Why does a sample roast matter more than other roasts? First, because it usually establishes a large buying decision. Second, because we have observed that how a sample is roasted directly effects how it is scored and perceived.
There are varying levels of forgiveness or importance placed on roast quality at different stages. The importance likely depends on who you are speaking with – a customer will probably think the production roast quality is the most important, while a producer may say the same about the sample roast.
We will say that at the purchasing stage is where the most importance should be placed on the roast.
The sample roast often sets up a purchasing decision for a business.
A customer buying a bag of roasted coffee to take home should not receive a poor roast, of course. But they are investing £7-16/$15-25 and a week or two of consumption.
A business is spending thousands of dollars, and that coffee becomes a product it sells and bases its reputation and income on. Similarly, a producer is capitalising on their season’s work.
If we are looking for great coffees, and paying for quality in green coffee, the roast should be excellent so as to showcase the coffee accurately.
The analogy that comes to mind is around the Olympic sports that have judges assign scores. An athlete spends years preparing for their event, and they expect that the stage will be the same for each competitor. If their course/mats/track/pool are different for each competitor, it’s not fair. If we are the judge, and we want to find great coffees/pay fairly for a coffee, then we should be roasting that coffee excellently, every time.
Sample roasting is not profiling a coffee.
There are 3 categories of roasts that we like to discuss at IKAWA:
- Sample Roasting: Roasting a coffee with the intention of evaluating its inherent properties. It’s discovery and judging the attributes of the coffee.
- Profile Roasting: Exploring how the coffees’ attributes and character develop through different roasts. Finding which profile will bring out the desired cup profile.
- Production Roasting: Roasting the coffee on a chosen profile at scale for customers.
Nordic Roaster Forum 2018 Workshop: Testing This Theory
In 2018, we had the pleasure of hosting a workshop in Tim Wendleboe’s cupping lab at the Nordic Roaster Forum. We took the opportunity to have some fun and set up a cupping with two parts: a “pick one” section, where we had a group of 2 or 3 coffees and we asked “which coffee would you buy?”. And a section where we asked cuppers to assign scores.
What we didn’t tell our attendees and cuppers was that across all the cuppings there were only a handful of coffees on the table, and each coffee had been roasted a number of different ways using profiles from our Online Roast Profile Library.
For example, here is the responses on the Google Form for set 2: