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Cooperative Coffee Roasting – A New Model in the Coffee Industry

If you’re a coffee shop owner you might have considered roasting your own beans at some point. But the cost can be prohibitive for some — when you consider equipment, leasing space, building out that space, getting the right permits, and so on, the costs soon mount up.

Now that’s all starting to change with a new model: cooperative coffee roasting.

What is a Cooperative Coffee Roasting?

At its simplest, a cooperative is an organization run by its members, for the benefit of its members. It has historically been a popular business model for banks, insurance companies, sports teams and farming companies, industries in which being run by and for customers or fans can be a true asset. An insurance company that is owned by its customers will charge lower prices and pay more claims, for example, because they aren’t driven by the need to make a profit — they merely need to break even. A sports team run by its fans will always place fans’ interests ahead of commercial interests.

Now the model is spreading to coffee roasting. Cooperatives like Buckman Coffee Factory and Pulley Collective in New York, are beginning to make coffee roasting more accessible to everyone including small locally owned coffee shops. .

Cost Benefits of a Cooperative Model

Cooperative-Coffee-Roasting-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Our-CoffeeAt its simplest, a cooperative allows people to share the startup costs of roasting. Pulley Collective, for example, estimates that the costs of opening a new coffee roasting operation would be between $300k – $1m in New York. Pulley Collective, in comparison, charges its members $850 per week for membership, with different packages available depending on whether you want to rent the space by the day or by the hour. Buckman Coffee Factory offers hourly and monthly leasing options as well as green coffee storage.

This means that roasting is accessible to everyone, no matter the budget.

Better Coffee, Too

Simple economics would suggest that when the cost of entry into a market falls, more people will enter that market. That’s exactly what’s happening with cooperative coffee roasters: more and more small, niche roasters are getting involved, spurred on by the lower start up costs and a chance to do something they love.

With lower costs, roasters now have the freedom to experiment and try new ideas, too. By allowing room for this variety and innovation, cooperative roasters lead to better quality coffee.

There’s one final benefit: ready access to a community of like-minded people. Roasters can surround themselves with others who are striving to create great coffee, sharing advice and stories, and bonding over their shared passion.

With so many benefits to coffee roasters and drinkers alike, there’s no doubt about it. Cooperative coffee roasting is here to stay.

The Process of Coffee Cupping

You may have heard of the term cupping if you are involved in the coffee world or happen to be trying out lots of specialty coffee. Unfortunately, like much of the terminology belonging to the modern coffee industry, this one can seem pretty obtuse if no one has explained it to you yet. “Cupping?” You might be saying. “Isn’t that what we do whenever we make coffee- brew it, and put it into a cup?” Well, actually, cupping refers to a pretty specific process of brewing, tasting, and establishing the qualities of different batches of beans when they’re freshly roasted. The cupping process almost always follows some pretty strict parameters to ensure consistency and a sort of “intellectual honesty” when it comes to tasting the beans and evaluating those tastes.

The definition of a coffee cupping is this: it is a (usually professionally) conducted procedure of brewing and then observing and evaluating coffee- mostly with an eye to smell, texture, and- of course- taste. Here are the aspects of a professional-grade coffee cupping that are so stringent and effective:
First, the beans must be freshly roasted. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (also known as the SCAA– and pretty much the go-to source for any coffee information or specifications you may need), the bean sample should be roasted within 24 hours of the cupping. This is especially tricky because coffee beans need time to rest after they’re roasted- and the SCAA says 8 hours of resting, at least.

Once you’ve got your freshly-roasted (and freshly rested!) beans, you can start getting the coffee ready to taste. CuppingAchilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Cupping-2a according to standards requires strict measurements of coffee to water ratios- 8.25 grams of coffee per 125 mL of water, according to the SCAA. You should weigh the beans before grinding them, not after. And speaking of grinding- there are regulations around when that can happen, too. Your coffee sample should be ground as close to brewing as possible, and absolutely no more than 15 minutes before.

Instead of using a typical brew method (like a Pour Over, or a French press) for the coffee that will be evaluated during a cupping, the hot water is poured directly over the grounds. Because of this, a few minutes need to pass between pouring and when the coffee is ready to taste- otherwise you’ll just be drinking coffee particles. Three to five minutes is recommended in order for the grounds to settle appropriately.

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Coffee-Flavor-WheelNow the tasting and evaluation can actually begin! For a professional cupping, there will usually be a long form that is filled out to help those present go down the list of qualities that the coffee has or lacks- these are qualities like aroma, body, acidity, balance, sweetness, uniformity, and aftertaste, among many others. Basically, any aspect of the coffee that can be judged is examined on its own, and then used together to create a holistic evaluation of the coffee (and to frequently give it a score). This score, made up of the judgments reached during the cupping, help to determine whether you’re getting a specialty cup of coffee or not, and what words will be used to describe it when it is passed on to buyers across the country.

Major Coffee Growing Regions Of The World

Ever wonder where the coffee you had this morning came from? The major coffee growing regions of the World are tucked between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. From Africa where it originated, the cultivation of coffee has expanded to the East and to the West to form what is known as the Bean Belt.
While Brazil dominates the market in quantity (nearly 3 million metric tons), coffee growing regions cover the subtropical and equatorial territories around the globe. In fact, coffee cultivation was reintroduced in the mid 1980s in Vietnam, the country is now the second largest exporter of coffee.

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Coffee Growing Regions In the Americas

In North America, Mexico is the 9th exporter of coffee in the world. Production is mainly concentrated in the south central to southern regions of the country and grows particularly well in the coastal region of Soconusco, Chiapas, near the border of Guatemala.

In Central and South America, coffee growing regions like Guatemala and Colombia have the rugged landscapes and rich volcanic soil favorable to growing coffee. Colombia’s coffee, famous for the quality and flavor of its beans, is the 3rd largest exporter of coffee in the world behind Vietnam.

But the world’s largest supplier of coffee is Brazil – with plantations covering around 10,000 square miles, mostly located in the southeastern states – a title the country has held for the last 150 years.

The map would be incomplete without mentioning Peru, Honduras and Costa Rica. While the volume doesn’t even represent 4% of the production from Brazil, Costa Rica has earned a reputation for some of the best coffee in Central America. The majority of coffee production takes place on small farms, or fincas.

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African Coffee Growing Regions

Legend has it that Ethiopia is the mother land of the coffee plant. A Goatherder named Kaldi noticed a rush of energy in his flock after they nibbled on red berries. Intrigued, he tasted some himself and was quickly convinced he had found a valuable source of energy.
Ethiopia is Africa’s first coffee growing region (and first consumer as well). The production reaches up to 860 million pounds, still mostly cultivated and dried by hand and falls under the strict watch of The Coffee and Tea Authority, determined to avoid market concentration.
Interestingly, Ethiopia’s neighboring country, Kenya, was introduced to coffee-growing by the French Holy Ghost fathers, at the turn of the 19th century. While Kenyan production may be considered confidential, with only 51,000 tons per year, it is a major actor of the coffee scene and is much sought-after worldwide.

Coffee Growing Regions of Asia

Continuing our travels along the Bean Belt, let’s visit Asia and its two major coffee growing regions: Vietnam and Indonesia.

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Vietnam was on the coffee cultivation map in the 19th century and had established its plantation system as an economic force. The Vietnam war interrupted the production which eventually resumed, though fairly low. In the mid 1980s, the permission to privately own coffee farms again gave a boost to the industry. Ever since, Vietnam production has been growing steadily, up to 3 billion pounds in 2014, right behind Brazil.

But the mention of coffee naturally evokes exotic names like Java and Sumatra, Indonesian Islands famous for the quality of their coffee. The production of coffee in Java started in the 17th century, initiated by the Dutch who began to export it to the rest of the world. The success was such that to this day, we all know and use the term a cup of java.
Indonesia coffee production amounts to roughly 6% of global exports, but provides the world with uncomparable “aged coffee”. Much like wine and cheese improve with age, coffee beans held for a while in the warm and damp climate bear a distinctive deep body and less acidic flavor.

Many countries produce coffee, even the United States (mainly on the Big Island, in Kona). More than half american adults drink coffee everyday. However, according to this article in The Atlantic, the U.S. doesn’t even make it in the top ten countries for consumption. The Netherlands tops that list at 2.4 cups a day. From major coffee growing regions like Brazil, Vietnam or Colombia, to smaller producers like Peru or Kenya, we are fortunate to enjoy a broad spectrum flavors from around the globe.