ZURICH – A friend who is a psychologist once told me that addiction to coffee isn’t measured by how many cups one drinks but, rather, by the depth of emotion that one feels for coffee.
Well, I love coffee. Hot, rich, smooth, black coffee. In large quantities.
So when the invitation came to attend Coffee Roasting 101 at The Coastal Roastery in Zurich today, I was excited.
Many people are familiar with Coastal Coffee Company, with its green logo of a stylized pop-up top Volkswagen van, a regular at many farmers markets in Huron County. Perhaps not so many people are familiar with its coffee shop in downtown Zurich, where there’s always a pot or two of coffee and some baked goods available, along with everything you need to prepare a good pot of coffee. At the back, beyond the retail shop, burlap sacks of green beans – which are really the seed of a coffee cherry – grown by micro producers in Nicaragua, Columbia, Rwanda, Peru or some other exotic country sit ready for the gleaming Toper brand roaster in the centre of the room.
Today, the four of us in this class are not going near the commercial roaster.
Instead, we’re learning to roast micro batches of coffee using a few methods that adapt to our own kitchens or campfires. The class ratio is a phenomenal 1:1, with staff sharing their considerable knowledge and skills.
Jason Wiebe kicks off the demonstration with a cautionary note that a butane burner should not be used indoors and a popcorn maker should not be modified in any way.
Then he fills a dry cast iron skillet with 250g – that’s one cup, for those of you still on Imperial measurements – and we watch as he flips the beans like a chef making an omelette, chaff floating into the air. In time, the beans turn from green to yellow to deep brown. And there is a cluster of cracking sounds, like sluggish popcorn, at two intervals in the process. We’re told the green beans smell like wet grass in the first few minutes, then like hay, then like fresh bread as the sugar in the beans start to caramelize. When they’re done, Jason flips them onto a baking pan to cool.
To watch a short video of coffee beans in the skillet, check out their Facebook video post on Jan. 23.
Ben Gingerich takes an even smaller portion of beans, just 80g, and pours them into an old, sturdy popcorn maker that’s been modified with the addition of a steel can missing both top and bottom fitted like a miniature smoke stack. The hot air tosses around the beans and every now and again he gives the popcorn maker a shake. We shine a penlight onto the beans, checking their colour because we can’t hear the beans crack above the noise of the machine. In a shorter time than it took to skillet roast the beans, this batch is done.
At the end of the two-hour class, we grab homemade cookies and yet another cup of coffee, we are given green beans to roast at home, and we get a sample of the beans we roasted.
Even if my sample of green beans never hits a skillet or popcorn maker, I have a much deeper appreciation for coffee, which is a big part of my day.
What: Coffee Roasting 101
When: Saturday, Feb. 27, starting at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Coastal Roastery, 17 Goshen St. N., Zurich
RSVP: Space is limited. Email: email@example.com