Roast Profiling Software Helps You Achieve A Consistent Coffee Roast
As a coffee roaster, your well-honed roasting instincts are your number-one superpower. That’s because coffee roasting is a craft. Equal parts art and physics, coffee roasting requires your senses of smell and sight to be sharp and dialed in at all times. You can test these roasting instincts and skills with manually roasting the perfect batch, but that will only take you so far. You’ve got to have other tools in the toolkit to achieve roasting consistency and success.
Because here’s the thing: Once you’ve created that ideal batch, how will you duplicate it? With the inevitability of human error, manual batch roasting makes it challenging to recreate and repeat profiles to get the same flavor from the bean each time. Even if you’re taking copious handwritten notes (often time-consuming and error-prone), you can be left with uneven and uncontrolled results. And customers don’t return for an unpredictable product.
To consistently repeat a roast and efficiently scale it, you need to embrace your inner data geek and put today’s technology to work. So our question is: Are you fully utilizing roast profiling software and data collection in your coffee roasting business? Today’s coffee roast profiling software can minimize the variables affecting the quality of your roasted coffee, and it can also help you generate delicious roast profiles, reduce waste, and increase profits.
In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of data collection, what data you need to collect, and some of the more popular roast profiling software options. When coupled with your coffee-roasting instincts, data collection can become one of your most prized tools for achieving unparalleled roasting profiles — delivering the same excellent taste time and again.
The Benefits of Coffee Roast Profiling Software
In our article, Automation Meets Art, we shared how technology has impacted the life of a graphic artist. Over the past 30 years (as a reference point, Adobe Photoshop was created in 1987), technology has helped broaden the horizons of an artist’s creativity while limiting the problems they might encounter. Technology and automated processes have made art production much less demanding, giving artists more time to contemplate and expand their creativity. And, when placed in the hands of a talented and capable artist, this is a serious win for art.
This same line of thought can make technology—specifically roast profiling software—a win for the art (and science) of coffee roasting, especially when placed in the hands of a talented and capable roastmaster.
Roast profiling software came along around in the early 2000s (Cropster in 2007 and Artisan in 2010) to automatically collect, organize, and pattern roast data to make creating roasting profiles easier. This software should not be confused with roaster automation, which leverages technology in the roaster to manage a roast from beginning to end.
Instead, roast profiling software is a helpful tool to give you control over the roast by collecting and comparing complex data in one place. Armed with this data, you can perform analytics and use these metrics to experiment with and refine your roasts — even mid-roast through live graphing.
5 Benefits of Roast Profiling Software
With the seemingly constant updates to the various roast profiling software products, ensuring quality and consistency in your coffee products is easier than ever. Here are just a few benefits that most software options offer to improve your roasting intelligence:
Utilizing your roast profiling software is a great way to better understand your coffee and how it reacts when roasting. The data you gather will allow you to tweak the temperature and other factors to improve your next roast. Recording temperatures during the roast on a roast graph will help you recreate your roasts with greater consistency.
Most roast profiling software is easy to set up and use, with some being more plug-and-play than others. And most can easily interface with computers, smart devices, and roasters through a connection like the Phidgets interface kit. As you rely on the software to help you dial in and perfect your roasts, the more you can delegate roasting tasks to other roasters on your team (the software can also help in employee training) — freeing you up to perform other tasks.
Over time, your roast profiling software can generate enough data to help you create a database that you can use to plan future roasts. Your production processes will become more efficient, and the metrics available should help you make smarter purchasing decisions.
If you work with multiple roasters or purchase a new roaster at some point, the reports produced by your roast profiling software can help ensure a more smooth transition between roasters — allowing you to generate the same roast profiles, no matter which roaster you’re using.
Continuous improvements to roast profiling software mean that it can now do much more than collect roasting data. It can also track production data, including your green bean purchases. And it can be used to gather sales data, manage your inventory, chronicle buying trends, and so much more.
What Coffee Roasting Data Do You Need To Collect?
Creating a roast profile is a process that is impacted by external and internal variables, including the density of your green coffee beans, the roasting environment’s temperature, and the coffee varietal(s) you’re roasting. The roast profiles you develop determine to a large degree the flavors and characteristics of the coffee that are emphasized in your end product.
All to say, the data you collect is crucial to creating amazing roasting profiles. We’ll look at key metrics almost all roast profiling software tracks, including first crack data, along with tracking temperatures of variables like bean, air (including airflow), exhaust, and drum temps.
First Crack is an exothermic reaction, a literal cracking process that happens when the coffee beans expand and their moisture begins to evaporate, usually at around 385 degrees Fahrenheit or 196 degrees Celsius. When this moisture creates steam, it builds up pressure, forcing the beans to crack open. The beans also double in size and shed most of their silverskin.
First Crack is essential because it lets you know that the coffee is entering the beginning stages of edibility, and it helps you understand what else is happening to the beans. This gives you better control over the roast and flavor profile. Data this critical needs to be registered.
Bean temperature determines what’s happening to your roast, including why and when. The charge roasting temperature declines when you add room-temperature beans to a roaster. Then, as the beans start to heat up — also known as the turning point — this initiates the Maillard reaction, the chemical reaction that transforms the beans into colorful, aromatic, flavorful coffee.
Rate of rise (RoR) is equally important. RoR is the speed at which your coffee beans’ temperature increases, measured over a specific period — usually between 30 and 60 seconds. And, RoR is vital because it provides early indications of temperature developments. This information, in turn, helps you better manipulate the roast and create your desired roast profile.
Air temperature measures the beans inside the roasting chamber, and a higher air temperature will result in a higher bean temperature. Your goal is to balance the air and bean temperatures to create an optimal flow when adjusting airflow.
Airflow is how air moves through a roaster and can make or break a successful roast. According to Boot Coffee, higher airflow can highlight the brightness or sweetness of your coffee, yet too much airflow can lead to sourness. Lower airflow comes with its risks, such as masking the beans’ acidity or resulting in overly smoky flavors.
Exhaust temperature represents a measurement of the heat energy in the airflow exiting the roasting chamber, which is the remainder of the heat energy input into the roasting mass. The information collected for this data point will help clarify what’s happening with the heat transfer.
Drum temperature is the internal temperature of the roasting drum when you add your green beans — and it can considerably affect your roast. Also known as charge temperature, it’s vital to learn how to control it if you want to avoid baking (too low temp) or scorching (too high temp) the beans.
Roast Profiling Software: You've Got Options
If you're reading this article, then we're assuming you're familiar with the various roast profiling software options out there. We're also guessing that you probably already use one of them in your own roasting process.
If you consider the roast profiling ecosystem, there are two main pioneers — Cropster and Artisan — joined by dozens of other options, plus the proprietary software built into some of the newer roasters.
Cropster has become the de facto industry standard based on a paid subscription model, while Artisan, an open-source software, is free and relies on its loyal community to contribute both feedback and donations.
For the purposes of this article, we'll focus on Cropster Roast (Cropster's roasting tool) and Artisan — highlighting their features, benefits, and recent updates. We won't present one option as more desirable than the other because both platforms are so different.
If you’ve been in the coffee business long enough, then you’re probably aware that Cropster’s first product back in 2009 was a data-management app for farmers to track everything from soil nutrients to bean harvesting and processing.
Over time, Cropster started to build tools for other parts of the coffee supply chain, including an app for importers and exporters to manage inventories and monitor bean quality, a “hub” to connect traders with farmers, and eventually roast profiling software to help roasters manage everything from temperature and timing of the roast to assessing and cataloging flavor profiles.
Recent releases include airflow control and replay, plus gas control and replay assist, both game-changing functionality in helping roastmasters perfect their roasts. With its slick line-up of products, it's safe to say that Cropster is the big boy on the block when it comes to all things data management in the coffee world.
But then there's Artisan, the free, open-source, volunteer-supported platform. It remains relentlessly unflashy, maintaining its DIY roots. Still, it remains a popular feature-filled tool for new and experienced roasters, from home enthusiasts to large commercial operations. This article includes a good summary of how Artisan started and how it’s grown over the years — due in large part to its incredibly loyal global community.
Again, we're not here to champion one platform over another, but there seems to be a general consensus among coffee roasters that while Artisan does real-time plotting and archiving extremely well, it's not as intuitive or "plug-and-play" as Cropster Roast. Many consider it a great starting point (you can't beat the free price tag), especially if you've never used real-time plotting and archiving.
And, of course, Cropster offers a full suite of integrated products to support a coffee operations' business needs including inventory, costing, and so on. That was a major selling point for Cropster until Artisan released its artisan.plus inventory management software in 2019 — a move likely fueled by competition.
As for support, Cropster offers a great deal of it and will help you tailor the program to your exact needs. They'll also help you address specific issues with detailed strategies and hand-holding. The team who built and runs Artisan are very helpful — incredible, considering the program is free — but it's not quite the same thing.
The roast profiling software you choose really does come down to your personal preference, along with factors about your coffee business that only you can evaluate. If you're curious about how the two platforms stack up, we've put together a simple Artisan & Cropster Roast Chart to help you out. It's by no means an exhaustive summary or a comparison but rather a broad overview to bring you up to speed (or refresh your memory) about each product's selling points.
CLICK BELOW IMAGE TO VIEW FULL PDF VERSION OF CHART.
The CoffeeTec Connection with Data Collection
Approximately 40% of our used coffee roaster inventory includes data port output — and this figure is growing. Just check the product page of the used roaster you’re viewing to view all product features and details to confirm it’s software-compatible.
Ready to leverage roast profiling software to elevate your roasts? Contact us for a chat.
We’ve always got a rotating selection of used and new equipment (most with data output ports), and we take time to understand what you’re looking for to keep your roastery running. We can also advise on your roastery plans and logistics in light of pandemic supply chain disruptions.
And, if you need financing support, check out our Roaster’s Choice Lending Program, where our private network of the nation’s top lenders with your own designated point of contact will help you find the best financing deals available. To get a sense of monthly payment amount and start the financing application process, just find a roaster you’re interested in (with a value of $2,000 or more) and click the green “Finance It” box for details.
Let’s help you build the coffee roastery of your dreams — and with a roaster that’s right for you.