12 Jul 2018


At SCA Expo in 2018 we hosted a fantastic panel discussion. We wanted to kick-start the conversation around roasting for espresso, a topic we felt needed more open discussion and more data.

On our panel, contributing both their espresso roasts and their insights, were:

Ben Put 

Owner and Roaster at Monogram Coffee in Calgary, Canada. Also the 4x Canadian Barista Champion and 2x 3rd Place finisher in the World Barista Championships.

Jen Apodaca 

Director of Roasting at The Crown, Royal Coffee Inc, Roasting Consultant, Executive Council Member of The Roaster’s Guild.

Geoff Woodley

  I work at IKAWA in London now. Previously, Director of Coffee at DETOUR Coffee in Hamilton, Canada from 2013 – 2017.

Tony Querio 

Director of Coffee at Spyhouse Coffee in Minnesota and the 2016 US Roasting Champion.


I knew we were in a unique position with a unique opportunity – host a discussion about roasting that used comparable, relatable profiles and data. Machine to machine, the IKAWA roasts are directly comparable.

When we discussed which roasting topics to cover, we of course wanted to talk about them all. However, one area that felt very under-discussed was roasting for espresso.

From our experience and research, we didn’t feel like the roasting discussions and knowledge has kept up with the rate that the technology has improved.

The advances in espresso technology over the past 10 years have been incredible. And not just on the espresso machine side – the grinders, the peripherals like tampers and scales and the sharing of knowledge have all increased dramatically.

So, the technology is there to harness the potential in a coffee. Where is the information on how to roast to harness the technology? It’s limited.

How Best To Roast For Espresso

 I won’t make you read the entire article looking for the “best way to roast for espresso”. We don’t have an answer for that specifically, and that wasn’t the point. However, we had an hour and a half with 4 expert panelists (well, 3 and myself) to begin to open the discussion on roasting for espresso.

We felt this was a great opportunity to get the ball rolling, to open some dusty doors and begin to peer into the high-volume world of espresso roasts. Roasting is somewhat solitary – up until now, each roaster (machine) was unique and the data was not transferable between units. This put a wall up around everyone’s knowledge. It’s like everyone had their own language and no translator. We generally knew what people were saying, but we missed the very relevant details.

Using the IKAWA Sample Roaster, we can learn more about roasting for espresso and make espresso easier, and better, for everyone.

With IKAWA, the data is directly related and a roast on one roaster will match the same roast on another roaster (as long as it’s at the same altitude).


T H E  P R E P A R A T I O N

In preparation for the panel, Royal Coffee supplied a solid washed coffee from Narino in Colombia to each panelist. They had 2 weeks to test it and build their espresso profile.

We collected the roast profiles in advance of the panel, made screenshots so the audience could follow along and have now shared them on our Online Profile Library.


T H E  D I S C U S S I O N

iPad PRO roast profile sca lecture ben put

Ben Put:

“One thing that roasting on the IKAWA has highlighted for me is that you roast for your grinder. So, I approached this profile to know that I was extracting a certain percentage with my grinder and my brew ratio. I started with some profiles I have used in the past for Colombian samples and then played with length of roast, first adjusting the development time and then Maillard. “

“The coffee was high in acid so I went longer in roast. And because there seemed to be different varieties with different crack points in the coffee, I went into 1st slowly to give a good amount of time for each to develop.”

Ben also spoke to creating the profile:

“Roasting on an IKAWA shows the evolution of a profile. By saving a roast, adjusting, roasting, saving, etc, it shows my evolution from a sample roast to the final production roast.”


Jen Apodaca:

Jen also started with a sample roast, and spoke of creating an espresso with vibrant acidity, aiming for this to be pulled as a long espresso.

“I enjoy playing with the airflow. I decreased the fan speed at yellowing which increases heat transfer, then made it rise towards the end of the roast for smoke abatement. I kept the same amount of post-crack development as the sample roast to make sure the acidity popped”

To adapt the sample roast she also shortened the drying phase, moving it up by 30 sec to give it more time for maillard to occur.


Geoff Woodley:

I’m a big fan of delicious, easy to work with espressos that anyone can easily enjoy. I also enjoy a great milk drink, like so many cafe goers. My approach was to create a lower-acidity, soluble coffee with lots of body and sweetness. It had to remain honest and accurate to the original green as well.

I used a roast shape that I’ve used in the past with success in espresso and modified for this coffee. The heat is high early to quickly enter the maillard phase and spend a good amount of time there without getting into a really long roast. The heat after first crack increases slowly – this, counterintuitively, helped maintain more acidity, flavour and sweetness. Having a level or declining Exhaust temp after first crack removed character and sweetness.


Tony Querio:

“I approached this as if I was approaching it for my cafe’s purposes. We don’t often have a coffee that is a dedicated single origin espresso. On the cupping table, a coffee will just be obvious that it will be a great espresso.

As roasters your job will be easier if you make the people who serve the end product’s job easier. Keep it simple and be consistent with your roasting style. Develop a signature and consistently do that.”

To begin, Tony used a sample roast profile:

“I started from a sample roast profile that knew works well for med-high density coffees. My team and I cupped that sample to evaluate 3 things: the acidity, the total end temperature and the flavour, looking at what aspect to adjust”.

Tony explained how he focused specifically on the Maillard phase and kept end temp the same as the sample roast. By lowering acidity in the Maillard phase the perceived end temp went up because acidity went down. He also spoke to playing with the airflow a lot, like Jen.

“I reduced airflow as much as possible to leave moisture in the coffee as much as possible which helps maximize heat transfer early in the roast.” Water will conduct heat better than dense cellulose.

P A N E L  D I S C U S S I O N

The conversation went to a lot of places, and you can listen to the full recording of it here.


Ben: “Espresso is often the worst drink we serve. I compare buying an espresso in a shop to buying a lottery ticket. It’s a couple dollars and your odds are 1 in a couple million!” I’m not saying anyone is bad at roasting or brewing, but it’s just so hard. We need to focus on roasting espresso because the whole method is so hard.

Tony: “…espresso is scary. One is espresso to one person is not espresso to another person. When it comes down to filter coffee, it’s pretty consistent. But with espresso all the variables are magnified – you’re putting the weight of a kindergartener through a puck of espresso! Knowing what you do and how you do it helps so much.”

Jen: Paraphrasing a great point: Folks that roast light think it’s so easy to roast dark. And vice versa. Those who roast dark think it’s so easy to roast light.

“I’ll say one thing that I think was a misconception when I was a younger roaster was that we would extend development time quite a bit, reducing and caramelizing sugars, but we are also creating a lot of dry distillates flavours and losing a lot of organic compounds. I would suggest, for a darker roast espresso, reduce the post-crack development time but keep the high end temperature. You’ll be able to get the caramelisation with the high final end temperature but you’ll retain the organic acids that keep that acidity and structure.”

Advice from the panel was use data, use science and understand the principles in coffee roasting – they apply in roasting for espresso as well. Test results in a way that is significant (use science!) and iterate. Patience is needed to learn, but the foundations of good roasting principles will guide your results.

There is lots more in the recording, as the panel talks about pre- and post-blending, roast translation and more.

It was really interesting and satisfying to see that even with the same foundations, there were 4 very different profiles. We weren’t sure how similar the profiles would be, and it was great to see how different the outcomes were with the same coffee. Each was delicious in it’s own way and even with the same foundations and principles, personal style and presentation leaves a ton of room to create an espresso roast that is unique.

author-img By Geoff Woodley