The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Papercup Coffee Roasters, based in Glasgow, piqued my interest on Instagram. Curious to learn more, I reached out over email and found myself learning about the worlds of roasting, quality control, and production. In this interview, I share what Davide, the wholesale manager at Papercup, had to say about a few of my questions. I hope you enjoy our chat.
Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your role at Papercup?
My name is David. I am currently head of coffee and the wholesale manager at Papercup Coffee. I am responsible for the day to day operations of the roastery. Because I achieved my Q-Grade certification, I am also the main green buyer and quality control member for the company and I have set a rotating panel of three other people to work with on those decisions.
I have been in the coffee industry in some fashion since I was 17, pretty much half my life now, and have worked as a barista, competition baristia, café manager, sales rep, barista trainer and more. In line with keeping perspective throughout the years, I also took time out to run speciality whisky and beer bars, obtain wine certifications and help as an apprentice beer brewer. This helped me generate a better understanding of what makes a beverage what it is and how it tastes.
I have since gone on to taking up growing various different food stuffs over the past several years. This lets me experiment with growing techniques and how these affect the taste of the final product and how this is mirrored in the coffee and other beverage industries.
What does the average day of roasting look like? What activities take up most of your time?
The average roasting day compromises of arriving at the roastery. Giving the roaster a quick clean down in certain areas like the chaff cyclone, door joints and any small nooks we can only get to when the roaster is cold, then switching it on for the roaster's heat up process. This normally takes 30-45 minutes depending on the time of year and ambient temperature. We will let the roaster heat right up to an ideal temperature where it will idle without taking on or losing heat.
While this happens we set up the roastery café and retail area for the day ahead, taking time to note and check all the coffee recipes against the days before and note differences (if any) to be compared against roast batches and profiles. This lets us monitor how the coffee reacts to different ambient temperatures, how it ages and how it performs across brew methods over several weeks. Not to mention how the taste profile evolves with resting time.
Twice a week the assistant roaster will take over some of the roasting day. This gives me the opportunity to take time out to line up all the week's previous roasts and compare them for differences between them, and the week before. Again any differences no matter how small get noted down and compared against all the roast data.
If a new pallet of coffee has arrived we also take samples of each new rotation of coffee and grade it for consistent green quality. We the standard grading forms and feed back any issues or advice to our import partners. Though entire days are set by for roasting, normally cupping and grading take up the most time in a day.
What equipment do you use to roast coffee? Why do you use this equipment?
Currently we production roast on a Coffed SR15 15kg roaster. Very rare small batches get done on our Coffed SR3 and all sampling and profiling gets done on a 200g drum roaster we modified ourselves to do exactly what we needed it to do.
We use the Coffed roasters because after learning on cast iron Topers and Probats, we went on a pilgrimage around the UK to try various different roaster manufacturers. We tried Probat, Giesen, Geneo and more before settling on the Coffed. We liked the double wall construction for thermal loading, but the winning factor for us was it could be connected to a laptop and operated from there. But, in the event of technological issues, the roaster still has a fully manual control panel with readouts and fine control so we can still roast fully manually like we learned to.
How do you keep track of your roasts? To what extent do your roast logs influence roasting?
We keep track of our roasts both digitally and on paper and in accordance with SALSA food safety regulations for food manufacturing. All roasts on the two production roasters are assigned a batch number based on the date and a numerical code that is logged on a tracking software attached to the roaster which saves every roast for comparison at a later date.
The batch is also logged on a paper sheet which tracks any temperature and time variations, down to a single second and half a degree Celsius. This also has a Quality Control (QC) column to pass or fail each roast in testing later. This lets us track everything from the bag of roasted coffee back to the roasted batch and when that pallet of coffee came in. The roast logs allow us to build a picture of environmental fluctuations and how these impact the roast profiles. Roasting the same coffee in the summer and the winter will require adjustments to how you roast to get the same taste out of the coffee.
How do you assess the quality of a roast?
Both myself and the staff use several methods to assess the roast. The most important assessment happens when the coffee is initially profiled or we make seasonal changes. These we cup and score blind using the SCA cupping forms and protocols and we mark them as if we were Q-Grading the coffee each time. This way the score of the coffee should be relatively consistent and small changes can be noted and accounted for.
On a more regular basis, we will taste all the batches side by side from that roast day and against the roast day before to make sure there are no gradual changes over time. These are still cupped and assessed by me according to my training, and the other staff who are trained in SCA sensory perception and assess them according to that same criteria.
All of our notes and thoughts on coffee are later compared and discussed to keep an average consensus. If we think we have found any deviation we cup triangles (odd one out over several sets of 3) to make absolutely certain it is a change and not something else we are perceiving.
What are the main skills you think someone needs to be a successful coffee roaster?
I definitely think to be successful as a roaster you need to be curious about taste. Always tasting things and looking to expand your flavour map/memory. But I think it is equally important to be passionate about the product itself. Every coffee you work with is like meeting a new friend. You build a relationship and learn its temperament and its likes and dislikes. That way you know how a coffee is going to react under certain situations, or why it did a certain thing.
The ability to work alone and spend an equal amount of time in solo contemplation as well as team discussions about what you do helps wonders in bringing out the best in a coffee as everyone perceives things differently. I can also say learning to be wrong and accepting that goes along way 😊
What advice would you have for someone who is interested in a career in roasting?
I would say that it is a lifetime career. You will never stop learning from it. It wont get you a Porche, but it will make your life richer. If you want to get into roasting, find a company to work with, be honest about wanting to learn for a few years then opening your own place, or even a joint venture. With a lot of companies, if you find the right one there is always room for career progression and international education in the field . Do as much as you possibly can. Learn from as many cultures as you can, and most importantly learn about flavour outside of the coffee sphere as well.
What coffee are you drinking at the moment?
Just now I rotate between our Sweeter Things seasonal on espresso and our Colombia Arcila on filter if I am out and about on a walk.
What is your favourite home-brewing method?
It is a 50/50 split between my espresso machine and a clever dripper. Though I am awaiting a brand new brewer in development in the US currently.
If you could visit any coffee origin in the world, where would you go and why?
I think as humble as it sounds I would like to visit Brazil and the people we work with. They do a massive percentage of the coffee export, but I think there is so much room for new growing and processing practices that can produce stunning coffees that would put the country on an equal footing with Panama, Kenya and more.
Are you interested in learning more about Papercup Coffee Roasters? If so, you can follow them on Instagram at pccoffeeuk and view their website at www.papercupcoffee.co.uk.