Roaster's Guild Retreat, 2015

Each year the Roaster's Guild organizes a retreat to get folks from around the world together to learn, network, develop skills, and share information and experiences.  This year, World Coffee Research (WCR) presented their research on coffee plant varieties and their work to develop a coffee lexicon, which will be used to discuss the quality attributes of plant varieties.  Research has indicated that there is startlingly little genetic variation among arabica varieties — 2% or less variation.  This means arabica coffee, as a species is relatively vulnerable to diseases.  WCR is hoping to keep quality at the forefront as research is done to expand the gene pool.  You can read more about WCR's coffee lexicon on their site.

This year's challenge was titled "Sweetness is my weakness:"

You will be asked to call on many of your skills as roasters to develop a blend that brings out the sweetness from a blend of processing methods. Each team will be presented with a unique opportunity to select from four process methods of a single varietal from a single farm. All of the coffee was harvested at the same time but processed quite differently. You will use your skills to select, roast and blend to accentuate a sweet, flavorful cup.

One of the processing methods was called "pulped raisin."  The explanation for it was that after a period of heavy rainfall, the cherries ripened much faster than expected on the tree and before they could get it harvested, it began to shrivel up like a raisin on the trees.  They harvested it and dry-processed it and found that it had a unique sweetness to it.  Unfortunately, our team was unable to find the unique sweetness they mentioned (nor did another team we talked to) but the challenge was fun none-the-less.  There were 19 teams this year and each team was responsible for coming up with a team name and making a team poster.  Our team name was "Hold The Heat."  Some of the posters can be seen below:

  • RGRetreat 2015 team 15
  • RGRetreat 2015 maillards
  • RGRetreat 2015 inglorious
  • RGRetreat 2015 hold

This year's tent was packed with twenty different roasters; twelve production and eight sample roasters — the largest number for any retreat so far.  While I was very tempted to roast on the Diedrich for sentimental reasons, I stayed true to the spirit of the retreat and only roasted on machines I've never used before, which included a Roaster Dynamics, Proaster, and a San Franciscan.  Below are some pictures from the tent, including several of the exhaust system:

  • roasting tent exhaust
  • gimme fuel, gimme fire!
  • all roasters for challange
  • all roasters challange

More pictures can be seen on my Flickr page.

Michael C. Wright

Michael is a licensed Q Grader, licensed Q Processor Pro, an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST), and most recently, a graduate with a degree in horticulture and a concentration in horticultural business management. He has over ten years experience in the coffee industry operating on both the supply and demand sides of the value chain.