You may have noticed that there are a lot of people roasting speciality coffee these days. How do you know that the folks roasting your coffee are any good at it?
It's not an easy question to answer, but I have thoughts.
We'll skip over the obvious stuff, like buying good ingredients, being mindful of environmental issues, treating employees well - all those things ought to be a given in any business.
Within the coffee roasting world, it's hard to take a roaster seriously if they don't tell you when the coffee was roasted or where it came from - but again, within speciality coffee, these sorts of things should go without saying.
All roasters have a distinct sense of how they think coffee should be roasted. It could be about roasting to a certain colour, or to suit a specific brewing style. Are they known for their blends?, or do they specialise in finding amazing single origin lots?
I remember the day when I realised I'd figured out the whole roasting thing. Looking back, it's funny that I ever thought that. Still, you don't know what you don't know, right?
I soon realised that there was a lot that I didn't understand. On a personal level, this was something of a breakthrough. I knew that there would always be more to learn, and I was okay with that. It holds true a decade on. It's one of the things that keeps me fascinated.
The skill that a roaster develops along the way helps them to bring their roasting philosophy to life. It takes a long time.
This is the big one. Understanding enough about what is happening, so that you can consistently maintain the quality of your roasting is the most important thing. It doesn't matter how good you are if you're not good consistently.
If there's one thing that's guaranteed to put me off ordering from a roaster, it's inconsistency. There is nothing more disappointing than ordering another bag of those beans you got last week to find that the roast is not up to scratch the second time round.
Consistency is about having high standards and ways of making sure that they are always being met. Technology helps with this, alongside rigorous processes for testing each and every batch. You need a team that is dedicated and passionate about pushing for excellence too.
Assuming that your roaster ticks all these boxes, it's then down to whether they like the same things as you do. If they source beans that you love to drink, and they consistently do a good job roasting it, then you've found yourself a good coffee roaster.