Q&A With the Head Roaster at Rosso Coffee Roasters: Paul Stephens
Paul Stephens, the Head Roaster at Rosso Coffee Roasters, has been roasting coffee for 21 years. During his career, he has gone from keeping pen-and-paper notes of roast temperatures to operating some of the most high-tech machinery in the game. We caught up with Stephens to get some insight into how the industry has changed over the years and what it was like working at one of the first roastery/cafes in the UK.
-How did you get started in roasting?
My first barista job was in 1996, at a sandwich shop. They had an old espresso machine, and they would grind all the espresso for the day into a bin and scoop it into a portafilter when they needed a shot. At the time people thought it was the best coffee in town.
I started roasting in 2001 when I got a job at Red Roaster; it was one of the first cafes in England to have a roaster inside it. I started as a barista and took over roasting after a couple of months. When I first started there was very little information about roasting. It was a secretive industry where people had blends and no one would tell you what they put in them or how they roasted. That has definitely changed, now there is so much information out there that you can get on coffee. I worked there for 15 years then in 2016 I immigrated to Canada and started at Rosso Coffee Roasters.
-How would you say your approach to roasting has developed?
When I started, we were just using pens and paper to write down temperatures and times as we roasted. There was no computer connected to the roaster. Now we have so much more information and feedback. I have far more fi ne control now; it was more hit-and-miss back in the day.
When I roast now, I am more instinctive, and I know better how coffees will behave when we get a new one. Initially, it was a voyage of discovery because I didn’t know how things were going to turn out. I am less surprised as to how things turn out now and I have more control. In general, in the industry, the quality of coffee has gone up. The best coffees we had 20 years ago would be average coffees nowadays. Everything from the processing on the farm, to how it is transported and roasted, has gone up in quality.
-How has having a SOVDA colour sorting machine improved your roasting?
We have two SOVDA machines, so we sort before and after roasting; we might be one of the only people in the world that does both. We do it before roasting so we are able to take out black defect beans that wouldn’t necessarily show up after being roasted. The pale defect beans like quakers we remove after they are roasted. It has definitely improved the quality of our coffee. When we roasted on a batch roaster we were able to pick out defects by hand but now, roasting the amount we do, that is impossible.
Coffees by Rosso Coffee Roasters in Issue # 11
featured in Issue #11
In the Light & Adventurous Pack
In the Classic & Approachable Pack
•A blend of Indonesian and Burundi coffees with tasting notes of dark chocolate and molasses. The Indonesian in the blend was inoculated by the processing group, Catur Coffee Co. with the Bumi taste profile.
The Espresso Pack
Two Wheel Espresso
•A blend of two washed coffees from Guatemala and Burundi with tasting notes of blood orange, caramel and chocolate.
The Decaf Pack
•A Swiss Water processed coffee from Costa Rica with tasting notes of milk chocolate and raisin.