The Coffee Roasters Companion By Scott Rao

Title: The Coffee Roasters Companion
Author: Scott Rao
Publisher: Scott Rao; 1st edition (2014)
Published: 2014
ISBN: 1495118193
My rating:     

The book has 17 chapters in only 78 pages with a relatively large font. Some chapters get more attention than others, as is expected but in general, I’d say this is a good first shot across the bow, so to speak, but I am left wanting more after reading it (mostly in a good way). There are a couple of places in the book where I’d like to read more about the statistics he’s generated from the reams of roast data he mentions. I think that would help me to understand his concepts better.

If you are looking for “tactical” solutions in the book (as I did initially), you’ll be disapointed. Now, years after the book has been published, there is more supplemental information available; interviews he’s done about the book, forums where he’s joined discussions about how to implement his system, articles he’s written to further clarify concepts, etc. Having gone through a lot of that extra info, I have a better appreciation for the book and what he’s hoping to accomplish, which is to advance the discussion about roasting—intentionally at the cost of the craft aspect of roasting and in favor of the science aspect.

Setting a goal for your reading

If you start the book with a realistic goal in mind you’ll get more value out of it. For me, that goal would be to learn about bean development, which to Rao means achieving a good, consistent cook from the outer portion of the bean to the inner portion. The theme he returns to throughout the book is that a good roast is one that allows for the development of both the inner and outer bean temps, eventually getting the two to the same point or very near it and doing so gradually and consistently throughout the process of a roast. This is achieved through his three commandments:

  1. Thou shalt apply adequate energy at the beginning of a roast
  2. The bean temperature progression shalt always decelerate
  3. First crack shalt begin at 75% to 80% of total roast time

I have found in my roasting experience, that since reading this book and incorporating chunks of Rao’s roasting philosophy into my own, my roasts have improved. At a minimum, in trying to learn how to overcome the flick and crash, which is likely the most difficult part of his system/philosophy, I have become much more effective at controlling my machine.

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.