Cameron Heath of Birmingham, Alabama
Take us inside your world at Revelator Coffee's roasting facility. What kinds of tasks are you engaged in as Head Roaster?
The daily task of the head roaster is pretty linear. Our goal at the end of the day is to maintain the quality of coffee Revelator has on hand. How we do that? Daily cuppings to make sure our roast profiles are highlighting the best qualities in the coffee -- and if they are not, we are constantly tweaking that profile to combat roast defects and aging coffee.
What aspects of your work rely on mechanized processes?
Thankfully, coffee roasting is a pretty mechanized gig. Working with the Giesen w15 makes the job easier since that roaster is semi-automatic, being able to make heating, airflow and drum speed adjustments with a press of a button allowing for smoother adjustments and deeper complexity…these adjustments aren’t so easy with some other roasters. With the addition of roast profiling software tools like cropster it is easy to just stare at the computer screen and completely forget about the art of roasting.
Knowing how a coffee will react in a roaster is a skill that is hard to replicate without getting your hands dirty for awhile. It’s almost jedi-like in nature.
More than a few legendary recording engineers will claim that they made some of their greatest albums using cheap gear. Can this claim translate over to your field?
Oh man, that’s a good one. . . I’ve been in bands for awhile and done some high recordings and some trash recordings in a someone’s bedroom and honestly the lower-end less polished records were the best to me. There is so much more soul and grit to them, plus the content was better back then. In the coffee industry I guess that translates. There are machines that are sought after because of the materials made for heat retention, etc. But at the end of the day what matters most to me is the content. How the specialty coffee industry does that is by sourcing great coffee that tells a compelling story.
All coffee roasters live and die by the motto “great green in, great brown out.”
Describe the kinds of machines that we're listening to on your recording(s). What are their functions?
So you hear beans tumbling around in both of our roasters, Giesen 15k and Probat 25k. The cooling fan comes on and coffee is poured from the roasters into the cooling tray. Coffee is then poured into the hopper at the top of the machine and that batch is dumped into the roaster.
How would you describe your concentration while working if you had to describe it in terms of the senses?
Having a thermal oxidizer and easy access to airflow adjustment, I rely heavily on my hearing.
Making sure airflow is operating properly for the cleanest roast profile. Relying on sight as well to make sure color change is happening at a proper pace.
Aficionados are drawn to subtleties that go unnoticed by most others. What are some subtleties and nuances that you look for in a brew? Have these changed over time?
When I first started drinking coffee I was just blown away by coffee that was sweet and fruity. As my palette improved I began to seek out coffee that is more harmonious and kind of opened up as it cools.