Coffee doesn't just magically transport itself from around the world to the offering sheet of your favorite microroaster; it's brought there by a chain of growers, exporters, and importers, each of whom play an important role in maintaining coffee quality along the supply chain. Our friends and partners at Cafe Imports are one such importer, and they've developed close relationships with top coffee roasters around the world, to whom they supply green coffee. Today they're adding a new component to their relationships with roasters, and we've got an inside look.
“Beanologies” is the Cafe Imports-coined term for the in depth information about a specific coffee; its bio, so to speak. To help inform the enlightened roasting of their coffees, they've teamed with the folks at Cropster in developing suggested roast profiles for a selection of their green coffees, to be included in their distinct “Beanologies” listings. These suggestions take the form of roast profile charts, developed using Cropster's roasting software linked directly to Cafe Imports' Probat coffee roasting apparatus. Those charts – check out an example here – might as well be in Greek to some, but for those roasters out there intimately involved in the daily process of getting the most out of their green coffee, the charts amount to a powerful suggested roadmap.
Microroasting as a trend shows no sign of slowing; it's only getting bigger, and the development of roasting collectives like Coffee Roasters United in Portland and Pulley Collective in Brooklyn is proof. We sat down with Joe Marrocco of Cafe Imports – himself a seasoned roaster – to learn more about this new program.
You're involved with including roast profiles – on the Cat Roast Levels scale – what level of roast are you taking these coffees to? A full kitty roast?
Coffees are like cats, indeed. Each different, each needing a different approach, and usually fairly finicky. I am usually roasting between a City+ to Full City. The goal is to show the coffee in a different light than the cupping table is exhibiting. You will, however, also see some roasts that are very similar. Coffees that are similar in density, altitude, processing, origin, taste characteristics, etc… may need to be roasted similarly. Also, keep in mind that on many of these coffees I get one shot. So, I take my best stab and go from there. I will be enriching these profiles moving forward. I will be honest about roast mistakes, and taste notes. You will see the good the bad and the ugly. I think this will provide the trial and error information that can be much more educational than me simply saying, “Turn left. Turn Right.”
We want to give a springboard of information from which people can draw their own opinions and not have to reinvent the wheel. We also want to show the dexterity of certain coffees, and how dynamic coffees can be at different roast profiles. Long story short, we want to help set roasters up for more consistent success.
How's Cropster involved in all of this?
Cropster is an excellent platform from which to record roasts and data. Norbert Niederhauser is a mad genius and his programing skills are one of the most innovative tools that current coffee roasters can use. We are merely scratching the surface of what Cropster offers, and I feel dizzy every time I use it. For a fully functioning coffee roasting company, programs like Cropster are a must.
As it pertains to our relationship, Norbert and I met at a Roaster’s Guild Retreat. We were inadvertently teamed up together. He was a quiet watcher and listener, soaking up information, and rarely speaking up, (unlike yours truly). As we broke away from the group and began to hang out a bit, I shared some of my goals and he shared how he thought Cropster could help. From there, he followed up with me and we made it happen.
Is this a first for green coffee sellers?
I will be honest and say, I really don’t know. I have not spent a lot of time scouring the internet to see what our fellow importers are offering. I simply enjoy roasting, have been doing this already for internal purposes, and decided to open myself up to global critique and profile nudity. It is quite revealing and nerve-wracking, so I would be surprised if anyone else is doing this.
That is not to say that other importers aren’t doing some great stuff in these realms. I have great and very respected friends at other importing companies who are just as passionate about roasting the coffee once the coffee has hit our shores as I am.
In life, when did you roast your first batch?
First of all, let me be clear; I have only ever roasted in life. That first batch was (on a real roaster, skillets, pots, pop-corn-poppers aside) at my alma mater Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Company of St. Louis, MO in August of 2008 on a one pound San Franciscan. I did not burn it.
What was it?
I believe it was a Brazil Cerrado. Something standard that I could ruin and not offend the coffee gods too much.
These roast profiles, you're approaching them as suggestions, right?
These are definitely suggestions, or even less than suggestions – they're simply our roasts of these particular coffees. Think of it as a look into our roasts from which anyone can take or leave whatever they feel they should. This is not how one is supposed to roast, simply how I have roasted, and it may or may not have been awesome. Sometimes there will be errors, and misses, and I will publish those, too. Trial and error is costly and expensive. If I can air out my trials and errors on some batches for others to learn from, I am saving everyone a lot of time and money.
What's your favorite coffee to roast?
It's a cliche, but usually whatever is new. I love discovery. If I had to pick from a specific region, I would have to say Yirgacheffe (washed). As much as I try not to get into the hedonistic side of roasting, and simply remain analytical, how can someone not love the aroma coming from a really great Yirg during first crack. Heaven.
Have you ever roasted (or tasted) Spicy Taco Flavored Coffee?
Are you referring to Doritos Locos? Only when Noah Namowicz comes walking into the roasting space after lunch.