THE MAKING OF A CHAMPIONPREPARING FOR THE WORLD COFFEE ROASTING CHAMPIONSHIP*
*This article was written for the July/August edition of Roast Magazine
4 Minutes Read
By Anthony Auger
North America Sales Representative
Through my travels, I’m constantly discussing my profession with people who may not be active seekers of “specialty coffee.” While they usually know what a barista does, the same people often don't understand that a roaster has just as much influence on their coffee’s flavor.
This is why I’ve been so happy to see the increased enthusiasm behind coffee roasting competitions around the globe. In the most recent United States Coffee Championships (USCC) season, 60 spots were available for the preliminaries of the U.S. Roaster Championship. It was the first of the USCC competitions to fill every spot, and it had the longest waiting list.
We are seeing our roasting community step out from behind their machines to discuss strategy, theory, science and taste in a collaborative way. Our industry is starting to shift, once again, from focusing on total dissolved solids (TDS) readings and milk pairings toward understanding how roasting reactions change a coffee’s flavor— sometimes in ways we previously didn’t think possible.
As we head toward the World Coffee Roasting Championship Nov. 7–9 in Brazil, we asked some of our national champions how they made it this far. We’re excited to continue developing this competition to advance the craft of roasting and the consumer’s perception of flavor, while honoring the time and energy it takes to get such high-quality coffee from origin. The national champions featured here— along with all the other national champions and talented competitors—show great promise in helping our community reach these goals.
- What did you do to prepare for the roaster championships in your country?
- Joanna Alm: Before competing, I re-read the Specialty Coffee Association green coffee grading folder and the rules and regulations. From those, I take notes in my notebook that I read before I go on stage. No urgent emails and eating a proper breakfast helps. This year, I made sure I had a less stressful environment around me so I could be fully focused on the competition.
- Simo Kristidhi: I used all the knowledge I gained from the previous national and world championships. I went through the score sheets and the new rules and regulations. I studied my latest roasting profiles and did a lot of cupping. I [also] spent some time doing green evaluation.
- Ian Picco: I did a lot of profile roasting and cupping in my lab. I made sure I had plenty of rehearsal time for my presentation.
- Ben Toovey: Being my second time competing, I had a better idea of the format for the competition, so along with my coach/team member Pat Connolly, we picked some coffees and went through simulated competition rounds, adjusting roast profiles and creating blends to maximize points on the score sheet.
- Veda Viraswami: First of all, I managed to get the maximum information on the type of roasting machine that was going to be used during the competition. Then it was training time in order to really understand how things would work and react during my roasts. And of course, training included green grading and loads of cupping.
- How has your roasting style changed in the past few years?
- Joanna Alm: I learn and try out things ongoing, always with a clear flavor goal in mind. I have always strived to roast the coffee vibrant and fairly light. Over the last years, I am applying more energy to the curve combined with airflow control that has impacted the coffee to be more soluble than before. [During] every week’s production cupping, when updating the curves, I slowly learn, and in that way I discover more things step by step.
- Simo Kristidhi: I am a fan of the Scandinavian roasting style, and I believe this will never change. For me, the Scandinavian style is not about roasting fast and light, it’s about developing coffee the best possible way at a shorter roasting length, highlighting the taste attributes the particular coffee has to give. I am using all the technological means available and many variables in order to achieve my roasting goals.
- Ian Picco: When I am designing a profile for a new coffee, I focus heavily on the interplay of bean density and heat transfer to inform my approach. More and more, I let the bean tell me how it wants to roast. I don’t try to impose preconceptions anymore. My understanding of roasting chemistry has greatly increased, and with it my ability to manipulate the sensory qualities of the coffee to a desired outcome.
- Ben Toovey: I don’t consider myself to have a roasting style. I think I have simply practiced and tasted enough to be able to more quickly recognize cause and effect in the cup, and be confident in my strategies to adjust profiles to modify the results.
- Veda Viraswami: In my first few years of roasting, I really was an aficionado of omniroasts, and with time passing by, I understood all the benefits of roasting the different types of coffees according to the method of preparation I wanted it to be best for. I was lucky to have some opportunities to cup roasts from different countries and roasters, and this really helped me to become, in my point of view, a better roaster.
- Do you have any advice for newer roasters?
- Joanna Alm: Get to know the raw coffee and your own setup inside out, and make the most out of it. There is so much access to roasting forums to attend and many roasting theories and studies. Not all of that will be applicable to your roaster or your flavor style, but read it with a curious mind. Roast. Log. Cup. Compare. Repeat. There is no one else that decides how you are going to roast; it’s enlightening that we do things differently.
- Simo Kristidhi: I am still learning. After 15 years, I feel there is so much to learn. So my little advice must be: Educate yourself. Roast and cup the most you can.
- Ian Picco: Develop your sensory skills, then let the scientific method be the guide to your craft. Develop a plan, implement the plan, document, analyze, repeat.
- Ben Toovey: Get to know the boundaries of your machine, roast as many different coffees as you can, and cup everything!
- Veda Viraswami: I think that patience and humility are essential for any roaster.
- ANTHONY AUGER is chair of the Coffee Roasters Guild Competitions Committee. He is a licensed Q grader and currently serves as North American sales representative for Caravela Coffee.
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