A career in roasting is becoming increasingly appealing for aspiring professionals in the coffee industry. In major consuming markets around the world, baristas and home roasters alike are looking to take a first step into roasting, and become part of a dedicated team.
For many, this first step is to become a production roaster – a role which forms the backbone of many roasting teams.
To learn more about exactly what being a production roaster entails, I spoke to two industry experts. They told me more about some of the day-to-day responsibilities, and what the future might hold for anyone in this role.
You might also like our article exploring the role of a head roaster.
From barista to batch roasting
The production roaster is an essential part of any roasting team. It might not be the most glamorous position, but it’s usually the start of a journey for coffee roasting professionals.
Broadly, production roasting refers to the routine daily roasting operations that a roastery undertakes. The roasting schedule and profiles will be set by management (often by a head roaster). In short: a production roaster’s job is to carry out the process of roasting itself.
Many people enter this role from elsewhere in the coffee industry. Often, aspiring production roasters are baristas seeking to branch out from customer service and take a role further “up” the supply chain.
Alica Banszka is a production roaster at Rebel Bean in Brno, Czech Republic. She tells me that she, like many other production roasters, first entered the coffee industry as a barista. However, since leaving the coffee shop to join the roastery, she says she’s developed a number of key skills.
“Patience definitely helps, as does listening to your mentors,” she says. “Even as a barista, you need to have someone who teaches you. For production roasting, specific skills like precision and attention to detail are important. For me, not being afraid to ask questions and for support was what helped the most.”
In addition, Alica notes that many coffee professionals find that their sensory skills develop quickly once they become part of a production team. This, she says, is because they’re often involved with cupping and quality control.
“The sensory skills I gained from being a barista improved as I became a production roaster,” she notes.
A day in the life of a production roaster
Roasting companies will have a specific day-to-day routine that their production team is expected to follow.
Alica tells me more about the ordinary working week as a production roaster at Rebel Bean. According to her, three or four days a week are actually spent roasting.
She says: “I start between 7am and 8am and preheat the machine. Then I start to prepare my coffees, of which I roast about 15 batches every day. This takes between five to six hours.”
Quality control parameters and procedures are usually put in place by the head roaster or the Head of Coffee.
Alica adds: “Roasting is mostly routine, but you need to be very focused on what you do and be aware of the details, always checking the profile that you’re roasting to.”
It is down to the production roaster to follow these guidelines as closely as possible. These will, in turn, educate them about what they should monitor during any roast – parameters including charge temperature, rate of rise (RoR) and more.
Alica says: “For instance, if I have the green coffee I need ready, I follow an in-between batch routine, which comes down to using a weigh and fill machine that I put in the vacuum loader.
“In between batches, when I turn the machine off, I reweigh another batch and then I start to preheat it for the next batch,” she adds. “I always weigh the coffee in and out of the roaster so we can see if there is a difference between batches, or if everything is consistent and fine.”
Aaron Torres is Head of Coffee at Ue Roasters in Witney, England. He is responsible for training and guiding Ue’s production roasters, effectively dictating how their coffee is roasted. He tells me about the way he structures their shifts.
Aaron says: “We warm up the machine, and after that, we do quality control on the production from the day before. After that, we organise the batches that we’ll have to roast that day.”
Creating a schedule can help to improve consistency in the roasting process, as production roasters will grow more familiar with the day-to-day routine as time goes by.
“We usually plan the day while we cup the roasted coffee,” he says. “We use that time to organise our wholesale orders, and when we finish the cupping, we know what our day looks like.
“We then move on to weighing out the green coffee and divide it into two sections: blends and single origin. Then we roast for around six hours. We then have to clean the equipment at the end of the day, and usually a deep clean once per week, or fortnightly.”
Learning from the best
Learning from an inspiring, experienced head roaster who is keen to pass on their experience is a key part of the process for production roasters. After all, quality starts at the top – and good management staff are essential in any good roastery.
Aaron tells me that his own personal progression in the coffee sector has helped him pass on specific ways of talking about and working with coffee. In turn, he says, this raises the confidence levels and knowledge of his production team.
For example, after completing his Q grader qualification, Aaron says that he felt more confident. He then passed on this confidence about coffee quality onto the roasting team, using it to generate a cohesive dialogue when talking about coffee.
“In the beginning, it was very difficult for my production roaster to add descriptions of flavours and aromas, so I gave him the Le Nez Du Cafe to take home and practice with,” Aaron explains. “After a couple of months, he became a lot more confident talking about different aromas and flavours.”
Meanwhile, Alica’s approach to learning the craft involves taking in information from as many sources as possible.
She says: “I have mostly been learning from my boss. He’s the one I learn from now, but also my previous boss. I also read a lot of online articles and attend webinars held by machine manufacturers.”
Three years ago, she received a massive career boost when she received a scholarship for the Coffee Roasters Guild’s Roaster Camp, which took place in France.
“[It] was an amazing experience. I found that talking with other roasters as well as swapping coffees and tasting a lot really helped me develop and grow.”
Collaborative events like CRG’s Roast Camp allow professional coffee roasters to share their ideas, experiments, and insights into how to get the most out of high-quality green coffee.
This open dialogue is an essential part of the learning process. It can help push production roasters forward and improve education across the supply chain – in roasting and beyond.
Future job prospects
Although production roasting is generally seen as an entry-level role, the skills developed in this role will often put an individual in a good position to move up the supply chain and into more senior roles.
Aaron says: “[Production roasters] should later be ready to become head roasters. In this role, they can profile the coffees from scratch, understand more about the equipment that they are using, and maybe run the daily basics of the roastery.”
Alica, however, says she wants to head in another direction. Having worked in coffee as both a barista and a production roaster, she says her plan is to now get involved at production level.
She says: “I want to get into the growing side of coffee. Maybe not as a green buyer, but definitely something closer to the farm.”
By learning from the team around them, production roasters can develop their knowledge and skills over time to advance their career and become more experienced roasters.
This means that whether you’re an avid home roaster or barista looking to take that next step, production roasting can be a great path into coffee roasting as a professional endeavour.
What are you waiting for? Start looking for that next step in your coffee career today.
Enjoyed this? Then read this article on the role of a Head of Coffee.
Photo credits: Josef Mott
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