not without envy when I read about your not so new anymore job, and I really love reading what you do. All the best,

  3. Olings Monday, February 18, 2008 at 22:52 #

    Thanks for the kind words Lukas. Masses upon masses of things to learn still, but it’s great fun.

    Well there really isn’t any excuse for the low profile. Been meaning to write several things amongst other on blending, but blogging is all about having energy enough to put words on err… paper and lately I haven’t found any. Will try to write that blending article soon.

  4. Chris Monday, February 18, 2008 at 22:53 #

    It’s OK Ola. Sometimes I sit alone in the office, wrapped in your work shirts, basking ever so privately in the manly musk of your beardedness. This most recent transgression of yours would make us even, right?

  5. Olings Monday, February 18, 2008 at 22:56 #

    Two words Chris: Hey now!

  6. Stephen Leighton Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 15:31 #

    Hi Olings

    I dont know how you can roast with people disturbing you big props, my guys know not even to look at me or I’ll bite there head off. It must take some concentration that I sadly lack 😦

    I’d like to add to the “why not regular posts” theme, missed your posts for sure.

  7. Olings Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 21:07 #

    It’s a concentration game for sure. At certain points I just faze out the surroundings and focus (at least I try…)

    Ok. I now have two upcoming posts. Promise. One is the long promised post on blending espresso blends following t an experience I had with creating a blend (a little poke to your article in Barista Magazine, Steve) and in the other I nerd it up a couple of notches to have a look at a few different cupping forms.

    I’ll try to make it so that it wont be delayed for too long…

  8. Baz Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 11:13 #

    Your blogg also has an audience 🙂 Please write more!

  9. Alexander von der Lippe Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 23:19 #

    That S&H roaster is what I call back to basic. I just discovered that I have not been looking at my exhaust temp at all. If my other three probes broke down, I am afraid I would be unable to roast…

  10. Olings Friday, March 7, 2008 at 19:47 #

    One can never have to many probes. Now why do I have a feeling that could be misinterpreted…?

  11. Aric Annear Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 20:27 #

    I’d argue that the baristas are the frontline force…at my last shop we had about 20 bins filled with various estate coffees, and we always ensured the baristas were well-trained in at least the basics of each coffee. After all, they spend more time with the customers than anyone else…

    …which isn’t to say I didn’t have people constantly wandering into my roasting room asking if I was “grinding beans in that big ol’ metal contraption what looks like a locomotive”. 🙂


    PS, I also agree that the more probes, the better. The nose is the most important instrument, but you need the metrics to back up what your nose is saying.

  12. Olings Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 19:48 #

    Aric, as we have the setup right now, I’m actually the first person the costumers get in contact with. Even though the baristas interact with the costumers more often on a day to day basis the questions one answers as a barista is more of the “do you have light milk?” or “how much is that cookie”. I’m deliberately exaggerating things now to make a point.


  13. Mark Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 17:50 #

    Just finished the last of the coffee you sent me. It was fantastic. Quite possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had at home. The beans smelled great.

    Thanks again!!!


  1. Roasting for an Audience: the Pros and Cons | Coffee Tao - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    […] most recent post on That Other Coffee Blog about roasting with an audience got me thinking about my own experiences roasting coffee in a […]

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