Coffee is an art. Coffee connoisseurs everywhere will agree that coffee needs just the right temperature and humidity in storage in order to bring each flavor to blossom. The complexities of coffee come to life in the roasting process. Ben Tanen, our coffee quality manager, will be heading Brewpoint’s roasting facility and making sure our coffee is the best it can be–no pressure!
If you’ve spent any considerable time at Brewpoint, you’ve probably run into Ben. His beard makes him easy to recognize, and, even through he’s a pretty quiet guy, he’s focused.
Ben has worked at Brewpoint for about a year and a half, but his appreciation for coffee extends beyond his tenure here. In an interview this past Tuesday, Ben opened up about the roasting process and his involvement in the expansion.
“I really like coffee, and as Brewpoint got busier and the talk of expansion came up, Melissa and I kind of tossed around the idea of doing something in the future. Then the opportunity to be an intern, or essentially just volunteer, at La Colombe came up,” Ben said.
From there, the learning began.
“I quickly transitioned to being paid to help roast and package. One thing led to another, and I kind of fell into it. It was always something I was interested in, but it was some funny circumstances that it all came together.”
So what is roasting, then? It’s basically what it sounds like: green coffee is treated with heat and roasted to the perfect temperature. But it’s more complex than that. The green, un-roasted coffee is sample roasted in a small batch and tasted; tasting allows us to examine what the coffee has to offer and what notes can be teased out. Then, a roast profile is created to track the amount of heat and time going into the un-roasted coffee. Watching how it transitions, the coffee is sent through a process of roasting, cupping, and tasting until the desired flavor is achieved.
“Essentially, it’s trial and error. Roast it, taste it, decide what you want to change, roast it again, taste it again, so on and so forth,” Ben said.
Roasting–and coffee in general–used to be a secretive community. Ben explained what’s changed: “It’s only in the last five to ten years that it’s really opened up, and it’s still pretty closed off. There are a lot of roasters who are like, ‘This is my art. I’m not gonna teach anyone else unless I take on an apprentice.’ A lot of roasters don’t track what they’re doing because they just know it’s perfect, whereas recently a lot of people are very much in the idea that you should have five thermometers in there and track every ten seconds. This means you can not only compare how the coffee tastes, but also track the data. You can then share the data and compare it with other people’s and share notes. It’s taking a much more scientific approach.”
With Brewpoint’s plans to become a roasting training site, sharing is a great idea.
Ben has learned as much as he can from experience, reading, and listening to podcasts. The real test, however, is the roasting itself, and that’s something Ben is looking forward to with enthusiasm and a healthy dose of trepidation.
“I’ve spent a year reading and learning as much as I can, and I’ve had time working on a roaster learning about roasting, but in a very controlled environment. The next step is actually getting the roaster, taking this knowledge and information, and starting to do that trial and error. I know the basics, I know the fundamentals, but there’s only so much you can read about. You need to do it to really learn.”
As the roasting facility gets on its feet, there will be a steep learning curve, but we’re all about quality over quantity. Our current Park Place shop uses about 130 to 150 pounds of coffee a week, and we plan to continue offering the best quality products. As we move forward, Ben is just as excited as the rest of our community.
“It’s fun to find what the coffee can be and get it to the place where it’s creating what it can be.”
Best of luck to Ben! We can’t wait to taste what Ben and Brewpoint have to offer.