Interview: Scorpio Roastery - Mike Ralph

Friday, 9 September, 2022

Name of Roastery: Scorpio Roastery

Name of Roaster: Mike Ralph

Where can people find you: Online and popping up at regular events.

Where did you learn your roasting skills? And how long have you been doing it? Learned to roast through lots and lots of Youtube videos (Mill City Roaster’s Roasting School) and books (Scott Rao & Rob Hoos), but most of all I learned through trial and error. It helps to have some of my most honest critics as family and friends. Their feedback helps to shape my coffee profiles. I started roasting coffee in 2020. 

What roasting equipment do you use?
Currently I am roasting on a Bideli 2kg drum roaster

Do you use software to help you create profiles for coffees? What is your process when you get a new green coffee in the roastery?
Yes, I use Artisan for creating profiles. When I get a new coffee in the roastery I have a generic starting profile I will roast a small batch. As soon as the coffee is dropped into the cooling tray I take a sample and make a brew (Filter). While the coffee is still very fresh I can get a feeling for the coffee and start tweaking the profile for the next sample roast. The following day I will cup the samples and either choose the best tasting coffee or go back to the drawing board to tweak the profiles.

How did you find the Preliminary Round Tanzanian coffee, was it interesting to work with? And in what way?

The Tanzania Kongoni Estate coffee is a very interesting one and one of the most difficult coffees I have roasted.

I roasted a total of 9 batches before I was happy with the outcome. Even with small adjustments to the roasting profile the differences between roasts were significant. 

Do you have a ritual when you roast? (Ie Listen to music, specific days or times of day)

Tuesday is our roasting day, we aim to have the roasting completed in the morning and start delivering on Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning. 
However if we receive orders on a Wednesday we understand having to wait 6 days for your fresh coffee can be very long so you will find the roaster is working most days either fulfilling orders or doing our own experimental roasts for blends and new single origins. Except for weekends, weekends we serve our coffee hot and fresh!

What is your favourite thing about being a coffee roaster?

I really enjoy a good coffee. I enjoy taking a green bean and bringing those delicious flavours out of it, to make that good coffee. The ultimate reward and satisfaction come from seeing my customers enjoy that coffee equally as much. Whether they buy the beans or our fresh, hot coffee, if they enjoy it, I am happy.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in the pursuit of delicious coffee? 

Well, not everything you try are always successful. I decided it would be interesting to ferment some green beans at home, it seemed the rage at the time. The first batch was interesting and not unpalatable. The second batch didn’t receive the focus it deserved, it was winter in Cape Town, it might have gotten wetter than wet, longer than needed. The resulting coffee wasn’t a bad coffee, it was completely undrinkable. Not even the most polite in-laws would drink it. I hung on to those beans for the longest time, thinking something might click and I would save it. It ended in the bin not that long ago.

Please tell us a little known fact, completely un-coffee related, that will give readers some insight into who you are as a person.

I used to do trail running and enjoyed the challenge of an ultra-distance. It’s a mental game as much as a physical challenge because there is just no way you can do a practice run for the longer distances. In the end it is your mind that carries you over the finish line. I am particularly proud of completing a 100 Miler. Life has been a little fast paced lately but I’m hoping to get back into it in the near future as I have some unfinished business to take care of.

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