“A few clunks and then the roast crashed…” Roasting The Scottish Aeropress Championship Coffee

This year we are honoured to roast the competition coffee for the ‘Scottish Aeropress Championship’. We didn’t throw our hat in the ring, but shortly after being asked I realised that it’s definitely an opportunity that we wanted. The experience of tasting a coffee that we’ve roasted presented by 36 different people, I expect, is going to be an incredible experience.

We’ve had a really exciting year as we have finally moved all of the coffee we serve in our shops to our own roasts. On the flipside, being that we still deem ourselves to be learning our craft, it has been a daunting task to send out bags to all of the aforementioned competitors who are likely going to dissect our roast searching for that coveted sweet spot.

We want to make this stage of our development (excuse the pun coffee roasters) as engaging and open as possible and therefore thought it would be fun to tell you a bit about how we chose our coffee. It may not be exactly how you think…

During the process of understanding roasting we have quickly concluded that the hardest part isn’t always developing profiles and roasting coffee. Rather sourcing great green beans and managing it’s inventory have proved to be the most challenging part. To this end, choosing the competition coffee was hindered by lethargic transport of coffee from origin and sadly the ear marked beans didn’t arrive in time. Working instead with stocks that we already had led us in the direction of a juicy Tanzanian Peaberry that had been performing great for us in the shop. 

All primed to begin roasting, profiles locked and loaded and with just the right amount of coffee for the purposes of the competition, we began our first of three roasts. About three minutes in, everything went horribly wrong. A few clunks and then the roast crashed as our gas canister ran dry. A huge lesson learnt, but too little too late as the back up competition coffee was now ruined.

 The ultimate roast stall that has Scott Rao sweating in his sleep.

The ultimate roast stall that has Scott Rao sweating in his sleep.

Even those who have never seen a roaster before should be able to see the discrepancy between the red line I was aiming for and the blue line which slowly tails off alongside all my hopes and dreams.

We now had just one day to decide on a replacement coffee, profile it, roast, and bag enough of it to be sent out the following day. Whilst pondering this I chucked some of the coffee that we’d been serving on Batch Brew through an Aeropress and was pleasantly surprised. The big body and hints of peach and orange zest we’d become used to became juicy with slight florals creeping through blackcurrants.

Instant relief set in and after briefly dusting myself off, I dashed back up the A9 to begin roasting our third and last (but by no means least) coffee from the ‘Nano Challa Cooperative’.

After announcements of bag designs were made we decided to maintain an air of mystery around this coffee on social media. We’ve sold it as retail in the shop and didn’t want anyone who may still have a bag to have an edge over other competitors. Now that coffee has hopefully arrived with them however we can finally talk a little about it.

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Farm: Nano Challa Cooperative ‘Lot 21’

Origin : Western Ethiopia

Location : Agaro, Jimma Zone

Process : Washed

Varietal : Heirloom

Altitude : 1850-2100masl

The ‘Nano Challa Cooperative’ (meaning ‘the area above’ in reference to their prime coffee growing location at high altitude) was established in 2004 by an initial 25 farmer members from the Agaro town in the Jimma Zone. These founding members formed the group to foster unity and to share in addressing issues they were facing around finding good buyers for their coffee. Around this time Jimma was an area that was synonymous with low quality natural coffees.

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In 2010 the ‘Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’ provided funding for an initiative to offer technical assistance and training to producer groups. This helps coordinate agronomists and business advisors to help improve coffee quality, assist in management of debt reinvestment and the fair distribution of funds to each coop member.

This helped ‘Nano Challa’ to become the first cooperative in the area to build a washing station to wash coffees like this one. Since, it’s membership has risen to over 400 farmers and the quality improvements have seen the coop’s coffee become some of the finest in the country.

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I really hope that the competitors enjoy the coffee and are able to explore it in ways I wouldn’t have thought. The Aeropress Championship is a fantastic event rooted with the belief that we most definitely share; coffee should be fun! Last year the one and only Ali Duncan won the crown whilst working with us, and we have a great duo of competitors once again this year to represent us.

If you want to grab a bag for yourself then we will be at Stand 50 at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival this Saturday, October 6th. 

COFFEERobi Lambie