Many items are marked as “gourmet” or “handmade” that really aren’t all that gourmet or handmade. It can be misleading and difficult to know what’s handcrafted. When it comes to coffee, it can be even worse. All the major coffee roasting companies now offer “gourmet” coffee blends that look like something you might find at a local coffee roaster. Just like the “craft beers” that come from the major beer brewing houses, they are poor imitations of a truly handcrafted, gourmet coffee.
Coffee roasting is both an art form and a science. The art form is when you take a skill set that has been mastered over decades and combine it with the precision of a scientist. The science is knowing the specific dynamics of the coffee roasting process, a particular nose, and the empirical data about the green coffee bean you are roasting, and of course, the coffee roaster you are using to roast the coffee.
We are artisan coffee roasters from the San Francisco Bay, and we love what we do. Our Master Coffee Roaster has been roasting coffee since 1980 and worked side by side with Alfred Peet and Sal Bonavita from 1980 to 1984. Weaver was the Master Coffee Roaster at Peet's Coffee for 27 years, until he left Peet’s Coffee in 2007 to start our company with Renee Brown, Michael Brown, and Bryce Inouye.
How We Sample Roast Green Coffee Beans for our Reserve Coffee
What is Hand Roasting Coffee?
Hand roasted coffee is made in small batches with the direct intervention of a master coffee roaster. The master coffee roaster watches over the batch as it’s roasted to make sure it’s done to perfection.
Our mechanical coffee roaster is a 45 Kilo Probat. Our human Master Coffee Roaster controls the load size, the time the temperature and the air flow. Decisions are made on the spot, predicated on what coffee bean is in the roast and those decisions affect and create that unique flavor profile for each coffee blend or each single origin coffee. This takes a wee bit of genius, decades of practice and a lot of hard work by a lot of people to support the entire process. Consistency is critical, it is what separates us from every other coffee company. Eleven years of consistency and quality is a hard thing to do. (If you are reading this newsletter, you have been addicted to our coffee for a while, and we would like to take a moment to thank you for drinking our product because you truly appreciate the quality and consistency).
Large factory coffee roasting companies often turn to automation to manufacture their volume, however, the art and science of coffee roasting is lost in a large factory coffee roaster. There is no way to truly pull the full potential of the green coffee bean in a large factory roaster. Temperature control is automated and a fail safe is generally set only a maximum on/off temperature. It is not a computer; it does not control the profile, and it is usually set at a high temperature. Data logging by computers track changes in temperature, but do not do anything to create a roast profile. This is where the master coffee roaster steps in with their roasting profile system and to decide upon the load size, time, temperature and airflow.
Automation can be very convenient, but does not allow the fine control that hand crafting coffee roasters aspire to achieve by literally standing at the machine and controlling the roast.
What is Hand Roasting Coffee Versus Small Batch Roasting Coffee?
There is a slight difference between hand roasting coffee and small batch roasting coffee. While all hand roasted coffees are small batch, not all small batch coffees are hand roasted.
There are many automatic coffee roasters on the market. They use technology to guide the roast. The issue is that there is as much art as science to the roasting of coffee. A master roaster understands that things like humidity, the differences in where the green coffee beans are grown, and even the ambient temperature of the room can make a difference.
If you think in terms of baking bread, it’s the difference between a bread machine and a master baker. Bread from a bread machine is adequate, but the master baker will bake bread that is life changing.
What is Reserve Coffee?
Reserve is a phrase that has no set meaning except that set by the coffee roaster, the vineyard, or anyone else. The meaning is generally that the item is only available in a limited quantity and is being released at the perfect time to maximum flavor.
Many of the world’s largest coffee roasters have released Reserve Coffees. While these might be limited quantities for them, they are likely selling more of a single coffee in a day than many small artisan coffee roasters sell of all their coffees in a year.
Weaver’s Coffee & Tea offers our Reserve Coffees. These are beans we can only buy in very small quantities, usually from a single farm and in limited quantity.
Why is Hand Roasting Coffee Better?
Hand roasting coffee is better because it's the difference between an industrial coffee roasting and hand roasting coffee. When you hand roast coffee correctly it is nuanced and subtle. The master coffee roaster will bring the hints of flavors, ranging from chocolate to fruits, by gently roasting the coffee beans.
The best way to compare factory roasted coffee to hand roasted coffee would be to compare it to buying an apple pie at the grocery store or digging into Grandma’s fresh baked apple pie. Grandma’s kitchen is smaller, she works carefully and precisely handcrafting her delicious apple pie, similar to a Master Coffee Roaster working his magic on a smaller 45 Kilo Probat coffee roaster, hand crafting each roast to cup perfection.