Tag Archive for: cupping

by Rocky Rhodes

Roasters Rock

Categories: 2015, OctoberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

So you are sit­ting in your shop and think­ing, “What could I invent that would dif­fer­en­ti­ate me in the mar­ket­place?” This is a very use­ful ques­tion! You may also pon­der, “What could I make that would be so cool I could cor­ner the mar­ket and be a bazil­lion­aire!?!” This is a less use­ful question.

The first ques­tion will lead you to the likely con­clu­sion that you could make an improve­ment on your exist­ing busi­ness that would allow you to rise above the fray in your par­tic­u­lar field and be seen as smart, inven­tive, and ambi­tious. The sec­ond ques­tion above makes you into a cre­ative genius, but sel­dom pro­duces a prod­uct needed by our industry.

From Merriam-Webster:
in·no·va·tion; the intro­duc­tion of some­thing new; a new idea, method, or device.

For the cof­fee indus­try, this def­i­n­i­tion should include the words both COOL and USEFUL. It seems that we in the indus­try are focused on cool and often not on use­ful, although some inven­tions are extremely use­ful, but not cool. So what would the mak­ing of a cool and use­ful inno­va­tion look like? The fol­low­ing are the cri­te­ria for success.

Part One: The IDEA
If your prod­uct is going to be self-sustainable and even make you rich, you must decide that this is a pri­mary goal of your inno­va­tion. If you are doing it just because you can, you may receive some noto­ri­ety for hav­ing done it, but no one will buy it because no one needs it.

So the pri­mary cri­te­ria for a suc­cess­ful new prod­uct is: Solve a cus­tomer prob­lem. In order to do this you must really under­stand what the prob­lem is and how many peo­ple have the prob­lem. This can often be dif­fi­cult because your bril­liant idea may solve a prob­lem a cus­tomer may not know they have. Think about it; did you really know you needed the inter­net in the palm of your hand 24/7 until some­one gave you the option? Your under­stand­ing of the cof­fee mar­ket will help you under­stand if enough peo­ple would be helped by your innovation.

If you are solv­ing the prob­lem, design your prod­uct. After you are 100% sure of how you would design the prod­uct, then ask for some­one else to design it! In col­lab­o­ra­tion you will find that fresh eyes see much more than you do. You may want to scrap the idea at this point as unre­al­is­tic, or you may redesign the solu­tion to solve the prob­lem and turn a profit. Keep work­ing until you have a prototype.

Part Two: The Prototype Scrutiny
You built a pro­to­type and you are pretty sure it solves a prob­lem big enough to sell some items. Now it is time to test your the­ory. In con­trolled envi­ron­ments you will ask peo­ple to use your prod­uct, give you feed­back, and make sug­ges­tions. You may be in this phase for a while so make sure to pro­tect your intel­lec­tual property.

Once the bugs are out of the pro­to­type you can move to the next phase.

Part Three: Putting on the busi­ness hat
You may be bril­liant at com­ing up with ideas. Often idea peo­ple don’t use the ‘busi­ness cor­tex’ of the brain and build the plan to make money. If this sounds like you, it is time to bring on board some­one that can steer you towards prof­itable imple­men­ta­tion. They will look at prod­uct devel­op­ment costs, mar­ket­ing costs, pro­duc­tion costs etc. and then will gen­er­ate a required retail price that cov­ers costs and returns a profit. Now you have a busi­ness plan!

You may need to acquire fund­ing. With a busi­ness plan you can explain your idea con­cisely. Money is always attracted to good ideas.

Once fund­ing is in place you have to mar­ket the prod­uct, sell it, and then move into pro­duc­tion. None of these things really seem like the cre­ative brain­storm­ing of com­ing up with the idea. All of these things are essen­tial for suc­cess. Remember; almost no one has all of the skills to get a new prod­uct to mar­ket. With a good team you will go far­ther than by yourself.

Part 4: Constant improve­ment.
Very few prod­ucts are per­fect the first time out. Even if they are, needs change and your prod­uct must keep up. Design a pro­gram to revisit things like design, need ful­fill­ment and cost. Constantly re-innovate the prod­uct to stay ahead of your customer’s needs.

If you can com­mu­ni­cate the value of your prod­uct and sup­port a rea­son­able price you should be able to sell it. If you make it COOL as well as USEFUL, you will have a winner!

The fol­low­ing are some of the recent inno­va­tions. It is up to the reader to decide if they are cool, use­ful, or both. If they are both, con­sider car­ry­ing the prod­uct or find­ing a way to use it in your busi­ness. If not, well only you can be the judge!

Single Origin Chocolate in flow through Tea Bags
Creates a new hot bev­er­age expe­ri­ence with sub­tle choco­late flavors

Espresso with Yogurt and Spices – Signature Drink
Combines a pop­u­lar yogurt drink of China with a fruity espresso shot

Steampunk Brewing System
Combines infu­sion and siphon brew­ing meth­ods with automation

Supply chain man­age­ment of green cof­fee, roast logs and profiles

Tastify App
Capturing of cup­ping char­ac­ter­is­tics electronically

Others inter­est­ing inno­va­tions: Coffee skin care prod­ucts, Coffee Fire Logs, Variable Temp Kettles, Immersion / Dripper Hybrids and a Single Bean Coffee Roaster.

At some point, some­one thought it would be cool or use­ful to invent these things. If we were to check this list in a cou­ple of years we would know which were cool AND use­ful. Can you pick the win­ners? What is your idea?

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year cof­fee vet­eran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mis­sion now is to trans­form the cof­fee sup­ply chain and make sweep­ing dif­fer­ences in the lives of those that pro­duce the green cof­fee. Rocky can be reached at

Connecting the Dots

Categories: 2015, AugustTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Every step along the path from the farmer to the cus­tomer is impor­tant. Some will claim that one might be more impor­tant than the oth­ers. While they ARE all impor­tant, one step is the most ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ and that is the roast­ing process. Roasting can add fla­vors and take them away. If you screw up roast­ing, the best barista can’t fix it.

Roasting pro­fes­sion­als make tons of choices when decid­ing what equip­ment to use as well as how to roast a par­tic­u­lar cof­fee. Often the sec­ond deci­sion influ­ences the first and vice versa. Let’s look at the key ques­tions and fac­tors in design­ing and imple­ment­ing a roast­ing plant.

First: What kind of roaster do you want to be when you grow up? Different vol­umes require dif­fer­ent choices.

Second: How do you plan to source cof­fee? If you are just buy­ing from local importers you will have a dif­fer­ent cup­ping room and QA depart­ment vs. those doing direct import­ing. This may include sam­ple roasting.

Third: Where will you locate? There are needs to have retail traf­fic for a roaster/retailer that may work against a com­pany pri­mar­ily dri­ven by whole­sal­ing cof­fee to oth­ers. What kind of roast­ing you can do (if any) will be deter­mined by the zon­ing depart­ments of your city and county.

Fourth: Are you the type to ‘feel’ the roast and trust the art or do you pre­fer computer-based accu­racy when match­ing profiles?

Fifth: Do you have the bud­get to do it right the first time or to grow when you need to? Many com­pa­nies get stuck once they have grown because they have long leases in facil­i­ties that no longer meet the needs of the business.

If you have the answers to these ques­tions, you can dive into the deci­sions about get­ting your roast­ery set up or expand­ing an exist­ing one. Here are some help­ful tips:

A)    Decide on how much con­trol you want. Temp read­ings, air flow, data log­ger, automa­tion and burner type.
B)    Factor in ser­vice record and oper­at­ing cost.
C)    Size your roaster for about 50% growth.
D)    Size in appro­pri­ate smoke abate­ment via after­burner, scrub­ber, cat­alytic con­verter, or recir­cu­la­tion. Other coun­tries use other inter­est­ing devices that may not work in the US.

Other plant equip­ment:
A)    Green cof­fee load­ers, de-stoners, clean­ers, and stor­age bins need to be sized to meet pro­duc­tion require­ments and should be eas­ily upgraded for future expan­sion.
B)    Conveyance sys­tems move cof­fee from load-in through the roaster and out to pack­ag­ing. Designing a flex­i­ble sys­tem that can grow with you is a good idea.
C)    Grinding equip­ment comes in dif­fer­ent forms and sizes. Pick a unit that can keep up with your pack­ag­ing line and not be the bot­tle­neck. Also plan for ground cof­fee stor­age prior to pack­ag­ing for a degassing period.
D)    Packaging can be as sim­ple as a bucket, scoop and a floor sealer all the way up to a fully auto­mated machine that requires little-to-no human inter­ac­tion. A good sys­tem will be scal­able and expand­able to han­dle mul­ti­ple pack­ag­ing sizes and have options like nitro­gen flush­ing, valve appli­ca­tion etc.

Lab Equipment:
A)    A sam­ple roaster can be a cru­cial tool for any roast­ing com­pany. It is a tool that assists in the pur­chas­ing and accep­tance of green cof­fee as well as a way to ini­ti­ate roast pro­files for cof­fees before head­ing to the pro­duc­tion roaster.
B)    Color read­ers help a roaster to be more pre­cise in their final prod­ucts color both inter­nal and exter­nal fin­ished color.
C)    Cupping record sys­tems bring a sense of his­tory as well as qual­ity con­trol for roast­ing com­pa­nies.  On the low end you put cup­ping notes in a paper file. On the high end you store elec­tronic data in the cloud and share infor­ma­tion with your pro­duc­tion part­ners in the cof­fee grow­ing regions.

Deciding on a space and lay­out of the plant can now be done once you made the deci­sions above. As with most busi­nesses, loca­tion is impor­tant. In a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant like a cof­fee roast­ing com­pany the func­tional lay­out of the space is cru­cial for reduced oper­a­tional costs, pur­chas­ing costs, and pro­duc­tion effi­cien­cies. This is true regard­less of size of your company.

Being the mid­dle of the sup­ply chain and being the most trans­for­ma­tive piece of the sys­tem means that it is impor­tant to choose equip­ment wisely. It is equally impor­tant to fac­tor in size of plant for growth and the loca­tion to put your business.

Cablevey Conveyors Enclosed Tubular Coated Cable & Disc Conveyors
by Cablevey Conveyors | 641.673.8451
No Metal Shavings! 1-Piece Discs for Easy-to-Keep-Clean Material Processing. Strong, Reliable Conveying Machines for over 40 Years – Over 30,000 Conveyors Installed! Cablevey Conveyors con­tin­u­ally demon­strates “best in class” con­vey­ors with the least amount of dam­age, spillage, for­eign mate­r­ial con­t­a­m­i­na­tion or oper­at­ing costs.
Cable & disc tech­nol­ogy gen­tly move prod­ucts through an enclosed tube with­out the use of air. Systems can con­vey up to 1240 cubic feet (35 cubic meters) per hour.


Infinity Roast™
by Buhler Inc | 905.754.8389
Buhler’s InfinityRoastTM cof­fee roaster is lead­ing the way into the future of cof­fee fla­vor cre­ation. The InfinityRoastTM  assists in cre­at­ing roast­ing pro­files for cus­tomized fla­vor char­ac­ter­is­tics and phys­i­cal bean prop­er­ties. The roaster is designed with vari­able air-to-bean ratios and sets supe­rior stan­dards for safety, reli­a­bil­ity and energy efficiency.


Shore’s New Model 935 Moisture Tester
by Shore Measuring Systems | 217.892.2544
The Shore Model 935 Moisture Tester pro­vides a com­mer­cial grade mois­ture tester for cof­fee, tea and cocoa. Easy to use, the Model 935 fea­tures an inte­grated scale and printer as well as a touch-screen dis­play. Moisture test­ing cal­i­bra­tions are included for a vari­ety of cof­fee, tea and cocoa bean commodities.


The UpShot Single-Serve Filters
by Lbp Manufacturing Inc. | 800.545.6200
The UpShot Solution is a line of Eco-friendly, single-serve fil­ters paired with a flex­i­ble pro­duc­tion model that allows roast­ers to take advan­tage of the boom­ing single-serve mar­ket. Made from 100% polypropy­lene, it is recy­clable and is com­pat­i­ble with Keurig® and other single-serve brewers.


The E20-CP Analyzer
by Agtron, Inc. | 775.850.4600
The E20-CP and the M-Basic II are the finest instru­ments avail­able designed specif­i­cally to address the spe­cial require­ments asso­ci­ated with eval­u­at­ing and quan­ti­fy­ing the roast of whole bean and ground coffee.


PLI-VALV one way degassing valves
by PLITEK | 847.827.6680
One-way degassing valves (often called fresh­ness valves, aroma valves, or cof­fee valves) are crit­i­cal to max­i­miz­ing coffee’s fresh­ness by allow­ing freshly roasted cof­fee to degas in its pack­ag­ing. PLITEK’s com­plete degassing solu­tions, PLI-VALV® one-way degassing valves and valve appli­ca­tors are the most effi­cient, reli­able, and cost effec­tive solu­tion for degassing freshly roasted cof­fee in its pack­ag­ing. For more infor­ma­tion con­tact:


FLEXI-DISC® Tubular Cable Conveyor
by Flexicon Corporation | 610.814.2400
FLEXI-DISC® Tubular Cable Conveyors gen­tly slide frag­ile green and roasted cof­fee through  stain­less steel tub­ing, using poly­mer discs on stain­less steel cable. The sys­tem can have sin­gle or mul­ti­ple inlets and out­lets, and con­vey over short or long dis­tances. Offered as stand-alone sys­tems or fully inte­grated with exist­ing equipment.


The Diedrich Family of Roasters – from 1 kilo and sam­ple roast­ers to 280 kilo roast­ers
by Diedrich Manufacturing, Inc | 208.263.1276
Diedrich Roasters, the only roaster made from the ground up in America, is the lead­ing craft roast­ing solu­tion for com­pa­nies demand­ing a cof­fee roaster that deliv­ers high qual­ity, respon­sive con­trol, clean taste, low fuel con­sump­tion, reli­able con­sis­tency, and arti­san sen­si­bil­i­ties from a proven and tested man­u­fac­tur­ing partner.


Nesco Home Coffee Bean Roaster
by The Metal Ware Corporation – Nesco | 800.624.2949
The Nesco Coffee Bean Roaster allows con­sumers to roast their own green beans con­trol­ling the roast dark­ness and time.  Designed for in home use, with a cat­alytic con­ver­tor to absorb odors,  this qual­ity built, func­tional unit is a great addi­tion to Coffee retailer’s prod­uct portfolios.


US Roaster Corp
by US Roaster Corp | 405.232.1223
US Roaster Corp pro­vides a full line of ser­vices to the Industry.
Award win­ning High Efficiency roast­ers with low­est emis­sions and our Millennium mod­els for every need.  Special mod­els For Cacao and expe­ri­ence in roast­ing and grind­ing. Consulting and train­ing for start up to com­plete plants. New Grinders, Rebuilt Equipment.


33 Cups of Coffee
by 33 Books Co. | 503.888.3532
33 Coffees is a cof­fee jour­nal that pro­vides an easy way to quickly record cof­fee tast­ing notes in a small, con­ve­nient note­book for­mat. It’s per­fect for cof­fee novices and pros alike. The fla­vor wheel included in 33 Coffees lets you record a coffee’s fla­vor in a unique, visual format.


Unbiased Scientific Analysis of Coffee Products
by Coffee Analysts | 800.375.3398
The true mea­sure of any cof­fee pro­gram is the bev­er­age qual­ity: how does is taste?  Branding, pro­mo­tion, and mer­chan­dis­ing will cap­ture the first sale, but only qual­ity will keep your cus­tomers return­ing time after time. We do not sell cof­fee: we test cof­fee.  Our team spe­cial­izes in the eval­u­a­tion and improve­ment of cof­fee pro­grams through­out the global cof­fee sup­ply chain.


Loring Roasters–S15, S35, S70
by Loring Smart Roast | 707.526.7215
Highly con­sis­tent roast­ing regard­less of weather and pre­ci­sion con­trols to guide the roast enable roast­mas­ters to cre­ate & repro­duce excep­tional roasts at any time. Sustainable tech­nol­ogy built into the roast­ing sys­tem for smoke abate­ment can save up to 80% in fuel costs over roast­ers that require an afterburner.


Flavors of all types for the bev­er­age indus­try
by Beck Flavors | 314.878.7522
Beck Flavors is ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing our cus­tomers supe­rior inno­va­tion, high qual­ity fla­vors and world-class cus­tomer ser­vice and sup­port. We con­tinue to cre­ate a range of fla­vors for your bev­er­age fla­vor needs. Our expe­ri­enced inno­va­tion staff and low min­i­mum order quan­ti­ties are just a few rea­sons to call us today!


Xeltron’s XR-Q model for Roasted Coffee
by Xeltron S.A. | +506.2279.5777
Xeltron is with with you from the green to the roasted bean process. Our lat­est model will help you increase your yield even on the final process of roasted cof­fee by achiev­ing a uni­form appear­ance and con­sis­tent qual­ity. Offer your clients the best look­ing roasted cof­fee on the market.

Roaster Resources

Categories: 2015, AugustTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

In Defense of the Middle Man
We hear it all the time in almost every indus­try:
“Remove the mid­dle man; make your busi­ness more effi­cient and increase your profits.”

That’s not an unfair state­ment in most indus­tries. However, the cof­fee indus­try has cre­ated a unique list of issues for the importer, just like it has for the pro­ducer and the retailer on either end. Coming from a barista and third-wave café man­ager back­ground, I always viewed the rela­tion­ship with the farmer to be para­mount. I imag­ined myself going to the farms and exchang­ing hand­shakes and laugh­ter for jute bags full of green cof­fee. This—much to my chagrin—is just not a real­is­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the life of the aver­age roaster. I know; I’m as dis­ap­pointed as you are.

For the small to mid­size roaster, han­dling the logis­tics of inter­na­tional freight is a daunt­ing enough propo­si­tion, but when you add in the exor­bi­tant cost per pound asso­ci­ated with ship­ping any­thing less than a full (~37,500lb) con­tainer, the nav­i­ga­tion of gov­ern­men­tal restric­tions, the idea of tying up tens of thou­sands of dol­lars months before you might receive the cof­fee, and the years and patience it takes to build a rela­tion­ship with a pro­ducer, it quickly becomes unsus­tain­able to pop­u­late your menu with directly-sourced cof­fee. The time and costs you incur grossly out­weigh the cost of work­ing with an importer.

Probably the most time-consuming—yet most rewarding—aspects of devel­op­ing farm con­nec­tions are the rela­tion­ships. These rela­tion­ships are built on trust and mutual under­stand­ing, as well as a pas­sion and love for cof­fee. These farm­ers have, by far, the most work to do to make sure that what ends up in your cup is a beau­ti­ful start to your morn­ing. All things con­sid­ered, importers are going to spend a lot of time devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships, but they can only man­age so many. If a diverse list of unique cof­fees is what you’re look­ing for, a sin­gle source is prob­a­bly going to limit your abil­ity to accom­plish that. That may seem like a strange sug­ges­tion from an importer, but it’s just a real­ity. At Royal Coffee New York, we’re always look­ing for a way to ful­fill new needs as they arrive, and we do our best to have the right cof­fee for each type of person.

Familiarity with the cof­fee is another con­sid­er­a­tion. We spend a good chunk of time every day with cup­ping and qual­ity assur­ance. In any given week, we could cup between 50–100 dif­fer­ent cof­fees. This allows us to have a men­tal library of sim­i­lar­i­ties from which we can draw lines to sim­i­lar cof­fees in a way that some­one who only cups occa­sion­ally, or only a cou­ple cof­fees at a time, wouldn’t be able to. The beauty is we can’t do every­thing; no one can.

With the chain of cof­fee, every link needs to be strong, or it all falls apart. We’re proud to be able to be a part of that.

By Dave Planer, Marketing Director of Royal Coffee New York, Inc.

Roast Ratings

Categories: 2015, AugustTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

What is your favorite thing about cof­fee? This is the type of ques­tion that I am asked on a reg­u­lar basis.



One of the most intrigu­ing things about cof­fee that I enjoy is the seem­ingly end­less amount of fla­vor expe­ri­ences. At one point in my career this man­i­fested as “ori­gin char­ac­ter”, or the spe­cific fla­vor that comes from a par­tic­u­lar coun­try. Currently we as an indus­try have begun to under­stand that these ori­gin char­ac­ter­is­tics are not always about the ter­roir, but also tra­di­tional vari­etals and pro­cess­ing meth­ods that have huge impact on fla­vor and can be repli­cated to some degree in other countries.



I have long pur­sued an under­stand­ing of my palate even since I was a kid dig­ging through the spice rack at home and aspir­ing to be a chef. Little did I know that curios­ity would lead me to my newest ven­ture, Roast Ratings.



Roast Ratings is a new web­site that Holly Bastin (my orig­i­nal trainer, friend, and WBC coach)

and myself have cre­ated to give a consumer-friendly approach to rank­ing cof­fees. Everyone

likes being able to gauge how “good” a prod­uct is in com­par­i­son to another, and we want to take that to a dif­fer­ent place in the cof­fee indus­try. There are at least a few com­pa­nies that score and review cof­fees on the inter­net, and our goal with this com­pany is to give opin­ions on cof­fee from a unique perspective.




Dual Rating System
In cre­at­ing a new and dif­fer­ent rat­ing sys­tem, we real­ized that some­thing was miss­ing from the stan­dard way many peo­ple eval­u­ate a cof­fee. We all know that a cof­fee tastes dif­fer­ent in a cup­ping than it does in most brew­ing meth­ods, and that is why we cre­ated a dual eval­u­a­tion that looks about both cup­ping and brewed cof­fee.



Cupping is our stan­dard in the cof­fee indus­try. It speaks to the tech­ni­cal qual­ity of a cof­fee. The cof­fee being eval­u­ated becomes an open book of integrity points as well as iden­ti­fi­able fla­vor notes. In addi­tion, cup­ping speaks to the ver­sa­til­ity of a cof­fee, and how it might taste with a metal fil­ter or less com­mon methods.



Brewing is pretty obvi­ous. This is how most con­sumers (at least in the USA) tend to drink their cof­fee. The pur­pose for eval­u­at­ing brewed cof­fee is to give an accu­rate pic­ture of what it will actu­ally taste like at home. Additionally, this eval­u­a­tion shows how a cof­fee will change between the two meth­ods. There are many cof­fees that taste bet­ter in one eval­u­a­tion over the other, which would indi­cate less ver­sa­til­ity or over­all chance that the con­sumer will get a great experience.

Of course, one of our pri­mary tasks is to score and rate a given cof­fee, which brought up another ques­tion. What type of scor­ing sys­tem should be used?

It was quickly appar­ent that all of the stan­dard scor­ing sys­tems (SCAA, CoE, etc) are pri­mar­ily focused on green qual­ity and stan­dard­ized roasts. So we decided to make a new score sys­tem focused on the things that we value in cof­fee, and that we believe oth­ers will value as well. Our scor­ing takes aroma, tac­tile, and after­taste into con­sid­er­a­tion, but we also address over­all bal­ance with acid­ity, sweet­ness, and bit­ter­ness scores. Lastly, we score an ele­ment called ‘drink­a­bil­ity’ which is sim­i­lar to a cupper’s score, and is mostly con­cerned with “was it pleas­ant to drink” and “do I want more?”

We made this scor­ing sys­tem with all cri­te­ria being earned, thus mak­ing a full range of scores from 0 to 100. The full range was needed so we could accu­rately com­pare the dark­est of the dark with the light­est of light roasts out there. This is clearly a depar­ture from stan­dard scor­ing meth­ods, which auto­mat­i­cally assume cer­tain points on the scale.

Star Rating
The new scor­ing sheet is used for both the cup­ping and the brew, each being worth up to 50 points, and added together to cre­ate an aggre­gate score out of 100. The aggre­gate score is then trans­lated into ‘Stars’ for the over­all rat­ing. The 5-Star rat­ing sys­tem is eas­ily under­stood and helps give a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the new sys­tem we have created.

The cof­fee indus­try has an incred­i­ble range of expec­ta­tions for even the sim­plest ter­mi­nol­ogy. For exam­ple if I tell you that I have a 90 point cof­fee for you to try, are you imme­di­ately impressed? Or has that term come to mean less to you lately? It is dif­fi­cult for a roaster to hear that their cof­fee scored 85 points sim­ply because they have an expec­ta­tion of what 85 point cof­fee tastes like. Unfortunately, that per­cep­tion is likely based on an 85 point green cof­fee rather than a true 100 point roasted cof­fee scale.

Take that same 85 point cof­fee on our full-range rat­ing sys­tem, and you will real­ize that it is actu­ally a ‘4 ½ Star’ cof­fee, which is pretty stinkin good! It isn’t a ‘5 Star’ cof­fee, which is the range for incred­i­bly dynamic coffees.

Overall the Star rat­ings cre­ate a sim­ple, yet very under­stand­able image of where a spe­cific cof­fee fits into the range of all cof­fees.

So… How is this use­ful?
Since our pri­mary audi­ence is every­day cof­fee drinkers, Roast Ratings needs to be imme­di­ately use­ful for them. The web­site is easy to nav­i­gate and full of infor­ma­tion about the spe­cific cof­fees that have been rated. The ‘Roast Finder’ is made for explor­ing spe­cific fla­vor pro­files and eas­ily dis­cov­er­ing new offer­ings from roast­ers around the coun­try (or world). In addi­tion, we have edu­ca­tional arti­cles for learn­ing about cof­fee and prepa­ra­tion as well as our ‘Mom Blog’ for fun posts and less seri­ous topics.

So how exactly would sub­mit­ting cof­fees ben­e­fit roast­ers? One of our goals in cre­at­ing this com­pany was to cre­ate value for every­one involved. Submitting a cof­fee for rat­ing will give you a few major benefits:

First, an objec­tive and unbi­ased review of your cof­fee. You will get feed­back on how your cof­fee com­pares to oth­ers, as well as where it shines or poten­tially falls short. Not all cof­fees can be dynamic chart-toppers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be great in their own right!

Second, a way to mar­ket your cof­fee. By hav­ing a rat­ing asso­ci­ated with your cof­fee you can pro­mote it in new ways, adding sales num­bers for that cof­fee as well as pro­mot­ing your brand as a qual­ity roast­ing com­pany. In addi­tion, we pro­mote your cof­fees on social media and our web­site. We will give more pro­mo­tion the higher your cof­fee rates. We actu­ally really want peo­ple to buy great spe­cialty cof­fee over store brands.

There is also another group of peo­ple who gain value from Roast Ratings: Baristas. Baristas can uti­lize our infor­ma­tion for their own enrich­ment and cus­tomer ser­vice, or even to be able to give rec­om­men­da­tions to their cus­tomers on where to search for their next great cup. We have had multi­roaster cafes and baris­tas make pur­chas­ing deci­sions for their offer­ings based on high rat­ings as well.

We also rec­om­mend the use of our rat­ings as a sales tool. Finding qual­ity whole­sale options, or even giv­ing deeper insight into the prod­uct you are already sell­ing are all avenues to pur­sue. Moving for­ward we will be work­ing on even more ben­e­fi­cial tools for the barista and café own­ers as well!

In the end our goal is to give some­thing use­ful. We believe in the integrity points that spe­cialty cof­fee embod­ies, and it is often very clear that even the more sim­ple spe­cialty cof­fees are supe­rior to bulk brands and gro­cery store pack­ages. In addi­tion to sub­mit­ted cof­fees from roast­ers, we go and pur­chase nationally-available brands (think gro­cery store shelves) with our own funds to add to the site. The point of this is not to talk trash or put these big brands down, but to give a per­spec­tive of where every­thing fits. When you taste the full range of cof­fees out there in the world you might be sur­prised how well our new sys­tem clas­si­fies cof­fee of all levels!

Scholarships in Nicaragua

Categories: 2015, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Project Description
Three year stu­dent schol­ar­ship in Nicaragua at La Bastille Technical Agricultural School in Jinotega, Nicaragua

Cup for Education pro­vides edu­ca­tional infra­struc­tures, mate­ri­als, and resources to cof­fee grow­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Through var­i­ous part­ner­ships with local lead­ers, edu­ca­tors, and orga­ni­za­tions, Cup for Education seeks to improve the over­all well-being of cof­fee farm­ers and their chil­dren through edu­ca­tion. We believe edu­ca­tion is the foun­da­tion for a bet­ter and brighter future for all the chil­dren in cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties around the world.

Local, well-supplied, edu­ca­tional facil­i­ties are absolutely cru­cial to rural cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties. The time and money needed to travel to nearby towns and larger cities in order to learn are sim­ply unavail­able, and poor infra­struc­ture in many of these remote areas make it very dif­fi­cult to do so. When edu­ca­tion is not eas­ily accessed, it leads to frus­tra­tion and a con­tin­ued cycle of illit­er­acy. When edu­ca­tion is close to home, both farm­ers and their chil­dren ben­e­fit eco­nom­i­cally and socially. Since 2003, Cup for Education has com­pleted a series of diverse projects that tar­get each community’s spe­cific needs. Whether it is build­ing latrines in Kenya, sup­port­ing women’s lit­er­acy projects in Papua New Guinea, pro­vid­ing new desks for chil­dren in Nicaragua, or pro­vid­ing mate­ri­als and fund­ing for library sup­port in var­i­ous parts of Guatemala to pro­mote read­ing and lit­er­acy; Cup for Education val­ues all aspects of the edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ence and aims to improve what­ever the com­mu­nity feels is most urgent or necessary.

One of our most recent suc­cess sto­ries is Juana Rosa, from Nicaragua. Juana was cho­sen to receive a three-year long schol­ar­ship to attend the La Bastille Technical Agricultural School in Jinotega, Nicaragua. This school is based on a cof­fee estate, in an area where only 20% of young peo­ple cur­rently attend sec­ondary school. Along with pro­vid­ing an aca­d­e­mic edu­ca­tion, the school also teaches a tech­ni­cal diploma in agro-business and runs seven school busi­nesses. The busi­nesses include chicken and egg pro­duc­tion, as well as a dairy plant, pigs, a veg­etable gar­den, and an Ecolodge & restau­rant where it is pos­si­ble to hike and bird­watch. Graduates from the school leave with an edu­ca­tion, job offers, and finan­cial skills to sup­port their fam­i­lies. The schol­ar­ship money paid for her tuition, books, and dor­mi­tory expenses. We are proud to say that Juana was one of the top stu­dents in her class, mak­ing a speech at the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony. Upon grad­u­a­tion this past December 2014, Juana received a job work­ing in Costa Rica for Coffee Source, renown cof­fee grow­ers and now importers/exporters for the past 15 years. One of her first respon­si­bil­i­ties was work­ing as a cup­ping assis­tant at the Costa Rican Cup of Excellence.

Furthermore, Cup has already selected another wor­thy stu­dent from the region to receive a schol­ar­ship to the school for the next three years. The stu­dent was selected from among a list of many wor­thy can­di­dates from the cof­fee area in Jinotega, and it is our hope to be able to sup­port more than one stu­dent some­day. The school is one of the best oppor­tu­ni­ties for these chil­dren in the cof­fee regions of Nicaragua to achieve skills and edu­ca­tion that will allow them to break the cycle of poverty that is so preva­lent among cof­fee farmers.

Ultimately, Cup for Education strives to aug­ment the qual­ity of life and edu­ca­tion in coffee-growing regions. This begins with edu­ca­tion. Literate and well-educated chil­dren will improve their lives, those of their fam­i­lies, and ulti­mately, their coffees.

What You Can Do to Help
One of the best ways to help Cup for Education is to sign up for e-mail updates, “like” us on face book for the most up-to-date pic­tures from projects, and share our mis­sion with friends and fam­ily.  Of course, we wel­come dona­tions in the form of money or mate­ri­als.  Most of us involved with Cup for Education work in cof­fee and travel to these com­mu­ni­ties quite fre­quently through­out the year on busi­ness.  Often we bring books and school sup­plies for schools located in and around these com­mu­ni­ties.  We rec­om­mend these books be in Spanish, or bi-lingual.

Cup for Education

Project Contact:
Karen Gordon


3475 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314

Project URL:

Earth’s Choice Women of Coffee Micro Finance

Categories: 2015, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Project Description
Fostering eco­nomic growth while ensur­ing nat­ural resource sta­bil­ity is our long-range goal.   Increasing women’s skills and mar­ket access can sta­bi­lize women’s income in cof­fee coun­tries that are neg­a­tively impacted by fluc­tu­at­ing world cof­fee prices, cli­mate change phe­nom­ena (floods, drought, etc.)  and pop­u­la­tion pres­sures.  Building women’s busi­nesses and pro­tect­ing their valu­able cof­fee forests ensures they do not have to aban­don their cof­fee farms for urban areas in search of low-paying work.

Based on the suc­cess­ful Grameen Bank “group loan” model, Earth’s Choice clients have turned their lives around. Group loans are 4 – 5 women of $200 to $1,000.  Earth’s Choice began fundrais­ing in 2012 and cre­ated its first two loan port­fo­lios in Guatemala & Mexico. In Guatemala, the women estab­lished prof­itable small busi­nesses includ­ing a gro­cery store, cloth­ing design shop, bak­ery, phar­macy, pig & poul­try farms, and a butcher shop. In Mexico they expanded their tex­tile fac­tory out­put to increase their exports. The default rate is a low 98%  and each port­fo­lio has grown from between 5 – 8%.  Currently there are pro­grams oper­at­ing in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and Colombia.

Earth’s Choice began its part­ner­ship with Rotary in 2012 and in 2014 signed an MOU with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance’s (IWCA) to begin loan pro­grams with their mem­ber chap­ters to develop micro­fi­nance pro­grams with IWCA’s 18 coun­try chapters.

Earth’s Choice’s trans­for­ma­tive solu­tion is to pro­vide:  afford­able loans, skill build­ing, and equi­table access to tech­nolo­gies and health ser­vices.  Understanding “cof­fee cup­ping” can be highly ben­e­fi­cial eco­nom­i­cally. Women typ­i­cally can­not afford “cup­ping” equip­ment or water fil­tra­tion devices to know about the true qual­ity of their cof­fee beans. By under­stand­ing their coffee’s qual­ity, they can price it real­is­ti­cally and this can pos­i­tively impact their income. Earth’s Choice has begun in-country part­ner­ships with local Rotary clubs and clin­ics to extend some vital health care ser­vices like mam­mo­grams and pap smears.

Women in the pro­gram have reported these spe­cific ben­e­fits:
•    Increased incomes,
•    Increased busi­ness skills & finan­cial lit­er­acy,
•    Access to and train­ing with new afford­able tech­nolo­gies: “cup­ping”  equip­ment,   water fil­ters, etc.
•    Access to vital health care ser­vices,
•    Increased under­stand­ing of the value of their cof­fee,
•    Better mar­ket access, prices for their cof­fee,
•    More income to buy food, clothes, and edu­cate their children.

Readers can help by
There are three ways you can help:
1)    Make indi­vid­ual or busi­ness dona­tions on  Paypal link:
2)    Donate pro­fes­sional ser­vices: writ­ing, edit­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, videog­ra­phy, ITC ser­vices etc.
3)    Donate afford­able, low energy tech­nolo­gies: roaster ovens, water fil­tra­tion, solar bat­ter­ies, etc.

Project Contact:
Roberta Lauretti-Bernhard



Project URL:

Project Name:
Earth’s Choice Women of Coffee Microfinance

Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico

Project Impact:
800 direct stake­hold­ers (women plus their families).


Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

In early October CoffeeTalk Media, along with other guests and jour­nal­ists from around the world, was invited to Colombia to attend ExpoEspecials Café de Colombia in Medellin and to wit­ness first­hand the suc­cess behind the col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and the gov­ern­ment of Antioquia. Now going on its third year, the Antioquia Specialty Coffee Program is con­tribut­ing to a social trans­for­ma­tion.  This unique pro­gram offers tech­ni­cal assis­tance, edu­ca­tion in sci­ence and inno­va­tion, and the pro­mo­tion of spe­cialty cof­fees. The goal of the pro­gram is to invest in the edu­ca­tion of cof­fee grow­ing fam­i­lies and encour­age younger gen­er­a­tions to develop a love of cof­fee. Of course, the pro­gram must adhere to the FNC sus­tain­abil­ity poli­cies that impact the cof­fee grow­ers, focus­ing mainly in the areas of pro­duc­tiv­ity, and impacts to social and envi­ron­men­tal concerns.

Antioquia is only one of 32 depart­ments in Colombia and its slo­gan is “Antioquia La mas edu­cada” (Antioquia the most edu­cated). It is com­prised of 125 munic­i­pal­i­ties of which 94 grow cof­fee with an esti­mated 83,300 cof­fee grow­ing fam­i­lies.  Thirty per­cent of these are women farm­ers. The aver­age age of a grower is 55. Faced with dwin­dling inter­est among young peo­ple for farm­ing and lit­tle his­tory of local con­sump­tion, the FNC and the gov­ern­ment of Antioquia joined hands to devise a rev­o­lu­tion­ary edu­ca­tional pro­gram to ben­e­fit the peo­ple and to posi­tion Café de Colombia as the rich­est cof­fee in the world.

ExpoEspeciales Café de Colombia is the most impor­tant spe­cialty cof­fee fair in Colombia and dis­plays the cof­fee industry’s trends and inno­va­tion in the domes­tic and inter­na­tional arena.

The FNC is a non-profit busi­ness asso­ci­a­tion, pop­u­larly known for its “Juan Valdez” mar­ket­ing cam­paign and is prob­a­bly the largest rural NGO in the world. It is a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion and is not affil­i­ated with any polit­i­cal party, instead invest­ing in sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices and the edu­ca­tion and pro­mo­tion of coffee-growing families.

CoffeeTalk was priv­i­leged to tour sev­eral farms, wet and dry mill facil­i­ties, eco mills, the FNC Training & Experimental farm, an edu­ca­tional park and a cof­fee camp as well as attend press con­fer­ences with the gov­er­nor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo; the President of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, Luis Genaro Munoz; and of course Carlos Castañeda, the real Juan Valdez.

As much as the breath­tak­ing beauty of the region and the warmth and hos­pi­tal­ity of the farm­ers and the FNC mes­mer­ized us, we were most impressed by the empha­sis on know­ing your cof­fee from seed to cup and the depth of edu­ca­tion the Coffee Camp pro­gram offers. While striv­ing to retain pride in the rich cul­ture of Colombia and focus­ing on the sci­ence behind grow­ing cof­fee, the Antioquia Specialty Coffee Program is empow­er­ing both the exist­ing and the new gen­er­a­tions of cof­fee growers.

Antioquia Colombia is rich in his­tory and cul­ture where old meets new and much of life cen­ters on the Town Square and cof­fee. We were for­tu­nate enough to view and explore the beau­ti­ful towns of Venecia and Titiribi, and a few of the out­ly­ing farms where we saw sim­ple grow­ing tech­niques as well as inno­va­tion like the slid­ing roof that allows the beans to shade dry, but can quickly cover them should it begin to rain. While old meth­ods still exist, we learned that 80 per­cent of all Colombians have cell phones and the farm­ers are being trained on how to use that tech­nol­ogy to track their crops. The gov­ern­ment and FNC are also work­ing to train them on and pro­vide farm­ers with tablets. We expe­ri­enced the ded­i­ca­tion and dis­tance it requires to get the har­vested cof­fee from field to mills and pur­chase points.  We stood on –and some­times fell on– the steep fields where the cof­fee grows.  We met the icon for Colombia and cof­fee in gen­eral. Much thanks to the hos­pi­tal­ity of Carlos Castañeda from Andes for allow­ing us to visit his farm and taste his cof­fee. Viva Juan Valdez.
By work­ing together the Colombian gov­ern­ment and the FNC are set­ting a prime exam­ple of how to sup­port sus­tain­abil­ity, indus­try, and edu­ca­tion to con­tinue improv­ing the lives of cof­fee grow­ers and the qual­ity and integrity of Colombian cof­fee. All while encour­ag­ing the “in coun­try” con­sump­tion of and pride in their own product.

We began our jour­ney in Medellin and headed south, escorted by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the FNC and were able to wit­ness how the joint efforts between the Antioquian gov­ern­ment and the Colombian Coffee Federation are improv­ing the lives of cof­fee farm­ers and the qual­ity and value of their cof­fee. Representatives of the FNC and the mayor of Titiribi greeted us and proudly show­cased the Educational Park built there; a group effort of the FNC, the gov­ern­ment of Antioquia and the cit­i­zens and grow­ers of the sur­round­ing region. We toured the Esteban Jaramillo FNC Training & Experimental farm, where we learned about the work being done to grow Arabica vari­eties that are high in pro­duc­tion yields yet resis­tant to rust, as well as view a state of the art weather sta­tion for early warn­ings regard­ing cli­mate change. The auto­mated weather sys­tem sends out data every 5 sec­onds and works with 104 other auto­mated sys­tems through­out Colombia to con­stantly track changes and vari­ables. We were priv­i­leged to wit­ness the his­tor­i­cal pact where David Roche, Executive Director of the Coffee Quality Institute and Luis G. Munoz, CEO, FNC signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Govenor Sergio Fajardo gave per­sonal inter­view time to vis­it­ing jour­nal­ists detail­ing how he has worked with the FNC to improve the lives of Colombians. Besides CoffeeTalk, jour­nal­ists from Brazil, Colombia, South Africa and New York attended.  Colombia is a land of diver­sity and the four-day ExpoEspecial, with more than 70 exhibitors from dif­fer­ent coun­tries around the world, pro­vided a space where the aca­d­e­mic, com­mer­cial, and cul­tural aspects could all con­verge to net­work and share their knowl­edge to strengthen Colombia’s national and inter­na­tional cof­fee industry.

In Antioquia, an alliance was made between the FNC and the gov­ern­ment called the Antioquia Specialty Coffee Program. Working together they are build­ing 80 parks, which are com­mu­nity cen­ters where the cit­i­zens must work together and sub­mit a pro­posal. Each park is unique and designed to rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity.  Each park assigns a local youth to doc­u­ment the his­tory of the town; a posi­tion that requires an intense inter­view process and requires much ded­i­ca­tion. The entire com­mu­nity can use the space, but much is ded­i­cated to train­ing in grad­ing, roast­ing, cup­ping, and barista skills. This pro­gram pro­vides the nec­es­sary skills to pro­duce dif­fer­en­ti­ated spe­cialty cof­fees and pro­mote Antioquia’s spe­cialty ori­gin. Antioquia also spon­sors a cof­fee camp where 1000 youth ages 14–28 are brought in from 94 munic­i­pal­i­ties for 4 days at no expense to them to learn about the cof­fees from the seed up. The stu­dents inter­act and learn the value of the cof­fee they already have and how to improve upon it. They gain the nec­es­sary skills to grow, roast, and be a barista. They gain an under­stand­ing that they can be impor­tant in the cof­fee world and then take this knowl­edge home to their fam­i­lies. They are also offered con­tin­ued edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties. All were impressed with the stu­dents’ enthu­si­asm, ded­i­ca­tion, and desire to learn about cof­fee. We met two such youths, one a grad­u­ate of a prior Coffee Camp and the other attend­ing, both named Alejandro. One’s ambi­tion is to be a great roaster: the other, to be the best barista in the world.

The part­ner­ship between the FNC and the gov­ern­ment of Antioquia is a model for sus­tain­abil­ity, and through sus­tain­abil­ity comes empow­er­ment.  Empowerment comes for the cof­fee grow­ers through deeper under­stand­ing of cli­mate change and soil sci­ence. The new skills they accrue allow them to grow a spe­cial prod­uct that they can be con­fi­dent will return a fair price; with this, they can con­tinue pro­duc­tively farm­ing their land.

Empowerment for the youth, who can choose to train and learn of the crops and income their lands can pro­duce; that tra­di­tion and inno­va­tion can sus­tain them and their future fam­i­lies. Empowerment for women, whose cul­ture has hin­dered their finan­cial inde­pen­dence and free­dom in the past. Empowerment for par­ents, from acces­si­ble edu­ca­tional pro­grams and activ­i­ties; help­ing keep their chil­dren from turn­ing to the gangs and vio­lence that pull them away from their fam­i­lies and liveli­hood.
The FNC under­stands the orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple behind sus­tain­abil­ity from four domains: ecol­ogy, eco­nom­ics, pol­i­tics and cul­ture. Coffeetalk wishes con­tin­ued progress and suc­cess to Antioquia’s and the FNC’s endeavor.

In 1927 the Colombian cof­fee grow­ers joined in order to cre­ate an orga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sented them nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally, and ensured their wel­fare and improve­ment of their qual­ity of life.
The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation is a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion work­ing for the wel­fare of more than 560,000 Colombian coffee-growing fam­i­lies. Since its found­ing it has been the main guild in Colombia, with a pres­ence in all rural areas where cof­fee is grown in the coun­try. Its pri­or­ity is strength­en­ing the fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties of cof­fee farm­ers, and sus­tain­ing their busi­ness, so the tra­di­tion and qual­ity of Colombian cof­fee con­tin­ues to be con­sid­ered the best in the world.

The scope of the joint efforts of the FNC and the gov­ern­ment of Antioquia is too grand to fit into a short syn­op­sis, so we encour­age you to visit the web­sites below to learn more. And see page 10 of this issue and help us cel­e­brate Ms. Carmen C. Montoya, win­ner of the Colombian Cup of Excellence Competition 2014 orga­nized by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence and the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), who sold her cof­fee at a record price.

Roaster/Retailer Profiles

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

It all started in 1992 when Paul Odom took a dif­fer­ent direc­tion from his family’s bev­er­age busi­ness and founded Fonté Coffee Roaster just as the cof­fee boom was about to explode in Seattle, Washington. While spe­cialty cof­fee was just becom­ing more pop­u­lar with con­sumers, Odom saw a void in the hos­pi­tal­ity mar­ket for a high-end prod­uct, notic­ing a lag in excep­tional qual­ity and ser­vice to chefs, restau­ra­teurs and hoteliers.

At age 22, just out of col­lege, Odom made it his mis­sion to cre­ate the finest cof­fee and espresso blends in the world by set­ting the strictest stan­dards in prod­uct devel­op­ment and deliv­ery. He pro­cured the best roast­ing and pro­cess­ing equip­ment, part­nered with arguably the most tal­ented mas­ter roaster in the indus­try, built a sales team with expe­ri­ence in pre­mium cof­fee and estab­lished a busi­ness to ser­vice this untapped market.

Today, Odom over­sees a rig­or­ous daily roast­ing sched­ule, a sales force on both coasts and a qual­ity con­trol pro­gram that main­tains the high­est stan­dards of ser­vice to its top-tier clien­tele. Odom also launched Fonté’s online busi­ness and down­town café to ser­vice a ris­ing demand for its cof­fee prod­ucts in the con­sumer market.

Odom’s right hand man, Steve Smith, has a dis­tin­guished career in roast­ing cof­fee span­ning over three decades. He is an indus­try vet­eran and con­sid­ered an expert by many in the cof­fee trade. Beginning in 1979, Smith worked for Starbucks and was one of the first roast­ers ever trained under the three orig­i­nal own­ers of the com­pany. He was the first roaster to earn the title of Master Roaster and was respon­si­ble for all aspects of the roast­ing process. In 1992 Smith dis­cov­ered a like-minded enthu­si­ast for small batch, arti­san cof­fee in Fonté Coffee Roaster founder Paul Odom and joined forces as the company’s mas­ter roaster.

Smith’s pro­duc­tion phi­los­o­phy is that of a cof­fee purist – his tech­niques adhere to the strictest stan­dards and work to main­tain the integrity of the cof­fee fla­vor dur­ing the roast­ing process. Smith is respon­si­ble for every aspect of cof­fee production.

He hand-selects each season’s best green cof­fee from all over the globe, and reviews farms’ har­vest­ing prac­tices, from Papua New Guinea to Ethiopia to Guatemala (he notes, his col­lege Spanish degree did come in handy). He feels single-origin cof­fees are lay­ing the foun­da­tion for a more mature appre­ci­a­tion of refined cof­fee fla­vor profiles.

At Fonté, he holds reg­u­lar cup­pings with owner Paul Odom to study fla­vor pro­files from var­i­ous regions and to cre­ate a plan for the devel­op­ment of Fonté’s pro­pri­etary blends. He also over­sees a rig­or­ous pro­duc­tion sched­ule based on a daily roast-to-order sys­tem, ship­ping out cof­fee to clients within 24 hours of roast­ing, always mak­ing sure that Fonté deliv­ers the fresh­est prod­uct pos­si­ble. He also man­ages the tea pro­gram, which includes import­ing a vari­ety of exotic teas, super­vis­ing blend­ing and devel­op­ing new exclu­sive blends.

I had a brief inter­view with mas­ter roaster Steve, who was kind enough to answer some questions:

V. How did you get involved with Fonté?
S. My involve­ment with Fonté began when I met Paul, the founder, at a small short-lived cof­fee com­pany where I ran the cof­fee pro­gram. Paul was inter­ested in buy­ing some of that company’s pro­duc­tion equip­ment to sup­port a set of retail stores he had begun open­ing and he hap­pened into our office at a time when I was cup­ping sev­eral sam­ples. I invited him to join me in the cup­ping, and as we talked I began to appre­ci­ate the scope and depth of Paul’s plans such that I was very pleased when he offered me an oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in what became Fonté Coffee Roaster.

V. Please describe Fonté’s phi­los­o­phy and unique­ness in just a few words, and elab­o­rate on each?
S. Ours is a phi­los­o­phy of excel­lence within con­text. Fonté is look­ing to share a very per­sonal expe­ri­ence of appre­ci­a­tion for vivid and fleet­ing cof­fee fla­vors in vir­tu­ally any con­text in which cof­fee is taken. And this under­scores the unique­ness of Fonté: we are capa­ble of pro­vid­ing an excel­lent cof­fee in any con­text, whether it be an exotic sin­gle ori­gin espresso, a 6 gal­lon urn at a ban­quet or a cold brew martini.

V. You have been in busi­ness for a really long time now (how long exactly?) what has changed over the past sev­eral years (in the indus­try over­all and the men­tal­ity of the con­sumer)?
S. We started in 1992. During the years we’ve been in busi­ness, growth has been the over-arching big deal, and the result has been that there is more of every­thing: more top qual­ity cof­fee, more peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the busi­ness, more inter­est and venues for spe­cialty cof­fee. There is also more silli­ness, more mis­un­der­stand­ing and dog­ma­tism, and more pre­tenses. It’s a pretty col­or­ful business.

V. Being both a suc­cess­ful roaster and a retailer, how do you man­age not to com­pete with your cus­tomers? I guess mainly the ques­tion con­cerns Seattle, or other cities as well?
S. Our retail pres­ence is so small as to not threaten our whole­sale cus­tomers. I think they appre­ci­ate the fact that we share an inti­mate under­stand­ing of what being a suc­cess­ful retailer entails.

V. What makes you one of the lead­ers in the indus­try as of today?
S. Our deter­mi­na­tion to con­tinue to put cof­fee fla­vor above trendy lifestyle expressions.

Fonté Coffee Company

Seattle, Washington

Maxim Vershinin has been a colum­nist for CoffeeTalk for the last few years high­light­ing var­i­ous roast­ers and retail­ers in the indus­try. He has lived in Peru for the last few years and is now fur­ther­ing his edu­ca­tion at Columbia University seek­ing a B.A. in economics.

Roasters Rock

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

In the SCAA/CQI cup­ping pro­to­col there is an attribute that is per­haps under­val­ued and over­looked. What is inter­est­ing is that in life we often over­look this attribute as well.

Balance in Coffee
In cof­fee, when learn­ing how to score this attribute, we are told to assess how well the other attrib­utes of fla­vor, after­taste, acid­ity, and bal­ance work together. If one of those attrib­utes is overly dom­i­nant or unnec­es­sar­ily draws your atten­tion the cof­fee falls out of bal­ance. The big­ger the dis­trac­tion, the lower the score.

Imagine it this way; there are four kids on the play­ground and there are no adults around to prompt them. They decide to play together. There is a young kid and an older kid, a fat kid and a skinny kid, a dark haired kid and a blonde, a short kid and a tall kid. As they work out what game they will play or what activ­ity they will under­take, a dynamic starts to occur.

Often, the older, stronger, taller kid dic­tates what they will do and the oth­ers just go along because they don’t feel that they have a say. This group is dom­i­nated by one, but at least the other kids have decided to play. This would be slightly out of balance.

Another exam­ple might be that the skinny kid teases the fat kid and makes him cry. The tall kid decides to take his ball and go home. This would be WAY out of balance!

But what if all of the kids decided together that they would play soc­cer and they divided teams evenly and then went and had a great time. As an observer you watched  “the group” play, rather than indi­vid­ual kids play­ing alone.  THAT is balance.

It is the same way with cof­fee. If you find your­self NOT pay­ing atten­tion to any one attribute and enjoy­ing the cof­fee as a whole, the cof­fee is in bal­ance. If it is bal­anced from hot to cool, score the attribute high!

When look­ing at some­thing out­side of your­self, like cof­fee, it is easy to be objec­tive about bal­ance. It is even an attribute that can be cal­i­brated and agreed upon amongst many cup­pers. Making judg­ments about other things is some­thing we do all the time.

So why is it so hard to look inside our­selves or at our own lives and observe bal­ance? Others will look at us and make judg­ments like, “That woman is a worka­holic.” or “He only cares about money.”

Balance in Life
An obser­va­tion was made that, “People in the cof­fee indus­try tend to be very bal­anced.” Let’s test that the­ory! First, we will have to define what bal­ance is for a per­son in cof­fee. After con­sult­ing some self-help books and moti­va­tional speak­ers’ thoughts, the fol­low­ing are the areas of life to observe and find balance:

1)    Body/Health – Spending time to exer­cise, proper diet, and enough rest.
2)    Mind/Education – Always be learn­ing some­thing new.
3)    Soul/Faith – Doing some­thing big­ger than your­self that is a self­less act, bet­ter­ing the world.
4)    Relationships – Being an active builder of bonds with fam­ily, asso­ciates, and friends.
5)    Finance/Wealth – Planning and exe­cut­ing on finan­cial goals, retire­ment prepa­ra­tion.
6)    Profession/Trade – Working at ‘your job’ and plan­ning where that will lead you.

Coffee peo­ple, like all peo­ple, tend to be good at cer­tain areas of life and need work in oth­ers. (That is about as insight­ful as a for­tune cookie.) But here is one obser­va­tion of the peo­ple in our indus­try. In general:

Body: On a scale of 1 to 10, cof­fee peo­ple are a 7.5. On the whole, we are health­ier than aver­age but those darned mochas, cook­ies, and muffins are too hard to resist. We are also fairly active and more apt to be run­ning around than in front of a com­puter all day.

Mind: Here we excel. Average is prob­a­bly an 8.25. This is not so much the amount of higher edu­ca­tion, but the energy that is put into learn­ing about the world, social issues, busi­ness, and prod­uct devel­op­ment. It is also seen in spe­cial­ized edu­ca­tion such as barista cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, roaster cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and Q-grader certification.

Soul/Faith: Again, high marks for the indus­try at about an 8.  Perhaps more than most other indus­tries, cof­fee peo­ple are acutely aware of the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of the sup­ply chain and how actions can rip­ple. We drive inno­va­tions in recy­cling, com­post­ing, respon­si­ble land man­age­ment, and com­mu­nity out­reach. Regardless of reli­gious beliefs, there is an under­stand­ing that by help­ing oth­ers we help ourselves.

Relationships: Good, but not great, about a 7. Often cof­fee peo­ple are so dri­ven and pas­sion­ate about what they are doing that they for­get to slow down and include oth­ers in their lives. While spread­ing the net wider in the com­mu­ni­ties and the world, it is easy to neglect fam­ily, and close friends. As an indus­try, we would be well served to spend more time here.

Finance/Wealth: This area NEEDS improve­ment! The score is at a 6.5.  Because we see the indus­try as favor­ing the con­sum­ing coun­tries over the pro­duc­ing coun­tries, we are often bat­tling the feel­ings of guilt that we might ‘become wealthy’ in the indus­try. If every­one can get over this feel­ing of guilt and get to a place where we decide EVERYONE deserves to get what he or she want, then we will find a way to change the model. We deal in the sec­ond most con­sumed com­mod­ity in the world; there is wealth to go around.

Profession/Trade: Excellent! 8.75. As an indus­try we also get the fol­low­ing con­cept: Quality changes every­thing! We strive to get bet­ter at our craft. We know we get to charge more for cof­fee that tastes bet­ter. It is this thing that often takes SO MUCH of our focus that we let the other areas slide.

So, are we as an indus­try bal­anced? Yeah… pretty well.  We would get a solid 8. If we were being Q-Graded, we would prob­a­bly get an 85.75. That’s def­i­nitely above spe­cialty grade, but we could be improved with a lit­tle more atten­tion paid to the details.

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year cof­fee vet­eran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mis­sion now is to trans­form the cof­fee sup­ply chain and make sweep­ing dif­fer­ences in the lives of those that pro­duce the green cof­fee. Rocky can be reached at as well as

& Science of Specialty Coffee">The Art & Science of Specialty Coffee

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Coffee, like Culinary or Mixology, has his­tor­i­cally been con­sid­ered an art rather than a sci­ence.  The skills required for roast­ing spe­cialty cof­fees, coax­ing the sub­tle nuance of taste and aro­mas char­ac­ter­is­tics, and the expe­ri­ence required by élite barista to manip­u­late the grind-dose-tamp extrac­tion process to pro­duce a truly amaz­ing sen­so­r­ial expe­ri­ence, have been com­pared to those of a painter, chef, or musi­cian: artists, not scientists.

The ques­tion of art vs. sci­ence in spe­cialty cof­fee has been a steady topic of con­ver­sa­tion for the past gen­er­a­tion.  Most debates have two dis­tinct camps. However, most spe­cialty cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als will align them­selves as artists, not scientists.

Artists have long been opposed to con­for­mity, struc­ture, and the sta­tus quo and express their cre­ativ­ity and indi­vid­u­al­ity in their work.  Writers, singer/songwriters, painters, sculp­tors, poets, etc., all have mys­te­ri­ous, intan­gi­ble exper­tise that allows them to arrange words, sounds, and col­ors in ways that are pleas­ing and thought pro­vok­ing.  Scientists fol­low strict pro­to­cols using quan­ti­ta­tive analy­sis and pre­cise mea­sur­ing tools to col­lect data and reach con­clu­sions.  Specialty cof­fee roast­ers and elites baris­tas aspire to reach artist sta­tus, and to be rec­og­nized for their mys­te­ri­ous skills and exper­tise to pro­duce amaz­ing cof­fee.  Imagine the con­ver­sa­tion in your local cof­fee­house between a con­sumer and their barista, “This cof­fee is amaz­ing, I can taste all the char­ac­ters and aro­matic nuances that you described – you are a true artist!”  This is the reac­tion to which we aspire, not: “This cof­fee is amaz­ing, I can taste all the char­ac­ters and aro­matic nuances that you described – you are a true cof­fee scientist.”

Before the use of PID con­trols and ther­mo­cou­ples in roast­ers, brew­ers, and espresso machines; before the indus­try embraced con­trolled time and tem­per­a­ture pro­file roast­ing tech­niques; and before we under­stood pre-infusion, tur­bu­lence, brew solids and rates of extrac­tion, we used the time-honored process of trial and error as best pre­sented by the school of hard knocks.  Before the SCAA and the Guilds, there was lim­ited access to cof­fee edu­ca­tion.  Knowledge was gained mainly through pri­vate research or The International Coffee Development Group and The Coffee Brewing Center who were clear­ing­houses for sci­en­tific cof­fee infor­ma­tion.  These were the days where artistry pre­vailed and sci­ence was not a topic of con­ver­sa­tion in our industry.

Today the skills nec­es­sary for prod­uct devel­op­ment are still in the realm of artistry; using one’s expe­ri­ences and exper­tise to build and cre­ate taste and aro­mas through green cof­fee selec­tion, roast­ing, brew­ing, or extract­ing.  Having expert level knowl­edge of how sen­sory attrib­utes and tastes will com­pli­ment or con­tra­dict each other is still a rec­og­nized art, sim­i­lar to food and bev­er­age pair­ings.  Knowing how col­ors can com­bine to make new col­ors, being able to read music, know­ing how medi­ums com­bine in sculp­ture, this is all nec­es­sary sci­ence that is the build­ing blocks for cre­ativ­ity.  Knowing the fla­vor changes that occur when chang­ing green cof­fee, manip­u­lat­ing the roast pro­file or adjust­ing the drink prepa­ra­tion, is sim­i­lar to artist who com­bines col­ors on can­vas or notes in a song, it may be appeal­ing and deli­cious or not. Either way artistry is at work

Coffee mar­ket­ing is best described as pre­sent­ing your prod­uct supe­rior to your com­peti­tors.  One valu­able tool mar­keters use is to evoke the sense of artistry and mys­te­ri­ous intan­gi­ble skills to explain why their prod­uct should be pur­chased, using the con­sumer recog­ni­tion of culi­nary and mixol­ogy as an art form. Chefs, vint­ners in the wine indus­try, and dis­tillers in the spir­its indus­try, are also artists, using many of the same tech­niques as cof­fee roast­ers and baris­tas to cre­ate inno­v­a­tive and dis­tinc­tive fla­vor char­ac­ters in their prod­ucts.  The too often heard “We roast with love” or “We are guided by our pas­sion” should remain in the realm of roman­tic movies and not in cof­fee marketing.

However, in all food pro­duc­tion there is sci­ence.  How we embrace the sci­ence, mean­ing our level of under­stand­ing and uti­liza­tion of the sci­en­tific method, mea­sur­ing tools and test­ing pro­to­cols is what will sep­a­rate a sin­gu­lar spe­cialty expe­ri­ence never to be repeated from a sus­tained and con­sis­tent spe­cialty cof­fee prod­uct that can be enjoyed over time and at mul­ti­ple café’s.  The artistry in spe­cialty cof­fee is the cre­ation of cof­fee prod­ucts which will dis­tin­guish a com­pany from their com­peti­tors.  The sci­ence required to re-create the cof­fee prod­uct for con­sis­tency is the def­i­n­i­tion of quality.

Beginning with prod­uct devel­op­ment in roast­ing, quan­ti­ta­tive mea­sur­ing tools must be in place to mea­sure the attrib­utes of the green cof­fee, the devel­op­ment of the roast, the attrib­utes of the roasted cof­fee, and the oper­a­tion of the roast­ing equip­ment.  The data col­lected dur­ing the artis­tic process will be used to blend art and sci­ence together in the form of a prod­uct spec­i­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment.  This doc­u­ment is a tool used by spe­cialty cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als to re-create the cof­fee char­ac­ter­is­tics and fla­vors for the next batch, for the next week, and pos­si­bly until some­thing fun­da­men­tal changes in the green cof­fee sup­ply and the cof­fee char­ac­ter is not able to be re-created.

The tools required to col­lect the process and qual­ity data are not spe­cific to the spe­cialty cof­fee trade or the com­mer­cial cof­fee mar­ket. These tools are basic food sci­ence and process con­trol tools used through­out the cof­fee indus­try and food man­u­fac­tur­ers.  For exam­ple, data col­lec­tion may include ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture and humid­ity, green cof­fee tem­per­a­ture, mois­ture con­tent, and den­sity.  Other impor­tant mea­sure­ments include charge weight, drum air tem­per­a­ture, bean tem­per­a­ture at spe­cific time incre­ments, gas pres­sure, flame inten­sity, and cool­ing time.  Finished prod­uct mea­sure­ment may include any of the fol­low­ing: roast devel­op­ment scale (Agtron), color devel­op­ment, or three-dimensional L.a.b. color scale.  Other qual­ity data col­lec­tions includ­ing mois­ture con­tent, water activ­ity, grind par­ti­cle size (if applic­a­ble), count­ing roasted cof­fee defects, and head­space mea­sure­ments in a stored pack­age are for the man­age­ment and con­trol of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process to pro­duce a uni­form and con­sis­tent recre­ation of the devel­op­ment sam­ples using sci­en­tific tools and quan­ti­ta­tive data col­lec­tion. The spe­cialty cof­fee pro­fes­sional will use sci­ence to re-create the prod­uct devel­op­ment which was a result of artistry.

The barista has many tools avail­able to help mea­sure the para­me­ters of brew­ing or extrac­tion.  The artis­tic process of blend­ing roasted cof­fee for a par­tic­u­lar desired pro­file or from a sin­gle lot cof­fee to develop a high-quality bev­er­age has not changed.  The exper­tise that is derived from expe­ri­ence with cof­fee and cof­fee prepa­ra­tion tech­niques will drive the artis­tic process.  Developing the fla­vor char­ac­ter­is­tic, accen­tu­at­ing the acid­ity or body, main­tain­ing the sweet­ness, and aro­mat­ics can all be manip­u­lated within cof­fee, sim­i­lar to blend­ing col­ors and tex­tures on a paint­ing, or devel­op­ing the melody and har­mony in music.   Culinary Artists con­sider acid­ity (per­ceived organic acids), tem­per­a­ture, tex­ture, fats/oils, pri­mary spices and herbs, accent or fin­ish­ing ingre­di­ents, as well as color and plate com­po­si­tion when devel­op­ing recipes and menu items.

Chefs, artists, and baris­tas are all fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar artis­tic process of bring­ing together com­pli­men­tary and con­tra­dic­tory char­ac­ters and attrib­utes to cre­ate some­thing that is greater than the sum of the parts. The barista may col­lect process con­trol or qual­ity con­trol data when devel­op­ing prepa­ra­tion for­mu­las or drink recipes that include all the col­lected infor­ma­tion from the roaster/manufacturer plus addi­tional infor­ma­tion includ­ing:  time from roast­ing, water qual­ity (taste, aroma, pH, hard­ness, TDS), brew water tem­per­a­ture, time of brewing/extraction cycle.  The bed depth, includ­ing size and shape of the portafil­ter or brew bas­ket (for French press, Hario or Clever cone, etc.), will also pro­vide valu­able infor­ma­tion that must be con­trolled for the bev­er­age to be re-created.  Beverage tem­per­a­ture, water pres­sure or flow rates, extrac­tion per­cent­age, brew solids, brix, and pH will all pro­vide infor­ma­tion to help cre­ate a prepa­ra­tion spec­i­fi­ca­tion or bev­er­age recipe to be used to re-create and the bev­er­age mul­ti­ple times and at mul­ti­ple locations.

Baristas, roast­ers, cof­fee tasters, and other cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als use sci­ence when con­duct­ing cup­pings.  A cup­ping is a sen­sory analy­sis of cof­fee prod­ucts that use sci­ence to con­trol the vari­ables that will change the pro­file or fla­vor attrib­utes of the cof­fee being tested.  Managing the roast devel­op­ment, grind par­ti­cle size, dosage, water qual­ity, water vol­ume, water tem­per­a­ture, tim­ing of the test, etc. will all insure a proper and appro­pri­ate cof­fee analy­sis is conducted.

The goal of the spe­cialty cof­fee artist is to cre­ate an amaz­ing cof­fee or cof­fee bev­er­age that will be rec­og­nized for its qual­ity and appre­ci­ated for its taste, sweet­ness, and aroma char­ac­ter­is­tics.  The goal of the spe­cialty cof­fee sci­en­tist is to mea­sure the cof­fee and bev­er­age devel­op­ment to cre­ate a spec­i­fi­ca­tion used to re-create the cof­fee bev­er­age.  Science should not only be looked at as a cold and ster­ile ana­lyt­i­cal per­spec­tive, but also a food safety or good man­u­fac­tur­ing prac­tices pro­gram. If cof­fee is man­u­fac­tured improp­erly there may be a con­sumer health issue or prod­uct qual­ity issue. Science in spe­cialty cof­fee should be con­sid­ered an ally, not the enemy of art.

Retail oper­a­tions thrive on uni­for­mity and con­sis­tency, the con­sumer wishes to receive prod­ucts with sim­i­lar look, aroma, and fla­vor at each visit.  Specialty cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als who rec­og­nize and embrace the coex­is­tence of art and sci­ence will be able to pro­duce and pre­pare spe­cialty cof­fee prod­ucts that can be dupli­cated over time and between roaster or café loca­tions.  There are too few cof­fee sci­en­tists and instead of being uti­lized in the cre­ative, devel­op­ment phase of new prod­ucts they are usu­ally called upon to solve problems.

The con­clu­sion: both art and sci­ence should co-exist as cof­fee equivalents.

Spencer Turer grad­u­ated from Johnson & Wales University with degrees in culi­nary arts and food­ser­vice man­age­ment, and began his cof­fee adven­ture in 1994 as a barista. After work­ing in qual­ity con­trol, green cof­fee buy­ing, retail mar­ket­ing and import­ing, Spencer is now the Vice President at Coffee Analysts in Burlington, VT.  He is a Co-Founder of The Roasters Guild, a Licensed Q Grader and has earned many cer­ti­fi­ca­tions from the SCAA. Spencer can be con­tacted at

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