Coffee roasters and coffee roasting equipment have come a long way since the early days of pan roasting and burnt brews.
Early manual attempts demanded constant attention and produced uneven, uncontrolled results. Subsequent improvements created safer, more consistent, and more evenly distributed roasts.
Roasting equipment eventually evolved to support commercial volumes. Among other things, this eliminated unnecessary labour, giving roasters more time to focus on their work and enabling them to easily replicate their results.
Although roasting technology has never been more advanced, many roasters have yet to take advantage of all the tools available to them, including roasting software. This modern technology can help roasters to quickly and efficiently generate roast profiles, reduce wastage, and increase profits.
Here’s how roasting software works and how it could add value to your coffee roasting business.
A brief history of coffee roasting
Transforming a green bean into a ready-to-brew roast coffee is a complex process. Generally, it requires the roaster to have in-depth knowledge of different variables, as well as the ability to manipulate them.
During the time of the Ottoman Empire, coffee was unevenly roasted in tiny batches using a thin pan over open flames. The 17th century brought with it the invention of cylindrical hand cranked roasters, allowing for more even roasting.
The first large scale roaster (and the first drum roaster) was invented in the 18th century. Roasters switched to gas power a century later, eliminating smoky roasts in the process. Finally, in the 20th century, roasters switched to electrical power.
While roasting equipment has become far more sophisticated since then, the fundamentals of how coffee is roasted have remained the same. Furthermore, roasters around the globe now have access to high quality specialty coffee. To meet the expectations of their growing (and discerning) audience, they need to create more impressive flavour profiles than ever.
What are the benefits of coffee roasting software?
The process of creating a roast profile process differs from roaster to roaster and is impacted by dozens of internal and external variables. These variables include the temperature of the roast environment, the density of the green bean, and the varietal being roasted.
In the past, roasters tracked these variables manually on spreadsheets or on paper. This was often inconvenient, time consuming, and prone to error.
Roasting software was developed to automatically collect, organise, and pattern roast data to make producing roast profiles easier, among other things.
Many roasters confuse roasting software with automation and assume that the software will be able to execute a roast from start to finish. Instead, it’s a tool that gives the roaster control over the roast by centrally collecting and comparing complex data.
Roasting software enables roasters to automatically and instantly collect data and perform analytics. It can track exactly what happens during a roast down to milliseconds and within a tenth of a degree.
Furthermore, through the use of live graphing, this software can help roasters make adjustments mid-roast, helping them to avoid errors and more accurately predict outcomes. Because it eliminates the need for external measuring tools, roasting software is more likely to produce an accurate result.
Typically, this software is easy to use and set up, with most options easily able to interface with computers and smart devices. Another benefit is that it can free you up to perform other tasks, as other roasters are able to step in and take over without any consequences.
Over time, roasting software can collect enough data to create a database that can be used to plan future roasts. This can make your production process more efficient and help you to make better purchasing decisions in future.
If you switch to another roasting machine, reports produced by roasting software can also make the transition much quicker, allowing you to generate the same roast profiles right from the start.
In addition to collecting roast data, roasting software can track production data, including your green coffee purchases, how much of it was roasted, and more. It can even be used to gather sales data that you can use to track who buys what and how often they buy it.
What to consider before investing in roasting software
There are dozens of roasting software options to choose from. Some will cost your business money, while others are open source and free to use.
Paid options usually come with the added bonus of ongoing support and customer service.
One open source and volunteer supported software option is Artisan. It’s popular with small commercial roasters and is compatible with over 30 types of roasting machines.
Artisan features a roast simulator that minimises bean wastage, as well as a roast profile transposer tool to repeat roasts on different machines. Most recently, it introduced the ability to estimate a machine’s carbon dioxide emissions during batch roasts.
Cropster, meanwhile, is a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that’s popular amongst larger roasters. It can be tailored to the business and can easily synchronise with Enterprise Resource Planning systems.
In addition to offering roasting solutions, Cropster also offers software that can be used by green coffee buyers and quality managers. Most recently, Cropster integrated Flick prediction, which helps to predict the rate of rise (ROR) in bean temperature at the end of the roast.
However, if you exclusively use a certain machine brand, you might want to choose software specifically developed for your machine. For example, many roasters have switched to the Bellwether Roaster, as it produces zero emissions and is electric.
It runs on its own software that provides custom roast profiles. The company also offers users access to their green coffee marketplace, which helps businesses to source coffee and work with the right importers.
The world of coffee software is constantly advancing and improving. With each new development comes a way to make your roasting process more profitable and efficient and less wasteful.
It isn’t necessarily a quick fix that will automatically make all your roasts run smoothly. However, roasting software will help every roaster in your business to improve their skills and their understanding of the roasting process.
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