When we decided to move forward in learning to roast our own beans, we knew that we had the right mentor and trainer to get us started. Tim Piazza had walked with us from day 1, helping us to develop and even refine our Light and Dark blends with Honey Moon Coffee Co. over the years.
When we acquired ECC from Tim earlier this year, we began to learn about the rest of his blends and and how to use all of the various coffee making and packaging equipment. As Pema Chödrön has reminded us, it's not IF things fall apart, but WHEN things do fall apart that we must be prepared for. Coffee can spill, machines can break. Knowing how to fix a machine can be just as valuable as knowing how to effectively operate one.
With this in mind, we started to wonder about the wisdom of upgrading our equipment. Paying the piper up front vs paying the piper over time. With new machines come warranties, but also learning curves. If we were to pull the trigger on a purchase, it would need to improve the quality and capacity of the business, not degrade it.
In one of those "what would you do if money was no option" sorts of exercises, we asked ourselves what the best roasting companies in the world would do. It quickly became clear to us that we wanted to take a big swing and go right to the top. The San Franciscan Roaster Company has a reputation of being one of the best in the United States, and arguably one of the best in the world. We wanted to take our coffee roasting to a new level, so why not aim for the top?
We first heard about SFR from one of our favorite barista/owners, the real Chris Baca. He's one of the co-founders of Cat and Cloud in Santa Cruz, which is a special place for Jessica and I already. He's known for sharing much of his coffee journey through his entertaining and informative YouTube channel, including his decision to go with SFR for their growing roasting operations. Get a sense of his vibe from this helpful YouTube video where he's explaining how he calibrates his grinders after a cleaning.
Did you notice that teal machine in the background? That's an SF-25 from the San Franciscan Roaster Company, and it's the same model that we decided to build, albeit in a different color.
We also knew that Mark Michaelson had relatively recently moved to the SFR team to become their lead roasting trainer. One of Mark's claim to fame is his role in developing the roast profiles for the Onyx Coffee Lab. We fell in love with Onyx's coffee after tasting amazing coffee beans that had been roasted and kept in a bag for over a year, and they STILL maintained amazing taste. They are considered one of the best roasting companies in the world and Mark's early contributions are a huge reason why. His move to the San Franciscan Roasting company spoke volumes about their commitment to excellence.
Instead of talking ourselves into a less expensive and lower quality company, at the beginning of the summer, we decided to make the move and commission SFR to build two machines (an SF-10 and an SF-25) to replace and upgrade what we were currently roasting on.
The 3-month build began in June, and we prepared for the September arrival. In July, we found out about a training opportunity on site in Carson City, NV with Mark Michaelson himself leading it. Since this would give us an opportunity to learn more about how our machines were being made as well, we decided to send me and our lead roaster, Ethan, to learn from the best.
When we walked in to the factory, our eyes were first drawn to the huge San Franciscan Roaster sign. "We should get a picture next to that." I remarked to Ethan.
But we never did.
It what we saw next was what really took our breath away.
It was our roasters. Our babies. Almost finished. Powder coated in white chocolate paint. Calling us to them. It was surreal.
We were in love.
And we got our picture.
There were still a number of parts to be finalized and fitted to our machines.
The next couple of days involved meeting fellow roasters from around the country, tasting amazing coffees from around the world, and hands on roasting training from Mark.
We would walk by our roasters multiple times each day, realizing that they would soon be shipped across the country to Evansville, IN, where we had just flown in from.
It was satisfying and encouraging to actually be in the arena. Something that was just a hope and a dream was now tangibly in front of us, and soon would be in front of our customers.
Check back later for part two where we prepare to receive and install the machines in their forever home of our new roasting facility inside of Honey Moon Coffee Co. headquarters.