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Wow, what a great experience it was to attend the first ever 2016 Roasters Camp in Estonia. I have walked away with a much better understanding of this fascinating industry and I’m sure with time, as like anything, I will continue to develop as a roaster.

The camp was very well set up and a great amount of thought went into every bit of detail. Edwin and I went there with the intention to walk away with a wide spectrum of knowledge. While booking, we chose opposing classes in order to absorb knowledge, which will assist us in all aspects of ‘Curious Roo’, Artisan’s new roasting business.

Day 1

Day one started off with registration and all attendees were given a bag full of useful goods, as well as roasting related pamphlets. We then went into the main room and were briefed about what the camp would consist of over the next three days. Everyone was super excited to get the show on the road, which was a great sign to see. I sat there wondering what to expect. We all went out to the foyer, grabbed some coffee and snacks (this was supplied in copious amounts over the three days) and then spilt up into our chosen classes.
My first class was with Jamie Bramwell from Diedrich Roasters. The class was a presentation based talk on Developing Flavour, which was really interesting and all aspects of roasting were discussed. I found out that Diedrich roasters use three types of heat; conductive, connective as well as radiant heat. Several topics were discussed but most people battled to keep up with writing down the information. We had been speaking about different roast profiles and how it affects the roast and then a cupping table was set up with these very same coffees for us to try. I was amazed how such a small adjustment in the roast process can affect the flavour profile completely. Once we had cupped the coffee we went for lunch (amazing food, I’m so fat right now) and then spent the remainder of the afternoon with the whole camp discussing industry related topics. In the evening we had dinner (ah, this food is killing me, nom nom nom) and then had a team challenge. By now the day was already into the 12th hour, but I was very excited to give it a go. We had three challenges. Sorting out green bean defects, cupping taint water and then a practical workshop to roast a specific roast profile. It was an amazing experience and a lot was learnt. After almost a 16-hour day we decided to throw in the towel and call it a night.

Day 2

Day two started off with a glorious breakfast at 07h30; then we headed to the hall to begin the day. We all gathered in the hall and charged ourselves with amazing coffee and snacks to fuel our brains for the long day ahead. The class I had chosen was called Follow The Curve and was held by Joanna Alm from Drop Coffee and Andy Benedikter who is the executive sales manager for Cropster. The class was a 2-3 hour theory session, which explained the ins and outs of the amazing program Cropster. The program is very informative and takes a short while to get used to all the squiggly lines on the graph. The program provides the roaster with all the relevant information needed to create a great roast. Some of the readings include drum temperature, bean temperature, Rate of Rise (ROR), exhaust gas temperature, drum speed etc. It was very interesting to learn all the information and also how to follow the curve of a specific roast.
We were split into groups after the theory was done and were given a task to follow a specific roast profile. Most groups failed to hit it exactly but it was a great exercise and a lot was learnt. I was lucky to use the Diedrich, which was a very interesting machine to experience as well as seeing what technical features it offers. We were all now in desperate need of some food so we headed off to the dining room and after lunch we headed back for some talks regarding the development of roasters as a career choice. We also had a great chat about coffee ethics, which brought up topics on the affects on unfair payments to farmers as well as the affects on farmers’ lives when money is invested on their farms and infrastructure.

We finished off the afternoon with some more cupping and got to try some great coffee from amazing suppliers such as Falcon, Nordic Approach and Panama Varietals. Most of the coffees that were used on the cupping table were roasted on the Ikawa Pro Sample Roaster. I was fortunate to play around with the amazing product, which has so many options for the roaster to adjust. Ikawa uses a cloud like system, where roasters can access roast profiles, share profiles and send profiles directly to their main roaster using a roast program such as Cropster. I love the fact that this is a portable electric sample roaster that links directly to a tablet – it really makes it super flexible. The night ended off with some amazing food and deep conversations about what was learnt during the day. We were all pretty knackered so we headed off back to our rooms to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for day three, the final day of the camp.

Day 3

Day three started off on a different note to the rest of the days. We had the option of attending a yoga class or to do a 5km run. Some joined in but others like myself decided to catch up with some new friends that were made on camp. We met up for breakfast then started the day off with a very special cupping. These coffees were grown mostly in Brazil however at a microlot where all the beans had been hand selected. This is not a very common method in Brazil due to labour being much higher than in countries such as Kenya for example. The cupping was great and some amazing characters were picked up, which displayed beautifully.
I then attended the final class, which was called ‘It’s Getting Hot In Here’, which was truly an amazing experience. We spoke about roast profiles, development time, bean density as well as roasting techniques. We were given an exercise to pull off and had a choice of four different roasters. The roasters that were available were the Giesen, Probat, Diedrich and the Loring.

My team jumped onto the Giesen as we had not tried this machine as yet and were really impressed with its capabilities. We managed to follow the given curve and ended up with a roast that looked pretty impressive. I have kept a sample and will cup them once they have had a chance to rest a bit. It was great to see roasters, experienced and inexperienced work together and share knowledge with each other. We bagged out roasted coffee then broke up for some lunch. Afterwards, we jumped back into the room and got a chance to cup all the coffees that we roasted in our groups. We cupped them, scored them and then voted for the best cup.

The day was now coming to a close and there were just the awards and group photos to complete before wrapping the camp up. Overall I met some amazing people and made some great friends – I gained so much knowledge but of course this is just part of my challenging but rewarding journey. I would definitely recommend the Roasting Camp to anyone who is thinking of starting a journey into roasting or someone who is already roasting full time. The set up was great, the knowledge shared was world class and every last detail was thought through.