19 Aug 2020

Profiling for Best of Panama 2020: Shapes & Dials

The Best of Panama auction is renowned for showcasing some of the finest coffees in the world.

Last year we had the privilege of traveling to Panama to hold roasting workshops, and held a cupping of the BOP winners which you can read about here.

While things are different this year, and the judging for Best of Panama was held remotely, we are continuing our support and have worked with Josh Tarlo, 2018 UK Barista Champion and Head of Coffee for London based roaster Kiss the Hippo, to  create official sample roast profiles for the Auction Lots.

In this post, Josh explains his approach to creating the official roast profiles.

In roasting I tend to go by one rule, you can’t add anything to the coffee you can only highlight or destroy. We’re not making coffee, we’re editing coffee. We’re taking a piece of work in its raw form and shaping it so that its intended audience will get as stoked as possible about it.

When I was asked to create the Best of Panama profiles for IKAWA I felt my job was the same as when I buy green. It was not to interpret what the consumer wants which is a key part of production profiling, it is to showcase the most ostentatious and vibrant versions of the lots as possible. No one scores a coffee a 90 because of its caramel note, they do it because of all the fruit, floral or unique flavours. That means the profile shouldn’t be about satisfying a consumer preference, it should be about vibrancy, about how loud a coffee can be.

Roasting for vibrancy in green buying is important because if you don’t know the potential of a coffee you don’t really know it and so won’t know what you can do with it. They’re ain’t no strawberry acidity button on any roaster but there is ways to kill that acidity or put a spotlight on it. Manipulating a coffees character is turning its dials up and down, more acidity or less, more sweetness or less and this is at the heart of profiling. But before we look at dials though we need to look at something more fundamental, shapes.


A profile shape is the shape of all the probe data as displayed on your roast tracking software. Most of us who roast on a drum roaster have ideas of what your own ideal bean probe s-curve profile shape is, it might be fast in the beginning, slow in the end, whatever floats your boat. We are all though just tweaking the same s-curve shape because the s- curve shape is dictated by the machine its self. Put cool coffee in a hot drum and that is the shape you get. This means it’s likely we don’t know what shape is the best for coffee, it’s just the one we got because of the equipment we use.

Using the IKAWA though we can actually create new shapes instead of just being limited to the s-curve. In creating the BOP profiles I cupped through dozens and dozens of different shapes, just looking to see what on the cupping table made the coffee’s flavours explode. In the end I was left with something like an s-curve but looking more like an up-side down hockey stick.

The hockey stick gives me the most vibrancy of the coffee character across the most common screen sizes of traditional lots, gesha and pacamara varietals. Once I have my shape I look at turning the dials of the coffee to accentuate the coffees most unique characteristics.


The coffee dials are the attributes in a coffee we can change when we roast. The most obvious one is bitterness, just make it darker. You can kill acidity through baking, you can create a tea like body with low end point and low development. These are all tools in the tool box depending what you’re trying to do. Although there are many two of them sit upstream to most of what matters when looking to make a coffee as vibrant as possible, the dials that control sweetness and acidity. When using the hockey stick here’s how to turn those dials.


The sweetness of a given coffee, especially those in the high 80’s can be manipulated by changing its characteristic. Coffees in the high 80’s tend to have sweetness rooted in fruit flavours or a refined sugar character. This kind of sweetness can be either preserved in its fruit character or it can be roasted to make seem more like a darker sugar. You cannot do this with lower scoring coffee so when roasting to buy you should look capture the most fruit driven coffee possible.

The best way to do this is in the development of the coffee. Taking the shape here we want to extend development time as long as possible before the refined or fruit sweetness begins to break down.


When tasting the higher end of coffee they typically display a high level of acidity. It is rare to find a low acid coffee over 86. This means we should look to find the ceiling of acidity for a coffee. To do this look towards your end point. It should be as low as possible without compromising on the sweetness.

Best of Panama is some of the most remarkable coffees in the world. Tasting them is among the most powerful sensory experiences you can have in coffee. How we approach the BOP auction cupping is how we should approach tasting every coffee for the first time. By giving the coffee the best possible chance to show us what makes it special.


The roast profiles are included in each Auction Lot Sample Set, but even if you’re not planning to bid, you might find these profiles useful to explore – especially with Josh’s insights in mind.

Huge thank you to Josh for developing these profiles and sharing his approach in this blog.

author-img By Rosie Annabelle Mills-Smith