Inviting myself to the roaster’s platform at Rembrandt’s Coffee House, Rickard and Harvey welcomed every question. In between filling the funnel, checking the weight, checking the beans, checking the automated systems, checking the beans again, cooling them, and pouring them into thirty-two gallon Brute garbage cans lined with plastic bags, Rickard moved back and forth between machine, beans, customer, friends, his wife Lori, Harvey, and myself. Never allowing any of us to wait long, his hospitality-roasting dance drew everyone into community offering a personalized roasting experience.
Rickard asked, “So, how are you wanting to roast and what are you going to roast? Home roasting or Commercial roasting?” That was the first time hearing there was a choice between personal and commercial. Just like that he opened a new door with, “For home roasting the number one place to check out is, Sweet Maria’s Coffee.” They are based in Oakland, CA and specialize in home roasting everything. Reading through their website there is great information for anyone interested in home roasting as a small business or simply the personal satisfaction of buying your own roaster and green coffee beans.
Busy running numbers and other important administrative details in his private corner with laptop shaking from his fingers flying and papers balancing and flopping perfectly in three different piles, Harvey interjected an important customer order above the patron’s din and the whirl of the roaster, “Are you roasting five bags for the next order?” Rickard could not hear him and came closer for the reminder. Returning to the perch with a positive response of orders being filled, something reminded Rickard of another important resource for roasting learners. He pointed with his finger in the air and smiled, “Hey, I don’t know if you’d be interested in reading it, but a great book, especially on fair trade, organics, social justice issues, is, ‘Javatrekker’ by Dean Cycon.” He shared about Dean’s travels and logging important stories about the details of fair trade and organics. Just like that I was busy ordering a great book and reading Deans Beans website.
Rickard had a short break while fresh beans were roasting and he came over to Harvey and I to talk a about commercial roasting and the Diedrich roasting machine they use. He shared that they enjoy roasting for other coffee shops in the area as well as grocery stores like Wholefoods and Rosauers and other retailers. Rembrandt's roasts between 300-400 pounds of beans per day. Commercial roasting also includes “toll roasts” where companies specify the type of roast they want, pay them a roasting fee, and place their own company’s logo on the bag.
Rickard said, “Roasting is an endless process of learning. I spoke to one man who had roasted beans in Alaska for over twenty years and he told me, ‘I learned enough in that time to be comfortable being called a beginner.’” For some roasters it can be an obsession to find the perfect roast each time with the weekly, daily, and annual changes contributing to the roasting process. Some roasters in Portland check the weather each day and conduct barometric readings in the store before they begin roasting and adjust their machines to accommodate those degrees of variation. From weather conditions during growing, to adjustments in harvesting and storage, to modifications in new roasting machines, roasters who hope to develop a palette and serve a quality roasted bean need a teachable spirit and a humble heart.
I had to leave for another appointment and Rickard remembered with surprise and excitement another person to speak with about home roasting, Chad. We will save that interview for How to Roast Coffee 102.