Commercial Coffee Roaster News, Roasting & Education, Start, Scale, Sustain
What’s In A Roastery: Part 3
What Do You Need In Your Roastery?
In our last roastery supply post, we covered cupping supplies we keep in our space to help us maintain consistency at the cupping table. Depending on your goals, you may find these tools necessary to keep in your space. We’ll break down the purpose that these items serve in our roastery, and how you can use them to your advantage.
The Big Investments
The items on this list aren’t our “must-haves” from Day 1 of building out your roastery. These are higher-ticket items to put on your roastery wish list, things you may want to purchase as your business grows.
While these don’t fall into the “budget-friendly” category, they’re tools that will become your best friend in the roastery and help you take quality control in your roastery to the next level.
The Lighttells CM200
We can’t count how many times we’ve reached for the Lighttells CM200 in the Mill City space. It helps us control production roast consistency as a roast color analyzer. It’s also able to read particle size and uniformity of ground coffee, which we use to calibrate grinders in our roastery and on our Big Red Roast Rig. We use this tool whenever we’re evaluating roasted coffee from our customers since it gives us a quantifiable reference point. Using the Lighttells CM-200 along with sensory evaluation gives us a total picture of a coffee’s roast level and roast development.
The tool examines roast color in whole bean or ground coffee with an infrared LED light inside in device. Its user-friendly interface provides quick and accurate SCA Gourmet or Agtron numeric scale results. To better understand its data, the Lighttells displays a variety of terminology as it corresponds to the results. It also saves a record of the past 100 readings for quick reference.
In our Roasting 101 class, we use a TDS refractometer to help roasters better understand extraction in coffee. The tool allows you to measure the strength of brewed coffee. The ideal range for brewed coffee is between 1.15-1.35 TDS. Coffee in the lower range might taste weak, flat, or dull. Too high of a TDS reading will likely result in a coffee that is bitter, strong, or too heavy.
This device can help roasters measure the solubility of their beans. Brew your coffees in the same method that your customers brew it and measure the strength of the liquid with a TDS refractometer. This tool can be helpful in simply providing more data for your coffee and in helping your clients dial in their brews to get the most out of your roasts.
There are cheaper alternatives to the refractometer listed above, but we haven’t tested them in our facility. The one we use is the VST Lab Refractometer. It measures coffee with scientific accuracy so you can rest assured that you’re getting quality measurements and results.
The Lighttells MD-500
The Lighttells MD-500 provides moisture and density data. These are two important pieces of information for roasters to understand when approaching new green coffees. While a lot of this information can be provided by your importer, having this device in your space allows you to verify those readings.
If you’re getting greens in your space from origin, this tool could be useful in providing measurements for not just green coffee beans but also cherry, parchment, and roasted coffee. Density and moisture content can be helpful variables to know when you’re developing a new roast plan. Insight from a tool like the MD-500 allows roasters to reach their final roasted product and spend less time troubleshooting in the dark.
We use these products every week during roasting, training, and evaluation. They provide valuable data about every coffee in our roastery from the first sample to the final profile.
These are the brands we trust and recommend most. As your company grows and you begin to invest in more quality control equipment, these products will become helpful tools in your roaster toolkit.
Click here to read Part 4, where we get into our favorite and staple tools kept in the roastery for cleaning day.
If you have more questions about how we use these in our space, feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office (612) 886-2089.
It would be a deliriously good idea if MCR did a video on the use and features of these complex instruments.
Hi Lawrence. We’ve done videos on many of these tools over on our YouTube channel:
Joe’s Video on the MD-500
Lauren’s Video on the Lighttells CM-200
Lauren’s Overview of other Tools