Saturday, December 12, 2009

Roasting Expedition

I was invited to spend the day at Kaldi's Roastery in St.Louis, so I took advantage of the opportunity. On the trip, I was shown the inner-workings of the roasting facility, trained in Kaldi's roasting practices by the award winning roaster and barista Joe Marrocco, and experienced a quality-control cupping- the likes of which are held there almost daily. Experiencing so much in one day will require more than one post to share adequately.

Where to start? There was just so much information imparted to me! Until yesterday, my experience was largely limited to barista experience, managing and marketing, brewing techniques, and training. Yesterday, I was shown so much more of the coffee world! The roasting process was amazing and describing it seems empty, but here I go anyway. I think simply starting with the beans' arrival at the roaster and following their progress through the roasting process will be the easiest way for explanation.

Kaldi's receives hundreds, even thousands of pounds of green coffee beans weekly. The day that I was there, it was a "light" roasting day- not roasting much for their standards, only staying busy roasting for 5-6 hours of the day (that's still amazingly large quantities). These beans arrive in huge 60 pound burlap sacks transported directly from their processing facilities in the origins grown. Only very select coffees are chosen by specialty roasters like Kaldi's for production. Something like 1-3% of coffee grown meets the very strict standards of specialty coffee. In fact, Kaldi's was roasting a Costa Rican coffee that was the best lot of its class- a Cup of Excellence coffee, which are very pricey. Kaldi's is fairly unique in that they rarely pass on the extra expense to their customers, even when buying the most premium of the specialty coffees. One example I'm familiar with is the Burundi Kayanza single origin coffee that scored a 95 on the Coffee Review- instead of selling this very high scoring coffee for high prices (some as high as $60/10oz), which would be expected, they sold it for the standard $11-13/lb that their other coffees go for; this is an effort to make even the best of the best available to everyone.

Moving the coffees to the scale comes next, weighing them raw to then be transported in correct quantities to the roasters in batches. These two roasters in use were very different- one was a San Franciscan, the other a Probat. The San Franciscan was around the 25lb barrel size, the Probat a 75-100lb mammoth. This is where I will pick up next. Pictures and more detailed descriptions to follow!

Lord, thank you for the opportunity to obtain more knowledge about this fine product and thank you for those at Kaldi's willing to take the time to share their insight. Also, thank you so much for a wife interested enough to spend the whole day along with me, experiencing the roasting. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

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