Transforming a green bean into a ready-to-brew roast coffee is a complex process.
Generally, it requires roasters to have in-depth knowledge of different variables, as well as the ability to manipulate them.
As roasting equipment has evolved, it has allowed roasters to collect data to help create safer, more consistent, and more evenly distributed roasts.
While the way in which data is collected and used across all industries may raise ethical questions, there is no denying its potential. Data and technology have helped businesses around the world better align with the customers’ expectations.
Although coffee roasting technology has never been more advanced, many roasters have yet to take advantage of the tools available to them. This modern data and technology may help them quickly and efficiently generate consistent roast profiles, reduce waste, and increase profits.
To find out how data and technology improves the coffee roasting experience, I spoke with coffee professionals, Dominik Mucklow, the product manager for Cropster Origin, and Veronika Galova Bolduc, head of marketing at Roest Coffee.
How is data used in the coffee industry?
From reviewing production processes to analysing service to improve customer satisfaction, accurate and actionable data is invaluable.
For example, sales records can help roasters understand consumer demand and determine green coffee purchases. Both go a long way to optimising sales. Additionally, fine-tuning production schedules to better reflect peaks in consumption can mitigate the problem of serving coffee that’s too fresh or too old.
Objective and unbiased data can identify patterns in a way direct observation cannot. This provides businesses with the information needed to build a quality customer experience.
“The clearest feedback we have had from users is the need to simplify things,” Dominik explains. Following the success of its coffee roasting software, the company recently launched Cropster Origin: a complete information management system for coffee producers.
The latest software caters to coffee producers on a global scale and offers many options for customisation.
“Initially, we were overwhelming users with too many questions during onboarding, which ultimately resulted in some of them not continuing with the product,” Dominik says.
He adds that users who did stay on helped the company hone in on key workflows they needed to get started. This allowed Cropster to develop a simple user interface for new users.
“The customisation options are still there, but only for users who need to dive deeper, while the rest are able to start deriving value from the system more quickly,” Dominik adds.
Veronika from Roest says data and technology have helped the company increase the efficiency of the workflow in the roasting process.
“Advancements in the technology used in roasting machines have helped us constantly improve the ROEST sample roasters. Our roasters are connected by Wi-Fi, allowing us to update all the machines around the world every time we develop a new feature.”
Another area where the application of data is crucial is in marketing. That said, for it to be effective, it must be targeted, otherwise it may be a wasted effort. A product must be relevant to a customer in order to get their attention.
An effective example of technology enabling targeted marketing is Apple’s IBeacon. This uses short-range Bluetooth transmitters to send alerts to mobile devices nearby.
US coffee giant Starbucks has invested in Apple’s IBeacon software, using it to send contextually relevant messages to consumers in or near participating stores. The company then uses metrics to measure the success of a particular campaign.
For example, if the campaign aims to drive traffic to a website, it can measure success by monitoring traffic.
Similarly, withIBeacon, Starbucks can measure the efficacy of campaigns designed to drive more foot traffic to its stores. More so, it is able to send promotions to its customers tailored to that individual’s behaviour.
How is technology improving the coffee roasting experience?
Data can have a specific application in improving the roasting experience.
Technology facilitates the extrapolation of valuable data from the roast, which allows roasters to have greater visibility of the variables.
Furthermore, it allows them to introduce a level of control that encourages more consistency between batches. It also provides a suitable platform for recording cupping results and collating them in a way that is easy to understand.
Some roast software can track roast time, drum temperature, exhaust temperature, and rate of rise and allows for markers that show the different phases of the roast.
While achieving high-quality roasts may not implicitly require these tech plug-ins, they can make the process easier.
For instance, using the software to record cupping results places all the information in one place, effectively streamlining the profiling process.
Dominik explains producers can use the Cropster Origin app to record raw cherry deliveries, monitor drying and storage conditions with Cropster AmbientSensors, and use built-in cupping and green grading tools to ensure consistent quality.
In addition to being valuable to the roaster, this information can provide producers with insight which may help them refine farming and processing methods.
Information like this becomes especially relevant when dealing with experimental processes.
“Anecdotally, the largest improvements arise for the following reasons,” Dominik explains. “Better post-harvest handling reduces waste and prevents spoilage of coffee due to tighter controls on processes such as fermentation.”
In turn, this may result in a higher average cupping score year over year. “Since the system enforces lot separation, producers can better differentiate and target their offerings to buyers.
“Finally, sharing lot information with buyers and receiving feedback enables more streamlined and professional communication between parties, further helping producers distinguish themselves,” Dominik says.
Other tech innovations in coffee include monitoring espresso extraction profiles, which gives coffee shop owners visibility over the consistency of their coffee.
As different variables can impact the extraction profile, this adds another data point that can help business owners maintain an objective quality.
How does data and technology benefit roasters?
Achieving consistent quality with roasting is a matter of process.
Additionally, there are a range of other operational responsibilities, which can often overlap and demand more of a roaster’s time.
However, the technology available allows for the collection of vital data and, when used effectively, can significantly reduce the time demands of quality control.
Roasting coffee can be challenging and demands attention to the slightest detail. Using roast software to track roasts can help maintain healthy profit margins by reducing deviant roasts. More so, it can help deliver a consistent product to a roaster’s customer base.
Veronika explains the data collected by Roest is helping the company develop an automated Between Batch Protocol.
“As a result, roasters can skip the process of creating a profile,” she says. “The Roest machine will do it automatically and notify the roaster when it is ready to roast.”
Roasting software also offers an opportunity for transparency with producers, giving helpful feedback that will help improve their practice.
Another area where technology can help improve the roasting experience is the advancements in packaging. Roasters can now use 100% eco-friendly packaging without compromising quality.
MTPak Coffee offers a range of custom-printed coffee bags made from 100% recyclable materials, such as kraft or rice paper with a LDPE or PLA lining. More so, we allow our roasters to have complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags.
We are also able to design coffee bags with complete colour consistency using digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time.
MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.