08 Nov 2022

5 Reasons Why Sample Roasting Is Essential To Your Coffee Business

In this post, we explain why sample roasting is essential for any coffee roasting business.

Our businesses are built on the coffees we buy and we commit a lot of cash to our green coffee: It’s what we roast, sell, and serve – so making good purchase decisions about green coffee is essential.

That business importance isn’t limited to the roastery. We owe it to producers to have robust and fair sample evaluation processes as the evaluation and buying decisions we make run right through the supply chain.

If you’re not roasting your own samples already, we explain why you simply cannot afford not to. We also outline how getting your samples roasted by your importers may feel easy, but is a false economy. It’s not better for your evaluation process, production roasting or your business.

1. Your samples will be better roasted. 

Cupping ground coffee

This is not to say that importers don’t roast samples well – many do. In fact, many use IKAWA roasters for this! But a good roast for one person is not the same as a good roast for another.

  • You will make better purchasing decisions if you roast your samples in a way that matches your style and approach, not your traders’. When doing this, you might think about
  • What kind of roast degree do you want for your samples
  • How will you vary it for different types of coffee?
  • How will you make your samples roasted consistently? For example, will you use the same roast profile, have the same development time, or roast to the same colour?

Your sample roasting will also match how your grinder and water extract. You can dial in your roasts to ensure proper and consistent extraction during your cupping.

When you roast your own samples, you can take full control of these key aspects.

2. Remove The Variables To Really Taste The Coffee

Tasting Coffee

When you’re selecting the next single origin Colombian coffee, you might cup from 5 or 6 samples – or maybe more. If they are coming from more than one importer, it will make it really hard to have a fair cupping.

  • How will you ensure they are equally freshly roasted?
  • Was the packaging, and transport comparable – or could one set of roasted samples been impacted more than the others?
  • Do the different importers roast the same way?

You shouldn’t be evaluating how well one trader can roast coffee compared to another – it should be about the coffee itself.
Removing roast quality and freshness from the variables allows you to focus on the coffee, and have confidence that you’re making the best choice.

See how IKAWA customers Square Mile, Caravan Coffee Roasters, Workshop Coffee, Calendar Coffee and Redemption Roasters approach term sample roasts in this blog here

3. Faster decision making

There is nothing worse than organising a cupping, making studious notes and getting really excited about your next purchase, only to find that the coffee has sold out already. Something we can all relate to. What a waste of time.

If you rely on roasted samples from multiple importers, it will take longer to hold your cupping.

You have to wait for all the samples from different importers to arrive before you can cup them properly. This can take days, even weeks and it can take longer for importers to send out roasted samples in the first place.

4. Better understand the coffee

Understanding coffee roasts

Selecting a coffee is not just about a cupping score. When you are evaluating a coffee, you are also trying to get a 3D understanding of it, so you can have maximum confidence in your production roasts. You may want to know:

  • What is the moisture content and water activity of the coffee?
  • What is its density? Any other green analysis you would like to do?
  • Does it roast as you would expect? Or is it one of those somewhat unpredictable coffees that are harder to roast, or don’t match your standard approaches?
  • Are there any other defects in the coffee that can be obscured by the sample roast?
  • Can you profile the green before you purchase, explore its flavour potential, and how to approach the production roast?

Do you know what you have been missing?
If you don’t receive a green sample, you are only getting half the information on the coffee before you go ahead and buy it.

5. Better for your business 

Aside from the coffee itself, the business dimension should not be overlooked. When you roast your own samples you take control of your green coffee purchasing decisions in a way that suits your business.

  • Organise your cuppings at a time that works for you and the team. You shouldn’t need to rush your cupping and change your plans because the roasted samples happened to arrive today.
  • Don’t be constrained by only sourcing from importers who will roast samples for you – open up a wider range of importers and have the tools to source directly from producers.
  • Build engagement and knowledge within the team by bringing them into sample roasting.
IKAWA sample roaster

Oh, and – You can’t sample roast on your production roaster.

If you can find an importer willing to send you big enough sample sizes, you’ll find it’s too big to control it accurately, very hard to roast consistently in such small volumes and it’s unlikely you’ll get flavour development that will help you get a true picture of the coffees.

We hope these notes have helped unpack some of the value around why sample roasting is essential for you and your business – your samples will be better roasted, you will have better cupping, faster decision-making, you will better understand the coffee you buy and the business will be all the stronger for it. And your importers will like working with you more : )

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Learn more about the IKAWA Pro Series?

Talk to the team, or read more about the Pro Series of Pro50 and Pro100 and the IKAWA Pro App here

By Alex Georgiou