The thing about artisanal things

The coffee roasting I do is probably best defined as artisanal. That word tends to conjure the image in most people’s minds of a skilled craftsperson working tirelessly to produce masterpiece after masterpiece in his or her chosen form, and to a great degree, that image is correct. Most of the time. The fact is, […]

The coffee roasting I do is probably best defined as artisanal. That word tends to conjure the image in most people’s minds of a skilled craftsperson working tirelessly to produce masterpiece after masterpiece in his or her chosen form, and to a great degree, that image is correct.

Most of the time.

The fact is, however, that even for the most skilled craftsperson, things sometimes go wrong. And so it is with coffee.

This summer I’ve been having quality problems with some of my coffee, especially my Tanzanian Peaberry Mt. Meru Estate. Something has just been off with it. Between two batches roasted one right after the other to the same time and temperature, one will under roast and one will over roast. One will crack quickly and heavily where another will never crack. This problem has generated the first complaints I have ever had about the quality of my coffee, to the point that I feel I need to discuss it here.

I will be the first person to admit there is a problem. The fact is I haven’t quite solved it yet. Coffee roasting is a complex process at any level, but in my little roastery I have to deal with a variety of variables that makes the problem more complex than most. My roastery is not climate controlled, so I have little control over temperature and humidity. Both of these factors do things to the beans, and in the case of the Tanzanian, I suspect the wild swings in humidity we’ve had this summer are the culprit.

On the upside of this problem, it has forced me to revisit my roasting process in a very direct way. I’ve even added new, more precise equipment to help me sort out certain specific factors that contribute to the quality of a roast. Yet, even with those factors in place, the problem persists, and I continue to work on it.

So, with all that said, I want to pass on to you, dear coffee drinker, this reality: if it’s bad, don’t drink it, even if it’s artisanal and even if you paid a lot of money for it. If it’s bad and I roasted it, let me know. I will replace every ounce of coffee I’ve roasted for you until it meets your satisfaction.

And, that last bit is why artisanal coffee–or food or clothing or whatever–is superior. We artisans care about what we produce and want to make it right. I hope that fact alone continues to earn your business.

DLH