Recording coffee roast data – a new analogue option

Image courtesy 33 Books Co.

Though I’ve yet to get my hands on one directly, this bite from Sprudge recently caught my eye. The folk at 33 Books Co in Portland, Oregon, have just released a coffee roasting log: 33 Roasts, which looks just about perfect for an enthusiastic home roaster. Reading about this new offering triggered a few thoughts on how I’ve recorded my home roasting data in the past, and how I might continue from here.

Recording my roasts – so far

While there are many ways to record data when roasting your own green coffee, I’ve generally found analogue systems well suited to my needs, having tried digital methods on and off over the four years I’ve been roasting at home. If I could suggest one thing to someone considering having a go at home roasting, it is to record data somehow. The exact means is not important, however as trends emerge and you look to make adjustments, having something to refer back to is fairly valuable.

So how do I do it? The most obvious means of doing so given my fondness for all things analogue, is a notebook and pen. In the absence of setting up some form of more automated temperature logging and roasting software (the probe, thermocouple and roasting software based “HeatSnob” from Coffee Snobs for example), I have always relied on taking down data points manually (time, temperature and heat settings) — irrespective of whether these end up in something digital or remain on paper. After keeping things in Evernote for a short while, I ended up simply taking the relevant notes down in a pocket-sized Field Notes notebook, and have many filled to the brim with roasting records now safely stored in a shoe box.

Meaningful scrawl in a notebook

In recent months I’ve been using an infrared thermometer gun 1 to capture temperature readings, and manually entering the data on a per minute basis into a spreadsheet template I stumbled across online via the Home Barista Forum. The advantage of course being the roasting curves produced automatically as the data is entered, however I generally don’t have a look at these until the end of the roast, simply following the rate of rise by looking at the temperature change down the column as the roast progresses (also calculated automatically as I enter the raw temperature readings).

Raw data and curves

I’ve found it easier to take note of the readings rather than look at the curve, given I cannot really see it easily working in split view on my 9.7 inch iPad Air 2, with a third of the screen displaying the timer.2

Using one-third split view on iPad for the timer

I have enjoyed using this method, as I can see a visual curve of how the roast progressed, though at times it can become a little tiresome to manually capture and log the temperature readings every minute or so. Again, with dedicated, connected temperature probes this would be a breeze, however that might be a project for another time.

Why the move back to analogue then?

Well, the obvious why not? aside – even when using a spreadsheet, my notebook is always on hand, as I find in the heat of the moment around first crack, it is easier to keep an eye on things and scrawl down the time and temperature data by hand rather than worrying about entering data onto the spreadsheet. Given things can happen fairly quickly at that point in the roast, I usually fill in the blanks on the spreadsheet once the beans are out and cooling.

There are some apparent disadvantages to an analogue system in terms of search, and viewing or manipulating data, however remember we are not talking about a professional, commercial-scale roasting operation here (very far from it actually). Most times in the past I’ve flagged the great roasts and referred back to my previous records be they digital or analogue fairly easily anyway. Having recently begun creating a digital index of my analogue archives (irony not lost), I plan to get around to my roasting logs and do the same. Of course keeping on top of things like this as I go would be a much better idea. You might be surprised how easily things are found with a decently constructed and searchable index. Then again perhaps you might not, for I guess it is common sense really isn’t it.

Finally, there is a simplistic ease in opening a notebook and recording data, without setting up my iPad, opening Numbers, selecting a spreadsheet template, creating a new file, copying some tabs and then entering some preliminary information. Sure, analogue isn’t for everyone, however after using a few different systems (both digital and analogue) over the past four years, I’ve come to know what I like, what I need, and what works best for me.

Reason enough.

33 Roasts: A Coffee Roasting Log

Analogue is well… analogue. Why the need for a pre-formatted option such as this latest offering from the 33 Books company?

For one, I think they look fantastic, and the pre-formatted pages contain just about every field you might need (particularly as a home roaster), along with a notes field for any little extras. A graph to plot those data points on a curve? There as well. Add to that a ratings field for retrospectively adding tasting notes over subsequent days or weeks is also a nice touch.

Image courtesy 33 Books Co.

Speaking of nice touches — from 33 Books Co., something unable to be captured in a pixel:

A teeny, tiny amount of real freshly-roasted coffee is added to the ink in each new edition, which is cryptically noted on the back.

At 5×7 inches — or what I’d call just the right size, the log is similar to my current general note-taker in the Baron Fig Vanguard, or the new upsized Pitch Black Field Notes offering. Incidentally, one my favourite roasting logs in the past was the Field Notes Arts & Sciences edition, which came in at this same slightly larger-than-pocket size.

Signing off

In noting down these thoughts on my coffee roasting logs, of course I’ve yet to get my hands on one of those beauties from 33 Books Co., however the fine folk at Bookbinders are on the case and will come through with the goods pretty soon – of that I’m certain.

Having just taken delivery of a new coffee roaster (another post for another time), what better time to start afresh with my data logging process – and for that, the 33 Roast Log seems pretty much spot on.


  1. Although the readings lack validity, they are reliable for comparisons of minute to minute absolute temperature, and to monitor rate of rise over the course of the roast. ↩︎
  2. Yes I could indeed use my phone or some other time, however the size of the iPad screen is ideal to have the timer visible from a distance. ↩︎

Of MICE and Melbourne

Far from a detailed travel diary or extensive review of the city’s coffee scene, after recently spending a week in Melbourne, I did have a few thoughts to share.

At its heart, the trip was all about visiting family to celebrate a milestone birthday, which coincidentally occurred over the same weekend as the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) for 2017. A brief visit to Pen City aside — as far as the usual themes of this blog are concerned — the trip was certainly more coffee than pens.

A couple of hundred photos, along with 45 Day One entries logged the journey, which was as much as I would have liked to record without feeling I was constantly fiddling with my phone.

A week-long extravaganza of family, coffee, exploration, and food — not too much to dislike about that really.

MICE 2017

Entering the expo in the Grand Pavilion at the Melbourne Showgrounds brings two words to mind: sensory overload. Add to that a fair amount of overwhelm for this first time attendee. It was certainly an experience, and took my wife and I an hour or so just to get our bearings and settle in to things.

Perhaps of greater risk at such an event is caffeine overload, given the samples on offer from the many, many booths of specialty coffee purveyors. My initial voluntary restraint (given my uncertainty as to how these things work) was ably assisted in the latter part of the morning by the throngs of show goers pouring in the door. Pro-tip for next time: get in early and be just a little more aggressive with the tasting, for there will be a natural slow-down as lines and crowds increase over the day.

Show purchase: Pullman Chisel

Espresso-based beverages, batch and manually brewed, chai and milk alternatives. It was all there for the palate to behold, and although I didn’t sample everything I’d have liked (Five Senses Geisha Flight anyone), I came away very happy. Combine that with the many producers, roasters, brewers, custom machines, and gadgets in general — not to mention the competition stage in full swing — it was certainly an experience to behold and a must-see at some point for any coffee enthusiast.

After picking up a couple of tools for home and a kilo and a half of coffee, the icing on the cake was catching up with some industry folk who have become friends over the years, and seeing some of them in their absolute element competing. To say it was inspirational only scratches the surface.

Both my wife and I loved every minute of it.

Coffee out and about

As you can imagine over the course of the week, more than a few cafés were visited both in the CBD and suburbs. For the purpose of this post, the specifics of particular establishments are not important, being largely determined simply by proximity, perhaps a glance at Beanhunter, and occasionally by reputation.

If we assume Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia as many perhaps suggest, then we’d expect a few points around this statement to also ring true. Namely, that the coffee is great, there is plenty of it, and it is easily found and readily available. On these criteria I’d say the city certainly ticks all of the boxes.

Does it “blow-your-mind” (for want of a better phrase) any differently to a “blow-your-mind” coffee in any other city — here in Brisbane included? No it doesn’t — and of course I wouldn’t expect it to. Outstanding coffee from the world’s quality producers, roasted by very talented people, and served to you by equally talented baristas can generally be found in most cites around the country.

The usual “oh you’re going to Melbourne? You’ll find some great coffee down there” is certainly 100% true, however on a day-to-day basis I can find equally great coffee in Brisbane as well. That of course says more about Australia’s specialty coffee scene than that of Melbourne per se — and as consumers — we are certainly far better for it.

For reference, I logged many drinks with a Launch Center Pro template on my phone which added a formatted entry straight into Day One. My system is a simple one, and uses a four star rating. The coffee ratings from the trip ran the full gamut from one star right through to a full four. Again, the particular establishments themselves are not important, however for a couple I visited more than once, I’d say the usual challenge of consistency is certainly not tied to geographical location around the country.

Probably the more relevant question in all of this is whether, upon closer and more rigorous analysis, am I more likely to find a greater number of my arbitrary “four star” establishments in Melbourne? Am I more likely to stumble upon great coffee rather than have to specifically seek it out or know where to look?

I’d say the answer to both these questions is most likely yes, however shouldn’t we expect that for a significantly larger population than somewhere like Brisbane for example? Maybe, maybe not — however I think you get what I mean.

In summary, as for Melbourne’s coffee scene in terms of quality, availability and service? Absolutely loved it. It was fantastic to explore a little, see what’s on offer, and was in most cases a joy to experience. Being back home again in Brisbane, am I now yearning for more or lamenting the options available to me? Absolutely not, and that is a great position to be in, and for that I’m certainly thankful to the hard-working and passionate Brisbane coffee industry folk.

The decaf section

The trip also contained its fair share of activities unrelated to coffee, despite what the paragraphs above would have you believe.

As mentioned at the outset, there were family birthday celebrations involving lawn bowls, the usual tourist spots (National Gallery of Victoria, Shrine of Remembrance, and Eureka Skydeck to name a few), many trams and a good measure of dining. Add to that some general city meanderings and some obligatory shopping and we round out a fairly… well, rounded trip.

Despite being given the short shrift here by word count, of course the largest slice of the trip pie chart was made up of these activities. It wasn’t all about me and coffee — though when those opportunities arose they were taken with both hands.

Summing up

Sharing time with family will always be the highlight of any trip like this one. Of course time being the valuable resource — there will always be more coffee.

Beyond that it would be the visit to MICE, and walking amongst some very passionate, talented and hardworking coffee industry professionals. Absorbing as much as possible in an environment which only feeds into a cup already brimming with enthusiasm — and yes — perhaps a little obsession with all things coffee.

Finally, a dip into the Melbourne coffee scene is always something I welcome periodically, and on this occasion it was as enjoyable and enlightening as ever. Far from a lone beacon of specialty coffee — it is more accurately one tower in a series of stadium lights all around the country, collectively illuminating everything Australian specialty coffee has to offer.

Thinking of MICE 2018? Yep – you’ve gotta go.

The Bean Brewding Brisbane Northside Coffee Tour

Having attended a couple of Brisbane coffee tours run by Glenn and George at Bean Brewding over the last two or three years, I recently felt it was time to get along for another.

Green coffee at Semi-Pro

As I’ve mentioned before, the tours are a great way to discover new coffee destinations, or for places already familiar to you — experience a more detailed look “under the hood” at a cafe or roastery and hear more about the coffee industry itself. As an amateur enthusiast, after spending many years researching and learning about the craft, I can guarantee there is no better way to further develop your coffee skills and knowledge than interacting with those who work within the industry on a daily basis. Of course I’d also recommend any of the tours for simply a fun morning out with plenty of coffee — what’s not to like about that!

So, on a sunny Saturday morning in April, it was Brisbane’s Northside which played host to a dozen or so coffee tourists eager to see more, learn, and sample some of this town’s finest coffee offerings.

The Tour

Semi-Pro Coffee

Our first stop and meeting point was Semi-Pro coffee in North Lakes, where we took a closer look at coffee roasting. Gracious hosts Jason and Tim provided an insight into their roasting philosophy and processes, creating a profile for a naturally processed Brazilian coffee while we watched things unfold both in the roaster, and on the Cropster software in front of us.

Monitoring roasting curves at Semi-Pro

Some further discussion on topics such as rate of rise, charge temperature and development time (amongst other things), took us to the end of the session, by which time we had also sampled an earlier roast of the same full-bodied and nutty Brazilian coffee.

The tour that keeps on giving

After the freshly roasted coffee had sufficiently cooled, each of us bagged, labelled and sealed some to take home.

Certainly a fine way to start the tour and the morning.

Semi-Pro Coffee
6/37 Flinders Parade, North Lakes, QLD 4059
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The Wired Owl Coffee Co.

A sort trip down the road to Sandgate brought us to The Wired Owl Coffee Co, a real suburban gem and true destination venue in its own right, which coincidentally was celebrating its second birthday that very day. Owners Aaron and Tracey (along with a very efficient team) were on hand to ensure the visit was a success. Here the emphasis was on taking the time to stop, sit down, and enjoy some great coffee.

Oh and great it was indeed, with Aaron serving a naturally processed coffee from fifth generation El Salvador producer Aida Batlle, and sharing the story behind one of the highlights from the Wolff Roasters coffee offerings from the past year.

Aaron from The Wired Owl sharing the Aida Batlle story

Those on the tour tasted the Finca Kilimanjaro coffee as an espresso and a flat white, comparing the sweet and syrupy dark berry flavours of each. My pick – the espresso, however both were outstanding, and testament to the passion and high standard of quality and service you will find out in Brisbane’s suburbs if you know where to look.

A short note to mention that Aaron and Tracey are very dear friends, and nothing makes me prouder than watching their hard work develop The Wired Owl into one of Brisbane’s finest suburban cafés. So yes, perhaps I am a little biased, however I encourage you to visit for yourself and enjoy everything it has to offer.

The Wired Owl Coffee Co.
227 Rainbow St, Sandgate, 4017
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Neli Coffee

For the final stop on the tour it was back to a little science with Ed and Alex at Neli Coffee in Redcliffe. Here we learned about and compared the moisture content and density of various green coffees from different parts of the world.

Ed from Neli Coffee talking moisture content and bean density

After a quick trip outside to view and sample the sweetness of some coffee cherries growing in the Neli Coffee “car park microlot”, we moved onto sampling some of the renowned geisha varietal brewed by filter, some cleansing Cascara (a tea-like brew from the outer pulp of the dried coffee cherries), and of course a little more espresso.

A new kind of caffeine high

A demonstration of some new and innovative brewing methods also accompanied some general coffee Q&A (with prizes!), and was a great way to conclude the tour. As well as some great coffee, Neli’s soon to be renovated roastery and retail area has quite an array of devices for the home enthusiast and is well worth a visit.

Neli Coffee
293 Macdonnell Rd, Clontarf, 4019
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Summing Up

Another region of Brisbane, and another tour completed. I must admit to having an ever-increasing amount of knowledge relating to Brisbane’s coffee industry thanks to the team at Bean Brewding.

If there is one thing I would say about these tours, it is they are a relaxed, fun, and very informative way to expand your coffee skills and knowledge. For many attendees, coffee is of course not simply one of our favourite beverages, but a passionate enthusiasm for the craft itself, and the industry bringing it to us.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, attendance on a Bean Brewding Coffee Tour certainly comes highly recommended from me — whether you are new to specialty coffee or have been dabbling for some time. Either way, you’ll feel right at home and learn a considerable amount to help you on your journey — which in itself is likely to be a lifelong one.

The next tour? Find out more on the Bean Brewding Tour Page. If you cannot make it along, I’m thinking the next best thing would be some Bean Brewding freshly roasted coffee.

Related posts:

Bean Brewding Coffee Launch

Readers of the blog may recall I have attended the odd coffee tour around Brisbane, run by the friendly, yet professional team at Bean Brewding. I’ve written about some of those occasions in previous posts:

Now come the beans

Partnering with well-respected and award-winning local QLD roaster Manna Beans, you can now get your hands on some of Bean Brewding’s own roasted coffee for your home brewing needs.

Kicking things off with your choice of either a blend or single origin offering from El Salvador, the recently launched Bean Vault complements the Coffee Tour side of Bean Brewding perfectly. Judging by the tasting notes, either coffee will result in a great tasting cup, and a couple of bags of the aptly titled (and coffee tour themed) Great Day Out blend are on their way to my mailbox. I’m always particularly interested in blend expressions and interpretations, and this combination of Colombian, Brazilian, and Ethiopian origins sounds like a beauty – well worth an extra bag to pass onto a friend.

If you are thinking of sampling what I’d say will be a pretty impressive brew – now is the time to do it. For a limited time, the team are offering a Self-Guided coffee tour from their stable of offerings free with any bean purchase. Why not end up with a glimpse into the Bean Brewding tour portfolio as well as a bag of beans to boot?

The finish

With Bean Brewding having been in existence since 2010, George and Glenn’s limitless dedication, passion, and thirst for greater knowledge and understanding of coffee is only surpassed by their desire to share it with the broader Brisbane community.

With ties to the Brisbane coffee community strengthening with each year of tours, there was of course no better way to expand things a little further than with their own line of coffee.

I’d highly recommend giving the coffee a try, and perhaps we can compare tasting notes on a future tour…

Check out the coffee here.

What’s Brewing: Kayon Mountain – Ethiopia (Natural)

In the latter half of 2016, a number of fantastic coffees come through my usual green bean supplier Ministry Grounds. This naturally processed Ethiopian certainly stood out, resulting in a repeat order for an additional couple of kilograms to go into the yearly festive blend given to family and friends at Christmas. There may have also been the expectation a little would be “left-over”, which I would have to take care of myself of course!

The Region

In relation to Shakiso and its surrounds, where the Kayon Mountain farm is located — Wikipedia tells us:

Shakiso is a town in Southern Ethiopia, in the Guji zone of the Oromia region, an area known for gold and titanium mining, along with native forests. Guji is bordered on the south by Borena, on the west by the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, on the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale and on the east by the Somali Region. The highest point in this zone is Mount Dara Tiniro. Cities and major towns in this Zone include its administrative center, Negele.

Sorting station in Ethiopia (Photo by

Sorting station in Ethiopia (Photo Pete Lewis; Wikimedia Commons)

Many outstanding coffees originate in and around Guji, and it is not uncommon to see many pop up in the offerings of speciality roasters as the season comes around each year. Generally, if you are looking for some berry flavours in your cup, just about anything from this region would be a great place to start.

The Coffee

The following information courtesy of Ministry Grounds:

The Kayon Mountain coffee farm is a local family-run enterprise with over 30 years experience in the production of Guji coffees.

The family’s rich experience has included many years of seed selection and nurturing of heirloom local varieties. Two spring fed nurseries are maintained to for the planting of seedlings in the loamy-clay soils of Kayon and coffee is grown in a semi-forest environment under native Acacia trees.

  • Coffee: Kayon Mountain – Ethiopia
  • Region: Guji, Oromia
  • Area: Taro kebele, Odo Shakiso district
  • Altitude: 1900–2200 masl
  • Process: Natural
  • Varieties: Mixed Heirloom
  • Harvest: November-January
  • In the cup: Strawberries & cream, stewed apple, toffee & jam aroma, medium acidity, creamy body with notes of strawberry jam, cherry, blueberry, candied fruits & chocolate with a clean finish

The Brew

Here, things have been many and varied — from tasting and testing both filter and espresso roasts for the festive blend I’ve referred to above, to full immersion cold brewing, pour overs on ice, and the occasional iced latte (given the usual hot summer weather here in Brisbane).

img_6846

A little of the annual Festive Blend ready to roll out the door

As I’ve alluded to above, an Ethiopian naturally processed coffee was a good place to start when seeking some berry flavours for the annual festive blend. With this flavour the predominant aim, the Kayon Mountain comprised 60% by weight, with the remaining 40% a washed El Salvador — Finca Patagonia — providing deeper plum notes for the filter roast. For the espresso roast, the remaining 40% was shared equally by the Finca Patagonia, along with Guatemala Ceylan, which added a little more body and chocolate flavours. Overall, the blends were reasonably successful in achieving my aim regarding the overall flavour profiles, and feedback has been positive from those who received some at Christmas.

The Kayon Mountain brewed as a single origin? Equally well received, however I must admit most of the small amount remaining I kept for myself.

When prepared as espresso1, a lovely rich cup resulted, with strawberry and blueberry flavours, followed by a rich chocolate finish. With milk as a latte or flat white, again those berry flavours were at the forefront, and combined with a little chocolate, the overall profile resembled a Cherry Ripe.

Even if purchased with filter brewing in mind, it is certainly worth running through your machine as well, regardless of roast level. I honestly don’t think you would be disappointed.

With filter brewing2, a clean, crisp, full flavoured cup ensued, with flavours of red berries, a hint of blueberry and chocolate with a creamy, medium bodied, lingering finish. Most of my filter brewing was done using a V60, along with kicking off many a December morning in the office with the AeroPress — both providing equally impressive results. As you’d expect, the V60 produced a cleaner, more nuanced cup, however there were no complaints about the AeroPress brew, from either myself, or my office coffee pals Tracey and Andrea, whom I must thank for determining the final ratios for the festive blend.

2017-01-26-cold-brew-kayon-post

Anyone for another?

Last but by no means least cold brewing. Although a couple of 1 litre batches were indeed “cold brewed” using full immersion over 16-18 hours (similar to this method), I’m also partial to hot brewing and flash chilling — using a V60 over a jug of ice. This method simply involves around half of your usual brewing water already in the vessel as ice, with the remaining half off the boil as usual for brewing a V60 (the dose generally being a little higher than what you might otherwise use). If you’re interested and have not yet delved into the world of iced pour over brewing, perhaps use this as a guide.

Depending on your preference, while adding milk to either of these chilled brews is an option, doing so mutes a little of the richer berry flavours. When consumed black (my first preference, with only one test cup consumed with milk), I’d have to say it was definitely one of the more refreshing drinks I consumed over summer. When you have four or five 200ml bottles of cold brew stashed in the fridge, it becomes mighty hard to limit consumption to a reasonable level on those hot days.

The Finish

I think you get the idea.

2017-01-26-ice-latte-kayon-post

Iced latte at the ready

I have been quite taken by this fabulous naturally processed coffee from the Kayon Mountain farm in Ethiopia. Having been put through a wide array of brewing methods over the course of the past few months, it handled all with aplomb.

My preference — despite enjoying it across all forms of brewing is probably by filter, although the bias introduced by these long, hot days of summer probably push the cold brew into first place.

If you are able to get your hands on some, I for one highly recommend it.

  1. For reference, espresso brewing was done on a Sunbeam EM7000, using a 1:2 brew ratio – that is 19-21g dose, yielding 40-44g in the cup. ↩︎
  2. My filter brewing is typically done at a 1:17 ratio. ↩︎