Saturday, February 11, 2012

Add Excitement to Your Roasting!

For many roasters out there, roasting is a routine. There are different philosophies when it comes to sourcing, blending, and roasting espresso. The problem is: the same roaster producing the same espresso every day is monumentally boring.

What I wonder is: Why don't more roaster/retailers adopt the multiple espresso model? I know there are some that have gone the Experimental espresso route for a time, and some are actually doing it quietly without making a stir... ala the ever changing "Black Cat Project". So I'm not talking about whole bean you put on the shelves for your customers, or what craziness you dare to do for the online coffee consumer. I'm talking about what you're serving in your coffee shops on a daily basis.

Now there are several new shops that have opened in the past few years who promote the multiple roaster model. They realized that they wanted to offer their customers the best that various roasters had to offer, so they could experience a variety of interpretations of espresso. But there is a commonality - All the espresso is pretty damn good!

I understand there's a marketing component that's in here. "We found a profile that is great, our customers love it, we sell a boat load..." And to that I say, get your game face on and take the ball to the rack! Yea, I know you can do an awesome windmill dunk every time, but how about through the legs and behind the back? Or how about behind the back and blindfolded? We know you have the skills. So bring it!

Do roasters need to abandon their long standing espresso in their own shops? No, of course not. But if your vision of espresso never changes, are you growing as a roaster, and if not, that's kind of sad. Of course a roaster might bust out something new a few times... and then a few more, and maybe there will be new espresso on a regular basis. Maybe bi-weekly. Maybe even weekly.

I've done both. I've stayed with a general flavor profile, and rocked that for a while. It was good. It was very good. And it was also very boring. The notion that it's more difficult is simply not so. Manipulating an El Salvador and a Nicaragua to taste like a Brazil and a Guatemala to taste like a Sumatra isn't a display of amazing roasting skill. Note that the chocolate/berry/hint of nut sweetness espresso, whatever variation, is not that difficult to duplicate. And is it exactly the same every time? Well.... not really. And since we know there are variations, both slight and obvious due to crop availability, seasonality, and a whole host of other reasons. Why not source the best ingredients (coffee) that you can, relative to the season, and present your customers with the best espresso you can make from those ingredients. A great chef doesn't try to make steak taste like lamb, or make every tart, even the lemon tarts, taste like chocolate.

From my personal experience, I contend that roasters will learn more about coffees that do work together as espresso by trying all those coffees that you shouldn't -- washed Centrals, bright Africans etc. And you will surprise yourself. "What the hell... I never thought THAT would work!" So fellow roasters, especially those of you who know you can, don't just think about doing it, try roasting something new today. You might find that what was once routine has now become exciting.