Why you should automate your coffee roasting

Coffee roasting has an ethereal, almost mystical quality that makes it an attractive profession to many people. The blend of art and science, where repeatable data points meet intuition and hard-won knowledge; where the chemistry of Maillard reactions combine with quasi-mythical terms like Full City and Vienna to both intrigue and excite.

For many coffee roasters, the key attraction is that tactile sense of accomplishment that comes from making something, of taking an ordinary commodity and breathing life into it, making it something more than it was. Transforming it.

Smell and touch, taste and sight—these are the tools of the master roaster. Standing watchfully by as the drum turns, the beans heat and expand and release gas; pulling the trier and smelling, watching the color darken, always ready to adjust the heat one way or the other. That moment of exhilaration, that rush as the door opens and the crackling, steaming coffee gushes out into the cooling tray—that’s what makes the job worthwhile.

OK, now do it again.

And again.

And fifteen more times, exactly the same. Any slight discrepancy and the whole batch is ruined.

No pressure.

The single most important element to roasting good coffee is consistency. If a customer buys a bag of freshly roasted coffee from you one week, takes it home and loves it, they are going to come back the next week and want the same thing. But what if the bag you sell them is slightly different? What if they don’t like it as much as the last one? Will they buy a third bag from you?

This is an important and often overlooked part of the business—finding new customers is great, but you have to keep the old ones coming back for more. Do you trust yourself to pull off that consistency batch after batch? It’s challenging, hitting those same points on the graph at the same time, starting and ending at the exact right moment, roast after roast.

With automated roast profiling software, however, once you roast the perfect batch of coffee, your profile will be saved in the computer, ready to be repeated at the touch of a button. All you have to do is load the coffee, press start and the automated system does the rest.

And the more you use it, the better it will get. The automated profiling software will adjust to unexpected occurrences, like a sudden drop in temperature, and keep the roast on track. It will learn and improve every time it repeats, giving you consistently better coffee each time.

This automation opens up your time for other tasks, like bagging coffee or answering emails. Why waste time standing at a monitor, watching and waiting, when the computer can handle it for you. In the 10-12 minutes it takes to roast a batch of coffee, you could make the phone call that wins you your next wholesale account.

And the coffee will still taste as good, maybe even better, than if you did it manually.

Fionn Pooler is a freelance writer who covers the specialty coffee industry at The Pourover. Find him on Instagram or his website.