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Lost City

A Coffee Roaster in Notts

12 August 21 illustrations: Kasia Kozakiewicz

"The main misconception people have about coffee roasters is that we stand around drinking coffee all day"

I've always enjoyed coffee. For many years I’ve had my own coffee setup at home, which includes an espresso machine and grinders and so on, and I actually did a roasting course in Laos. So when I had the opportunity to work in roasting I grabbed it with both hands and I'm very happy to be in this sort of job. I used to buy my coffee from this roastery, so I'd seen the machines and I'd seen the processes beforehand. It was nice to be on the other side of things. 

It’s not entirely what I thought I’d be doing when I was younger. I always knew I'd go into the hospitality trade, and I thought I'd be able to work in hospitality and food production at the same time, but now we're definitely more in the food production side - so in a way it is a little bit different to what I expected back then.

I start my day at nine o'clock. That’s when you want to warm up the coffee roaster, and while that’s warming up you can test the previous day's roasts for a bit of quality control and consistency. The most challenging part of the job is definitely dealing with the small changes that affect how the oven works, such as high or low air pressures. These result in how effective the chimney is, or the flue, and how that affects the coffee roasting process. 

The constant changing of one-off coffees is probably the biggest way of stopping the job from becoming repetitive, because you only get to do them once. No two coffees roast exactly the same. All coffees have a slightly different water content, and also they have a slightly different density, so they roast at different speeds. Some of them will try and burn in the blink of an eye, others won't get up to temperature for a while. So when you get new recipes it always keeps you on your toes.

The best bit of the job is getting brand new coffees from various countries and roasting them to where we think they taste the best. Then we’re able to experiment with different roasting methods and see how that changes the finished product. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that the difference between a dark coffee and a very light coffee is only a matter of a few degrees, rather than this huge spread of numbers. It is only really about fifteen to twenty degrees between beans being raw and like charcoal, and you've got all these different flavours in that tiny little window, which I think is quite fascinating. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that the difference between a dark coffee and a very light coffee is only a matter of a few degrees

The worst part of my day is definitely doing the cleaning, which is hard work. You’re forever chasing after and trying to tidy up all the tiny coffee particles that get everywhere. It’s got to be done though. Once we got a new coffee roaster and somebody wired it in backwards. So instead of pushing all the smoke up the flue it pushed it straight into the building itself and set off all the fire alarms. That wasn’t fun either. 

At the end of the day I like to go climbing and go for a beer. We’re lucky where we are because we have both a climbing wall and a brewery nearby. Always make sure you have the beer after climbing though, not the other way around. 

Things have changed a lot in coffee roasting since I first began. When we started, we had a slightly smaller setup. So we've streamlined that a lot more. It's become more technologically advanced. With more computer programmes involved I can record everything more precisely, and now we have a brand new machine with all the top stuff. That makes everything better for the customer and leads to higher quality products. You can also be more daring to try different recipes. You can push the limits a little bit further, which is always exciting. 

The dream would be to have six different types of industrial coffee roasters. If you could make one coffee that works better in an air roaster, that would work really well, and then another coffee might work better in a drum roaster. But that isn't a serious aim. It’s massive capital that requires big investment, and it would never fully pay off. It'd be like having a Ferrari for wet days and a Lamborghini for dry days. 

We mainly deal with commercial people that run pubs and cafes. The individuals we meet range from young students to pensioners, so there is quite a wide variety there. The main misconception people have about coffee roasters is that we stand around drinking coffee all day. In reality, a lot of the time we’re incredibly busy. But it’s lucky that we are - it’s better than the alternative...

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