Emily is the Roastery Operations Manager & Production Roaster here at Climpson & Sons - and quite possibly the most interesting person, in a company full of interesting people. It would take a book to cover her life story thus far, but until she writes it, we’ll have to stick to an abridged version of her coffee experience.
Coffee roasting can at times seem to be something of a magical and mysterious process, so we thought it was high time that we caught up with Emily to help demystify coffee roasting and talk micro roasting at home.
The compulsory question: How did you get started in coffee, and consequently roasting?
I got started in coffee right after I finished University,in Asheville,North Carolina, USA. I needed a job while I was working part-time in a community engagement project and I ended up being a barista at a specialty grocery market in Athens, Georgia (USA). I moved to Pittsburgh, PA and worked at my first ‘3rd wave’ job, where I was recruited for a roasting job. I then ended up moving to Olympia,WA to start roasting around 2009. I started in coffee as a barista, as a necessity to make ends meet, but ended up being able to develop my skills, through palate development and purely from showing up on time.
What’s the biggest misconception about coffee roasters? I.e. If there was a ‘what people think I do vs. what I actually do’ meme of your day to day job, what would it be?
Well, a lot of people in my family think that I am behind a bar all day, making coffee drinks. Friends think that I just drink coffee all day long. Trust that I am doing those things about 1% of the time. The other 99% of the time, I am trying to solve problems, hefting bags of green coffee around and making green beans turn brown on our Loring coffee roaster.
Seriously though, what is it about coffee that gets you out of bed?
I believe that coffee is a ‘unifier’. It plays a role in family and social activity and I’m glad to have a part in many people’s daily lives, whether they know me or not.
How much or how little does the industry know about roasting coffee? How much more is there still to learn?
There is so much left to learn. Compared to the wine industry, we are very much in the dark about a lot of the hows and the whys of coffee. There are a few people doing good, well thought out research out there, and I believe that we will soon not be so much in the dark. There is a lot of research in coffee science being done at institutions such as UFLA in Brazil and UC Davis in California.
Do you think coffee roasting will change in the years to come?
Without a doubt. Every roaster has their own approach and understanding, as well as their own personal tastes. Within all those factors, there will be innovation and advancement in roasting, not only as a craft but also as a science.
If someone were interested in just getting involved in the roasting coffee side of things, where should they start?
As a career, I would advise that someone interested in being a professional coffee roaster, first spend time behind the bar in a cafe or restaurant. It is there that a person can begin to understand who the consumer is, what they like, how to make coffee and understand how it becomes a brewed solution. Once a foundation of knowledge is there, start attending industry events such as cuppings, lectures and events around coffee. There are lots of importers and roasters in London who have public tastings. Get on those email newsletter lists (Climpsons has one!)
If a person is a hobbyist, I would tell them to start reading blogs (Scott Rao and James Hoffman have great ones, that are both well informed and opinionated). The Coffee Roaster’s Companion by Scott Rao is a valuable tome with lots of information about developing roast curves and the basics of what is happening in the roasting process. From there, you should take a home roasting course with me!
Tell us about the Home Roasting course here at Climpsons.
I teach a lot of theory: basic thermodynamics, chemistry and mechanics of roasting. I want every person to walk away from the course understanding the hows and whys of coffee roasting. There is some cupping, where we are tasting different roast approaches of the same coffee, some lecturing, some Q&A time, hands-on time with the IKAWA home roaster to play around and put what we have learnt into practice.
Plus, there are always snacks and coffee.
Why is a micro roaster, like the Ikawa Home Roaster, a good thing?
The IKAWA Home is the world’s first digital home roaster. Since it is controlled by an app, each recipe is 100% repeatable. Also, you can take your recipes with you on your phone and put them in action on someone else’s roaster. You can send them, as text messages or emails to anyone using the IKAWA home roasting app. It is so safe to use, since there is no exposed flame. It can be stored and used on your kitchen countertop. Its footprint is small, and once you have a roast recipe that you like, it is as easy as measuring out 50 grams of coffee and pressing the ‘go’ button on the roaster.
For the industry, we use the Pro model made by IKAWA. I have used it for taking my recipes with me to roasting competitions. I have also sent my recipes to importers so that they can better understand what Climpson’s roast approach is.
What’s the one most single mistake that home roasters make?
Using cheap or faulty equipment. The old adage of ‘buy nice or buy twice’ is 100% applicable to roasting machines.
You can learn from Emily on how to make ‘green beans turn brown’ by signing up here for our Home Roasting Course.