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Coffee roaster embraces daily grind

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 01/7/2018 9:15 AM

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After roasting and cooling the coffee beans, Mitchell resident Lyonel Peters pours them into a forced-air machine that removes chaff, stones, and other debris.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

After roasting and cooling the coffee beans, Mitchell resident Lyonel Peters pours them into a forced-air machine that removes chaff, stones, and other debris.

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Lyonel Peters believes there are no shortcuts on the path to a perfect cup of coffee.

The Mitchell resident runs Fluid Bean Coffee Roasters, a small business that supplies freshly roasted coffee beans to four Steinbach retailers.

"You can have the best beans in the world, but if it’s made wrong, it’s not going to taste good," he said in his kitchen, where he poured water over coffee roasted minutes before and steps away.

"All the stars have to line up."

His foray into coffee roasting began four years ago, when he converted a 140-sq-ft. corner of his garage into a certified food production space and purchased an Israeli-made Coffee-Tech Engineering electric drum roaster.

A year of research preceded the purchase, and a year of trial and error followed, as he zeroed in on optimal flavour profiles for beans from some of the globe’s most renowned coffee-producing regions, including Guatemala, Columbia, and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Though photos of fancy lattes abound on social media, Peters sees proper roasting as more science than art. Roast the delicate green beans a few degrees too hot or a few seconds too long and subtle tasting notes are lost, producing a bitter brew.

The exacting process makes for a steep learning curve, and a rather fine line between perfection and failure. Peters said he threw more than one early batch in the trash

But as time went on, the beans started tasting better and better. His roasting charts, now mostly memorized, hang on the wall.

"This has been a lot of fun, but I’m still at the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Peters roasts 25 to 45 kilograms of beans per month, with demand peaking around Christmas. As far as he knows, he is the only coffee roaster in the area.

He fits the 10 to 15 hours per month needed to fill orders around his day job as an operations manager at Cornerstone Timberframes near Mitchell.

An afternoon roasting session last month was reserved for a Columbian medium roast. From start to finish, a two-kilogram batch takes 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the desired roast and the ambient temperature and humidity in the room.

Peters began by scooping green coffee beans from one of several 60-kilogram burlap sacks under his counter. The organic and fair-trade green beans are sourced from a wholesaler in Delta, B.C.

Next, he preheated the roaster and selected a roasting profile. After he pours the beans into a hopper, the machine’s embedded software takes over, and a smoke inhibitor reduces exhaust odour.

While the beans roasted, Peters prepared his bags, which he stamps and seals by hand.

After a few minutes, a muffled crackling was heard inside the roasting drum.

"We’ve hit first crack," he exclaimed—roaster talk for reaching the light roast stage.

After 13 minutes, the heating elements turned off. The tumbling beans were blasted with cool air for 10 minutes, then dumped into a basket for a final cooling.

Peters then ran the beans three times through a forced-air machine to remove stones, chaff, and other debris.

Weighing and bagging came last. The two kilograms of green beans yielded 1.67 kilograms of roasted beans, due to moisture loss.

"All my money goes up in smoke," Peters quipped.

Back in his kitchen, he boiled water, used a scale to weigh grounds, and prepared a pour-over filter, his favourite brewing method. (He recommends using 24 grams of ground coffee for every 350 grams of water.)

"I don’t have an espresso machine—yet," he said. "But I have every other kind of coffee-making gadget."

Coffee in hand, he recalled the idea of roasting his own beans arrived while sitting in a Tim Hortons, as he watched television footage of beans being stirred in a large commercial roaster.

"I said to myself, ‘I should look into roasting coffee.’"

While his knowledge of roasting was gleaned from books and online resources, his nose for flavour was honed in fine coffee shops visited during summer road trips over the years.

The way to find a city’s best coffee, he explained, is to travel to its "heart" or old centre and find shops that roast in-house.

Peters said the local market for his coffee is expanding, as more people catch on to the fresh, premium coffee trend and leave behind grocery store tins.

His goal is to one day to launch a coffee cart or see his brews served up in a local restaurant or coffee shop.

A Brazilian medium roast is also in the works, which he hopes to add to his current bean lineup of Guatemalan light, Colombian medium, Sumatran dark, and Peruvian decaf.

Fluid Bean coffee is available by the pound at Main Bread and Butter, Old Church Bakery, Good ‘n’ Natural, and Sweet Life Tea and Coffee.

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