Roaster Focus: The Skill (not Art) of Roasting Coffee

Thursday, 11 February, 2021

The skill (not art) of roasting coffee

We always talk about the art of coffee. We view coffee as an art form, as something that is driven by passion and our mutual love for coffee. But passion should be backed-up by skill. Neither your passion for coffee nor your coffee roasting machine can stand alone. It has to be substantiated somehow. That is where skill comes in.

At Genio, we like to go one step further: we take the coffee roaster - the equipment - out of the picture. Roasting should not primarily be about the equipment that you have. Roasting should be about connecting your skill with the process to accentuate the very best aromas and flavours in your coffees. Great machinery makes that connection easier to achieve and maintain, but which machine you have should not determine your success. Instead, the focus should be on the coffee and the person that is roasting it. Leave the machinery to us while you focus on the coffee and improving your roasting skills.

Should you today, be an aspiring coffee roaster or an old hand at it, it is never too early nor too late to gain more knowledge and to further hone your roasting skills. After all, life is a continuous process of learning. I have this favourite saying that I keep in my drawer; sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Recently, my team and I committed to improving the training of our clients. We found that, without sufficient training, our clients often fall short when it comes to understanding why things are happening during a roast. We see this with even our most passionate customers: there is a gap between achieving an incredible result and replicating that same result with confidence. I believe that training is the link between those incredible results and replicating them through understanding.

In the past, training in the skill (and art) of roasting has been extremely limited. Other than apprenticeships, which in themselves are innately subjective, there was no way of considering oneself “trained” in roasting. But this has all changed. Now, we have a variety of sources and platforms to fuel our passion for coffee roasting with valuable information and the fundamentals of best practice from associations such as the SCA Roasting courses with local ASTs (Authorized SCA Trainers) popping up everywhere. I tend to favour certified courses to lay a solid foundation and set-up one’s knowledge base. It ensures some form of discipline, order and standard in the learning material. A good foundation is easy to build upon. Breaking away from the formal route, we have YouTube that hosts an endless stream of content right to our living rooms, and even websites like Udemy that offers affordable roaster training courses.

In addition to training courses, you should also expose yourself to the different approaches from industry leaders such as Scott Rao, Morten München, David Hoos and James Hoffman. They will give you a multi-disciplinary view on important topics such as coffee profiling, Rate-of-Rise and extraction curve analyses. Most of them have blogs, videos and books available to fuel your passion and ensure a deeper understanding of the topic at hand (#shamelessplug: check out Genio Roasters’ website for our library of roasting books). While blogs and books may not necessarily replace training, I do believe that reading brings with it a measure of consistency through the authority and experience of the author. 

While I love and appreciate the passionate individuals who bring people together through coffee, I think that your passion for coffee can only be passed on through skill. Skill is infinitely transferrable. Passion so often becomes locked-in because few others share it. Skill brings consistency to an innately subjective craft. Through training and experience, you can get the skills needed to hone your craft into something truly inspiring: Passion backed up with skills.  

Have the passion. Seek the skill.

Written by Neil Maree and Elsie Potgieter  

Got something to say? Then leave a comment!