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Meet the Roaster: Q&A with Our Head Roaster

Meet the Roaster: Q&A with Our Head Roaster

Hi everyone! My name is John Smith, and I’m the head roaster here at Geo Cuisine Bay Ridge. I’ve been with Geo Cuisine for over 5 years now, and it’s been an amazing journey being able to share my passion for coffee with all of our customers.

In today’s post, I wanted to give you all a chance to get to know me a little better and learn more about my role as head roaster. I’ll be answering some frequently asked questions about my background, my approach to coffee roasting, and what I love most about my job. So let’s dive right in!

How did you first get into coffee roasting?

I’ve been fascinated with coffee ever since I worked as a barista during college. I was immediately drawn to the complex flavors and aromas that can be coaxed out of a simple coffee bean. Once I learned more about how roasting impacts a coffee’s taste, I was totally hooked.

After college, I worked for a few years doing sales and marketing roles but I missed being hands-on with coffee. So I decided to take the plunge into coffee roasting as a full-time career. I started out working for a small specialty roaster where I could learn the ins and outs of coffee roasting. From there, I continued developing my skills before eventually taking on the head roaster role here at Geo Cuisine about 3 years ago.

What’s your favorite coffee to roast?

That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child! But if I had to choose, I’d say I especially enjoy roasting single-origin coffees from Ethiopia. The flavor profiles you can achieve with Ethiopian beans are incredibly complex, with notes of blueberry, lemon, and jasmine. I love experimenting with different roast profiles to see how they impact the flavor.

Here are a few other origins I really enjoy working with:

  • Brazilian coffees – For their richness and chocolatey notes
  • Indonesian coffees – Especially Sumatran, for their bold, earthy quality
  • Guatemalan – For their balance of fruitiness and spice

Walk us through your approach to coffee roasting.

My roasting philosophy comes down to one word: balance. I aim to strike the perfect balance between highlighting the coffee’s inherent flavors while still roasting fully to bring out the essential roasty, toasted elements.

Here are the key steps in my roasting process:

  • Evaluating the green coffee beans and setting a roasting plan
  • Preheating the roaster and loading in the beans
  • Roasting slowly at first, from 180°F up to about 400°F
  • Monitoring temperature, aroma, and bean color closely
  • Making adjustments to reach target roast degree in 10-15 minutes
  • Cooling the beans rapidly to stop the roasting process

I also adjust my approach depending on factors like bean density, moisture content, origin characteristics, and desired flavor profile. But the end goal is always finding that sweet spot between preserving the coffee’s unique qualities and transforming it into something beautifully roasted.

What do you find most challenging about coffee roasting?

Roasting is an art and a science – it requires both technical precision and creative instincts. One of the biggest challenges is staying adaptable. Even with the same coffee beans, each batch can roast a little differently depending on environmental factors. As a roaster, I have to remain very observant and make subtle adjustments to accommodate small variations.

It’s also very difficult to achieve consistency across large volumes of coffee, like when roasting for our whole café’s needs. I have to be meticulous in controlling variables to ensure each batch meets our quality standards. But that’s also what makes it so rewarding when everything comes together perfectly!

What’s your favorite part about being a roaster?

For me, the absolute best part is developing new roast profiles and recipes to showcase a particular coffee bean. It’s an incredible feeling when you nail that perfect roast and suddenly all the flavors pop – the aromatics just blossom and you think, ah yes, there it is!

I also love the whole sensory experience of roasting. Being immersed in the sights, sounds, smells – it never gets old. The crackling of the beans, the rich nutty aromas, it’s magical. And of course, getting to sample freshly roasted coffee all day isn’t half bad either!

Any tips for aspiring home coffee roasters?

My advice for beginner home roasters would be:

  • Start small, with something like a popcorn popper or heat gun roaster
  • Buy smaller batches of green beans to dial in your technique
  • Keep good records of your profiles and tweak variables one at a time
  • Invest in solid temperature control – this is key for roast consistency
  • Pay attention to bean aromas and colors more than time
  • Have fun experimenting! The best way to learn is by trying new things

Feel free to reach out if you ever have any roasting questions! I love helping inspire the next generation of coffee roasting enthusiasts.

What’s one little-known fact about coffee roasting or your role?

Here’s an insider secret – listening is just as important as looking when I’m roasting coffee. The sounds the beans make as they crack and pop during roasting lets me know exactly when they reach key temperature milestones. So my roasting involves using both sight and sound to monitor development!

Anything else you want customers to know?

I just want to thank all of our amazing customers for your passion and appreciation for fresh, locally-roasted specialty coffee. It means the world to me to be able to do what I love as a career and share it with this community. From all of us here at Geo Cuisine Bay Ridge, we can’t wait to continue serving you deliciously roasted coffees for years to come.

Thanks for taking the time to get to know me better! I hope this provided a fun behind-the-scenes look at my journey and approach as a coffee roaster. Feel free to ask any other questions in the comments – I love chatting about all things coffee and roasting!

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