The Life of Wildflyer Coffee- Part 3
Roasting coffee is a science. It is measurable, studied and repeatable, it has various outcomes that depend on decisions made throughout the roasting process. Roasting coffee is a series of chemical reactions. It’s kind of like making toast, cooking a steak or popping popcorn. All of these things use the application of varying levels of heat over a certain period of time to develop something you started with into something different. Coffee as we know it, wouldn’t exist with a little bit of focused heat and some time.
In the first part of the series we discussed coffee at origin and in part two we discussed Wildflyer’s process for selection and buying. Part three will dig into roasting, both roasting in general as well as why Wildflyer roasts coffee as well as our approach to roasting. Grab your tryers and spectrophotometer and let’s get into it!
Let’s talk machinery first. Roasters come in many sizes from super tiny sample roasters doing only a few hundred grams to massive behemoths roasting hundreds of kilograms. Specialty coffee roasters generally work with roasters in the 1kg to 60kg range. Most commercial coffee roasters are drum machines which means that when you put the coffee in the machine to heat it up it keeps from getting burned by rotating around in a drum, usually steel. The heat comes in flame form from natural gas or propane burners below the drum or in some smaller cases, flame free electric form. Exhaust air is forced out through tubing by ambient air being forced in. This is an important part of roasting and is generally controlled by the roaster to limit smoking the coffee and accelerate or decelerate temperature changes in the coffee. When the roaster wants to take the coffee of the heat they release the coffee from the drum into the cooling tray which moves the coffee over a fan to end the heat application. The tryer is a tool roasters use to “try” the coffee or take very small samples out of the drum during roasting to use their senses to evaluate where the coffee is and where they might want to make adjustments. See below for images of a coffee roaster.
Roasting is an integral aspect to Wildflyer coffee for a few different reasons. Roasting gives us more control over our supply chain, we get to choose what we offer to our customers with more focused intention throughout the whole life cycle of the coffee, from seed to cup. Lastly, roasting gives Wildflyer more channels in which to market and sell coffee which ultimately allows us to grow the organization and work with more young people in a sustainable and healthy economic environment. Wildflyer’s goal is for youth to get involved in everything we do, plugging in, learning and earning and what better way to direct that effort than to bring freshly roasted coffee from different regions at different price points to our incredible customers.
The approach that Wildflyer takes to roasting focuses on accessibility. We want to have something for everyone to enjoy and get excited about. That starts with our employees, they are an incredible sounding board for what tastes good and what they want our customers to experience. That means that we apply a slightly darker roast to our Local Motive Blend so that is has the profile that tastes great to our customers who want something with more chocolate, nut and malt notes. It also means that we keep our Colombia Milton Poche Microlot on the lighter side because its just so delicate and sweet (staff favorite right now). Ultimately the focus behind our roasting is to find a balance between listening to what our employees and customers are looking for and finding a coffee that fits that bill while trying to roast with the intention of highlighting certain flavors. As I mentioned in the intro, coffee roasting is like cooking a steak or making toast, the more heat you add over more time will ultimately cause chemical reactions that change the raw materials in the coffee to carbon (the crispy burnt remnants of sugars, acids, proteins). To put it simply, different things cook differently and different people have different tastes. We don’t roast for one type of taste; we want to roast something that appeals to just about everyone. Coffee that’s approachable, fun, flavorful, different and exciting. Good coffee that does good.
At the end of the day we are developing a community that wants to get behind the work of Wildflyer, to support youth employment, to take a stand for opportunity, to break the cycles and structures of homelessness. Why not do it with some excellent coffee? Join us in our vision to end youth homelessness, and if you’re intrigued, here’s a sneak peek to our upcoming Indiegogo Campaign for a storefront!