Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been asking readers to put their coffee-related questions to WBC-certified judge and WCE representative, Danilo Lodi.
As an MTPak Brand Ambassador, Danilo provides regular insight for our Education Centre on everything from coffee production to roasting competitions.
Here, he answers all your questions, including top tips to become a barista judge, how to store roasted beans, and where to find the best coffee in the world.
See also: Why Should Roasters Create Coffee Blends?
Who Am I?
I’m Danilo Lodi, a barista, roaster, roasting instructor, and WBC-certified judge based in São Paulo, Brazil. I also work closely with coffee farmers to help them export their crop and improve consistency. Since 2010, I’ve also been a World Coffee Events representative after picking up industry experience in South America and Europe.
According to my mother, I first started drinking coffee at the age of three when I would wander around drinking the leftover coffee from visitors’ cups. By the age of four, she caught me drinking directly from the coffee pot on the table, and by five or six, I was brewing my own coffee at home.
Even though I’ve always loved coffee, I never thought I would work in the industry. It was actually by accident that I first started working as a barista, when a friend told me about a barista job that was available in a bank. I thought it sounded kind of odd, but I was between jobs so I told him I was in. From there I was hooked, and now here I am, 17 years later.
Question: Can I bag my coffee immediately after roasting?
Danilo: Yes, you can. And when you have one-way degassing valves attached to the bags, you can do it right away with no problems whatsoever. The only issue is if you use weak bags without degassing valves, there’s a chance it might blow up due to the buildup of volatile gases inside.
Q: With so many specialty coffee roasters around, how can I stand out from the competition?
D: Hmm, that’s a good one. I would say the most important thing is to offer coffees that no-one else is currently offering. For example, if everyone is going for natural processed coffees, you could come in with some honey processed options.
I would also suggest investing in your brand identity and ensuring that communication with the end-consumer is as strong as possible. By that I mean letting them know about your company and the coffees you sell. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who need to know what makes your coffee different from the rest.
Q: What’s the best material for packaging roasted coffee?
D: It’s difficult to narrow it down to just one. First, my advice is to avoid using cheap materials because, ultimately, they’re just going to let UV light and oxygen pass through, leaving your customers with stale or rancid coffee.
Also, make sure to test whether or not the material leaves some kind of taste. Sometimes, plastic and paper bags without an inner lining can add a strange taste to your coffee, and you don’t want that. To create an eco-friendly product for consumers, I would 100% recommend recyclable or compostable packaging.
Q: Do I need to store my coffee away from sunlight?
D: Preferably, yes. You should avoid UVA and UVB lights wherever possible as they’re going to oxidise your coffee faster. Using multilayer packaging is a good way of protecting them from sunlight when they’re on the shelf, such as using kraft paper with PLA laminates.
Q: I’m hoping to become a WBC-certified judge in coffee roasting competitions, but I’m only at junior level. Can you tell me about your journey to become a WBC certified judge?
D: Absolutely. To start with, you should spend at least a couple of years judging national competitions. Basically, the more you can do the better.
If you’re able to, I recommend travelling abroad to judge in national competitions around the world. Europe is a great place to gain experience because it’s easy to move around there. But two years is definitely the minimum.
The other thing you need to do is to learn the rules off by heart. Practise, practise, practise, memorise those rules, and you’ll pass the certification with ease.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed during your time in the coffee industry?
D: I’m practically a dinosaur in the coffee industry now. I remember when I first started out, high-quality coffee was only referred to as “gourmet” and everything was a blend. There was certainly no mention of specialty. Now, the focus is on single origin and the use of precision tools such as scales.
The role of baristas has changed pretty significantly, too. Originally, baristas were unidimensional: they would specialise in one aspect, such as latte art or cupping. Now, I see baristas becoming more multiskilled, deepening their knowledge of the entire coffee supply chain.
Q: What’s the top trend in the coffee industry at the moment?
D: Right now, we’re seeing a big sustainability push across the entire supply chain. Producers are trying to use less water, roasters are using recyclable and compostable packaging, and coffee shops are reducing the amount of waste they produce.
I’ve also seen a huge increase in plant-based milks recently, not only in quantity but also in quality. This is happening everywhere, from South America to Europe.
Q: What’s the best temperature to store roasted coffee?
D: Room temperature normally – I never store my coffee above 25-30°C because heat causes the movement of particles inside the coffee to accelerate and oxidation to occur at a faster rate. This will leave you with bad tasting, stale coffee.
Q: Is it worth pushing excess air out of the coffee bag when resealing it?
D: Yes. If you’re putting freshly roasted coffee in a bag for the first time, then it doesn’t matter. But if you’re resealing the bag after opening it, then you should push as much oxygen out as possible.
Q: What’s the best coffee you’ve ever tried?
D: I’ve had so many great coffees that have blown my mind, it would be impossible to choose just one. There are some years that I judge maybe six or seven finals, so that’s six or seven incredible coffees, plus the ones that finish in second, third, fourth etc.
Every year, I put together a list of my top five coffees, which I’m thinking about publishing. They’re based on a combination of different factors, from clarity to complexity.
I once tried a coffee that had about eight different flavours – it was absolutely amazing. I’m really digging coffees from Mexico at the moment, but Panama, Honduras, Colombia, and Brazil are all producing great coffees as well.
Would you like to put a question to our experts? Next up is 2018 Finald Cup Tasting Champion and Head of Production at The Gentlemen Baristas, Roosa Jalonen.
Looking for sustainable coffee packaging? Contact our team here.
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