2012, SCAE's World of Coffee Vienna. Based on an initiative of Sweden's renown roast trainer Filip Akerblom and companions the World Coffee Roasting Championship (WCRC) first entered the stage with ambitions to become an official World of Coffee event. Successfully, as it turned out. Back then the WCRC that we now know was still called World Coffee Roasting Competition (rather than Championship) but Cropster was already integral part of this event. We loved the idea to give the art of roasting a larger stage and hence, more credits. So it seemed logical to us to support the event with our software solution Cropster Roast. With Cropster Roast we intend ever since to provide the competitors with a comfortable tool to monitor and analyze their roasts, visualize the (often) mysterious roast processes to the audience, submit the log to the judges and give a "plus" of insights to the competitors. The 4th edition of the WCRC took place this year at WoC in Gothenburg. We wanted to take the chance and ask a few of the top scoring competitors and also one of the co-creators how they feel about the WCRC...and Cropster. We give the floor to Audun Sørbotten (Winner WCRC 2015, Audun Coffee, Norway), Joanna Alm (2nd WCRC 2015, Drop Coffee, Sweden) and Filip Akerblom (Roasting Coach of Joanna Alm for the WCRC 2015, Roast Trainer and CEO of Brasett AB, Sweden): [Find their WCRC profiles, as well as the profile of 3d ranked Min Keun Choi, Korea below the interview]
1) How was the competition for you in general?
AUDUN: This competition is a lot like a normal production routine -first there is sample roasting, then you cup the coffee to see its potential, then you make up a plan and finally you execute it on the bigger machine. This made it easy for me to stay focused and just think about making good coffee. I had no nerves until it was close to the award ceremony. JOANNA: I truly appreciate meeting so many great roasters and be able to hang out for three days, everyone there is a winner and a talented roaster, even if we’re all working in very different markets. Technically though, the new part about blends was a bit different, we stopped blending over four years ago at Drop Coffee so both that part and different roasting machine to what I’m used to was new. Figuring out how to work with both, however, came out to be very fun; the blend was balanced and the roaster was a lot stronger in energy than expected. FILIP: Competing at this level in coffee roasting demands high focus and passion for the profession. Coaching the third best roaster in the world from last year also need much more respect and attention to the competitor to reach number one in the world. Its important not to disturb but listen and give input and feedback for her needs to guide her in her own direction.
2) What do you like most about the competition? How does it feel to be out there on stage?
AUDUN: I like that it´s a fair competition where all contestants are judged solely on measurable things, and not on appearance on a stage or their personality. When my roast profiles was shown on a screen in real time while I was roasting, I just focused on the roasting. I never felt like being on a stage. JOANNA: Roasting home in Stockholm means headphones plugged in, focus and very down to details and in a safe environment. This is a new roaster and new buttons with dozens of people following your every move. It’s fun to share your thought and ideas. FILIP: The competition is growing more and more for each year and still shows how is the most skilled coffee roaster when you are not able to practice with nothing else but your roasting skills compared to other coffee related competitions.
3) What coffees did you use and why did you choose them?
AUDUN: All contestant roasted a Kenya AB Gathongo as the single origin coffee, and we could choose from three other coffees to make a blend. I chose to use 67 % washed Costa Rica for its fruity character and its sweetness, 25 % washed China Yunnan for its bright and clean taste, and finally 8% of a past-crop Ethiopia Limu. The Limu didn´t add much to the blend, but strangely enough I found the blend to be better with Limu than without. I constructed the blend by blending several different cups, and then cupping them blind. I strongly believe in blind cupping whenever possible, since we all carry emotional biases towards our roasts, and in this case towards certain origin countries. JOANNA: For the single everyone was using Kenya and in the blend we should mix three others. The focus in the blend was to make a complex cup, making all coffees fit together. I built it up mainly on the Costa Rican coffee and found that it balanced very well with a more vibrant note from the Yunnan coffee. The Ethiopian coffee had a more astringent approach so I used very little of that. FILIP: [Together with Joanna] we tried to find the cleanest coffees on the table and focused on them to create the perfect balance.
4) What was the idea behind the profiles you roasted?
AUDUN: I roast Kenya fast. In this case 8 minutes 22 seconds. The time isn´t the most important, but the underlying roast speeds (rate of rise) in certain stages of the roast. I divide the roast curve in three «zones» and use specific rates for each type of coffee. If the chosen roast parameters succeed in developing the coffee, then I find that a fast roast creates more complexity than a slow roast. That´s why I always roast this type of coffee fast. When it comes to the blend, I chose to pre-blend this time. I would not have done that with espresso coffee, but in a light roast blend for filter coffee I feel that this is the correct thing to do. After all, we don´t make filter blends because we want an outstanding result. Most often, we make filter blends out of coffees that are just OK, and often to blend in some old coffee. With three different coffees in the blend I wanted to roast slower, and a little darker than for single origin coffees. I roasted with the same parameters that I would choose for many latin american coffees. The result I wanted was to get a sweet and rounded taste. I even think I got a lot of fruit in the cup, so I was very happy with the result. [See Audun's profiles below] JOANNA: For the Kenyan coffee I roasted a very sharp curve, almost too sharp after tasting it. I added a lot of energy early in the roast to get out most acidity. I was keeping a lot of energy towards crack to make the sweetness rather fructose than caramelly. On the coffee from Costa Rica I used less airflow to get through the coffee easier and achievea better mouthfeel. [See Joanna's profiles below] FILIP: All the profiles were created by Joanna and I was guiding her on how to be able to achieve these effects and patterns with the roaster.
5) You have used Cropster under pressure in the competition. How did it help you?
AUDUN: I found Cropster to be very simple and intuitive to use. I know that Cropster is an advanced program that can carry a lot of information about the coffees, and about cupping results etc. So I was positively surprised about how good and easy the look the logging was. It was just the information I needed at the moment, and nothing more. Personally I only look at rate of rise (RoR) during roasting, and since this was shown with little or no delay I had good help of the program. JOANNA: Using Cropster I could quickly see how the roaster was reacting to my movement, how fast the heat increased and how much the airflow impacted the roasting. FILIP: Cropster will be more than helpful to guide the roasters and feel comfort over the whole roasting process.
6) Do you think Cropster is a good tool to display and log roasts for the competitors - and also for the audience? Why?
AUDUN: The look is intuitive and easy, so I think it´s pretty ideal for both competitors and the audience. JOANNA: I think Cropster is making it very easy to follow the acts from the roaster and how this impacts the curve. The more things being logged, the more understanding I get for what’s happening to the coffee throughout the curve. Now, logging the temperature as well at the time directly makes it even easier to know when act. FILIP: This is a perfect audio visual tool to make a competition like this watchable for coffee people interested in coffee roasting. The more measuring data to display to more for audience to analyze and compare for educational use.
7) Have you used Cropster in your daily work? If so did that help you in the competition?
AUDUN: I have not yet used Cropster in my work before. My old employer, Solberg&Hansen, had developed their own logging system, which they replaced with Cropster after I started my own roasting business in Poland. JOANNA: Yes, I wouldn't be able to roast without the rate of rise curve. Rosting without that is like fumbling in the dark. FILIP: Cropster is the only tool on the market today that makes you understand the processes from green to quality control. Also a big help to understand when creating and improving profiles or converting old profiles from smaller roaster to bigger when you are growing. It will make you understand the effects of all your skills, hard work, input and convert it to logical out put to plan your vision for perfection in roasting.
8) What do you think are the main benefits when using Cropster except from the profiling? How do you think does Cropster support roasting, roast consistency and keeping the important things in the roastery together?
AUDUN: So far, I can only speak about roast logging in general. What we all want is a consistent product, and when there are several coffee roasters in the same company this becomes a huge challenge. Even for my own one-man company there can be things that changes from day-to-day, like room temperature and interruptions in the roasting routine. This makes logging very important. It forces every man to have proper routines to roast the coffee in a consistent way. For all those roasteries without tools for measuring roast color, the logging becomes the only sure way to do a good job. JOANNA: We cup and score each coffee we roast, logging it directly in Cropster. Having this info parallel to the quality of the curves helps us to transfer the flavors to the changes in roasting a lot quicker. Also, this makes a good overview to see the development of how we roasted 2 years or 2 months ago and how our coffee used to taste back then. FILIP: The software is a communication platform to make everybody involved in production whats going on. You can adjust Cropster to match the level you are in and up scale at the time for your needs. Cropster will help you be on track with consistency is the skill that will show how good you are and create a long relationship with you, your team and your customers.
9) What specific tools of Cropster do you like most?
AUDUN: I don´t know the other Cropster tools yet. I see that matching of roast curves and cupping scores can be really useful, and a great tool for learning. JOANNA: That you can zoom in the development curve very well now after roasting. Also, I like the raw coffee storage tracking and to see how much the coffees have moved over time. FILIP: Multiple logging sharing and Roast Ranger auto-consistency checker.