17 May 2022

Small-Batch Roasting: What’s the difference between Sample Evaluation and Profiling?

We often refer to small-batch roasting as ‘sample roasting’. Typically 50-500g of coffee is roasted in a Sample Roaster. Small-batch roasting plays an essential part in the everyday life of many industry players, from origin to consuming countries. The purpose and goals behind the small-batch roasting will vary: Sample evaluation happens throughout the supply chain to help assess the quality of green coffee whereas profiling is more typical at roasteries looking to explore the potential of specific coffees, in order to achieve a particular goal.

IKAWA sample roasters are ideal for both sample evaluation and profiling. This blog is designed to align terminology, explore the goals and consider how the purpose impacts the way we roast the coffee itself.


Sample evaluation is critical for anyone making purchasing decisions in the supply chain from exporters through importers to green buyers at roasteries. This assessment is also important for producers at origin to check the quality of their beans and the outcome of their pre and post-harvesting methods. It goes without saying, but to evaluate (ie to cup and score) the coffee, it needs to be roasted first. We’ve written in the past about how the roast does affect the way coffees are scored, despite the notion that you can ‘cup through the roast’.

When we evaluate a sample, the goal is to identify the characteristics of a coffee and its quality; check for defects, freshness, flavour profile, and the overall potential of the greens (flavour, acidity, body, sweetness, and how clean the cup is). In short, we want to find out the good and the bad qualities of a coffee, while changing its intrinsic qualities as little as possible.

As the evaluation is often to inform purchase decisions, we want to compare all coffees on the table on a similar basis. You’ll be familiar with cupping protocols and many businesses have their own. These are designed to remove as many variables as possible.
This applies to roasting the samples too. Consistency is key.

One of the aspects of IKAWA roasters that users value highly is the fact that once we send a profile to the roaster, it will automatically follow the set roast. Time and time again. This alone is a reason thousands of businesses use IKAWA Sample Roasters. So the next question is what kind of roast profile should I send?

There are a number of approaches for this, but an effective approach is to use a roast profile, as ‘neutral’ as possible, so when cupping, we are evaluating the coffee not the roast. Some companies use the same profile for pretty much all their sample evaluation – whereas others will select a profile based on origin, water activity, moisture content, density, varietal or processing method. Considerations for the profile itself are; Drop Temperature, Rate of Rise, Roast Duration, Development Time Ratio – or Development Time, and End of Roast Temperature. Our objective is to achieve a low impact roast profile that lets the coffee’s natural characteristics come through as much as possible. Then use it across all the coffees on the table.

The IKAWA Pro system makes it easy to create and edit profiles via the app. Profiles and your roasting history is in the app too, making it easy to use every time we roast similar coffees.

But you don’t need to start from scratch. There are a lot of great roast profiles publically available in the Online Roast Profile Library. Some of these profiles are from IKAWA, and others developed and shared by different coffee professionals. Sometimes these profiles will be perfect from the start, or perhaps you might dial them in slightly. If you don’t know where to start, try IKAWA Sample Roast 1 and go from there. 

IKAWA Pro roasters make sample roasting super accessible and efficient. With our goal of helping coffee professionals evaluate coffee, we are expanding the IKAWA Pro App to include powerful, simple, and free tools to create and record cuppings in app, and do it live connected with others. We call it IKAWA Cup. Read more on this here.


Once we have chosen a coffee and made a buying decision, we want to know how we’ll roast it on our production roaster. Your IKAWA Pro can help you with this too by allowing you to easily experiment and discover the best attributes in the coffee, and how to unlock this in the roast. We call this profiling or profile roasting. In other words, it’s time to play and get creative!

Profiling is about influencing the parameters in order to control how the beans behave during the roast, which is significantly different to sample evaluation. We want to understand how the physical characteristics of a coffee, like its moisture content, density, or screen size, could affect the roast profile and then adjust the roasting parameters to achieve the desired outcome. 

Before deciding on how to approach the roast, we need to clearly identify our objective: what are we trying to achieve in the process? Perhaps we are looking at enhancing the acidity or sweetness of the coffee, or improving its balance and increasing its body, or we simply might want to learn about the coffee and see how it reacts to different levels of heat application. This objective will dictate our roast profile parameters.

It goes without saying that using an IKAWA Pro for profiling and experimenting with 50 or 100 grams of coffee per roast is more cost-effective than using 5 or 10kg of coffee on a production roaster. It is also less wasteful, especially when profiling coffees available in very small amounts like micro-lots or expensive competition coffees.

Some users have a handful of different types of IKAWA roast profiles that they try on one particular coffee. By roasting the same coffees in different ways, it helps get a more 3D view of the coffee, and informs the approach to production roasting. 

The final step of any small-batch roasting is the sensory evaluation of the roasted samples. It is easy to do a visual check first on each sample, as some potential roasting errors could be visible to the eye, and then we can proceed to cupping.

In the new IKAWA Cup feature, the cupping results of these roasted samples can quickly be added via a simple form in the app. IKAWA Cup makes it easy to do blind cuppings, which is highly recommended during the sample evaluation process to avoid any bias.

We’re also really excited about the Shared Tables feature – allowing group cuppings to be set up. This is all free for anyone to use and is available from App Store.

Invest in an IKAWA, or find out more.

Guest post by Aïssatou Diallo

Aïssatou Diallo is a coffee professional with over 8 years of experience in the speciality coffee industry. She has worked across the whole coffee supply chain, from roasting for industry leaders, to quality control, green coffee sales, sourcing, and overall management of the European operations for a Latin American green coffee exporter. She is the founder and director of Coffee and Fripes, a new concept store in East London, combining speciality coffee and vintage clothing.

author-img By Aïssatou Diallo