As you may or may not know, I was in a video for The Port of Vancouver with one of the head roasters from JJ Bean, Grady Buhler. After the shooting was all done we got to talking and thought it would be great to meet up and for me to see what it's like behind the scenes at JJ Bean. Obviously that means that I'm going to share that experience with you in this two part series, part 1 being the Roastery (which if you couldn't guess is this article you're reading now) and part 2 will be The Cupping experience. It just seemed like I would be overloading you all with content so splitting it up was the smartest way to go about it. So lets get started.
Photo by: JJ Bean Roasters
JJ Bean's main roastery is out in their Powell Street location. Getting to see what it was like in the back of their everyday coffee shop was an experience I won't soon forget. First I got to see where they actually store the green beans they receive from around the world and how they set things up prior to roasting. As I was looking around I thought to myself "why do they just have everything tossed around in random areas" but as Grady started to explain things to me it all clicked that everything in the roastery is in a specific spot for a specific reason; whether it's to ensure efficiency, to ensure aeration of the beans, or simply to ensure that no one gets injured on the job. Although from an untrained eye (yes, I'm saying my eyes are untrained...that's not the issue here) it seems as though the roastery is rather hectic, for someone like Grady who has been roasting for 15 years this was the perfect layout to balance efficiency, final taste, and safety in the workplace.
Now let's talk green beans. These bags are coming from countries like Guatemala, Colombia, Ethiopia, and tons of other places around the world. What we as end consumers tend to forget is how life truly is in those places and when we hear an Ethiopian single-origin we get all excited but we don't think about how that bean got into our cup. When you first take a look at the bag of green beans you notice some sense of where they are coming from based on the labeling of the bag, the condition of the bag and the overall look. You start to realize that these bags are coming from places where simplicity is key; not only because simplicity can showcase the quality of the beans without any flashy gimmicks, but in some of these third world countries advertising and branding is a luxury they cannot afford. Thus, they need to ensure that their product speaks for itself.
It is now time to discuss the awesomeness that is the roasting process. The entire roasting process starts with perfecting the heat in the chamber of the roaster as well as the air pressure. Each single origin, blend, or what have you has its own perfect roasting temperature and pressure to extract the most flavor, and the best way to learn what works for the beans you have is simply trial and error. For someone like Grady, with over a decade of experience he knows which origins roast best at which temperatures and pressures to ensure that the flavor that's being extracted will be perfect for a cup of JJ bean coffee.
Once the roast is complete they release it to be aerated and then once that process is complete they have a syphon to filter out the beans from other things, such as rocks or what have you (remember these bags are coming from farm lands, things get tossed in these coffee bags by mistake). The final product is freshly roasted coffee ready to be bagged.
Now, for those of you that didn't know this (I sure didn't until this tour) there is a reason we don't drink coffee that is freshly roasted. The beans, once roasted, begin releasing carbon dioxide so it's important to wait 4-7 days until you brew the coffee, otherwise when you brew it it'll come out foamy and the flavors won't be as crisp.
Pro-tip: Whenever you're buying a bag of beans, check the roasting date. That way you can be sure your coffee is gonna stay fresh for a longer time. Never buy older roasted beans (seriously don't do it).
So there you have it, the entire roasting process from start to finish. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this behind the scenes adventure as I dive into the interesting world of Coffee Cupping.