Photo courtesy Loring Smart Roast
Programming the Profiles
Loring roastmasters Joe Marrocco, left, and Rob Hoos monitor the V2 control system display panel on a S15 Falcon roaster.
By Dan Shryock
Technology plays a key role in most every aspect of daily life so it should be no surprise that software programming is increasingly making its way into the art of coffee roasting. Roaster manufacturers continue to develop ways to make their equipment more efficient and that curve includes roasting profiles.
The concept of integrated roasting control systems is not new. Probat-Werke launched its reflection roast control system in 2001 so a computer system could follow a precise roasting recipe and manage bean temperatures and other variables without external help.
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Computer roasting profiles have come a long way over the past two decades. Probat, for example, now offers its PC-based Pilot Roaster control system to manage the roasting operation. The Pilot Roaster talks with the reflection roast control throughout the process to make sure the entire process stays on curve.
Probat is not alone in developing new concepts in roasting profile management.
“Profile roasting technology has improved a lot during last decade,” said Rodis Ferrari of Brazilian roaster manufacturer Lilla. “Nowadays there are roasting curves based directly on coffee beans temperature, giving the roasting control better consistency and making easier to achieve the desired cupping when designing the roasting recipe,” he said. Lilla includes its own coffee roasting system in many of its machines.
“The future development of this know-how will probably lay on the capability of super flexible roasting curves. The coffee beans temperature is the key to control all the chemical transformations which happen along the roasting process,” Ferrari said. “Therefore, the modulation of this temperature leads the path to chemical reactions to follow, influencing directly the roasted coffee chemical composition, aromas, and cupping. Hence, flexible curves bring more possibilities to enrich flavors and aromas,” he said.
Loring upgrades control system
Loring Smart Roast is now introducing what they believe is an even smarter way to roast. The company announced this month the release of the new Loring control system V2, an upgrade that allows roast masters to establish a roasting profile and then reliably use it again and again no matter the batch size.
“The key significance of this system is to provide our customers with greater control, better results with repeatability,” said Dennis Vogel, the company’s marketing and sales director. “We’re giving them the ability to create profiles that then deliver consistent results for different batch sizes or different roasters.”
Loring produces three roasters – the 15-kilogram-capacity S15 Falcon, the 35-kilogram S35 Kestrel, and the 70-kilogram S70 Peregrine – and the new V2 control system works on all three. Company officials stress that the V2 is not merely a software upgrade. It’s a complete control system upgrade with a better touch screen and a new processor in addition to improved software.
The control system V2 already is being shipped on new roasters and it will be available to existing owners “in the next couple months,” Vogel said.
Once the roaster defines that profile, he said, the control system enables them to replicate it no matter the batch or roaster size.
“We wanted to address the need to run the same profile on different roasters,” Vogel said. “Now you can take that same profile and do a minimum batch size of, say, three kilograms and then scale it to 15-kilogram batches.”
The California-based company saw the need for this new system two years ago, and began the arduous development and testing process.
“At our heart, we’re designers and engineers at Loring. We’re not roastmasters,” Vogel said. “But it’s not technology for technology’s sake. It’s been vetted by roast masters. We are the designers and developers of all this but the people who care about what’s in the cup had to validate it all.”
And while the new control system allows roasters to reliably match profiles from batch to batch, the artistry of the craft remains.
“You can give them the tools but they’re still left to the art of using the roaster,” Vogel said. “Someone still has to be there to get the most they can out of a particular bean.”
US Roaster climbs to the cloud
US Roaster Corp., meanwhile, is preparing to push roasting profiles to the internet cloud to make it easy for their customers to download success.
“We’re working with several roast masters and sharing information from roaster to roaster in the cloud,” US Roaster Corp. owner Dan Joliff said. “We want to encourage our roasting customers to share ideas.”
Three top roastmasters are creating profiles designed to fit a variety of outcomes. Those profiles then will be shared with customers who will be able to download and adjust each one to meet their own needs. The concept received good reviews when demonstrated recently at CoffeeFest in Nashville, Tenn., Joliff said.
“We’re seeing a lot of demand from people in smaller shops who want to roast smaller amounts and have fresh coffee,” he said. “The profiles contain information about different temperature set points, fan speed as well as a percentage for how hard the heaters should be working.”
Larger roaster customers will benefit as well, he said, once they are able to share profiles between roasters and as well as between facilities.
The Oklahoma-based company’s mini roasters can hold as many as 10 profiles. Larger, industrial shop roasters can accommodate more than 1,000 profiles. Should roast masters want more, they would simply download more from the cloud, he said.
Accessing the database will be as easy as going online.
“The cloud will be a public network in order for users to access it from their own home,” Joliff said. “It will be set up such that users can only access the profiles by using our software, however.”
Plans include creating a desktop application and eventually a mobile app that will allow users to create, share, and download profiles through a friendly, intuitive interface. To update profiles in the roaster, the first version will require users to use the application on a laptop or desktop computer and then update the profiles to the roaster using a USB wire. Eventually, the roasters will be able to wirelessly update the profiles via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or both.
Joliff sees profile sharing as a way to meet a growing demand as more businesses enter the expanding specialty coffee market.
“I see more and more people getting into the industry,” he said. “We will have more coffee roasters than doughnut shops because more people like good coffee. Roastmasters in different locations will be able to share the same profiles.” And, he said, new roasting technology is enabling all roasters to produce better coffee.
“I’m embracing it,” Joliff said. “If they want to be artisan and be hand-operated, great. I’ll help you. If you want to computerize it and run on a graph and I’ll help you make it happen.”
As technology continues to expand, manufacturers already are looking ahead to new opportunities. “We’re asking ourselves what can we do next in terms of data acquisition and analysis,” Loring c.e.o. Bob Austin said. “We think more can be done in the future. We need the ability to predict (roasting) results to get where they want to be faster at lower costs. Roasters need to be able to count on the machine to perform the way they want.”